Saturday 1 January 2000

Honduras: Street battles rage, coup tries to repress pro-democracy uprising

Australia’s Green Left Weekly is running ongoing coverage on the dramatic developments in the struggle for democracy and justice in Honduras over the coming days. Four reports, from September 21 - 24, are published below. Updates will continue on the GLW website. *** Honduras: Zelaya returns — the people celebrate Federico Fuentezs, Caracas September 21 — “Telgucigalpa is one big party”, said Dirian Pereira, member of the international commission of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras, speaking to Green Left Weekly over the phone from the Honduran capital.. President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, returned to Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Telgucigalpa. Thousands of people have gathered in the capital to welcome him back almost three months after the military kidnapped him at gunpoint in the early hours of the morning and flew him into exile in Costa Rica. Mass resistance on the streets from the poor majority, demanding “their” president return, has continued unabated since. From the Brazilian embassy, Zelaya called for the Honduran people to celebrate on the streets. The coup regime responded by announcing a curfew. “The people are totally ignoring the curfew”, Pereira said. “The curfew started at 4 in the afternoon, right about the time that most people are leaving work. All of this is a demonstration of the desperation of the coup regime that wants everyone to simply go home. “But the people are coming out of work and are not going to their home. “Many have gone to the Brazilian embassy to greet their president. It is a big party.” Pereira said people were flooding in from all parts of the country to hold for a massive mobilisation on September 22. “The buses that are arriving from San Pedro Sula, that are arriving from many other parts of the country, are being stopped on the outskirts of Tegulcigalpa. “But the people are simply stepping off the bus and marching together into the centre.” For the Honduran elite behind the coup, Zelaya’s crimes included increasing the minimum wage by 60% and blocking privatisations. His biggest crime, however, was to open a democratic process to change the constitution. Similar process have occurred in recent years in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador — with the poor and indigenous peoples winning many important rights for the first time. On June 28, a non-binding referendum had been organised that asked whether the Honduran people supported the calling of a constituent assembly to discuss, debate and vote on a new constitution. Zelaya had also developed closer relations with countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, joining the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alternative of Our Americas (ALBA) bloc. After almost 90 days of mass resistance and daily protests on the streets, combined with a diplomatic offensive to restore democracy headed by Zelaya and the ALBA nations, “Mel”, as he is warmly referred to by the poor sectors of Honduran society, has finally returned to Honduras. He is calling on the people to mobilise and ensure that legitimate government is restored. Asked what could be expected to occur in the next few hours, Pereira told GLW: “This is still to be seen, because the de facto government says that nothing is happening, that Honduras is calm and that all of this is the result of the curfew. “The curfew was enacted in order to intimidate the people so that they would not go and join those from the resistance front at the embassy. They did it to create fear in the population. “They say that they will not negotiate … but Mel has come with the intention of negotiating. “We don’t know what will happen ... but we are continuing to demand a constituent assembly.” A delegation from the Organisation of American States is set to arrive in Honduras on September 22 Honduras. The OAS has been promoting Plan Arias, drawn up by mediators, which would see Zelaya restored to power, but with his hands tied and forced to accept power-sharing arrangements with those who overthrew him. Pereira said the problem for the popular organisations and the National Resistance Front is that “the Plan Arias does not contemplate a constituent assembly. As far as we know, there is also a UN commission coming. “We will see what happens, but regardless the organizations are here demanding a constituent assembly.” * * * Honduras: Repression unleashed, resistance prepares more action Federico Fuentes, Caracas September 22 — The dictatorship in Honduras, which overthrew the elected government of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, has unleashed a wave of repression against the masses of people who have taken to the streets demanding Zelaya’s restoration. Zelaya, who was exiled by the military, secretly entered the country, travelled to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa and sought asylum in the Brazilian embassy two days ago. Masses of his poor supporters, who have waged three months of ongoing peaceful resistance against the coup, gathered outside the Brazilian embassy — defying the coup regime’s imposition of a total curfew. Dirian Pereira, a member of the international commission of the National Front Against the Coup in Honduras (FNRG) told Green Left Weekly from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa: “The repression has extended into the neighborhoods [of Tegucigalpa] and other parts of the country. “There has been repression in La Canada, which has a high population of teachers. Similarly in Cerro del Picacho and other places. “They are raiding houses and launching tear gas canisters everywhere, with is obvious affecting the population a lot.” Pereira said “some 2000 people were being detained on the outskirts of the city”, while around 150 had been jailed in Tegucigalpa and 50 in San Pedro Sula. Images are also emerging of large numbers of protestors being rounded up and detained in a soccer stadium in Tegucigalpa. The coup regime began its wave of repression around 4am on September 22 when the military launched a brutal attack on protestors gathered outside the Brazilian embassy. They had been gathering there since the previous day to welcome Zelaya back. The brutal repression forced protestors to leave the area. Soldiers then raided the two surrounding houses, blocked off all road access to the embassy, and cut off the embassy’s electricity and water. Tear gas has also been launched into embassy grounds and ear piercing noise blasted in the area in an attempt to force Zelaya out. “The fear is that they will attack the embassy ... they may even try and assassination Mel [as Zelaya is popularly known], although this is speculation”, Pereira said. In light of the “extreme repression, the National Front will be meeting in the next few hours to decide what position to take” added Pereira. GLW will report on the outcome of the meetings as soon as possible. The website of the FNRG posted a declaration at 11am calling on “all of the resistance” to participate in “a peaceful march tomorrow, September 23 at 8am in front of the Pedagogical University Francisco Morazan”. * * * Direct from Honduras: “There is a people’s insurrection” Federico Fuentes, Caracas September 22 — Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a military coup on June 28 and currently in the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, has told Telesur TV that the coup regime is planning to take over the Brazilian embassy at 11pm Honduran-time. He says they plan to assassinate him. Ricardo Arturo Salgado, a social investigator and activist in the Honduran anti-coup resistance based in Tegucigalpa, told Green Left Weekly over the phone from the capital that, “the decision we have all taken is to fight with everything we have”. He reiterated the information revealed by Zelaya, insisting there is “a plan to cause blackouts at 11 tonight”, which will be the pretext to take over the embassy and possibly kill Zelaya. The mass resistance to the coup has continued for three months, with daily protests, strikes and road blockades. With Zelaya’s return the Honduras, a desperate coup regime has significantly increased repression. The people are increasingly in open rebellion. Arturo Salgado said there was an “intense reaction on the part of the resistance in many zones across Tegucigalpa, in what we call barrios and colonias [poor neighbourhoods]. I would say that there are some 15-20 highly populated barrios that frankly find themselves in a situation of total insurrection, fighting against the police, against the army and even against paramilitaries. “We have evidence that paramilitaries are participating in the street battles in some of the colonias. “The police are trying to retake positions but the people’s insurrection is occurring in places that geographically are very far apart from one another. “In general, we can say that there is a situation of insurrection, with the advantage that in these moments the police helicopter that today was being used to fire against the people cannot be used during the night.” On the critical situation in Tegucigalpa, he said: “All the shops are closed and there is a shortage of food, of medicine. “At any moment we could see the looting of shops, because the people are entering into desperation mode. “Moreover, it seems that, although there is not as much news regarding this, that in the interior of the country there are strong insurrectional mobilisations in very small zones. This has to do with the tactic of protesting close to home. “The people are spontaneously taking the decision to resist and the line coming from the [National Reistance Front Against the Coup] was, for today, to resist close to one’s home.” “But tomorrow we are calling on everyone to march [in Tegucigalpa]. Arturo Salgado confirmed to GLW that the national front has called a march for tomorrow (September 23) that will start at 8am outside the Pedagogical University Francisco Morazon. Finally, Aturo Salgado called on all alternative media outlets to join the campaign of informing the world about the truth of what is occurring in Honduras — and in denouncing the murderous plans of the coup regime. *** Honduras: Street battles rage as military attacks pro-democracy uprising Federico Fuentes, Caracas September 24 — Street battles are continuing to rage late into the night of September 23 in the poor neighborhoods of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, after a day marked by a brutal military and police attack on a massive demonstration in support of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya, whose pro-poor policies outraged the Honduran elite and US corporations, was overthrown in a June 28 military coup and exiled to Costa Rica. On September 21, Zelaya stunned the world by announcing he had re-entered Honduras and was inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. This announcement — after 88 straight days of resistance to the coup with strikes, protests and road blockades by the poor majority —set off a renewed wave of mobilisations across the country to demand Zelaya’s reinstatement as the legitimate president. As battles between unarmed protesters and heavily armed security forces raged on Honduran streets, world leaders condemned the coup regime at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. However, while governments from across the world called for the immediate restitution of Zelaya, US President Barack Obama managed to go through his entire speech without mentioning the word Honduras once. This is despite the fact that all officers in the Honduran military, which carried out the coup and was shooting live rounds at unarmed protesters as Obama spoke, are trained by the US military. This military training has not ceased since the coup. The presentation of the public position of his government — which is desperately seeking a way to end the anti-coup insurrection that has broken out in the impoverished Central American nation —was left to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly. Dirian Pereira, from the international commission of National Front of Resistance Against the Coup (FNRG) , spoke to Green Left Weekly again over the phone from Tegucigalpa, sounding clearly shaken by the brutality of the repression metered out earlier in the day. Her voice trembling, she said: “In all honesty, the repression was extreme. There was no contemplation nor respect nor anything for human rights. ”The repression was extremely strong. “We still do not know what the coup regime aims to do with the opposition, because as each day passes, the situation becomes more and more intense. Each day is more and more intense.” Called by the FNRG , the massive protest that began at 8am on September 23 was a strong demonstration of the people’s will to see Zelaya, their elected president, return to the presidential palace. Due to a spate of lootings caused by the coup regime imposing a total curfew that led to shortages of food and medicine, the regime temporarily lifted between 10am and 5pm today. Pereira said: “The mobilisation was extremely large, making use of the fact that the curfew had been lifted. The people spilled out onto the streets en masse .... The police tried to provoke the protestors in order to create chaos, but the resistance ignored them.” The aim of the protest was to peacefully march to an area close by the Brazil embassy, where Zelaya remains despite the regime cutting off electricity, blocking food and firing tear gas into the compound. Gilberto Rios, a leader of the FNRG, told GLW over the phone: “When we got to the zone, the police, without any prior provocation on behalf of the protestors, began launching tear gas canister. “The march was quickly dispersed. Many had to be taken to hospital and a number of young people were arrested.” Despite this, the battle on the streets of Tegucigalpa continues. “Right now, throughout the night, there have been a number of shoot outs in the different colonias [poor neighbourhoods] of the capital”, Pereira said. “There are parts that are practically in insurrection, there are colonias that have declared themselves liberated zones. “They are well organised, they have set up three, fours layers of barricades to stop the police entering.” Both explained that the repression by the regime, which has left an unknown number of people dead and hundreds arrested, had increased support for the resistance. “Everything is possible”, Rios told GLW. “There is a strong feeling of rejection towards the Honduran Armed Forces that have been attacking its own people, similarly with the police…. “Where I live, the police came to repress peaceful protests and that caused even more people, who although against the coup had not joined the resistance, to join the street battles.” However, as the intensity of the situation mounts, “sectors of the population are beginning to feel that some kind of foreign intervention can prevent a bloodbath”. Rios insisted, however, that “for us, the problem must be resolved internally”. Pereira said the talk of possible foreign intervention was coming mostly from right-wing forces who are feeling desperate, as they are losing control of the situation. Rios said the coup leader Robert Micheletti “has explained it in the following terms: they consider themselves to be a ‘little Berlin’, they feel like the Nazis when they were completely surrounded at the end of the war.” The coup regime has shifted from arguing it was invincible to “now talking about how they are willing to die in the government palace before handing over power”. Rios had earlier in the night told GLW that the FNRG had not been able to meet due to the confusion and pace of events. However, Pereira later confirmed they had meet. However, for strategically purposes the resistance has not yet announced what its next steps will be. When ready, information would be conveyed via Radio Globo, Pereira said. Radio Globo has acted as a voice for the resistance and its broadcasts are often disrupted and sabotaged has by the military. Pereira called for people around the world to “remain alert to what is occurring, denounce it, hold solidarity actions and remain up to date on news coming out of Honduras, because here the news is changing from hour to hour, it is changing every little while”. Rios said: “All of this [international solidarity] is important for saving lives.” Pereira said: “I want to say to the whole world that we continue to stand firm resisting. We are not going to allow this to slip through our hands, because just now, we have the people with us.” From: Green Left Weekly.

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