The five generals who lead the Honduran armed forces made a rare appearance on national television Aug. 4 to explain their role in the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya. They repeated that they did not act to take sides in the political fight that has polarized the country, but out of obedience to the law, and that history would judge them as patriots. They denied that they acted in the interests of an “oligarchy.” They said that Zelaya was acting on behalf of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and had become a threat to democracy throughout the hemisphere. Said Gen. Miguel Ángel Garcia Padget: “Central America was not the objective of this communism disguised as democracy. This socialism, communism, chávismo, we could call it, was headed to the heart of the United States.”
Gabo Jalil, the vice minister of defense in the de facto government, said in a separate interview that international human rights groups have made baseless accusations that the military is using “death squad” tactics against Micheletti’s opponents.
But Edmundo Orellana, who was defense minister under Zelaya, expressed concern that the generals’ appearance signaled that the military, emboldened by its move against Zelaya, has decided to take more of a leading role in a government that has no legal international standing and only tenuous control of its institutions at home. (NYT, Aug. 4)
The generals’ denial of 1980-style repression came four days after Roger Vallejo, a teacher shot by security forces while participating in a July 30 roadblock on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, died of his head wound after two days in a hospital’s intensive-care unit. (Reuters, Aug. 1)
On Aug. 2, another teacher, Martín Florencio Rivera Barrientos, was assassinated by unknown assailants while returning to his home in Tegucigalpa from Vallejo’s funeral. Rivera Barrientos received 24 stab wounds.
That same day, several were arrested and reportedly roughed up by police as teachers protested against the coup regime in Comayagua and Santa Rosa de Copán. (Prensa Latina, Aug. 2)
Yes, it’s the oligarchy
The bishop of Santa Rosa de Copán, Luis Santos Villeda, in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service, came to the defense of the notion that the coup was on behalf of the Honduran oligarchy. “Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly,” he said. “But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That’s what they understand. They know he defended the poor by sharing money with mayors and small towns. That’s why they are out in the streets closing highways and protesting.”
He said it is misleading to consider Honduras a democracy, either before or after the June 28 coup. “There has never been a real democracy in Honduras,” he said. “All we have is an electoral system where the people get to choose candidates imposed from above. The people don’t really have representation, whether in the Congress or the Supreme Court, which are all chosen by the rich. We’re the most corrupt country in Central America, and we can’t talk about real democracy because the people don’t participate in the decisions.” (CNS, Aug. 7)
See our last posts on Honduras.