Forty years ago the Mission District was alive with revolution. Streets teemed with demonstrators and the 24th Street Bart station became known as Plaza Sandino—a gathering place for revolutionaries opposed to the Military dictatorship of Nicaraguan president, Anastasio Somoza.
Alejandro Murguia, a poet and professor, was at the forefront of these movements, and this summer after the June 28 coup of Hondruan President Manuel Zelaya, he was again busy organizing protests. This time, however, he was on the same side as the U.S government. Zelaya, the 65th president of Honduras, was removed on the grounds that his proposal to have a plebiscite over extending presidential term limits was unconstitutional. Roberto Micheletti, the former head of Congress, replaced him, but promised to step down after the November elections.
Zelaya, slipped back into the country September 21st, and has taken refuge at the Brazilian Embassy. Most recently, Micheletti has restricted unauthorized public meetings, and closed two broadcasters that had regularly aired calls from Zelaya to the public.
Murguia spoke to Mission Loc@l about his reactions to Zelaya’s fall from power, rising political tensions, and Mission District’s response.
Mission Loc@l (ML): What is the impression of the coup in the Mission District?
Alejandro Murguia (AM): First of all, I don’t think a coup is ever justified, if you analyze the phrase, “Golpe de Estado,” you are basically talking the overthrow of a government through violence in an unprincipled way…For Micheletti to claim this overthrow is legitimate is a fraud.
ML: What were you hearing from residents earlier this month when you were speaking out about the coup?
AM: People were upset at the nature of the coup. If you look at Zelaya’s record he’s not a flaming radical, he’s at most a modest progressive, so the reaction to his referendum seemed excessive.
People here felt cheated—cheated that back home, Hondurans didn’t even get to cast a vote, or voice their opinions.
The truth is you don’t have to be a political scientist to see that Micheletti and his whole gang are extremely reactionary; they are the worst expression of the bourgeoisie, or the ruling class of Central America. It goes all the way back to the last century. These people believe the country belongs to them, and it’s very much the opposite.
ML: Things have changed from your time as a young activist, how difficult is it, now, to get people in the Mission district excited about speaking out?
AM: People in the Mission continue to be progressive—staying true to a long history of community organizing.
But, I don’t think excited is the right word. Maybe, curious. It’s my sense that people in the Mission are curious and aware of the situation in Honduras and trying to stay on top of it.
Activism in the Mission district is changing—the situation in the Honduras is energizing people to act. We still don’t know the outcome. Much more is left to be seen.
ML: Which members of the community did you see actively protesting after the June 28 coup?
AM: Truthfully it was a big cross-section of people from the Mission and the Latino community. I remember there was one group from China Town that marched along side us, showing their support.
ML: The media has labeled Zelaya’s proposal to explore longer term-limits power-hungry. In your view, is this accurate?
AM: No. Currently the presidential term in Honduras is limited to one four year term without option of re-election, here in the states, and in many other countries, there is an option to be re-elected. Also, he was only suggesting to have a referendum, not instating any executive order.
ML: Over the last month, there have been many demonstrations in Honduras, and some here. Is there any part of the story you feel has been left out?
AM: In particular, I want to know what the fate of the 400 to 500 demonstrators that were arrested in July. I haven’t heard a single word about them. If this is the democracy Micheletti claims, then these people must be brought before court. More and more demonstrators are being arrested, but where are they? What kind of a Government arrests people and doesn’t bring them to court?
ML: Unlike many of the protests you have been involved in, you have Obama and other world leaders on your side. How does this feel?
AM: It’s hard to say.
In the days before the coup, Hillary Clinton met with the military leaders in Honduras. This meeting in mind, one can only draw two conclusions.
First, Hilary told them NOT to go forward, and the military disregarded her, or second, she gave them some strategy to go along with it. It’s hard to believe this small little country would tell US where to get off. I don’t believe in fairytales. And this sounds like a fairytale to me.
Also, keep in mind, Obama has cut off some aid, but not military aid. This means the very tools the Honduran military is using to suppress it’s people are funded directly by the U.S.
ML: Is there a foreseeable solution?
AM: As I see it the coup leaders are heading down a very dangerous road—they’re most dangerous path right now being directly confronting Zelaya at the Brazilian embassy.
All I know is you can’t have a military solution to social problems. That has yet to be proven, just look at the Vietnam War, and Central America in the 70s.