Coup in Honduras

School of the Americas-Trained Military Detains and Expels Democratically-Elected President Zelaya

Early this morning approximately 200 Honduran soldiers arrived at President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya's residence, reportedly fired four shots, and detained the President.  Zelaya told TeleSUR that the soldiers took him to an air force base and put him on a plane to Costa Rica.  

Zelaya told TeleSUR from San Jose, Costa Rica, "They threatened to shoot me."  Honduras' ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Sosa Coello, reports that the president has been beaten up.

Zelaya told TeleSUR that he doesn't believe it was regular soldiers who kidnapped him.  "I have been the victim of a kidnapping carried out by a group of Honduran soldiers.  I don't think the Army is supporting this sort of action.  I think this is a vicious plot planned by elites.  Elite who only want to keep the country isolated and in extreme poverty."

Zelaya fears for the safety of his family, who remains in Honduras.  He pleaded with TeleSUR viewers to seek a way to "have a dialogue with these soldiers so that they don't harm my family, so that they don't shoot anybody.  We can settle our differences through dialogue."

The anti-Zelaya President of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, has declared himself interim president of Honduras.  On the Friday before the coup, Zelaya called Micheletti "a pathetic, second-class congressman who got that job because of me, because I gave you space within my political current." 

Zelaya informed TeleSUR that he has not requested asylum in Costa Rica, and that he will return to Honduras as its president to complete his term, which expires in 2010.

Honduran Media Shut Down

Radio Es Lo De Menos, an independent radio station reporting from Honduras, issued a press release before its power was cut.  The press release states that several cabinet members have been detained, and there are arrest warrants out for other cabinet members as well as leaders of social organizations.  It calls on the international community to hold protests outside Honduran embassies and consulates.

TeleSUR reports that the soldiers have also arrested the Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan ambassadors to Honduras, as well as Chancellor Patricia Rodas.  The Venezuelan ambassador told TeleSUR that the soldiers beat him during the kidnapping.  La Prena reports that soldiers have detained at least one pro-Zelaya mayor, San Pedro Sula's Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri.

Cell phones are reportedly no longer working in Honduras. The power has been cut in at least some parts of the country, disabling independent media and state television stations for the time being.  Before the state televisions went off the air, Channel 8 managed to communicate to its viewers, "It appears as though the soldiers are coming here."  Seconds before it went off the air, Channel 8 told citizens to gather in the Plaza de la Libertad.  Channel 8 appears to have been taken over by the military, but it is still not transmitting.

Honduras' privately owned Channel 12 and Channel 11 are showing classic soccer clips.

Soldiers Block Opinion Poll

Soldiers have also moved to block the opinion poll that sparked the coup.  Today Hondurans were supposed to register their opinion in a non-binding poll that asked them, "Do you think that the November 2009 general elections should include a fourth ballot box in order to make a decision about the creation of a National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a new Constitution?" The poll would have had no legal weight. 

In the town of Trujillo, soldiers have taken the streets and are not allowing citizens to vote in the opinion poll. 

In Santa Rosa, soldiers reportedly under the orders of the Federal Prosecutors Office have seized ballot boxes from schools and public places.

Soldiers seized ballot boxes in Dulce Nombre Copan as well, but citizens have gone to the military base to take them back again.

In Santa Barbara, La Prensa reports that the opinion poll is going on as planned, with no interference thus far from the military. 

Soldiers are also carrying out operations on the country's major highways, according to La Prensa.  The situation could get ugly on the highways, as La Prensa reports that peasants from the Guadalupe Carney community have taken over some highways.

School of the Americas Connection

The crisis in Honduras began when the military refused to distribute ballot boxes for the opinion poll in a new Constitution.  President Zelaya fired the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, who refused to step down.  The heads of all branches of the Honduran armed forces quit in solidarity with Vasquez.  Vasquez, however, refused to step down, bolstered by support in Congress and a Supreme Court ruling that reinstated him.  Vasquez remains in control of the armed forces.

Vasquez, along with other military leaders, graduated from the United States' infamous School of the Americas (SOA).  According to a School of the Americas Watch database compiled from information obtained from the US government, Vasquez studied in the SOA at least twice: once in 1976 and again in 1984. 

The head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996.  The Air Force has been a central protagonist in the Honduran crisis.  When the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued them.  Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa Rica.

Congressman Joseph Kennedy has stated, "The U.S. Army School of the Americas...is a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world."

The School of the Americas has a long, tortured history in Honduras.  According to School of the Americas Watch, "In 1975, SOA Graduate General Juan Melgar Castro became the military dictator of Honduras. From 1980-1982 the dictatorial Honduran regime was headed by yet another SOA graduate,  Policarpo Paz Garcia, who intensified repression and murder by Battalion 3-16, one of the most feared death squads in all of Latin America (founded by Honduran SOA graduates with the help of Argentine SOA graduates)."

Honduran Gen. Humberto Regalado Hernandez was inducted into the SOA's Hall of Fame.  School of the Americas Watch notes that he was a four-time graduate.  As head of the armed forces, he refused to take action against soldiers invovled in the Battalion 3-16 death squad.

School of the Americas Watch points out that this is not the first time the SOA has been involved in Latin American coups.  "In April 2002, the democratically elected Chavez government of Venezuela was briefly overthrown, and the School of the Americas-trained [soldiers] Efrain Vasquez Velasco, ex-army commander, and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were key players in the coup attempt."

According to School of the Americas Watch, "Over its 58 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Colombia, with over 10,000 troops trained at the school, is the SOA's largest customer. Colombia currently has the worst human rights record in Latin America."

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Costa Rica and Argentina Condemn Coup

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has condemned the coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.  He says he has offered his full support to Zelaya and provide him with anything he needs while he is in exile, according to TeleSUR.
 
"The government of the Republic of Costa Rica condemns this morning's coup against the Constitutional President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and the manner in which he was forced to leave his country.... This is an unfortunate setback for this continent's democracies," said Arias.
 
Arias claims the Honduran military plane that landed in his country to drop off deposed President Zelaya never requested authorization to land in Costa Rican territory.
 
Argentine President Cristina Fernández also condemned the coup, calling it "the worst sort of barbarism."  She said in a statement, "Those of us who have been around for a while know what this means: a return to barbarism.  All of the countries on the continent need to demand the restoration of the democratic government."
 
Source: TeleSUR

Honduran Supreme Court Ordered Zelaya Kidnapping

TeleSUR reports that the anti-Zelaya Honduran Supreme Court issued a press release saying it ordered Zelaya's kidnapping at the request of the Federal Prosecutor's Office.  The Supreme Court called the kidnapping "completely legal."
 
The head of the Supreme Court, Saúl Escoba, told press that elections will happen as planned in November.

Congress Claims Zelaya Resigned

In an apparent attempt to legitimize the coup, Honduran Congressional Secretary José Alfredo Saavedra read a letter to Congress that he claims is a resignation letter from ousted President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya.  The text of the letter is so far not available.

 

Zelaya told CNN and TeleSUR that he did not resign.

 

When a coup temporarily ousted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002, rumors that he had signed a resignation letter were also reported as fact in the mainstream media.  It appears as though he never signed such letter.

 

In Zelaya's case, even if a resignation letter does exist, it is important to keep in mind that it would have been obtained at gunpoint.  Zelaya was reportedly kidnapped by 200 armed soldiers who disarmed his Presidential Guard,  he was reportedly beaten, and then he was removed from the country.  Furthermore, his family remains in the country and he is very concerned for their safety.  Under such circumstances, a resignation letter cannot be considered valid, especially because Zelaya has declared from Costa Rica that he will return as President.

 

In other news, Bloomberg reports that the Venezuelan, Cuban, and Nicaraguan ambassadors were beaten and briefly detained by soldiers this morning.  All three countries belong to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which Honduras is also a member country.

Electricity Cut Off All Over Honduras

El Heraldo confirms that electricity has been cut off to the capital and other parts of Honduras.  Still no word on who cut off the power.

Text of Supposed Resignation Letter

Zelaya steadfastly maintains that he never wrote nor signed this letter, published in La Prensa:

Given the polarized political situation that has presented itself, which has unleashed a national conflict that has eroded my political base, and given my insurmountable health problems that have prevented me from concentrating on fundamental issues of State, I tender my irrevocable resignation as President of the Republic, along with my Cabinet, effectively immediately.

 

With my resignation I hope to contribute to the healing of the wounds to the national political environment.

Sincerely,

José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, 
President of the Republic of Honduras

The folks who drafted this letter went a little overboard and as a result made this letter entirely unbelievable.  One of the tactics Congress has employed to try to remove Zelaya from office "legally" is to investigate his mental health with the goal of declaring him mentally unfit to govern.  The mention of his "insurmountable health problems" is an obvious illusion to the "mental health problems" Congress sought to prove he had.

Alleged resignation letter

Here is a photo of the alleged resignation letter signed three days before the coup.

Source: Eva Golinger's blog Postcards from the Revolution.

Emergency ALBA Meeting in Nicaragua Sunday Night

Heads of state from the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) member countries will meet in Nicaragua tonight to discuss the coup in Honduras. The following Presidents are expected to attend:

  • Evo Morales of Bolivia
  • Rafael Correa of Ecuador
  • Hugo Chavez Frias of Venezuela
  • Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua
  • Honduras' President-in-exile Manuel Zelaya, who will fly in from Costa Rica
Cuba will also send a delegate, as will other Caribbean countries, reports Venezuela's President Chavez.

Zelaya on his way to Nicaragua

Zelaya is reportedly leaving Costa Rica for Managua, Nicaragua, for the emergency ALBA meeting about the coup.  Venezuela sent a plane to Costa Rica to pick him up.

Chavez Saber-Rattling

A lot's been going around the internet about Chavez's response to the coup, including a possible military response.  Prior to the coup the right-wing Honduran press had been publishing reports insinuating that fellow ALBA member-country Nicaragua was sending agents into Honduras disguised as undocumented migrants.  Their only proof was...a "normal" influx of Nicaraguan migrants across the border.  I'll see if I can find that link again.

Chavez, for his part, has stated that he and fellow ALBA nations "will not recognize any [Honduran] government that isn't Zelaya's."

There have been news reports for days that Chavez has threatened or implied Venezuelan military intervention if Venezuelan diplomats were attacked during the coup.

Following the attack on Venezuela's ambassador, Chavez threatened military action if attacks against his country's ambassador continued. Chavez told Venezuela's VTV: "That military junta over there would be entering into a state of de facto war.  We would have to act, including militarily.  I couldn't stand here with my arms crossed knowing that they're attacking our ambassador.  We can't give in to the thugs.  We can't allow a return to thug-ism."

Chavez went on to threaten the power of the man expected to be named Honduras' interim president, Roberto Micheletti.  "Mr. Roberto Micheletti will either wind up in prison or he'll need to go into exile.  He's practically sent me threats.  If they swear him in we'll overthrow him, mark my words.  Thugetti--as I'm going to refer to him from now on--you better pack your bags, because you're either going to jail or you're going into exile.  We're not going to forgive your error, you're going to get swept out of there.  We're not going to let it happen, we're going to make life impossible for you.  President Manuel Zelaya needs to retake his position as president."

At Least Eight Zelaya Cabinet Members Detained

La Prensa says that at least eight Zelaya cabinet members have been detained.  Not all of the names are avaialable.

One, Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Rodas, has been confirmed since this morning.

Zelaya's private secretary, Eduardo Enrique Reina, has also been detained.  This may have been to shut him up, because it was he who confirmed Zelaya's detention to press early this morning.

Rodas communicates with family

Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Rodas has communicated with her family by phone and says she is ok, TeleSUR reports. She is being held somewhere in Honduras, but her exact whereabouts are unknown.

Rodas Heads to Mexico

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortiz has stated in the ALBA meeting that detained Honduran Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Rodas is headed for Toluca, Mexico.  From there, she will travel to Nicaragua for the ALBA meeting.  She is expected to arrive in Nicaragua on Monday.

President Obama's Deep Concerns

With two Honduran coup leaders, General Romeo Vasquez  and Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, identified as School of the Americas graduates, Obama's hope that the crisis will be resolved "peacefully and free of outside influence" is laughable.  Outside influence is what kicked off this coup in the first place.

 

What does "deep concern" mean, anyway?  Is he deeply concerned that the coup won't succeed?  Is he deeply concerned that once again, independent investigators will expose US involvement in the supression of civil and human rights?  Or is he merely deeply concerned that his coffee won't be ready on time tomorrow?

 

Mr. Obama, you are a sorry disappointment, just like your predecessor.  No, moreso, since some of us were fool enough to hope for better from you.

 

Spare us your "deep concerns" and speak out plainly against the removal of a democratically elected president.

 

  

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