The Honduran constitution that the coup plotters claim to defend forbids referendums on almost all areas of any importance. So the movement for constitutional change was growing and even received some support from the establishment. Even Liberal presidential candidate Elvin Santos realised that change was needed but suggested a referendum to be carried out after the elections in November (not on the same day as the election as was suggested by Zelaya).
After swapping from the right wing of his Liberal pary to the left wing Manuel Zelaya started to gain enormous support from social movements, trade unions and organisations defending indigenous people. They were enthusiastic because Honduras’ ALBA membership was going to make it possible to do something about the horrifying social exclusion in the country. Already 150.000 people had learned to read using the Cuban method Yo sí puedo. Now the coup government is throwing out nearly 150 Cuban teachers claiming they were “indoctrinating” Hondurans. This puts an end to a process that in January 2010 would have eradicated illiteracy in the country.
But for an elite that has not realised that Latin America is changing there was even worse to come. The ALBA-cooperation was making it possible for Honduras to offer cheap credits to poor farmers enabling them to buy seeds and new equipment. FAO has praised the results of this kind of reforms in Nicaragua, a country that according this organisation has the best program for food security in all of the third world. But large landowners in Honduras were of course furious. Poor farmers acting with dignity and in defense of democracy are a nightmare for these not so very democratic people.
Now civil organisations are being harrassed by the authorities and hundreds of people have been detained. Popularly elected mayors are driven away and replaced with pro-coup polticians. Civil liberties are abolished during night time. Radio- and TV-stations have been either shut down or silenced by the military. A dictatorship is being used by one part of the population to suppress then democratic aspirations of another part.
But a democracy cannot in the long run exclude important groups just because they are poor or because of the fact that they are indigenous.
The popular movements incited Zelaya to do some things that were not very wise. Walking into a military base to recapture voting materials irritated and humiliated the military in a most dangerous way. Zelaya wanted to postpone the Opinion poll for a couple of weeks and the social movement behind him should have let him do so. Also Chavez insults toward some respectable but very conservative people in the Honduran establishment have been extremely unwise and may have contributed to some good people mistakedly supporting the coup.
But neither of these mistakes can excuse the introduction of a dictatorship that suppresses civil libarties and sets a horrifying example for the rest of Latin America.
BJÖRN BLOMBERG, Sweden (a country that has for several decades allowed indigenous people to organise themselves and have radio stations without becoming communist. Our capitalists do extremely well under both social democrat and right wing governments)