Why those who believe in the struggle for justice should work to overturn the coup in 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 it’s 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.
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 not so 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 more than it already has. 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, 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.
For information on the Delegation in Support of Resistance in Honduras visit:
To get involved, contact Barrio Nuevo: