Nearly two years after being deposed in a military coup, former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will return on a Venezuelan flight from Caracas to Tegucigalpa Saturday morning, with his political rights and those of the Honduran social movement which fought for him, fully restored.
The flight is scheduled to arrive at the Honduran capital at 11 a.m local time, and will be welcomed by vast throngs of supporters from the resistance front which has grown over the past two years. Zelaya’s return is a major victory for regional diplomacy, with Venezuela and Colombia serving as mediators for the Organization of American States (OAS).
Zelaya has been promised the right to battle politically for a new constituent assembly, the cause more than any other which led to his forcible ejection in June 2009. Under the new agreement, his supporters have the right to be recognized as a new political party, a subject of ongoing debate within the social movements. The constituent assembly idea will require eventual ratification by Honduran voters, but represents a broader concept of participatory democracy than traditional notions of parties with candidates.
If the new transition goes smoothly, the OAS is expected to recognize Honduras after two years of exclusion.
Overall, the agreement reflects a significant sidelining of the United States. After President Obama initially denounced Zelaya’s expulsion as a coup, the State Department accepted the regime of Roberto Michelletti who was appointed by the Honduran elite to replace Zelaya, and that of Porfirio Lobo, who was chosen president in a disputed national election in November 2009. All the while, human rights, peasants, workers, women’s groups and journalists were suffering assassinations, arrests and other forms of repression on the ground, as Dana Frank reported in The Nation.
The National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) has been headed by Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro, Juan Barahona, Rasel Tome, Guillermo Jimenez Rafael Alegria, and a cross-section of other popular leaders. At a convention in February, they voted to join a broad front (“frente amplio”) aimed at “refounding” Honduras through the constituent assembly.
Long a client state belonging to Washington, a new Honduras has risen from the experience of the coup. Whether Honduran business and military leaders, and their North American patrons, can accept the new reality, and whether the popular resistance can remain unified, are big questions for the future.