The Power of Nonviolent Action in
A massive nonviolent movement, critical to the resolution of the crisis in Honduras, may be only the first chapter of an important and prolonged struggle for justice in one of Latin America’s poorest and most inequitable countries.
posted Nov 03, 2009
Protesters outside the National Congress in
Photo by Giggey.
The role of popular nonviolent action in the apparent victory of democratic forces in
Nevertheless, the nonviolent struggle was still decisive.
The sustained nonviolent resistance movement prevented the provisional government, formed after the coup that ousted the democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya last June, from establishing a sense of normalcy. What the movement lacked in well-organized, strategic focus, it made up for with feisty and determined acts of resistance that forced the provisional government into clumsy but ultimately futile efforts at repression—exposing the pretense of the junta’s supposed good intentions.
Sometimes a resistance movement just has to stay alive to make its point. Day after day, thousands of Hondurans from all walks of life gathered in the streets of
Following the return of the exiled President Zelaya to Tegucigalpa (he successfully sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy), the pro-democracy movement surged. Micheletti and his henchman panicked, suspending basic civil liberties, shutting down opposition radio and television stations, and declaring a 24-hour curfew. Such disruption caused the business community's support for the de facto government to wane; the Obama State Department, which had been somewhat timid in pressing the junta up to that point, began to push harder for a deal.
It is a great credit to the pro-democracy forces that, save for occasional small-scale rioting, the movement largely maintained its nonviolent discipline. It would have been easy to launch a guerrilla war. Much of
A community washing area in
Photo by Lon&Queda
The opposition movement consisted of a hodgepodge of trade unionists, campesinos from the countryside, Afro-Hondurans, feminists, students, and others who, along with insisting on the right of their elected president to return to office, are determined to build a more just society. Prior to the June 28 coup, there had never been a national mobilization in
Regardless of who occupies the Honduran presidential palace, there is a critical need to replace the old constitution, imposed by the outgoing military junta in 1981, which minimizes the participation of ordinary citizens in political decisions and effectively suppresses popular social movements. It must be replaced by one in which members of the country’s poor majority will have more of a say in determining their future. It was the movement for a popular, non-binding referendum to gauge support for a Constitutional convention that prompted the coup last June.
The restoration of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency may be only the first chapter of an important and prolonged struggle for justice in one of
Stephen Zunes wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Stephen is a professor of Politics and International Studies at the
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs