Honduras: Feminists in the Resistance


Part I: Brenda Villacorta

JRW: It’s in the evening of January 25, in Tegucigalpa, outside the Brazilian embassy, where a gathering of the anti-coup resistance is taking place.  So, you’re a part of the Resistance against the coup, and, in particular, a part of the feminist resistance to the coup?

Brenda Villacorta
Brenda Villacorta

BV: That’s right.  We are bringing together various mobilizations and platforms, with various objectives.  One is, as you know, the struggle for the constituyente (the Constituent Assembly), the possibility for which was subverted by the coup d’état (on June 28, 2009).  Before this there was to be a popular consultation to see whether or not we agreed to a constituent assembly.  This was to take place, as an additional vote, on the day of the general elections (on November 29, 2009).  This idea of consulting the people was at the root of the coup d’état — which was conducted by various interests (in the country).  Many of them were business interests who felt threatened by [Honduras’] alliances with [Hugo] Chávez, one benefit of which was the people’s access to gasoline at an affordable price (through Petrocaribe).  Prior to the coup the prices were subsidized, but since the coup, prices have almost doubled.

Another motivation of our resistance stems from the fact that the state, responding to various business interests, have killed many in the resistance.  I am referring to the large number of martyrs murdered since the coup, the many martyrs of this struggle.  There are many men and women amongst these martyrs.

Today the Feminists of the Resistance are meeting here (outside the Brazilian embassy, where President Manuel Zelaya continued to be sequestered at the time of the meeting).   We are here in homage to the all the women who have lost their lives to this dictatorship, because a dictatorship is what this is.  The feminists in resistance are paying homage to them.

Today, January 25, is also the National Day of Women in Honduras — which should actually be every day.  But taking advantage of this day, we are paying homage to those women who have been killed, who fought for a true democracy, and who therefore are tragically not with us.  So we are doing this ceremony for them.

JRW: What has been the particular role of women in the resistance?

BV: Like all over the world, women are a majority, numerically speaking.  Unfortunately, this numerical position has not been translated into equal representation in the world of work.  When a woman has the same qualifications as a man, she nonetheless earns much less, and she is expected to do twice as much.

The role of women in the resistance is fairly specific, because women have made up a majority of the resistance.  For example, women are the ones who prepare the food, who participate in the marches and gatherings of the resistance.  They are the ones leading the chants.  The role of women is extremely important.  The struggle has opened up opportunities for women.

The role of women in the struggle is extremely important.  And in whichever struggle for social change, women have to be immersed in the struggle.  If they’re not, there won’t be any change.  We’re searching for total equality.

JRW: Do you believe that the resistance is still growing, or is this a moment of some confusion?  Two days from now, on Wednesday, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo will be inaugurated as president.  What are the main objectives of the resistance after his inauguration?

BV:  The resistance continues to grow.  The objective after January 27, and the possession of power by Lobo, will be the formation of a party out of the resistance front.  This will be for the elections in 2013.

The possession of office by Lobo doesn’t represent anything.  It is the continuation, the perpetuation, of the coup d’état that took place in this country on June 28, 2009.  The protagonists have changed but the scenario is exactly the same.

I don’t know if you’re going to be here for the 27th, but if you are it will be a wonderful experience.  It will be the second mass resistance march of this year.  And we’re hoping for a huge number of people, even though many people won’t be able to come because they’ve been detained by the regime in various places.

JRW: So the resistance has a long-term electoral strategy for participation in the next elections.  Do you also have a plan for resistance in the streets through social movements?

BV: The resistance will take to the streets again and again if the same abuses and injustice that we’ve been experiencing continue.  This is the only way we can apply pressure, or at least the most effective way of doing so.

What motivates us is the objective of strengthening a unified political ideology, to raise political awareness and consciousness — to have a clearer idea of what it is we want to achieve.

Because when the resistance achieves its aims, when we achieve the Constituent Assembly, we also have to guarantee that the people from the front [the National Resistance Front] who assume important public positions actually carry out what it is we are demanding — that they really comply with our platform.

Because there would be no sense in the resistance winning if we end up in the same situation.  So if our leaders of the resistance don’t comply with the demands of the grassroots, we’ll remove those leaders and replace them with others.

JRW: Because the power must come from below.

BV: Right, because the struggle comes from below.  The core of the resistance is made up of workers, and those who cultivate the land, those who essentially make the economy work.  Unfortunately, they don’t enjoy the fruits of their labour in the current situation.  Rather it’s the business class who do.

So the objective is to work with these sectors [workers and peasants], to raise the consciousness of these sectors, because there are some folks living in poverty and misery who nonetheless support this coup.

We want everyone to have the same opportunities, equality, to play an equal role in the conditions of struggle.

JRW: What is the principal vision of the resistance regarding the demand for a Constituent Assembly?  What would you want to achieve through such a process?

BV: The process to create the Constituent Assembly will be a long one, because there are many legal hurdles.  The old constitution was established under a military dictatorship, and it does not benefit the Honduran people, the authentic Honduran people.  Instead, it works in the interests of the business class and the big power groups.

One can see this play itself out in the system of the political parties.  The traditional parties were created by powerful families inter-marrying and forming these parties.  And power is concentrated in these few families.

So changing this process will be a long road, and four years might not be sufficient.

It’s ridiculous to go into a poor neighbourhood in Honduras, which lacks even basic services, and tell a kid there that he or she has a possibility of becoming president of this country, when their conditions aren’t remotely similar to the ultra-rich.

So we have to work to change this basic situation.

JRW: Many thanks for this interview.  And I want to express my solidarity with your struggle.

BV: Many thanks to you for coming here to cover this and for participating in this struggle — for sharing our impressions of the struggle.

Part II: Gloria Centeno

JRW: I’m here in Tegucigalpa with Gloria Centeno, at a resistance gathering outside the Brazilian embassy on January 25.  You are part of the feminist resistance operating within the wider popular movement against the coupist regime in Honduras.  Can you describe the role of women in the resistance over the last several months?

Gloria Centeno
Gloria Centeno

GC: We have organized groups of women in resistance and feminists in resistance.  We’ve organized gatherings and actions such as the one we’re at right now (an anti-coup demonstration outside the militarized parameters of the Brazilian embassy in which Manuel Zelaya was sequestered at the time of the interview).

We come together as women to make decisions about how next to struggle against this coup, always in resistance.

JRW: What have been the principal objectives of the resistance?

GC: The principal objective is to continue constantly in the streets against this coup, to build the struggle.  To demonstrate that all the repression and persecution has not been able to diminish us.

The idea has always been to fight against the dictatorship of Micheletti.  And we’re resisting the possibilities of coups anywhere in Central America, in Latin America, in the world.  We’re always against coups.

The Honduran people are saying that a coup d’état isn’t the solution for anything.  Because we’ve seen that there have been killings, there have been people beaten up.  So the people of Honduras are rising up against this, together with all the support of Latin America, which is against coup d’états.  A military coup is not the solution, for a political problem, for whatever, it’s not a solution.

So the objective is to be in the streets, building a revolution.

We’re struggling wherever we can.  We have websites, we’re on Facebook, everything.

This is the objective.  Never to stop struggling against this dictatorship.  Never to stop, much less when there are people being killed, when there is blood in the streets, when there is injustice.

We want justice for all of dead, this is our objective.  Justice.

JRW: Is the conjuncture going to change after the formal assumption of power of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo on Wednesday, January 27?  How will the strategy of resistance change in this new stage of the coup?

GC:  No!  Continue!  Continue!  There might be four more years of Pepe Lobo, but we’ll continue to struggle, to struggle for the Constituent Assembly.

We have struggled because our president [Manuel Zelaya] was overthrown [on June 28, 2009], and that can’t happen.

Pepe can come in, whoever can come in, but we’ll continue struggling.  We’ll continue struggling for the Constituent Assembly.  To give power to the people, to take power from the few families who think they’re owners of this country.  There needs to be justice.  This country is for everyone, not for a few wealthy families, the few who have money.  No.

We are all Honduras.  It’s therefore unacceptable that a few families think they can do whatever they wish to do with this country.

So this struggle is going to continue until there is justice.

JRW: What does the Constituent Assembly mean for you?  What vision do you have for this process?

GC: For me, the Constituent Assembly is necessary to make changes towards equality.  We’re talking about women, peasants, students, we’re talking about changes for all of those Hondurans who need them, the poorest sectors.  We have massive poverty here.  We have to make change through this Constituent Assembly so that there is equality, so that there is a response to the interests of the poor.

The coupists say they defend their constitution, but in reality they violate the existing constitution, they don’t respect it.  The current constitution says that there can’t be this extreme concentration of wealth, but in reality there is an extreme concentration of wealth.  The rich keep getting richer, and the poor poorer.  So the idea is to change all of this.

The rich don’t pay taxes.  Since the National Party government of Ricardo Maduro (2002-2006) the super rich haven’t paid taxes.  All of those with power, all of those with money, don’t pay taxes.

So, the idea is to make a whole series of changes through the Constituent Assembly toward equality for everyone — the poorest, the indigenous, the peasants, the Garifuna people, students, and women.  Economic development in this country has left many people behind.

Jeffery R. Webber teaches political science at the University of Regina, Canada.  He has three forthcoming books: Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia; The Politics of Evismo: Reform to Rebellion in Bolivian Politics; and (co-edited with Barry Carr) The Resurgence of Latin American Radicalism: From Cracks in the Empire to an Izquierda Permitida.

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