by Lisa Sullivan, SOA Watch, July 10, 2009
Today in Honduras was a day of brilliant sunshine interrupted by torrential rain, in a country were extremes seem to be the norm. While classes started up and businesses opened up their storefronts, there were also roadblocks and rallies and resistance meetings and curfews. People strolled quietly down streets covered with virulent anti-coup graffiti. As I write, cars rush noisily outside our hotel as people try to get home before the curfew, in 15 minutes the streets will be silent.
This is the 11th day of a coup, and Milton Rodriguez, age 18, has been walking on the streets for each of these days, and has the broken shoes to show for it. Like many others, he reached out his hand to thank us for joining him, and several thousand others, in blocking the cities’ main southern road this morning, one of daily street actions to protest the coup. He immediately gave us his reason for doing so: Article 3 of his constitution that states that he need not be subordinate to a government that takes usurps power.
In return, we also shared our reason for being there. A school funded by our tax dollars had trained the generals that abducted his president at gunpoint. A government representing us had forgotten that the use of certain nouns (coup) required the use of certain verbs as well, verbs such as (withhold) military aid, (remove) your troops, (withdraw) your ambassador. This is the message that Fathers Joe Mulligan and Roy Bourgeois took to the podium at the road block, much to the enthusiastic applause of the Hondurans who filled the streets.
It is also the message that we will take to the U.S. embassy tomorrow, at a meeting granted to our group in the morning. Many of our Honduran allies expressed frustration that the double message coming from the U.S. does not bode well for the mediation process that Secretary of State Clinton set up in Costa Rica, which begins tomorrow. In spite of the insistence on local tv stations in Honduras that this was a lovely way out of this miserable mess, the feeling on the streets here was that mediation with coup leaders is not possible. The unconditional return of their democratically elected president was the only solution acceptable to them.
We were invited to a strategy meeting with the leaders of the resistance movement (Frente Nacional de Resistencia contra el Golpe en Honduras) and found a dynamic, diverse, focused, unified and efficient group whose common goal – the return of their president and the reinstatement of the constitutional reform process - would not be deterred by any amount of barriers. Just a few minutes with this group – labor leaders, teachers, bus drivers, indigenous movements, human rights activists, artists, journalists, and campesinos - made it clear that this was not the first time they were gathering. It is this joint expression of social movements that initiated a process calling for a new constitution over 5 years ago, as a radical step towards creating a society of participative rather than representative democracy. It was they who invited Mel, as they call their president, to join them in this goal, not vice-versa. The folks who write those Washington Post editorials should spent 30 seconds with this group to realize not only their determination, but that the motivation behind the June 28th consultation, that led to Zelaya’s removal, had nothing to do with a re-election push of one person, and everything to do with their dreams of “another world is possible”.
Today the SOA-Honduran coup connections continued to deepen. In addition to the key coup players who are SOA grads, Chief of Staff Commander General Romeo Vasquez and Air Force Commander General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, new cabinet members were named by the coup government, whose attendance at the SOA was part of their CV. Director of Immigration Willy Mejia Mejia and Assistant Minister of Security Mario Raul Hung Pacheco will round out a hearty portfolio of SOA grads in this coup, with more military cabinet members expected to be named soon.
Tomorrow is our last full day here, and the fate of Honduras, will continue to be at play in the streets of Tegucigalpa, the hallways of San Jose Costa Rica, and the interchanges of emails such as yourselves. Your solidarity is resounding throughout Honduras and throughout Latin America, where this coup is taken personally, as something against all of the Americas. These have been new and hopeful times in this continent, where new experiments are arising as fast as you can say “experiment”. On the streets and in the meeting rooms here, and in the cyber buzz all around, there is fear that the violent dashing of this little flame in this little country, may well portend more of the same in other parts of the continent.