Honduras Coup

UPDATED 6/29/09: See Nicanet for reporting from Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and summaries of global press coverage, and NACLA for additional analysis. Highlights:

As of 11:15am, Caracas time, President Zelaya is speaking live on Telesur from San Jose, Costa Rica. He has verified the soldiers entered his residence in the early morning hours, firing guns and threatening to kill him and his family if he resisted the coup. He was forced to go with the soldiers who took him to the air base and flew him to Costa Rica. He has requested the U.S. Government make a public statement condemning the coup, otherwise, it will indicate their compliance. He said that he has not resigned and that until his term ends in 2010 he remains president of Honduras.The Honduran Foreign Minister and the ambassadors to Honduras from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua were detained by the military. The ambassadors, after suffering physical mistreatment by the military, were set free but the Foreign Minister, Patricia Rodas, remained in military custody.

TeleSUR showed footage of protesters at the Presidential Palace and other locations arguing with heavily armed soldiers, sometimes blocking their way or otherwise defying them. Ignoring a curfew imposed by the de facto government, the protesters said they would remain in the streets until Zelaya returns to office.

In the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, the second largest Honduran city, students from the University Reform Front (FRU) and others tried to proceed with the referendum, but soldiers stopped them; several students were arrested, and their parents were unable to learn where they were taken. There were demonstrations in the third largest city, the northern port of La Ceiba, where protesters scuffled with soldiers who were seizing election materials. (Diario Tiempo (Honduras) 6/28/09)

In the aftermath of the coup, electricity and cell phone service were cut, and those radio and television stations that managed to remain on the air did not report the coup. Some television stations were reportedly taken off the air by the military.

A little background:

President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya was elected in November 2005, on the Liberal Party ticket. The Liberal Party may be characterized as center-right. According to BBC, Mr Zelaya won 46.17% of the vote in 2005 to 49.90% for Porfirio Lobo of the ruling National Party, which controls the legislature and the supreme court. His presidential term runs for four years — 2006-2010.

Zelaya began moving away from the right after his election, as food prices rose and Honduras continued to suffer from extreme poverty and high crime rates. Almost a year ago, Honduras joined the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which also includes Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, St. Vincent, and Antigua & Barbados. ALBA opposes the U.S. Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposals.

This year, Zelaya proposed a vote on whether the country’s constitution should be amended to allow a second term. The vote would be advisory only, but could put his opponents in an awkward position if they refused to consider a constitutional amendment. The vote was scheduled for today, Sunday, June 28. Last week, the Supreme Court and the Congress both declared the vote unconstitutional. Zelaya said the vote would go forward and ordered the army to distribute the ballots and ballot boxes. When General Romeo Lucas, the head of the army, refused, Zelaya (who, as president, is commander-in-chief) fired him. The Supreme Court and Congress ordered Romeo Lucas reinstated.

Then, on the morning of June 28, soldiers invaded the national palace, seized and beat the president, and forced him onto a plane bound for Costa Rica. They also seized and beat ambassadors from Venezuela and Cuba and seized Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, whose whereabouts and fate are unknown.

Bloomberg reports that U.S. officials say they regard Zelaya as the lawful president of Honduras, and that they expect an OAS meeting in Washington today will say the same. Costa Rican president (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Oscar Arias appeared next to Zelaya at a press conference denouncing the coup, the first in Central America in 16 years.

The Honduran Congress named congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as president to serve until January 27.

Countries throughout Latin America condemned the coup. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez spoke strongly (as he usually does), and, according to AP, said Venezuela “is at battle” and put his military on alert.


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2 responses to “Honduras Coup

  1. Pingback: News Day: Policing smarter / Minneapolis redevelopment / Vallay Varro / Honduras coup / more « Mary Turck

  2. Pingback: Berta Caceres: ¡Presente! | News Day

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