Soldiers stormed the home of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in a pre-dawn raid June 28, placing him on a plane to Costa Rica. The Honduran National Congress quickly named its leader, Roberto Micheletti, as president after voting to accept a “resignation letter” supposedly written by Zelaya. A resolution read on the floor accused Zelaya of “manifest irregular conduct” and “putting in present danger the state of law”—a reference to his refusal to obey a Supreme Court ruling against holding a referendum on constitutional reform that had been scheduled for that day. Television stations are reported to be off the air, and electricity is out in parts of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Army troops have a heavy presence in the streets. Hundreds of soldiers in riot gear have surrounded the presidential palace; tanks patrol the capital’s thoroughfares and military jets streak overhead.
Zelaya calls for peaceful protests
Arriving at the airport in the Costa Rican capital, San José, Zelaya related his ordeal: “I was awakened by shots, and the yells of my guards, who resisted for about 20 minutes. I came out in my pajamas, I’m still in my pajamas… [W]hen they came in, they pointed their guns at me and told me they would shoot if I didn’t put down my cell phone.”
Zelaya called the action a kidnapping, called claims that he had resigned “totally false,” and insisted he is still president of Honduras. “There is no way to justify an interruption of democracy, a coup d’etat,” he said in a telephone call to Venezuela-based Telesur TV network. “This kidnapping is an extortion of the Honduran democratic system.”
Zelaya called on unions, workers and peasant and indigenous organizations to mobilize peacefully for his return. “I ask the people of Honduras to be calm, but for them to defend their democracy and their rights,” he said. “There are forms of protesting without hurting anybody… There should be demonstrations everywhere.”
US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on all political actors in Honduras to “respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.” (WSJ, AP, AP, June 28)
Indigenous movement faces repression
Protests are reported from across Honduras—despite a general occupation of the country by the military, which has established checkpoints controlling access to towns.
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which has mobilized in support of Zelaya’s proposed constitutional reform, appears targeted for repression. The home of Bertha Caceres, a leader of COPINH, has been under military and police surveillance for several days. As the coup went into action, leaders of COPINH have been pursued by the military in the street, and are in hiding.
On June 23, Fabio Ochoa, COPINH’s regional coordinator promoting consultations on the constitutional reform, was shot five times while leaving a television station. He remains in intensive care.
Some towns have declared that they will not recognize the authority of any military-imposed government. Some 25,000 have reportedly gathered at the presidential palace, despite the intimidating military presence there. (Rights Action, June 28)
Anti-imperialist bloc pledges to resist coup
Honduran soldiers have detained the ambassadors of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, along with the Honduran Foreign Relations Minister Patricia Rodas, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Roy Chaderton, told an emergency OAS session in Washington. (VenezuelAnalysis, June 28)
In a televised address, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez said Honduran soldiers took away the Cuban ambassador and left the Venezuelan ambassador on the side of a road after beating him. He warned that if his ambassador was killed, or troops entered the Venezuela embassy, “that military junta would be entering a de facto state of war, we would have to act militarily.” He added: “I have put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert.”
Chávez pledged that if a new government is sworn in after the coup it will be defeated. “We will bring them down, we will bring them down, I tell you,” he said. (Reuters, June 28)
Bolivian President Evo Morales also condemned the coup in strong terms, saying: “What is happening in Honduras due to the actions of military groups only contributes to discredit Armed Forces in countries in Latin America which participate in their people’s decision.” (Prensa Latina, June 28)
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa likewise pledged to resist the Honduran coup. A Foreign Ministry statement said Ecuador “will not recognize any government that is not that of President Manuel Zelaya.” (Reuters, June 28)
See our last post on Honduras.