OAS holds emergency session on Honduras; Ortega fears “blood-bath”

The de facto regime in Honduras announced plans late July 3 to withdraw from the Organization of American States following a visit from OAS secretary general JosĂ© Miguel Insulza, who demanded the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. But the OAS—meeting in emergency session in Washington the next evening to consider suspending Honduras’ membership—maintains that the coup-installed government of Roberto Micheletti isn’t recognized by the body and therefore has no legal power to withdraw from it. OAS assistant secretary general Albert Ramdin told reporters that “only a legitimate government” can move to leave the OAS. (McClatchy Newspapers, July 4)

Speaking at the meeting, Manuel Zelaya said he’s optimistic and hopes to return the following day to his country—one week after he was ousted in a military-backed coup. On June 30, the OAS issued a 72-hour ultimatum for the Honduran government to reinstate Zelaya or face suspension. But Micheletti responded that the OAS “a political organization, not a court.” (AP, July 4)

Speaking to the press after meeting with Honduran officials late July 3, Insulza said, “I received a lot of arguments. But we consider that there was a coup.” Intent on not loaning legitimacy to the country’s new leadership, Insulza pointedly did not meet with Micheletti, who was sworn in as president hours after Zelaya was ousted.

Micheletti, clearly miffed, instead addressed a huge rally of supporters outside the president’s office. “I am a president of all the Hondurans,” he said, condemning Zelaya as a criminal. (NYT, July 3)

Meanwhile, hundreds of Zelaya supporters gathered at the Tegucigalpa airport to await the return of the man they still consider the country’s legitimate president. With banners reading “NO AL GOLPE,” they pledge to block any attempt by the security forces to interfere with Zelaya’s arrival. Zelaya supporters are arriving from throughout the country to join the vigil. (AFP, July 4)

Repression continues, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement saying it “is deeply concerned over the executive decree 011-2009 adopted by the de facto authorities in Honduras, through which fundamental rights have been restricted, such as personal liberty, allowing incommunicado detention for more than 24 hours; freedom of association and the right of assembly, as well as freedom of movement to leave, enter and remain in the territory of Honduras.” The statement included a list of 46 journalists and social leaders who have been threatened, detained or “disappeared.” It also protested harsh restrictions that have been imposed on the Honduran news media, including barring broadcast of statements by Zelaya and ousted officials of his government, the shutting down of TV channels 8 and 36, and “the alleged takeover and closing of Radio Progreso by military forces.” (IACHR, July 3)

Nicaragua into the breach?
In neighboring Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega said in a public address that the coup leaders in Honduras are planning to provoke chaos in order to “justify a blood-bath” before Zelaya can return to the country. He charged that the Honduran armed forces “are organizing paramilitary groups” and preparing to infiltrate armed provocateurs into pro-Zelaya demonstrations to “fire at those who are defending the golpistas, including the police”—providing the rationale for bloody repression. “I hope to God that tomorrow does not see the anticipated blood-bath, and that the president of Honduras…can peacefully return to the country.” (Nuevo Diario, Nicaragua, July 4)

These claims were echoed by Denis Moncada, Nicaragua’s OAS ambassador, at the meeting in Washington. Moncada said the de facto authorities plan on staging a series of attacks on their own citizens, police and military—in order to blame the violence on Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela, and “distract” attention from the coup. He said the Honduran regime has “prefabricated evidence” it plans to use in order to implicate Managua, Havana and Caracas in providing weapons to the Zelaya-loyalist forces. He did not offer details on the alleged evidence.

Moncada added that his government is seeking OAS aid in liberating some 70 Nicaraguans who have been arrested in Honduras over the past 48 hours, allegedly for their involvement in the protests there. The Nicaraguan government denies it is involved in the unrest in Honduras. (Nica Times, Costa Rica, July 4)

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