Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who are the members of the Resistencia? What do they want?

Who are the members of the Resistencia? What do they want?

Through my conversations and occasionally heated exchanges with different folks, I have managed to identify many types of people and organizations who belong to the “Resistencia”.  I think understanding the heterogeneity of the “Resistencia” helps us understand the motivations behind what they want and why they behave the way they do. Certainly, there are many just and critical queries and issues raised by some members of the “Resistencia” –they cannot be dismissed as just a band of malfeasants anymore- but at the same time, I will and cannot excuse the behavior of some of its members. This list is not exhaustive and I do welcome feedback on this list.

Certainly, I am not taking the route of Mr. Anibal Delgado Fiallos in yesterday’s La Prensa who seems to point out only the good persons and issues in order to defend the “Resistencia”. Quite lopsided column I might add, as it does not reflect the whole movement. Mr. Delgado Fiallos proposal of differentiating the Resistencia as a political group versus a pressure group (“grupos facticos de poder” pardon the pun…) is quite intriguing and may be the difference between a legitimate expression of some groups in society or one that degenerates into protest groups without meaning.
The problem to me is that I cannot tell honorable persons from those who aren’t in a demonstration, rally or when they do not want to establish a dialogue. Much less when riots break or people's property is destroyed. Even more, it is not easy to have a dialogue with those people who call other people “golpistas” without even trying to understand what the other people are saying. Applies to both sides of course...

Here is the list.

1) Persons and organizations interested in social justice issues and who are disenchanted with the lack of response and interest from the political parties and the “elite”.

Obviously, any thinking Honduran person has to be appalled and shamed by the poverty, illiteracy and food insecurity levels (and other social justice ills) we currently have. Furthermore, this situation has not been made any better by the callous attitude of many of the people in power and those who are members of the higher income classes in Honduras. Living a life in Tegucigalpa, as if it is where Rodeo Drive, certainly is quite hard to defend, when we have people who have barely anything to eat. Don’t get me wrong, I am the first one to defend people’s right of enjoying the fruits of their hard work. Another story of course is when these gains are illegally obtained (or charged to “Casa Presidencial”??).  A sobering lesson I did learn while living in The Netherlands, was that people there were austere no matter what their wealth was, while having strong social justice concerns, quite a bit a cultural attitude,but indeed…a different world and something I hope we can learn from ourselves.

2) Persons who are not “Zelayistas” but who deplore the procedures by which he was deposed and illegally exiled.

That later is one argument by the way that I do concede to the “Resistencia” as it is unconstitutional to expel a Honduran citizen from Honduras. The military who took this decision have indicated that they knew it was illegal and were ready to face the legal consequences from their actions. The reasons why the military send Zelaya to Costa Rica are well known. The (quite) unnecessary maneuver by some people who sent Zelaya to Costa Rica of producing a “resignation” letter did not help much and in fact has been exploited by the Resistencia to defend his restitution. A quite shallow argument I might add as it only proves the actions of the specific person who produced the letter.

3) Persons who are “Zelayistas” at the core (I suspect these are very few in reality) and who want Zelaya back in power.

Many of these of course are Zelaya’s own Cabinet and other government officials who will benefit from staying in the bureaucratic machinery. Some of them are "true believers" who where captivated by the "heaven on earth" rhetoric of Zelaya, not thinking it through as it was based on achieving an impossibility and one  which was dependent on the flow of resources from Venezuela....Hey, getting 100 clunky new tractors for free is an example of Zelaya's improvisation, never mind that Venezuela did not donate tillage, planters or other agricultural implements with the tractors, and putting his close friend and ally, Mr. Milton JImenez in charge of the whole operation, a lawyer by training, did not help much either.

4) Persons and organizations who want to impose a socialist government based on the ones in Cuba and Venezuela and to destroy the Republic by calling for a National Constitutional Assembly and support joining the ALBA group of nations.

This group may include people who honestly believe that the Constitution is at the heart of our problems. Never mind that the constitution can be changed –and has been changed repeatedly- and that these persons usually are not able to indicate which article(s) is(are) problematic and much less why. BTW, here is Ricardo Trotti's report on his blog on Mrs. Patricia Rodas, Zelaya’s ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, still preaching for the need to install the National Constitutional Assembly. These statements in spite of Zelaya’s signature of the San Jose agreement and the Guaymuras/Tegucigalpa pact where Zelaya swears to forego this fight.  Anybody troubled by the double talk? I am...

5) Persons who oppose anything and everything

Here I group those who have very little or nothing to answer why they opposed the removal of a person who wanted to destroy the Republic and who wanted to perpetuate himself in power.

6) Persons who sought (and obtained) monetary gain and/or political exposure/gain

From the 40 million lempiras who were illegally extracted from the vaults of the Central Bank of Honduras around June 26, under direct orders of the Minister of the Presidency, on black suitcases to the different contributions made by European NGOs and other supporters of the Resistencia, to continue “the fight against inequality and the illegal removal of Zelaya”.  Some of these folks already abandoned the “Resistencia” and joined the Elvin Santos campaign (for example see Mr. Eduardo Maldonado who has a radio talk show program).

7) Persons who saw an opportunity to introduce chaos and mischief for their own purposes or for the heck of it

All the way from street and organized gangs to common criminals who saw an opportunity to let go of their destructive instincts. Certainly, these folks did a lot of the looting and property damage.

8) Persons and organizations who wanted to protect gains –and promises of gains- made by Zelaya and his acolytes

It is not surprising to me that the Teacher’s Union and many of the Unions are supporting Zelaya. Protecting the "estatuto del docente" became a rallying cry. Interesting to note that Teacher's Union repeatedly organized strikes and protests against Zelaya as he would not cancel their salaries. Furthermore, after Mr. Zelaya, in an irresponsible manner increased minimum salary by 60% without even making an assessment on this act’s impact on the small and medium size enterprises, I would suspect that the beneficiaries of this would indeed try to protect this “gain”. Never mind that it introduced more unemployment and put small and medium size enterprises in a tough spot to pay this huge increase, while putting the country as a whole in a disadvantage, as we cannot compete with other countries for much needed sources of employment.

9) Persons and organizations who oppose what they perceive the events of June 28 to be a “coup-d’état” as a matter of principle and who do not want these to happen again in our countries

In many ways, these people do have a strong point. We certainly do not want to encourage any coup-d’état but at the same time we do  not want to encourage the "disguised as quasi-legal" attempts for overtaking democratic institutions and turn them into ‘socialist and revolutionary’ dictatorships. Note the pattern that Zelaya was following up to June 28 was exactly the same script that Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and originally Venezuela, undertook. An initially legal capture of government, followed by strategic changes to the laws and constitutions, ending with a overhaul or derogation of the Constitution to allow a permanent stay in power (or re-elections ad nausea). This is something we need to work on in order to strengthen democracy while at the same time ensuring its survivability over time.


  1. Jose, I liked your considered, thought-provoking posting (and your blog, for that matter). I think throwing Zelaya out was the right thing to do, although it could have been done in a less messy way, that's for sure.

    That said, I've commented to friends, including some Hondurans, that this whole affair should be taken as a warning, a warning that there's growing unrest regarding Honduras's dismal performance in dealing with poverty and economic growth/distribution issues over the years. I lived in Honduras in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and over all that time, Honduras has always/always been last, or second-to-last (in front of Nicaragua) in terms of economic performance/poverty in Central America. I know very little about the plans/ideas of the leading Presidential candidates for dealing with these issues, but somehow, some way, that person, and even more important, the economic elite, have got to make a determined, concerted effort to deal with the issues, because the Zelaya incident was a warning, as I say; if the elite don't take it seriously and do something about generating growth with jobs and equity, this whole thing will come back again, and with a vengeance, later on...

    Finally, I think your comments about people in Resistance group number one are intriguing. I have no idea who these people might be or how many of them there are, but if there are any number of them, the idea of forming a new political party to help us break out of the Liberal/Nacionalista paradigm would be very helpful; indeed, I'd say it's become critical to do so.

    We need to find a way to make Honduras a moderate, democratic country that can generate employment on a sustainable basis, and that hasn't happened yet; how do we do it?

  2. Hi Tambotaxi, I quite agree with you. This should wake us and the rest of the population that we cannot sustain the current level of poverty, illiteracy, poor health care and generalized lack of opportunities. These issues are truly at the core of the "new revolutionary" movements in Latin America. I, as you, am a bit puzzled about to jump start this transformation process. Probably will start with a dialogue and multi-sectoral agreement on a national development plan, and a commitment to work for the good of the country, probably by appealing to everybody's best interests and focused on specific solutions to specific problems.This is quite an endeavor on its own as one of the consequences of this debacle with Zelaya is that he managed to polarize and divide Honduran society to a degree never seen before, probably more a reflection of the underlying issues...

  3. You might also want to look at Jesuit Father Ismael Moreno's article in Envio in which he also presents an analysis of three major forces within the Resistance.

  4. There´s also a huge bunch of Resentidos Sociales but I guess those are covered in slot number 5

  5. How is raising the wages in Honduras making the country less competitive? by such logic the US would be one of the least competitive countries in the world. You are right that many salaried workers support Zelaya because he obtained them such a massive pay increase. One which Micheletti has not dared to revoke, and one which Honduras sustains. or would you argue to lower the minimum wage,
    SqueakBox (an employer in Honduras and in cat 9 of the disgruntled)

  6. Anon 2:54
    My statement was not clear enough. It should have read something like:"... the 60% increase in the minimum wage ordered by Zelaya made Honduran labor less competitive in international markets for those that demand our labor..."

    However, there is a problem with the logic of your comparison. It is an incomplete and somewhat flawed comparison. One does not compare the absolute value of labor wages from one country to the other (BTW you have to first start by moving those figures to purchasing power adjusted figures as 1$ in Honduras does not purchase the same basket of goods as 1$ in the US). One has to compare the relative wages and labor productivity to get to labor competitiveness. Of course, this is more complicated as one does completely isolate just labor productivity but also has to consider overall country business productivity, as compared to your competitors for one's labor. In other words need to contrast the comparative advantage Honduras has in labor markets. In this case, our competitors are China, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Philippines and others.

    In other words, it is a bit irrelevant whether minimum wage is $1.15 per hour in Honduras versus $8 in the US. You should compare the figure to what Dominican Republic is adjusted for differences in labor productivity. Since labor productivity is quite similar between both countries, then an increase in minimum wage is likely to decreased our competitiveness.

    Here is an article by the IADB on the issue of low skill labor but cheap which has been a policy in Honduras and other Latin American countries.

    Whether the policy of pursuing "maquilas" as the base of an economy, that to me is akin to putting eggs in one basket and thus quite a bit of a folly...

    BTW the main point of my argument is not that of losing competitiveness, rather the fact that such careless increase, may be even with good intentions, did cause unemployment and the closures of many small and medium size businesses as they could not pay.

    Sorry for the long reply but needed to clarify. Thanks,for pointing out the unclear argument I wrote.

  7. Note that the IADB article introduces other considerations that determine labor comparative advantage.

  8. Anon 2:54, As the owner of two small businesses in Ecuador, I can attest to the impact of wage increases mandated by a President who cares about votes but cares not one whit for the impact on business owner.

    The alternatives open to a businessman are:

    1) Ignore the mandate and refuse to increase wages, or increase them by less than the mandated amount. This option exposes to legal and/or political sanctions, including closure (and loss of all jobs for his employees).

    2) Calculate the impact of increased wages, and decide that the business will go broke, so close the business of his own volition (again, loss of all jobs for the employees).

    3) Increase the salaries of some employees, but let others go in order to keep labor costs down; loss of some jobs again.

    4) Increase salaries of all employees, and raise prices to offset increased labor costs. Negative impacts are two: a) loss of competitiveness to competitors who take option 3), and/or end up being a contributing factor to inflation.

    People like Zelaya (or Correa, in my case) give no thought to the economic consequences of their political acts. Raising labor costs without a concomitant increase in productivity and/or sales only results in a loss of jobs, nothing else. That's what's happened here in Ecuador, and I'm sure that's what happened in Honduras....

  9. BTW, there is another angle to the competitiveness story and labor wages. Since you are a business owner you can relate to the increase in your production/business costs due to the increase in the minimum salary. If you are competing with other countries for your product, and the other countries have similar cost structures, then such an unprecendented minimum salary increase will put you at a cost disadvantage over your competitors. This of course will vary according to what percent of your total costs salaries are.

    The other thing of course is the upward pressures at all salary levels. Certanly those who were earning 5,500 lempiras before (I think that is the minimum salary) or close to this level will of course now demand an increase. This will cascade across all levels of the work force.

    Let not count either those salaries indexed to the minimum salary...

    the list goes on and on, over those "unintended effects" which a good economic impact analysis should have been able to pick up...

  10. I read your blog with much interest and was directed to it through La Gringa. I am impressed with your ability to express clear, concise thoughts plus the wherewithall to view "other sides".
    I have lived in Honduras for 12 1/2 years and even though I am not a citizen, I am proud of the stand your government took with Mr. Zelaya and the fortitude it followed to remain strong to their committments!
    I was very upset to see how President Obama handled the situation and outraged at the position the OAS took - not a negotiation but a demand.
    I wish the best to Hondurans during the elections and hope that once a new President is elected, life can start to return to normal. The added plus being the hope that future leaders of this country will strive now for better conditions for the people, higher standards in government and a positive step forward for Honduras!
    Viva Honduras!
    Guanaja Sharon

  11. Thanks Guanaja Sharon!!!
    Sometimes I do get a bit excited with my comments...mostly out of frustration of people not articulating (or not articulating coherently) what they think and what is the rationale behind their thinking.

    In many ways, Zelaya started with some good ideas about what was wrong with our country, unfortunately the policies and the approach he chose (partly due to the ill advise from his collaborators) to address the issues plus the confrontation with almost everybody, made the big difference while leading to the mess we have now.

    I do wish we can move on and start tackling the many reals problem we do have.


  12. What is certain is that the only way Honduras and countries in similar situations can join the developed nations is to pay its people decent wages and have the jobs avaialble so people can spend and create a prosperous economy; the business I run is outsourcing and given that many of our competitors in Europe don't outsource we have a clear advantage even taking into account the 60% increase in the minimum wage last year.

    I dream of a world in which wages are roughly the same everywhere even while recognising that the business model of my (SA) company only exists because of that disparity, but if jobs can be taken away from rich coutries and put into the hands of the poor countries, well that is the only way the worldwide wage disparities will ever eventually disappear.

    I have opposed the coup because I dont believe it is in any way good for Honduras businesses, nor was it necessary in that the only certainty before June 28 is that Pepe Lobo was going to win the elections which he most certainly will win on Sunday.

    The "coup" was using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and then all that damege done by the sledgehammer has to be repaired,
    best wishes,

  13. I hope there is still time for this answer to be posted.

    The Mr. Anibal Fiallos referred to above is the son of a well known Communist in Honduras, his father eventually became the Rector of the branch of the UNAH in San Pedro Sula.

    No surprises as to how he will describe the reasons as to what to protest and why.