Honduras: protest actions continue; compromise in works?

Thousands of protesters again blocked major roads across Honduras July 16 to demand the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. In a telephone call broadcast to protesters, Zelaya said: “I call upon you to maintain the resistance. Do not desist for a moment, or else Honduras is doomed [derrumba].” Meanwhile in Costa Rica, President Oscar Arias is proposing a “government of national reconciliation” in the dialogue he is mediating between Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti. Arias said both sides have agreed to the notion of a unity government that would include members of all political parties and serve as a check on presidential powers—and to an amnesty, both for Zelaya and those who ousted him. (AFP, NYT, July 16)

Fidel sees stalling tactic
Cuba’s Fidel Castro, meanwhile, accused the US of using the dialogue as a stall tactic. “It is obvious that each day of delay has a cost for the constitutional president and tends to dilute the extraordinary international support he has received,” the elder statesman wrote. “The Yankee maneuver does not increase the possibilities of peace, but completely to the contrary, it diminishes them and the danger of violence grows.” (Reuters, July 16)

John Negroponte, the former National Intelligence director and ambassador to Honduras, in observations on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s equivocal comments on whether the coup in Honduras was a “coup,” openly portrayed a stratagem to get Zelaya to abandon his proposed constitutional reform: “I think she wants to preserve some leverage to try and get Zelaya to back down from his insistence on a referendum,” he said. (CBS, June 30)

SOA training continues
The controversial US Army facility facility at Ft. Benning, formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA), is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it has suspended military ties. The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that US military aid and training be cut when a country undergoes a military coup.

Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), confirmed to the National Catholic Reporter that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school. “Yes, they’re in class now.” Rials said. Asked about the Obama administration’s suspension of aid and training to Honduras, Rials replied: “Well, all I know is they’re here, and they’re in class.” The decision to continue training the Hondurans is “purely government policy,” he said, adding that it’s possible that other US military schools are training them too. “We’re not the only place.” (NCR, July 14)

Two-faced Micheletti dismisses, fears armed rebellion
Asked July 15 about the possibility of an armed rebellion, Micheletti said: “I don’t think we will get to that point. Our country is peaceful. I don’t believe Hondurans will pick up arms to kill other Hondurans.” But he contended that some are trying to foment an insurrection. “This morning we were informed that they were handing out some guns,” he said, without providing details. (NYT, July 15)

Press under attack
Tegucigalpa is still tense a day after thousands of protesters marched on government buildings, including the Honduran Women’s Institute and the National Congress. At the protest in front of the Women’s Institute, local Channel 36 TV filmed one police officer load what appeared to be a tear gas canister and point it at a woman at close range. Channel 36 crews also interviewed several women who told of being attacked by the police—showing their bruises and lesions as proof. Shortly after broadcasting the footage, Channel 36 was taken off the air. When the station returned to the air and again attempted to broadcast the footage, the broadcast was again cut off. (SOA Watch, July 15)

Over the weekend, police detained six employees of the regional network Telesur and Venezuela state television. The journalists were taken to police headquarters for five hours and their passports were confiscated, Venezuelan authorities said. They were then taken to their hotel, given back their passports and told not to leave until immigration officials arrived. (Bloomberg, July 12)

Unfortunately, Telesur director Andres Izarra publicly rejected the support of the French-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which had issued a protest on behalf of the Venezuelan journalists. Izarra called RSF a CIA front and said he doesn’t “need any instrument of imperialism to defend” his organization. (VHeadline, July 16)

See our last posts on Honduras.

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