During the three months that I was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on my internship, every single day I would walk past the United Nations building. However, one day I walked past and saw this:
It was a protest, led by the self-proclaimed feminists of Tegucigalpa, against the military coup that took place on June 28. As a quick recap, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, ousted president of Honduras, was awakened by soldiers the morning of June 28 and put on a plane to Costa Rica. The arrest happened in response to a referendum pushed by Zelaya to ask the public to support a constitutional assembly. Opponents accused the ousted president of trying to abolish term limits and extend his rule, like Chavez did in Venezuela, and the Supreme Court voted that the referendum was illegal. However, Zelaya went against the ruling and decided to hold the referendum anyway, prompting his arrest and unceremonious exit from the country the morning of the would-be referendum.
Since then, Mr. Zelaya has tried to regain his presidency through international diplomacy: he has jetted around Central America and the United States, addressing the United Nations and attending regional summit meetings. As of now, however, the de-facto government of Honduras established by Roberto Micheletti has refused to recognize Mr. Zelaya as president and in fact has several warrants out for his arrest, despite international sanctions towards the usurper government of Honduras.
While obviously there are many sides to the crisis in Honduras, I found it interesting that the feminists in Honduras supported Zelaya. In fact, it made me wonder whether I should be supporting him as well. Although he was heavily criticized by many for his close association with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, most of his reforms (such as raising the minimum wage and lowering the price of gasoline) directly benefited the poor. Women and indigenous groups, of course, are the poorest people in one of the poorest countries, since Honduras is the third poorest country in Latin America and the second poorest country in Central America.
Above all, it was interesting to note that the military’s reaction to the “feminist protest” was so different from its reaction to all the other protests that were occurring at the same time. Perhaps it was the artsy posters; perhaps it was the fact that they all carried flowers. Whatever the reason, while all the other (male-dominated) protests were carefully watched by the army, whether by land or by air, this protest happened with nary a military man in sight. Suffice it to say that one of the biggest challenges for poor/women in Honduras is being heard and recognized.