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Honduras: US-Supported Right Wing Escalate Attacks Against Government

Above photo: Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, center, is taken in handcuffs to a waiting aircraft as he is extradited to the United States, at an Air Force base in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Thursday, April 21, 2022. Honduras’ Supreme Court approved the extradition of Hernandez to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charges. AP Photo/Elmer Martinez.

Will 2024 bring any accountability or change?

2023 saw aggressive actions from the remnants of the narco-dictatorship and their supporters, encouraged by the State Department, fanning fears of the possibility of a political coup in Honduras. At the end of October, the National Congress’s 2023 session came to its scheduled close in the grips of a crisis caused by the determination of right-wing congress members to keep the office of Attorney General under their control. Taking action to counter this, the President of Congress, Luis Redondo, created a Permanent Council of 9 members of Congress based on articles in the Constitution. That committee then selected an interim Attorney General independent of the narco-dictator structures. The right-wing opposition responded by holding a meeting claiming to be a session of Congress to extend the Congressional session until January 2024 to give them another chance to maintain control. This led to physical confrontations with some LIBRE Party collectives supporting Redondo and President Castro and even a Congressional security guard being threatened by an armed congressman from the rightist National Party.

Meanwhile, the State Department didn’t take long to start tweeting its “concerns,” denounced by numerous outraged Hondurans and answered by the Honduran Foreign Minister, who finally called the U.S. Ambassador to report to his office for a formal complaint. Marco Rubio even got involved on the side of his old friends from the dictatorship. Also, he was answered by the Vice President of the Honduran Congressional Commission for Foreign Relations and Regional Integration. 

The plot in the congressional crisis thickens – a number of the Honduran opposition members had just been in Washington DC on October 25 for a hearing about “Xiomara Castro de Zelaya’s Socialist Government” held by the Western Hemisphere sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The ultra-conservative Rep. Maria Salazar chaired the subcommittee and hearing. 

The congressional stand-off continued without the opposition achieving their goals until 2024 when some members of the rightist parties voted with Castro’s LIBRE coalition, and the new session of Congress started without significant problems. 

All this is a continuation of the plan that began as soon as President Xiomara Castro was elected to derail the dismantling of the dictatorship structures and block the social democratic reform and refoundation of Honduras

Although Juan Orlando Hernández’s narco-dictatorship lost at the ballot box in Honduras in November 2021, its forces and allies have not stopped fighting to maintain what power they still have to undermine the possibilities for change won by the new President, Xiomara Castro. The U.S. initially greeted President Castro with a smile and handshake, literally, from Vice President Harris at Castro’s inauguration and figuratively with Harris’ announcement of the U.S. “Partnership for Central America.” However, that partnership has not gone as promised, and the U.S. has shown itself still to be a partner to the right wing in Honduras, just as it was during the post-coup governments 2009-2021 and for most of Honduran history. 

In June 2023, the 14th anniversary of the 2009 U.S.-backed coup against the then-elected president, Manuel Zelaya, the right-wing campaign targeting President Xiomara Castro and her political party, LIBRE (Libertad y Refundación) began escalating at a disturbing rate in the press, social media, and actions by the opposition in the Honduran Congress with tweets from right-wing accounts talking about a new coup. The government canceled the most significant public events and the mass march planned to commemorate the June 28, 2009 coup, reportedly due to concern about possible pro-coup violence. 

President Castro’s reforms to labor laws, electricity access equity, and the cancellation of the Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDES), private charter cities, raised alarm bells for the U.S. in 2022. U.S. State Department officials and some elected representatives and senators joined in. The Honduran government still faces lawsuits and legal action from the ZEDES corporations. For more information, see this report by Karen Spring for Honduras Now and the Honduras Solidarity Network. 

In 2023, Castro’s administration started the process of removing the judges illegitimately elected by Juan Orlando’s regime from the Honduras Justice Department, which, together with members of Congress from the National and Liberal Party, is recognized as a power center for the remaining forces of the narco-dictatorship First came the election by Congress of a new Supreme Court in early 2023. Then, in May, nominations and negotiations began to elect a new Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General. The right-wing has actively sabotaged this process. Another recent controversy was President Castro’s introduction of a tax reform bill that would force the wealthy and corporations to pay taxes.

In the face of these new advances by Castro and her allies, the opposition became even more aggressive. Salvador Nasralla, appointed as one of three Vice Presidents for President Castro in January 2022, started publicly opposing the President and LIBRE. Nasralla joined a coalition with LIBRE in 2017 (as the coalition presidential candidate) and 2021 elections. Today, the Salvador Party (Partido Salvador de Honduras) and some of its followers are part of the newly organized “Citizens Opposition Block” (BOC in Spanish), along with the Liberal and National Parties. The national business association COHEP has joined the BOC in a campaign against President Castro. There is a torrent of attacks and fake news on social media against Xiomara Castro and supporters of LIBRE, and many of them echo the darkest days of Cold War anti-communism. Nasralla, for example, published a tweet on September 11 (the anniversary of the bloody 1973 coup in Chile) praising that coup for “saving Chile from communism.” 

The U.S. backed away from the worst public vitriol but continues the pressure in defense of corporate interests in the U.S. and Honduras. After supporting the all-time most corrupt and violent regime in Honduras for 13 years, the U.S. is now making noise about corruption and human rights. Still, despite its rhetoric, the U.S. interferes with undoing the narco-structures.

Besides pressure about the internal policies of Honduras and interference with desperately needed reforms, the U.S. pushes Honduras to back it up in the international arena. It has reacted negatively to Honduras breaking diplomatic relations with Taiwan to open formal relations with the People’s Republic of China and its joining BRICS. Any move away from abject dependency on the U.S. elicits “concern.” 

The BOC & the entire right-wing gang have a plan that depends on undermining Xiomara’s presidency, taking advantage of weaknesses and the obstacles it faces by maintaining constant public attacks and fake news and using their force in the Honduran Congress and Justice Department to try to block or water down essential steps that the government tries to take. Violence against water and land defenders, small farmers, and indigenous communities continues to be perpetrated by the same old mix of big landowners, developers, and organized crime aided by the elements of the police, military, and judges loyal to the dictatorship who have yet to be rooted out. 

They hope to paralyze the government, divide and demobilize the popular movements, and destroy support for the government so that the refoundation of Honduras envisioned by the 13 years of resistance disappears in the next election, even if there is not another coup attempt before then.

Victoria Cervantes is an AFGJ Board Member and one of the Honduras Solidarity Network coordinators. Vicki is a founding member of the group La Voz de los de Abajo Chicago which has been accompanying the Honduran campesinx and social movements in solidarity since 1998.

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