I was really moved by the Venezuelan reaction to the coup in Honduras. On two levels… One was the way everyone (well obviously not everyone, there are always those who go about their shopping and drinking and soapie watching as if the world is not a bigger place..) but a lot of people were somewhat glued to their televisions, watching the events progress, and here in Merida a crowd gathered from 12pm in the plaza to protest. Eventually a large TV was set up in the government building, facing the plaza, and I remember the serious and solemn expressions on hundreds of people's faces as they crowded around the TV, watching the ‘new president' swear himself in.
Clearly it brought back memories of the April 2002 coup here. But also it just felt like this coup was almost happening to us. A kind of sense that what happens anywhere in Latin America is personal. And that the possibility of future coups, here or in other places, is real.
The other moving thing is, damn the left governments here are uniting and becoming a powerful force. They've become a bit like a block, uniting and voting together to push through various left wing initiatives in what were previously US-controlled multilateral orgs like OAS etc. And they are all against this coup, and then how fun it was to watch the conservative governments of Panama and Mexico etc swallowing their tongues and saying, briefly, they are ‘for democracy' (bullshit Mexico…) too. How weird too, for the US and for the UN to come out against a coup, an anti-left wing coup. Not that Zelaya is that left wing, but he's clearly allied with Chavez in lots of way, and uses anti poverty rhetoric.
So, despite how things are looking now, for the moment I'm stoked and I hope that what comes out of this is a radicalisation of Hondurans and here as well, and even more stronger unity between the left wing governments of Latin America as they have seen how powerful they can be, working together.
I talked to some people at the protest here and noted what they said,
"Clearly US imperialism is getting scared," said Douglas Arauju
"We're here supporting the sovereignty of the people, we're counting on people waking up, we're not alone you know, we're a South American people," said Marilyn Osorio
"What happened was a coup just like the coup that happened here in April 2002, the military acted similarly in Honduras.. us as Venezuelans and having the experience of what we suffered in April 2002, we support the democratically elected president of Honduras," said Ismael Pena
"This is another coup by the oligarchy and the CIA against democracy…like what happened in Venezuela…but the people of Honduras will win. The truth will prevail," said Gladys Araque
"What happened in Honduras was a coup against democracy and the people, the armed forces and the oligarchy represented by the mainstream media conspired together," said Mauro Lamus
Later, myself and two friends popped down to the barrio to a meeting organised by the Culture ministry, then we'd come back after to what really felt like a vigil. Today the TV is still in the plaza, and there's a small crowd watching.
Anyway there were only about 8 people at the cultural meeting, for a variety of reasons – I guess the community is quite small, the meeting hadn't been publicised that well, and clearly a lot of people were distracted (in a good way) by the coup.
Never the less, I was impressed. Basically the point of the meeting was to just talk about things like human development (that is, development for humans and the planet rather than for profit), values, morals and things. Nothing at all religious. But very much the sort of stuff that should be discussed more and that rarely is, in an organised way amongst communities. This community is one of the most… full on ones too, with a lot of confrontations, relative poverty, drug and violence problems and so on.
In so many third world countries, I think they don't get around to talking about the environment, because there are always just more apparently pressing issues to talk about, like housing, food, water, access to medicine, etc. Here, the man from the ministry talked about how much water the world has, how non salty water will run out in 45 years, and this fisherman guy with few teeth and wearing rain boots got up and talked about how the future is important and that we have to look after the world for our children.
Then R, my friend from this community, a half indigenous woman with 2 children that she's raising alone, got up and talked about the difference between morals and ethics. She was a bit nervous. But hurray that the ministry isn't just doing all the talking, but rather encouraging new leadership and participation in the communities and getting them to give talks too.