Following last year’s coup against Honduran President Mel Zelaya—the anniversary of which was marked on June 28—one of the preferred epithets invoked by the golpistas (coup supporters) to describe the ousted leader was ladrón, or thief. Whenever I questioned the application of such a label to a president that had raised the minimum wage 60 percent in certain sectors and proposed legislation banning open-pit mining by international corporations, I was often told that Zelaya stole funds in order to prepare for his nonbinding public opinion survey on constitutional reform, which was thwarted by the coup.
In addition to being somewhat irreconcilable with other popular golpista claims such as that Venezuela was funding the survey by printing sheets of paper labeled YES and NO, this argument fails to take into account that Zelaya does not belong to one of approximately 10 families that control the majority of the wealth in Honduras. Supplementary categories of ladrón were detected last year by a female Honduran teenager in an SUV and designer sunglasses, whom I encountered at a gas station in Tegucigalpa after being apprehended during a stroll by a young man who offered to shoot me in exchange for my money.
The teenager was en route to the Mall Multiplaza, one of the preferred hangouts of the Honduran elite; after hearing the story she declared that I should avoid walking in Honduras as the members of the anti-coup Resistance were unable to distinguish fake designer sunglasses made in China. She remained undeterred by the news that my would-be assailant had not mentioned Zelaya and that he had eventually decided I might even adopt his child as a means of shielding it from its mother’s crack habit.
The offer had come about when I denied having any funds on me but suggested that we look for an ATM, a search which I hoped might result in a chance rendezvous with some sort of law enforcement official. It did not, as the Honduran police currently appeared intent on restricting their movements to the environs of the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya and companions were still holed up, or to any location in which peaceful Resistance protesters required pelting by water cannon, tear gas canisters, or live bullets.
In the end my companion thanked me for talking to him and amended his fund appeal to simply a few dollars to purchase another bottle of aguardiente. The teenager in the SUV informed me that it was not possible to talk to criminals, which was why Zelaya had been democratically expatriated without trial; as for Hondurans of lesser rank, criminalizing the non-elite is one way to ensure that democracy does not apply to the majority of the populace.