Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Struggle for Rights and Livelihood

This morning protestors gathered again at the Universidad Pedgogica to demand the return of democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. Surrounded by even more police than the day before, the group decided not to march through the streets for the second day.

A line of police three-deep block the street

A line of police three-deep block the street

As the group dispersed, we talked to four people from Sonaguera, a city eight hours from Tegucigalpa in the countryside. Joel, Doris, Oscar, and Wilmer came to Tegucigalpa yesterday to defend the rights of all Hondurans. They feel it is their duty to “march peacefully in the streets according to their constitutional rights to fight for the respect of the rights of all citizens".

Wilmer lifted his shirt to show us various bruises and cuts on his back and arms that he sustained when nine policemen broke into his house, beat him, and arrested him a week ago. ¨I was actually happy when they put me in handcuffs and took me out, because then I would at least be around other people to witness what they were doing to me. If I was alone in my house with no one around they could kill me."

Wilmer lived for twelve years in the US, but was deported two years ago and returned to his hometown. Currently unemployed and looking for work, Wilmer believes the police attacked him after curfew hours because earlier he had been at a resistance rally at a park. The police had been there taking note of those who participated. The police falsely accused him of robbery and resisting arrest. He was thrown into a cell with 18 other people, including teenagers as young as fourteen and four pregnant women. He wasn’t released until the next day.

Wilmer and his friends all agree that it is very risky to be involved in the resistance movement, but they are proud to participate. They say they will continue even if it means they are beaten, jailed, or killed. They expressed again and again their desire for peace, progress, and the respect of their constitution. Yet, they also fear a civil war may erupt if the de facto regime stalls until the elections in November or tries to assassinate president Zelaya.

The majority of the people in Sonaguera are agricultural workers on farms or plantations growing corn, beans, vegetables, or palm oil. Doris, Oscar, and Joel are all public school teachers, each earning about $400 a month. While this is above the current minimum wage that Zelaya raised to $250 per month, the group estimates that a family needs closer to $750 per month to cover basic expenses.

"That is why we are here," Joel explained. "We aren´t here fighting for Chavez, or Zelaya, or any politician or party. We are here for the majority of poor people that live and work in the country. The majority of us own nothing, and have no way to improve our lives nor the lives of our children.”


Teachers from Sonaguera share their stories

Teachers from Sonaguera share their stories

Each member of the group expressed frustration with the portrayal of their struggle in the media. “This is a struggle for our constitutional rights, that are being violated and repressed. The crisis we are facing is due to the poverty in this country, and the fact that US business interests own politicians here. Micheletti is a puppet for those interests.”

A labor organizer from San Pedro Sula confirmed Joel´s statement that their struggle is for survival. “Ten families that represent .05% of the total population of the country, own 80% of the country´s wealth, condemning the rest of its inhabitants to poverty and misery. It is these families, in alliance with the oligarchy of the continent, that promote and sustain this treacherous attack against our people."

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