”]The following is my first article for Al Jazeera.
A few months after the 2009 coup d’etat against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, I was approached on the street in Tegucigalpa by a man who threatened to kill me unless I produced an economic incentive sufficient to halt my demise. I suggested that we walk to an ATM and postponed the issue of my lack of an ATM card to an indefinite future point.
Fortunately, by the time we reached the nearest gas station, my companion had finished a bottle of aguardiente and our conversation had taken an unexpected course. Thanking me for the stroll, he requested that I adopt his 18-month-old son in order to spare the child his girlfriend’s crack cocaine habit.
The brief but tragic death of Popeye’s
From the gas station I procured a ride back in the direction of my pension with a female university student in an SUV and designer sunglasses, whose analysis of what had just transpired was that 80 percent of Hondurans were thugs. By coincidence, her calculations also revealed that 80 percent of Hondurans were poor and that this was why the recently-expatriated Zelaya was so popular, which did not alter her view that Honduran democracy had in fact been upheld by his forcible expulsion from the country.
The expulsion was orchestrated once Zelaya had shown himself to be incompatible with everything from the regional neoliberal project to the elite Opus Dei sect’s obsession with banning the morning-after pill. The president’s transgressions had included raising the minimum wage in certain sectors and paying slightly more attention than previous leaders to the complaints of poor communities tired of the effects of international mining endeavors on their skin and reproductive abilities. The last straw was Zelaya’s attempt to poll the citizenry as to whether the national constitution – which hails from the era in which the country was affectionately referred to as the “USS Honduras” and is skewed in the interest of approximately ten families who dominate the economy – should be revised.
Although the university student and I had started out discussing a pseudo-assault by a seemingly apolitical imbiber of aguardiente, the event had now metamorphosed into a lesson on why persons who wanted to avoid being attacked by thugs from the anti-coup National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) should avoid walking outside with fake designer sunglasses. When I suggested that the nonviolent resistance movement might indeed be overwhelmingly nonviolent, the girl turned to me with incredulous eyes and the suspicion that I did not watch the news: “Didn’t you see what they did to Popeye’s?”
Pronounced po-PEI-ei in its indigenous version, one of the Tegucigalpa branches of the American fast food establishment had been set on fire in August following a month and a half of brutal military and police repression of peaceful anti-coup protest marches. The symbolism of the act was rendered all the more apparent by the Honduran establishment media’s horrified response to the attack on private property and corporate iconography – horror that was never replicated when the victims of violence were human protesters.
When Honduran teenager Isis Obed Murillo was shot in the head by the military at Toncontin airport on July 5, for example, the staff of the prominent Honduran daily La Prensa took it upon themselves to excise Murillo’s blood from an image via the Photoshop program in order to suggest that he had fainted rather than died. The same month, secondary school teacher Roger Vallejo was blamed in the mainstream press for his own shooting death by police, which was said to have occurred because he had “abandoned his classroom” in order to protest the political situation.
Aside from the disfigurement of Popeye’s, the Resistance was assigned a heap of additional infractions by my companion in the SUV, such that by the time we parted ways anyone opposed to the coup was now not only a thug but also a corrupt homicidal narcotrafficker and simultaneous worshiper of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Satan. The sermon might have provided a greater degree of amusement had it not been an abridged transcript of news reports.
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