Toppling a Coup, Part V: The Resistance Cracks the Oligarchy
By Al Giordano
(Headlines from today's daily El Tiempo: "Police Repression in Choloma" and "Another Brutal Attack against TIEMPO.")
It’s hard to be a pro-coup newspaper when the regime you’re trying to prop up keeps attacking your own reporters.
Such is the evolving reality for the daily El Tiempo in San Pedro Sula, owned by one of the top families, the Rosenthals, some say the wealthiest in Honduras’ oligarchic pantheon. The Rosenthals also own TV Channel 11, Cablecolor TV network, and dozens of companies that sell insurance, construction, cement, coffee, sugar, bananas, cattle, cacao, food processing, real estate and alligator skin products.
The family’s prodigal son, Yani Rosenthal, had been a top staffer in the Zelaya administration but resigned in 2007 to pursue his own presidential campaign. When that didn’t gather steam, he backed the 2008 candidacy of Roberto Micheletti, now the “president” of the Honduras coup, in his failed bid to become the Liberal Party nominee. And for most of the first 49 days since the June 28 coup d’etat, the family newspaper – the dominant daily in its region - has been a more or less reliable ally of the coup mongers.
In the past week or so, though, a series of violent attacks by coup police and military against peaceful demonstrators - and the press that covers them - in the second-largest city of San Pedro Sula (The Field first pointed this out this dynamic on August 4) have apparently pricked the conscience of El Tiempo and its coverage has taken a 180-degree turn. This can be seen as a barometer of how the coup is losing support even among the highest echelons of the oligarchy.
It’s like the onion: As we discussed back on August 8, the support and/or silent acquiescence that keeps the Honduras coup regime in power is not monolithic and has rings that the civil resistance is designed to peel away. Through the anti-coup movement’s adherence to nonviolent struggle, it has now won a key battle for hearts and minds in the country’s second city region. The National Police and Armed Forces overplayed their violent hand and as a result of extending their brutality to members of the press that documented their abuses, the daily El Tiempo has lost patience with the regime.
Here are some photos from today’s El Tiempo and the captions underneath them, translated:
“The police pulled the photographer’s hair while they pushed him and yelled obscenities.”
“Journalist Gustavo Cardoza of Radio Progreso was also arrested and beaten.”
El Tiempo now reports:
The National Police aggression against the reporters of the daily El Tiempo was not limited, this time, to insults and nightstick beatings, but they also destroyed photographic material in clear abuse and violation of free speech and human rights…
The Security Secretary said that “in no moment did the National Police try to impede the work of the media…”
And yet a YouTube video posted by El Tiempo tells a truer story:
The headline of today’s El Tiempo is Police Repression in Choloma, and the story reports that the National Police riot yesterday against peaceful demonstrators along a key transit route from San Pedro Sula to the port of Cortez – a region that his home to many multinational sweatshops – came because the coup enforcers broke their word to the demonstrators:
“The demonstrators have an hour and a half to remove the stones from the highway and continue their peaceful march. The police are committed to provide security for the march during its entire route,” said (police spokesman) Espinoza Caballer to the media reporters present at 10:55 a.m.
However, the agreed-upon deadline was not honored and riot police backed by military soldiers send by the commander of the 105 Infantry Brigade , Colonel Edgardo Isaula, attacked the marchers at 11:25 a.m.
At 12:30 p.m. the police also expelled, by force, a group of demonstrators that had met in Choluma’s Central Park, in front of the police station, who were trying to obtain information about their wounded and arrested compañeros…
Here’s another photo and caption:
“The tear gas not only affected the protesters but also the dozens of families that reside alongside the boulevard. Many, with small children in their arms, had to run from their own homes.”
“Inside the Choluma police station, the wounded continued being beaten by the uniformed police.”
"The police action caused at least 35 arrests and six wounded who required emergency medical attention.”
El Tiempo’s coverage today also included editorials that now firmly place the newspaper against the coup d'etat, like this one:
The savage repression on Monday, August 3, in downtown San Pedro Sula turned out to be totally ineffective: beating and mistreating men and women who had demonstrated peacefully, as police have done since the day of the coup d’etat, didn’t convince anybody of the legitimacy of said coup nor did it deter the protests. To the contrary, many people who were undecided were convinced that the use of violence and force against the people is what comes from dictatorships born of violence…
Any attempt, however small, to reduce the economic benefits of the few families that dominate Honduras in order to distribute them to the majority, is considered taboo. Raising the salary of workers, lowering fuel taxes, offering free education, establishing bonuses for farmers, caring for the forests, eliminating private contracts with the state, those were the detonators of the coup d’etat. And when an attempt was made to reform our obsolete Constitution to democratize political relations and permit the people to participate in decision-making that effects the lives of all, they overstepped their boundaries.
A second editorial recognized that international sanctions against the coup regime are working as they hit economic interests where it hurts:
The presence of Honduras at the negotiating table for a Central American trade deal with Europe now depends on reestablishing Constitutional order in our country. Until that is done, the negotiations will continue but without Honduras’ participation.
That’s because all the countries of the European Union decided, individually and together, not to recognize the de facto regime that surged from the military coup on June 28, and pulled their ambassadors from Tegucigalpa.
At the same time, all bilateral and multilateral support from Europe for Honduras has been suspended while the breaking of the Constitutional order persists…
Honduras, isolated by the international community because of the de facto regime, has rapidly lost opportunities for continued international support which is indispensable…
The same occurs in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and with other international financial institutions, thanks to the suspension by the United States of bilateral support…
The signing of an agreement with the IMF is right now fundamental for our country to be able to survive the economic crisis that was already present before the military coup but which has become unmanageable because of the breaking of the Constitutional order and the consequent recrimination by the global community toward a spurious regime and usurper government.
As such, the political crisis, defined by a sharpening of state and media terrorism and repression, the constant violation of human rights and the dictatorial escalations against a growing national resistance to the de facto regime has also brought economic suffocation that is worsening inexorably.
What can be read into the texts and photographs of today’s El Tiempo?
First, as we discussed on August 8, support or acquiescence to the coup regime from the very oligarch interests that the coup needs to survive has cracked wide open. Second, such interests are far more guided by the pressures on their wallets than by political considerations. Third, the civil resistance’s adherence to nonviolent struggle and the coup regime’s brutality against it is turning hearts and minds against the coup.
The particular oligarch interest that owns El Tiempo is said by some to be the most powerful family in Honduras. It is a family that has, in recent years, allied first with President Manuel Zelaya and later with Roberto Micheletti, who now leads the coup d’etat. That it is now lining up against Micheletti and his Simian Council of golpistas brings a heraldic message to Honduras and the world:
The nonviolent civil resistance is working.
The layers of support and acquiescence for the coup are being successfully peeled away.
And its plotters are more isolated and alone every day that the resistance continues.
Update: In the comments section below, Observer makes a pretty strong case that El Tiempo was not previously a pro-coup newspaper, and documents it with links to previous editions.
Update II: Commenter Alexis Aguilar responds to Observer that El Tiempo could be more accurately described as shifting back and forth from day to day regarding the coup regime but that more recent coverage has taken a decidedly critical turn against the coup.