More Hondurans Protest Inauguration than Attend

 Jan 27th 2010 Tegucigalpa, Written by Chris Dadok

In the capital Tegucigalpa, buses and private cars surround the stadium as political party members, congressmen, international delegates, and mayors enter to attend the inauguration of the recently declared president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo Sosa.  Despite the high attendance close to 20,000, the stadium stands unfilled.  Outside on Boulevard Fuerza Armadas -passing under the bridges inscribed with political graffiti – over 200,000 Honduran teachers, small business owners, lawyers, youth, farmers, and many other employed and unemployed people march 5 kilometers across the city.  They are protesting what they see as corruption and an illegitimate government. The simultaneous rallies mark the divided nature in which the coup d’état has left Honduras.

On June 28th, former president of the Liberal Party, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a military coup d’état headed by Minister of Congress of the same party, Roberto Micheletti.  The coup fell on the day that Manuel Zelaya had agreed to hold a survey regarding the interest of Honduran citizens to hold a referendum to create Constitutional Assembly.  If the survey showed majority support, Hondurans would be able to vote on Election Day (Nov. 29th) in a fourth ballot create a Constitutional Assembly to reform their constitution. Mariana Reyes, a middle school teacher in the capital says, “Micheletti, and other coup leaders were scared of the results.  Throwing a coup d’état – and on that day was an insult to the Honduran democracy.”  In a country where the average unemployment is higher than Detroit, where citizens watch 10% of all government taxes embezzled each year, and where running water is still considered an amenity, many people see the constitution in its present state as inherently weak.

Photo taken by Mirian Huezo Emanuelsson at the Honduras protest outside of the presidential inauguration.

For the people I interviewed who participated in the march, the coup d’état in June and the following internationally unrecognized elections in November have signified the immediate failure the Constitutional Assembly, and disillusionment with Honduran politics.  “Why should I vote, if the person I vote for can just be thrown out of office when the powerful elite of the county disagrees with his policy,” a statement echoed in many forms by participants in resistance efforts.  In a country where multi-million dollar fast food chains like McDonalds and Pizza Hut, are protected from paying domestic taxes to the Honduras government, small Honduran business owners (who have to pay taxes) tell me that they had hoped that a reformed constitutional would make more equitable tax laws.  Elementary school teachers say they wish this potential tax money could go to schools, where the average K-6 class size is 45 students.

Since the coup, Honduras has lost $405 million (to add to its 2.86 billion dollar debt); thirty-two activists have been reported assassinated, and the multimillion-dollar U.S. and Venezuelan infrastructure grants have been withheld or canceled.  Inside the stadium, Porfirio Lobo announces his commitment to give amnesty for all individuals involved in throwing or resisting the coup in order to create a unity government and to build Honduras.  Luis Gutierrez, a cable technician who participated in the march protesting the new presidency responds sarcastically, “Amnesty for all. It’s as if as of January 28th, nothing ever happened.”

Outside the enclosed stadium, over the past six months youth have written on street walls, VIVA LA DEMOCRACIA (May democracy live) and other democratic slogans. Each day, construction workers are paid to paint over the political graffiti. Today, Porfirio Lobo has been inaugurated president; Manuel Zelaya has left to the Dominican Republic, and most international media sources have now lost interest in Honduras’s political situation. As people return from their final resistance march against the coup d’état, both pensive and excited they ask each other – what’s next?  To some, the inauguration is the end – to others the beginning.  It appears that the desire for democracy is not as easy to erase as the paint on the walls.

Political graffiti covers city walls in Honduras