In 2009, a military coup in Honduras carried out by a School of the Americas-trained General replaced then-President Manuel Zelaya. Despite massive popular opposition, citizens were unable at the time to revert it, thanks largely to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic support for the overthrow of the democratically-elected President Zelaya. In the 12 years that followed, Honduras descended into a neoliberal narco-dictatorship, with both of the post-coup presidents installed following violent and fraudulent elections (rubber-stamped by the United States) currently facing major drug trafficking charges in U.S. courts. Just as harmful as the transformation of Honduras into a narco-state, was the aggressive U.S.-led push to implement dramatic neoliberal reforms, accompanied by massive U.S. investment in militarization to repress opposition to them, in the name of “security.”
Honduran President Xiomara Castro, who took office in January, promised on the campaign trail to abolish special economic zones known as ZEDEs (“Economic Development and Employment Zones” in English), where private investors have outsized power to shape labor laws, judicial systems, and local governance. These zones have garnered fierce opposition in Honduras for undermining the basic tenets of democracy. In April, she achieved a major win when the Congress of Honduras unanimously voted to repeal the law that allows for ZEDEs, and to abolish the current ones, though the latter has to be ratified next year. But the forces who want to keep ZEDEs in operation are retaliating, and they’ve found allies on Capitol Hill.
For the last 3 months, more than 1,000 Honduran construction workers building the new United States embassy in Tegucigalpa have been striking against Alabama-based mega-prison contractor B.L. Harbert and their ultimate employer, the U.S. State Department, to demand safe working conditions, job security and fair compensation in compliance with Honduran labor law. Join the DSA International Committee and DSA Labor for a bilingual webinar to hear directly from the striking workers in Honduras, co-sponsored by US- and Honduras-based solidarity organizations. We seek to create opportunities for relationships to grow between the striking workers, Honduran civil society, and solidarity organizations around the Americas, and for workers in Honduras and the United States to hear directly from each other.
Last week, more than 1,000 fast food workers at San Francisco International Airport went on strike for three days over low wages, health benefits and pensions. They had not received a raise in more than three years and many worked multiple jobs. Workers building the new US embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras have been on strike off and on since early July over a new contract that deprives them of fair compensation and violates Honduran labor laws. They are being fired and police are violently repressing their pickets. Clearing the FOG speaks with Ted Waechter of UNITE-HERE Local 2 in San Francisco and Honduras expert Adrienne Pine about worker struggles in the US and abroad and the need for solidarity and greater militancy to fight an economic system that values profits more than people.
The Biden administration has pledged that “the United States will work with governments to strengthen ... the enforcement of labor laws, promote decent work, and support workers in exercising their freedom of association and collective bargaining rights,” as one of four pillars of its strategy to address the root causes of migration from Central America. In Honduras today the U.S. has an opportunity to practice this with the 1,100 workers it has hired to build a new embassy. But it’s blowing it. Instead, police have been called in to bust a strike that’s been going on at the construction site in Tegucigalpa since early July. Of course, the State Department and U.S. Ambassador Laura Dogu all deny that there’s a problem with the treatment of the workers, and they’re pressuring the Honduran government to criminalize the strikers rather than enforce Honduran labor laws.
Hundreds joined international guests, solidarity campaigners and elected representatives for ¡Viva la solidaridad! Latin America’s Left Leads the Way: a session organised by Labour Friends of Progressive Latin America as part of this year’s Arise Festival. Chairing the event, Arise’s Sam Browse went through examples of electoral successes and resilience in the face of aggression by the region’s left, and emphasised the importance of international co-operation amongst progressive forces: “those winning gains in the fight for a better future are an inspiration to us all”. Secretary of the Presidency in Honduras Rodolfo Pastor outlined how the country faced “a dark period of history” following the coup against elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009, with those who took power implementing “repression to benefit a small elite at the expense of our natural resources and the rights of the majority”.
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Members of the former Honduran elite police unit, the COBRAS, worked with the ‘Los Grillos’ criminal gang to steal drug money and shipments, according to newly released U.S. court documents. Los Grillos, together with the special forces police unit are involved in selling and stealing drugs “through police operations” and according to Honduran press reports, act as contract hitman. The U.S. DEA document (see below) dated July 13, 2016, was recently filed in the case against Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero, a convicted drug trafficker and former Honduran police officer. Zelaya Romero is appealing his sentence after pleading guilty in April 2018 to conspiracy to import cocaine and use and carry firearms in connection with a drug trafficking conspiracy.
President Xiomara Castro fulfilled a major campaign promise last week when she signed the decree to repeal the ZEDEs law. We spoke to Honduran Vice Minister for Agrarian Reform, Rafael Alegría, on this important victory for the campesinos and social movements of Honduras. Rafael is a historic leader of the international peasants movement, La Vía Campesina. Having been at the forefront of years of struggles in Latin America, he’s now a strong anti-imperialist voice with the Partido Libre administration. Kawsachun News’ Camila Escalante sat down with Rafael in Managua, where he and other movement leaders participated in commemorative events marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of La Vía Campesina.
The US government has turned on the right-wing former dictator of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, after it spent years supporting him. Hernández is the latest in a series of brutal authoritarians who were key US allies until they outlived their usefulness, from Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo to Panama’s Manuel Noriega. This February, the United States requested the extradition of Honduran ex-president Juan Orlando Hernández on charges of trafficking cocaine and guns. Local authorities arrested him on February 15. Hernández, who is popularly known by his initials JOH, served two terms in office, from 2014 to 2022. It was widely known that JOH used drug money to fund his presidential campaigns, and blatantly stole the 2013 and 2017 elections in broad daylight.
On Tuesday, Honduran national police arrested JOH from his residence in the capital Tegucigalpa. It came a day after the US government requested JOH’s extradition by the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice for allegedly conspiring to traffic drugs in the US. On Tuesday morning, Supreme Court judge Edwin Ortez formally accepted the extradition request and issued an arrest warrant for Hernández. Hours later, Hernández was handcuffed by officials and moved to a high-security detention center.
Former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández has been arrested, a day after the US Department of Justice requested his extradition over drug trafficking and weapons charges, culminating a spectacular fall from grace for a man who was once considered one of Washington’s top allies in Central America. On Tuesday afternoon Hernández left his home in a wealthy neighborhood in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, where he was cuffed at the hands and feet and provided a bullet-proof vest before being taken away in a police caravan to a special forces base. He will appear before a judge for his first hearing within 24 hours.According to the extradition request submitted to Honduras, Hernández was part of a “violent drug-trafficking” conspiracy that trafficked roughly 500,000 kilos of cocaine since 2004.
Wendy Cruz of La Via Campesina speaks about the challenges facing Honduran women and women of the peasant movement ahead of the inauguration of President Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Libre party.
The elected president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro (Libertad y Refundación, Libre), denounced this Sunday, outside the National Congress, that a dictatorship is trying to hijack the Legislative Branch in a bid not to respond to the popular mandate. Hundreds of people continue to mobilize in the vicinity of the Parliament in defense of democracy and respect for the popular vote. Addressing the crowds of her supporters, Castro recalled that the elections of November 2021 were to remove from power the dictatorship of the current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and banish its unlawful practices. She stressed that on November 28, the people cast their votes and that their will must be respected.
What appeared impossible has been achieved: the people of Honduras have broken the perpetuation, through electoral fraud and thuggish violence, of a brutal, illegal, illegitimate, and criminal regime. By means of sheer resistance, resilience, mobilization, and organization, they have managed to defeat Juan Orlando Hernandez’s narco-dictatorship at the ballot box. Xiomara Castro, presidential candidate of the left-wing Libre party (the Freedom and Refoundation Party, in its Spanish acronym), obtained a splendid 50+ percent—between 15 to 20 percent more votes than her closest rival candidate, Nasry Asfura, National Party candidate, in an election with historic high levels of participation (68 percent).