At one point during the military coup in Honduras last year, a US representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) joked that Hondurans were living in a state of “magical realism”, a folkloric literary genre blurring reality and the surreal, often in the historical or political context of Latin America.
He wasn’t far off, despite the bizarre comparison: A democratically-elected president is overthrown by an elite conspiring against him, forced out of the country, the military takes over, the people revolt in massive opposition, while governments across the world refuse to recognize the new regime and withdraw their ambassadors. Only the United States, the most powerful of all countries, remains on the fence, then hops off onto the side of the golpistas (coup-makers) while presenting a straight face of diplomacy.
Dan Archer, comics journalist and instructor at Stanford University, has the following to say about the final installment of his 3-part graphic history of the Honduran coup, which can be viewed below:
In the final part… I focus on piecing together the evidence of the repression that went mostly undocumented in the wake of the Nov 29th Honduran elections. Despite the media’s portrayal of a democratic transition to Porfirio Lobo’s inauguration as president a week ago, the de facto government’s use of violence and threats against resistance members should stand as an ominous augury, especially given its clear links to Lobo and his cabinet. Most troubling of all is the United States’ involvement under the banner of promoting ‘democracy,’ a term that is being increasingly used as a pretext for supporting a regime whose sympathies correspond to the American agenda (be it CAFTA or alarmist left-wing conspiracies), regardless of popular feeling or their worrying record of human rights abuses.”
President Obama was elected partly because of his promise to a large Hispanic constituency to give both new attention and new respect to Latin America. Judging from the US role in the military coup in Honduras, he must think that one of the two is enough.
For those who closely followed the coup and its aftermath, a tiny fear sat in the back of our minds. Eventually it was confirmed. As the State Department position shifted from condemning to condoning the illegal government, the outline of a bigger picture became clear. If this violent takeover were really to be approved by the US, it would mark a frightening new focus on the region.
In late June, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and forced out of the country. For the next five months, an illegitimate government, headed by Congressional leader Roberto Micheletti, suppressed the outrage of many Honduran citizens against this regime through a number of violent means including murder, torture, and detention of citizens.
Throughout this time, the US response to these allegations was silence.
Media creativity in the aftermath of the 28 June coup against Honduran President Mel Zelaya has generally been limited to such things as CNN’s classification of the military coup as “military-led,” Honduran media classification of tomorrow’s illegitimate elections as a “fiesta cívica,” and the publication of articles in mainstream Honduran newspapers with titles like “Zelayista Guerrillas Train in Nicaragua.” This particular article, published by El Heraldo on 2 August, is accompanied by a photograph of a ragtag group of joggers—some of them barefoot, one in a cowboy hat, and one in all pink—and bears a caption announcing that “Manuel Zelaya’s followers have begun military exercises in fields in Nicaragua.”
More substantive creative endeavors have been undertaken by Dan Archer and Nikil Saval, who have put together a graphic history of the Honduran coup in two parts thus far. The latter part is based on Joseph Shansky’s piece “Smashing the Silence: Community Defiance in Honduras,” first published on PULSE, and can be viewed below (note: all annotations appear in the original version). The first part of the graphic history can additionally be viewed here, and information on other projects can be found on Archer’s website.
Since the few days of renewed excitement around the “secret” return to Honduras of democratically-elected President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, there has been a disturbing omission of the Honduran political crisis in the international news. It would be reasonable to think that with each passing day an exiled president was camped in a foreign embassy (as Zelaya has been in the Brazilian embassy since September 21st), tensions would rise and all eyes of the world would be on that lone building. Instead the opposite has occurred and it appears as though the international press had lost interest without action to follow. The subsequent collapse and renewal (and collapse again, etc.) of ongoing “negotiations” with Roberto Micheletti’s coup government did little to breathe life into this story.
Here in Tegucigalpa, life continues under subtle siege for ordinary citizens. The city gets dark faster at night now and the people seem more frightened in general. The curfew remains. Small groups huddle together and glance around anxiously, couples hug closer, young girls grasp hands tighter and walk faster. Militia is everywhere of course, made up of young, mostly uneducated kids who twirl their guns with abandon, dig their batons into the dirt and wait for a notice for action. It can come at a whistle’s call here, and sometimes it feels as though the entire country is poised, frozen in battle.