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[en] MISF – Fear and Loathing in Honduras: Elections Under Repression

Fear and Loathing in Honduras: Elections Under Repression

May I Speak Freely Media
November 20, 2009

As Honduras’ Nov. 29 election day quickly approaches, the broader picture of whether the vote can truly be free and fair has so far escaped the attention of the U.S. government and much of the world’s mainstream press. While focusing on the terms of the Tegucigalpa-San José Accords, their compliance or lack thereof, and the seemingly two-dimensional Manuel Zelaya/Roberto Micheletti dispute over the country’s presidency, government and media observers alike have paid scant notice to the ongoing suppression of civil, constitutional and political rights of the dissenters, which seriously undermines any hope for an end to the political crisis, let alone an unfettered electoral process. As Bertha Oliva, director of the Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, testified in a Nov. 5 U.S. Congressional briefing, “Dialogue under repression isn’t dialogue … nor is dialogue that doesn’t recognize human rights.”
Free and fair?

International standards of free and fair elections, set out by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1994 and subsequently adopted by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 2000 and the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001, call for basic rights of political expression, movement within the country and an equal basis for campaigning of all parties. In an essay on the topic, Eric Bjornlund of Democracy International wrote, “The political environment should be free of intimidation.” On its face, these conditions don’t seem to be met in Honduras’ current political climate.

Honduran and international human rights groups, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have expressed concerns over political repression and recognition of election results. Much of Latin America, including Brazil and Argentina, have announced they will not recognize the election results.

MISF has previously reported widespread media repression since the June 28 coup, including the September closure and seizure of assets of Radio Globo and Canal 36, two of the last independent opposition voices on air. The two stations have since resumed broadcasting, albeit with limited transmission capacity. Just today Reuters reported that Canal 36 news programming was interfered and prempted by cowboy movies.

MISF Associate Producer Oscar Estrada said that the stations are severely self-censoring, fearing a repeat of military reprisals. One Radio Globo journalist, Luis Galdámez, has persisted in criticizing the de facto government on his daily program “Behind the Truth,” and, according to Amnesty International, has been receiving death threats. On Nov. 19 it was reported that Canal 36’s broadcast signal was being interfered with and news programming replaced with cowboy movies.

The Honduran government on Oct. 5 issued a decree authorizing the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) to shut down any medium that calls for abstaining from the elections or that “incites hatred,” which, according to Estrada, is widely taken as code for speaking against the state. While Conatel hasn’t yet enforced the decree, Reina Rivera, director of the Honduran NGO Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (Ciprodeh), said she expected it will in the immediate run-up to election day.

Privation of civil liberties has also been reported by MISF. A Sept. 27 emergency decree restricting free speech, assembly and movement—all critical aspects of a free electoral cycle—which de facto president Micheletti had promised to annul, wasn’t repealed until Oct. 25, a few days before the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord was reached. That the decree has largely been replaced by more focused decrees issued by individual ministries much to the same effect.

In addition to the Conatel decree, the national police have issued a resolution, a demonstrably illegal act, that any march or protest requires 24 hours’ notice and permission from the police. In practice, however, this policy has only applied to leftist and independent candidates, for whose events the police are the first—and, as a consequence, last—to show up.

Another decree, issued by the Security Ministry, classifies as terrorism any takeover of public space by the resistance and the use of loudspeakers. To date, several leftist political rallies, which by necessity use sound systems, have been charged in this manner.

The dissolution of any agreement on the return to power of the deposed Zelaya—a precondition to election participation given by the Resistance Front Against the Coup and the popular independent candidate, union leader Carlos H. Reyes—has resulted in the effective disenfranchisement of the opposition in the elections. Reyes has officially withdrawn from the race and the Front, as have 102 of the 128 Innovation and Unity Party congressional and mayoral candidates, as well as a faction of Zelaya’s (and Micheletti’s) majority Liberal Party.

Many leftist organizations and Zelaya himself consider the election hopelessly unfair, have called for its boycott and have begun a process to legally contest and postpone voting.

On Nov. 17, Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubí announced that the 530 prosecutors of the Public Ministry will be actively seeking out and cracking down on anyone who commits “electoral crimes,” such as impeding the voting process, urging people to not participate, or destroying political propaganda, all of which will be punishable with a four-year prison sentence. The practical effect of these strictures is to further stifle opposition voices by stripping them of the one recourse they had left.

The international justice organization CEJIL reported to the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Nov. 10 about persecution and retaliation against judges and public defenders who have expressed opposition to the coup. “The acts against these officials are an illegal restriction of their rights and an intimidation tactic to silence their voices and those of the thousands of people who oppose the regime,” said Viviana Krsticevic, executive director of CEJIL.

Honduras rights advocate and former independent slate candidate Berta Cáceres, speaking with the Chilean publication El Clarín, noted that the Electoral Tribunal has engaged the military—the same body that has been illegally arresting, beating up and even killing members of the coup opposition—to supervise the balloting. She said whoever is elected on Nov. 29 will represent a “golpista” government.

Explaining an increasingly widely held view within the country, MISF’s Estrada said, “All the parties have begun to sound like one because [the military,] under its doctrine of national security, runs the country, and will continue to run the next government.”

Ciprodeh’s Rivera said reports are already coming in of heavy militarization in certain remote areas known for being armed, and she fears armed conflict. Ulises Sarmiento, a Liberal Party candidate for deputy in Olancho province and a strong resistance advocate, was attacked Nov. 18 by at least eight men armed with heavy weaponry and grenades. Two of his security detail, Delis Noé Hernández, 27, and José Manuel Beltrán, 35, were killed in the attack.

According to both Estrada and Rivera, the election has stoked fears among Hondurans on both the right, who fear unrest in the streets and the implementation of Hugo Chavez-style populism, and the left, who fear massive, possibly armed repression, and the legitimization of the coup through the voting process.
U.S. recognition

The United States has not only not made any acknowledgement of such apparently unjust and illiberal electoral conditions, but is indicating support for the election and recognition of its outcome.

As a primary broker in the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, the U.S. State Department initially seemed to be riding to the rescue in a last-ditch effort to reinstate Zelaya to power preceding the elections. However, when it became evident that Honduras’ Congress was not going to make a timely decision on Zelaya’s restitution and when Micheletti unilaterally formed the unity government, the United States insisted that the accord was still in force, indicating at a press conference on Nov. 6—a day after the deadline to reinstate Zelaya—that it would likely still recognize the election.

While this statement seemed to confuse many, it is clearly the official State Department position, since Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, echoed them a couple days earlier on CNN en Español, where he stated, “The future of Honduran democracy is in Hondurans’ [Congressional] hands,” answering affirmatively a question about recognizing the elections, no matter what transpires.

An end to the crisis?

Both Honduras and the United States want to see an end to the crisis, which is unlikely to come with the election. According to Estrada, “This will end one of three ways: by means of a patent campaign of terror that decapitates all the populist organizations; by way of an accord that brings about genuine constitutional reform; or, the third option, war.”

According to Estrada and Rivera, the election has stoked fears among Hondurans on both the right, who fear unrest in the streets and the implementation of Hugo Chavez-style populism, and the left, who fear massive, possibly armed repression, and the legitimization of the coup through the voting process.

For more information

Berta Oliva (COFADEH) Gives Testimony at Congressional Briefing sponsored by Rep. Grijalva D-AZ.” Quixote Center, November 12, 2009.

Bjornlund, Eric. “Free and Fair Elections.” Democracy International.

Casasús, Mario. “Bertha Cáceres: ‘El pueblo busca estrategias para el desconocimiento de las elecciones en Honduras.‘” El Clarin, November 11, 2009.

Con 530 fiscales perseguirán los delitos electorales: Rubi.” El Tiempo, November 17, 2009.

Entrevista Thomas Shannon en CNN 04-Nov.” YouTube.

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal.” Reuters, November 20, 2009.

Honduras: Honduran radio journalist fears for his life: Luis Galdámez.” Amnesty International, Novermber 16, 2009.

IACHR concludes its 137th period of seessions.” Organization of American States, November 13, 2009.

Parks, James. “Trumka: Free Elections Not Possible Now in Honduras.” AFL-CIO Now Blog, November 16, 2009.

Poder Judicial persigue a jueces opuestos al golpe.” VosElSoberano, November 14, 2009.

U.S. Department of State. “Daily Press Briefing.” November 6, 2009.

U.S. Department of State. “Daily Press Briefing.” November 18, 2009.

Zelaya Rosales, Manuel. “Carta Presidente Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales al Presidente Obama.” November 14, 2009.

Zelaya to legally contest Honduras elections.” Agence France Presse, November 18, 2009.

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal.” Reuters, November 20, 2009.

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About: Founded in 2001, May I Speak Freely Media (MISF) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting social change through media. Twenty-five years after the Honduran military, with support from the United States, committed brutal human rights abuses against its citizens, MISF Media is working with human rights advocates, international NGOs and grassroots organizations to document rights abuses and justice efforts in Honduras, help victims tell their stories, raise public awareness, and prevent the repetition of past U.S. foreign policy mistakes. Offering journalism, historical records, and other educational material, www.mayispeakfreely.org serves as a resource for policy makers, rights advocates, academics, journalists, activists and the general public. MISF Media is a fiscally sponsored nonprofit project of Media Island International, Olympia, Wash.

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[en] Juan Almendares: The Electoral Theater of the Military-Political Coup

'The National Constituent Assembly is Not Negotiable' - Photo: Sandra Cuffe

The Electoral Theater of the Military-Political Coup

by Juan Almendares

Translation by Doug Zylstra; originally posted on Quotha.net

“The world is a theater curtain behind which are hid the deepest secrets.”  – Rabindranah Tagore

Here we examine the scene of the 2009 Honduran elections and its relationship with the military-political coup. The theater has two components: the text and the show. The first covers the history, context, time and space, whether real or imaginary. The second the protagonists, antagonists and both active and passive spectators. The military coup is the staging of electoral theater. The curtain opens with the electoral campaign and ends with legal and legitimate elections for the people; if there is electoral fraud, it does not.

On January 27, 2006 the Liberal Party candidate Manuel Zelaya Rosales assumed the Presidency of Honduras,. It is obvious that Zelaya never did have control of the government since the economic, political, religious and military oligarchy has a hegemonic control of the various branches of government, as well as the political, ideological and media apparatus. Consequently Zelaya could never have brought about a coup and become a dictator.

The military coup was strategically focused on Zelaya himself and tried to reduced the problem, through a barrage of propaganda, to the person of the President himself.

But the coup is not about him, it is larger, it is now against the advance of the historical struggle of the Honduran people, currently represented by the National Resistance against the Military Coup.

The coup hegemony is fed by two means: the illegal war of aggression and drama of the elections in November 2009. The political-military coup responds to a joint national and international program designed to use our territory and to sacrifice the civilian population as an experimental theater of incursions and coups in Latin America. It intends to turn Honduras and Mesoamerica into the Vietnam or Afghanistan of the Americas.

Is it legal to have the electoral process under the almost absolute control of the coup forces? Is the Supreme Electoral Tribunal legal? An organism that violates the content of paragraph 2 of Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic stating that “judges who are nominated for or hold elective office may not be elected to Supreme Electoral Tribunal; a prohibition mentioned as a specific part of the precept challenged as unconstitutional.”

The election of citizens as Magistrates and Deputy Magistrate Judges of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is contrary to the Constitution of the Republic under which citizens hold elected positions of popular election, the first as third alderman of Tegucigalpa, the second as Congressman to the National Congress from Francisco Morazán and the third as stand-in Congressman. As stated by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal under Agreement No. 24-2005 published in the Official Gazette number 30,886 on 27 December 2005.

And if the Supreme Electoral Court is not legally composed, will the election be legal? Is it legal for the armed forces, who tortured the legitimate President of the Republic Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who expelled him from the country, who violated the Constitution of the Republic? Their history as supporters of the coup is an indicator of the lack of credibility that the Honduran people have on the outcome of future elections.

And couldn’t panic develop in those voters, men, women and youths who faced persecution, torture and whose relatives were killed by military and police forces?

Can elections be legal when the candidates, presidential, Congressional and mayors of both independent groups and the Democratic Unification Party (UD) have been subjected to torture, persecution and murder of some of its members?

And do not they now have more advantage as far as participation and campaigning those that supported the coup, the Liberal, National, and PINU party over the candidates opposed to the military coup?

Are elections legals in which free speech has been gagged? How can you justify the attacks on Diario Tiempo, the bombings against Canal 11, the militarization and closure of Radio Globo, Cholusat Sur, and the death threats against the director and staff of Radio Progreso and the newspaper El Libertador as well as widespread firings of those honest journalists that worked at media outlets that back the current coup government?

The crux of this story that precedes the vote has been violent, dehumanizing, cruel, degrading and blessed by both the evangelical and Catholic hierarchy, with the false message of the invocation of God, dialogue, democracy and peace while at the same time they beat, torture and persecute massively Members of the Resistance, as well as priests, pastors and nuns.

Behind the scenes of the theatrical scene of elections have operated the local oligarchy, international financial capital, material and intellectual authors of the doctrine of National Security, Low Intensity Conflict War and the Irregular War plans of the Pentagon.

The active international spectators of the electoral theater have condemned the Military Coup and have declared that they will not send observers or recognize the election results.

For passive or neutral viewers, Bertolt Brecht once stated: “The worst illiterate is politically illiterate. He hears, speaks, does not participate in political events … The political illiterate is such a donkey that he takes pride in saying that he hates politics. He does not know that from his ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child and the worst of the bandits who are the corrupt politician, punk and lackey of national and multinational companies. ”

The theater curtain has not yet fallen and the future outcome of Honduras are the scenarios which lead to the return of constitutional order, legal and legitimate elections, the installation of the Constituent Assembly and the transformation of the constitution of the Republic to guarantee respect for human rights, food sovereignty and climate justice.

The other scenario is war. In this regard, the same Brecht added “In wartime, virtues become crimes, religion and honor are used precisely to disguise the real purpose of the war, which is to maintain at all costs the exploitation of the people by the aristocracy and the church .. With war, the rancher’s properties increase, alongside the misery of the pool; The General’s speeches increase, and the silence of the common man grows as well.”

Our human and planetary love and the principles of Non-Violence force us to fight so that on our Mother Earth no Honduran woman or man or citizen of the world is the subject of crimes against humanity or violations of human and planetary rights.

The urgent task is to unite all organizations and individuals that make up the resistance and build the most significant political force in Honduras, to fight for a new people, a new society where true democracy of socio-economic equality prevails; mobilize the conscience of peace and social and climactic justice and against irregular warfare and warring nature that plans more coups and irregular warfare in Latin America.

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[en] Yves Engler, rabble.ca: Canadian media silent on Honduras coup

| August 17, 2009

The dominant Canadian media’s coverage of the coup in Honduras has been atrocious.

Even a close observer of the Canadian press would know almost nothing about the ongoing demonstrations, blockades and work stoppages calling for the return of elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Since Zelaya was overthrown by the military on June 28 the majority of teachers in Honduras have been on strike. Recently, health workers, air traffic controllers and taxi drivers have also taken job action against the coup.  In response the military sent troops to oversee airports and hospitals across the country.

For more than a week protesters from all corners of the country walked 20 km a day and on Tuesday tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on the country’s two biggest cities, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. These demonstrations prompted the de facto regime to re-impose a curfew in the capital, which had been in effect in the weeks after the coup.

This resistance — taking place under the threat of military repression — has gone almost entirely unreported by leading Canadian media.  So has Canada’s tacit support for the coup.

Last Tuesday the ousted Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister told TeleSur that Canada and the U.S. were providing “oxygen” to the military government. Picked up by numerous Spanish language newspapers, Patricia Rodas called on Canada and the U.S. to suspend aid to the de facto regime.

During an official visit to Mexico with Zelaya last week, Rodas asked Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who was about to meet Harper and Obama, to lobby Ottawa and Washington on their behalf. “We are asking [Calderon] to be an intermediary for our people with the powerful countries of the world, for example, the U.S. and at this moment Canada, which have lines of military and economic support with Honduras.”

To my knowledge, no Canadian media reported Rodas’ comments. Nor did any Canadian media mention that Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Neil Reeder, met coup officials in Tegucigalpa last week. The Canadian media has also ignored the fact that Canada is the only major donor to Honduras yet to sever any aid to the military government.

Latin American (and to a lesser extent U.S.) media have covered Ottawa’s tacit support for the coup more closely than the Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen and most of the rest of the Canadian media. When Zelaya tried to fly into Tegucigalpa a week after the coup Canada’s minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, told the Organization of American the “time is not right” for a return. The New York Times ran two different articles that mentioned Canada’s anti-Zelaya position while Bloomberg published another.  Many Latin American news agencies also printed stories about the Conservative government’s position; however, the Canadian media was uninterested.


A few weeks later Zelaya attempted to cross into Honduras by land from Nicaragua.  Kent once again criticized this move. “Canada’s Kent Says Zelaya Should Wait Before Return to Honduras,” read a July 20 Bloomberg headline.

A July 25 right-wing Honduran newspaper blared: “Canadá pide a Zelaya no entrar al país hasta llegar a un acuerdo” (Canada asks Zelaya not to enter the country until there’s a negotiated solution).

After publishing a number of articles about Ottawa’s position in the hours and days after the coup, Mexican news agency Notimex did a piece that summarized something this author wrote for rabble.ca.

Then on July 26 Notimex wrote about the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s demand that Ottawa take a more firm position against the coup.

Both of these articles were published (at least online) by a number of major Spanish-language newspapers.

Finally, a month after the coup there was a small breakthrough into Canada’s dominant media. CBC radio’s The Current provided space for Graham Russell from Rights Action, a Canadian group with a long history in Honduras, to criticize Ottawa’s handling of the coup.  Unfortunately, Russell’s succinct comments were followed by the CBC interviewer’s kid gloves treatment of Minister Peter Kent. Still, the next day the Canadian Press revealed that Ottawa refused to exclude Honduras from its Military Training Assistance Program, a program rabble.ca reported on days after the coup.

Uninterested in the Conservative government’s machinations, the Canadian media is even less concerned with the corporations that may be influencing Ottawa’s policy towards Honduras.  Rights Action has uncovered highly credible information that Vancouver-based Goldcorp provided buses to the capital, Tegucigalpa, and cash to former employees who rallied in support of the coup.

As far as I can tell, the Halifax Chronicle Herald is the only major Canadian media outlet that has mentioned this connection between the world’s second biggest gold producer and the coup.

Under pressure from the Maquila Solidarity Network, two weeks ago Nike, Gap and two other U.S.-based apparel company operating in Honduras released a statement calling for the restoration of democracy.

With half of its operations in the country Montréal-based Gildan activewear, the world’s largest blank T-shirt maker, refused to sign this statement. According to company spokesperson Genevieve Gosselin, Gildan employs more than 11,000 people in Honduras. Without a high-profile brand name Gildan is particularly dependent on producing T-shirts and socks at the lowest cost possible and presumably the company opposed Zelaya’s move to increase the minimum wage by 60 per cent at the start of the year.  Has Gildan actively supported the coup like Goldcorp? It is hard to know since there has yet to be any serious investigation of the company’s recent activities in the country.

The Canadian media’s coverage of the coup demonstrates the importance of independent media. We need to support news outlets willing to challenge the powerful.

Yves Engler is the author of the recently released The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and other books. The book is available at blackbook.foreignpolicy.ca. If you are interested in helping to organize an event as part of the second leg of a book tour in late September please contact: yvesengler[at]hotmail[dot]com.

# # #

article published by http://rabble.ca

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[en] Dominion: Five things the Corporate Media doesn’t want you to know about the Coup in Honduras

[posted by Dawn Paley: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/dawn/2795%5D



1. It was a military coup carried out on behalf of corporate, national and transnational elites. “Restoring Democracy” though a military coup is akin to bombing your way to peace.

2. Coup participants were trained by the CIA and at the School of the Americas. Reactionary, anti-democratic US training grounds such as these are responsible for mass murder throughout the Americas.

3. President Mel Zelaya is a centrist, and his movements towards the “left,” such as joining the ALBA trade block, are a result of massive popular pressure for change.

4. The constitutional referendum was not focused on extending Zelaya’s term limit. The referendum on the constitution marked the beginning of a popular process of participative democracy, which is extremely threatening to local and transnational elites.

5. Transnational corporations support the coup. Goldcorp has been bussing employees to pro-coup marches, other Canadian companies have stayed silent and are complicit in the coup.

Photo of demonstrators in Tegucigalpa by Sandra Cuffe

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[en] Rights Action: Honduran Coup Resistance Alert #31 – Voices from Catacamas

Day 25 of Honduran Coup Resistance, July 22, 2009, Alert #31

“… you have to be careful. There’s no law here these days.”


Update: from Jonathan Treat, journalist in Tegucigalpa

Article: by Jonathan Treat, “Voices from Catacamas, Hometown of Honduran President, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya”


Grahame Russell (Rights Action co-director): 1-860-3… (Connecticut), info@rightsaction.org
Jonathan Treat (journalist in Tegucigalpa): [504] 8877-4161,

Please re-distribute this information all around.

To get on/ off Rights Action’s email list: http://www.rightsaction.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=3/

To donate funds to pro-democracy movement in Honduras: see below

* * *

UPDATE by Jonathan Treat in Tegucigalpa ([504] 8877-4161, jonathantreat@gmail.com)

Today, July 22, marks the 25th day of non-violent resistance to the coup and the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti  in Honduras.  The atmosphere in Tegucigalpa is tense, marked by sense of uncertainty and fear.  The Micheletti regime has shown an unwillingness to seriously negotiate a peaceful solution to the current political crisis, and the talks in Costa Rica moderated by Oscar Arias have been postponed.

In Tegucigalpa today, supporters of the coup government organized marches, sparing no irony in labeling them pro-“Peace and Democracy”.  Using tactics reminiscent of the cold war, they invoked images of Hugo Chavez to raise the specter of “communism/socialism”, fuel fears and justify the coup as an attempt  to preserve “democracy” in Honduras.

The pro-demcracy/pro-Zelaya movement also staged demonstrations throughout the city.  Fortunately, there have not been reports of any violent confrontations between the two groups or with authorities.

In Honduras’ new “democracy”, curfews remain in place—anyone in the streets late at night can be arrested and jailed without question.   Throughout Tegucigalpa the military presence is pervasive, and troops and police regularly are stopping vehicles to demand identification.

The Micheletti regime seeks to close the only pro-democracy/anti-coup television station in Honduras, Canal 36.  They are hoping to apply a constitutional clause related to media, citing the channel’s ‘threat to national security’.

Throughout the week, the regime has blocked the broadcast of channel 36 news as reports denounced the de facto regime and its repression of the popular movement.

The remaining local media coverage of current events in Honduras is shamelessly supportive of the Michelleti regime—not surprising considering the interests they represent.

In the U.S., the lack of objectivity of mainstream corporate media (difficult to watch from the perspective of the popular, nonviolent, pro-democracy movement here in Honduras) was manifested in CNN’s broadcast, yesterday, of Patricia Janiot’s “interview” with deposed Honduran President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya.  Patricia Janiot’s coverage was more a manipulated cross-examination of the elected leader of Honduras than an interview.

It is recommended viewing for anyone trying to understand the manipulated media coverage taking place at the international level, all of which puts the peace and security of a majority of pro-democracy, pro-Zelaya Hondurans at greater risk.

Yesterday a taxi driver in Tegucigalpa asked, “Who will be the victims of the violence that might break out any day?  It won’t be rich Hondurans.  We are a peaceful people.  Hondurans haven’t known war,” he said.  “Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador—they have known violence.  People there knew how to fight repressive governments.  Here in Honduras, war is something we don’t know much about.”  Some observers worry that perhaps that fact is something that the current regime is banking on.

* * *


By Jonathan Treat (in Tegucigalpa, July 22, 2009)

“… you have to be careful. There’s no law here these days.”

A few horses lazily graze the rolling green pastures surrounding the modest ranch house of currently deposed Honduran president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya. It is an unlikely place for a tense standoff. But the bucolic setting for the president’s personal residence in Catacamas, Olancho is a potential tender box.

On the one side are Honduran military troops, and national police. On the other, a diverse mix of pro-Zelaya supporters from the community—local leaders of the pro-democracy movement, housewives, farmers, ranchers, students, professors, business owners, and workers.

The burning issue here: the return of the President Zelaya to Honduras—and to the seat of the presidency.

On July 17, when townspeople learned that the military had surrounded the president’s family house, more than four thousand protesters marched to the house to take it back. When confronted by the crowd, the fifty or so soldiers quietly retreated.

Since then, the pro-democracy movement in Catacamas has maintained a constant vigil at the president’s residence. The home has become a symbol of popular resistance. Hundreds of people from communities around the state of Olancho gather here daily to guard the property and wait anxiously for the return of President Zelaya. Military planes and police helicopters circle in the skies above the crowd—an ominous reminder of the powers they’re confronting.

The small (30,000) agricultural town of Catacamas, Olancho, is about four hours west of the capitol of Tegucigalpa. Informal conversations with a variety of townspeople—at the local plaza, in taxis, stores, restaurants, Internet cafes—reveal widespread support for President “Mel” Zelaya. The local, hometown enthusiasm is natural, but the consistently positive comments of people in the community of Catacamas reveal more than a “local boy makes good” dynamic.

“I completely support the president. Look, I’m going to be frank—I’ve never voted before. But I know too much about Mel,” said one man, a self-described campesino who farms a small plot of land. “He’s not like other presidents I’ve seen. He’s humble. You see him eating at local markets, attending funerals and fiestas with the people—he´s not arrogant.”

A local taxi driver had this to say: “My father worked for Mel for 11 years, before he became our president. And I know he helps people. Since he’s been president, he has shown that. He’s done good things for the poor—giving pensions to the elderly, raising minimum wage, and improving schools and clinics. He’s a good man.”

Marlon Escoto, rector of the National University of Agriculture, was more measured in his critique. “President Zelaya isn’t perfect. But he’s much better than other presidents, and he has definitely made some positive changes that are benefitting the poor,” he said. “The elites here thought that during his campaign he was just saying populist things to get elected. But he has followed through. And that has alienated many in the ruling elite in Honduras.”

People in Catacamas also seem to be unanimous on another point—that the de facto government seized power illegally, through a military-supported coup.

“I just don’t understand this argument about whether it was a coup or not. The OAS, the United Nations, every country in the world, and Obama have all called it a coup” said one Catacamas taxi driver. “A coup is exactly what it is—and it´s shameful.”

At the local town plaza, a couple of men sit on a bench, watching some children kick at a limp soccer ball.

When asked about the current situation, one shakes his head sadly. “For a poor man, the coup is cruel. We’ve suffered before, but not like now. When you have to struggle to put enough food on the table, well, it’s an injustice.”

The other man adds an ominous note. “The coup is creating a dangerous situation. There are lots of guns in Olancho, since the (US-backed, anti-Nicaragua) Contra war (of the 1980s). Mel needs to come back, and soon.”

Not surprisingly, the pervasively pro-Zelaya sentiment of people here—and their consistent, active non-violent resistance—isn’t popular with the current regime.

On June 28, the day after the military coup, roughly 2000 people from Catacamas and neighboring communities mobilized to make the four-hour journey to Tegucigalpa to join the groundswell of popular opposition to the coup. But less than an hour into the trip, the caravan of cars and some thirty buses were confronted by military troops. An eyewitness reported that the soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons, shooting out the tires of ten of the buses, bringing the caravan to a halt.

Since then, military checkpoints are commonplace throughout Olancho state. There is a strong sense of indignation in the community, but it tempered with caution.

“The military regularly stops people leaving the town,” said one Catacamas resident. “You have to give them your documents, and tell them where you are going and why you’re going there. And people who are known as leaders of the movement against the coup have been told to turn around and go back home, or face arrest.”

One local taxi driver was stopped by the military when driving through town. “They have no right,” he said angrily. “It’s against the constitution for military to stop civilians—only police have that authority. I was furious, but you have to be careful. There’s no law here these days.”

There is also an ongoing curfew here—anyone on the streets after 11 p.m. risks being jailed. One young man said that the previous night he didn’t make it home in time. He showed me nasty cuts on his wrists from being roughed up by authorities while handcuffed.

The road that leads to President Zelaya’s personal residence is not what one might expect. Turning off the highway is an archway with a simple wooden sign announcing “Villa Linda”. The only guards to at the entrance to the property are cattle guards—anyone can approach the house unquestioned. And these days many people do—on foot, packed into the beds of old pickups, and in latest model trucks with their conspicuous curves, chrome and polarized windows.

The crowd of people who have gathered here is diverse, and there are no obvious distinctions between class or social status. People here voice a common goal—nonviolent resistance to Micheletti regime and the return of Zelaya to the presidency. In the meantime, they intend to make sure that the army keeps its hands off the president’s home.

Over the weekend (July 19, 20), several hundred people from Catacamas and neighboring communities gather at the President Zelaya’s family home. They chat in the shade of the three open air palapas (gazebos), on the front porch, or on the grassy grounds. Local vendors sell snacks and soft drinks, and kids play on swings and slides. Some dance to the music blaring out over loudspeakers. In the afternoons, there is food for everyone. One woman, a local teacher cooking up a meal for the crowd over a wood fire speaks with obvious defiance.

“We’re here because we are people with conviction. We know that our constitutional president is Manuel Zelaya. We elected him, and we’ll be here until he is back in power in Honduras. So we came to take this house back from the army. When they saw us coming, they left. But we know they are still around, waiting—we’ve seen them, some wearing ski masks,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. The people of Catacamas have courage. We’ll be here in this struggle until the president returns home.”

People gather to share the meal, chatting and laughing. Throughout the day, the atmosphere here has generally been relaxed and festive, more like a picnic than a stronghold of nonviolent resistance.

The mood changed, however, as local pro-democracy leaders provided updates of the ongoing, difficult negotiations taking place in Costa Rica. Things are not going well. Although President Zelaya has agreed to sit down and discuss and negotiate each and every point offered by moderator Oscar Arias, the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti government refuses to even consider the critical first point of Zelaya’s return to the presidency—the central point that this crowd is interested in. The news has serious, worrisome implications.

“I remember very well how things were during the 1980s. I understand the pain and suffering of living under a military regime. I don’t want to go back to that. We’re asking the world to help us, to demand the return to constitutional law—and the return of our president,” said one of man in the crowd, a professor at the local university. “The situation is very dangerous. We don’t want to see people pick up arms. We don’t want to see any bloodshed.”

A student, upon hearing the news of the stalled talks, says that he supports Pres. Zelaya completely but that he wants him to do everything possible to avoid an outbreak of violence.

“I want Mel to come back to Honduras. I want to see him return as president. I trust him, and I think he is sincere,” he said. “But I have two daughters. I don’t want to see a war. I hope he continues to negotiate.”

Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing left for President Zelaya to negotiate; he has agreed to discuss and negotiate all the terms presented by mediator Oscar Arias. But in spite of the unanimous condemnation of the current regime by governments around the world, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the suspension of all aid to Honduras by the European Union and the threat of the same by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—Micheletti and the military coup regime remain defiant. And Hondurans brace themselves for the possibility of a violent storm.

Note: On Tuesday, July 21 a caravan of more than 500 vehicles drove through Catacamas and neighboring communities in peaceful protest of the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, the ongoing military repression. They demanded the immediate return of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency. Military planes flew overhead. The electricity to the entire town was cut off for much of the day. There were at least five checkpoints between Catacamas and Tegucigalpa, attended by military troops and national police who demanded identification and searched vehicles.

* * *


UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA:  552-351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8


• unequivocal denunciation of the military coup
• no recognition of this military coup and the ‘de facto’ government of Roberto Micheletti
• unconditional return of the entire constitutional government
• concrete economic, military and diplomatic sanctions against the coup plotters and perpetrators
• respect for safety and human rights of all Hondurans
• application of international and national justice against the coup plotters, and
• reparations for the illegal actions and rights violations committed during this illegal coup

FOR MORE INFO: see series of Honduras Coup Alerts at www.rightsaction.org.  Contact Grahame Russell at info@rightsaction.org or Annie Bird at annie@rightsaction.org

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[en] Honduran Police Detain [and Deport] Six [Venezuelan] Television Journalists

By Jens Erik Gould

July 12 (Bloomberg) — Honduran police detained six employees of the regional television network Telesur and Venezuela state-run station Venezolana de Television last night, according to Angel Vargas, first secretary at the Venezuelan embassy in Tegucigalpa.

The journalists were taken to police headquarters for five hours and their passports were confiscated, Vargas said. They were then taken to their hotel, given back their passports and told not to leave until immigration officials arrived, he said.

“They told us we should leave the country because our security wasn’t guaranteed and we were at risk here,” said Larry Sanchez, a Telesur technician who was among those who were detained. “‘We have intelligence and we’re following you,’ they said.”

It was the second time that Venezuelan journalists had been detained in Honduras since a June 28 coup that ousted Manuel Zelaya as president, Vargas said. Honduran soldiers arrested Telesur journalists at gunpoint in their hotel rooms on June 29 and later let them go, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jens Erik Gould in Tegucigalpa at jgould9@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: July 12, 2009 13:34 EDT

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Filed under ENGLISH, human rights & repression, international coverage, news & updates from Honduras