Reports: Two Military Battalions Turn Against Honduras Coup Regime

By Al Giordano

Community Radio “Es Lo de Menos” was the first to report that the Fourth Infantry Battalion has rebelled from the military coup regime in Honduras. The radio station adds that “it seems” (“al parecer,” in the original Spanish) that the Tenth Infantry Battalion has also broken from the coup.

Rafael Alegria, leader of Via Campesina, the country’s largest social organization, one that has successfully blockaded the nation’s highways before to force government concessions, tells Alba TV:

“The popular resistance is rising up throughout the country. All the highways in the country are blockaded…. The Fourth Infantry Battallion… is no longer following the orders of Roberto Micheletti.”

Angel Alvarado of Honduras’ Popular Union Bloc tells Radio Mundial:

"Two infantry battalions of the Honduran Army have risen up against the illegitimate government of Roberto Micheletti in Honduras. They are the Fourth Infantry Battalion in the city of Tela and the Tenth Infantry Battalion in La Ceiba (the second largest city in Honduras), both located in the state of Atlántida."

(You can see Tela and La Ceiba on the map, above, along the country's northern coast.)

Meanwhile, defenders of the violent coup d’Etat now have to eat the fact that their favored regime has extended its wave of terror to the press corps, censoring all independent media in the country, including CNN and Telesur. Reuters reports:

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras has shut down television and radio stations since an army coup over the weekend, in a media blackout than has drawn condemnation from an international press freedom group.

Shortly after the Honduran military seized President Manuel Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica on Sunday, soldiers stormed a popular radio station and cut off local broadcasts of international television networks CNN en Espanol and Venezuelan-based Telesur, which is sponsored by leftist governments in South America.

A pro-Zelaya channel also was shut down.

The few television and radio stations still operating on Monday played tropical music or aired soap operas and cooking shows.

At the White House this afternoon, US President Obama reiterated his government’s non-recognition of the coup regime. According to the White House pool report by David Jackson of USA Today (obtained by Narco News via email):

Obama criticized the Honduras coup as "not legal," and said it would set a "terrible precedent" for the region. "We do not want to go back to a dark past," he said. "We always want to stand with democracy."

If Rafael Alegría - a serious man who gets serious results - says that the highways of the country are successfully blockaded, I tend to believe him. He likewise is not one to spread rumors about the Fourth Infantry Battalion without having solid information.

It seemed inevitable that once the cat is got of the bag regarding the total international rejection of the coup d'etat that military divisions would revolt and point their tanks in the opposite direction: toward the coup plotters above them. We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of a short-lived coup in Honduras.

Keep refreshing the front page of Narco News for more updates, sure to shortly come.

Update: TeleSur TV is reporting that its correspondents in Honduras, as well as those of Associated Press, have been arrested by the coup regime.

Update II: Here is a fuller text of US President Obama's statement at the aforementioned press conference:

President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term. We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there. In that, we have joined all the countries in the region, including Colombia and the Organization of American States.

 

I think it's -- it would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition, rather than democratic elections.

The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions in Central America and Latin America.

We don't want to go back to a dark past. The United States has not always stood as it should with some of these fledgling democracies. But over the last several years, I think both Republicans and Democrats in the United States have recognized that we always want to stand with democracy, even if the results don't always mean that the leaders of those countries are favorable toward the United States. And that is a tradition that we want to continue.

So we are very clear about the fact that President Zelaya is the democratically elected president. And we will work with the regional organizations, like OAS, and with other international institutions to see if we can resolve this in a peaceful way.

(Bold text for emphasis.)

 

 

Comments

No more live feed from in front of Presidential Palace

The TeleSUR team that was arrested by the military is the team that was on a rooftop overlooking the streets in front of the Presidential Palace. They were there with AP reporters.  They provided a live feed from the violent repression that is happening in front of the Presidential Palace as I write this.

TeleSUR's live feed allowed us to confirm that there are injured people in front of the Presidential Palace, and we were able to see that the police are using tear gas and water cannons against protesters.

With their detention, the live video feed is now down.  This means that for the moment, the police and soldiers in front of the Presidential Palace can do whatever they'd like to the protesters, and there's no media transmitting a life feed of the repression.

Adriana Sivori, one of the detained TeleSUR correspondents, reports that she was detained with two other TeleSUR workers and 4 people from the AP. They were arrested by the military at gunpoint, put in a military vehicle, and taken to immigration.  Sivori reports that during her detention (she calls it a kidnapping) she and other journalists were beaten.

Sivori reports that she and the other six detained journalists have been released and are returning to their hotel.  It is not clear if they'll be able to get back to the Presidential Palace to continue their coverage from there.

I wonder

I wonder how the conspiracy theorists will explain away Obama's latest statement.

As a media savvy politician

As a media savvy politician making popular statements that have little practical impact.

The statements certainly have an impact...

...on the morale of the upper class coup supporters. They're exasperated, despondent, and losing hope and faith in the coup by the minute.

And that - the morale of each side inside the country, and the related will to fight on - is what decides these battles more than anything a foreign power does or doesn't do.

...

Yes, because the only access the Honduran Upper class would get to the single most important actor in their coup attempt would be through a press conferences 2 days after the fact. Claiming a lack of U.S. involvement is one thing, but pretending that President Obama is actually negotiating with the Honduran oligarchy through news conferences seems simply deluded.

the conspiracy theorists I meant

are the ones that claim Obama was behind the coup. So this is still true even when he calls it "illegal"? I am interested to see how that will be explained away

I am also not clear precisely what you expect him to do instead. What can he do outside of Honduras except speak and work with other countries towards a solution. I thought we didn't want him meddling more than that.

I agree with everything Al has written on this, the other positions do not seem at all logical.

Timing

Several thoughts.

First, we are currently in typical Obama mode.  Talk, but no action.  Will he actually take action to overturn the coup?  Since the Honduran military is most likely completely dependent on American aid, ammo and weapons, there are certainly actions he could take in cutting that support.  But, he says nothing about doing this.  Why not?  And, since we can spend millions in 'supporting democracy' in Iran, why not some emergency aid to the democratic forces in Hondurus? A few dollars and real assistence to the democracy forces would be big both in effect and in symbology right now.  But, from Obama we get talk only.

Also, in a big organization like the US gov, the Supreme Leader doesn't always know what's going on.  Especially when the people below him practice 'plausible deniability'.  And, with the comment above, are there portions of the US military and intelligence that are taking their own actions to support the coup?  If Obama talks nice to the forces of democracy, but does nothing real, while some in the US military and intel are still supporting the Honduran military, doesn't that all adds up to supporting the coup?

And, timing is everything.  As the coup falls apart, it is easy to decide to be against it.  It would have been much better if he had decided to make this statement as soon as the coup happened.  But he didn't.  Why not?  Is this is 'real' position?  Or is this just the position he's taking as he sees trouble for the coup and he's doing the CYA thing?  Can't tell.

They will certainly

make the case that Obama apologized yet again (in reference to the bolded part of his statement).

Re: I wonder

This is better than his previous statement about being 'concerned' even if 'deeply concerned'. There is still quite a bit more the US can and should be saying and doing. Lots more.

Is Obama behind the coup? Probably not. Is Obama being played by others to see who is really running things in the empire? Quite possibly.

On the right side of history, for a change?

A report today [excerpted below] from the American Forces Press Services is interesting indeed, if you read between the lines of the military speak.

Most important to note is that the U.S. forces are not pulling out of Honduras, but rather are "holding fast" and taking "force protection measures," which means they ain't budging and they are prepared for a fight if necessary — with reinforcements in the wings in short order.

The fact that this contingent of U.S. soldiers — only some 600 strong but representing the might of a vast army that dwarfs the firepower of the military coup — is there, with a mission to conduct joint exercises with Honduran troops, it's a good bet they have contact with those troops who are starting to line up against the coup

Because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the Obama administration has come out against the coup, then the U.S. troops still in the field would be on the side of Honduran military regiments who also are taking a stand against the coup.

And those Honduran troops who are standing up to this coup have to be comforted by the fact that their Yankee allies, in this case, are still in the field — with more muscle in the wings — to ensure "regional security" and to assist with "humanitarian relief efforts."

This purpose could never be admitted overtly by the current U.S. administration, due to the Yankee's ugly history in Latin America, but this might be the one case in the sad saga of gringo Gunboat diplomacy where the U.S. military is playing the right role, by its mere decision to stay put, in ensuring that power is being exercised in the interest of democracy — quietly, with a big stick concealed behind its back.

Food for thought at any rate, no?

From the AFPS report:

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2009 – American forces stationed in Honduras were not involved in the military coup yesterday and remain safe, a Pentagon official said.

Some 50 miles northwest of the capital city of Tegucigalpa, where President Manuel Zelaya was apparently ousted, the situation is calm at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras -- home to a 600-strong U.S. contingent, Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today. 

“The U.S. military is not involved in any of the activities down there and the situation is calm where those forces are located,” he said. 

... The U.S. forces at Soto Cano comprise Joint Task Force Bravo, which supports joint military exercises [with Honduran military], enhances regional security initiatives and coordinates humanitarian relief efforts. Whitman said commanders there have taken “force protection measures.” 

“As the United States is monitoring the situation, (the U.S. forces are) essentially holding fast where they’re at,” he said. 

[emphasis added]

 

Force Protection Measures

"Force Protection Measures" simply mean the units are 'hunkering down' in defensive positions.  With a violent and unpredictable situation outside their bases, they would go onto high alert.  They would be working on their defensive perimeter and closing off any access to their bases from outsiders.  They would be worried about things like either side in the conflict deciding they wanted the ammo and weapons on the US base, and prepared to repel anyone trying to get to it.

If you remember the US military bases in the US right after 9-11, and the way they closed access, had everyone armed, searched all vehicles entering etc, then that's probably what these bases look like right now.

It is not a sign of support for the opposition to the coup.  Its simply doing nothing and waiting to see what happens.

And remember, they have 'contact' with the entire Honduran military, especially at the top.

Flawed force protection

 

@Samson:

You offer a correction to my post:

"Force Protection Measures" simply mean the units are 'hunkering down' in defensive positions. 

From my post: [The U.S. troops] are "holding fast" and taking "force protection measures," which means they ain't budging and they are prepared for a fight if necessary....

Splitting hairs here aren't we — or do you consider a defensive position to be one that is not prepared for a fight?

And unless you have some special security clearance that provides you with inside knowledge, how do you know the U.S. troops' continued presence in Honduras [despite blunt words spoken by the U.S. president against the coup plotters, calling their coup illegal] "is not a sign of support for the opposition to the coup?"

Or how do you prove, as you said in the affirmative, that: "Its simply [meaing the troops I presume] doing nothing and waiting to see what happens."

Finally, I don't follow your logic when you argue on the one hand that the troops are there "doing nothing" and then in the next graph claim the following: "And remember, they [the U.S. troops] have 'contact' with the entire Honduran military, especially at the top."

Which one is it? Are U.S. forces in Honduras doing nothing, or are they engaging in some type of interaction with "the entire Honduran military, especially at the top?"

If you are offering a thinly veiled suggestion that U.S. troops are behind the coup, then why hide behind weaseled language like that? Just come out and say it.

But just so you know, it also would require high-level contacts within Honduran military units to have an opportunity to sway some colonels and generals [commanders of brigades and such] to pull away from the coup and move toward the positions of the democratically elected Honduran president and U.S. president and the world in general.

So, I do suspect there is some heavy-duty "intel" work going on behind the scenes right now in Honduras — from many directions and lands. The only question is to what ends — particularly with respect to the US of A.

Is it to advance the antiquated Cold War thinking of propping up puppet dictators controlled by oligarchs with soft constitutions and ill-gotten land titles?

Or is it, as the U.S. president said, to support authentic democracy in the region and the return of Honduras' freely elected president?

(That's the position I lean toward, by the way — given I think Obama is smart enough to realize that democracy, from the bottom up, has already proven to be a domino effect no oligarch can stop, in Latin America or elsewhere.)

In any event, please try to be clearer with your words, opinions [and sources of facts] as well as underlying intentions in the future. It will save me a lot of words on this end — though I am quite capable of employing them in the cause of "force protection" for my position.

 

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About Al Giordano

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Reporting on the United States at The Field.