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Opinion
Last Updated: 04/04/2011
Honduras: The Forgotten Coup
Gustavo J. Fuchs

Contributing columnist Gustavo Fuchs details the lack of media coverage of violent repression against the popular resistance movement in post-coup Honduras, contrasting the underreported Honduran realities with the media's recent obsession with popular demonstrations in the Middle East. Fuchs highlights the Honduran government's repressive response to teachers' strikes and impunity towards campesino murders - virtually absent in the headlines. Selective media bias in support of hypocritical Western agendas has left the Honduras resistance to fend for itself while the Middle East gets all the attention.


While the world watches with amazement the repression in the Middle East, the Honduran post-coup de facto government continues its systematic brutality against any popular dissent. While aggrandizing democratic ideals across the Middle East, Obama and his administration have to be held accountable for their failure to support democracy in their own backyard.

First came Tunisia and Egypt; now it's Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, and Jordan. All across the Arab World masses of demonstrators gather in their city centers to demand real democracy. They're greeted by bullets and tear gas bombs. Their courage seems to amaze mainstream media, watching closely as the events develop.

However, as has been studied in dozens of research papers and books, the media's double standard is quite obvious when it comes to Western governments' interests. While the situation in Libya was exploited vastly by the media, the deaths in Yemen and Bahrain (two very valuable US allies) are covered in a completely different light.

Some might argue that the deaths in Libya were greater than the repression. Perhaps it's true; nonetheless the situation in Syria is similar to the events in Yemen and Bahrain, though media are now presenting the case as a mounting catastrophe; a differentiated approach.

But when it comes to atrocities, mainstream media and western governments know when to look the other way. Recently, while news anchors praised the Syrian demonstrators, a similar pro-democracy movement rose just a few miles south of the US border. Contrary to the freshness of the media’s coverage of these Arab movements, nearly two years of violent repression of the post-coup resistance in Honduras has gone disturbingly underreported.

Since the 21st of February, the teachers of Honduras' public education system have been on strike to demand the payment of their salaries. The government's response: tear gas bombs and illegal detentions.[1] But that wouldn't stop the teachers. Their demonstrations have continued, now also demanding that the government return 1.8 billion Lempiras (US $95,250,000), which were taken illegally from the teachers' union fund.[2] The teachers are accusing Lobo's administration of seeking to privatize education, which seems to be the case.

Other Honduran organizations have joined the teachers’ demands and have also raised the same cry they've been raising since the coup in June 2009. 59-year-old teacher Ilse Velasquez Rodriguez was the first casualty during the demonstrations, and a homicide accusation has already been filed against the Minister of Security, though little result can be expected given the atmosphere of overwhelming impunity in such cases. [3]

The strikes have reached numbers frightening to the Lobo administration, to the extent that the government went so far as to declare the demonstrations illegal.[4] This has come in the midst of growing discontent among the population, coupled with an ongoing repression campaign denounced thoroughly by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which recently started hearings on the case.

It is not only the teachers who are fighting the government in the streets; the farmers (campesinos) of the Bajo Aguan region are still in direct confrontation with the government. After being accused by the government-allied press of entertaining links with the FARC guerrilla, and following long talks with government representatives, the campesinos' movement in Bajo Aguan fights on for rightful ownership of their land.

The region has been in turmoil since December of last year, when businessmen Miguel Facussé Barjum, René Morales and Reynaldo Canalesall of whom supported and financed the 2009 coup – are now claiming to own 5,000 hectares of land previously negotiated by the Zelaya government to be turned over to the farmers. Since the conflict began, 23 campesinos have been killed in confrontations with police forces and paramilitary agents working for the businessmen.

In February, the independent media reported on US Air Force helicopters flying over the zone, keeping close surveillance of the campesino movement.[5] The human rights abuses in the Aguan valley have reached the halls of the World Bank, where they are now re-considering if they will continue financing Miguel Facussé's palm enterprises. The Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) is also considering the suspension of its credit expenditures to Honduras due to lack of government legitimacy.

The Lobo administration also announced the possibility of implementing a project called 'Model Cities', which would allow private corporations to literally buy towns. This way, the de facto government pretends to reduce the thriving poverty[6] by transferring the financial burden to the entrepreneurs.

Of course, the US government continues supporting the Honduran administration. Recently, President Obama visited El Salvador, where he discussed the recognition of Lobo.[7] Since the 2009 coup, Washington has announced sponsoring the building of a new military base in Honduras, to be used by US and Honduran personnel.[8]

Names like Israel Salinas, Julio Funes, Walter Trochez, Angel Salgado, Jose Alexander Rodas, Cesar Noe Sanchez, Marco Dubon, Wendy Avila, Juan Gabriel Figueroa, Vanessa Yaneth Zepeda, Manuel Flores, Francis Armando Henriquez, Mario Fidel Contreras, Felix Rolando Murillo and many others[9] have now been added to the long list of Honduran martyrs never reported on mainstream media. All of them died in direct clashes with police or military forces or in mysterious situations yet to be revealed.

None of their deaths seem to matter to the democracy-touting Obama administration, nor to the European Union.[10] While preaching democracy and reform in the Middle East, the Western powers apply a differentiated set of rules to Honduras, a vital ally for US interests in the region and a vital asset for the European economic agenda. Will the Honduran resistance be able to overcome brutality, intimidation and the media's silence? Only time will tell.



[1] El Libertador (21-2-11), “Con represión se inicia año escolar” at: http://www.ellibertador.hn/?q=article/con-represi%C3%B3n-se-inicia-a%C3%B1o-escolar.

[2] El Libertador (28-2-11), “Magisterio presiona a 'Pepe' para que devuelva 1,800 millones de lempiras a Inprema” at: http://www.ellibertador.hn/?q=article/magisterio-presiona-pepe-para-que-devuelva-1800-millones-de-lempiras-inprema.

[3] El Tiempo, (28-3-11), “Antimotines ahorran bombas lacrimógenas” at: http://www.tiempo.hn/component/k2/item/5733-antimotines-ahorran-bombas-lacrim%C3%B3genas.html.

[4] Reuters (28-3-11), “Declara gobierno de Honduras ilegal huelga de profesores contra privatización” at: http://www.centralamericalink.com/app/cms/www/index.php?pk_articulo=4631.

[5] El Libertador (14-2-11), “Alerta: Helicópteros estadounidenses sobrevuelan el valle del Aguán” at: http://www.ellibertador.hn/?q=article/alerta-helic%C3%B3pteros-estadounidenses-sobrevuelan-el-valle-del-agu%C3%A1n.

[6] Central America Link (21-3-11), “Honduras: haciendo historia” at: http://www.centralamericalink.com/app/cms/www/index.php?pk_articulo=4502.

[7] América Economía (22-3-11), “Las razones por las que Obama visitará El Salvador dentro de su gira por Latinoamérica” at: http://www.americaeconomia.com/politica-sociedad/politica/las-razones-que-llevaron-obama-visitar-el-salvador-dentro-de-su-gira-por-.

[8] El Heraldo (9-7-10), “Construirán base militar en isla de Guanaja” at: http://eng.elheraldo.hn/Ediciones/2010/07/10/Noticias/Construiran-base-militar-en-isla-de-Guanaja and

[9] Names extracted from Human Rights Organizations' reports and Vida Laboral, Edition #46 (January), El Progreso, Honduras, 2011; pages 14-33.

[10] El Mundo (10-2-10), “La UE va a restablecer sus relaciones con Honduras” at: http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2010/02/10/union_europea/1265835555.html.


Gustavo Fuchs is a contributing columnist from Costa Rica, covering events and analysis on Latin America.
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