On Sunday June 28th, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was awoken by the sound of soldiers kicking in the door of the presidential residence. He was abducted, still dressed in his pyjamas, and bundled into a waiting vehicle. The soldiers took him and put him on a flight to Costa Rica. With Zelaya out of the way, his opponents set about justifying their actions and attempting to establish control over the country.
Manuel Zelaya was a strange target for a rightist putsch. A wealthy banker and rancher, he was the preferred candidate of the Liberal Party which, along with the more conservative National Party, formed the political establishment in Honduras, a country which has been ruled by a mix of military dictatorships and right wing governments of the elite; what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would call the oligarchs. The ruling classes in Honduras was comfortable with his election. Throughout the 1980s, the country had been turned into an armed camp for Reagan’s war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Decades of death squad operations and a stifling political environment had ensured that the left in Honduras was extremely weak. But conditions in Honduras are extremely hard for the poor. It is one of the poorest countries in the Americas; like many Central American countries, its main source of income is income repatriated from workers overseas. The life expectancy is only 66.2 years and literacy languishes at 76.2%. Approximately seventy percent of the population live beneath the poverty line.
After being elected, Zelaya began to shift away from traditional Honduran politics. He raised the ire of his own party by raising the minimum wage by sixty percent. He welcomed Cuban doctors into the country to work amongst the poor majority and applied to join, and was accepted into ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. This put him beyond the pale for the oligarchy in Honduras, including in his own party. Zelaya became an obstacle to business as usual. [Read more...]