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Wed Jun 27, 2012, 12:46 PM

Honduras - three years after the coup

Honduras - three years after the coup
John Perry , 27 June 2012

On the third anniversary of the coup, the resistance movement faces formidable obstacles in attempting to recreate the space for progressive politics which began to open up under Zelaya, but which led to his downfall.

It is three years since the coup in Honduras which forced President Manuel Zelaya from office and into temporary exile. As well as suffering Latin America’s only military coup in the past decade, since then Honduras has gained other unfortunate distinctions. Its murder rate is four times that of Mexico and it has become the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, with 23 having been assassinated over the last three years. Despite the condemnation of the coup by every government in Latin America and of all political complexions, the United States reserved its criticisms, then enthusiastically endorsed Porfirio Lobo when he took office as president in January 2010 after highly questionable elections. After well over half of Lobo’s term in office, the only grounds for optimism in Honduras are offered by the resistance movement which sprang up in response to the coup. However, it faces formidable obstacles in attempting to recreate the space for progressive politics which began to open up under Zelaya, but which led to his downfall.

As with the coup itself, the recent history of Honduras is distinct from that of its Central American neighbours. In the turmoil of the 1980s, progressive forces in Honduras never developed an armed struggle like those in the three neighbouring countries which led to left-of-centre governments in two of them. While the repressive Honduran armed forces received similar US military aid to their equivalents in Guatemala and El Salvador, Honduras also hosted a massive US base and the US-supported ‘Contra’ forces that attacked Nicaragua for most of the decade following its 1979 revolution (and were only disarmed when Nicaraguans elected a government acceptable to the United States in 1990).

Economically, Honduras and its three neighbours have – for most of the period since their independence – been dominated internationally by big companies such as United Fruit (ironically rebranded in 1984 as Chiquita, which means ‘very small’). Internally they have each been dominated by around a dozen leading families who retain a tight grip on most locally-owned big businesses. Typically, Central American countries have these relatively small elites which identify as much with Miami as they do locally, and maintain a massive gap between rich and poor (now being steadily closed in Nicaragua). Honduras, long-known as the quintessential ‘banana republic’, is the most marked in these respects (having, for example, the highest indicator of income inequality of the four).


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