The People are in the Streets Demanding Liberty

July 24, 2009 § 11 Comments

Toncontin airport. (Photo by Neil Brandvold)

Toncontin airport. (Photo by Neil Brandvold)

By Neil Brandvold, who was at Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa awaiting the arrival of President Zelaya’s plane when the Honduran military opened fire on the crowd.

The democratically elected president of Honduras, Mel Zelaya, is currently making plans for a second attempt to enter Honduras since he was ousted in a military coup just under a month ago. Earlier this week, Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias proposed a plan to return Zelaya to the presidency.  Zelaya agreed to all conditions outlined in the proposal, including establishing a power-sharing government and holding presidential elections on Oct. 28, a month earlier than scheduled. The proposal was immediately rejected by the junta.

Zelaya has arrived at a Nicaraguan town on the border of Honduras with plans to enter the country by land, stating: “I have requested my wife and family accompany me, and have made the military responsible for any damage. I am going unarmed and peacefully so that Honduras can return to peace and tranquility.”  It is a risky move for the president and his supporters, especially considering his first attempt to re-enter the country on July 5th was blocked by the junta.  On that day, the military open fired on a gathering of upwards of 100,000 peaceful demonstrators at the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa and subsequently blocked the runway preventing the plane from landing.

I was on the ground, on the front lines of the peaceful protest when the military open fired on the peaceful crowd, killing several demonstrators and injuring upwards of 30 more.  The brutality of the junta was shocking.  Women and children were at the fence overlooking the runway, awaiting the return of their elected leader to restore their country to normalcy, ending curfews, media censorship and the violent police state the current regime has installed.  As we pressed up against the fence a loudspeaker echoed over the crowd speaking directly to the young soldiers on the front lines. The man yelled:

Please do not fire on any Hondurans. Your responsibility is to protect the Honduran people… Our president is about to arrive and the people will receive him.  We will not permit, for any reason, that they kidnap him again. So dear soldiers of our country, we have nothing against you; we have nothing against you…

With that the military open fired. The footage is shocking to watch — you can see elderly women stuck in front of the fence while soldiers fire indiscriminately into the fleeing crowd. Several brave Hondurans refused to run, and as the sound of machine guns rang out and teargas filled the air they retaliated by throwing rocks while the blood of their fellow Hondurans flowed in the streets.

The junta tested the will of the Honduran people that Sunday. But after being shot at and teargassed, and after their fellow Hondurans were brutally murdered for demanding justice, the Honduran people remained in the streets. I was with them as they defiantly stood in front of the military blockade at the entrance to the Toncontin airport and watched the president circle above the airport.  Everyone, with tears in their eyes and fists in the air began to sing the Honduran national anthem:

To guard this sacred emblem
We shall march, oh fatherland, to our death;
Our death will be honoured
If we die thinking of your love.
Having defended your holy flag,
And shrouded in its glorious folds,
Many, Honduras, shall die for you,
But all shall fall in honour.

While much of the world has moved to condemn the coup and demand the return of Zelaya, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has refused to classify the ousting of Zelaya as a coup, and Clinton-insider Lanny Davis is now lobbying congress on behalf of pro-coup Honduran business leaders.  The U.S. claimed to cut military ties to the regime, suspending $18 million in military aid, but the National Catholic Reporter revealed that Honduran military officials are currently still receiving training at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. Most of the coup leaders were trained at the School of the Americas, including army commander and coup instigator General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, as well as several other members of the infamous 1980s death squad Battalion 3-16 who are currently taking top military and government positions in the junta.  One of the more notable of these is Billy Hoya, who is famous for coordinating and directing tortures and assassinations throughout the country during the 1980s.  Hoya has been taken on as special security advisor to installed Honduran President Micheletti.

As peaceful resistance continues to grow in Honduras in the form of strikes, roadblocks and protests, which take place in growing numbers across the country each day, the junta has increasingly clamped down on basic civil rights.  A member of the student group “Feminists in Resistance” recently told me that their dorm was raided by the military personnel who beat and threatened the lives of several members of the group.  Indigenous farmers continue to routinely shut down commerce on main roads by setting up roadblocks.  The military regime has established a 6pm curfew along the Nicaraguan border as it attempts to restrict the movement of Zelaya supporters, who are flocking to the border.  On the ground we found that Zelaya still retains popular support among the Honduran police and even lower ranks of the Honduran military.  Zelaya has said he will return as early as Saturday, and has asked the military to disobey any orders given by the junta to arrest him.

As tensions rise in Honduras, we can only hope for a peaceful return to democracy and that no more Hondurans will have to die in this struggle for justice.  The next days will be telling as Zelaya makes his return to the country.  Costa Rican president Oscar Arias has predicted that if things do not move forward quickly the situation will escalate into a civil war.

We can’t afford to remain silent and inactive as the people fight across Honduras for justice and a return to democracy. Right now there is a popular cry on the streets of Tegucigalpa, “¡Pueblo únete!” or “People unite!” The least we can do is join them in solidarity and let the people know we are listening, their struggle is our struggle.

Neil Brandvold spent several years living in Honduras and has traveled extensively through Latin America. He recently returned to the U.S. after joining pro-Zelaya protests across Honduras the first weeks following the coup. He works with the Middle East Policy Council developing resources for K-12 teachers on the Middle East and Islam.

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§ 11 Responses to The People are in the Streets Demanding Liberty

  • Heath says:

    Very good article, excellent work! I also hope that this struggle for power doesn’t end in more bloodshed. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next elections and how this plays out. All eyes appear to be intent on Honduras and the riots and possible civil war.

  • Patrick Currin says:

    Neil,

    This is the biggest piece of garbage I’ve ever read.

    For you people who don’t know, Neil stayed in our house here in Tegucigalpa and watched the supposedly “censured” CNN on our couch during this “coup”!!!

    Let’s think logically for one moment here:

    You say there were upwards of 100,000 people at that demonstration. You also mention that soldiers (junta, I love how you say that considering there isn’t a single military person in political power here) fired indiscriminately into the crowd. Hmmmm…. Let’s think about that. Military soldiers firing their automatic weapons into a crowd of 100,000+??? How is it only ONE person lost their life??? GOD must have been there providing an invisible shield!!! You’re lucky you survived!!!! These articles confirm only one person died. (there are thousands more, btw):

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1912324,00.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8135358.stm
    WATCH THIS VIDEO YOU WILL CLEARLY SEE THERE WERE NOWHERE NEAR 100,000 PEOPLE THERE, AND… SOLDIERS WERE FIRING THEIR WEAPONS INTO THE GROUND. THAT’S WHY ONLY ONE PERSON DIED (PROBABLY A DEFLECTED BULLET AND UNINTENTIONAL, and this is still unconfirmed. Old ladies? Note Honduran soldiers escorting one to safety)

    “Blood flowed in the streets??” I’d love to see you back up that comment with pictures… And no, bloody noses and scraped up knees DO NOT COUNT!!!

    The fact you say 100,000 people showed up for a PRO-Zelaya rally here is preposterous and a flat out lie. The largest PRO-Zelaya gathering here is lucky to have produced 10,000 people and that was the rally you attended on the Boulevard Morazan. How about you report on the peaceful rally PRO-Honduras that I brought you to that had between 50,000 and 70,000 people. Are you aware that this week 100,000 plus people showed up on the Boulevard Suyapa for a PRO-Democracy rally and filled up all the seats and part of the grass at the Estadio Nacional (National Stadium) at the end of the peaceful rally?? (btw, there were Zelaya supporters there throwing rocks at these people)

    http://www.latribuna.hn/web2.0/?p=22213

    http://babalublog.com/2009/07/home-of-the-free/
    (Please see first picture)

    I sincerely hope you are not pursuing a life of journalism as it can be easily demonstrated that almost everything you wrote here is completely deceptive.

    Neil, I like you and I appreciate the bottle of tequila you brought us.. However, this is a sad reflection of your ability to report truthfully…

    I hope you have the courage to post this and let your readers to “FURTHER INVESTIGATE” the nonsense you have posted here.

    Patrick Currin
    Peace Corps Volunteer Honduras 2004 – 2006
    Currently living in the Capital of Honduras with my Honduran wife and child.

  • DIANA FLORES says:

    Hola Neil
    Hi Neil

    Realmente me asombra que hayas publicado un artículo así. Ya que tu solamente experimentaste por una semana la cumbre del problema en Honduras. No obstante hondureños como yo y personas que viven aquí, hemos vivido el problema desde la raíz, el cual inicio con los atropellos de Zelaya, su abuso de poder, traición a la patria, violación a la constitución de la republica, y violación a la propiedad privada etc.

    I’m so shocked that you published such an article. Because you just experienced for a week the tip of the iceberg of Honduras’ problems. However, we (Hondurans) and people who live in here, have really experienced the root of the problem. Which started with Zelaya’s ATROPELLOS , abuse of power, fatherland’s betray, the Republic Constitution’s violation, private properties’ violation, etc.

    Yo con certeza te aseguro que Zelaya no ha hecho nada por este país ni por los pobres…sus seguidores son vagos, mareros y unos cuantos campesinos y maestros que se dejan engañar con un par de lempiras. Por cierto sabias que muchos de los manifestantes pro-Mel han sido arrestados ya que son de nacionalidad Nicaragüense y Venezolanos? y ni siquiera con este numero de extranjeros llegan a mas de 10,000 personas.

    I can certainly assure you that Zelaya hasn’t done any good to this country nor for the poor people… His followers are slothful people, gang members, and a few farmers and teachers who fall for Zelaya’s lies just for a few Lempiras (money). By the way, did you know that a lot of people of the Zelaya’s manifestations were arrested and turned out to be Nicaraguan and Venezuelan citizens? And not even with this number of foreigners they get up to 10,000 people.

    Por cierto, la protesta a la que tu asististe no era nada pacifica ya que se comprobó que algunos de los manifestantes portaban armas de fuego. Quienes anteriormente también explotaron restaurantes de comida rápida con granadas Rusas provenientes de Nicaragua “entonces ESTO ES PACIFICO? Por otro lado solamente una persona murió y aun no se comprueba si fue un arma del ejército o de civiles, ya que no es cierto que militares dispararon indistintamente.

    By the way the demonstration that you went to, wasn’t pacific at all because is already proved that some of the demonstrators brought guns. These same people days before exploded some fast food’s restaurants with Russian bombs provided by Nicaraguans. So, IS THIS PEACEFUL? On the other hand only one young guy died and hasn’t being confirmed if a military or a civil weapon killed him. Because it is also false that the military shoot indiscriminately.

    No obstante, aproximadamente 100,000 personas si se reunieron pero en contra de Zelaya quienes fueron apedreados y molestados por los vándalos Melistas o pro-Mel.

    However , approximately 100,000 people did got together last week in a peaceful demonstration against Zelaya who were bothered and also stone by vandals pro-Mel.

    Yo asisto a una Universidad pública y solamente los estudiantes más haraganes y vagos que por todo protestan y se toman la Universidad son los que apoyan a Mel. Ellos apoyan cualquier causa estúpida que se les venga en gana.

    I attend a public university here in Honduras and I can assure you my friend that only the laziest and vague students, who complain about everything and utilize the University to support any stupid cause obligating students and teachers to abandon the university making us lose weeks of classes, are the ones that support Mel Zelaya.

    Yo vengo de una familia pobre y luchadora y yo y mi gente si llevamos las cicatrices del daño irreparable que Mel Zelaya ha causado a nuestro país por causa de sus burradas y su amistad ambiciosa con Hugo Chavez, Ortega y Fidel Castro. Quienes querían convertir a Honduras en la otra Cuba de C.A. Pero los hondureños fuimos valientes en repudiar tal plan malintencionado. Además Zelaya es tan solo un títere de estos payasos.

    I come from a poor and hard working family and my people and I do carry scars of the irreparable damage that Mel Zelaya brought to our Country because of his stupid ideals and his ambitious friendship with Chavez, Ortega, Evo Morales and Fidel Castro, who wanted to convert Honduras into the other Cuba of C.A. But WE (HONDURANS) were brave and repudiated their malicious plan. Mel Zelaya is just a puppet of those people.

    Los hondureños no tenemos riqueza, pero si tenemos coraje de botar a cualquiera que traicione a nuestra querida patria. VIVA HONDURAS, FUERA ZELAYA…
    We (HONDURANS) don’t have much wealth, but we do have courage to kick out anyone who betrayed our dearest fatherland. (VIVA Honduras!!!) GET OUT MEL ZELAYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ven a vivir en mi país, para que realmente experimentes los problemas que a diario se viven. Ya que otros presidentes han jodido este país en el pasado pero Zelaya se lucio mil veces más que aquellos otros corruptos especialmente por ser un traidor.

    Come to live in my country , and you will really experience the real daily problems that we have in here. On the other hand, many other presidents in the past have ruined this Country but ZELAYA he really shined a thousand times doing it especially because he is a traitor.

    Por cierto tu visita en mi casa fue muy agradable y estaba buenísima la botella de Tequila que me trajiste. Gracias

    By the way, your visit was enjoyable thanks for the tequila bottle you brought us.

    Diana Flores de Currin
    Hondureña (Honduran)

    • Marcela says:

      Honduras un pais pequeño pero lleno de muchas bellezas. Actualmete estamos viviendo una etapa critica para el pueblo, una etapa dolorosa y llena de muchos sufrimientos, una represion en los derechos que poseemos como pueblo, muchos grupos hablan de lo mejor para Honduras pero no miran el sufrimiento de la clase sencilla y sin oportunidades para salir adelante, acusan a esta clase de ser inculta,vandalos e incluso los humillan por defender lo que creen que es justo.
      Hay algo que aun no comprendo porque hablan de que esta bien nuestro pueblo y que se respeta la constitucion de la republica y estan ocultando y manipulando la informacion a su conveniencia, juegan con la dignidad y el hambre de las personas basta de manipular al pueblo. Porque hablan de respeto y de cumplimiento a las leyes?, porque no dejan al pueblo expresar sus deseos?. porque no dejan al pueblo luchar por lo que creen que es justo?, porque reprimen las protestas y marchas?, quieren tapar el sol con un dedo y como dicen en un canto de las protestas:”No somos cinco ni cien periodistas cuentenos bien”, una gran cantidad de personas luchan por lo que creen que es correcto, en un extremo de la sociedad hondureña se proteje a quienes andan el las calles protestando y los cuidan mientras protesta por “la Paz” y en el otro extremo estan las personas adoloridas, reprimidas y maltratadas que no toman en cuenta,Esas personas para los que no saben tambien es pueblo tambien son Hondureños!!!
      Es increible como pueden privar a un departamento llamado el Paraiso que es fronterizo con Nicaragua por 80 hrs hasta hoy! estando en toque de queda y no dejan pasar nada ni a nadie para que puedan alimentar las personas que luchan en busca de su democracia, ese es el gobierno bueno y perfecto que nos llevara al triunfo???? Estan violando nuestros derechos nuestra libertad de escoger y expresarnos libremente.
      Somos un pueblo con sed justicia, somos un pueblo indignado. No es posible que empresas de gran nombre en el pais tambien se dejen manipular, e incluso es triste que dirigentes religiosos se atrevan a parcializarse con un solo grupo cuando se les olvida que en sus congregaciones existen todo tipo de pensamientos hasta en esto quieren abrir un avismo.
      No es posible que no dejen circular ni a la familia de Zelaya Rosales, para que lleguen a estar con el. Realmente como Hondureña solo puedo pedir a mi pueblo que abra los ojos y que dejemos de ser titeres de la clase de poder de Nuestro pais, es cierto cada quien piensa diferente pero ambos nos merecemos el Respeto y la libertad de opinion y decision, y de luchar por nuestros Derechos y por lo que creemos una causa Justa! Yo si quiero DEMOCRACIA, y JUSTICIA.
      Que no te tapen los ojos
      ojo con la corrupción……
      es mas lo bueno que aquí tenemos
      mas los que queremos creemos en esta tierra
      es una bendición.
      Mira ah honduras con otros ojos
      que esta es tu tierra
      descubrí que al mirarla con otros ojos vas a merecerla
      Honduras MERECETELA!!!

  • FromSouth says:

    It did seem to me that Neil’s report of events was too far away from what I’ve been reading from other mainstream sources. Granted mainstream sources normally tend to stick to the party line – better understood on Clinton’s doubt on whether to call it or not a “coup”. But such a dissonance was surprising. Normally there would be at least hints of massacres on the mainstream.

    From all of my ignorance of facts on the ground I guess I can contribute as being an accurate representation of the average misinformed “Joe”. That been said, here is what’s a bit fishy about the claims made by Neil’s denouncers.

    I don’t understand how a preemptive unconstitutionality can be legitimated by threat of unconstitutionality. I can’t see how pushing for a referendum can be regarded as treason in any democracy. And even if it is, I have no clue what is written on the Honduran Constitution, kidnapping the president in the middle of the night doesn’t seem like the execution of sentence originated from due process of law according to the best practices – or any odd practice – in countries where State’s Right is in place. Not that I ever read or heard anything of a legal process condemning Zelaya. As far as I can tell, the current Junta (or not) – the choice of what to call it is rather aesthetic than ethic after all they are fully backed by the military – is by normal standards illegitimate. Again, maybe it is still legitimate to oust a president in Honduras by Supreme Court determination. Rousseau might’ve been very amused by this interpretation.

    Here I come to my point. If the current government is illegitimate it shouldn’t really matter whether one person or ten was killed “accidentally” protesting Zelaya’s return. There is no grounds in which one could stand to defend the actions of the army whether they were shooting at or near people. The army should not have been in the airport in the first place. The protestors should’ve not been there also, whether 10 or 10.000.

    However, if these people take on power was legitimate – within previsions of the Honduran Constitution – I don’t mean to be condescending, but God help the Hondurans!

    So, who is full of shit? Neil or the Hondurans denouncing him? Or maybe both?

  • Patrick Currin says:

    I will post two of the best informed posting I have seen on different blogs, both by Honduras who actually “KNOW” their own constitution and are not using “maybe’s” to support their stance.

    Here’s number one written by a Bobby Galvez:

    “As to the referendum that Mr. Zelaya was intending to conduct, some quick background:

    Honduras has an Electoral Tribunal. It’s constitutional role is to plan, prepare, and conduct all elections within the country. This includes preparation of voter registration rolls, printing of ballots, safeguarding the ballots before and after the election, preparation and distribution of the ballot boxes, monitoring the electoral process, tallying the votes and reporting the results.

    Let me pose a question to you:

    Given the above framework, what credence would you, as a reasonable and intelligent person, put in a process that obviated the Electoral Tribunal? With ballot boxes flown in already assembled and sealed from a foreign country? With the ballots printed and flown in from a foreign country? With no electoral roll to check off a voter’s name after voting? With the ballots being counted by some entity other than the Electoral Tribunal?

    Is that an offense? Yes if the proponent is the president of a country who has been told by the constitutionally elected and constitutionally appointed officials of his government that this act as he proposes to conduct it is in violation of the laws. It is not the act which has been deemed illegal, it is the process which Mr. Zelaya chose to follow.

    This isn’t a Gallup poll we’re talking about. This is a “non-binding” referendum that would determine whether or not there would be an additional urn at the November elections where voters could state whether or not they would like a new constitution and also to allow the re-election of the president. If the results of this “non-binding” referendum would bring a new and crucial element to the voters as soon as November, how “non-binding” is it in the eyes of a reasonable and intelligent person?

    If the result of the referendum was “yes,” there would be voting on those two issues. Period. It would not be debated, it would be a fait accompli. A case of “Heads I win, tails you lose.” How non-binding is that?

    The majority of the constitutionally elected and constitutionally appointed government of Honduras refused to be drawn in to the “opera buffa.” A much larger segment of the Honduran population has voiced opposition to the initiative than that which has voiced support.

    What has happened is that a country has chosen to risk international opprobrium and rid itself of a rogue man in power. A country has chosen to be itself, to self-determine rather than to be managed as a puppet state of Hugo Chavez and turned into a communist regime in the Cuban model – as has been expressed openly by Mr. Zelaya on more than one occasion.

    To answer your question about what article of the constitution allows the military to roust a president out of bed, expel him and take over civilian administration of the nation, the answer is twofold:

    1.- the military did not act on their own initiative, they were acting under an order of a court with legal jusrisdiction.

    2.- The military has not taken control of the civilian administration. As an intelligent man you’re ptobably aware of that fact from reading the news – but it’s easier to choose to represent the matter otherwise because it’s more convenient to arrange the data to fit your preconceived view, isn’t it?”

  • Patrick Currin says:

    This is the second one written by a Honduran, Octavio Sanchez:

    “Sometimes, the whole world prefers a lie to the truth. The White House, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and much of the media have condemned the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya this past weekend as a coup d’état.

    That is nonsense.

    In fact, what happened here is nothing short of the triumph of the rule of law.

    To understand recent events, you have to know a bit about Honduras’s constitutional history. In 1982, my country adopted a new Constitution that enabled our orderly return to democracy after years of military rule. After more than a dozen previous constitutions, the current Constitution, at 27 years old, has endured the longest.

    It has endured because it responds and adapts to changing political conditions: Of its original 379 articles, seven have been completely or partially repealed, 18 have been interpreted, and 121 have been reformed.

    It also includes seven articles that cannot be repealed or amended because they address issues that are critical for us. Those unchangeable articles include the form of government; the extent of our borders; the number of years of the presidential term; two prohibitions – one with respect to reelection of presidents, the other concerning eligibility for the presidency; and one article that penalizes the abrogation of the Constitution.

    During these 27 years, Honduras has dealt with its problems within the rule of law. Every successful democratic country has lived through similar periods of trial and error until they were able to forge legal frameworks that adapt to their reality. France crafted more than a dozen constitutions between 1789 and the adoption of the current one in 1958. The US Constitution has been amended 27 times since 1789. And the British – pragmatic as they are – in 900 years have made so many changes that they have never bothered to compile their Constitution into a single body of law.

    Under our Constitution, what happened in Honduras this past Sunday? Soldiers arrested and sent out of the country a Honduran citizen who, the day before, through his own actions had stripped himself of the presidency.

    These are the facts: On June 26, President Zelaya issued a decree ordering all government employees to take part in the “Public Opinion Poll to convene a National Constitutional Assembly.” In doing so, Zelaya triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office.

    Constitutional assemblies are convened to write new constitutions. When Zelaya published that decree to initiate an “opinion poll” about the possibility of convening a national assembly, he contravened the unchangeable articles of the Constitution that deal with the prohibition of reelecting a president and of extending his term. His actions showed intent.

    Our Constitution takes such intent seriously. According to Article 239: “No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

    Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says “immediately” – as in “instant,” as in “no trial required,” as in “no impeachment needed.”

    Continuismo – the tendency of heads of state to extend their rule indefinitely – has been the lifeblood of Latin America’s authoritarian tradition. The Constitution’s provision of instant sanction might sound draconian, but every Latin American democrat knows how much of a threat to our fragile democracies continuismo presents. In Latin America, chiefs of state have often been above the law. The instant sanction of the supreme law has successfully prevented the possibility of a new Honduran continuismo.

    The Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya’s arrest for disobeying several court orders compelling him to obey the Constitution. He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day.

    Don’t believe the coup myth. The Honduran military acted entirely within the bounds of the Constitution. The military gained nothing but the respect of the nation by its actions.

    I am extremely proud of my compatriots. Finally, we have decided to stand up and become a country of laws, not men. From now on, here in Honduras, no one will be above the law.”

  • FromSouth says:

    Thank you for answering.

    One critical thing missing from your argument is whether or not it was binding is secondary to the very nature of a popular referendum. The bottom line is still as far as DEMOCRACY goes a referendum is still much more efficient than any amount of good will from elected officials and enlightened citizens alike.

    The bottom line is, one can’t possibly argue its interest in terms of a defense of democracy by denying a popular referendum to take place.

    One can’t possibly argue a popular support for the current government if the very idea of a referendum has prompted this reaction and consequent coup.

    Now it is more than clear to my who is full of shit. I do understand conditions in Honduras might be tough. But that doesn’t grant the more privileged the right to undermine democracy.

    in the history of Latin America there are plenty of examples. A this is Latin America coup-de-stat 101.

    Now I know who is full of shit.

    Thanks again.

  • Neil says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Patrick. You and Diana were, as always, tremendous hosts. While I may not agree with you on many issues I respect your thoughts and passionate responses.

    I came to Honduras with an open mind. I flew into the country out of concern for what was going on and a desire to gain a better understanding. I made every effort to hear all sides of the story. As you know, I listened to all viewpoints ranging from your beliefs on abortion and people who assassinate abortion doctors, to a discussion about the merits of Pinochet as a leader. While I don’t believe we see eye to eye on most political issues I went to listen and learn where people were coming from on all sides of the spectrum, and am grateful for the time I was able to spend with you, not only catching up but hearing your viewpoints.

    The first protest I went to was the one Patrick very kindly dropped me off at in support of the acting government. Yes, there was a sizable group there. I took many pictures and spoke with many people, I think this picture best shows the crowd:
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2427/3717047642_a7f0e72ee9.jpg?v=0

    That said, the numbers there came no where near the numbers that showed up to the pro-Zelaya protests on Saturday or Sunday. You can look through the pictures and see for yourself. I have video here showing the starting section of Sunday’s protests. I did my best to get above the crowds to get an idea of the number but could never see the end of people. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef28cUysA6I However, it was undeniably larger than the other protest, and by a significant amount.

    Andrés Conteris, the Program on the Americas director for Nonviolence International, was also on the ground Sunday at the Toncontin airport and he also confirmed there was well over 100,000 protesters:
    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/7/6/honduran_military_blocks_ousted_president_zelayas

    It’s also worth noting that the military and government were acting as escorts to the marchers who support the government. Meanwhile, the government was actively trying to restrict the movement of people coming into Tegucigalpa to join pro-Zelaya protests. Not only was I told multiple first hand accounts of buses being stopped and protesters detained, but there is video of the military shooting out the tires of buses trying to make their way into the city to join the pro-Zelaya marches.

    As far as Sunday is concerned, there are a few issues. If we are to believe the military and current government, the bullets they were shooting were rubber bullets. I’m still not sure how a rubber bullet is going to bounce of the ground and kill someone. I have multiple photographs I took of bullet holes covering the entire front of the Popeyes restaurant opposite the airport where protesters were fleeing for cover. Those bullets were obviously shot at the direction of fleeing protesters, and not at the ground.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3518/3716801637_7c6b542b3c.jpg?v=0

    If you look through my pictures there you will see, it is not just one or two stray bullets, the whole front of that building is covered.

    Also, there are the photographs of the motorcycle in front of the brick wall people were hiding behind, and it is covered with bullet holes too. In some of the videos you can even see that at one point it catches fire.

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2558/3717626982_cddd37900a.jpg?v=0

    The Honduran RedCross reported 30 people injured that day, not scrapes and bruises we spoke with journalists that night who were at the hospital and saw multiple gunshot wound victims. Yes there was blood on the streets. A lot of blood on the streets.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3511/3717620986_f2ffc60b94.jpg?v=0

    19 year old Isis Obed Murillo Mejías, was shot and killed, it is highly documented. We saw evidence of more deaths, and spoke with many people who said there were at least two more fatalities and possibly more. This is echoed in an interview with Andrés Pavón, the president of the Committee for Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh).

    Their also was an 8 year old indigenous boy who was killed as well as an older man from Cortes, and possibly more. For some reason their bodies never made it to the morgue. Why not? Well look at what happened to the father of Isis Obed Murillo Mejías after his son was killed, and he began to speak out against it – he was detained by the military.

    I realize some may not agree with my conclusions, but I am describing what my experiences were on the streets. I saw the misinformation that the local media was spreading; yes I witnessed the government cut into international news reporting more than once during my stay. If my information was solely based on reports from local media then I could see how I would have a different opinion, but I am explaining first hand what I saw on the ground. And it is completely backed up by my travel companion Dani, as well as documented in the footage we took.

    This is a report on the state of the media in Honduras while we were there from Andrés Conteris, the Program on the Americas director for Nonviolence International:

    “There was a journalist on Friday murdered after leaving Radio America in San Juan Pueblo in the rural area in the north. Then there are two journalists who are in hiding. One is the head of channel 36 and the other is the director of Radio Global. Other journalists who have decided to continue their programming are facing death threats. And fear and intimidation tactics. One journalist jumped three stories when the soldiers came to get him in Radio Global on the day of the coup. And the reason he did so is because he had been tortured in the 1980’s and he feared this would happen once again. Another journalist had his family threatened and just two days ago, his two sons on the street were threatened with a revolver a car with darkened windows on the street. Also a bomb exploded at Channel 11 in Tegucigalpa. The material damage was severe, there was no one else hurt. Other channels closed, I said channel 36, also channel 45. In terms of radio, Radio Global in Tegucigalpa is the station that is most been under attack. I mentioned a man who jumped three stories, the director is in hiding. Other journalists are under life threats. One of the radios stations in the countryside, Radio Progresso, this was shut down. Radio Progresso is a very, very progressive voice run by the Jesuit community. One station here in Tegucigalpa that carries the headline news of “Democracy Now!” was clearly forced to take headline news of “Democracy Now!” off the air because we have been reporting on the coup. So the press censorship has been very, very severe and intimidation and terror tactics against journalists have been in incrementing.”

    A democracy cannot exist without a free press, and the press is very clearly not free in Honduras right now, and that is undeniable.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/1122536.html

    While you may not like my observations, I am not alone in them. The Organization of American States (OAS), the UN General Assembly, the U.S. government, and nearly every Latin American nation have denounced the coup and demanded the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya. The international diplomatic response has been strong and swift, and the de facto regime in Honduras is totally isolated.

  • Patrick Currin says:

    Some quick points:

    1) I think this is a fairer picture of the peaceful demonstration I dropped you off at. Remember, I dropped you off at 10AM You took this picture before the demonstration had even officially started. The demonstration was not in full force until 1PM. You left to pick up your friend at the airport before 11AM. I’ll let your reader’s be the judge.

    http://www.heraldohn.com/Ediciones/2009/07/04/Multimedia/marcha-Historico-planton-a-favor-del-nuevo-gobierno

    This taken two days after Neil left. You should have stayed Neil. The pro-Zelaya temper tantrum did not last long.

    http://www.elheraldo.hn/var/elheraldo_site/storage/images/ediciones/2009/06/30/multimedia/crisis-politica-en-multitudinaria-marcha-celebran-que-honduras-salio-del-yugo-de-hugo-chavez/1460333-8-esl-HN/crisis-politica-En-multitudinaria-marcha-celebran-que-Honduras-salio-del-yugo-de-Hugo-Chavez_noticia_encabezado.jpg

    Central Park, Tegucigalpa June 30th, 2009

    2) I WILL cede you the point that there were a shitload of people at the airport protest,only. That was the largest Pro-Zelaya protest I have seen and it clearly demonstrates that between 50,000 and a 100,000 people COULD have been there (I cannot estimate if 100,000 people could fit into a 1/2 mile long street which is about 40 feet wide. What I can state is the PRO-Honduras, anti-Zelaya demonstration filled up about 7 miles of a street which is also 40 feet wide as confirmed in the picture I posted above: Boulevard Suyapa. Using your’s or Mr. Andrés Conteris’ mathematics of estimation would mean the anti-Zelaya protest on the Boulevard Suyapa turned out over a million people). However, it is worthy to note that this WAS and IS the only large PRO-MEL demonstration that turned out these numbers.

    3) I never said rubber bullets were being used. And your picture of 3 bullet holes in Popeye’s says absolutely nothing. If anything it proves that, as I had mentioned, the military did not shoot indiscriminately “into” the crowd. They shot into the ground and into the air (as warning shots generally are) as the video I posted clearly shows. An automatic weapon shot by several soldiers WOULD have in fact covered the “entire front” of the building as you mentioned. 3 bullet holes is not covered in bullet holes.

    4) As tragic as the death of the 19 year old boy is, it does not mean “blood flowed in the streets,” especially when were dealing with crowds of 100,000+. And the one picture you posted of his puddle of blood does not near justify the “blood flowed in the streets.” I will continue to wait for some real pictures depicting this.

    5) I will ignore your youtube videos nor will I take the time to translate the “chisme” these people are saying on them. Do remember one of those videos comes from Telesur, a state owned (Chavez owned) television station in Venezuela. Other than your account, not a single news agency, not even Telesur has reported the death of the 8 year old, because there is no death to report. His name please????

    6) It is true that in the immediate days following the ouster of the ex-president, that some channels were taken off the air. In addition to what Neil mentioned above the following were also taken of the air: Guatecanal, TV Chile, Cuba Vision, Telesur, and a few others. However, ALL those channels were put back on the air almost immediately. Even the channels who are most adamantly opposed to the interim government are on the air as we speak and have been for some time now. We even got to see Mel try to make it in from Nicaragua on Telesur (the most anti-Micheletti station there is). Would you say we are still without a free press??

    Whether or not I “like” your observations is irrelevant. What is relevant, is whether or not they are factual, and factual they are not.


    San Pedro Sula


    Tegucigalpa


    Tegucigalpa


    Choluteca
    (this video is noteworthy as 20,000 protesters in Choluteca a small city in Southern Honduras endured 100 degree temperatures to protest against Zelaya)


    La Ceiba

    The latest PRO-Democracy, ANTI-MEL demonstration:
    http://www.latribuna.hn/web2.0/?p=22213

    http://babalublog.com/2009/07/home-of-the-free/

    Neil, I think you should have stayed a little longer to see the perseverance and peacefulness of the Honduran people instead of just reporting on the hysteria that occurred on the immediate days following the ousting of MEL.

  • Patrick Currin says:

    And please don’t forget the reporters who were kidnapped and others killed who spoke out against Mel Zelaya before he was ousted.

    One of several Journalists who was kidnapped, killed, or intimidated.

    http://www.heraldohn.com/index.php/Ediciones/2009/05/16/Noticias/Condena-a-secuestro-de-periodista-hondureno

    I would post more but I am getting tired of refuting pure nonsense.

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