Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I haven’t done a Honduras update for a while, thinking it better to point people to the best sources of regular information on developments there. But reading some recent articles online inspired me to collect some of the news and compile it into a short update. Mark Weisbrot’s recent Al Jazeera op ed is heartening. Around the anniversary of the coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile and put in its place the murderous regime of Augusto Pinochet, it’s important to be aware not only of the continuing efforts to obtain some modicum of justice and accountability for the victims of the coup and dictatorship but also of the positive democratic changes that have been sweeping through Latin America. Weisbrot argues that “Forty years on, much of Allende’s dream has come true”:
President Richard Nixon was clear, at least in private conversations, about why he wanted the coup that destroyed one the hemisphere’s longest-running democracies, from his point of view:

"The main concern in Chile is that [President Salvador Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success ... If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble."

The ironic thing, and one that the world can now celebrate 40 years on, is that Nixon later turned out to be right about his "domino theory" of Latin America. When the US tried but failed to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002, it ended up losing control over most of the region, especially South America. Allende died in the coup, but his dream lived on and much of it has been fulfilled….
The struggle continues, but the changes have been enormous. Weisbrot cites Honduras as one of the “weaker countries” where democratizing efforts have suffered setbacks, referring to the 2009 coup and the conditions since. But, as Suyapa Portillo Villeda points out, Honduras appears again to be “on the brink of change”:
…[T]his year’s election [voting will be on November 24th] has nine candidates running for president, including one woman, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. Castro is the candidate of the new party LIBRE (Freedom and Refoundation) and has a great potential to win. Change comes in that the biggest contender for the president is a woman and from a new party, breaking the 100 year old bipartisan ring of rule (between the Liberal Party and Nationalist Party) that has ensnared Honduras for most of the 20th century and nearly strangled i[t]s democratic potential. The opportunity to destroy bipartisanship and to choose a new option for a new era is a change in itself. A woman president at the same time would also break with the old, as women have historically occupied low places in the Honduran political system. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, the new party proposes a new set of social and economic policies that look to the future with a progressive and modern agenda, bringing Honduras current with the modern world. The new agenda marks the beginning of democratization and progress that has only just begun.
Honduras Culture and Politics has been following the campaigns, and, while the media – local and international – haven’t exactly been kind to Xiomara Castro, she’s leading in the polls.

All of this suggests how fragile and fleeting are the victories of the Right in Latin America, despite the brazenness and brutality with which they’re “won.” They can still destroy and intimidate and bribe and terrorize, but the political landscape has transformed and they face increasing difficulty holding on to their political gains. Force won’t work, and neither will propaganda. The movements for democracy and social justice in the region are too strong and dynamic.

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