Raising the stakes in Honduras

Olivia Ward
Foreign Affairs Reporter


International pressure mounts for coup leaders to reinstate president, as U.S. takes tough stand Sep 06, 2009 04:30 AM Olivia Ward Foreign Affairs Reporter It’s been two months since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was seized in the middle of the night and bundled onto a plane by his political foes. And since the coup, regional and international diplomats have been struggling to negotiate his return. An announcement last week that Washington won’t recognize the results of an election scheduled for November – a month before Zelaya’s term officially expires – has raised the stakes for the coup leaders, and the people of the cash-strapped country. “Based on conditions as they currently exist, we cannot recognize the results,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Friday, adding that the Honduran regime was now “in a box.”

The Obama administration urged the de facto government, led by Roberto Micheletti, to accept an accord brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. It would allow Zelaya to return with limited authority until the poll was held. But coup leaders rejected the deal, saying Zelaya was ousted for trying to extend his power illegally by running a referendum that would open the way to a now forbidden second term – a charge he denies. The Organization of American States suspended Honduras’s membership, and Washington slapped on limited sanctions and withdrew non-humanitarian aid. Canada supports the accord, but has continued its small military aid program for Honduras. Inside Honduras, news of the U.S. decision on the election was greeted with elation by Zelaya’s supporters, many of whom are impoverished. The country’s elite, and more affluent middle class, generally supports the coup, which they believe would save Honduras from becoming a satellite of Zelaya’s ally, flamboyant left-wing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

“The Obama administration has made an important move,” said Luis Granados, a Toronto youth worker who is in the capital Tegucigalpa as part of a Latin American Solidarity Network delegation to document human rights violations. The Toronto-based coalition supports progressive social movements in the Americas. “The mood has changed, and people are more optimistic,” Granados said in a phone interview. “The country is unstable, and they’ve experienced repression, but they support cutting aid. They’re willing to suffer for a month or so if they can get rid of the coup.” But there are fears that Honduras’s turbulence could last longer, and create a larger crisis in the region, which has been increasingly polarized since the anti-American Chavez came to power. “It’s a real dilemma for the international community,” says Jennifer McCoy of the Carter Center’s Americas Program in Atlanta, Ga. “If election day comes and nothing changes, what will happen then?” But she adds, “the real tragedy is for the Honduran people. They’re the ones who will suffer if the standoff continues.” With widespread reports of repression and human rights violations under the coup regime, it would be difficult for the international community to recognize any election it held as legitimate.

But, says Maxwell Cameron, a Latin American expert at the University of British Columbia, the U.S. and Canada have so far failed to push forcefully enough for a diplomatic solution that would allow Zelaya to serve out his term, and set the stage for a democratic election. “The international community could have taken more aggressive measures to make it clear to the regime that even for a short period of time it can’t be considered legitimate,” he said. With two months to go before the vote, there’s still time for coup leaders to take heed of America’s tougher stance. If not, experts warn, instability could spread. “The true significance of the coup, in one of the poorest and weakest countries in the hemisphere … lies in the test it poses to the inter-American system,” says Jorge Heine of the Balsillie School of International Affairs. “If the latter cannot succeed in restoring democracy in Honduras, it cannot do so anywhere. The message would thus be crystal clear: coup-makers can act with impunity.”


Condemn the Coup in Honduras


by Lucho Granados Ceja and Karen Spring
BASICS # 15 (Sep / Oct 2009)

In the early morning of June 28th, 2009, democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was abducted from his home by the military and exiled to San Jose, Costa Rica. This coup has been widely condemned by multiple international organizations, including the Organization of American States, the European Union and the United Nations; and no government in the world has recognized the de facto regime – installed after the coup – as legitimate.

The coup was perpetuated by a group of political elites in order to oust Zelaya, who was implementing pro-people reforms such as a minimum wage increase. The ruling-class had grown accustomed to growing rich off the backs of the people. The day of the coup, a vote was meant to have taken place in order to determine the desire of the Honduran people to re-write the constitution. It was this prospect of a more progressive constitution that would favour the interests of the people, and not the rich, that drove them to oust the President.

What the elites did not expect was the massive response of the Honduran people. Since the coup, the people are on the streets on a daily basis, strikes regularly occur in every sector of the economy, and road blocks are routinely set up in order to disrupt commerce. A level of unity never seen before has emerged amongst the social movements. The illegitimate government has responded with human rights violations such as assassinations, violent repression, the silencing of free speech, and detentions, all of which were recently confirmed by Amnesty International in a report released in August 2009.

However, this coup is a threat not only to the Honduran people but to the Latin American region as a whole. Latin America has been undergoing a profound social and economic transformation over the last decade, where a new society that puts people first is being created. If the coup is allowed to pass in Honduras, it could set a very dangerous precedent for Latin America.

Not surprisingly, the Canadian government has been playing a negative role with respect to this situation. While most countries were quick to condemn the coup, Canada was the last to respond and when it did, Minister of State Peter Kent attempted to shift part of the blame onto President Zelaya. Canada still refuses to suspend aid to the illegitimate government, including military aid, which is presently being used to repress the popular movement in the streets. At the time of writing, the movement had just completed two months of resistance on the streets and the movement is committed to struggling until this coup is overturned.

Canadians must demand that the Canadian government respect the right of the Honduran people to self-determination and that all “aid” to the illegitimate government in Honduras be halted immediately.

Injustice, Struggle & Why It Even Matters: A view from Honduras


by Lucho Granados Ceja

The political history of Latin America can often read like a novel with movements that have inspired millions around the world, with its share of heartbreaking disappointments as well. Important to me, however, is the determination of the Latin American people to resist no matter the conditions or consequences. At times this has meant mobilization at the polls, at other times it has meant massive rallies on the street, but it has also occasionally meant clandestine work under the constant threat of torture, disappearances, and murder at the hands of a dictatorial regime. If the coup that ousted democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is not defeated, this last type of organizing may be what many people of Latin America will have to face once again.

A soldier walks by a woman waving the flag of the Liberal Party of HondurasA soldier walks by a woman waving the flag of the Liberal Party of Honduras

I am too young to have lived through the period where coups and dictatorships were common in Latin America but many of the elders in my community are not and it is their very real and personal stories that have motivated me to do everything I can to support the resistance against the coup. As a result, I have come to Honduras as part of the Canadian Delegation in Support of Resistance in Honduras organized by the Latin American Solidarity Network. Sunday morning I attended an event organized by the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH in Spanish) to honour those who were disappeared by dictatorial regimes during the previous decades in the country. At the event, the names of many of those who were lost were read out loud and after each name the crowd shouted “presente”, or “they are present”. This very powerful act made it clear to anyone in the room that those who were lost are not forgotten.

This year however, this event has special significance. As a result of the coup on June 28, 2009, human rights violations are not talked about as something that occurred in the distant past. No, these violations are occurring presently at the hands of the illegitimate regime. This year, honouring those who were lost implies taking action today and tomorrow to put an end to this illegitimate regime in order to prevent the human rights situation from deteriorating any further. And so the Honduran people have been on the streets peacefully demanding justice for over 2 months while the illegal regime detains members of the resistance movement, attempts to silence free-speech, and carries out assassinations.

The social movements of Latin America that organized under democratic norms were able to secure amazing victories for the people and achieve a higher standard of living for the poorest. These struggles, however, become a thousand times more difficult when they must be done clandestinely, when publicly calling for justice can mean a death sentence for the person who made that call. There are cures for the injustices of the world but there are those who stand to lose should these remedies be implemented. These economic and political elites have intervened and will intervene to protect their interests; history has proven that a hundred times over. But history has also shown the people will continue to resist and struggle, people cannot rest when they are facing daily injustices in their lives. Let us work so that these struggles take place on the most even playing field possible, as peacefully as possible. I would like to be clear in saying that I am no pacifist, the content of the struggle should be reflective of the reality of the situation, but I am not a blind advocate for violent struggle either, so let us work in every way we can to ensure the debate is not dominated by the exchange of gunfire.

I had the honour of participating in the 2009 Presidential elections in El Salvador this past March alongside the FMLN, a guerrilla movement turned political party. I spoke with many of the party leaders, former guerrillas themselves, who all said that the victory achieved in the Presidential elections meant the lives lost in the civil war were not in vain. However,

The daily march against the coup works its way through the 3 de Mayo neighbourhood, one of the poorest in TegucigalpaThe daily march against the coup works its way through the 3 de Mayo neighbourhood, one of the poorest in Tegucigalpa

many of them also spoke of the fact that it would have been much preferred to not have had to engage in such violence to get to that point.

We have a duty to do whatever we can to support the restoration of democracy in Honduras, the coup cannot become a model for other countries to follow. We have the opportunity to avoid a situation where movements, in the face of state-sponsored violence, will have to resort to armed struggle as a means to an end – but we must act now. Whether or not we approve of the policies of Manuel Zelaya – or any government for that matter – nothing should usurp the right of people to democratically participate in society. COFADEH’s event that I attended on Sunday makes clear the consequences of organizing under military dictatorships. Latin America has been peacefully undergoing a profound social and economic transformation over the last decade.
We cannot allow that to be interrupted by coup-thirsty elites.

The Coup in Honduras


by Faiz Ahmed

The military coup carried out by masked soldiers in the early hours of June 28 against the democratically elected President of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was a bandit act with differing messages intended for different audiences. One such audience is the oligarchical groupings throughout the hemisphere, who will be emboldened by Washington’s tacit tolerance of the coup makers. Another audience is the Latin American leftist and popular governments, who are being told that their agendas can be trumped by non-democratic means. And there is yet another audience: the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean governments who, like Zelaya, are far from ideologically opposed to capitalism, but are aware of their inability to improve the overall quality of life of their societies within capitalism’s current configuration. As a result, many of these island governments are edging towards regional agreements based on principles antithetical to the capitalist system. This is perhaps why English-speaking Caribbean nations account for ten of the eighteen countries participating in the Venezuelan-led regional agreement PetroCaribe. Launched in 2005, PetroCaribe enables Caribbean governments to purchase oil and natural gas on terms that allow for the financing of upwards of 60 percent of the costs over a twenty-five year period at interest rates close to one percent. Also included in the agreement are mechanisms to finance costs associated with building energy infrastructure projects such as refineries and fuel storage facilities, as well as costs of fertilizer purchases to increase food production.

These Caribbean countries typically have been grappling with debt-to-GDP ratios ranging between 50 percent and 150 percent for the better part of the past two decades. They are economically dependent on tourism and the export of a very narrow range of agricultural commodities and natural resources. They remain highly vulnerable to the effects of hurricanes, tropical storms, sea level rises, and climate change. As a result, this new ability to finance a large portion of their energy requirements creates much needed economic space to pursue domestic agendas which, among other objectives, include: creating national food security; repairing and maintaining physical infrastructure such as roadways and airports; and strengthening social services such as healthcare and education. Or more simply, building some degree of self-sufficiency, albeit within a program that does not deviate from a capitalist approach to development. The ability to more freely pursue their domestic agendas is the main reason why, over the past eighteen months, three English-speaking Caribbean states have developed a rather perspicacious outlook and become members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA — an acronym that also means “dawn”). In their view, the regional bloc is not oriented towards a competitive model that exploits weaknesses but is instead an example of a cooperative model that creates space for states to cultivate some degree of self-sufficiency.

The coup against Zelaya, the utterly illegal removal of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide five and a half years before that, and the short-lived coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez two years before that all show that international capitalism cannot tolerate any domestic agenda which includes an objective of self-sufficiency. Added to this intolerance is capitalism’s long-standing fear of the threat of a good example. Located in the Eastern Caribbean, the three English-speaking states of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines form one-third of the nine-member ALBA. In fact, these islands are also members of three other important regional blocs, namely: the fifteen-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the twelve-member Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). All of these groupings, composed mainly of English-speaking Caribbean islands, have done much to create a unified relationship among its members. As such, the experiences of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines within ALBA will undoubtedly be watched by other islands in the region. Each of these islands has been trying to mitigate the myriad challenges facing them over the past two decades, yet are experiencing very little success, as demonstrated by their weakening economies, degrading environments, and alarmingly, declining social indicators such as mortality. By one measure, life expectancy in the English-speaking Caribbean has fallen by four years over the past decade.1 ALBA and the Road to Self-sufficiency Alongside the commitment to facilitate cooperative development, ALBA’s strength lies in its ability to identify member-states’ weaknesses within capitalism and devise projects to mitigate and overcome their challenges. This analytical quality has allowed for the emergence of a large number of projects organized under ALBA’s four main institutions: the ALBA Oil Agreement, the Bank of ALBA, the ALBA Peoples’ Trade Agreement, and the ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative.

The sometimes overlapping projects are in various stages of development and implementation and are free to be used or ignored, at will, by any member state. ALBA Oil Agreement Modeled on the principles governing PetroCaribe, the ALBA Oil Agreement is a mechanism for member states to finance their oil purchases on a long-term, low-interest basis, of which a portion can be repaid in goods and services. For countries in the Caribbean, whose annual energy costs represent expenditures between 15 percent and 30 percent of their GDPs, the agreement is quite attractive. Furthermore, and similar to what exists under PetroCaribe, infrastructure projects designed to facilitate or increase oil delivery, oil storage capacity, and oil refining capabilities have been undertaken, all of which have the explicit goal of reducing the overall cost of each barrel of oil these countries import. Also within the ALBA Oil Agreement is a project that sees 25 percent of every oil receipt accumulate in what has come to be known as the ALBA fund, which is designed to be loaned to member states to pursue social development projects. Bank of ALBA In line with the objectives of the ALBA fund, and probably because of the example set by the fund, the Bank of ALBA was established in 2008 to offer member states access to capital to pursue social development projects. Although the Bank has a total capitalization of only a small fraction of the value of other regional multilateral lending institutions, it offers a far more egalitarian governance structure, exampled by a rotating directorship among member states, and a decision-making structure where each member has an equally weighted vote.

Established in the shadow of the ongoing global food crisis, the Bank’s first projects have been the establishment of a food-distribution company tasked with creating an efficient distribution network between member states and a regional food-production fund meant to be allocated to member states to assist them with domestic agricultural initiatives. Both projects have an explicit goal of creating some degree of regional food security. ALBA Peoples’ Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP) Devised to coordinate the trading of goods and services within the bloc, ALBA-TCP outlines the specific obligations in the form of actions to be taken by each participating member state. The actions stipulated in the agreement attempt to locate areas of need within each participating state and then to match these areas with goods and services available in partnering member states. The result is a series of bilateral agreements between participating member state. To date, only Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela are active in ALBA-TCP. ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative The ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative takes the form of developing localized independent media outlets and cultivating cultural exchange through sport. The most developed of these initiatives is the ALBA Games project, which has been held on a biannual basis since 2005 and is meant to facilitate competition and training among the hundreds of athletes from around the world who participate.

There are very good reasons to project that, left unmolested, ALBA has the potential to offer Caribbean states a space where self-sufficiency can be striven for. An appealing quality of ALBA and its sister initiatives such as PetroCaribe is that they do not have political strings attached to them. Countries are signing on because the regional arrangements primarily offer economic flexibility. Countries are able to follow development paths of their choosing, which in the Caribbean still seem to be a Keynesian-inspired form of state-capitalism. For most countries in the region, this means establishing a much greater degree of self-sufficiency, in the form of food security, social development, and economic growth. In keeping with imperialism’s sordid history, the reactionary forces in Honduras have demonstrated the lengths to which they are prepared to go to obstruct any goal of self-sufficiency that excludes oligarchical domination. The government of Zelaya was not revolutionary. However, it was looking to better the lives of the people who elected it and saw that ALBA was one mechanism by which it could fulfill this objective. This is precisely why the coup against the democratically elected government of Honduras is rightly being seen as a threat against the bloc, and it should also be seen as a threat against like-minded governments throughout the region, who are slowly edging towards ALBA. A shorter version of this article was recently presented to the Coalición Venezuela Estamos Contigo / Venezuela We Are With You Coalition of Toronto.

Faiz Ahmed is a doctoral student in sociology and focuses on the study of islands and the political economy of capitalist-led sustainable development plans. His master’s thesis titled “An Examination of the Development Path Taken by Small Island Developing States” can be downloaded at http://www.islandvulnerability.org/m/ahmedm.pdf. NOTE 1 Life expectancy estimates for the English-speaking Caribbean were taken from United Nations Human Development Reports. Taken in the aggregate, life expectancies in the region have fallen by roughly 6 months over the past decade. However, when the populations of these islands are assigned values based on their proportion to the entire population of the English-speaking Caribbean, we see that life expectancies have fallen by 4 years.

garifunaprotest 4

Honduras Canadian Delegation Report: September 1st

Close to 5,000 people gathered in front of the Universidad Pedagogica Nacional Francisco Morazan (UPNFM) to demand the return of President Manual Zelaya. As they gathered one could feel the carnival type atmosphere with people dancing, blowing whistles and singing. As the march made its way down the main thruway, the high level of organization of the resistance movement was obvious. The university students quickly mobilized into action to maintain security. On foot and on motorcycles they drove at the head of the march and weaved in and out of protestors ensuring no confrontation or violence took place with the police. The streets were lined with heavily armed police and military personal protecting the western type fast-food establishments.

One could see university students checking individual press credentials ensuring there were no “infiltrators” trying to cause trouble. We are told this is standard protocol as the defacto government consistently tries to infiltrate the peaceful protests in order to instigate violence. As leaders of the march began their speeches on the street, suddenly a women took the microphone and started to yell. One could quickly sense the desperation and fear in her voice… “I need help …they are going to take him prisoner..they are going to take him away”. One of the leaders went on to explain that she was denouncing what just happened because her and her partner, who had just gone to the bank to make a transaction were identified as supporters of the president Manuel Zelaya and they detained her partner. The women grabbed the microphone again and started to yell: “We are not afraid… We are not afraid… You can register our car because we are citizens and in this country if there’s freedom of expression then they should let us freely express it …as long as Manuel Zelaya is not here there will never be peace..let it be known there can be no peace.”

With that the resistance movement sprang into action. A call was put out for a group to help and accompany her back to where her partner was being detained. Immediately, about 25 people rallied to her side marching back with her. There they were joined by many more people who with their collective voice demanding justice, managed to free him on the spot. As the women and her partner got into their car it was surrounded by the crowed who escorted them. As they drove away the crowd in a triumphant voice chanted “El pueblo unido hamas sera vencido… The people untied will ever be defeated.” In front of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de las Bebidas y Similares (Workers Union of the Industry of the Beverage and Similar Industries) we were reminded by Bertha Caceres from Consejo de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) why the struggle continues:

“For us this is part of our continued historic struggle. It’s not just recently that we have been demanding a participatory democracy but rather we have been struggling for this for a long time. This is why the role of black, indigenous and rural campesina (peasant) women has been so strong in defence of and for the reinstatement of the President Manuel Zelaya. We are not just demanding the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya, we are also proposing the refounding of our country. One of those steps is the installation of a national constitutional  assembly, but not just any one but one that is of the people and democratic.”

Coup Catalyzes Honduran Women´s Movement

Laura Carlsen

Director, Americas Program, Center For International Policy


On the morning of June 28, women’s organizations throughout Honduras were preparing to promote a yes vote on the national survey to hold a Constitutional Assembly. Then the phones lines started buzzing.

In this poor Central American nation, feminists have been organizing for years in defense of women’s rights, equality and against violence. When the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was forcibly exiled by the armed forces, women from all over the country spontaneously organized to protect themselves and their families and demand a return to democracy. They called the new umbrella organization “Feminists in Resistance.”

On Aug. 18, Feminists in Resistance sat down with women from the international delegation forWomen’s Human Rights Week, which they organized to monitor and analyze human rights violations and challenges for the organization. One after another they told their stories in a long session that combined group therapy and political analysis–a natural mix at this critical point in Honduran history and the history of their movement.

Miriam Suazo relates the events of the day of the coup. “On the 28th, women began calling each other, saying ‘what’s happening?'” At first no-one really understood the full extent of the coup, she says, but networks mobilized quickly and women began to gather to share information and plan actions. Independent feminists and feminists from different organizations immediately identified with each other and with the rising resistance to the coup. They began going out to help those who had been beaten and to trace individuals arrested by security forces.

For some, the shock of waking up to a coup d’état wasn’t new.

“This is my third coup,” relates Marielena. “I was girl when the coup in 1963 happened. Then I lived through the coup in 1972. We lived in front of a school and I saw how my mother faced the bullets, we thought they were going to kill her… Later in the university in the ’80s I lived through the repression with many of the women here… So this has revived the story of my life.”

There is a saying in Honduras about the Central American dirty war that “While the U.S. had its eye on Nicaragua and its hands in El Salvador, it had its boot on Honduras.” For the older women who remember the terror of that time when over 200 people were disappeared and hundreds tortured and assassinated, the current coup stirs up deep fears. Gilda Rivera, director of the Center for Women’s Rights in Tegucigalpa, says, “I’ve had a messed-up life. I was among the students kidnapped by Billy Joya in the ’80s… Now I’ve been to the border twice, I’ve lived with a curfew over my head. Sometimes I wake up alone, terrified.”

The older women agree that they have grown and their movement has grown since the ’80s.
Marielena notes, “Today´s not the same as the ’80s because there’s a popular movement that the coup leaders never imagined… What Zelaya has done is symbolize the popular discontent accumulated over the years.” She recounts the August 5 battle for the university where she works and the surprising participation of students. Her story is echoed in variations by many of the women present.

Although they battle nightmares and long-buried trauma, these women also see a new hope for the resistance this time around and for their own fight for women´s rights. The repression and fear has strengthened their resolve. “Sure, I’m afraid of dying but I´m not losing hope,” Gilda says. “I see hope in the faces of the people at the marches. And the solidarity from women, from all of you, keeps me going.”

For Jessica, events this year brought to mind the contra war of the ’80s. “I never imagined that my daughters would have to be in a situation like this,” she says. As a mother who has lived through the period before Honduras began its incomplete transition to democracy, and the period when democracy was merely a word that belied a much cruder reality in the country, she worries. “I told my daughter not to go to the march. She said, ‘Mom, what about my autonomy?'”

“My little girl — she’s 18 now, but she’s still my little girl — ended up going with me to the march. It was really gratifying for me that we went together.” These women know in their bodies and their hearts the costs of resistance. They also know that the costs of not resisting are far greater.

For the new generation of feminists, the catalyst came with the confrontation in front of the National Institute of Women on July 15. The day the coup-appointed head of the Institute was installed, Feminists in Resistance gathered to protest the takeover of “their” institution. Keila says, “The police used their billy clubs, they grabbed me by the neck. I was filled with so much rage — I was drowning in it.” Many women in the organization experienced a turning point in their lives that day. Adelai explains, “(The Institute) was my turf, something that belonged to me, and they attacked us there. That was a direct assault on our condition as women… What they did there really affected me personally.”

Despite a lot of suffering, the women in the Feminists in Resistance meeting agree that the exhausting dynamic of constant mobilizations and repression has deepened their commitment. Their movement has also come together and developed closer ties to the general movement. When word got out that the feminists were being attacked at the Women’s Institute, demonstrators from the entire demonstration of the National Front against the Coup immediately marched to the Institute to defend the women and show their solidarity.

Although the Front leadership continues to be mostly male, men in the movement have publicly recognized the contributions of the feminist organizations and women in the resistance. From tracking the wounded and detained, to marching day after day, to developing analysis and strategy papers, women’s organizations have played a critical role in opposing the coup.

At a meeting between leaders of the Front and Feminists in Resistance earlier in the day, Salvador Zuniga, a leader of the Confederation of Indigenous and Black Peoples of Honduras (COPINH) and the Front, recognized that women have been among the most active and courageous in the resistance movement. He pointed out that the feminist movement is at the center of the rightwing reaction that led to the coup.

“One of the things that provoked the coup d’état was that the president accepted a petition from the feminist movement regarding the day-after pill. Opus Dei mobilized, the fundamentalist evangelical churches mobilized, along with all the reactionary groups,” he explained.

The unprecedented role of women in the nation’s fight for democracy opens them up as a target for repression. Zuniga concluded in no uncertain terms, “What I can say is that the feminist compañeras are in greater danger than any other organization. This has to be made public.” His conclusion is based on the forces now in control of the Women´s Institute.

Besides being at the receiving end of the billy clubs and pistols along with the rest of the movement, women suffer specific forms of repression and violence; their bodies have become part of the battleground. Human rights groups including the Women’s Human Rights Week international delegation have documented rapes, beatings, sexual harassment and discriminatory insults. Army and police units routinely shout out “whores!”, “Go find a husband!”, “Go home where you belong!” at the more and more frequent confrontations between the women and the coup security forces.

It’s precisely that step out of the private sphere that makes these dangerous times so exciting and energizes the women of the organization. Many report being driven by the adrenaline of knowing that this time they are the ones defining their history. They ride a roller coaster of emotions, often pitching from euphoria to despair in a single day. But one constant is the satisfaction of binding in a political project with other women who understand the full scope of what they demand and share the contradictory feelings storming inside.

The budding movement that has come together in the heat of the coup as Feminists in Resistance faces some major challenges, the first to defeat the coup that now enters Day 54 on the resistance calendar. As the rightwing consolidates power and its own perverse brand of institutionalism, they feel like they´re looking down the barrel of a gun as far as their rights and safety are concerned. Rumors circulate that the coup will dismantle the Institute for Women. Congress is about to initiate obligatory military service, meaning that mothers throughout the country will be compelled to protect their children from forced induction. Their freedom of expression, freedom of transit, freedom of assembly have all been curtailed under the coup, along with everyone else who opposes the regime, except for them the physical enforcement of reduced liberties is accompanied by acts of sexual violence and threats.

Big questions are on the table at the meeting of Honduran and international feminists. How to fight for a necessary return to institutional order at a time when the vulnerability and insufficient nature of those institutions has been exposed? How to avoid relegating women´s demands to a lower plane in a period of acute political crisis? How to break through a media black-out that´s even more impenetrable if you´re against the coup and a woman? And how to simply hold your work and family together while spending hours a day in the streets and meetings.

Bertha Cáceres is a leader of COPINH, a leader of the Front, and mother of four. In her political work she has integrated her specific demands as a woman and believes that organized women must be front-and-center in the resistance against the coup.

“First, because (our struggle as women) means confronting a dictatorship based on different forms of domination. We´ve said that it´s not just destructive capitalism, not just the racism that has also been strengthened by this dictatorship, but also patriarchy. So we think our resistance as women means going a step further, toward a more strategic vision, a more long-term vision in fighting for our country.”

She points to a national constitutional assembly as a fundamental goal for women. “For the first time we would be able to establish a precedent for the emancipation of women, to begin to break these forms of domination. The current constitution never mentions women, not once, so to establish our human rights, our reproductive, sexual, political, social and economic rights as women would be to really confront this system of domination.”

The women of Feminists in Resistance have no illusions that this will be an easy task. In addition to the challenges above, the movement is in transition to a new stage of nationwide local organization and long-term strategizing, at the same time as it faces increasing repression and human rights violations. The question of the elections slated for November has created another deadline for definitions of Sept. 1, when President Zelaya has sworn to return to the country and campaigns would normally begin. Feminists in Resistance has a clear position to boycott any coup-sponsored elections, but some other parts of the movement and the international diplomatic community have been more ambiguous.

What´s certain amid these rapidly changing national scenarios is that Honduran women have built a movement that, despite little media attention and the barriers of a male-dominated society, has garnered international support from women around the world and respect from the general resistance movement. Their organization will continue to play a central role in what happens next in Honduras–a key determinant of the course of democracy throughout the Hemisphere.