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Honduras: the deal is a sham

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The fight to transform Honduras must continue without Zelaya, writes Keith Spencer

“Whether Mel [Zelaya] is reinstalled or not, we are going on with our demand for a Constitutional Assembly.” was the recent call by the Honduran Beverage Workers Union, part of the opposition to the coup against President Zelaya in June.

A nine-point deal has now been struck between the elected President of Honduras. Manuel (Mel) Zelaya and the men who overthrew him in a military coup on 28 June. In it Zelaya is supposed to return as President for the last three months of his term. An interim “government of national reconciliation” will be formed and then elections held on 29 November for both President and Congress. The masses, who supported Zelaya against the coup for four months because they wanted a Constitutional Assembly will be robbed of a vote on this question.

This plan represents a cruel betrayal of the four months of heroic opposition to the coup. During them security forces detained nearly 10,000 people; police and soldiers clubbed protesters and gang-raped women and death squads murdered 14 leaders of the resistance.

This rotten deal is the work of US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, along with Organization of American States (OAS). With Zelaya’s return, the US, EU and OAS can now back the elections and get back to business as usual with the landed, business and military élite. The international peace brokers are hoping that the threat over the election is enough to push the coup-supporters into accepting Zelaya’s return. But an adviser to the current President Micheletti, Marcia Facusse de Villeda, told Bloomberg News: “Zelaya won’t be restored…just by signing this agreement we already have the recognition of the international community for the elections.”

The pro-coup parties will also dominate the “government of national reconciliation”, so there will no more reforms for the workers and poor – the agreement accepts in law the national budget and spending plans of the coup government. Finally, under the agreement Zelaya explicitly renounces calling a Constitutional Assembly – the key reason he was ousted in the first place and the main reason the mass resistance supported him.

The state of emergency will not be lifted till two weeks before the elections so they will occur in climate of fear and intimidation. Furthermore under the reactionary constitution, the army controls the ballot boxes in the election! The oligarchs will get what they want: a return to their two-party rule and the crushing of any reform movement.

The National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG) which has co-ordinated the struggle is a popular front of workers, peasants, priests, middle classes and the section of the Liberal Party that supports Zelaya. This reliance on the Zelaya and his faction of the Liberal Party is its fatal weakness – after all Micheletti comes from the other faction of the party. So too was assumption that Zelaya – a Liberal turned populist in office – could simply imitate Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Chavez strong position was a result of the failed military coup and mass mobilisation that broke the power of the old elite over the armed forces. Without the masses actually defeating the coup, Zelaya – even if he wished it – would always have been unable to remove the obstacles to any serious progressive reforms opposed by the army and the state machine. For this a revolutionary mobilisation of the masses was necessary, including the winning over of the rank and file of the army. Instead the mass movement was derailed for a month while Zelaya and his supporters were negotiating with the coup-makers.

Now the FNRG has issued a statement welcoming the deal.

“We celebrate the upcoming restoration of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales as a popular victory over the narrow interests of the coup oligarchy. This victory has been obtained through four months of struggle and sacrifice by the people who, in spite of the savage repression unleashed by the repressive forces of the state in the hands of the dominant class, have been able to resist and grow in their levels of consciousness and organisation and turn themselves into an irrepressible social force.” It claims the agreement represents “the explicit acceptance that in Honduras there was a coup d’etat that should be dismantled ... to guarantee a democratic framework in which the people can exercise their right to transform society”

This is a delusion at best, a deception at worst.

The election process is likely to prove a farce – it is run by the army under the Honduran constitution – the “worst in the world” according to Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. The agreement re-emphsised this aswell. So the masses will vote under the guns and batons of the police and the army. The agreement also outlaws any demonstrations or protests during the election period or against the results – so ensuring that there will be no popular revolt if the result is fixed.

Carlos Reyes, a key figure in the FNRG and leader of the Beverage Workers’ Union, is standing for president as an independent candidate. His union has been central to the opposition. It has demonstrated, led strikes and issued statements calling for a constitutional assembly and the arrest of the coup-makers. It is not clear as we go to press what attitude Reyes has taken to the final deal though previous statement would suggest he is opposed to all the concessions it contains.

If he now unequivocally denounces it and calls for the continuation of the fight against the illegitimate regime and whatever reactionary president that is elected in November, if he continues the fight for a Constituent Assembly, then his candidacy could be a clarion call for the struggle to go on, despite Zelaya’s betrayal. In this case revolutionaries should certainly critically support him. Another giant step would be if Reyes and his union breaks with Zelaya and the Liberals compromisers within the FNRG and goes on to form a workers’ political party.

Such a party must be independent of the bosses, of all agencies of US imperialism, the NGOs and the church. It must develop into a mass, revolutionary party rooted in the trade unions, peasant organisations and colonias (the shanty towns around the cities). It should continue the fight for not only for a revolutionary Constituent Assembly but for a socialist revolution that can smash the power of the Honduran oligarchs.