Political crisis resolved in Honduras
The refoundation project of Xiomara Castro lives
The Honduran daily newspaper Tiempo reported on February 7 that an agreement had been reached between Manuel Zelaya, Coordinator of the Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre for its initials in Spanish), and Jorge Cálix, a Libre congressional deputy who was president of one of the two governing boards of the National Congress. The agreement resolved the political crisis that had broken out in the days immediately prior to the inauguration of newly elected president Xiomara Castro, and that threatened to undermine her administration’s comprehensive program of refoundation and reform. Manuel Zelaya is the former president of Honduras, deposed by a parliamentary-military coup d’etat in 2009, and the husband of the new president.
The agreement stipulates that Cálix will renounce his claim to the presidency of the National Congress, and that the seventeen dissident deputies of Libre who had backed Cálix will support Luis Redondo as President of the National Congress. The agreement further stipulates that the dissident deputies will be reintegrated into the Libre party, from which they had been expelled. The agreement thus ends a situation of two governing boards of the National Congress, both claiming legitimacy and convoking separate congressional sessions. The dissident deputies were present to sign the agreement at the announcement of the accord by Zelaya and Cálix; and on the following day, the full congress met in a session convoked by Redondo. The returning dissident deputies were greeted with enthusiastic applause as they arrived, accompanied by mariachi music.
Xiomara Castro, standing as candidate of the Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre) and supported by an alliance of new and alternative parties, won the presidential elections of November 28, 2021, with 55% of the vote. Prior to the elections, the Libre party had made an agreement with the Savior Party of Honduras (PSH), in which the PSH presidential candidate would withdraw and support Castro, and Libre would support a deputy of PSH for the position of president of the National Congress. However, following the elections, seventeen deputies of Libre supported Cálix, a Libre deputy, in violation of the agreement. The dissident deputies joined with the National Party, a traditional party in cahoots with the military dictatorship of 2009-2021, to elect Cálix as president of the Congress, in a separate congressional session held in a social club outside the capital city. Meanwhile, Libre congressional deputies (minus the seventeen dissidents), with the support of deputies of PSH and other allied parties, elected Luis Redondo of PSH as president of the National Congress, in accordance with the pre-election agreement.
During the crisis, which lasted for fifteen days, congressional sessions of the Congress headed by Libre and PSH were held in the parliamentary building, whereas the sessions headed by the National Party and the dissident Libre deputies were held online; with a greater number of deputies present at the Libre/PSH sessions. However, a Honduran analyst reported on the Venezuelan state television network Telesur that both parallel sessions had attained a quorum, and the physical location of a session is irrelevant to its legality. So both sessions were legal. Moreover, the Supreme Court, because of reductions in its authority during the military dictatorship, does not have the authority to decide the question. The analyst maintained that the only resolution is for one of the two sides to renounce, which now has occurred.
Analysts maintain that the crisis was caused by the resistance of the National Party and the Honduran oligarchy to Xiomara Castro’s proposal for social change. In addition, some deputies of the National Party fear criminal charges; the last twelve years of military dictatorship have been the most corrupt in Honduran history, with government ties to international drug trafficking. The U.S. embassy, always present in the shaping of Honduran politics, may not be siding with its historic allies of the traditional political establishment, the military, and the oligarchy. In the current historic moment, with uncontrollable emigration to the North, the USA has an interest in political stability and a certain level of economic improvement in Honduras, for which Xiomara Castro and the recently victorious alternative parties are symbols. Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce supported the Zelaya-Cálix agreement as soon as it was announced, indicating that the Honduran urban commercial elite favored a resolution of the crisis.
Refoundation stands on the foundation of the Honduran popular movement
The proposal for a refoundation is rooted in the Honduran popular movement, which has been expressing itself in a dynamic form since the 1954 general strike, an historic event that was stimulated by an unprecedented and sustained strike of banana workers in the North American banana companies, and which included the decisive leadership of the Honduran Communist Party. The breakout of popular unrest and widespread calls for social change led to the progressive government of Ramon Villeda Morales from 1957 to 1963, which created the National Agrarian Institute and enacted an Agrarian Reform Law as well as a labor code and social security legislation.
The Villeda government fell to a coup d’état, launching a period of several military governments from 1963 to 1982. However, responding to the continuing demands of the popular movement, the military government of 1972 to 1975 enacted reforms, including empowering the National Agrarian Institute to grant public and unused private lands to peasants, as part of a comprehensive plan for industrial development based on a higher standard of living and a larger domestic market. This period of reform was brought to an end when sectors tied to the oligarchy regained their control over the military government.
The so-called “transition to democracy,” a general phenomenon in Latin America in the 1980s, was accompanied in the case of Honduras by the imposition of “free-market” structural adjustment measures in the period 1982 to 1990, during which the first steps were taken in eliminating structures that defended to a degree the social and economic needs of the people. From 1990 to 1994, the government of Rafael Leonardo Callejas strengthened and deepened the neoliberal structural adjustment, leading to high rates of inflation, unemployment, and poverty; and the nearly total elimination of government protection of the people.
In the 1990s, a vibrant popular movement protested the Callejas project. Formed by social movement organizations, the press, and academics, it called for a renewal of agrarian reform and the protection of human rights, understood as including the protection of social and economic rights to nutrition, housing, health care, and education. But the popular movement confronted the obstacle of the significant social weight of the traditional political parties, the National Party and the Liberal Party, which were sources of social identity for the people. Both parties were tied to the political establishment, and neither was capable of formulating a project of reform in defense of the people. But because of the social weight of the two parties, the development of an influential alternative party was politically impossible.
In the face of these obstacles, an effort of reform was made from within the traditional party structure. Manual Zelaya, who assumed the presidency in 2006, led the radical sector of the Liberal Party in an attempted incorporation of Honduras in ALBA-TCP, the progressive regional association founded by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. But without adequate support in the Congress, overwhelmingly dominated by the two traditional parties, Zelaya did not have parliamentary support for a reform project, and his government fell to a parliamentary/military coup d’état in 2009.
The coup d’état agitated the people. They took to the street in great numbers, attempting to stop the coup as it unfolded. Above all, the coup was a learning experience for the people, who now could see the absolute necessity of creating alternative political parties and the taking of power from the traditional parties, as had occurred in many Latin American nations in the wake of the implementation of the IMF-driven neoliberal agenda. Feeding this sentiment were not only anti-popular economic policies but also unprecedented levels of corruption and violence, as the government became increasingly tied to international drug trafficking. As poverty, crime, and violence reached astonishing levels, caravans of the desperate trekked to Mexico and the United States.
The refoundation proposal of Xiomara Castro
Xiomara Castro began her presidential inaugural address: “In the midst of the social and economic tragedy of Honduras, we seek a refoundation in order to construct, joined with the people, a socialist and democratic state, lifted on a foundation of sovereign values.”
Xiomara is proposing control of the state by political and social organizations that represent the organized voice of the people, including alternative political parties, social movement organizations, and organizations of civil society. She proposes to this end a new law on citizenship participation and new structures of popular participation.
Xiomara proposes a reconstruction of the constitutional order dismantled by twelve years of dictatorship. She proposes amnesty for political prisoners and the annulation of criminal proceedings against government functionaries of the period 2006 to 2009. She proposes an end to crime and violence with impunity.
Xiomara Castro has proposed a comprehensive program that includes renegotiation of the external debt with international finance agencies. The reduction of military expenses. The channeling of state resources toward health, education, physical safety, and employment. The stimulation of production toward domestic consumption. And national control of natural resources.
And Xiomara proposes a foreign policy of strong ties with Central America and Latin America, based in the principles of respect for the sovereignty of nations, multilateralism in world affairs, and complementary trade relations among nations.
In its first two weeks, the National Congress has moved quickly and decisively. It has approved decrees with respect to: amnesty for political prisoners and for governmental functionaries of 2006 to 2009 currently under investigation for supposed crimes; the elimination of Economic Development Zones; the subsidy of energy; and the reduction of the costs of diesel and high-octane gasoline.
Xiomara proposes the taking of political power from the Honduran oligarchy and political establishment and the U.S embassy, and placing of politic power in the hands of the delegates and deputies of the people. She puts forth a necessary and comprehensive program that would mean the participation of Honduras in the process of change that has been sweeping Latin America since 1994, when Hugo Chávez initiated a movement to revitalize the Latin American independence project of Bolívar, which came to power on the basis of widespread popular rejection of U.S. imposed neoliberal economic policies.
History has shown that revolutions succeed when they come to power through the creation of alternative political structures, which attain the support of the people through the clear formulation of objectives; and once in power, they take decisive steps in defense of the concrete needs of the people. Moreover, they defend the sovereignty of the nation against imperialist intentions, based in a clear understanding of global dynamics. And they develop new political structures to guarantee the continued control of the political process by the delegates and deputies of the people. So far, the refoundation project in Honduras is off to a good start. But no one could reasonably deny that it faces formidable obstacles.
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