Some 4,000 supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya blocked the main road linking Tegucigalpa with San Pedro Sula and the north of Honduras for two hours July 10. Juan Barahona, leader of the Popular Bloc that organized the action, pledged to keep up the protests until Zelaya is returned to power. Campesino leader Rafael Alegría said “we will maintain these actions as long as the dialogue in San José continues.” Pro-Zelaya protests were also held in San Pedro Sula, Choluteca and Puerto Cortés. A teachers’ strike in protest of the coup has closed pubic schools and universities. Supporters of de facto President Roberto Micheletti in the Civil Democratic Union also announced rallies the be held over the weekend against the return of Zelaya. (AFP, July 10)
The supposed “dialogue” in San José, Costa Rica, continued for a second day, although neither Zelaya nor Micheletti were in attendance, leaving members of their respective delegations to meet at the private residency of President Osar Arias. In an interview with the New York Times, Arias admitted both sides had come to the table with “irreconcilable positions,” and acknowledged that they had not moved much closer. Pledging “patience and perseverance,” he invoked his work as moderator of the Central American peace process in the 1980s: “No one knows Central American problems better than Central Americans. And no one knows better how to solve our problems than we do.” He added: “[T]he first step is always the decisive one. Our Honduran brothers have taken that step. They have looked in one another’s eyes and spoken honestly.” (NYT, July 10)
Ticos mobilize in solidarity
But in fact, Zelaya and Micheletti have thus far failed to meet directly in San José. Activists from Costa Rica’s Broad Front (Frente Amplio) and Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ) convened a large demonstration the night of July 9 outside Arias’ residence to protest the Honduran coup. “Micheletti is not welcomed in this country because he is a dictator and this nation does not receive tyrannical leaders,” said Sonia Soliz from the Frente Amplio. Some protesters burned Micheletti in effigy while deriding him as “Goriletti”—implying he is a gorilla—and chanted: “Honduras, hold on. The people will rise up.” (Inside Costa Rica, July 10; NYT, July 9)
Chávez warns of “trap for democracy,” sees more coup conspiracies
In a Caracas press conference, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez warned that the dialogue is a “serious mistake,” and “a trap for democracy and a very dangerous and serious precedent.” Calling Micheletti an “usurper,” he said the de facto leader should have been arrested upon his arrival in Costa Rica. He said that the dialogue could be “quicksand” for Zelaya. (ACN, July 10)
Chávez further warned of plans to carry out coups in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bolivia and his own Venezuela. “It is evident to me that there is a golpista plan in the works against the Guatemalan president. They are looking for Guatemalan soldiers who will follow the example of Honduras.” He called for an immediate and complete embargo of Honduras: “Suspending commerce with Honduras is a measure we have to take, by all means—sea, land and air.” (AFP, July 10)
US right squawks: “not a coup”
There does seem to be a concerted effort to get the coup accepted as a fait accompli. The New York Times touts a new CID-Gallup showing Hondurans “almost evenly split” on the coup. According to a face-to-face survey of some 1,200 Hondurans (where? in the countryside? just in Tegucigalpa? which neighborhoods?), 46% disagreed with Zelaya’s ouster and 41% approved of it. Those surveyed were more evenly divided on Zelaya himself, with 31% saying they had a positive image of him and 32% a negative one.
The Times also noted that at a subcommittee hearing in Washington July 10, several members of Congress criticized the Organization of American States for suspending Honduras not long after it lifted the suspension of Cuba. Rep. Connie Mack, (R-FL), urged the US to cut its support for the OAS, which gets 60% of its financing from Washington. He said its response to the Honduras crisis proves it is a “dangerous organization,” siding with Hugo Chávez in undermining democracy in the region. “What has happened in Honduras was not a military coup,” Mack said. “If anyone is guilty here it is Mr. Zelaya himself for having turned his back on his people and his own Constitution.” (NYT, July 10)
“Kafka in Honduras”
Grahame Russell of the solidarity organization Rights Action, responding to claims that the ouster of Zelaya was legal, notes a case filed in the Honduran courts earlier this year by the Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH), charging that a military coup was in the works and calling on judicial authorities to intervene. Other such cases were also filed in the months leading up to Zelaya’s removal—but were all apparently allowed to languish. (See HonduDiario, May 12)
Then, in the days before the coup, the Supreme Court received an accusation against President Zelaya. This was evidently rushed through the legal process—without Zelaya ever being able to see or respond to the charges. In his commentary, entitled “Kafka in Honduras,” Russell writes:
The Honduran Armed Forces (HAF) have no authority whatsoever—none, ever—to carry out detention orders of the Supreme Court. If there were a valid detention order (there was not), it would be the police forces that would have to be authorized by the court to carry it out.
Having said that, no detention order was even presented when the HAF broke violently into the President’s residence…
If there were a valid legal case before the Supreme Court (there is not, or if there is, no one has seen it), no detention order would have been issued by the Supreme Court. First, they would have issued a summons to President Zelaya to present himself, with lawyers, before the court to hear the charges.
If there were a valid legal case before the Supreme Court (there is not), if there were a valid detention order (there was not), then the authorized police forces (no police forces participated in the violent entry, only the HAF), would have brought the accused—President Zelaya—to appear before a judge….
Soon after the coup transpired, the pro-coup forces produced a letter of resignation, allegedly signed by President Zelaya, saying he was resigning for health reasons.
In Costa Rica, once left free by the HAF (in his pyjamas), President Zelaya publicly denied he wrote or signed the letter or that he was resigning. The letter is a forgery.
Having said that, if the HAF and coup conspirators had a valid resignation letter (they did not), why illegally and violently detain and deport the President? Why not proceed to have present [sic] the letter to the Congress and have Congress name his replacement, according to law?
(Rights Action, July 10)
See our last posts on Honduras.