Honduras - 100 Days of Repression and Resistance

Tom Loudon
October 6, 2009
Tom Loudon is co-director of the Quixote Center in Washington, DC.
Today marks 100 days since a military coup was carried out against President Zelaya in Honduras. It also marks 100 days of massive, sustained, nonviolent resistance on the part of the Honduran people who are saying no to this brazen attempt to return to the days of dictators.

photo: It has been 100 days since a military coup was carried out in Honduras. Supporters of the deposed president have faced increasingly draconian measures. (Photo: Yamil Gonzales / flickr)

In the face of uncontainable resistance, the coup regime has employed increasingly draconian measures. Most disturbing includes a resurgence of death squad activity, wholesale suspension of constitutional rights and the criminalization of social protest. Currently, over 80 people are detained and face charges of sedition. Conservative estimates document 14 murders in the last 14 weeks; two of those occurred during the last week.

Two weeks ago, on September 21, President Zelaya suddenly surfaced inside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Tens of thousands of supporters immediately flocked to the Embassy from all over the country to celebrate his return. The coup President Micheletti responded by imposing a 5 PM curfew, which thousands of people ignored, holding an all-night vigil in front of the Embassy. At 5:30 the next morning, police and military attacked the crowd with batons, tear gas, and other weapons. Two people were killed and many were injured, including broken arms and legs. Those arrested were taken to a sports stadium, where they were held for extended periods without food or water.

Twenty-four hour curfews were enforced for several days, making it illegal for anyone but authorized individuals to leave their homes. People responded to the curfew by staging neighborhood-based protests. These, too, were repressed, as police and Army went into neighborhoods, firing tear gas and chasing people down inside the homes where they fled.

Infuriated by Zelaya's return, Micheletti mounted a heavy military cordon around the Brazilian Embassy, cut off lights and water and subjected those inside the Embassy and surrounding areas to "sound terrorism." The government of Brazil protested the use of the long-range acoustic device used to send deafening sound waves and provoke hysteria, and demanded the restoration of electricity and water.

Micheletti then gave the Brazilian government a ten-day ultimatum, after which he promised to invade and capture Zelaya. Brazilian President Lula da Silva responded by reminding Micheletti that such an act on the part of the coup government would be considered an act of war. The president of Brazil also called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to discuss the crisis in Honduras. Micheletti later recanted on his threats to invade the Embassy and in an apparent attempt at damage control said that he would like to give President Lula "a big hug."

However, in what now appears to have been a targeted attack on individuals inside the Embassy, on Friday, September 25, several people reported similar symptoms: nasal bleeding, blood in stools, coughing up blood and severe throat irritations. It was first suspected that this may have been the result of a chemical weapon, however, symptoms did not affect everyone inside the Embassy. Further investigation suggested that these symptoms may have been caused by a sophisticated experimental weapon called a Maser. Apparently, this weapon sends a microwave beam, similar to a laser beam, that impacts the cell functioning of those exposed to its effects.

On Sunday, September 27, four of the five OAS officials who had come as an advance team to begin a dialogue process were expelled. Later that day, faced with increasing inability to contain mounting protests or to control the country, coup President Micheletti issued an executive decree suspending all fundamental constitutional guarantees for 45 days. Rights suspended include the right to assemble, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. The coup regime also granted itself the right to arrest anyone at any moment without reason or an arrest warrant.

At 5:30 AM the next morning, in what the resistance movement now calls "Operation Silence," troops surrounded and entered Radio Globo and Channel 36, the radio and TV stations with national coverage, and confiscated their equipment. The following day, the coup regime announced the suspension of Radio Globo's operating license, severely limiting national news about what is really happening in the country.

The same day that Honduran media outlets were being raided, an emergency meeting of the OAS on Honduras, scheduled to last one hour, ended ten hours later without reaching consensus, largely due to the intransigent position of the United States. The stalemate resulted from the US insistence that elections be held in November, while most countries in the hemisphere believe that conditions do not exist for free and fair elections in Honduras. Interim representative to the OAS, Lewis Amselem, stated that Zelaya's return was "irresponsible" and had "not served" the diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis resulting from the June 28 coup. Amselem repeated these statements to the press subsequent to the meeting, making it clear that his statements were not just made "in the heat of the moment," but apparently reflect the view of the Obama administration.

Amselem's statements lend support to many who suspect that the State Department continues to be unduly influenced by ultra-conservative forces (inside the Department), who, from the beginning, have supported the coup in Honduras. The failure to actually declare it a coup and lack of serious measures against the putsch government certainly indicate at best an ambiguous position, and, more probably, active support for the coup from within the US State Department.

In this context, pro-coup sectors are calling for a dialogue in the interest of reaching a resolution in order to move forward with the elections scheduled for November 29. On Friday, October 2, the advance team from the OAS was finally allowed into the country. Plans are in place for a high level OAS delegation, including Secretary General Insulza and as many as ten foreign ministers to arrive next Wednesday. It was reported in some media outlets that Ambassador Llorens conducted a meeting last week at the Pomerola Air Base outside of Tegucigalpa with "significant actors," including Secretary General Insulza of the OAS.

A number of informal proposals have already been put forward, including scenarios where neither Micheletti nor Zelaya are leading the country, a permanent seat in Congress for Micheletti, a blanket amnesty for all crimes committed by the coup government and a laundry list of things which are largely unacceptable to the tens of thousands of people who have put their lives on the line to insure that constitutional order be restored in their country. Despite an intense media campaign giving the impression that negotiations are underway, according to informed sources inside the Brazilian Embassy, Zelaya has not been a party to any formal negotiations.

Leaders of the majority of countries in the Hemisphere have stated that conditions do not exist for elections to happen in Honduras in less than two months. The independent party candidate, Carlos H. Reyes, who was attacked by police and had his arm broken, had surgery just this past week, and is far from being able to campaign even if the current state of siege ended tomorrow.

The only viable option to increase the possibility of resolving the crisis in Honduras is a negotiated solution that is acceptable to all parties, followed by a period where some level of normalcy is achieved. Only after this kind of cooling off period is it conceivable to think of holding elections. Elections under current conditions would insure that the regression to military rule, which happened in Honduras on June 28, becomes semi-permanent, and that the resistance and subsequent repression would continue.