Thursday, August 13, 2009

Demonstrations in Teguc, Zelaya in Chile

Before launching into what’s happening in Honduras, I’ll mention that my Kenyan visitors left today. I was sad to see them go. And all the time they were packing and bumping their multiple suitcases down my delicate pine, 100+-year-old stairs, I had to be on the phone on urgent asylum interviews for my work. During one, I heard the doorbell ring insistently twice, but I couldn’t interrupt my interpretation call and the Kenyans didn’t seem to hear it. It turned out that it was the notice of an important package that Anderson, one of the Kenyans, was expecting to take back with him, but it required a signature and no one answered the door. So, when the embassy van arrived to take them to the airport, we rode around, stopping various mail carriers, but none had his package. Finally, we went to the PO and he signed the slip over to me and I will go tomorrow or the next day to pick up his package to mail to him and we’ll cross our fingers that it will arrive safely. I am not very trusting of mail to and from developing countries, though once a man in Kenya mailed me a $100 bill for his wife who was here and it arrived safely.

As asylum-case interpreters, we are not allowed to give any details of the cases or mention the countries involved, so, even though petitioners are not identified, I won’t. But I can say generally that the stories of lawlessness, threats, rapes, rivalries, impunity, and lack of trust in the police are depressing and distressing. We have corruption, bribery, lying, police misconduct, and all manner of crimes in this country, but people in Latin America, especially poor people, seem to suffer daily, even hourly, from threats and assaults—or so they say. The asylum officers question them very rigorously and note even small discrepancies in their testimony. Sometimes the women are reduced to tears.

When a new democratically elected Honduran president takes office (presumably after an election with international observers), sanctions will be lifted and OAS membership restored. But between now and November, when Honduran elections are scheduled, and even more between now and January, when the new president takes office, is a very long time for the country to be in limbo, limping along with greatly reduced support. It’s not as though Honduras has any reserves to speak of, and it was suffering from reduced remittances from relatives in the US already. So the tight economy is being squeezed even tighter. Yet, outside the capital, the situation seems to have calmed. Despite Raul Castro’s recent outburst, accusing Obama of orchestrating the “coup,” and Zelaya’s continued travels around Latin America looking for support, the regional effort to restore Zelaya seems to be losing some steam. Even Chavez has been quiet lately, though maybe he’s scheming something and no doubt he is supporting the current stepped-up protests in Teguc. Obama’s neutral stance may be justified as a way to avoid further conflict. Let’s see what happens if and when the OAS mission actually gets underway.

Whenever a post of mine comes out with a grammatical or spelling error or improper spacing (a little tricky on this blog), I wince at the mistake, and beg your indulgence. Below, demonstrations in Teguc continue and Zelaya continues his travels around the Latin America.

Honduras protests continue, as Zelaya visits Chile
Associated Press
Thursday, August 13, 2009 4:36 PM

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Thousands of Hondurans supporting ousted President Manuel Zelaya protested in the nation's capital on Thursday, as a U.S. diplomat prepared to meet representatives of the government that has been in power since a military coup.
Zelaya, who was rousted from his home at gunpoint in June and flown into exile by Honduran soldiers, spent the day in Chile, his latest stop on a Latin American tour he hopes will solidify backing from the region's governments. Chile's President Michelle Bachelet received Zelaya with head-of-state honors and reiterated her government's recognition of him as the democratically elected president of Honduras. "We will continue to support all actions" aimed at restoring Zelaya to the presidency, said Bachelet, whose country saw a CIA-backed coup in 1973 that ushered in the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

On Wednesday, Chile refused to recognize Honduran ambassador Francisco Martinez - who has reportedly declared himself an ally of interim President Roberto Micheletti. The Honduras coup has been widely condemned around the world, and the United States and the European Union have called for Zeyala's return to the presidency. Micheletti's interim government has refused to consider Zeyala's restoration - which is a key provision of an accord proposed during talks mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Organization of American States, which has suspended Honduras, is planning a mission to Honduras in hopes of reviving that accord. In preparation, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Sara Mangiaracina said Thursday that a group representing Micheletti was scheduled to meet with Lew Amselem, the U.S. representative to the OAS. Mangiaracina did not know the names of the Honduran officials but said they were not part of the de facto government. She said OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza asked that Amselem meet with the delegation to further negotiations. She had no other details.

Zelaya recently traveled to Brazil, Mexico and other nations seeking support.
While Zelaya presses his case abroad, some 10,000 protesters arrived in Tegucigalpa on Tuesday after staging weeklong walks across Honduras, producing one of the largest demonstrations in support of the ousted president. On Wednesday those protests turned violent during clashes with police. On Thursday about 5,000 protesters gathered in front of the heavily guarded offices of federal investigators, demanding information about the whereabouts of 27 Zelaya supporters arrested the previous day.
The following is a press release from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, an organization under the OAS but separate from it. The commission will visit Honduras starting next Monday, Aug. 17 and will leave on Friday, Aug. 21. Members of the delegation are named below. They will be staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Teguc, taking testimony of human rights abuses related to the coup. (The Intercontinental is perhaps the fanciest hotel in the capitol.)

No. 58/09


Washington, 12 de agosto de 2009 La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos
Humanos (CIDH) iniciará el lunes 17 de agosto su visita in loco a Honduras a
fin de observar la situación de derechos humanos en el contexto del golpe de
Estado del 28 de junio de 2009, y recibir denuncias. La delegación estará
compuesta por la Presidenta de la CIDH, Luz Patricia Mejía; el Primer
Vicepresidente, Víctor Abramovich; el Segundo Vicepresidente y Relator para
Honduras, Felipe González; el Comisionado Paolo Carozza; el Secretario
Ejecutivo, Santiago A. Canton, y personal de la Secretaría Ejecutiva.

Durante su visita entre el 17 y el 21 de agosto, la CIDH establecerá su sede
temporal en el Hotel Intercontinental de Tegucigalpa, ubicado en la Avenida
Roble frente al Mall Multiplaza, donde la Comisión recibirá denuncias sobre
violaciones a los derechos humanos ocurridas en el contexto del golpe de
estado. Asimismo, la Comisión Interamericana se trasladará a diferentes
regiones del país y presentará sus observaciones preliminares al término de
su visita.

La suspensión de Honduras del ejercicio de su derecho de participación en la
Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), decidida el 4 de julio de 2009
por la Asamblea General Extraordinaria de la OEA, no modifica las
obligaciones contraídas por el Estado al firmar la Convención Americana y
otros tratados interamericanos de derechos humanos. La CIDH continúa
procesando peticiones, casos y solicitudes de medidas cautelares de ese

La CIDH es un órgano principal y autónomo de la Organización de los Estados
Americanos (OEA), que deriva su mandato de la Carta de la OEA y la
Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos. La Comisión está conformada
por siete miembros independientes que actúan a título personal, sin
representar a país alguno en particular, y que son elegidos por la Asamblea
General de la OEA.

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