Honduras accord: a gain for Ottawa?
An exchange between Todd Gordon/Jeffery R. Webber and Richard Fidler addresses whether the Cartagena Accord, which opened the road to Ex-President Manuel Zelaya return to Honduras, marks a victory for the Canadian government in its efforts at capitalist penetration of the Central American country.
The article by Gordon and Webber was published in Bullet July 13; Fidler’s response was posted the same day to this site.
Here are the opening paragraphs of Gordon and Webber’s article, “The Cartagena Accord: A Step Forward for Canada in Honduras,” followed by Fidler’s reply. For the initial texts in this exchange, see “From Cartagena to Tegucigalpa: Imperialism and the Future of the Honduran Resistance” (Gordon/Webber) and “Honduras resistance launches political party, as repression continues” (Riddell).
Todd Gordon/Jeffery R. Webber:
Honduras entered a new political phase on May 28 with the return of exiled former President Manuel Zelaya. His repatriation followed the signing of the Cartagena Accord between Zelaya, Honduran strongman Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, and the governments of Colombia and Venezuela. From the vantage point of Canadian imperialism – a major external force in Honduras – the new topography of politics in the country is less a hindrance to, than an opportunity for, expansion on several fronts.
There is an argument, popularized by sections of the international Left, which presents Cartagena as a democratic breakthrough. That is, if judged against the repressive period inaugurated by the June 28, 2009 coup against Zelaya, post-Cartagena Honduras can be expected to adhere more closely to norms of human rights and to offer greater opportunity for democratic participation, relatively free of fear and intimidation. Such arguments conceal the systematic authoritarian continuity that underpins the new phase. The novelty of the period lies rather in the fresh packaging of the old dictatorship, something like a Bush war made palatable by Nobel Peace laureate Obama.
The construction of a democratic facade in post-coup Honduras found its earliest expression in the fraudulent November 2009 elections that ushered in Lobo and showed the door to Roberto Micheletti, the immediate successor to Zelaya following the coup. Cartagena then allowed the return of Zelaya to the country, the readmission of Honduras into the Organization of American States (OAS), and formal recognition by the Lobo regime of the new Frente Amplio (Broad Front) party of the official resistance. It is against this backdrop that the activities of Canadian capital in Honduras, and all their associated violence, are likely to intensify, with the support of the Harper government.
The Ottawa connection
Honduras has become an important anchor to Canada’s engagement with Central America, an engagement driven by the promotion of strong property rights for capital and the containment of challenges to these rights through diplomatic, economic and security strategies.
Canada extended considerable energies in trying to ensure a particular ‘resolution’ to the coup. From the outset, the Harper administration sought to end the isolation of Honduras from the acceptable elements of the ‘international community’ – the country’s membership in the OAS was revoked because the coup violated this regional institution’s democratic charter – while at the same time securing its segregation from the orbit of Venezuelan influence and that of other Centre-Left governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. A brutally repressive, free-market regime, furbished with a hollow democratic shell, is the ideal model for the isthmus in the eyes of Canadian interests in Honduran mining, maquilas and tourism.
As a major source of foreign investment in Honduras, and with a strong predisposition toward neoliberal zealotry, Ottawa’s post-2009 coup policy has been to contain Zelaya and back pro-business Lobo. Zelaya was a member of a populist faction within the traditionalist Liberal Party whose modest social reforms and pragmatic shift toward closer relations with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez did not serve to ingratiate him with the ruling coterie in the U.S. or Canada.
Response by Richard Fidler:
Readers of this website may be interested in a second article that Jeff Webber and Todd Gordon have now posted on the struggle in Honduras (see http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/526.php). In it, they take much the same line that Jeff Webber took in From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia (Haymarket Books): that Evo Morales (and the mass forces he led) had betrayed the popular movement arising out of the water and gas wars by agreeing to contest a national election in 2005 — an election that placed Morales and the MAS in the presidency, putting the mass struggle on a new, more advantageous footing for the struggles to come.
This article argues that the Honduran resistance has been weakened by the Cartagena Accord, but the argument is not sustained. The Accord, while not ending the repression of course, has apparently opened up some democratic space for the popular resistance — and the resistance movement, in its overwhelming majority, is using it in part to build an electoral front to contest the next national elections. Is there any evidence that the Accord has undermined the resistance to repression? What is the basis for the authors’ claim that, in negotiating the Accord, Chávez and Zelaya have somehow sanctioned the Lobo post-coup regime? If the Accord remains in force, the Frente can reinforce the grass-roots resistance to repression in the streets and communities with a battle at the ballot box, with or without Zelaya heading its slate.
It is hard to see how the Harper government’s interests are advanced by this development. As the authors note, “Opposition to Zelaya’s return from exile was at the core of the Canadian strategy in the months following the coup….” Well, Ottawa lost that one.
It is also unclear to me just what the impact is of the Honduran readmission to the increasingly discredited OAS — especially in light of the recent foundation of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations, a counter organization to the OAS which excludes both the US and Canada.
As the authors note, Canadian corporations continue to pillage Honduras’ resources, and the repression of opposition militants does not appear to have abated. No doubt these issues will be major concerns of the Broad Front for Popular Resistance in Honduras, as they should be for us here in Canada.
For other articles by Richard Fidler, see Life on the Left.