Xiomara Castro assumes presidency in Honduras
An alliance of parties and movements seeks a socialist refoundation
Xiomara Castro assumes the presidency of Honduras with the political possibility of constructing her promised refoundation. The Party of Liberty and Refoundation (Libre) heads a coalition of alternative political parties and the radical sector of the traditional Liberal Party, which should enable legislative majorities, in spite of the manoeuvres of the rightist and corrupt National Party. The social movements support her presidency, hoping to pursue their autonomous agendas in a form integrated with the administration of the state. The social movements and the government share the goal of the recuperation of laws and regulations deconstructed by twelve years of military dictatorship.
The United States has maintained control over the economic policies of Honduras since the beginning of the twentieth century. However, the USA developed a softer version of imperialism in the post-World War II era. Having arrived to neocolonial hegemony, it was able to permit the Honduran state to protect its economy and its sovereignty to a limited degree, and to make concessions to increasingly active workers’ and peasant movements. During this period, the government protected the value of the Honduran national currency and protected national industry, and it established price controls and subsidies of necessaries goods and services.
But these protections were eliminated in the 1980s and 1990s, as the USA and the IMF imposed neoliberal policies, leading to a weakening of the Honduran state and to deepening poverty for the working class and the poor. The Honduran national industrial bourgeoisie, which had been weak due to the historic control of economic policies by North American banana companies, adapted to the denationalization of the Honduran economy by finding channels for personal gain in the context of the neoliberal order. Such structural support for personal gain culminated in a scandalous level of corruption during the last twelve years of military dictatorship, as the Honduran government has become a link in international drug trafficking.
Under the military dictatorship, poverty and absolute poverty have increased to astonishing levels. Crime and violence have become unbearable, with the perpetrators acting with impunity. These conditions, combined with repression by state institutions of security, and have led to migratory caravans to Mexico and the United States.
The United States has an interest maintaining control of Honduran state policies. For its Honduran allies, maintaining control of the state is a matter of life or death, inasmuch as they may confront criminal charges if business-as-usual falls. In recent days, the Honduran right has been manoeuvring, as I review in my column of January 25. It has established separate sessions of the National Congress under the control of the traditional parties, claiming itself as the legitimate national congress, and thus creating two parallel national congresses. Its intention is to create political instability and the conditions for an unconventional coup.
The social movements, in contrast, stand against U.S. imperialist interests. They hope to become a presence in the new administration, enabling pushback on the total U.S. control of policies, which has led the country to ruin and tragedy during the last four decades. They seek to participate with the government in the construction of a different country. Social movement leaders have declared that the people must respond to the threat posed by the manoeuvres of the Right with political maturity and clarity of understanding.
Xiomara Castro began her presidential inaugural address with the declaration, “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.”
She declared, “We want to know, what did they do with the money lent to us, spent behind our backs, leaving us with a debt that we have to pay?” She further declared that the past decade has been the most corrupt in the history of Honduras, full of sabotage against our country. But, she observed, she was not going to relate this story, for the telling of the story of corruption is the task of justice.
We have to reconstruct, she declared, the regulatory order that the military dictatorship has dismantled. A military dictatorship that has left us with the highest level of poverty in Latin America, which alone is sufficient to explain the migratory caravans to the North, looking for the possibility of building a life in security. We have to restore the economic system on the basis of social justice in the distribution of income and natural resources. We must re-establish respect for the human being. We must put an end to death squads, to silence before violence against women, and to drug trafficking and organized crime.
We have formed an alliance among parties and movements, she declared, for the benefit of the nation. Your government is committed to our proposal of democratic socialism, resting on the basis of a frontal combat against corruption.
She noted that 50% of state expenditures go to payment of capital to the external banking and financial institutions. This is not sustainable, she maintained. The state does have the capacity to pay the external debt; the payment of the debt is impossible. Accordingly, the government will seek a restructuring of the external debt with public and private debtors.
International organizations have suggested that we contract for more debts. Their strategy is to rescue the debt providers. It is a strategy that would convert us into accomplices in an international crime.
The President outlined a comprehensive plan of generating more state revenues by renegotiating the external debt and reducing military costs, and channelling resources toward health, education, physical safety, and employment. We must develop, she declared, a preventative and community health care system with a sense of service in solidarity with the people, with primary attention to children, women, and the elderly. We must develop state institutions of security that defend the people.
Refoundation, she maintained, is not a political slogan, but a necessary mission forged through the support and participation of the people. To this end, the administration will ask the Congress to approve a new law on citizenship participation, which will include new structures of popular consultations.
The President outlined a twenty-two-point program. Some of the points included: free energy for those in absolute poverty, financed through higher rates to high-energy consumers; state subsidies for fuel; free lunches, vaccines and masks for schoolchildren; stimulation of agricultural production toward domestic food production; the elimination of open permission for the exploitation of minerals and forests; reduction of interests for loans for production; freedom for political prisoners and repeal of the law criminalizing protest; and full transparency in the state budget, putting budgetary corruption to an end.
With respect to foreign policy, the President pointed in a direction that is fully in accord with the principles formulated by the socialist and progressive governments of Latin America. She declared for a foreign policy oriented to relations with Central America and Latin America, respect for the sovereignty of nations, multilateralism in world affairs, and complementary trade relations among nations. Invoking the slogan of the global movement against neoliberal globalization in the 1990s, she declared that “a better world is possible.”
She concluded with a promise to Honduran women that she will seek to close the gender gap and stop violence against women, so that girls will have full possibilities for development in an environment free of violence.
She ended her discourse with the slogan of Che and Fidel, “Hasta la victoria siempre.”
A Honduran analyst speaking on the Venezuelan state television network Telesur concluded that Xiomara Castro is proposing a Lain Americanist anti-imperialist project that intends to eliminate neoliberalism and install a progressive model of development. Picking up on Xiomara’s observation that neoliberal policies have sold national territorial as though it were merchandise to be bought and sold, the analyst described the new government’s proposal as a patriotic and nationalist project to defend our territory, in which social improvement is a fundamental pillar.
The Cuban journalist Elson Concepción Pérez, writing in the Cuban daily Granma, maintains that, in his view, the manoeuvring of the Right, which we have seen in recent days, is not over. He expects that Xiomara Castro will confront new destabilizing battles on the part of an oligarchy infatuated with power, with the support of those sectors in the North who continue to consider Honduras as their backyard.
On the other hand, what goes around comes around. The social and economic deterioration in Honduras has led to an uncontrollable migration, creating economic and political problems in the United States. As a result, the U.S. political establishment is beginning to see the advantages of a certain degree of social and economic development in Honduras, in order to create stability and reduce the desperate and uncontrollable migratory flow to the North. U.S. policymakers may see Xiomara as central to the necessary political stability. They may permit the new Honduran administration a degree of sovereignty, giving it space to turn to progressive measures and alliance with socialist governments in the region, in order that it can attend to the desperate social and economic situation.
If this occurs, perhaps the government of the United States would see the benefits of cooperation with the socialist and progressive governments, in the name of regional peace and political stability, which would function to the social and economic benefit of all. Such a cooperative approach would be far better for the USA than wasting resources trying to destroy the hopes and block the demands of the peoples, who persistently have demonstrated their “tremendous thirst for social justice,” in the words of another Castro, named Fidel.
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