Monday, December 7, 2009

WNU #1015: Honduran Resistance Plans New Strategies

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1015, December 6, 2009

1. Honduras: Resistance Plans New Strategies
2. Honduras: Confusion Wins in Turnout Dispute
3. Mexico: Electrical Workers Continue Protests
4. Bolivia: Morales Headed for Election Sweep?
5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic

ISSN#: 1084‑922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to . It is archived at

*1. Honduras: Resistance Plans New Strategies
At a meeting on Dec. 3 at the headquarters of the Union of Workers of the Brewery Industry and the Like (STIBYS) in Tegucigalpa, 300 members of the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat, a coalition of Honduran grassroots organizations, agreed not to end a five-month struggle that they started on June 28 when the military removed President José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales from office. “We’re going to continue the struggle, but only for the Constituent [Assembly], not for the restitution [of Zelaya],” general director Juan Barahona told the Agence France Presse (AFP) wire service, referring to demands for a convention to rewrite the country’s 1982 Constitution. The Resistance Front also said it would institute a “pause” in its daily street demonstrations, although it was planning a march for Dec. 11.

The Honduran social movements’ proposal for changing the Constitution was one of the factors precipitating the coup; President Zelaya had called for a nonbinding referendum on June 28 asking if a vote on the Constituent Assembly should be included in the Nov. 29 general elections.

The Dec. 3 Resistance Front meeting came in response to a decision the outgoing National Congress made the day before not to restore Zelaya to office. The deputies had voted 111 to 14, with three deputies absent, to uphold Decree 141-2009 of June 28, in which they rubberstamped Zelaya’s removal from office and replaced him with de facto president Roberto Micheletti Bain. This vote, along with US recognition for the de facto government’s Nov. 29 elections, seems to guarantee that the coup regime will remain in power until Jan. 27, when Zelaya’s term expires [See Update #1014]. (Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 12/4/09; TeleSUR 12/4/09 via Vos el Soberano; Adital (Brazil) 12/3/09)

Like the Honduran resistance, the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) rejected what it called a “return to ‘business as usual.’” “The crisis in Honduras does not end with the election results,” Javier Zúñiga, head of the AI delegation in Honduras, said in a Dec. 3 statement. “There are dozens of people in Honduras still suffering the effects of the abuses carried out in the past five months. Failure to punish those responsible and to fix the malfunctioning system would open the door for more abuses in the future.”

AI called on the “future government” elected on Nov. 29 to “[r]epeal all legislation, decrees and executive orders issued by the de facto authorities”; take law enforcement powers away from the military; “[e]nsure that all members of the security forces are held accountable for human rights abuses” under the de facto regime; and “[d]evelop a National Plan for the protection of human rights.” The organization urged activist to send letters supporting these demands by going to: (AI statement 12/3/09; EFE 12/4/09 via Vos el Soberano)

On Dec. 4 the Mexican daily La Jornada published an article charging that Honduran members of the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei were a major force in the June 28 coup. Liberal Party (PL) politician Mauricio Villeda and PL presidential candidate Elvin Santos’ wife, Becky de Santos, are reportedly in Opus Dei, along with business leaders like Antonio Tavel Otero, who owns two-thirds of the country’s cell phone operations. In the first days of the coup, Tavel withdrew all advertising from media that opposed the de facto government, notably Radio Globo.

One of the causes of the June coup, according to Zelaya adviser Nelson Avila, was the president’s veto in May of a law Congress passed to ban the “morning after” contraceptive pill. The coup wasn’t really to fight the influence of leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, journalist Manuel Torres told La Jornada: “The coup responds to very conservative tendencies which are seeking to go backwards, not only in civil and political rights, but also in social rights. It’s a platform against change.” (LJ 12/4/09 from correspondent)

*2. Honduras: Confusion Wins in Turnout Dispute
On Dec. 4 the French wire service AFP reported that with 57% of the votes from Honduras’ Nov. 29 general elections officially counted, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had revised its earlier turnout estimate down from 61.3% to about 49%. Two days later, on Dec. 6, the CNN cable news network reported that it had gotten figures from TSE spokesperson Roberto Reyes Pineda showing that participation was at 56.6%, with 2,609,754 people voting out of a total of 4,611,000 registered voters. The TSE has to provide the final results within 30 days of the election. (Diario el Tiempo (Venezuela) 12/4/09 from AFP; AFP (in English)12/4/09; CNN 12/6/09)

Turnout was the main issue in the Nov. 29 vote. As expected, the center-right National Party (PN) carried the elections easily: PN candidate Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo won the presidency, and PN candidates took 71 of 128 seats in the National Congress, followed by candidates from the Liberal Party (PL, also center-right) with 44. But the de facto government, in place since June 28, was focused on getting a high turnout to back its insistence that the elections were legitimate. Deposed president Manuel Zelaya and other opponents of the de facto government called for voters to boycott the elections; they estimated that the turnout was just 30-40% [see Update #1014]. Participation in the 2005 general elections was about 55%. (Reuters 12/5/09)

The confusion in the official figures started at a press conference held the night of the elections. The TSE gave the media its own turnout projection of 61.3%--and also a figure of 47.6% from the election monitoring nonprofit Fundación Hagamos Democracia (FHD).

According to FHD representative Rolando Bú, the group had observers at 1,173 of the country’s approximately 8,000 polling places and based its projections on the voting at these polling places in previous elections; he put the method's margin of error at 1%. [Following our sources, in Update #1014 we reported incorrectly that the TSE had contracted the FHD to do exit polls.] The FHD says it has monitored electoral processes successfully in 80 countries. It gets funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega have accused the group of having links to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (La Jornada (Mexico) 12/1/09 from correspondent; Rebanadas de Realidad (Argentina) 12/1/09; El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula) 12/1/09; Honduras Coup 2009 blog 12/4/09)

The US government and media have generally ignored the confusion, even with the TSE’s own figures showing three very different turnout rates. “Turnout was 61%--higher than in the previous election, and evidence that Hondurans had rejected Mr. Zelaya's call for a boycott,” the Wall Street Journal wrote on Dec. 2, without mentioning other estimates. “The biggest loser in the vote may be Mr. Zelaya,” the article added. US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Arturo Valenzuela called the elections “a significant step in Honduras' return to the democratic and constitutional order after the 28 June coup.” (WSJ 12/2/09)

*3. Mexico: Electrical Workers Continue Protests
On Dec. 4 tens of thousands of laid-off Mexican electrical workers and their supporters again took to the streets of the capital to protest Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) the night of Oct. 10. The center-right government claims it took the step because the company was inefficient and was losing money; opponents say the government is seeking to privatize the LFC and to break the powerful independent Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), which represented the company’s 44,000 active employees and some 23,000 retirees [see Update #1012].

Accompanied by unionists from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the Autonomous National University of Mexico Workers Union (STUNAM) and other unions, along with students and activists from grassroots organizations, the electrical workers held marches on different avenues--Tlalpan, Insurgentes, Paseo de la Reforma and Zaragoza—ending in an eight-hour rally at the Monument of the Revolution. The protest was called the “taking of Mexico City” to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the entrance of revolutionary heroes Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa into the capital.

STUNAM leader Agustín Rodríguez told the protesters that they might need to “discuss a general strike,” but SME general secretary Martín Esparza indicated that the union and the government had resumed negotiations. He had met with governance undersecretary Gerónimo Gutiérrez, and the government had agreed to extend Social Security to all the laid-off workers for one year, Esparza said. The benefits, which in Mexico include healthcare, were to expire in a week for some 20,000 laid-off LFC workers who had refused to sign up for the government’s compensation package.

The SME has proposed a five-member team to mediate future talks with the government, including Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) rector José Narro Robles, National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) director general Enrique Villa Rivera, and Congress members from the three largest political parties. (La Jornada 12/5/09, __; La Luz Es del Pueblo blog 12/5/09, __)

*4. Bolivia: Morales Headed for Election Sweep?
According to exit polls by three different firms, Bolivian president Evo Morales appears to have won a second five-year term in general elections on Dec. 6 with 61-63.2% of the vote. Rightwing former Cochabamba governor Manfred Reyes Villa was projected to get 23-25%, followed by center-right business owner Samuel Doria Medina with 7%.

Morales, a leader in the cocalero (coca grower) movement who at his inauguration in 2006 became the country’s first indigenous president, was expected to win easily. There was more question about the results for the Plurinational Assembly, which will have 130 deputies and 36 senators. The exit polls indicated that Morales’ leftist Movement to Socialism (MAS) party had won the two-thirds majority it would need to pass major constitutional reforms. (AFP 12/6/09; El País (Spain)12/7/09 from correspondent)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Argentina, Uruguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic

Abortion Phone Line in Argentina: More Information, Fewer Risks

Turning Activists Into Voters in Uruguay: The Frente Amplio and José Mujica

Uruguay Elects Former Guerrilla as Next President

Honduran elections exposed

Honduras: "An election validated by blood and repression"

Honduran Elections Marred by Police Violence, Censorship, International Non-Recognition

Live From Honduras: Electoral Observations

Election Report From Honduras: The People Say “We Didn’t Vote!”

Honduran "Electoral Observers" Launch Verbal Attack on Americas Program Director

Latin America: Summit Does Not Recognise Elections in Honduras

Behind Bars in Honduras: An Interview with a Women's Rights Leader Before the 'Free' Election

Operation Sofia: Documenting Genocide in Guatemala

Electrifying Guatemala: Clean Energy and Development

Win for Environmentalists as San Xavier Mine Suspends Activities

A Giant Step Backward: The Dominican Republic Reforms Its Constitution

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