Anti-Coup Protests Reported Across Honduras
Despite Repression and the Suspension of Constitutional Guarantees, Hondurans Keep Fighting the Coup Government
The anti-coup movement's momentum appears to be building across Honduras, with protests reported across the country. Meanwhile, international pressure builds against the coup government.
Over the past two days, anti-coup protests were reported in Tocoa, Colon; San Pedro Sula; La Ceiba; El Progreso, Yoro; Tegucigapla; Intibuca; El Paraiso; Santa Barbara; and all over President Zelaya's native department of Olancho. Moreover, the BBC reports that citizens have blocked major highways in Copan and Tocoa. The BBC's sources on the ground in Honduras say anti-coup protests have occurred in the majority of Honduras' departments.
A leader of the teachers union, Freddy Vega, told TeleSUR that teachers are on strike and classes will not resume until ousted President Manuel Zelaya is back in Honduras.
Via Campesina reports that yesterday morning, social leaders from across the country met to discuss strategy.
Teachers union leaders report that citizens in Cortés, Choluteca, Comayagua, Santa Bárbara, and Copán are preparing mobilizations and marches to Tegucigalpa to receive President Zelaya when he returns. Zelaya had originally stated that he would return on Thursday. However, as a result of the Organization of American States' (OAS) decision to give the coup government 72 hours to turn power over to Zelaya, the ousted president has decided to postpone his return until after the OAS' 72-hour deadline has passed on Saturday.
The delay will give Zelaya supporters more time to reach Tegucigalpa. The AFP reports that several Honduran social leaders have told that news agency that soldiers have blocked highways, preventing thousands of people from arriving in Tegucigalpa.
Jose Antonio Zepeda, President of the Central American Union Movement, says that when a caravan carrying peasants and union members towards Tegucigalpa reached a roadblock near San Pedro Sula, the 105th Infantry used machine guns to shoot out the tires on their busses. Undeterred, the unionists and peasants continued to Tegucigalpa on foot. They arrived in the capital today, where they await President Zelaya's arrival this weekend.
Pro-coup forces also mobilized yesterday, drawing thousands of protesters to a rally in Tegucigalpa. Coup president Roberto Micheletti and the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Romeo Vasquez, spoke during the rally, which was organized by the Democratic Civic Union (UDC). The UDC organized a similar, smaller protest in San Pedro Sula, Honduras' second-largest city. A UDC protest occurred today in Choluteca.
While it is impossible to get accurate crowd estimates on any of the protests, the UDC's Tegucigalpa rally appeared to be larger than any of the anti-coup protests that occurred yesterday. But appearances can be deceiving.
Rumors are circulating that bosses forced their workers to participate in the pro-coup mobilizations. The Popular Resistance Front of Honduras (which, like the UCD, is an ad-hoc organization formed in response to the current crisis), issued a communique claiming that "fast food, factory, and private security company employees have been forced to participate in the [UCD] event."
Andrés Pavón of the Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, echoed that claim: "They took all of the fast food workers in Honduras and private security guards and they dressed them in white. In Honduras there's 30,000 private security guards and they dressed six thousand guards [in white]."
Likewise, Rafael Alegría, leader of Via Campesina in Honduras, says that factory workers in San Pedro Sula were forced to participate in the march in that city.
It's important to point out that these claims have not been confirmed.
Even if the rumors and claims that workers were forced to participate in the pro-coup rallies aren't true, one fact is undeniable: the UDC's protests enjoy the full support of the coup government. As such, the government has made no attempt to repress the marches.
That is not the case for the anti-coup protests. At an anti-coup protest in Tegucigalpa yesterday, an unidentified speaker told the crowd, "Our protests would be bigger, but you are all aware of the repression that we are experiencing." Police have used tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, billy clubs, live ammunition, and water cannons against anti-coup protesters.
The following video from inside a Tegucigalpa hospital shows some of the injuries inflicted by police and soldiers. Even if you don't speak Spanish, you should be able to understand the injured people. At one point, the police shoot tear gas at the hospital.
Some of the most severe repression has been reported in President Zelaya's native department of Olancho. The Committee of Family Members of Disappeared Detained People in Honduras reports that the military is going house-to-house in communities all over the department and arresting young men. Young men have fled into the mountains, but the commuities report that military patrols are persuing them there as well.
Anti-coup protesters must also deal with limited communications. When the military kidnapped President Zelaya, it carried out simultaneous operations against pro-Zelaya media. Raids on radio stations continue, and international reporters have been detained (and later released) by the military. The pro-coup media, however, has operated without interruption. They publish calls to attend rallies in support of the coup as if it were news.
Despite the repression, Hondurans all over the country take to the streets every day to protest the coup--and that is a victory the coup supporters can't claim. A speaker told an anti-coup rally in Tegucigalpa, "Today, there are protests all over the country. That [pro-coup] protest in Central Park is small compared with the protests all over the country."
More Repression to Come
Congress has suspended certain constitutional guarantees from 10pm-5am daily. The suspension of guarantees is scheduled to last 72 hours, but it should be noted that the curfew imposed by the coup government, originally supposed to last only 48 hours, has been extended until Friday.
According to Honduras' El Tiempo, the following constitutional guarantees have been suspended:
- Article 69, which guarantees the personal freedom.
- Article 71, which states that no one can be detained or held incommunicado for more than 24 hours without an arrest warrant.
- Article 78, which guarantees freedom of association and freedom of assembly.
- Article 81, which states, "Everyone has the right to free movement, to leave, enter and remain in national territory."
El Tiempo reports that with the aforementioned guarantees suspended, "no one can hold meetings, neither public nor private, be it in the streets, in churches, in their own homes, or in union or guild halls."