The 30th Sandinista anniversary and the San José proposal

The coup d’état in Honduras, promoted by the far right-wing of the United States –which in Central America was maintaining the structure set up by Bush – and backed by the Department of State, was evolving poorly on account of the energetic resistance by the people.The criminal venture, condemned unanimously by world opinion and international bodies, could not be sustained.
The memory of atrocities committed during recent decades by the tyrannies that United States organized, instructed and armed in our hemisphere was still fresh.

The efforts of the empire were set in motion during the Clinton administration and in the following years in the plan to impose the FTA on all the countries of Latin America via the so-called Summits of the Americas.

The intention of committing the hemisphere to a free trade agreement fell through. The economies in other parts of the world grew at a good clip and the dollar lost its exclusive hegemony as the privileged currency. The brutal world financial crisis complicated the situation. Under those circumstances, the military coup was produced in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere.

In the wake of two weeks of growing popular struggle, the United States maneuvered to gain time. The Department of State appointed Oscar Arias, president of Costa Rica, to the task of helping along the military coup in Honduras, besieged by the vigorous but peaceful pressure exerted by the people. Never had such a similar event in Latin America received such a response.

In US calculations, the fact that Arias held the title of Nobel laureate for peace held some weight.

The real Oscar Arias story indicates that the man we are dealing with is a neo-liberal politician, talented and with a gift for words, extremely calculating and a faithful ally of the United States.

From the first years of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the government of the United States used Costa Rica and apportioned it resources to present it as a showcase of the social advances that could be achieved under capitalism.

That Central American country was used as an imperialist base for the piratical attacks against Cuba. Thousands of Cuban technicians and university graduates were stolen away from our people who were already being submitted to a cruel blockade, in order to provide their services in Costa Rica. Relations between Costa Rica and Cuba have been restored in recent times; it was one of the two last countries in the hemisphere to do so, something that is of satisfaction for us, but in spite of that I must express what I am thinking at this historic moment for our America.

Arias, originally from the wealthy and leading class in Costa Rica, studied law and economics at a university in his country and later studied and graduated as master in political sciences from the English University of Essex where he finally graduated as Doctor of Political Sciences. Having such academic laurels, President José Figueres Ferrer of the National Liberation Party appointed him as advisor in 1970, at the age of 30, and shortly after he was appointed Minister of Planning, a position ratified by the next president Daniel Oduber. In 1978, he enters Congress as Deputy for that party. He ascends to secretary general in 1979 and is president for the first time in 1986.

Years before the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, an armed movement of the national bourgeoisie of Costa Rica, under the leadership of José Figueres Ferrer, father of President Figueres Olsen, had eliminated the small coup-perpetrating army of that country and his struggle gained the sympathies of the Cubans. When we were fighting in the Sierra Maestra against the Batista tyranny, we received some weapons and ammunition from the Liberation Party created by Figueres Ferrer, but he was too much of a friend to the Yankees and he soon broke with us. It cannot be forgotten that the OAS meeting in San José Costa Rica gave rise to the First Declaration of Havana in 1960.

All of Central America suffered for more than 150 years and, since the days of the filibusterer William Walker who made himself president of Nicaragua in 1856, is still suffering the problem of United States interventionism which has been a constant, even though the heroic people of Nicaragua have now attained an independence that they are ready to defend right up to their last breath. Any support from Costa Rica is unheard of since it was achieved, even though there was a government in that country which, on the eve of the victory in 1979, saw fit to show solidarity with the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

When Nicaragua was being drained of its life blood in Reagan’s dirty war, Guatemala and El Salvador had also paid a high price in human lives due to the US interventionist policy that provided money, weapons, schools and indoctrination to the repressive troops. Daniel told us about how the Yankees finally promoted formulae that put an end to the revolutionary resistance of Guatemala and El Salvador.

On many occasions, Daniel had bitterly commented to me that Arias, following US instructions, had excluded Nicaragua from the peace negotiations. He only met with the governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to impose treaties on Nicaragua. Therefore he was expressing great gratitude to Vinicio Cerezo. He also told me that the first treaty signed in the convent of Esquipulas, Guatemala on August 7, 1987, after two days of intense conversations among the five Central American presidents. I have never publicly spoken about that.

But this time, while commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista victory on July 19, 1979, Daniel explained it all with impressive clarity, as he did with all subjects throughout his speech that was heard by hundreds of thousands of people and broadcast on radio and television. I use his exact words: “The Yankees appointed him as mediator. We have deep sympathies with the people of Costa Rica, but I cannot forget, in those tough years the president of Costa Rica called together the Central American presidents and he didn’t invite us…”

“But the other Central American presidents were more sensible and they told him: There can be no peace plan here if Nicaragua isn’t present. In the name of historical truth, the president had the fortitude to break the isolation the Yankees had imposed on Central America – where they had forbidden the presidents to talk with the president of Nicaragua and they wanted a military solution, they wanted to finish Nicaragua off, finish off its revolution, with a war – , the man who took that courageous step was President Vinicius Cerezo of Guatemala. That is the true story.”

Right away he added: “The Yankees came running to find President Oscar Arias, because they already know him! They want to find a way to gain some time, so that the perpetrators of the coup begin to make demands that are unacceptable. Who has ever heard of a coup negotiating with the people from whom it is ripping away their constitutional rights? Those rights cannot be negotiated; one simply has to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya, just as the ALBA, Rio Group, SICA, OAS and United Nations treaties stated.

“We want peaceful solutions in our countries. The battle being fought by the people of Honduras at this time is a non-violent battle, in order to avoid more pain than that which has already been inflicted on Honduras”, concluded Daniel, verbatim.

Because of the dirty war ordered by Reagan and which in part – he told me – was funded by drugs sent to the United States, more than 60,000 persons lost their lives and 5,800 more were made invalid. Reagan’s dirty war gave rise to the destruction and abandonment of 300 schools and 25 health centres; 150 teachers were murdered. The toll rose to tens of billions of dollars. Nicaragua only had 3.5 million inhabitants, it stopped receiving the fuel that the USSR was sending them and the economy became unsustainable. It called elections and even had them earlier, and it respected what the people decided, those people who had lost all hope for holding on to the gains of the Revolution. Nearly 17 years later, the Sandinistas returned to the government in victory; just two days ago they were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first victory.

On Saturday, July 18th, the Nobel Laureate proposed 7 points of the personal peace initiative that was detracting from the authority of the UN and OAS decisions and was tantamount to an act of renunciation by Manuel Zelaya that took away sympathies and weakened poplar support. The constitutional president sent what he described as an ultimatum for the coup, which his representatives were to present, announcing at the same time his return to Honduras on Sunday, July 19th via any department of that country.

Around noon on that Sunday, a giant Sandinista demonstration takes place, with historical denunciations of US policy. They were truths that could be nothing other than tremendously significant.

The worst of the matter is that the United States was running into resistance for its sweetening maneuver from the coup government. It would still need to be pinpointed at what moment the Department of State sends their strong message to Micheletti, and whether the military chiefs were warned about the positions of the US government.

What is real is that for whoever would be closely following the events, Micheletti was against peace on Monday. His representative in San José, Carlos López Contreras, had declared that the Arias proposal could not be discussed because the first point, the one dealing with Zelaya’s reinstatement, was not negotiable. The civilian government of the coup had taken its role seriously and did not even realize that Zelaya, divested of his authority, would not represent any risk to the oligarchy and would suffer a politically hard blow if he accepted the proposal made by the president of Costa Rica.

That very same Sunday the 19th, when Arias is asking for another 72 hours to explain his position, Mrs. Clinton is speaking on the phone with Micheletti and sustains what the spokesperson Philip Crowley describes as a “tough phone call”. Some day we shall know what she said to him, but it would be enough just to see Micheletti’s face when he spoke at a meeting of his government on Monday July 20th: he really looked like a kid in kindergarten who had been scolded by his teacher. I was able to see the images and hear the speeches at the meeting on Telesur. Other images broadcast were those of the OAS representatives making their speeches in the heart of that institution, committing themselves to await the last word of the Nobel Laureate on Wednesday. Did they or didn’t they know what Mrs.Clinton had said to Micheletti? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Perhaps some of them, not all of them, knew. Men, institutions and concepts had turned into instruments of the high-handed and arrogant policy of Washington. Never had a speech in the heart of the OAS shone with such dignity as the brief but brave words at that meeting spoken by Roy Chaderton, the Venezuelan ambassador.

Tomorrow the stony image of Oscar Arias will appear, explaining that they have drawn up such and such a solution to avoid violence. I think that even Arias himself has fallen into the great trap set up by the Department of State. Let’s see what he does tomorrow.

Nevertheless, the people of Honduras are the ones who will have the last word. Representatives of the social organizations and the new forces are not the instruments of anyone, inside or outside the country. They know the needs and suffering of the people, their awareness and their mettle have multiplied; many citizens who were indolent have joined the cause; the very members of the traditional parties who are honest and who believe in freedom, justice and human dignity will judge their leaders on the position they will adopt at this historical moment.

We still do not know what the attitude of the military will be when faced with the Yankee ultimata, and what messages will get to the officers; there is only one patriotic and honourable point of reference: loyalty to the people who have heroically stood up to the tear gas bombs, the blows and the shooting.

Without anybody being able to be sure about what the final whim of the empire will be, whether Zelaya returns legally or illegally as a result of the final decisions adopted, without a doubt Hondurans will give him a grand welcome because it will be a measure of the victory that they have already won with their struggles. Let nobody doubt that only the Honduran people will be able to build their own history!

Fidel Castro Ruz
July 21, 2009
8:55 p.m.