Obama: "Deeply Concerned" Over Kidnapping of Honduran President

By Al Giordano

A statement by US President Barack Obama just sent out by the White House:

"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."


As Kristin Bricker has been reporting the past few days here on Narco News, there have been mounting threats of military coup d'etat against democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya (photographed above with Obama at the April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad). Today is a national election day and the bone of contention is Zelaya's placement of a non-binding referendum that asks the Honduran people if they want another referendum in November to decide whether to reform the Constitution.

Truth is, Honduras has long been run by an oligarchy (rule by a select wealthy class) and the popular Zelaya has had to contend with a military brass, a judiciary and a legislature (and its corrupt political parties) that is openly hostile to his center-left government. While reasonable folks can disagree over whether the non-binding referendum should have gone to ballot today over the objections of the country's Supreme Court, the oligarchy lined up against that vote has just reportedly overplayed its hand by kidnapping the President:

Honduran army troops seized President Manuel Zelaya early today and sent the leftist president into exile in an apparent coup, reports from the Central American country said.

Troops moved through the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and surrounded the presidential palace and other government buildings. The state television network was off the air as hundreds of angry Honduran citizens poured into the streets and shouted support for Zelaya. "The fact is, this is a coup d'etat and the president of Honduras has been kidnapped and beaten up," Honduras' ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Sosa Coello, told CNN's Spanish-language network.

When similar events occurred in 2002 in Venezuela, the Bush White House blamed the kidnapped president for his own abduction and gloated, cheering the coup d'etat. (Over the following three days masses of Venezuelan citizens overpowered the coup, took back the public television station and broadcast to the people that their president had not resigned but had been abducted. Venezuelan President Chavez was brought back to power by a nonviolent civil resistance movement.)

What is happening in Honduras, though, has got to be the most boneheaded coup attempt in Latin American history: to kidnap a president on an election day, and without the support that Washington historically gave past military coups from Santiago to Caracas, is not likely to work out as planned for today's coup plotters. Presuming that Zelaya is still alive and not critically wounded, it's a good bet that he'll be back in a matter of days, if not hours, more popular than before.

(Note: I'm about to get on an airplane. Will be back in the newsroom this afternoon. Check with Narco News for updates over the course of the day.)



Zelaya now in Costa Rica

Multiple news outlets, including some inside Honduras, report that President Manuel Zelaya is now in Costa Rica, where he appeared on a Costa Rican TV station declaring, according to the Telegraph of London that he had been a"victim of kidnapping" and a 'coup d'etat."

This is not a good sign for the coup plotters, given they now have the inconvenience of dealing with a still quite alive, legitimate president showing up in a neighboring Central American country, and the force of world opinion is behind him. Not very good for the business interests of Honduras, who might now be having second thoughts. thinking of some means to extract themselves from this inconvenience.

According to that report, and others, demonstrators are out in the streets of Honduras protesting the abduction of their president.

Honduras en contra de la ilegalidad


Manifestantes encendieron llantas frente a Casa Presidencial, tomada por los militares, en protesta por la detención del presidente Zelaya.


Here's a Kos diary that's keeping up with events..

Link (new window)

9:39 a.m. Zelaya speaking by phone to CNN. Says he was forced from his home at gunpoint in pajams, forced into a military vehicle, placed on a plane and flown to Costa Rica. Shots were fired in the presidential residence. He hid on the roof. Arrived in Costa Rica in pajamas.
Will not recognize another government in Honduras. Calls on other governments in region for support.

Coming at this fresh, I've been trying to figure out where this ranks between 'monied class coup' and 'constitutional crisis', with the Supreme Court apparently lined up against the President.

Also, there's been talk of the referendum being cover for changing the Presidential term limit (which seems to be propaganda by the oligarchs), but I haven't been able to figure out what reforms the President has in mind if there was a Constitutional Convention.

Argentina weighs in...

Télam. National News Agency of Argentina. June 28, 2009. President Cristina Fernández said on Sunday that the military coup in Honduras "is a return to barbarism" in the hemisphere and announced that Argentina will request the Organization of American States (OAS) to demand "the immediate reposition of President Manuel Zelaya", toppled, arrested and beaten by the Honduran military.

Secretary of State Clinton also says the abduction of Zelaya should be "condemned by everyone," the Washington Post reports.

From the State Department's Daily Briefing on June 26 — anticipating this crisis:

QUESTION: On Honduras, there’s been some political unrest there and it might get even worse over the weekend. Do you have anything to say about that? And what is your Embassy doing with regard to any sort of violence that migh t erupt? 

MR. CROWLEY [Assistant Secretary]: Yeah, we are concerned about the breakdown in the political dialogue among Honduran politicians over the proposed June 28 poll on constitutional reform. We urge all sides to seek a consensual democratic resolution in the current political impasse that adheres to the Honduran constitution and to Honduran laws consistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And we think that the OAS has an important role to play here, and we urge the OAS to take all appropriate actions necessary to uphold the provisions in the charter. 

QUESTION: Is your Embassy doing anything to prepare for what might be a violent weekend?

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll see if we have any additional information on that. 



Article 10

When the government of a member state considers that its democratic political institutional process or its legitimate exercise of power is at risk, it may solicit from the Organization timely and necessary assistance for the preservation of its democratic system and its strengthening.


On the ground

Interesting blog entry [from a nonprofit media site, May I Speak Freely] on events unfolding: 

The air force stormed Zelaya's home in the early morning hours and took the president to a military base outside of Tegucigalpa, from where he and his family flew to Costa Rica. Shots were reportedly fired during the incident, and the Honduran ambassador to the Organization of American States said the family reported that Zelaya had been beaten. At the same time, popular leaders were detained throughout the country, and troops have also arrested the mayor of San Pedro Sula and the Honduran foreign minister Patricia Rodas.

An electrical outage in many areas is slowing the spread of information. The news channel TeleSur reported claims that power had been deliberately cut, and a number of websites of Honduran media outlets have reportedly gone offline. Reuters reported that Honduran police fired tear gas at some 600 pro-government protesters outside the presidential palace. In an interview with TeleSur, Rodas confirmed that there is repression on the street, and she called for people to gather in their local squares to protest.

Also, check in regularly at the Narco News site, as Kristin Bricker and Laura Carlsen are fast on top of this breaking story, with multiple updates already posted.

And keep an ear to the ground concerning the activity of US troops [some 500 at least] already in Honduras at Soto Cano Air Base, located 50 miles northwest of the capital, Tegucigalba. It is home to the Honduran Air Force Academy as well as the U.S. Southern Command Joint Task Force-Bravo.

It's hard for the U.S. to stay neutral when it's leaders are condeming the coup publicly. That means its troops in the region have to be on high alert — and U.S. aircraft and ears in motion behind the scenes.





Wonderful Reporting

While I was slumbering and while CNN was busy trying to paint Zelaya as a mentally-unbalanced Kim Kim Jong-il type character, Narco News reporters were working arond the clock to publish the truth on an up-to-the-minute basis. Keep up the good work guys and gals! It just goes to show how piss-poor mainstrem media reporting can be in a time of crisis when democracy is on the line.

Obama and the State

Obama and the State Department should have been proactive in stating that a coup would not be accepted by the empire. But it is an empire, and no doubt Obama would see the Chavez allied populist Hondurean president as a 'negative force in the region'. So look for Obama and State to work/collude with the oligarchy to nip the leftist drift in the bud. Look no further than Haiti to see Obama's inclinations toward social democratic, popular democracy. They have no qualms in squashing people's movements at the drop of the hat--but they don't want to alieate the progressive-liberal base too much, too soon. He has an other election to win, mind you. Look for the willful ignorance with respect toward Obama's hand in quashing the democratic strivings of the Haitian people to be down-played, elided, or simply not even mentioned. Unless the US people organize and put pressure on Obama, he will not take chances--he will do the bidding of the corporate class. This is always the default position by dint of the depoliticized condition of the US people. The first step is to realize each of our parts in accepting this squalid status quo--the second step is to mobilize and engage in healthy acts of human solidarity and positive action. The choice is ours--and our choices at each moment have impact on how we experience the next moment. First step--burn your couches, crush your remote. (Interesting note: I was in Honduras when the coup against Chavez took place. Sitting at the San Pedro Sula bus depot, watching the coverage of the event on the corporate news media I blurted out "sucio!" All eyes there viewed me with suspicion. I explained to the people, in my haulting Spanish, that democracy in the Americas just experienced a set-back. The people understood what I meant. I have so much respect for the people of Honduras, they deserve better in thier lives--and they have to step up and take it.)

Video clip

Some video of Honduran soldiers in action against democracy in Honduras, from ElPais.com.

An Al Jazeera TV report [more street shots] on the military take-over of Honduras, with English-language interview. Of course, the military line on this is that the President somehow violated the constitution by seeking to hold a nonbinding referendum. And that would explain why marshal law is now underway, against the wishes of the masses of people in the country. Seems like the propaganda doesn't quite mesh with reality in this case. 

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Raw Story reporting that embassadors have been kidnapped, too...

...from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Not a smooth move if true:


No shame among usurpers

The Washington Post is reporting [confirming news reported by Bricker and Carlsen previously] that the Honduran Congress has voted "by a show of hands" to remove President Zelaya and "appointed congressional President Roberto Micheletti" as the new CEO [coup officer in charge] of the country. Zelaya also claims a resignation letter supposedly signed by him is false.

Now, why would you need a military-enforced kidnapping of a sitting president if that president had, in fact, voluntarily resigned and the nation's Congress had acted justly under law in appointing a replacement?

The lie is that blatant. 

Important advance in the story by Carlsen, here

To Obama's credit, his

To Obama's credit, his administration does acknowledge the changed political reality on the ground in Latin America. To support a coup in Honduras would be to put the US in an even more disadvantageous position with respect to the people and the governments of the region. But, as per Erin's comment, it is pathetic how the US corporate media tries to paint the Hondurean president as 'unbalanced'. These corporate lackies are simply squalid and undemocratic to the core. They are ruled by the same impulses that led them to cover-up the crimes against popular movements and democracy in the Americas for many, many decades. They paint carpet bombing Bahgdad as 'liberation'. These are some sick fanatics that need to be called out on their regular collusion with crimes. They are every bit as fanatical in their ideology as are the oppressors in Iran--but they want to rule the world forever. They are dangerous and diseased in that they think of nothing about snuffing out women and children to advance their goals). The corporate media lags miles behind the current administration with respect to understanding that more sane and democratic attitudes have to come to the fore at this moment. They are stuck in a cold war mentality that sees people's democratic movements as a 'threat' to the region. (But Obama did make a few insane comments to this effect--maybe to assuage the raw meat eaters that populate our political and corporate class here. This would be a generous interpretation of his rationale for repeating such ill-informed propaganda. We are dealing with a deluded, bewildered, essentionally ill-informed US population at this point.)

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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