What the Cowardly Honduras Coup Lost Today
By Al Giordano
Sometimes the drama is of such high volume that the ways it changes the narrative go unnoticed in the exact moments that it happens.
But here are some of the very significant realities that shifted today:
President Manuel Zelaya Showed True Courage: One of the open questions prior to today was whether, threatened with 18 felony charges, including treason, and 20 years in prison (not to mention likely torture and seizure of his considerable properties and business interests), the legitimate president of Honduras would fail to show up for today’s showdown at 2,000 feet over Tegucigalpa.
It would have been easy enough to turn the recommendations by Canada and Costa Rica at last night’s Organization of American States (OAS) meeting in Washington into a diplomatic pretext to delay his attempted return. He could have followed in the extra-light footsteps of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, Al Gore, or Andrés Manuel López Obrador, when the moment of truth arrived against an illegitimate regime. The consequence of such cowardice would have been causing his own people in Honduras to lose faith in him. Having guts (or huevos, male or female) in Latin America, as in most parts of the world, is a Sina Qua Non for a political leader. Zelaya showed them today. He emerges from today stronger, with more popular support than before, and bigger than life before the international public and media. He passed an important test today, and thus passed into the history books.
Illegitimate “President” of Honduras Roberto Micheletti Became a National and International Laughing Stock: One cannot overstate the extent to which Micheletti lost grip and traction today in his quest to remain in power. After a week of threatening the criminal charges against Zelaya (in effect, gambling that Zelaya would chicken out), he won the most Pyrrhic of battles today when he ordered soldiers and vehicles out on the runway of Toncontin International Airport to keep his “most wanted criminal” from landing. If his coup regime’s charges were so iron-clad, why not just let Zelaya land and drag him off to jail? He proved all of his schtick a lie, today.
As part of today’s show, he threatened all the passengers on the airplane with arrest upon landing, including the President of the United Nations General Assembly. That act alone guarantees his further isolation and virtually assures that Washington will, likely tomorrow or the next day, declare his regime a “military coup, “ triggering the cut-off of all foreign aid.
Another part of his show today was to go on national TV through a “cadena nacional” and declare that Nicaraguan troops were amassing across the border. And he threatened Nicaragua with war. When an enterprising reporter questioned him, he vacillated: well, it wasn’t that many Nicaraguan troops and they may be acting without instructions from President Daniel Ortega. He called it – you can’t make this stuff up – a “psychological invasion.” Give that man a straightjacket. He now has an insanity defense for his upcoming war crimes trial.
The Honduran Oligarchy Further Split Today: Globo Radio (a word in a moment of its valiant work today breaking the information blockade, together with other authentic media) reports:
“Businessmen Ricardo Maduro, Rafael Ferrari and Carlos Flores Facussé had a meeting this Sunday at dawn with the de facto government and withdrew their support. Ex-president Carlos Flores left Honduras with his family, headed toward Washington.”
Hold on. Flores, Honduran president from 1998 to 2002, was a key architect of this coup. Until last night, he was more hands-on directing the steps of the Honduran military than Micheletti himself. If true that he’s deserted the sinking ship – and gone to Washington nonetheless – he must have something in the form of "actionable information" to offer to the US Witness Protection Program (yes, some of my friends on the left are nipping at my heels over this kind of analysis about the US role in all this; I will surely dispatch with them on a later day, when we’re not reporting real-time on a crisis – but they should beware because I’m going to hit back real hard at those whiners of academia, with the facts that they don't have enough respect for, and events are going to demonstrate this analysis here as more accurate and even more prescient. But time will sort out all of that...)
Meanwhile, the oligarch dailies in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, after today’s events, began to backpedal. For the first time since the coup, tonight, the pro-coup daily La Prensa referred to Micheletti not as “president,” but as “president designate.”
And the daily El Tiempo, from the same pro-coup camp, described President Zelaya as “recognized still by the international community as the Constitutional President of Honduras.”
These are subtle shifts from a simulating national media, but like the first cracks in a wall, they reveal a structural weakness in the strength of the information blockade. They’re blinking.
There was also an interesting report on TeleSur, which I’ve yet to confirm, but, if true, would be devastating to the coup: that the national police commander, after the Armed Forces shot at members of the protest, evacuated the airport battlefield on the logic that they didn’t want to be blamed for the Army’s disgrace. If true, that would have great consequences for the unity of the coup.
TeleSur Wrapped Itself in Glory (and Took Down the Corporate Media Today): I derived considerable joy today watching CNN, throughout the afternoon, completely dependent upon live feeds from TeleSur to cover the story. TeleSur had not only “embedded” with Honduras’ version of Air Force One – on the airplane with Zelaya and D’Escoto – but more importantly it gained the trust of the 500,000 reported Hondurans who took to the streets. At various points during the march to the airport, the citizenry, upon seeing film crews from the station, chanted, “TeleSur! TeleSur!”
The coverage today from TeleSur was irreplaceable and unparalleled. No other media came close. When TeleSur’s website became overwhelmed with traffic, I turned to a Managua, Nicaragua station, Channel 15, which simulcast TeleSur for most of its coverage. TeleSur’s success today at the basics – the nuts and bolts – of journalism smashed the myth of “objectivity” and demonstrated that authentic journalists declare where we stand and therefore get the front row seat to tell the story more accurately.
It’s been five years this month since I penned this essay: Welcome TeleSur to the Struggle to Light Up the Skies.
Compare TeleSur’s full indispensable coverage of event in Honduras today with that of, say, Patrick Markey and Mica Rosenberg of the Washington Post: They added no new facts to the datasphere (which means they did no direct reporting, but, rather, cribbed their report from other media) and basically dedicated their “story” to using the word “leftist” three times in the first paragraphs.
The Post claims to be “objective.” TeleSur is supposed to be “propaganda,” according to its capitalist critics. But, lo’ and behold, it was TeleSur today that conveyed more facts per minute than any other international media. It will be fun to see capitalist media try to replicate that success story, especially here in Latin America, where the public is quite inoculated against its tendency toward simulation.
Honorable Mention: To Globo Radio, Radio Progreso and Channel 36 in Honduras, who rose from the ashes of repression today to report the story.
Presente: Isis Obeth Murillo, 19, from Olancho, Honduras, who died today in the Hospital Escuela of Tegucigalpa, assassinated from a bullet to the head shot by a Honduran soldier from inside the airport.
Hello Washington: Today’s events leave the Obama administration no other option but to follow through on what it was going to do anyway, and declare the Honduras regime as a “military coup,” triggering the cut-off of US aid, and crippling its illegtimate “government.”
I know there are colleagues who remain skeptical that this will actually happen. Well, if it doesn’t, nobody will be more savagely on the attack to correct that than I.
And if it does happen – I’ll take a bet from any sucker that wants to part with his money (especially you, you academics! $100? More? Put up or shut up) who wants to wager otherwise – well, it will be an hour to savor and to re-synchronize your geopolitical watches. More to come!
And the Biggest Winner of Today Is: The Honduran social movements.
For a week, now, they have endured more than most people from most lands would be able to handle. Today they organized 500,000 people – one of every 18 Hondurans – to get up on their feet and risk life and limb in Tegucigalpa (and that doesn’t include attendance of the mass rallies held in other cities throughout the country).
Just as the coup regime tried to scare President Zelaya from entering national territory, it did the same 7.5 million times over against its own people.
Suspension of the Constitution, martial law, curfew, 300 political prisoners, military invasion of Channel 36, Globo Radio and Progreso Radio, shutdowns of the Internet, banishment of Telesur (and for a brief while CNN) from national cable networks, military and police blockades in the highways to impede passage to the capital city, soldiers shooting out the tires of buses, threats of a “bloodbath” today (including from the Bishops of the Catholic and Evangelical churches, on government –imposed national TV and radio broadcasts)…
And yet they came to greet their legitimate president at the national airport.
Unity. Planning. Discipline.
The Honduran movements that oppose the coup showed all three of those pillars of successful social movements today. And it’s our best indication that they are going to win.
Using tactics of nonviolence that would make Gandhi proud, they pushed aside dozens of military blockades on their march toward the airport today, unarmed though they were, to be able to surround the runway.
And when, in one southern corner of the airfield, a brawl broke out between various hundreds of demonstrators and the soldiers inside, it was over within 15 minutes. That tells us that organizers of the march were able to rush in and convince legitimately angry protesters that there was a better path to victory than merely creating “riot porn” for the cameras.
Unity. Planning. Discipline.
What we saw today was impressive for any land, including those that enjoy more freedom than those living under military coup and suspension of their Constitution.
After today, nobody should have any doubt. The coup, sooner or later, probably sooner, is going down, face first, into the dirt.
And - since three days prior to the coup - you heard it here first.
Stay tuned to hear more. All based on that simple principle called documented fact.
What we call authentic journalism.