UpsideDownWorld: The Different Souls of the Libre Party and Repression against Honduran Students

Originally published on Upside Down World link

Written by Orsetta Bellani, Translation by Clayton Conn
Friday, 29 November 2013 13:23

The sky over Tegucigalpa was filled with smoke on Tuesday afternoon outside the headquarters of the Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). The students, outraged by the fraudulent election of President Juan Orlando Hernández, gathered at noon to hold an assembly inside the university. As soon as they took to the streets, there was a confrontation with the police.

“We were peacefully protesting when they fired a water cannon on us to provoke us,” said a young man whose brown eyes were visible under a shirt covering his entire face. With their mouths covered to protect themselves against tear gas, Honduran students threw stones at the police who were blocking the road with a truck. The police responded to the thrown stones with gas and water cannons. At the end of the day, some of the young people were reported injured and arrested.

“We march because Juan Orlando Hernández has been installed as president de facto. While chairing the National Congress he has taken hold of the Constitutional Court and the Public Ministry. He also created the Military Police for Public Order which is a throwback to the 80s, when young people disappeared for only having different ideas and being against the system. We can’t allow that the military police to continue to repress us, we have to take to the streets,” Hector Amador of the Autonomous University of Honduras was telling me when a few shots announced a rain of tear gas shot in our direction. We paused the conversation and escaped, while the air filled with smoke, burning our eyes and throat.


The rage of the young Hondurans against the electoral fraud could not wait for the official declaration. On the other hand, rank and file members of the Free Party (Freedom and Refundation) gathered the day after the elections for a spontaneous demonstration against election fraud and are still waiting for the party to make its next move.

Xiomara Castro had not appeared in public since Sunday night and, after several days of silence, announced that Friday she will present evidence of fraud. “We maintain the position we had on Sunday when we declared that we are the winners, Free means a major political force in the country and today we are in first place,” said Castro.

Libre is a party with several distinct souls, bringing together traditional political and social movement activists. Most of its leaders are former members of the Liberal Party that renounced the coup in June 2009 and supported former president “Mel” Zelaya in the formation of a new party. This means that many posters of the iIbre Party, which propose “a Honduran track” to Socialism of the XXI Century, are nothing more than former leaders of the Liberal party. It is the expression of a political group of the Honduran oligarchy that for a hundred years has alternated in power with the National Party.

The Free Party was born after former President Zelaya returned from exile in May 2011. At first not all of the organizations of the FNRP (National Popular Resistance Front, a national coalition formed to fight against the June coup) accepted the transformation of the movement into a party. In fact, the creation of the Free Party divided the FNRP between the “electoral” and “refounding” currents, which the latter believed necessary to continue with street demonstrations rather than betting on the electoral process.

However, with the passage of time, many members of the anti-party current of the FNRP began to see “Doña Xiomara” as an opportunity to break the bi-party system that  has oppressed the country for a hundred years. Furthermore, her candidacy is a challenge to Honduran sexism and a powerful oligarchy consisting of a handful of families that control the economic and political system of the Central American country.

“I think it’s important that the Libre Party wins. In Honduras there is a necesity that another political force is installed in the government,” said Bertha Cáceres, the general coordinator of COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), who I found observing the elections. “We believe that the Libre Party will not make profound changes, the oligarchy will have the real power even if the Libre Party wins. Yet, it would represent a different government from what we have had with the fascist ultra right-wing government. And it would also be something historic to have a woman president, even though we know that that doesn’t necessarily mean women will reach a dignified life.”