Honduras' National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) gathered in Tegucigalpa, February 11-12, to launch a political party. The name, Liberation and Re-foundation Party (Libre), is timely: Honduras is mired in catastrophe.
Its murder rate is the world's highest. Political violence, crime, militarization, poverty, malnutrition, drug trafficking, and police corruption are overflowing. Landowner thugs kill family farmers. The two-year toll of murdered journalists is 13. The economy shrank 2.1% in 2009. On February 14 a prison fire killed 350 mostly uncharged and untried inmates. Most died behind doors the police didn't unlock.
The country's political deterioration has involved dictatorship in the 1980s; power trade-offs between two establishment parties later on; a military coup removing President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009; and now free rein for privatization, big mining operations, and agribusiness. Zelaya had advocated a minimum wage, land reform and a constituent assembly. He brought Honduras into the ALBA regional alliance for sharing social resources. The new president, Porfirio Lobo, took office through doctored elections.
The U.S. government, complicit in the coup, has used Honduras as a regional military command, communications and supply center. U.S. military installations have proliferated. The current U.S. administration proposes doubling U.S. military aid.
Speaking at the founding assembly of the new party, FNRP General Coordinator Manuel Zelaya condemned U.S. intervention. The former president reminded red-shirted, flag-waving listeners of one poet's reaction to U.S. marines marching into Tegucigalpa in 1924. Froylán Turcios wrote of "moments in a country's history when silence is a crime ... they offend our sovereignty, our dignity, our liberty, and our peace." "That's why the FNRP is here today," Zelaya declared: "to denounce crimes."
He also said: "We are here because we want "change from an oligarchic to a democratic state ... We want to exchange a model of exploitative, savage capitalism ... for a noble, just system of solidarity. We are heading for democratic socialism."
Once in power, Zelaya indicated, the Libre Party will convoke a Constituent National Assembly.
Juan Barahona, FNRP sub-coordinator and coordinator now of the FNRP's "Force for Popular Re-foundation" (FRP), called for a Constituent National Assembly, "constitutional order," and "a new society ... more just, equitable, and secure."
The FRP represents the FNRP "current" within the Libre Party. For the sake of "ideological diversity," there are four others. Each was present at the founding assembly. They are the June 28 Movement comprising former Liberal Party members, the Progressive Resistance Movement with heavy youth representation, the People Organized in Resistance, and the July 5 Movement. Party rules permit alliances, thus anticipating upcoming internal elections for party officers and candidates.
All currents back Xiomara Castro, Manuel Zelaya's wife, as the Libre Party presidential candidate in national elections set for November 2013. "The people's enemies," she told the assembly, must know "we are going for political power and re-foundation." Castro lauded the role of women in the resistance movement and invited youth to join the struggle. "We are conscious of the need to consolidate our structure and achieve unity in diversity," she declared. "We'll defeat them in the streets and win at the polls."
The Libre Party represents a milestone for the FNRP, which was born the day of the coup and subsequently led marches and strikes, and secured allies. Its 2010 petition campaign for the Constituent National Assembly gained 1.3 million signatures.
The May 2011 Cartagena Agreement involving the Venezuelan, Colombian and Honduran presidents, and Zelaya, allowed Zelaya to return from exile and the FNRP to form a political party. Rejecting the offer of party authorization through the Honduran Congress, the FNRP sought approval from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Some 200,000 signatures were delivered, but to no avail. The tribunal rejected several proposed party names, required new provisions for inclusion, and demanded 85,000 more signatures. Final authorization came on October 31, 2011.
The Libre Party's Declaration of Principles mentions "inevitable revolution," "popular sovereignty," "unity with respect for diversity," and anti-imperialism. Detailed party statutes cover purposes, national and local organizational structures, membership regulations, leadership selection, dispute resolution, and more.
Speakers at the founding assembly reiterated Libre Party dedication to education, rights for students and teachers, health care, diversity, and self-criticism. They emphasized women's contributions to the FNRP. Women will fill half the party's leadership positions. .
Fausto Milla retrospectively captured the spirit of the gathering. Speaking February 17 before 700 people at an international meeting in Aguan in defense of besieged family farmers there, the Catholic priest noted that in June 2009, the Honduran people "rose up like a great volcano before the stupidity of those who think they are owners of the world and wanted a coup. Thus was born the resistance that doesn't die and will never die."
Photo: Messages written by bereaved family members at a makeshift memorial for victims of the Comayagua deadly prison fire, in a shelter where the relatives are housed as they wait for the remains of their loved one to be identified, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Feb. 19. As many as 350 inmates perished in the fire. More than half the inmates were still awaiting trial. Many of those who died had been locked up for petty crimes, some had never been charged. Esteban Felix/AP