Marco Cáceres di Iorio

What Happens When 80 Percent of the People Disobey?

Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.


If it’s true that roughly 80 percent of Honduras’ population does not support Juan Orlando Hernández and wants him to vacate the Office of the Presidency on January 27, 2018, then we’re talking about 7.47 million of the country’s 9.34 million people. That many people, or even half or even a quarter, could bring the country to a standstill.

Yes, people could do the typical stuff like conduct endless protest marches and block road traffic. But they can also refuse to pay their taxes. They can refuse to purchase anything other than their basic daily needs, and then only from local small businesses owned by those sympathetic with their cause. They can bring major commerce to a halt, and thus hurt or seriously annoy those influential business people who support and enable the current status quo. They can refuse to go to work, particularly to their public service jobs.

Imagine, no utility workers, no garbage collectors, no street cleaners, no maids, no restaurant workers, no hotel workers, no bartenders, no salon workers, no manicurists, no sales people, no cashiers, no airline workers, no taxi drivers, no bus drivers, no delivery drivers, no police officers, no soldiers, and on and on. There is no need for a violent upheaval. You simply have to refuse to show up.

There is pain and suffering in this strategy, but much less so than one of those typical messy and bloody Latin American revolutions. Yes, the economy will be hurt. But economies are irreparably hurt when desperate and outraged people take up arms. Which is worse?

Plus, opting to stay home or on the streets will likely succeed much quicker than any weaponized revolt, because it serves to unite the country rather than further divide it. Violent conflicts, by their very nature, just take a lot longer because people often become so embroiled in the fighting that the fight itself takes on a life of its own and becomes perpetual. It’s harder to forgive and return to normalcy when you’ve killed someone or lost someone you love in battle.

Civil disobedience, accompanied by strikes and boycotts are more dignified and powerful, because they convey the firm, solemn message to the world: “Sorry, we’re just not going to play this game anymore, because it stinks.” This can be done effectively with 80 percent. Hopefully, this is what Mr. Nasralla has in mind.

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