Honduras: The People Take Back the Vote

TEGUCIGALPA-After a June 28, 2009 military coup that in one day deprived Hondurans of their democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya and also prevented the electorate the opportunity to decide on a possible constitutional amendment on the day of that coup, today the people symbolically took back what they lost.

The Cuarta Urna was set to take place the day the US backed Honduran military kidnapped Zelaya at gunpoint in the middle of the night, still in his pajamas, ordered him onto a waiting plane and moved him out of the country, all while stopping at the US Palmerola military base just minutes away.  The explanation for the Palmerola stop (that the plane needed to refuel) was never accepted by human rights groups nor by civil society who responded, “What idiot would plan a coup using a plane whose fuel tank was empty?”

The Cuarta Urna-a polling of the electorate permitted by Honduran constitution-would have allowed Hondurans to discuss if they wanted to amend the Constitution to permit for indigenous rights, campesino cooperative land rights, and other environmental protective measures.  Despite what Honduran oligarchy-owned media and US mainstream media reported-that Zelaya simply was attempting to amend the constitution to be able to run again-any results of the poll would not have affected Zelaya’s ability to seek a second term during  the following election because if approved by voters, could not have cleared an amendment change in time for him to run.  This media campaign that followed accusing Zelaya of corruption didn’t convince the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets following the coup, the masses that stayed there for weeks.

Hundreds of thousands marched through the capital Tegucigalpa to say goodbye to President Manuel Zelaya on January 26, 2010 following the 2009 military coup. photo: KGNU News
Hundreds of thousands marched through the capital Tegucigalpa to the airport to say goodbye to President Manuel Zelaya on January 26, 2010 following the 2009 military coup and his forced exile out of the country to the Dominican Republic.  photo: KGNU News

The following January 26, 2010, over 500,000 marched to the airport to bid a tearful farewell to their president as he was forced out of the country by plane to the Dominican Republic.  The right-wing National Party positioned one of their own into the role of president and the following election cycle, again assumed the position after the vast majority of the electorate boycotted the election.

In an ironic switch of positions, the right-wing National Party under current president Juan Orlando Hernandez is now attempting to accomplish exactly what the party originally accused Zelaya of in 2009, although the party is attempting the same constitutional change through Supreme Court vote since Congress rejected the idea this year.  In addition, this time the proposed constitutional change would affect the sitting president’s term, since presidential elections won’t take place until 2017.

Since the coup, a humanitarian crisis has escalated to the point that Honduras now holds top spots globally for numbers of homicides including murders of attorneys, journalists, environmentalists, activists, labor union leaders, the LGBTQ community, students, and women.  Forced disappearances also rival numbers of the 1980’s death squads that existed during the Reagan administration.

Today Zelaya made an unexpected public appearance to the Ministerio Publico to give a deposition about how the thousands were spent on that 2009 polling that never took place.  His political party LIBRE (formed after the coup) has blasted the implication that he would have knowledge of a poll that should have taken place the same moments that he was being forced out of the country.  LIBRE showed up in support of Zelaya today saying, “Where are the hundreds of millions stolen from Social Security fraud to fund that National Party 2013 election campaign?”

Zelaya defended his actions during his presidency today and when asked what message he would send to the US government he told KGNU, “Greetings.  Stop supporting governments that are in this moment involved in corruption.  Stop supporting them.”

Rafael Alegria, Honduras coordinator for the campesino international support group Via Campesina and current LIBRE congressman told KGNU,

“The country is in a profound crisis, of the economy, social, of violence.  But now we are seeing a situation of the highest level of corruption in the country.  The current government has obliterated social support services like Social Security.  One thousand, two hundred people have died from the lack of medication.  That’s why we are pressuring, because of the total corruption in this country.

This is the public ministry.  The public ministry has the responsibility of hearing the penal accusation.  It’s clear who is directly responsible:  the President, the Fiscal General, the president of the National Congress.  Now this ministry, instead of pursuing those directly responsible, they are diverting attention to Manuel Zelaya Rosales in attempt to create an enormous distraction.  We are demanding justice and that those responsible for the Social Security corruption be held accountable!”

Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife and 2013 LIBRE party presidential candidate also appeared and took part in the mock vote that was set up by LIBRE today to symbolize the poll that never happened on the day of the coup.  Complete with imitation ballot boxes and ballots, the masses lined up to cast their symbolic votes including Castro herself who told KGNU, “This vote was never illegal [in 2009].  It was about public participation that was established by the constitution so that the entire country could participate.  Now five people [the Supreme Court] can decide for 8 million people,” referring to President Orlando Hernandez’ attempt to seize the power to decide himself on a change to the constitution but ultimately ended up with a decision by the Supreme Court.

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