Supporters of deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya gathered outside the Brazilian consulate in Toronto Wednesday demanding his return to power while condemning the violence and oppression under interim leader Roberto Micheletti.
Zelaya, ousted in a coup nearly three months ago, slipped back into the country Monday and is currently taking refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
“Thank you Brazil and the people of Brazil for your great support,” said Raul Burbano of the Latin American Solidarity Network. Supporters applauded. “We’re here asking the Canadian government to condemn the violence against people who have been resisting peacefully against a military dictatorship for the last three months.”
“Viva Brazil,” yelled one supporter.
Representatives from CUPE, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Toronto Bolivia Solidarity Network also attended Wednesday’s rally on the southwest corner of Bloor and Bay Streets. In the past, the OSSTF has supported the Latin American Solidarity Network in their documentary work as well as moving forward the causes of progressive movements in Latin America.
Burbano appealed to Canadians to take a stand against the interim Micheletti government that imposed a curfew, closed the airport and set up roadblocks on highways leading into Tegucigalpa to keep out more Zelaya supporters from other regions of the country.
The Associated Press reported that Zelaya loyalists ignored the decree and surrounded the embassy dancing and cheering and using their cell phones to light up the streets after electricity was cut off on the block housing the embassy.
Luis Granados Ceja was recently in Honduras with the brigade from the Latin American Solidarity Network. He explained that Zelaya’s return to Honduras had less to do with international pressure than the valiant efforts of the Honduran people, who have been resisting a military dictatorship for close to three months.
Even after daily rallies, constant repression, and Zelaya supporters killed or detained, he said “the people remain on the streets with the same level of optimism and militancy that they did on day one.” With Zelaya’s return, his supporters are even more determined to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
“We must take this opportunity to restore democracy to Honduras so that they can continue,” he said. “Members of the military are willing to take the lives of their fellow Honduran people in order to prop up this coup.”
Granados Ceja declared that the Canadian government must call for the immediate and unconditional return of Zelaya to power. Until that happens, he argued that Prime Minister Harper should suspend all aid to the de facto government.
The Obama administration has cut more than $30 million in non-humanitarian aid to Honduras — calling it a signal that Washington is not happy with the status quo.
In the meantime, CUPE Ontario committed to call on the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), CUPE National and other affiliates to pressure the Canadian government to change its position. The Manitoban recently reported that Canada, the second largest investor in Honduras, has not cut off military aid or any aid to the coup government and is in fact still training Honduran soldiers despite the coup.
“The Canadian government’s position is embarrassing,” said Edgar Godoy of CUPE Ontario. “They have to take a position to restore the constitution in Honduras, to demand the freedom of the people who have been detained and stop the repression.”
Nchamah Miller told supporters that Canada needs to wake up now. “If we don’t we’re going to have a battlefront on our own continent,” said the President of the National Council of Latin American and Caribbean Women in Canada.
“It’s time for Canada to realize what’s at stake here.”
Miller warned that if Canadians continue to remain indifferent to the situation in Honduras, the Harper government will have been complicit in keeping the illegal coup in power. She urged Latina and Caribbean women to join the Council.
Raul Burbano, who was also in Honduras recently, reported that the resistance movement in Honduras is unanimously united against the dictatorship. He explained that the goal of the movement, besides restoring Zelaya to power, is to re-establish the nation through a constitutional assembly led by the people.
“We’re calling for grassroots democracy,” he added. “Every day at the front lines, members of various indigenous groups are putting themselves in danger, struggling against neo-liberalism and free trade agreements.”
Burbano said the dynamics of power have changed in Honduras dramatically in the last thirty years, since the free trade agreements were signed. In the 80’s, he remarked, the multinationals had fourty per cent of the power, the government had fourty per cent, and the people had the remaining twenty per cent.
“Today, the people only have 5 per cent of the power, while the multinationals control seventy five per cent of the country.”
Like Burbano, Communist Party of Canada leader Miguel Figueroa believes the coup in Honduras needs to be seen in a broader context. He said it’s part of a larger struggle to roll back and defeat the popular, progressive and anti-imperialist movements that are sweeping across South America.
“It’s like the domino theory of the 50’s during the Cold War,” said Figueroa, “which was used to justify U.S. imperialist intervention in Vietnam and Southeast Asia in order to stop the spread of the left.”