June 8, 2011
The Honduran Resistance movement recently protested the meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States in El Salvador, June 5-7, where a delegation from the Honduran regime of Porfirio Lobo participated, enjoyed Honduras' official re-entry into the OAS.
It is not a coincidence that the focus of this OAS meeting is "citizen security". The military coup has again converted Honduras into the spearhead of the U.S. military project in Central America. Since the coup, three U.S. military bases have already been established, and there are reports of a strong presence of both U.S. troops and of the presence of both official Colombian security apparatus and Colombian paramilitary forces.
After consolidating Plan Colombia, as part of the "war on drugs" in South America, the U.S. intends to launch the Merida Initiative / CARCI from Colombia into Mesoamerica.
It is not surprising that this project of re-militarization in Central America is happening in areas of significant transnational economic interest. Now that the military backed coup government in Honduras is again in the OAS as a full member, and therefore "legitimate" in the eyes of the international community, it is expected that the coup perpetrators will move quickly to consolidate the economic and political gains achieved, backed by a strong military presence and repression.
International trade agreements will secure the benefits of the now "legitimate" concessions to plunder the national resources such as rivers, minerals, and apparently the national energy and telephone companies, among others, concessions which will be very expensive to reverse once the pro-democracy Resistance Front gains control of political power structures of the nation.
But amid so much violence and corruption, Honduras is also experiencing a moment of hope. The same agreement that facilitated the return of Honduras to the OAS also facilitated the return of President Manuel Zelaya. He was received by a people ready to fight peacefully and he returned ready to lead the struggle to take back political power.
UNITED STATES WAS WILLING TO FORCE THE RE-ENTRY OF HONDURAS TO THE OAS
The Cartagena Agreement, signed May 22 between the militarily ousted President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and the de facto President Porfirio Lobo, and facilitated by the governments of Colombia and Venezuela, has been criticized for the lack of human rights guarantees and its role in the return of Honduras to the OAS.
However, it is clear that after a nearly two year campaign to lift the suspension of Honduras from the OAS, the U.S. was willing to force the return of Honduras.
After Porfirio Lobo assumed the presidency in January 2010, despite the obvious illegality and fraud in the November 2009 elections, most nations in the hemispheric moved towards recognition. A meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS was called for July 20, 2010, but then cancelled, as it was not clear if enough nations would support a resolution that called for the return of Honduras and that even if there were enough votes to lift the suspension, the mere act of voting would have been political dynamite given the OAS Permanent Council's tradition of issuing decisions based on consensus, not by votes.
However, by April 2011 there were only six or seven countries opposed to the lifting of the suspension and when the Permanent Council met in November 2010 to discuss the border dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, a precedent was established of issuing a resolution by vote, breaking the tradition of consensus.
A mediation process was launched on April 9 in Cartagena to discuss terms for the return of Zelaya to Honduras. In the midst of negotiations, on May 13 a meeting of the Permanent Council was convened to discuss the lifting of the suspension of Honduras, but was canceled the same day. The move was seen as an attempt by the U.S. to undermine the mediation in Cartagena, and showed that the U.S. was prepared to force a vote to get Honduras a seat at the table in the General Assembly in June.
Given that the return of Honduras to the OAS seemed inevitable, the fact that an agreement was reached to facilitate the return of Zelaya in Honduras is impressive.
The presence of Zelaya in Honduras is crucial to the future of the nation, and will provide the necessary unity to channel the forces of the Resistance Front along a common path.
During the first week since his return, it seems clear that the Resistance is moving in the direction of electoral participation.
THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC AGENDA BEHIND THE COUP
In the nearly two years since the coup, the political and economic agenda behind it has become increasingly clear. During the administration of Lobo, a flood of new laws were passed that destroyed established social and economic rights. The recognition of these rights were achievements gained not just during the administration of President Zelaya, but through the history of Honduras.
Highly protested laws, like the Hourly Labor Law, the Foreign Employment Law and the Law for Rural and Marginal Urban employment were established, laws that "flexiblized" the labor market, undermining most of the rights obtained by the labor movement over the last 60 years.
Other laws have had serious effects, such as the law to privatize education, the Anti Terrorism Law that attacks the freedom of expression, the constitutional reform that created the possibility of Model Cities, undermining national sovereignty, and Law on Public-Private Partnerships to facilitate the plunder of national resources through concessions after the coup.
The list continues to grow, especially as a program of "reforms" is expected to be promoted as part of the process of "reconciliation" which the return to the OAS is part of.
REFORM OF HONDURAS
Under the pretext of "national reconciliation", a series of "reforms" will be promoted in Honduras over the next couple years. The "Commission of Truth and Reconciliation" (CVR), born of the failed Tegucigalpa-San Jose agreement, August 2009, intends to submit its report of June 15, 2011.
The CVR was unilaterally created by the coup government and its commissioners are figures who supported the coup. As a result the CVR was widely denounced as illegitimate by all recognized human rights organizations in Honduras. The CVR was created with the administrative sponsorship of the OAS, and in Washington it is being referred to as the "OAS Truth Commission," which lends an air of legitimacy that it does not enjoy in Honduras, where it is known as the "Commission of Lies."
The conclusions and recommendations of the CVR will undoubtedly contain some elements that may seem beneficial for the resistance movement in Honduras, elements such as reform of the justice system, reform the police and military, and electoral reform.
It is highly unlikely that the fundamental structures that maintain impunity for economic interests that use corruption to undermine democracy and the rule of law will be addressed.
International aid agencies are expected to flood the country with funding to examine proposals for reform, generating a wave of forums and workshops for NGOs to generate proposals for reform.
Under different conditions this kind of process could fracture the Resistance, creating a middle ground reform lobby which aims to create a military, police, judiciary and the electoral system in Honduras more presentable to the international community, but without addressing structural and economic changes.
However, Hondurans are clear that reforms will do little more than act as make up for a broken system.
Projects in the Inter American Development Bank, IDB, pipeline show disturbing plans for justice and public safety "reform". The IDB is preparing a loan of US$20 million, HO-L1063, which is to be implemented by the Supreme Court of Honduras. The Supreme Court of Honduras has been widely denounced for extreme levels of corruption and involvement in the coup by actors ranging from the International Commission of Jurists to the U.S. State Department, who suspended visas journey to the Supreme Court of Honduras.
But above all, the Supreme Court has no legitimacy in the eyes of the Honduran people, and cannot participate in, much less lead, a "reform" of justice and security.
CONSOLIDATION OF CONCESSIONS
At the same time there will be a race to consolidate concessions to transnational corporations. During the past 18 months a long list of concessions of water rights, power generation projects, forestry projects, tourism projects, ports, airports, roads, and even the granting of national sovereignty over the territory as "Cities Models " have been granted, and will no doubt continue as long as the de facto government maintains control of the political power structure.
However, the suspension of Honduras from the OAS nation left a shadow over the concessions within the OAS family. It is interesting, for example, hydroelectric concessions were given almost completely to Honduran companies, with the notable exception of the Patuca dam concession to Chinese interests, many of which lack the capacity to finance the constructions.
Although in many cases it seems likely that the mega projects will facilitate the laundering of money from organized crime activities that frequently occur in areas where mega projects are slotted to be developed, it is clear that legitimate sources of funding and technology will be necessary.
Multinational development banks are creating private investment funding opportunities for these projects. As an example, in December 2010, the IDB designated a $10 million loan to the FICOHSA bank to create a development fund for "green power."
The concessions granted in 2010 and 2011 generally allow the resale of the concessions. It is also standard practice for mega projects to be owned by national companies, but multinational companies are the major investors in these companies. Those who may have been reluctant to invest in Honduras while it was suspended from the OAS can now rush through contracts, with investments protected by free trade agreements.
Perhaps the most valuable coup booty is the national telephone company, Hondutel - and the national electricity company - ENEE. It seems likely that investors have been waiting for Honduras' return to the OAS, and again the loan portfolio of the IDB loans sheds light on plans. On May 15, 2011, the IDB approved a "technical support" to write a new General Telecommunications Law in Honduras, the necessary vehicle for privatization.
A loan to ENEE, HO-1070, is in preparation. Although as yet there is no precise information about the "Program to Strengthen the Energy Sector", the loan falls into the category of policy loan. Loans for energy sector policies tend to focus on the creation of "regulatory frameworks", information and public awareness and improve efficiency. Regulatory framework often refers to the legal framework for privatization. The privatization of national energy companies in the region have demonstrated a pattern of promoting "public information" focused on generating a lack of confidence in the national energy company before the privatization process, and neighboring nations have experienced significant investment in improving and expanding the power grid before privatization. ENEE has recently announced programs to extend the power grid to remote communities and for the construction of public lighting infrastructure.
FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS OBLIGATE HONDURAS TO BILLIONS IN COMPENSATION IF CONCESSIONS ARE RETRACTED
Once the resistance is in control of political power structures, much of the political - economic projects behind the coup could be reversed. However, international trade contracts would benefit from a series of extreme guarantees established in free trade agreements.
In 2004 the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. (CAFTA) was signed. In May 2010 the Central American countries signed the Association Agreement with the European Union.
Negotiations on the Canada - Honduras free trade agreement have been completed and it is expected that the nations will sign the agreement soon. The suspension of Honduras from the OAS, a multinational organization to which both Canada and Honduras are members, undoubtedly caused concerns related to the final signing of the agreement, a barrier now surpassed.
Canada's major economic interests in Honduras are the mining concessions and clothing sweatshops.
The General Mining Law in Honduras was suspended in 2007 by a decision of the Supreme Court who found elements of the law unconstitutional, leaving in limbo mining interests in Honduras. Given this situation, many were surprised by the slow progress in promoting the new mining law following the military coup of 2009. But press reports in late May of 2011 made it clear that the new law will soon be approved by Congress, perhaps conveniently in the coat-tail of the FTA with Canada.
Free trade agreements offer extraordinary guarantees to investors. For example, under the terms of CAFTA, if the government of Honduras at some point wants to reverse a concession to a U.S. based company, Honduras will be required to reimburse the company not only for direct investment lost but also all the future profits the company would no longer generate through the concession.
The Resistance movement faces tremendous challenges as it moves toward its goal of re-founding Honduras. It must navigate through the complexities of maintaining unity amidst the diverse reflection of Honduras that is the Resistance movement. It must balance the benefits of gaining control of the political power structure against the threats to structural change represented by the corrupt electoral system. It must contend with reform proposals that may on many levels benefit sectors of the movement but that will fall short of the structural, economic changes needed to transform Honduras.
The sectors of the Resistance most concerned about the hidden dangers of electoral participation and limited reforms are those most negatively impacted by the concessions of natural resources, and are those most threatened by rights violations, especially if the economic powers are successful in marginalizing their opposition and criminalizing their defense of their territories.
And, as Honduras is now considered a "legitimate" member of the international community, the Resistance must find ways to expose as illegitimate the wholesale concession of national resources and sovereignty that will accelerate in the new political context.
It is expected that human rights abuses will accelerate as the Resistance grows in strength and resists the looting of communities resources under the now fully recognized government.