Monday, June 29, 2009

Zelaya to Return to Honduras, with or without the coup's permission

TeleSUR 29 June, 2009 – The legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, announced on Monday that he will return to his country to finish his term as president on Thursday after a trip to the United States at the invite of the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel D’Escoto. He will travel with the secretary of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza.

“I am going to fulfill my mandate of four years, whether they – the coup-plotters – agree or not,” said Zelaya.

By invitation of Miguel D’Escoto [president of the UN General Assembly], the Honduran president will travel on Tuesday to the United States.

“I will return [to Honduras0 by the will of the protection of Christ and the Honduran people. I will return to my country, and I will ask the Organization of American States (OAS) to accompany me. This is an invitation offered by a Head of State and not because of pressing events,” Zelaya added.

Zelaya said that the coup of last Sunday represents a “violent backslide in an epoch of advances of social values in Latin America.”

Zelaya added that those who kidnapped and exiled him hoped to “deny the majority of the [Honduran] population of a better future.”

“We cannot allow brute force to rule over reason. We have either to return to begin anew or return to submit and succumb to force,” Zelaya said.

Zelaya said that the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called him on Monday to express his support against the coup in Tegucigalpa [the Honduran capital].

The Brazilian president also expressed that the entire continent was working diplomatically to return [Zelaya] to power.

In a press conference this [Monday] morning, Lula defended, “the isolation [of the coup government] in Honduras, for as long as there is no democratically elected president.”

“We cannot allow, in the 21st century, for there to be a military coup in Latin America. This is unacceptable. We will not recognize a new government. We need to pressure for the return of the democratically chosen government.”

During the meeting [Lula] said that the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, was in consultation with the Chilean ambassador in Tegucigalpa, a measure also taken by the governments of Brazil and Mexico.


As I noted earlier, member states of the Bolivarian Alternative Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) have cut off diplomatic ties with Honduras. Also, there have been reports that some elements of the military are refusing to acknowledge the new Micheletti government. This would be a key step, as it was in Venezuela during the 2002 media-military-chamber of commerce coup. More details as I can confirm and translate.

Coup in Honduras: Day Two

TeleSUR is reporting this morning that Honduran Foreign Secretary, Patricia Rodas, has arrived in Nicaragua along with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Rodas was kidnapped in the course of a military coup in Honduras along with ambassadors from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. All officials were out of contact for hours yesterday, which triggered Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to warn the Honduran coup plotters that Venezuela would take whatever steps necessary to defend its citizens.

The Venezuelan ambassador, according to a TeleSUR report yesterday afternoon, was later discovered on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, having been beaten and driven out of town.

In Nicaragua, leaders of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) greeted exiled Honduran president Manuel Zelaya late last night. ALBA nations will be meeting in the Managua along with representatives from the Rio Group and the Central American Integration Group (SICA) to discuss potential responses to the coup.

This morning there have been reports of massive anti-coup demonstrations in Tegucigalpa and a general strike has been called for by organizations aligned with Zelaya. The Honduran congress, for its part, removed Zelaya from power in abstentia yesterday afternoon and named Roberto Micheletti – President of congress and a member of Zelaya’s own Liberal party – interim president.

Every government in the hemisphere, the Organization of American States, the European Union and the United Nations have all denounced the coup and asserted that the only legitimate and constitutional president in Honduras is Manuel Zelaya.

Eva Golinger, live-blogging the coup from Caracas, reads between the State Department’s statements on the coup to find – at the very least – US complacence with the coup. The US and Honduran armed forces have a historically close relationship. Honduras serve as the “aircraft carrier that cannot be sunk” for war fought by the United States against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s Honduras, one of the poorest countries in a rather poor region, has been a key transit point in the hemispheric drug trade, and the US has deployed forces within Honduras as part of its ‘war on drugs.’ Finally, the military leadership of the coup are School of the Americas alumni.

As the current crisis in Honduras has been ramping up, the United States has repeated calls for a ‘peaceful’ solution to conflicts between Zelaya, the military command and the Supreme Court. Golinger asserts that the US could have effectively squashed the coup at any point through its power of the purse. For her, the Obama administrations equivocations during the past three weeks is a tacit approval of the coup plotters machinations.

The coup in Honduras has, if unevenly, been remarkable in the universal condemnation it has engendered. While the White House was initially tepid in its responses, by Sunday afternoon President Obama declared Zelaya to be the only head of state the US would recognize in Honduras. The region’s other right wing heads of state, notably Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, have also condemned the coup in unequivocal terms. Later today, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who is in Washington lobbying for a Free Trade Agreement between his country and the United States, will hold a press conference with president Obama. We should expect a bilateral statement against the coup at that point.

However, with images of blockades and protests around the Presidential palace (check out TeleSUR’s live feed here) the true question of this crisis in terms of regional and geopolitics rests more with ALBA , of which Honduras has been a member since October 2008, than with the already overstretched Empire to the North. Venezuela’s Chávez has characteristically been perhaps the most outspoken in his condemnation of the coup, and energetic protests in support of Zelaya have taken place throughout Venezuela’s cities. Chávez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa scrambled all but immediately to Managua to meet with the exiled Zelaya, but concrete steps have yet to take shape.

UPDATE: The ALBA meeting is currently taking place in Managua. ALBA member states have all recalled their ambassadors from Tegucigalpa and are breaking diplomatic relations with the Micheletti government. They are calling for all other governments and transnational organizations to follow suit.

UPDATE II: Excellent background and analysis by Nikolas Kozloff here. This should be assigned reading for anyone trying to make sense of events in Honduras and their larger hemispheric significance.

UPDATE III: 12:20 (PST) Live feed from Tegucigalpa outside the occupied presidential palace shows troops attempting to disperse protesters with (at least, from what I can see) tear gas and clubs, supposedly in anticipation of de-facto president Micheletti's arrival.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eva Golinger: Obama's First Coup d'Etat: Honduran President has been Kidnapped

Caracas, Venezuela - The text message that beeped on my cell phone this morning read "Alert, Zelaya has been kidnapped, coup d'etat underway in Honduras, spread the word." It's a rude awakening for a Sunday morning, especially for the millions of Hondurans that were preparing to exercise their sacred right to vote today for the first time on a consultative referendum concerning the future convening of a constitutional assembly to reform the constitution. Supposedly at the center of the controversary is today's scheduled referendum, which is not a binding vote but merely an opinion poll to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to eventually enter into a process to modify their constitution.

Such an initiative has never taken place in the Central American nation, which has a very limited constitution that allows minimal participation by the people of Honduras in their political processes. The current constitution, written in 1982 during the height of the Reagan Administration's dirty war in Central America, was designed to ensure those in power, both economic and political, would retain it with little interference from the people. Zelaya, elected in November 2005 on the platform of Honduras' Liberal Party, had proposed the opinion poll be conducted to determine if a majority of citizens agreed that constitutional reform was necessary. He was backed by a majority of labor unions and social movements in the country. If the poll had occured, depending on the results, a referendum would have been conducted during the upcoming elections in November to vote on convening a constitutional assembly. Nevertheless, today's scheduled poll was not binding by law.

In fact, several days before the poll was to occur, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled it illegal, upon request by the Congress, both of which are led by anti-Zelaya majorities and members of the ultra-conservative party, National Party of Honduras (PNH). This move led to massive protests in the streets in favor of President Zelaya. On June 24, the president fired the head of the high military command, General Romeo Vásquez, after he refused to allow the military to distribute the electoral material for Sunday's elections. General Romeo Vásquez held the material under tight military control, refusing to release it even to the president's followers, stating that the scheduled referendum had been determined illegal by the Supreme Court and therefore he could not comply with the president's order. As in the Unted States, the president of Honduras is Commander in Chief and has the final say on the military's actions, and so he ordered the General's removal. The Minister of Defense, Angel Edmundo Orellana, also resigned in response to this increasingly tense situation.

But the following day, Honduras' Supreme Court reinstated General Romeo Vásquez to the high military command, ruling his firing as "unconstitutional'. Thousands poured into the streets of Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa, showing support for President Zelaya and evidencing their determination to ensure Sunday's non-binding referendum would take place. On Friday, the president and a group of hundreds of supporters, marched to the nearby air base to collect the electoral material that had been previously held by the military. That evening, Zelaya gave a national press conference along with a group of politicians from different political parties and social movements, calling for unity and peace in the country.

As of Saturday, the situation in Honduras was reported as calm. But early Sunday morning, a group of approximately 60 armed soldiers entered the presidential residence and took Zelaya hostage. After several hours of confusion, reports surfaced claiming the president had been taken to a nearby air force base and flown to neighboring Costa Rica. No images have been seen of the president so far and it is unknown whether or not his life is still endangered.

President Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, speaking live on Telesur at approximately 10:00am Caracas time, denounced that in early hours of Sunday morning, the soldiers stormed their residence, firing shots throughout the house, beating and then taking the president. "It was an act of cowardness", said the first lady, referring to the illegal kidnapping occuring during a time when no one would know or react until it was all over. Casto de Zelaya also called for the "preservation" of her husband's life, indicating that she herself is unaware of his whereabouts. She claimed their lives are all still in "serious danger" and made a call for the international community to denounce this illegal coup d'etat and to act rapidly to reinstate constitutional order in the country, which includes the rescue and return of the democratically elected Zelaya.

Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have both made public statements on Sunday morning condeming the coup d'etat in Honduras and calling on the international community to react to ensure democracy is restored and the constitutional president is reinstated. Last Wednesday, June 24, an extraordinary meeting of the member nations of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which Honduras is a member, was convened in Venezuela to welcome Ecuador, Antigua & Barbados and St. Vincent to its ranks. During the meeting, which was attended by Honduras' Foreign Minister, Patricia Rodas, a statement was read supporting President Zelaya and condenming any attempts to undermine his mandate and Honduras' democratic processes.

Reports coming out of Honduras have informed that the public television channel, Canal 8, has been shut down by the coup forces. Just minutes ago, Telesur announced that the military in Honduras is shutting down all electricity throughout the country. Those television and radio stations still transmitting are not reporting the coup d'etat or the kidnapping of President Zelaya, according to Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. "Telephones and electricity are being cut off", confirmed Rodas just minutes ago via Telesur. "The media are showing cartoons and soap operas and are not informing the people of Honduras about what is happening". The situation is eerily reminiscent of the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Chávez in Venezuela, when the media played a key role by first manipulating information to support the coup and then later blacking out all information when the people began protesting and eventually overcame and defeated the coup forces, rescuing Chávez (who had also been kidnapped by the military) and restoring constitutional order.

Honduras is a nation that has been the victim of dictatorships and massive U.S. intervention during the past century, including several military invasions. The last major U.S. government intervention in Honduras occured during the 1980s, when the Reagain Administration funded death squads and paramilitaries to eliminate any potential "communist threats" in Central America. At the time, John Negroponte, was the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras and was responsible for directly funding and training Honduran death squads that were responsable for thousands of disappeared and assassinated throughout the region.

On Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS), convened a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Honduras, later issuing a statement condeming the threats to democracy and authorizing a convoy of representatives to travel to OAS to investigate further. Nevertheless, on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, Phillip J. Crowley, refused to clarify the U.S. government's position in reference to the potential coup against President Zelaya, and instead issued a more ambiguous statement that implied Washington's support for the opposition to the Honduran president. While most other Latin American governments had clearly indicated their adamant condemnation of the coup plans underway in Honduras and their solid support for Honduras' constitutionally elected president, Manual Zelaya, the U.S. spokesman stated the following, "We are concerned about the breakdown in the political dialogue among Honduran politicians over the proposed June 28 poll on constitutional reform. We urge all sides to seek a consensual democratic resolution in the current political impasse that adheres to the Honduran constitution and to Honduran laws consistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter."

As of 10:30am, Sunday morning, no further statements have been issued by the Washington concerning the military coup in Honduras. The Central American nation is highly dependent on the U.S. economy, which ensures one of its top sources of income, the monies sent from Hondurans working in the U.S. under the "temporary protected status" program that was implemented during Washington's dirty war in the 1980s as a result of massive immigration to U.S. territory to escape the war zone. Another major source of funding in Honduras is USAID, providing over US$ 50 millon annually for "democracy promotion" programs, which generally supports NGOs and political parties favorable to U.S. interests, as has been the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the region. The Pentagon also maintains a military base in Honduras in Soto Cano, equipped with approximately 500 troops and numerous air force combat planes and helicopters.

Foreign Minister Rodas has stated that she has repeatedly tried to make contact with the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, who has not responded to any of her calls thus far. The modus operandi of the coup makes clear that Washington is involved. Neither the Honduran military, which is majority trained by U.S. forces, nor the political and economic elite, would act to oust a democratically elected president without the backing and support of the U.S. government. President Zelaya has increasingly come under attack by the conservative forces in Honduras for his growing relationship with the ALBA countries, and particularly Venezuela and President Chávez. Many believe the coup has been executed as a method of ensuring Honduras does not continue to unify with the more leftist and socialist countries in Latin America.

Source URL (retrieved on Jun 28 2009 - 12:57):
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Translation and links: Coup d'état in Honduras

Given the rather wretched initial coverage of the US media (NYT and NPR reports that fail to include the phrase coup d’état, though CNN’s initial coverage looks downright exhaustive, if still one-sided, in comparison), I thought it would be worthwhile to translate TeleSUR con the developing events (original here).

President Zelaya is assumed to be in Costa Rica

TeleSUR 28 June, 2009 –

Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was taken to Costa Rica by the Honduran military in a coup d’état this Sunday. Meanwhile, Roberto Micheletti, the president of the Honduran congress, has declared himself interim president, an action which has been rejected by thousands of Hondurans who have taken to the streets to demand the return of the democratically elected president.

Honduran government spokeswoman Patricia Rodas informed teleSURE that she has information that president Manuel Zelaya has been presumably taken to Costa Rica. She emphasized that this information has yet to be confirmed, and asked [Costa Rica] to act according to the rule of law and notify the world of the president’s status.

Earlier, the president’s son Héctor Zelaya said to TeleSUR that his father had been forcibly removed from the country. He added that according to the latest information more than 200 soldiers entered the presidential palace and removed president Zelaya in white vehicles.

“In this situation the first thing we lost was communication. The last was that the president was removed from power,” said Héctor Zelaya.

He added that at time that he was speaking from a secure location.

The president’s wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, for her part, told TeleSUR Sunday morning that “in cowardice they took the president from his house, they beat him physically but they also delivered blows to democracy.”

“Today we ask for the freedom of the president, and we urge the Armed Forces to free the president and to guarantee his safety.”

She added that today, when people want to change the history of Honduras and silence the people, “I know that not a single Honduran citizen supports this military coup.”

Masked soldiers have since the early hours of the morning occupied the presidential palace. According to information specially obtained by teleSUR in Honduras, armed soldiers took the president to a military air base, but have yet to determine the exact location of the president. A government spokesperson has denounced the “kidnapping” of Zelaya.

Government spokeswoman Patricia Rodas told teleSUR “soldiers, including snipers, have surrounded my home…they have kidnapped [the president] and we don’t know his whereabouts…our houses are surrounded by the military and we have no idea for how much longer we will be able to speak,” said Rodas.

“They have once again murdered the hope of democracy, of equality, all with this sudden attack of terrorism against our people,” she added.

A popular inquiry to determine if Honduras should convoke a national constituent assembly was to take place this Sunday in Honduras with the opening of voting centers that had been established in the parks of this Central American country’s principal cities.

The inquiry, held after the collection of more than 400,000 signatures, has been a source of significant controversy amongst certain political and social sectors in Honduras, and is presumed to be behind the coup d’état against the president of this country, Manuel Zelaya.


Hmmm. Now NPR is reporting that Zelaya has ‘fled’ to Costa Rica. Disappointing stuff from the US media here, again.

Honduras was ruled by a string of military governments from 1963-1981. Throughout the 1980s, the country served as the United States’ base of operations in its covert wars against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, as well as the location from which the US intervened in the civil conflicts which engulfed Central American states for much of the later 20th century.

Zelaya has been a controversial figure in Honduras and elsewhere. He has aligned himself openly with the Latin American left, joining the Bolivarian Alternative for the peoples of América in 2008. He also has been noted for calling a change in the US 'war on drugs' to address the demand-side of the global trade rather than militarizing countries like Honduras, a major transit point for the hemispheric drug trade.