On May 1, 2011, Juan Barahona Mejías, deputy director of Honduras’ National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), was received by Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, member of the Central Committee Secretariat of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC). Responding to an invitation from Cuba’s communist overlords, Barahona presented himself in Havana, leading a delegation of FNRP comrades, including Gilberto Ríos, Francisco Ríos, and Sonia Benegas.
For his part, Balaguer reaffirmed “the solidarity of the Cuban people with the Honduran people’s fight and wished them success in the current ongoing process, in order to accomplish the Front’s objectives and the stability of this sister country.” In addition to Balaguer, Jorge Arias Díaz, CPC deputy director of foreign affairs, and other officials from the Central Committee were present. In return, Barahona thanked “the Cuban people for their expressions of solidarity with Honduras.”
Afterward, the Honduran delegation attended a commemorative May Day march and the International Trade Union Conference in Solidarity with Cuba, then meeting in Havana. May 1, of course, is typically observed by communists, leftists, and labor unions worldwide as International Workers’ Day.
While this tete-a-tete between the Cuban dictatorship and the “Honduran resistance” is somewhat predictable, even in the post-Cold War era, we must ask the question: Who is Juan Barahona Mejías? Barahona is a past cadre of the Communist Party of Honduras, which dissolved in 1990, leaving some ex-members to migrate into the Democratic Unification Party (PUD) two years later. Barahona is also president of the Federation of Honduran Workers, which in 2000 created a political party called the Popular Bloc.
In an October 2009 interview, Barahona explained the purpose of the FNRP: “The National Resistance Front is a coalition between the Bloque Popular, PUD, union confederations and the popular sector of the Liberal Party that defends Mel [Zelaya]. Here, we unite the majority of the people.” In addition to the Popular Bloc, PUD was vocal in its support for President Manuel Zelaya after his ouster in June 2009. In summary, therefore, career communist Barahona is the deposed leader’s “left-hand man” and the FNRP, Zelaya’s political party, is stacked with communists and fellow travellers.
The anti-Zelaya coup was supported by the Supreme Court, National Assembly, and the leadership of his own Liberal Party. In an early-morning raid on his residence, the army arrested a pajamas-clad Zelaya and then placed the president on an airplane bound for San Jose, Costa Rica. The interim government, led by former legislative speaker Roberto Micheletti, accused Zelaya of subverting the constitutional order, to wit by holding an illegal (non-binding) referendum to abolish presidential term limits and by importing (rigged?) ballots from Venezuela. The Organization of American States expelled Honduras, while communists throughout the Western Hemisphere got their noses out of joint, branding Micheletti a “fascist.”
Zelaya’s domestic critics, however, were troubled by his leftward shift after taking office in January 2006 and his growing chummy relationship with Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez. After his removal, Zelaya denied that his policies were subservient to Caracas or that there was any inconsistency between his pre- and post-election platform. In October 2009, he scoffed: “To begin with, President Chavez has been used as a scapegoat to justify this coup. Invoking his name is not a valid justification for a coup, it’s an irrational one.” In the same interview, he asserted his innocence
When in office, I didn’t do anything I had not announced when on the campaign trail. I campaigned on direct, participatory democracy, a fair economy, dignified employment, anti-poverty programs, and global engagement. Everything I said I would do in my campaign I followed up during my presidency.
The elite business interests became angry with me when I increased the minimum wage (in March 2009), and lowered interest rates. But I achieved more economic growth than Honduras had seen in a long time. Even in the middle of the financial crisis our economy was growing by 4.5 percent annually.
In 2008, though, Zelaya dragged Honduras into the Havana/Caracas-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, much to the consternation of anti-communists in the Liberal Party. Incidentally, his ouster had the distinction of being the first successful coup in this hemisphere since the Cold War.
After his removal from office, Zelaya attempted several times to re-enter Honduras. On July 5, 2009, Zelaya boarded a plane headed for Tegucigalpa, but the army parked vehicles on the runway, preventing him from landing. Later that month, accompanied by Chavez’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, he made a brief but symbolic land crossing into Honduras from Nicaragua, where he was then living in exile. Two months later, on September 21, he again returned to Honduras, dramatically appearing in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Brazil’s then President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gladly offered sanctuary to the deposed leader, even as police and Zelaya supporters clashed outside the embassy.
In January 2010, after a democratic election, Porfirio Lobo Sosa assumed the presidency on behalf of the center-right National Party. A number of leftist regimes throughout South and Central America, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Brazil, refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Lobo’s government. Only days after Lobo’s inauguration, Zelaya slipped away from the Brazilian embassy and the country altogether, re-emerging in the Dominican Republic and flaunting a new job, director of the Political Council of Venezuela’s Petrocaribe.
On May 23, 2011, Lobo and Zelaya, bowing to international pressure, met in Cartagena, Colombia, where they signed an agreement to end the political crisis in Honduras, drop all corruption charges against Zelaya, permit his safe return to his homeland and legal re-entrance into Honduran politics, and ease the country’s readmission into the OAS. The agreement was heralded and witnessed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Maduro, who attended the meeting on behalf of his boss, President Chavez.
Finally, on May 28, a triumphant Zelaya, flying on a private aircraft provided by Chavez and sporting his trademark cowboy hat, landed at Toncontin International Airport in
Tegucigalpa, where he was greeted by thousands of adoring supporters (pictured above, note obligatory Che pic). Zelaya exited the aircraft flanked on both sides by some of Latin America’s most prominent left-wing politicians, including Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the ubiquitous Maduro, Panama’s ex-president Martín Torrijos, and an ex-senator from Colombia, Piedad Córdoba, who is accused of sympathizing with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Accompanying Zelaya, too, was Barahona since the FNRP, according to the Latin America News Dispatch, serves as the deposed president’s chief political vehicle.
Chavez, who is recovering from a knee injury, did not travel to Honduras to witness the return of his lackey, but fired off a congratulatory Tweet: “Mel Zelaya returned to his Honduran Fatherland! It’s a great victory for the Honduran people!”
In a speech that shows he has every intention of re-taking power in spite of an official exoneration, Zelaya addressed his followers: “We’re pushing for a Constituent Assembly to retake power. I came to participate in what the people want—revolutionary processes that will make this country move forward.” In a sharp about-face from his position during exile, Zelaya called upon the OAS to recognize Lobo’s National Party administration.
Zelaya’s new position did not appear to sit well with left-hand man Barahona, who reminded reporters that Lobo supported the coup and Zelaya only changed his position for “diplomatic reasons.” However, reports the Latin America News Dispatch, “With Zelaya back in the country, his party—the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP, in Spanish)—says it will now begin collecting the signatures it needs to present to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in order to participate in the next round of elections.”
Some Honduran politicians lashed out at Lobo for working with Chavez to broker Zelaya’s return. “Lobo is following in Zelaya’s footsteps by becoming friends with Chavez,” complained Fernando Anduray, whose Democratic Civic Union party supported the 2009 coup. Indeed, Lobo and Zelaya have much in common, both being scions of Honduras’ land-owning oligarchy but willing students of communist indoctrination at the hands of Soviet and Honduran reds.
Although billed as a conservative, Lobo, according to the World Socialist Web Site, is a former cadre of the Communist Party of Honduras, just like Barahona. In past posts, we noted with some suspicion that Lobo studied at the Soviet Union’s Third World terrorist training center, Patrice Lumumba University, where he received a doctorate in terrorism studies. WSWS writer Jeremy Wells refers to Lobo as a past “supporter of Stalinism” and that PUD leader César David Adolfo Ham Peña, who was “counted as Zelaya’s closest political supporter,” agreed to join Lobo’s government of “national unity and reconciliation.”
All of these disconcerting facts, of course, should prompt one to wonder if Lobo is a real center-rightist. Time will tell, of course, but the OAS plans to vote on Honduras’ reinstatement in an extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly in Washington on Wednesday.
“Zelaya’s return will probably ratchet up tensions in the country, which has been beset by workers’ protests and rising crime and violence in recent months,” commented
Heather Berkman, a political risk analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York. “Still,” she added, “Zelaya’s political ambitions will probably not hamper the efforts of the Lobo administration to get the country’s economy back on track.”
I wouldn’t be so sure. Several weeks ago, Zelaya put in an appearance at the under-reported Sao Paulo Forum meet-and-greet in Managua. His re-instatement and the communization of Honduras were undoubtedly hot topics at this leftist shindig. Indeed, the communist takeover of Central America, which was aborted after the disingenuous “collapse” of the Soviet Union, is under way again with the re-election of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 2006, the first-time election of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in 2009, and the election in 2008 of center-left governments in Guatemala and Belize.