Honduran Prosecutor General Luis Alberto Rubi on Jan. 6 filed charges against six military chiefs in connection with the ouster of president Manuel Zelaya in June. The prosecutor general’s office filed abuse of power charges before the Honduran Supreme Court against armed forces commander Romeo Vásquez Velásquez (a School of the Americas graduate), air force commander Luis Javier Prince (also an SOA graduate), army commander Miguel Ángel García, naval commander Juan Pablo Rodríguez, high command sub-chief Venancio Cervantes, and brigade general Carlos Antonio Cuéllar. According to the charges, the six violated the Honduran constitution when they seized Zelaya and put him on a plane to Costa Rica because the charter prohibits the forcible removal of a citizen. The court has three days to decide whether to take up the case.
Zelaya remains in Honduras at the Brazilian embassy, which has been the scene of repeated confrontations between his supporters and the security forces. Last month, the Honduran National Congress voted 111-14 not to reinstate him. This followed a non-binding advisory opinion from the Supreme Court that Zelaya could not legally return to office. Zelaya’s return to power appears unlikely, as elections were held in November, and Porfirio Lobo is due to be sworn in as president later this month. Zelaya, along with the US, the UN, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union, maintain that his removal was a coup, while the interim government of Roberto Micheletti asserts that it was a lawful transition of power. (AP, Jan. 6; Jurist, NYT, La Tribuna, Tegucigalpa, Jan. 7*)
Zelaya dismissed the charges as a political move, claiming the prosecutors share as much responsibility for the coup as the military. From the Brazilian embassy, he told TeleSUR: “They are using a trick that is really aimed at preparing impunity for the military and evading punishment for the material and intellectual authors of this military coup d’etat.” (Espectador, Uruguay, Jan. 7)
US State Department diplomat Craig Kelly returned to Honduras Jan. 6 to make his fourth attempt in five months to reunite the nation’s bitterly divided leaders. “I thank the United States for seeking a solution to Honduras’ problem…and that the United States is interested in having Micheletti leave the post as soon as possible,” Zelaya told the local Radio Globo after meeting with Kelly at the Brazilian embassy. “Kelly assured me that his government does not support Micheletti and is seeking the possibility of the international community recognizing the new government,” he added, referring to Lobo. “Washington recognizes that I am president of Honduras,” Zelaya insisted. (AP, Jan. 5)
Also Jan. 7, the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) held its first march of 2010, bringing some 15,000 to the streets to demand Zelaya’s right to remain in Honduras without being subject to arrest, and to protest the de facto government’s decision to withdraw from the ALBA trade bloc. Chanting “Mel, amigo, el pueblo está contigo” (Mel, friend, the people are with you), the march covered six kilometers from the Universidad Politécnica to the Congress building, which was tightly surrounded by police and soldiers. (El Financiero, Mexico, AFP, Jan. 7)
* NOTE: All of these sources, including the New York Times, got the titles of the indicted generals wrong. World War 4 Report went to the Honduran armed forces website and got them right.
See our last post on Honduras.