Elsewhere dubbed Obama’s First Coup D’Etat, the Guardian’s lead article on the military coup in Honduras that follows here makes scant mention of General Romeo Vásquez’s earlier training at the School of the Americas, and the curious headline ‘Hugo Chávez vows to ‘bring them down’ after seeing Honduran ally ousted in military coup‘ appears to make Chavez’s comment rather than the coup the news. It will be interesting to see if this receives nearly as much attention in western media as Iran has, which is fast becoming the comparison benchmark when we see the blatant double standards and dearth of similar coverage accorded to Palestine and Gaza in particular; have a look also at Johann Hari’s coverage of the important uprising in the Amazon. Venezuelanalysis and Eva Golinger’s blog have extensive updates on the situation in English and for those in New York there will be a gathering in front of the Honduran Mission to the United Nations, 866 UN Plaza, today, Monday 29th between 3 and 6pm.
The army in Honduras has ousted and exiled its leftist president, Manuel Zelaya, in Central America’s first military coup since the cold war, after he upset the army by trying to seek another term in office.
The US president, Barack Obama, and the EU expressed deep concern after troops came at dawn for Zelaya, an ally of the socialist Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and took him away from his residence.
Speaking on Venezuelan state television, Chávez, who has long championed the left in Latin America, said he would do everything necessary to abort the coup against his close ally. He said he would respond militarily if his envoy to the Central American country was attacked or kidnapped.
“I have put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert,” he said on state television.
Chávez said Honduran soldiers took away the Cuban ambassador and left the Venezuelan ambassador on the side of a road after beating him during the coup.
Chávez said that if a new government was sworn in it would be defeated. “We will bring them down, we will bring them down, I tell you,” he said.
A military plane flew Zelaya to Costa Rica. CNN’s Spanish language channel said he had asked for asylum there.
Pro-government protesters burned tyres in front of the presidential palace in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and two fighter jets screamed through the sky over the city.
Honduras, an impoverished country, had been politically stable since the end of military rule in the early 1980s, but Zelaya’s push to change the constitution to allow him another term has split the country’s institutions.
Zelaya fired the military chief, General Romeo Vasquez, last week for refusing to help him run an unofficial referendum, due to be held today, on extending the four-year term limit on Honduran presidents.
Recent opinion polls indicate public support for Zelaya has fallen as low as 30%.
Zelaya told Venezuela-based Telesur television station that he was “kidnapped” by soldiers and called on Hondurans to peacefully resist the coup.
The EU condemned the military action and Obama called for calm. Honduras was a staunch US ally in the 1980s when Washington helped Central American governments fight leftwing guerrillas.
“As the Organisation of American States (OAS) did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Obama said in a statement. “Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.”
An administration official said Obama’s national security adviser, General Jim Jones, had briefed Obama on the situation in Honduras by telephone. An interagency team was following the situation and would provide updates to Obama throughout the day.
At a meeting of the OAS in Honduras earlier this month, Zelaya condemned America’s refusal to support Cuba’s return to the 34-member group. The OAS suspended Cuba in 1962 after Fidel Castro’s revolution.
An opposition deputy said the Honduran congress would chose Roberto Micheletti, the head of congress, as acting president. The decision was due to be ratified tonight.
The country’s supreme court last week came out against Zelaya and ordered him to reinstate Vasquez as military chief. The court said it had told the army to remove the president.
“It acted to defend the rule of law,” the court said in a statement read on Honduran radio.
Honduras, home to about seven million people, is a major drug trafficking transit point. The economy, which has been hit hard by the global economic crisis, depends on coffee and textile exports as well as money sent back by Honduran workers abroad. There was no immediate sign that the unrest would affect coffee production.