Green Left Weekly | 16 January 2010
Honduras: Protest against ALBA withdrawal
On January 7, hundreds of Hondurans risked violent repression by the police and military to protest outside the national parliament building against the coup regime’s decision to withdraw the country from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).
The protest was called by the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG).
Elected President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a coup last June. In congress, dominated by supporters of self-proclaimed president Roberto Micheletti, only five of the 128 members of voted against the withdrawal from ALBA.
ALBA was launched in 2004 as a counter to the US’s proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas plan. It unites Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and several Caribbean island nations in trade agreements that prioritise social welfare and solidarity over “free trade”.
It emphasises cooperation, and is explicitly committed to fighting poverty and inequality.
Honduras joined ALBA in August 2008. Zelaya explained the decision as “an act of freedom, because we are a free and sovereign people”.
In response to fierce opposition from Honduras’ wealthy elite, Zelaya said: “This is a heroic act of independence and we need no-one’s permission to sign this commitment.”
As part of Petrocaribe, a preferential oil deal for Caribbean nations initiated by Venezuela, Honduras received 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day for which 40% of the price could be paid over 25 years, with a two-year grace period and an annual interest rate of just 1%.
The poor Central American country also received 100 modern tractors, as well as ploughs, planters and other farm equipment for small and medium producers.
Furthermore, around 40,000 Hondurans benefited from Operation Miracle, a Cuban-Venezuelan program to restore or improve vision. Thousands of Hondurans learned to read under the Cuban-initiated “Yes I Can” literacy program. Some municipalities were declared illiteracy-free for the first time.
Zelaya said pulling out of ALBA was “part of Micheletti’s right-wing agenda”.
ALBA countries were the first to publicly condemn the coup that ousted Zelaya, and all member nations immediately withdrew their ambassadors from Honduras in protest. ALBA declared its full support for the Honduran people’s resistance and for Zelaya’s reinstatement, but maintained all the pro-people trade agreements initiated under Zelaya.
The FNRG has announced that it will defy a police crackdown on January 27 to protest at the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa as the new president.
Lobo Sosa, a coup supporter, “won” a fraudulent vote last November in which the majority of Hondurans heeded a call by the Zelaya and the FNRG and boycotted it in protest. No ALBA member-nation has recognised the election results.