By Victoria Cervantes *1
January 27th was the day of emotion and also relief as the successful inauguration of Xiomara Castro in front of a well-filled stadium, in front of international governmental delegations and invited international and Honduran organizations, went off without anything impeding Xiomara’s assumption of office. Since then, the new government has been moving fast to take over the various ministries and public offices. Forty cabinet members and ministers, among others, have been appointed by Xiomara so far, with the challenge of dealing with public employees and ministry employees tied to the coup and narco-regime just getting started.
The biggest challenge to the new government and its capacity to meet the expectations and demands of the people and social movements is the still unresolved crisis in Congress. There are still two parallel congresses after a group of 20 LIBRE Congress members led by Jorge Calix suddenly joined with the narco-politicos of the National Party and the narco faction of the Liberal Party. The reason: a disagreement about who would be the president of the Congress and in a Zoom session declared themselves the Congress with Jorge Calix as President of Congress. Meanwhile, most LIBRE members convened the official Congress in the Congressional chambers with Luis Redondo as President of Congress. People recognize the risk of a “soft” coup in Congress against Xiomara. Many hundreds of Hondurans have been in the streets around the Congress building at different times since this crisis developed to defend Xiomara’s Congress. Although it has not happened, there are frequent alerts of possible attempts by the rightist/ex-Libre alliance to take over the Congressional chambers.
Besides, Luis Redondo has filed charges of constitutional violations against Jorge Calix and vice versa; a National Party congressman has also filed a criminal complaint against Luis Redondo. The main concern with these conflicts ending in court is that these institutions and prosecutors are still those from the narco-dictatorship structures. Calix has lost some of his votes as some of his group have apologized and gone back to LIBRE. Even one young National Party congressman revoked his vote for the Calix grouping and went to the LIBRE Redondo congress. Xiomara, attempting to negotiate some resolution, met with Jorge Calix and offered him a position in the administration to give up the alliance with the National Party. Calix turned down Xiomara’s offer reportedly because of the opposition of the rest of his ex-Libre coalition. There are rumors that Xiomara’s proposal resulted from interventions by the “International Community,” which usually means the US and maybe the EU and OAS.
Sunday’s news was that Mel Zelaya (the former president deposed by the 2009 coup, coordinator of LIBRE) set up a meeting with the now expelled ex-LIBRE Calix faction to discuss the situation. That could be significant, but Zelaya postponed that meeting. *2
It seems pretty clear that the forces behind the congressional coup attempt -which worked out this strategy of splitting off part of LIBRE and strengthening the extreme right-wing- are not interested in negotiating a political settlement unless they can use it to cement their interests and impunity for their crimes over the past 12 years. Despite that, the US State Dept. Western Hemisphere person who was here for the inauguration, Brian Nichols, was tweeting on Saturday (@WHAAstSecty) about “all sides should engage in dialogue and refrain from acts of intimidation .” This statement is concerning because it misses the point deliberately.
These events remind me of the negotiations the US led after the coup in 2009 (the Costa Rican accord, the pre-election agreement of October 2009), where negotiations would lead to some terms to which Zelaya would agree. Still, then the coup government would violate the deal or ignore it. The US would pretend there was still an agreement or even blame Zelaya for being difficult, so the coup dictatorship consolidated itself.
Hondurans are anxious to see a resolution to the crisis. However, it is clear that even with the original complete LIBRE group and its allied members of Congress, a harrowing confrontation with the National Party and its allies in the Liberal Party was inevitable. It’s important to mention that the Liberal Party’s leader Yony Rosenthal was convicted of narco money laundering.
Many people (but not all) say that negotiations with the ex-LIBRE congress-people will have to happen, but not with the National Party. You hear from the Honduran movements that handing back any amount of power to the narco-oligarchs and their structures is not acceptable. Hondurans are in a life-and-death fight to take power and all of its structures away from the people who have caused so much damage for more than 12 years.
January 30th, 2022
*1 Victoria Cervantes is an AFGJ Board Member and one of the Honduras Solidarity Network coordinators. She is part of the community movements of activist artists, and musicians active in Latin American solidarity and community issues in Chicago. Vicki is a founding member of the group La Voz de los de Abajo Chicago which has been accompanying the Honduran campesino and social movements in solidarity since 1998.
*2 As of Tuesday, February 1, morning this meeting has not taken place.