Since Manuel Zelaya’s surreptitious return to Honduras last week, the media has focused on the hordes of Zelaya supporters trying to make their way to the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and the military and police repression that these would-be protesters faced. But there are three faces to Honduran society these days, not two. No doubt, these predominantly urban actors are crucial in this country’s short-term political crisis. But understanding the broader domestic political reality, and what may follow this crisis, also demands consideration of rural areas.
The first face of the current Honduran crisis is the pro-Zelaya Resistencia (Resistance). Tens of thousands of Zelaya supporters from all over the country took to the streets this week. They were met by a repressive military machine. Hundreds arrested and injured, detainees corralled in the stadium and several people killed—these scenes provided a tragic reminder of the military repression that plagued Latin America in previous decades. And yet, Zelaya’s supporters remain intent on reclaiming power and going ahead with the constituent assembly that started this mess. While Tegucigalpa has calmed down after several days of curfews, the Resistance remains a significant political force, capable of mobilizing thousands in Tegucigalpa and other secondary cities and towns.
De facto President Roberto Micheletti’s urban supporters form the second face of Honduras. This group cheers the military in the streets and refuses to believe that people are being wrongfully detained, beaten or even killed. Those Micheletti backers who acknowledge these unfortunate events say that repression is the necessary price in the war against Zelaya’s attempt to sow unrest and install chavismo (Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ brand of politics). Unlike Zelaya supporters, these Hondurans recognize the planned November elections as legitimate. They too are capable of mobilizing thousands of supporters, but their mobilizations also have a strong military flavor.