This column was first published in Spanish by Chile’s Prensa Irreverente.
The Constitution of the Republic of Honduras states it clearly. “No one owes obedience to a usurping government,” it reads, “or to those who assume public functions or positions by force of arms or using means or procedures that violate or do not recognize what this Constitution and the laws establish. The acts carried out by such authorities are null and void. The people have the right to resort to insurrection in defense of constitutional order.”
My fellow Yankees and I share the same tradition of rebellion against unjust government; in fact, ours was among the first societies in the modern world to declare such a right, at least in writing. Yet I doubt Juan Orlando Hernández, the self-reelected president of Honduras, cares much about rights and constitutionality, seeing how he ran for reelection in the first place (which the Honduran constitution strictly prohibits), tampered with the votes in order to steal an election which was slipping from his fingers, and then ordered Honduran security forces to crack down on angry catrachos protesting the sheer corruption of it all.
Despite the weeks of protests and over 30 reported deaths, most of them at the hands of the state, on January 27 JOH became the first Honduran president to assume two consecutive terms. He retook the oath of office as city streets were in flames from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific. If JOH survives the turmoil that his out-and-out theft has ignited, he will become the second longest serving president in Honduran history, behind the infamous Tiburcio Carías Andino who ruled as dictator during the 1930s and forties.
For his part, Salvador Nasralla, who ran as the standard-bearer of an anti-establishment electoral alliance, still claims this is actually the second election that JOH has stolen from him, as the 2013 election too was shrouded in a number of undemocratic irregularities, not least of which was the ninety million dollars in social-security funds that somehow found their way into JOH’s election campaign.
“I knew politics were dirty, but not so dirty!” the gameshow-host-turned-would-be-president recently told El Salvador’s El Faro. “The president of a colony like ours gets subordinated by the great economic groups which are the lackeys of the United States that owns the country. The levels of corruption in Honduras are too high.”
At first Nasralla had joined the Organization of American States in calling for new elections monitored by an impartial and preferably international third party. But as soon as the OAS — pressured by its U.S. patrons, no doubt — walked back its demand and decided it would work with the dictatorship in reestablishing order, Nasralla began offering similar concessions to JOH and the ruling National Party. He even started distancing himself from Manuel Zelaya, the former president ousted in the 2009 coup who has since become the main leftist leader and is general coordinator of Alianza de Oposición contra la Dictadura, the electoral alliance that Nasralla ran under.
Last week Zelaya’s leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party, or LIBRE, declared itself in “total insurrection” against the coup regime, and on Monday Zelaya took to Twitter to call for a massive sit-in on Tuesday at four o’clock in the Plaza Francisco Morazán in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.
Along with their ongoing condemnation of the stolen election, the opposition has been reignited by a gag law passed by the Nationalist-controlled Congress on January 18, which bars the public prosecutor’s office from investigating the mismanagement of public funds and applies retroactively as far back as 2006. Thus, the over 60 current and former Honduran officials under investigation — since the OAS’s launched the Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras began in 2016 — could potentially walk away scot-free. The MACCIH released a statement on January 24 denouncing the new law as an “impunity pact.”
Then there’s the case of Edwin Espinal, a 41-year-old activist and member of the Honduras Solidarity Network who has been detained since January 19 in connection to a massive protest the week before. Espinal has been the target of government harassment since participating in the anti-coup demonstrations in 2009, in which his partner Wendy lost her life due to excessive exposure to tear gas. The state has arrested him over a dozen times since then, and he was even momentarily disappeared and beaten by security agents in 2010. He’s now being held in pre-trial detention at La Tolva, a maximum-security prison run by the military, which means he might not breathe free air for a couple years or so, when his case finally goes to trial.
Unfortunately, freeing Espinal would accomplish little if the people of Honduras as a whole aren’t freed from such an arbitrary and cruel tyranny. Because Edwin isn’t the only Honduran whose liberty is currently in limbo.
Featured image: Heather Gies/Twitter