Ten Years After the Coup in Honduras

By Colin Burgon

June 28 2019 marked the tenth anniversary of the coup that toppled the elected President Manuel Zelaya, whose progressive programme had included reforms to  the minimum wage and the distribution of the land, support for sexual and reproductive rights and LGBT communities and changes to address the poverty and violence that force migration.

The coup was widely condemned by governments across Latin America, the EU, and the OAS, but not by the United States government, which has continued to support successive right-wing Honduran governments since. This is despite evidence of electoral fraud, widespread corruption and the criminalisation and repression of political dissent, including assassinations of activists.

The British government is complicit too, having sold (when Boris Johnson was Foreign Minister no less) to the Honduran government spyware designed to eavesdrop on its citizens, months before the state rounded up thousands of people in a well-orchestrated surveillance operation.

In contrast to the Zelaya-led government’s path of independence from the political and economic hold exerted by the US over Honduras, the right-wing post-coup governments have reverted to serving foreign, and in particular US, interests in the region.

The policies of a succession of right-wing governments – currently the hard-line regime of Juan Orlando Hernández – have increased poverty, marginalised communities and spawned widespread violence and repression. These are reflected today in a high homicide rate, internal displacement of people and the exodus of Hondurans seeking refuge and a better life elsewhere on the continent.

Examples of the consequences of the 2009 coup and subsequent repression include the murder of environmental activist Berta Cáceres in 2016 and of more than 130 other land defenders since 2010; the poverty and extreme poverty rates that affect more than 66% of the population; and the murder of more than 32 journalists, 1552 students and at least 250 members of the LGBT community, as well as attacks against indigenous leaders, lawyers and the general population.

Whilst implementing successively more extreme and unpopular neo-liberal policies, the regime’s power has been maintained through manipulation and repression. Following the electoral fraud of 2017, more than 30 people were killed by Honduran security forces and the arrest, as political prisoners, of activists such as Edwin Espinal, Raúl Álvarez, Gustavo Cáceres and more recently Rommel Herrera.

But Hondurans are fighting back. The Platform for the Defence of Education and Public Health, which brings together different sections of Honduran society that are resisting the reactionary, right-wing regime, is amongst many groups taking to the streets voicing popular demands for equity, dignity and justice and opposition to neoliberalism and interventions by the International Monetary Fund and the US.

The government, though, is increasing the militarisation of Honduras. There are fears that under the pretext of providing humanitarian aid in case of natural disasters, it is welcoming 300 US Marines, as well as signing military cooperation agreements with the government of Israel for the potential deployment of 1,000 Israeli troops soldiers to support the repression of migrants and refugees.

Growing street movements in recent months have demanded an end to the repressions and killing, an end to the militarisation, an end to subordinance to the Trump administration, and end to IMF ‘rescue packages’ that destroy the economy and public services, and justice for all the victims of the 2009 coup d’etat and the regime since.

We must stand with them – starting by demanding that the UK commits to selling no more arms or spyware to Honduras.

  • Colin Burgon is the honorary President of Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America. You can follow them on Twitter here and Facebook here. You can also sign their petition against UK arms and spyware sales to Honduras here.