The coup in Honduras – ten years on

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE recently marched through the streets of the capital of Honduras demanding the resignation of right wing President Juan Orlando Hernández and an investigation of him.

The protestors, from Movimiento Indignados (Indignant Movement), said in a statement, “We demand the immediate removal of Juan Orlando Hernández from the post he is currently usurping, as well as an urgent investigation of him and his family circle and political associates.”

The opposition says Hernández, a conservative backed by the United States, was illegitimately re-elected in a November 2017 vote marred by delays and alleged fraud. It is also alleged by Honduras’ democratic opposition movements that Hernández has links to people accused of corruption and drug trafficking.

June this year marks ten years since Hernández came to power after a military coup deposed the progressive democratic government of President Manuel Zelaya.

I was among those – alongside Jeremy Corbyn and numerous trade unions – who led and supported the Emergency Committee Against the Coup in Honduras here at the time. Our campaigning included as a key element opposition to the US government stance which gave oxygen to the burgeoning dictatorship.

While the coup was widely condemned by governments across Latin America, the EU, the OAS and other regional blocs, US President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton refused to label it a military coup, and then worked closely with the post-coup government.

The subsequent elections following the coup in Honduras have included a media blackout and political repression against the left wing opposition candidates, including targeted assassinations of anti-coup leaders ahead of the polls, and ever since 2009, US governments have propped up the reactionary regime.

Honduras is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade union, environmental or human rights activist.

Alongside their repressive and antidemocratic agenda, the Honduran right wing regime has implemented harsh neo-liberal ‘reforms,’ thereby reversing programmes to reduce poverty and inequality initiated by the Zelaya-led government prior to the coup.

While President Trump can’t go a week without claiming deep concern for democracy and human rights in some countries in Latin America, he is incredibly silent on Honduras. Indeed, despite multiple allegations of fraud in the 2017 Honduran presidential election, Trump soon recognised Hernández as the winner, even though the poll exhibited such blatant fraud that not a single foreign dignitary attended Hernández’s inauguration! Trump is not at all bothered by these blatant abuses of human rights and attacks on democracy, and the US is currently building even closer ties with the right wing government in Honduras.

In Southern and Central America, the political, economic and military interests of the US will always trump (no pun intended) the interests of ordinary people. Instead, it is focused on imposing illegal, punitive sanctions aimed at ‘regime change’ against countries such as Venezuela which do not follow the US agenda.

But it is not just the Trump administration that is guilty of this. Last year, the Tory government was exposed by Labour and campaigning groups as selling spyware to Honduras, which could well have been used to savagely repress anti-government protests. This was despite the fact that where there is a “clear risk that goods may be used for internal repression”, arms sales are illegal under the 2008 Export Control Act.

The spyware sold to the Honduran government can monitor and intercept a broad range of telecommunications, including phone calls, emails and online messaging apps, and the Honduran Alliance Against Dictatorship believes the Honduran government and its security forces have used the spyware to illegally intercept its emails and mobile phone data.

Nonetheless, despite the lack of interest of Donald Trump or Theresa May in their rights, a range of movements, including women’s groups, students, environmental campaigners, trade unions and more, on the streets of Honduras every month, keep resisting the coup government.

It is time for us to speak up in solidarity with them. Just as Jeremy Corbyn, myself and others campaigned against the coup in 2009, we need to again be raising awareness on the tenth anniversary and take the opportunity to argue that the US and Britain must stop propping up Honduras’s reactionary and repressive regime, and end arms sales.

First published by Labour Briefing.