By Arthur Shaw
HOUSTON - The Honduran coup government held its first “election” on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, after the overthrow of democracy last summer on June 28. 2009. The Obama administration announced its full acceptance and recognition of the results of the electoral fraud two weeks before the "election" took place. The early endorsement from the US government encouraged the dictatorship in Tegucigalpa to rig the "election" more than it originally planned.
Liberal, democratic, revolutionary, and ethical forces in Honduras, on the other hand, announced a boycott of the Nov. 29 farce. In addition to the rigged voting that took place in Honduras, the Honduran dictatorship opened polls under the auspices of Honduran consulates and embassies in a number of other countries which allowed Honduran expatriates and others pretending to be Hondurans to participate in the farce. Encouraged by both the governments in Washington and Tegucigalpa, the Honduras Consulate rigged the "voting" in Houston, Texas.
About 11:00 AM, Sunday, Nov. 29, a friend and I drove into the parking lot of an office building next door to the La Quinta Inn, a motel located in Houston's upscale Galleria area, where the Honduran coup government leader Roberto Michelletti owns a lot of rent properties, mostly condos. The Honduran Consulate in Houston moved the voting place for Texas expatriates from consulate premises to the parking lot of the La Quinta motel. On the parking lot of La Quinta Inn, a white tent top (one without walls) had been erected next to a side or back door of the motel where the “voting” took place on tables under the tent top. Scattered over the large parking lot of the motel were about 150 individuals, most of whom had already "voted" and were waiting for consular officials to issue them a Honduran identification card or a "cedula," the bribe for their participation in the election sham. Parked next to the tent top was a white satellite TV truck from the Houston Spanish-speaking station Channel 45, KXLN, a local affiliate of the Univision network, a very important voice in the corporate owned media in the USA.
Four uniformed Houston police officers patrolled the parking lot. Two individuals, in some kind of uniform, who may have been private security for the motel also walked about the parking lot.
Some of the 30 or so democrats, revolutionaries, liberals and people who acted out of purely ethical motives marched and protested on the sidewalk in front of the La Quinta parking lot. Some of these protestors identified 6 former Black Eagles, mixing with the crowd on the parking lot.
These six former Black Eagles were mostly pot-bellied and middle-aged Latino males. The Black Eagles, so-called "Honduran paramilitaries", were the largest and the most savage of the US-supported death squads in Honduras during the 1980s. The Black Eagles are widely estimated to have slaughtered about 30,000 people during the 1980s.
After the armed struggles in Central America ended in the 1990s, the US government rewarded the most savage and barbaric members of the Black Eagles with US entry visas, "green cards" (legal permanent residency in the USA), and helped them to find employment in the USA. Many of the former Black Eagles chose to settle in Houston, Texas where a sizable Honduran community already existed and where the Honduran wealthy-elite has important business interests.
On the sidewalk in front of the La Quinta parking lot on which about 150 Honduran "voters" gathered, 30 or so democratic, revolutionary, and ethical individuals marched, sang, shouted and carried posters protesting the rigged Nov. 29 electoral sham staged by the Houston Consulate of the Tegucigalpa dictatorship. About 23 of the 30 protesters were Latinos, 2 were African-Americans, and the rest were Anglos of US origin. A good two-thirds of the 30 or so protestors were women. The posters, carried by the 30 protesters on the sidewalk, denounced the dictatorship in Tegucigalpa, condemned the Nov. 29 "election" as a farce, and praised Honduran President Manuel Zelaya who was unconstitutionally removed from power by the Honduran coup d’etat in June of this year. In addition to the posters they carried and the slogans they shouted, the 30 protesters were able to communicate their message to the 150 people on the motel's parking lot with a small public address device. It was surprisingly so powerful that messages broadcast could be easily heard at the far end of the La Quinta parking lot.
Using the public address system, a number of Spanish-speaking protesters of mostly Honduran origin spoke passionately about the number of people in Honduras who have been "disappeared" into concentration camps since the dictatorship stole power on June 28. They also talked about the number and the manner in which people in Honduras have been murdered by the dictatorship during the months leading up to this "election”, and about the absence of accountability of the coup government to the people and the lack of the rule of law.
About 1:30 PM, just over two hours after my friend and I arrived, some pot-bellied, middle-aged man in the parking lot casually strolled to a spot about 15 feet from the sidewalk where the protesters marched and shouted. The odd-looking pot-bellied man waited about 20 seconds on the spot he picked and then ... suddenly ... threw an egg at the protesters. The four uniformed police officers and two private security guards watched the pot-belied man throw the egg but they didn't do anything. The middle-aged, pot-bellied man had a better arm than the pitchers who play for the Houston Astros, the professional baseball team. Although he missed all of the 30 protesters, he threw a high-speed, straight line, sinker pitch which landed on the other side of the street.
About 2:30 PM, almost four hours after we arrived, a good number of the once 150 "voters" were still milling around in the La Quinta parking lot.
"Why were so many of these "voters" hanging around in the parking lot?" the 30 protesters wondered. After all, by this time, some of the protesters were getting tired of marching and shouting.
The protestors got a big break. Three of the "voters" on the parking lot broke ranks with the reactionaries, Black Eagles, and the dictatorship. They crossed over and joined the protest on the sidewalk. The protestors, of course, wanted to know why so many people were standing around on the parking lot. The three new friends from the parking lot explained that, except for VIPs, two months ago the dictatorship's consulate in Houston stopped issuing Honduran IDs or "cedulas" to applicants either for new IDs and for renewal of old IDs. The applicants were told by consular officials and by officials sent up from Honduras that if the applicants wanted their IDs, they had to show up on Nov. 29 at the La Quinta Inn and vote. Some of the protestors then remembered that they had heard of the consulate's plan with the IDs but didn't attach much importance to it. None of the speakers who used the tiny PA system which amplified the voice so powerfully, had so far mentioned the story about the connection between “cedulas” and extortion.
Using a cell, the protestors phoned a friend on the parking lot and asked him to investigate. Our friend investigated and confirmed the truth of what our three new friends told us.
The "voters" were being blackmailed by the consulate, the Black Eagles, and the dictatorship to raise the size of the turnout.
The "voters" who hung around the parking lot, hour after hour, were waiting to get their IDs or, in other words, Honduran driver's licenses which the consulate was unable or unwilling to issue.
The Honduran-issued ID is an extremely important document to undocumented Hondurans in Texas. Using the cedula, an undocumented Honduran can sometimes get a Texas driver's license and mandatory auto insurance, can open a bank account, get a credit card, write and cash checks at some businesses, provide ID to prospective employers, and, perhaps most important of all, can present ID to a police officer in a traffic case. Without an Honduran ID or a Texas ID, a mere traffic case may turn into an immigration case in which the undocumented Honduran may be deported and torn from his family left behind in the USA.
Although a dark cloud of the Honduran dictatorship, its revitalized death squads, and its imperialist allies in Washington hovered over the 30 protestors on the sidewalk and over the Honduran people afar with whom the 30 showed their solidarity, there was still a very bright spot at the Nov. 29 political action at La Quinta. Two of the 30 protestors were gifted musicians, one a guitar player and singer, the other a singer. Their interpretation of Carlos Puebla's 1965 immortal masterpiece "Hasta siempre, comandante" was superb and singular.
Margarita Alvarez (right) supplied photos, including this one of the four who traveled from Dallas