More and more, Hondurans on the ground are telling me they just want this fight to be over. But there has been little movement by the interim government, other than some general and contradictory statements. It does seem that this struggle has become a contest of wills between the two principal players.
Military asks Hondurans to find peaceful solution
By FREDDY CUEVAS
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 3:15 PM
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- The general who oversaw the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya implored all sectors of Honduran society to join in resolving the country's deepening crisis Tuesday, a message that seemed aimed at calming an uproar over a government order suspending civil liberties. Gen. Romeo Vasquez's comments on Channel 5 television came hours after interim President Roberto Micheletti said he would accept congressional calls for him to reverse the emergency decree suspending civil liberties that he had announced on Sunday. But little had changed on Tuesday. Two critical broadcasters remained shuttered and police faced off with about 500 demonstrators who sat in the middle of a street after officers blocked them from marching.
Micheletti also said he would allow an Organization of American States team whose arrival was blocked this weekend. The OAS hopes to persuade the coup leaders to bow to international demands they reinstate Zelaya, who was arrested and expelled from the country on June 28. Micheletti's backpedalling reflected the largest public show of dissent within the ranks of his supporters to date. Conservatives expressed fear that Sunday's decree would endanger the Nov. 29 presidential election, which they consider Honduras' best hope for regaining international recognition.
The message by Vasquez seemed aimed at easing domestic and international protests that escalated after the government imposed the restrictions in response to Zelaya's surprise return home. The decree suspended freedoms of speech and assembly and allowed warrantless arrests. Officials also closed dissident television and radio stations and expelled OAS employees. "I am sure that Hondurans will find a peaceful solution soon to the crisis we are facing," Vasquez said, adding that "All sectors of society should put aside their differences to unite the homeland."
Zelaya, speaking via telephone to a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York said the decree was proof that the interim government "is a fascist dictatorship that has repressed the Honduran people."
The interim government said the measures were needed to counter calls for an uprising by Zelaya's supporters ahead of the three-month anniversary of the June 28 coup. The reversals came in a roller-coaster 24 hours.
Micheletti first gave the Brazilian government a 10-day ultimatum to get rid of Zelaya - who has been holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa since sneaking back into the country Sept. 21 - warning Brazil it would have to take down its flag and remove the embassy crest. Then on Monday, Micheletti said he wanted to send "a big hug" to Brazil's president and pledged nothing would happen to the diplomatic mission.
Micheletti also announced late Monday that he would soon cancel the measures and that an OAS delegation would be welcome to help mediate talks scheduled for early October. Micheletti said his decision came after talking to congressional leaders, who were concerned about the decree's effect on the election, in which all the major candidates oppose Zelaya's policies. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who mediated U.S.-backed talks between the two sides, commended Micheletti for saying he would reverse the decree, but he criticized him for refusing to budge on reinstating Zelaya. Speaking at a business forum in Miami, Arias said Micheletti "has not moved an inch" in negotiations to return Zelaya to power with limited authority - a plan brokered by Arias. He warned that the results of the November presidential election in Honduras will not be recognized unless the terms of his San Jose Accord are met.
The decree was declared as Zelaya called for a "final offensive" against the government, and Micheletti said pro-Zelaya media outlets were calling for violence. One of the closed broadcasters, Radio Globo, was transmitting on the Internet Tuesday, a day after police raided its offices raided and confiscated equipment.
All the drama belied the fact that throughout three long months, demonstrations by both sides have been largely peaceful. The government says three people have been killed since the coup, while protesters put the number at 10.
On most days, pro-Zelaya marches have been accompanied by mocking "Goriletti" gorilla dolls dancing on poles, while the Jesus Aguilar Paz School band beats out a samba-like "punto" rhythm from Honduras' Garifuna region, sending protesters into hip-swaying dances. But in deeply divided Honduras, even the high school band is split: the more conservative horn section quit, while the drums renamed themselves "The Band of the Resistance" and have marched in about five dozen protests to demand Zelaya's reinstatement.
Honduras Coup Regime Suspends Constitutional Rights, Closes Media, Threatens Brazil
CommonDreams.org (from Center for Economic and Policy Research)
28 September 2009
WASHINGTON - September 28 - The Honduran de facto regime suspended constitutional guarantees to civil liberties, including freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, for 45 days on the eve of mass protests planned to mark the three-month anniversary since the coup d'etat against President Manuel Zelaya took place. The regime has also shut down Radio Globo, a prominent independent media outlet that has covered anti-coup activities and that reportedly has a journalist inside the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is staying, and TV station Channel 36.
"After 90 days and not one word from the Obama administration on the abuses in Honduras, it looks an awful lot like a tacit endorsement of the repression by the U.S. government," said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
"Certainly the de facto regime must have gotten the idea that they have a blank check from the Obama administration for any crimes that they commit. That's one reason they're doing this."
The suspension of civil liberties would last at least until just a few weeks before the scheduled November 29 elections, and is likely to further call into question the elections' legitimacy.
The regime also issued an ultimatum to Brazil over the weekend, warning the Brazilian government that it has 10 days to decide what to do about Zelaya, and a regime spokesperson warned that since Brazil broke off diplomatic relations with the coup government, it could remove the flag and shield from the Brazilian embassy, making it a "private office." Brazilian President Lula da Silva rejected the threats, saying that his government "doesn't accept ultimatums from coup-plotters."
In the three months since President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown, the coup regime has committed numerous human right abuses, including thousands of arrests and detentions, beatings, and the closing down of independent media. This has been documented, reported, and denounced by major human rights organizations throughout the world: Amnesty International, the Center for Justice and International Law, Human Rights Watch, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and others. Some opponents of the regime have also been killed, tortured, and raped, and Honduran human rights groups have accused the government of responsibility for these crimes.
Honduran Labor Organizer Dead After Tear Gas Attack
In These Times.com
28 September 2009
The tense standoff in Honduras has entered its second week. The latest phase of the crisis began last Monday, when the country's democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya, slipped back into the country last week after nearly three months in exile following a military coup on June 28.
Zelaya has taken refuge inside the Brazilian embassy, in the capital city of Tecucigalpa, from where he is calling on his supporters to rise up against the ruling junta and restore him to power. It's not clear from English-language media how serious Zelaya is about inspiring resistance, but of course, the junta is painting his utterances as incitements to armed insurrection.
Twenty-four-year-old labor organizer Wendy Elizabeth Avila died after suffering an asthma attack last week when police bombarded demonstrators outside the embassy with teargas. Avila's funeral was held yesterday; protest organizers say they will file charges against the police.
The entire country was briefly placed under de facto house arrest after Zelaya's return. On Sunday the regime asserted the right to shut down any media "offending the dignity" of public officials. A new curfew went into effect yesterday.
Amnesty International released a report last week detailing widespread human rights abuses by the regime against peaceful protesters.