Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The One-Sided War on the Streets of Honduras

"They're the Only Ones Using Violence," Human Rights Leader Bertha Oliva Observes of the Coup Regime on Day Two of Zelaya's Return

By Jeremy Kryt

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS, SEPTEMBER 22, 2009: Government forces attacked a peaceful crowd outside the Brazilian Embassy Tuesday morning, in an apparent attempt to dispel support for deposed President Mel Zelaya. Mr. Zelaya had returned to the country on Monday after almost three months in exile.

Mel Zelaya addresses a crowd of thousands in front of Brazilian Embassy on Monday. D.R. 2009, Jeremy Kryt.
"It was terrible repression," said National Congressman Marvin Ponce, who was with Zelaya in the Embassy until around nine o'clock the night before. "This is a reflection of their philosophies, this government of putchists. They don't respect human rights. They don't want a political dialogue," said Ponce, and he ought to know: The Congressman was himself assaulted during a nonviolent protest last month, suffering several broken bones, including his right arm, which was fractured in three places.

Eye-witness testimony indicated that the soldiers and police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds into the crowd.

"It was brutal," said resistance organizer Juan Barahona, director of El Bloque Popular. "I was outside the embassy when the police began their dispersal. Afterwards we reorganized, and marched through some of the poor barrios. But the police attacked us there as well."

The day before, thousands had gathered in front of the Brazilian Consulate in the Colonia Palmira, to welcome home Mr. Zelaya with chanting and songs. The de facto government imposed a curfew starting at four p.m., and cut power to the Embassy; but Zelaya's supporters stayed on in the streets all night long, defying orders to disperse.

This reporter spent most of Monday inside the embassy with Mr. Zelaya. The ousted President addressed the thousands gathered outside, urging them to pursue a nonviolent resistance to "Los Golpistas."

"We will continue the struggle for democracy," said Zelaya, as the crowd voiced their desire for a new constitution. "This time I won't be caught napping," joked Zelaya, referring to the episode on June 28, when the military accosted him in his pajamas.

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