It’s Still a Military Coup in Honduras
By Al Giordano
“No one owes obedience to an usurper government nor to those who through force of weapons assume public functions or positions…. The acts of such authorities have no legal standing, and the people have the right to resort to insurrection in defense of the Constitutional order.”
- Article 3, Constitution of the Republic of Honduras
Two weeks and more than forty Narco News reports ago when on another Sunday morning military soldiers kidnapped Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, I quoted some words that our Mexican colleague Mario Menéndez Rodríguez had said to me during the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela: that people reveal their true character during times of moral crisis.
We’ve watched, listened, and reported as diplomats have deluded themselves (and insist to others) that “diplomacy” alone can solve all problems, as coup defenders remain stuck in the Oligarch Diaspora’s “Chávez Derangement Syndrome” and cling to a fantastically false spin about the oxymoronic concept of a “legal coup,” and as some of their counterparts on the academic left got stuck fighting past wars with their own brand of “Obama Derangement Syndrome,” and one probably could have, sadly, predicted each of their formulaic reactions in advance.
For all the talk of “democracy” – both sides of the Honduras dispute claim that flag, but only the coup opponents have a clue as to what it means – I’ve heard very few voices out there that have, really, any devotion to authentic democracy when the going gets tough.
That’s as true of journalists and communicators as it is for everyone else. We've watched the corporate media correspondents slip into their old comfortable shoes of disinformation, while a certain sector of left media shrunk from the duty to combat such simulation but, rather, obsessed more narrowly on their sputtering spin that this was somehow “Obama’s coup.” (If it is not, then that would require more self-reflection of their own presumptions than their hurting brains care to shoulder: it has been seemingly easier for some to remain on automatic pilot, the facts and new geopolitical realities be damned.)
Meanwhile, we’ve done and are doing what is in our character to do: Investigate, report and analyze the hard news, while exposing its simulation by the dominant corporate media.
Others have done that very well, too: We’ve already praised the singular work of TeleSur, and also of the courageous Hondurans who have broken the information blockade from below, filming coup abuses and the massive protests against them on their cell phones and uploading important videos to YouTube. And we’ve cheered as many corporate media organizations have become dependent on those reports-from-below in their own coverage.
I’d like to add another media that deserves such recognition: Few have done the heavy lifting that Chiapas Indymedia has done, mainly in Spanish, to publish the communiqués, photos and videos that document the massive and organized nature of the Honduran grassroots movements with which it has worked and supported for years. (While the world mostly ignored Honduras in recent years, Chiapas Indymedia was shipping community radio transmitters and organizing communications workshops among Catrachos; that planting and cultivating bears significant fruit today in the information that does break out from behind the walls of censorship and simulation). Too often lost in the past two weeks of media coverage has been the documentation and distribution of the struggle from below in its own words.
The photo, above, was taken on Friday by Chiapas Indymedia veteran Tiros. There were even larger blockades and marches on Saturday, as this communiqué we received (and now translate) from the Honduran Comun-Noticias organization, which reports on yesterday’s mass marches toward the capital city of Tegucigalpa from many directions:
Thousands of demonstrators, who closed one lane of the Siguatepeque-Tegucigalpa highway for the entire day, arrived Friday afternoon in Comayagua, where they joined the marches in the city’s main streets and the occupation of Central Park.
Despite that some drivers tried to pass the organized lines of the demonstrators, the people did not retreat and impeded the traffic of oil tankers and trucks that transported the products of pro-coup businesses…
Today, Saturday, July 11, they headed on foot toward the capital accompanied by unions, the Popular Bloc, housewives, campesinos and workers to join with hundreds more who await the return of Manuel Zelaya and demand that the de facto rulers headed by Roberto Micheletti be sentenced to prison.
The roads between Comayagua and Tegucigalpa are partially paralyzed because the marchers fill one of its lanes, accompanied by sound trucks, anti-coup banners and signs that demonstrate the resistance by the Honduran people…
Comun-Noticias is the authentic media organization whose 18-year-old participant and free software expert Carlos Bueso had been arrested in the early days of the coup and charged with “sedition.” He was only released after an international outcry. Their communicators each take similar risks to their safety and freedom to get this word out to you. And yet from the international corporate media we hear only crickets in place of the reporting of this ongoing story of resistance to the coup.
The epicenter of the coup and its resistance is inside Honduras, but the media circus focuses on events in foreign capitals from San José to Caracas to Washington DC. The international media routinely aims its cameras and keypads at events up above, ignoring the more outcome-determinative struggle from below.
And so we must do both: continue to report to you on the movement from below while also disarming the falsehoods imposed from above.
Take the latest from Miami Herald ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, for example. He claims, in his “summary” of events in Honduras, that “the military never seized power.” Yet his own recount of his own newspaper’s coverage disproves that very claim:
“But the military on its own, according to what the army lawyer told Robles, illegally sent the president out of the country instead of hauling him into court. He said the fear was that if Zelaya stayed in the country, there might be street violence, which is what happened when Zelaya tried to fly back. Arresting a president has little precedence anywhere, and the army lawyer was breathtakingly honest in a story no one else had.”
The Los Angeles Times’ rookie Mexico correspondent Tracy Wilkinson offers a similar incredulous spin, portraying events in Honduras as “A New Kind of Coup,” as if this putsch is really a shiny newborn bauble for the professional simulators to play with.
Yet Wilkinson and Schumacher-Matos, and the others forwarding similar fairy tales, need only read the very same Miami Herald's interview with Honduran Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza to easily come to terms with how this coup is the same as any other military coup; one in which the only government possible is severely limited by the top-down dictates of the military brass. The Colonel freely admitted:
“It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible.”
That was the interview in which he also admitted that the coup was illegal:
''We know there was a crime there,'' said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. ``In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.''
In other words, if the military sets the terms for a puppet “civilian government” (i.e. you can “govern” but not from the left, no matter what the voters say, that would be “impossible”), then it is still military rule no matter how you slice it: that of unelected generals and colonels determining their very narrow and authoritarian limits of “government.” Democracy is impossible under those circumstances.
As a club, the US and European correspondents in Latin America have very short memories. The fact is that virtually every military coup of the past 55 years in this hemisphere has offered the pretense of supposed illegality by the democratically elected government it deposed as its excuse for the coup. As I pointed out the other day, the Oligarch Diaspora still claims that the 1973 coup in Chile – the most notorious and widely disgraced of them all – was somehow “legal,” justified by a Congress that accused President Salvador Allende of violating the law. This is how military coups have always been set up, and most, just like in Honduras, have established after-the-fact civilian paint jobs over their illegitimate regimes.
And it's important to remember that it wasn't civilian police authorities that shut down TV and radio stations even after the "civilian" coup government was formed, it was the Armed Forces. And last Sunday, when President Zelaya attempted to land in the country that elected him, the air traffic control tower at Toncontin International Airport instructed the pilot of his plane that the airfield was for "exclusive use of the Honduras Armed Forces." So much for the "civilian" authorities.
The LA Times’ Wilkinson apparently knows nothing of the true history of coups d’etat in this hemisphere. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be embarrassing herself and her newspaper by claiming that there is anything “new” to the Honduran version.
Meanwhile, where is the reporting from below on the real story from Honduras? We’ve mentioned that of TeleSur, Chiapas Indymedia, Narco News and most importantly the work of grassroots Hondurans, their websites and YouTube pages. I'll add to that the email reports by Lisa Sullivan and others of School of the Americas Watch, and Swedish reporter Dick Emanuelsson's on-the-ground audio and written reports from Honduras, as well as Aporrea.org's ever-attentive eye to struggles from below. If I’ve missed any others, I apologize in advance. Still, so much of the “left” media is AWOL in that struggle. It has fallen right into the corporate media trap of obsessing almost exclusively on the circus up above, sharing in its effect of making the struggles of the people from below invisible to the world.
Whether one has a favorable or negative view of Fidel Castro in Cuba, nobody can deny with a straight face that he is a very astute observer of US policy and power. Indeed, nobody has outwitted Washington more and for a longer time than he.
Eva Golinger (my single paragraph critique of her first coup report launched polemics of many paragraphs in a certain narrow sector of the academic left, and by and large I think she's adjusted and done a better, if still at times trying to connect dots that don't connect, job since then) has translated a recent column by Castro adding the title, “Fidel’s Reflections on the Honduras Coup – Mentions my work!”
Special attention ought to be paid to Castro’s conclusions based on his characteristically voracious reading of all the information available:
“If President Zelaya is not returned to his position, a wave of coups threatens to sweep away many Latin American governments, or these will be at the mercy of the ultra right-wing military, educated in the security doctrine of the School of the Americas, an expert in torture, psychological warfare and terror. The authority of many civilian governments in Central and South America will become weakened. Those dark days are not very far back in time. The military perpetrators of the coup would not even pay any attention to the civilian administration of the United States. It can be very negative for a president who wants to improve that country’s image, like Barack Obama does. The Pentagon formally obeys the civilian power. The legions have not yet taken over control of the empire as they did in Rome.”
In sum, Castro recognizes that, unlike in Honduras, the military in the United States “formally obeys the civilian power.” He also views US President Obama as “a president who wants to improve that country’s image,” noting, in that light, that the Honduran coup is a profoundly inconvenient development for the new US administration’s overriding goals in the region. El Comandante is working with the very same accurate and updated hemispheric road map that we are, here. That's probably been helpful, too, to influence Venezuelan President Chávez to make the helpful adjustments he has made in his analysis since the first days of the coup.
I mentioned to a colleague yesterday that if, as is likely, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s placing all her eggs in the basket of the diplomacy and mediation circus in Costa Rica fails to restore Zelaya unconditionally to the presidency, and that failure subsequently leads to encourage another coup in another Latin American country, that could well mean that Clinton’s is a head that will have to roll from the administration. The tightly-knit Chicago group that is the ultimate power in the White House – Obama, Axelrod, Emanuel, Jarrett, et al – have always been quick to toss any “freelancers” off the bus upon first offense. They have never historically suffered underlings who utilized their positions to attempt to outmaneuver them. Nor is it helpful to Secretary Clinton that her former right-hand Lanny Davis has signed up as a paid operative on behalf of the Honduran coup defenders. The devil will be in the outcome, and so will the consequences.
But enough about the circus up above, even though we devote those words to critique of it: More telling of the authentic news story from Honduras is the photo that begins these words of Friday’s successful blockade of one of the country’s central arteries, with reports of the same happening throughout the country.
The Honduran civil resistance may be ignored by the international media, and vociferously denied by those in the Oligarch Diaspora that spam the Twitter feeds and comments sections of the blogosphere claiming that gatherings of hundreds and thousands of dissidents were "only fifty people" and other such bold and wishful lies.
The Honduran Civil Resistance offers the faster path than any talks in San José toward ridding the country, and the hemisphere, of the cancer that began as, and continues to be, nothing “new” at all: Just another in a long line of industrial-strength military coups, in which the generals decree the parameters by which “civilian” subsidiaries may simulate government.
Update: Late last night, the journalists of TeleSur were arrested on orders of the Honduran coup. After being brought to a police headquarters and threatened, "get out of here, you need to go, you have nothing to do in this country," they are now under house arrest at their hotel under threat of expulsion from national territory. Nothing "new" about that kind of coup, either.
Update II: VTV reports that its journalists and those of TeleSur have been forcibly brought to the airport for expulsion from Honduras. Beyond this latest evidence that the coup is neither democratic nor values press freedom, it is worrisome because it reveals that the coup's next steps are likely so repressive and atrocious that it can't withstand reporting of it to the rest of the world.