By Armando Chaguaceda
“You see? Zelaya and the people are entering Honduras. The dictatorship has fallen!” a friend of mine here in Havana wrote me. Me – who’s been continuing to follow the crisis live on CNN and Telesur – I couldn’t understand my countryman’s optimistic slant, so I gave myself the task of combing through Cuban coverage of the events in Honduras.
On July 25, with the title “Honduran People Resist in the Face of Military Repression,” the Cuban newspaper Granma resonated over the momentary tiptoeing of deposed president Manuel Zelaya onto Honduran soil.
The newspaper described the “harsh military repression against the Hondurans who support the return of constitutional president Manuel Zelaya,” a spin that gave the impression of having witnessed pitched street battles, with dozens of wounded and dead, and a régime sustained by the mere power of its guns. Under similar headlines, the entire Cuban press recounted the awaited incursion of the leader, the actions in support of him and the ensuing repression.
The reality of Honduras is more complex than reflected in these desires and slogans. The junta has maintained – in the face of international pressure – the unity of the political upper-class and its institutions, the backing of the army and the support of broad sectors of the population.
These groups have rallied the depoliticized poor – frightened by effects of the international blockade (embargoes always feed on the poor) – and those citizens who support the Micheletti government. On August 24 in San Pedro Sula, these contingents held a well-promoted march under the banner “Peace and Democracy,” in opposition to the return of Mel Zelaya.
The demonstration, in which elements of the right wing were shown, dubbed CNN the “Chávez News Network.” This was an uncanny coincidence with those on the extreme left who shouted down that same news agency, which in my opinion has offered the most balanced coverage of the crisis.
While this occurred, Zelaya was at the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, in a white jeep, armed with a cell phone and wearing his cowboy hat. Before him were dozens of followers shouting “Zelaya hold on, the people are rising up.”
To them he declared, “We can enter on our border with El Salvador or with Guatemala, we’re organized on all sides. Or we can land directly in San Pedro Sula; I have helicopters ready, I have airplanes ready; I have the people to accompany me. We are resolved to go to the end in demand our rights,” though later he would say that “to prevent violence” he had negotiated with the military for entry into the country.
In this way, with each step backward and with each confused statement, he is weakening the popular resistance and strengthening the position of the de facto régime.
Up to now, what stands out in this crisis is the first defeat: that of the people of the land of freedom fighter Francisco Morazán. The Honduran social movement, less experienced than those of its Central American neighbors, deserves our solidarity as progressives to achieve better organization and deeper reflections as to their limitations.
Not all of the popular sectors have been massively swept into the struggle like in the Santiago de Cuba insurrection in 1956, or like the human tide that surged from the hills of Caracas to restore Chavez within 72 hours in April 2002. Though today we must insist on the return of Zelaya, similar efforts must be made to strengthen the movement’s leadership, given the zigzagging positions of its leader.
Yet here in Cuba this crisis has other victims: information, our civic political culture and the credibility of our press. Once again, a victim of triumphalism and the logic of the state, the press presents distorted images of those governments “allied” with Havana, as they fabricate parallels offensive to common sense.
Let us state the fact clearly: The position of the Honduran president has nothing to do with Allende’s heroic immolation, or the wise stance taken by Chavez in 2002, or Fidel’s undeniable will after the Moncada and the landing of the ship Granma.
Today Zelaya is becoming the object of rage and ridicule in the media with his vacillating statements (professing to be pro-ALBA, professing to be pro-OAS), his media posturing, his endless journeys and simultaneous calls for unarmed popular resistance, which he drops at times; and with his negotiations with the junta. Why does the Cuban press insist on presenting him as what he is not, neither by ideology nor practice?
In November 1989, we Cubans discovered – dumbfounded – the fall of the eternal Berlin Wall. Soon after, we learned of Ceaucescu’s crimes and the cowardly escape of Mengistu in Ethiopia. In the spring of 1990 we cried in my house before the “unexpected” defeats of the Sandinistas. The current internal crises in China and Iran – when they are presented – are today explained as “maneuvers of imperialism” by journalists who ignore the serious ethnic and social conflicts, and the corruption and authoritarianism that are eroding the foundations of these regimes.
The persistence of this situation – which has deep and damaging repercussions in the forging of civil and revolutionary conscientious, especially among the youth – must be overcome by hard facts to transcend the scathing and futuristic rhetoric repeated in the forums and congresses of the Cuban press.