Thousands of workers are now on strike against the right-wing coup which deposed Honduran president Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales on 28 June. Meanwhile, the coup regime has suspended civil liberties, attacked workers' organisations and sponsored the murder of political opponents, including two prominent trade unionists.
All of Honduras' unions have opposed the coup. Teachers, hospital workers, taxi drivers and airport workers seem to be the core of the resistance. They have been joined by, amongst others, Chiquita banana workers, who gave up a day's pay to participate in national strike action. In response the regime has used troops to occupy hospitals; tear-gassed workers' demonstrations; ransacked the headquarters of the General Confederation of Labour, one of Honduras' three trade union centres; and shot up the offices of Via Campesina, a rural workers and small farmers' organisation. 200 people have "disappeared".
On 11 July, in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, Roger Bados, former union president at the local cement factory and an activist in the left-wing Democratic Unification party (UD), was shot by a group of men who had entered his home. (His sister and nephew's wife were also wounded.) The same day union activist Ramon Garcia, also a UD member, was taken off a bus and killed. Both Bados and Garcia were prominent opponents of the coup.
The dominant sections of the Honduran bourgeoisie are the driving force behind the coup.
Manuel Zelaya is himself a wealthy rancher, a politician from the right-wing Liberal Party who since his election in 2006 has moved towards a populist stance (though the new president installed by the coup regime, Roberto Micheletti, is also a Liberal). In addition to making links with regimes such as Chavez's Venezuela, Zelaya has committed himself to "social transformation", for instance by raising the minimum wage 60 percent. In a country where 70 percent of the population lives in poverty - Honduras ranks 117th in the world on the Human Development Index, as against 42nd for Costa Rica and 65th for Brazil - such measures have made him tremendously popular with the working class and poor.
The spark for the coup was Zelaya's attempt to organise a referendum on a new constitution, which among other things would have allowed him to be re-elected. When the military refused to oversee the vote, Zelaya sacked a leading general and led a march of supporters to seize army-confiscated ballot boxes. Clearly, however, the social background to the constitutional questions is key.
One of the biggest supporters of the coup has been the Honduran Maquila Association, which represents companies producing apparel for brand-name US firms. In the US, the American Apparel & Footwear Association has joined the Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups in a statement opposing efforts to bring US economic pressure to bear on the coup leaders. Obama and Clinton have obliged by opposing the coup but refusing to refer to it as a coup, in order to avoid the suspension of US military and economic aid to Honduras. No one doubts that if the US government seriously opposed the coup, it would collapse almost immediately.
Naturally, the coup regime has set about attacking workers' conditions - beginning by rescinding Zelaya's increase in the minimum wage.
It is not a question of illusions in the ruling-class populist Zelaya, but of defending the gains and organisations of working class and poor. Clearly, socialists in Honduras and Latin America should oppose the coup on the basis of independent working-class mobilisation, not political support for Zelaya. At the same time, the Honduran workers are under the knife, and need the maximum possible international solidarity in resisting.
For regular updates from Honduras, and how to take action, see hondurasresists.blogspot.com
For more see www.labourstart.org
For a background analysis by US socialist Dan La Botz, see the website of the US socialist group Solidarity