Honduras Talks Renewed Amid Skepticism

Demanding that President Zelaya be reinstated.  Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA
Demanding that President Zelaya be reinstated. Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA

HAVANA TIMES, Oct. 13 (rel.UITA) –  In an atmosphere of generalized distrust, the talks in Honduras resumed on Tuesday.  In the first of three sessions, the delegation of the de facto government and representatives of President Manuel Zelaya (including a member of the National Front Against the Coup d’état) have reached some agreements on the basic points of the San Jose Agreement.

However, two of the five points-those dealing with the issue of the restitution of President Zelaya and the convening of a constitutional assembly-could accentuate contradictions between the rival factions and derail the talks, which the de facto government seems to be using for ends that have nothing to do with resolving the national crisis.

To analyze the results reached so far, as well as future prospects, a representative of Rel-UITA (the Latin American Regional Division of the International Union of Food Service, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Tobacco and Affiliated Workers) spoke with Juan Barahona, a leader of the National Front Against the Coup d’état and a delegate of this mass movement in the talks.  The photos accompanying this interview are by Giorgio Trucchi.

How do you evaluate the first three days of the dialogue?

The first and second day we discussed and agreed upon the agenda, which we are going to further develop, and began analyzing the different points that make up the San Jose Agreement.  In this sense, it’s necessary to recognize that there were some advances: There is agreement between the delegations on the formation of a government of national reconciliation, the rejection of amnesty for political crimes, consensus on the moving up of elections and the role that the armed forces will play in the election process.

However, for the resistance these advances don’t make sense if we don’t come to an agreement on point six, which foresees the reinstatement of President Zelaya.

Juan Barahona - photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA
Juan Barahona - photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA

Another point posing difficultly for agreement is number three, which proposes President Zelaya’s renunciation of a constitutional assembly.

President Zelaya has already said he’s willing to sign the San Jose Agreement and give up on the constitutional assembly during the remainder of his term.  We will respect this position of the president, however-as the resistance-we will never give up on pressing for the assembly.

The coup leaders delegation now want all delegates participating in the dialogue to sign the specific points of the accord on which we have reached agreement.  It’s evident that for us it will be impossible to accept point number three; therefore our proposal will be that it can be signed under protest, that’s to say adding a note to each point in which it is specified that my signing will be valid only and when a comprehensive agreement is reached, including the reinstatement of President’s Zelaya and the acceptance of a constitutional assembly.

The resistance and president Zelaya himself have set October 15 as the final deadline. Do you believe it is possible to reach an agreement before that date?

We have three days of talks left. The problem is to find out if the coup forces are serious about this dialogue and if they are really looking for a solution to the country’s crisis.  If they were, we could reach an agreement in half an hour.

However, what we are seeing is that that political will doesn’t exist on behalf of the coup forces.

If October 15 arrives and there is no agreement, what will happen?

I don’t know what President Zelaya’s strategy is going to be.  As for the resistance, I can guarantee that the crisis and conflict will become worse.  In the face of a breakdown of dialogue, the resistance will not give up the struggle; it will continue mobilizing in the streets, and we will enter an unknown stage of electoral process.  There won’t be elections if President Zelaya is not reinstated.

Do you believe that the international community will maintain firmness in ignoring the electoral process?

This is something that the countries of the OAS and the world have already put forward, and we hope they are consistent with what they’ve said.  At the national level, most Hondurans would not recognize the process, or the candidate that ended up being elected, because it would be a form of continuing the coup.

Why does there seem to be such fear of President Zelaya’s reinstatement?  In the end he would be in that position for only a few months and with very limited power…

The Honduran military have been in the streets since the June 28 coup.  Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA
The Honduran military have been in the streets since the June 28 coup. Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA

There is fear, and I believe that the main fear is that he could call a constitutional assembly or use the period he has left to take action against the elements that planned and executed the coup d’état.

As a delegate of the resistance in the talks, what do you think could happen in the next few days?

Based on what I’ve seen in these first three days, I’m very pessimistic, and I don’t have great expectations that a comprehensive agreement can be reached.  The coup-backed media is already trying to divide our delegation by saying there are sharp contradictions between the resistance and President Zelaya.

We meet daily to refine strategy and look for common positions, but this disinformation campaign indicates that they want to lead the dialogue to failure and lay the blame on us.

Over a hundred days of continuous protest.  Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA
Over a hundred days of continuous protest. Photo: Giorgio Trucchi, rel-UITA

They’ve even begun a campaign against me personally, saying that I’m a hardliner and ineffective in negotiations.  In this sense it’s true that I’m a hardliner, because I’ll never be willing to give up on the rights of people.

On the one hand dialogue is being sought and on the other the repression continues…

The coup forces are perpetuating the suspension of constitutional law; they’re seeking the permanent closure of Radio Globo and Channel 36; they maintain heavy militarization of the country and the Brazilian embassy, and they continue repressing the demonstrations organized by the resistance.  The interest of the coup forces is to stay in power at any cost, and they’re using repression to reach that objective.

At the negotiations table we have already demanded the cessation of repression against the resistance, and in this new session we will intensify this demand.

Translation from Spanish to English by Havana Times