Interview with TeleSUR English about Honduran 'Indignados' Movement

Photo caption: Torchlight march on Friday, August 21st involving mostly student groups and members of the FNRP face the Honduran police as they guard the house of the Vice President of Congress, Lena Gutierrez who faces criminal charges for frauding the IHSS.

Photo caption: Torchlight march on Friday, August 21st involving mostly student groups and members of the FNRP face the Honduran police as they guard the house of the Vice President of Congress, Lena Gutierrez who faces criminal charges for frauding the IHSS.

[MY NOTE: I didn't choose the title and as I outline in the interview, there are sectors of the movement that do have a very solid structural analysis]. This content was originally published on TeleSUR English's website

Article written by: Heather Gies, TeleSUR English

teleSUR: Some, including Ariel Varela – described as a movement leader in the Honduran press – are calling what’s going on in Honduras and Guatemala a “Central American spring.” Do you think the current movements constitute a kind of “spring” in the region?

I can only really speak about the context and protests in Honduras, and not what is occurring in Guatemala. The dominant discourse of the indignados movement in Honduras attempts to give the impression that some sort of Central American "spring" is occurring in Honduras, citing that Hondurans have woken up, want change, and are demanding the resignation of Juan Orlando Hernandez. It’s unclear why the leaders of the indignados movement would call this a "spring" since Hondurans and specifically, Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, campesinos, women, and the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) have been on the streets and in their own territories demanding a transformation and refounding of Honduras through a Constitutent National Assembly since the 2009 military coup. This demand remains in some spaces but has been drowned out by the dominant and not-so-structural analysis of the indignados movement.

Since the post-coup marches in the few years after the coup were not deemed legitimate by the U.S. and the Honduran elites, it is suspicious that the right-wing media, the oligarchs, and the U.S. are now calling the torchlight marches and actions of the indignados movement legitimate, peaceful and democratic expressions of outrage via these weekly protests.

Many in Honduras have been resisting injustice for years amid what's been seen as a crisis of democracy in the wake of the coup. Why has has discontent boiled over at this moment, bringing thousands to the street in recent weeks, even though underlying issues of impunity have been longstanding?

This is the million dollar question. Why now?

What are the central demands of the current movement and the tactics for achieving them? Do you see these sufficient demands and effective tactics? If the demands currently being made by the “indignados” movement are met, what would be the outcome for Honduran politics and people?

The central demands of the movement are the installation of an International Commission against Impunity (CICIH), the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and investigations into the involvement of the Assistant Attorney General and Attorney General in the looting of the Social Security Institute (IHSS). Although in the last few weeks, the latter two demands have not been as present in the discourse of the indignados movement as it has previously.

I do think that small victories against impunity can be made through the installation of a International Commission against Impunity, but such a Commission is not a solution to a corrupt system that is rotten from top to bottom. Corruption is inherent to neoliberalism and impunity facilitates further perpetuation of both. Corruption and impunity are necessary in seeing that the interests and continued domination by the Honduran elite, transnational companies, the international financial institutions, and the U.S. and Canadian governments continue unabated. Unfortunately, the dominant discourse of this movement is not discussing or being critical of the neoliberal model and instead through its demands implies that corruption and impunity can be “dealt with” or resolved by a CICIH. The challenge of some sectors of the indignados movement is how to deepen the analysis to incorporate a more structural understanding of corruption and impunity, and incorporate it into their movement's demands.

Although the leaders of the indignados movement have said they won't participate in a dialogue facilitated by representatives of the Organization of American States, they did attend some of the meetings when the OAS representative was in the country last week. Months after the 2009 coup, the social movement/Resistencia/FNRP learned an important lesson about dialogue and negotiations facilitated by the OAS. They learned that the OAS served to whitewash the crimes of the Honduran government or the golpistas while facilitating the normalization of relations between Honduras and the “international community” that had rhetorically (not necessarily practically such as in the case of the United States) cut off relations with Honduras because of the coup. I have little faith or trust in the OAS's and for that matter, the U.S.'s intentions in this dialogue process.

Who constitutes this current movement and its leadership, and how it organized itself? Does the diverse alliance of left, mainstream, and even right-wing elements undermine the movement’s potential to achieve radical reforms?

The indignados movement does not have a structural analysis that examines corruption and impunity in the context of neoliberalism, the power of the Honduran elite, and the role of the U.S. and allies in Honduras. For that reason, their demands are not "radical" enough to get to the root of the corruption problem. Because of this, they may achieve small victories, but nothing close to what the social movement after the 2009 coup were fighting for and demanding.

For me, it’s crucial to analyze and contrast the current indignados movement with the post-coup social movement/Resistencia/FNRP. This current movement does not even come close to the structural, transformative demands of the post-coup movement. This may be because the social movement is at a different moment now, and/or because the "traditional" social movement (ie. post-coup movement) have been joined by sectors of the political opposition such as the right-wing and golpista Liberal Party, the anti-corruption (PAC) party, as well as the LIBRE party in the streets. Together, they seemed to have identified a clear enemy: the Juan Orlando Hernandez government.

Unfortunately, the dominant discourse of the indignados movement is being carefully controlled by sectors that are not traditional nor "radical" elements of the social movement and in fact, some have been clearly identified as being aligned with the U.S. Embassy. These elements include the State Department-funded NGOs Association for a More Just Society (ASJ) and Alliance for Peace and Justice. "Traditional" social movement groups (for a lack of a better description) view these sectors of the indignados movement with deep suspicion and mistrust, and for a good reason.

You have said that the coup consolidated political and economic power in Honduras to bring on a wave of privatization of public services, land, and resources. How is this linked to the corruption scandals recently brought to light that sparked the movement in the streets?

The corruption scandals are 100 percent linked to the consolidation of political and economic power in Honduras under neoliberalism. Take a look at what happened with the Social Security Institute (IHSS). First, it was looted by the National Party and their cronies, then while investigations of the corruption were actively ignored, it was privatized under the structural adjustments of the International Monetary Fund. Today, amidst the scandals and the protests, the IHSS and its services are being auctioned off to private companies. The same process occurred with the teachers’ pension funds in the institution IMPREMA shortly after the coup.

As I said previously, corruption is inherent to neoliberalism and necessary for the further consolidation of political and economic power through privatization processes in Honduras. The dominant discourse of the movement discusses corruption as a problem but not these privatization processes that have been under way for years.

How much presence or visibility do radical resistance activists and their demands have in the movement? Does the movement at large share your analysis and make the connections between the political economic outcomes of the coup and government corruption?

I think it is one of the biggest challenges for the "radical" resistance activists. They are attempting to push the indignados movement to a deeper analysis. The hunger strike that ended on July 31 was an attempt to do this. The strong and ongoing student involvement in the indignados movement is another attempt to do this, although the students are facing what is being portrayed by the media as isolated repression and criminalization which I believe is likely related to their more radical involvement in the indignados movement.

Unfortunately, the dominant discourse of the indignados in the mainstream media excludes the analysis of some sectors of the same movement to remove the more structural critiques of corruption. This obviously serves the interests of the powers that be.