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My father has been punished for helping Honduras

After the removal of my father by a military coup sanctions against the regime are vital

Following the removal by a military coup of José Manuel Zelaya on 28 June, the people of Honduras have been engaging in a peaceful struggle for his restoration as president, for their rights, and for the convening of a constituent national assembly. Much is said about a possible military intervention by the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez; of a supposed wish by President Zelaya to perpetuate himself in power; and of Zelaya's alleged crimes, but these are all being used simply to mask the real reasons for the coup.

Since his election, my father has promoted the idea of "citizen power": the involvement of citizens in the decision-making process. He promoted the Citizen Participation Law, giving the people the right to use surveys, plebiscites and referendums to participate in decision-making. From the beginning, the media criticised his ideas, proposals and actions. Sometimes they called him mad. They accused him of ignorance. They branded his government ineffective. Later they called him populist, and now they say he is a communist and fugitive from justice.

In government, my father fulfilled his campaign promises, starting with cuts in fuel prices. This caused direct confrontations with the major oil multinationals. He denounced the plundering of the state electricity and telecommunications enterprises, which had been forced into bankruptcy. He worked for their recovery and to avoid privatising the few remaining state firms in a country where some 80 per cent of our resources have been privatised.

My father confronted the media. He condemned the media owners' contracts, exemptions from taxes, concessions worth millions, and illegal businesses such as firearms supply firms. He also achieved free education for all children, guaranteed school meals for more than 1.6 million children from poor families, reduced poverty by almost 10 per cent during two years of government, and provided direct state help for 200,000 families in extreme poverty, supplying free electricity to those members of society most in need.

His government raised the minimum wage by 80 per cent and, after 16 years of economic stagnation, achieved historically outstanding growth levels. Agriculture - in a country dependent on imports for 70 per cent of its grain - has been strengthened. The production of a wide range of grains has been developed. With ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a regional trade group led by Venezuela), the state bank has been capitalised. Domestic employees have been integrated into the social security system, a co-operation agreement has been signed with Petrocaribe (a regional energy trading organisation), and the social conscience of the country's citizens has been boosted.

In a country where ten families control 90 per cent of the wealth, the Supreme Court of Justice and the national congress had easily manipulated our constitution to put it at the service of the dominant families.

In response, the president proposed a referendum, to be conducted in the November general elections, to determine whether a review of the constitution was required. This provoked an immediate reaction.

Manuel Zelaya wanted to hold an opinion poll to gauge public opinion on his proposal. Groups in power felt threatened by this and used their resources to try to prevent the initiative. The Supreme Court declared the poll illegal - a move which was itself illegal. The media tried to instil fear into the people, saying that the president's intention was to remain in power, and they began to use the image of President Chávez to try to link my father's opinion poll with socialism and communism.

Those in power thought it would be easy to silence the people after the coup. But 78 days later, resistance continues on a large scale. Even in the face of military and political repression, including assassinations by the coup regime, peaceful resistance continues every day in villages and neighbourhoods across the country. The leaders are persecuted, but they do not stop fighting.

Representatives of the de facto regime, its consultants and its media have shown the world their clumsiness and lack of principles every day. The coup has been rejected by the entire world and the regime is isolated by the international community.

Sanctions against the coup regime are vital. In addition, its planned "elections" this November must not be recognised. The voice of the people of Honduras must be heard. The country is being exploited by a group of people who benefit only themselves by dominating state institutions, and use force to ignore the wishes of the great majority of Hondurans.
The struggle of Honduras is a struggle for all nations.

Xiomara Zelaya is the daughter of Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president of Honduras

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Citizen Ken

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An English hero for the ages: Ian Botham at 60

Botham blends his sportsmanship and deep-seated passion for cricket with a lust for life.

Begging W H Auden’s pardon, it is possible both to honour and to value the vertical man, and in the case of Ian Botham, who turned 60 on 24 November, it is our bounden duty. No sportsman has given Britons so much to enjoy in the past half-century and no sportsman is loved more. Two decades after he retired from first-class cricket, his reputation as one of life’s champions remains unassailable.

No mere cricketer is he, either. Botham is a philanthropist, having raised more than £12m for various charities, notably Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. In December, 30 years after his first walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End, he will set off again, in South Africa, where England are on tour. And he really does walk, too, not amble. As somebody who accompanied him on one of his dozen walks said: “You can’t keep up with him. The man is a phenomenon.”

Of all postwar sportsmen, only Bobby Charlton and, at a pinch, Henry Cooper come close to matching Botham’s enduring popularity. But Charlton, a shy man who was scarred by the Munich plane crash of 1958 (and may never have recovered from its emotional effects), has never comfortably occupied a public stage; and Cooper, being a boxer, had a solitary role. Botham, by contrast, spoke for England. Whenever he picked up his bat, or had a ball in his hand, he left spectators in no doubt.

Others have also spoken for England. Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson, captains respectively of England’s World Cup-winning football and rugby teams, were great players but did not reach out to people as naturally as Botham. Nick Faldo, Lester Piggott, Sebastian Coe and, to bring us up to date, Lewis Hamilton have beaten the best in the world, but they lacked those qualities that Botham displayed so freely. That is not to mark them down. They were, and are, champions. But Botham was born under a different star.

It was John Arlott, the great cricket commentator, who first spotted his uniqueness. Covering a match at Taunton in 1974, he asked the young colt to carry his bags up the rickety staircase to the press box, where Arlott, wearing his oenophile’s hat, pulled out a bottle of red wine and invited Botham to drink. Forty years later Botham is a discriminating wine drinker – and maker. Along with his friend and fellow England great Bob Willis, and their Australian wine­making pal Geoff Merrill, he has put his name to a notable Shiraz, “BMW”.

Arlott, with his nose for talent and good company, saw something in the young Botham that Brian Close, his captain at Somerset, was beginning to bring out. Later, Mike Brearley, as England captain, drew out something even more remarkable. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, you’ve got to be carefully taught. And Botham, a fine team man as well as a supreme individual performer, has never withheld praise from those who enabled him to find his voice.

If sport reveals character, then cricket is the game that reveals it most clearly. In no other sport is the individual performance rooted so firmly in a team context. Every over brings a contest of skill and intelligence between batsman and bowler but only a team can win the match. “A cricketer,” as Arlott said, “is showing you something of himself all the time.”

Cricket also reveals national character more than any other sport. Football may be the most popular game in the world but cricket, and cricketers, tell us far more about England and Englishness. It is instructive, in this regard, to hear what Philippe Auclair, a French journalist and author long resident in London, has to say about Botham: “He is essentially an 18th-century Englishman.” In one! It’s not difficult to sense a kinship with Tom Jones, Fielding’s embodiment of 18th-century life, who began his journey, as readers may recall, in Somerset.

A country boy who played for Worcestershire after leaving Somerset, and who lives by choice in North Yorkshire, Botham is an old-fashioned Englishman. Although nobody has yet found him listening to the parson’s sermon, he is conservative with a small and upper-case C, a robust monarchist, handy with rod and gun, and happiest with a beaker in front of him. He represents (though he would never claim to be a representative) all those people who understand instinctively what England means, not in a narrow way, but through something that is in the blood.

Above all, he will be remembered for ever as the hero of 1981. Even now it takes some believing that Botham bowled and batted with such striking success that the Australians, who were one up after two Tests, were crushed. Some of us who were actually at Headingley for the famous third Test – thousands who claim to have been there were not – recall the odds of 500-1 on an England victory going up on the electronic scoreboard that Saturday evening.

Botham made 149 not out as England, following on, beat the Aussies by 18 runs. For three hours the country seemed to stop. In the next Test, at Edgbaston, Botham took five wickets for one run as Australia fell under his spell. Then, at Old Trafford, on a dank Saturday afternoon, he played the most memorable innings of his life and one of the greatest innings ever played by an Englishman: 118 magnificent, joyful runs. Joy: that’s the word. Botham brought joy into people’s lives.

Yet it was the final Test at the Oval, which ended in a draw, that brought from him a performance no less remarkable than those from before. He bowled 89 overs in that match, flat out, continuing to run in when others withdrew with injury. That was the team man coming to the fore. Little wonder his comrades thought the world of him.

Modest, loyal, respectful to opponents, grateful to all who have lent him a hand, and supported throughout a turbulent life by Kath, his rock of a wife, and their three children, this is a cricketing hero to rank with W G Grace, Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Fred Trueman. A feature in the lives of all who saw him, and a very English hero. 

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State