Zero Hour in Honduras: President's Plane Approaches Tegucigalpa
By Al Giordano
The multitude could not be held back, and hundreds of thousands of anti-coup Hondurans (Radio Globo reports 500,000) have the Toncontin International Airport flanked on both ends, as 20 minutes ago President Manuel Zelaya indicated his plane was about to enter Honduran airspace.
In the minutes since, violence broke out between a group of protesters at the south end of the airport runway - shown live on Telesur and CNN - where the sound of shots fired could be heard. There was a scrimmage of tear gas throwing back and forth between soldiers on the outer edges of the airfield and that group of protesters, who appear to be geographically apart from the larger mass of demonstrators that surround the airport. It appears as if that adventure in rock and gas canister throwing back and forth has subsided for now. Telesur reports "two deaths" but so far no names attached to them or images to confirm it.
It's worth repeating that the localized violent conflict at the south end of the airport did not spread to all the other points of soldier-protester borders surrounding the airport, and seem so have calmed down at its point of origin, according to the live televised images.
Update: at 6:52 p.m. ET, 4:52 in Tegucigalpa: Those that are still able to get TeleSur or CNN Español (you can also watch Nicaragua channel 15, which mainly simulcasts TeleSur, here) - all their web streams are overloaded and hard to get - pay close attention to images that say "EN VIVO" (live) or "HACE MINUTOS" (minutes ago). The live images show definitively that the outbreak of rock and teargas exchange at the south end of the airport is over, with both sides back behind their "line of scrimmage."
We have no recent news about Zelaya's airplane since our last update in the post below this one. Will report it as soon as we do.
Also: A note about reported deaths. On June 14, 2006, when a police riot attacked peaceful protesters in Oaxaca, virtually every other alternative news source reported "9 deaths," or "7 deaths" or "14 deaths." We refrained, waiting for names of the dead and better evidence than hearsay. In the end, it turned out there were zero deaths. While it is entirely possible that there have been the one or two deaths today that some other colleagues are reporting, we'll await further confirmation before reporting it definitively.
Update: 7:01 p.m. ET, 5:01 p.m. in Tegucigalpa: Telesur is reporting that President Zelaya's plane will land at Toncontin "in a few minutes."
Update 7:19 p.m. ET, 5:19 p.m. in Tegucigalpa: I just heard the control tower at Toncontin inform an airplane that the airport is "only for Honduran military airplanes."
It's hard to hear, but it sounded like the pilot says something about the UN on the plane.
Control tower repeats: "only for Honduran military planes."
7:27 p.m. ET, 5:27 p.m in Tegucigalpa: The pilot of the plane just told control tower that he is "ascending again at 5,000 feet."
7:29 p.m. ET, 5:28 p.m. in Tegucigalpa: According to the air traffic control voice, the plane has left the area and is heading toward Managua, Nicaragua.
7:32 p.m. ET, 5:32 p.m. in Tegucigalpa: Zelaya live on Telesur, says they are unable to land and "will have to look for another way into the country tomorrow."
7:57 p.m. ET, 5:57 p.m. in Tegucigalpa: Confirmed: Zelaya's plane will land in Managua, home of UN General Assembly President D'Escoto, who accompanies him. That's the smart move (rather than going to San Salvador where Insulza and the three presidents landed. It gives them two cities from which to make international noise.
I'll have a wrap-up and analysis of today's events, and what they mean, shortly (after doing some further investigation and consulting some who are in the know).