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Transcript of Interview with Exiled Los Necios Militant Gilberto Ríos
This is a transcript of the translation of a talk by Gilberto Rios, member of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular and Secretary of Political Formation of the Political Organization “Los Necios.” The talk was given in Managua on Jan. 21, 2010 at Casa Ben Linder. The Casa Ben Linder hosts a weekly meeting mainly of English speaking internationalists.
January 21, 2010
Speaker: Gilberto Rios
I have been living for a month in Nicaragua. Right now there are more than 100 exiled Hondurans because of political persecution. There is really nothing about it in the international media.
It is unusual that Honduras was involved in this because they have been the typical “good boy” of Latin America. Honduras served as a base during the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, for the Contras in Nicaragua in the ‘80’s, during the U.S. invasion of the island of Grenada, and they also sent troops to Iraq. Honduras was the least politically polarized Latin American country.
Leftist political parties have been part of the social movement in Honduras for the last 10 years. Zelaya came to power in 2006 within the right wing party and his administration began repressing the social movement. Zelaya then realized that the country was being kidnapped by one social class; 90 percent of Honduras’ economy is controlled by 10 families. This impedes development even under capitalism.
Zelaya didn’t realize this until he came to power. He met with the left and said it was neocolonialism, an old left theory. Even Zelaya himself was surprised to be saying this. Zelaya then began pushing for social development, which hurt the wealthiest families but not capitalism.
He changed the way Hondurans did international commerce, especially with petroleum. He had different private gas companies compete against Venezuela, and Venezuela won. This happened during Zelaya’s second year in power. Exxon then began calling Zelaya’s office daily to say that they were going to sue him. Zelaya said that the coup against him was sponsored by Exxon.
It was the right wing who turned Zelaya more leftist. John Negroponte, the ambassador from the U.S. in Honduras in the ‘80’s was the point man. He was the coordinator for the Contra War, in El Salvador, and the one who kept the left from growing in Honduras. He is responsible for designing the coup in Honduras. He also was involved in the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002, along with CIA member Roberto Carmona.
What does Honduras mean for the U.S. economy? 0.02 percent. But what does the U.S. mean to the Honduran economy? More than 80 percent.
José Martí once said that a country who buys commands and a country who sells serves.
What was the danger of Zelaya? That he was a president from the right who began taking leftist measures. That could invite other presidents to do the same. That was the sin of Zelaya, but for the left party it was difficult for us to believe in his transformation. Even though this sounds contradictory, it was hard for us as the left wing to change our impression of Zelaya.
Now there is a new generation of people who didn´t participate in the wars and social movements in Latin America in the ´70´s and ´80´s. I call it the phenomenon of the Reagan Generation, or the Lost Generation. In Latin America it´s difficult to find people between the ages of 30 and 45 who are involved in social movements.
It´s also an opportunity. The new leftists don´t have the same vices that the old had, they don´t just see through Marxist eyes. Los Necios has labeled it Ecumenical Marxism, which includes all different kinds of visions to bring about a new world.
What´s happening in Honduras we consider to be a new Latin American revolution, that is new and different. It is important for people to know and to contribute. It is anti-capitalist, not part of a socialist or communist society, but a new and different society.
Questions from the group
You said that Honduras was the least politically polarized country in Latin America. Does that hold true today?
From a political point of view, Yes. But from an ideological standpoint, No. Many people from the left, center and even the right were against the coup.
Did the coup ultimately benefit the movement in Honduras?
I’ll use my organization as an example. We were founded in 1999 and never surpassed 100 members. We did a lot of work, but we never had more than 100. Now after the coup we have more than 1000 members. In Honduras the right wing could have stayed in power for 1000 years. Now maybe only 10.
The people from the U.S. embassy offered arms to the Resistance to make it make it military. Nobody would have guessed that we could march for 200 days in peace. It was strategic to avoid deaths.
Before the coup we had the bones, but no meat. Now we are an entire body.
Does it affect the movement in Honduras, having so many of its’ leaders out of the country?
I’m an organic intellectual. I produce revolutionary theories for the movement. With so much technology now it doesn’t matter where I am. I listen to the Honduran radio station when I wake up, I watch the news on the television, and I have four phones, including a Blackberry.
What will become Zelaya’s role?
Zelaya has become a theoretical problem because he’s not left or right. He can’t be accused of being a communist. He’s become a challenge now. When we’re all organized to create a new world, we have to be on the same side. I consider myself to be a Marxist, Communist, and think it is positive that this is happening, that it’s setting an example for Latin America.
A German philosopher said that the movement is everything; the end doesn’t really matter. It’s brought a large population of Honduras together. Before June 28th, there wasn’t a political culture. Now it is talked about every day.
We always see power outside of ourselves, especially when there is a developed vanguard. People see the power outside of themselves.
El Salvador and Nicaragua asked us when are you going to take up arms, since they have histories of taking up arms. This new culture of social struggle is not to say we won’t take up arms, it just means it’s not what we’d most like.
With the U.S. involvement in the Haiti situation, I couldn’t believe it. But if you express that to others, you’re crazy.
It wasn’t the Viet Cong that ended the war, it was the shift in public opinion.
I’m reminded of Plato saying that government is the common good of society. We have to say that the U.S. is wrong even if people think we’re crazy.
The National Party was created in Honduras in 1904 to create the same fiction as the States; even with two parties they both represent the same oligarchy.
Zelaya was the only president who listened more than he spoke, so I think he is capable of making it into a revolution. But if he can’t the Movement itself can turn it into a revolution.
In recent years we haven’t seen as much international solidarity and so many people in the street. It’s the people who ultimately have the power. In Cuba the dictatorship would have ended even without Castro and in Nicaragua it finished without Fonseca.
Was the coup a setback to SICA (Central American Integration System?)
The military coup helped reveal the true relation between countries. The integration was fictitious. The amount of capital being created was for the oligarchy not for the countries. If we look at it all geopolitically, it gives the U.S. more military presence. They sent 10,000 troops to Haiti. The U.S. is helping to resolve their economic crisis through war.
We should all be struggling against imperialism. We can do that from any place in the world, it can begin as a personal struggle and end up in an organization. We can’t just go on living as consumers in the midst of capitalism.
A recommendation was made to reference the Quixote Center and the work they have been doing by bringing delegations to witness human rights violations in Honduras.
What can we do as people living in Nicaragua?
Most important is to continue letting people know about the military coup. I’m not in charge of finances for my organization, but we have a policy of not asking for money. We’ve been in existence for 10 years and receive funding only from our own members. Everyone should contribute according to their own beliefs. If 10 political exiles come from Honduras, I won’t ask you to help them, you should just do it. I will be handing the information about exiles.
Our name, Los Necios (The Troublemakers), comes from a song from Silvio Rodriguez.
What will it take before you can return to Honduras?
One day people came to my house offering guns to the Resistance. They knew a lot about me, continued to call me offering guns. I began receiving death threats so until these threats stop I can’t go back unless armed.
It’s been like a recipe book, with Micheletti and Pinochet. Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Kissinger, Arias, and Obama.
Roque Dalton, from El Salvador, wrote a poem called “A Truck of the Armed Forces Goes By.”
“If they are forces, why are they armed? Only power resides in arms. Does the term armed mean assembled like Westinghouse refrigerators? Are soldiers cheap labor? Armies of Latin America are U.S. armies.”
It’s dangerous to be Latin American. Imperialism needs more control to maintain its system. If all of the world’s citizens were to live like U.S. citizens, we would need 5 planets. U.S. society needs all of the resources that it can get its hands on. It’s social Darwinism.
Thank you for coming to be here with me and listen. I hope it’s awakened your interest in Honduras and in your own country.