[News] The One-Sided War on the Streets of Honduras

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 23 12:25:17 EDT 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
Special to The Narco News Bulletin


September 23, 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.

“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.

Later, when the lights were cut, there were fears 
the authorities might storm the gates at any 
moment, and side arms were handed out to security 
guards. The lights soon returned courtesy of the 
compound’s generator (and gas supplied by La 
Resistencia). The expected attack didn’t come 
until dawn, when police launched tear gas shells 
into the courtyard, and forcibly occupied neighboring buildings.

“These bullies can enter my home, and do anything 
they please,” said one disconcerted neighbor, 
lugging her valuables away from the scene. “Just 
because I live next to the Brazillian Embassy, they treat me like a criminal.”

Apparently, the “bullies” could do as they 
pleased throughout the capital on Tuesday. To 
mention just one example: The offices of the 
Committee for Detained and Disappeared Persons of 
Honduras (COFADEH) were attacked without 
provocation, when police fired tear gas canisters at the building.

“They want us to give up our investigations,” 
said COFADEH Director Bertha Oliva, “because 
they’re scared of the evidence we have against them.”

I arrived at COFADEH about ten minutes after the 
attack, and people were still weeping from the 
gas. “But bullets and bombs will not dissuade 
us,” Oliva said. “[We] refuse to be intimidated.”

Later that day, Oliva told me that COFADEH alone 
had documented 36 injured people on Tuesday, many 
bearing severe welts and scalp lacerations from 
police batons. She also reported at least two 
deaths. Congressman Ponce believes put the total 
number of wounded at 172. Independent reports 
indicated about 350 people were also arrested and 
detained in the Villa Olympica soccer stadium.

The official police tally, however, told quite a 
different story. According to their numbers, 
there were only 23 arrests, 10 injuries and zero 
fatalities. Law enforcement officials also made 
clear their intentions for Zelaya.

“The minute he steps outside the building, he 
goes to jail,” said Colonel Samuel Mengiver of 
Police Intelligence. And if Zelaya doesn’t come 
out of his own volition? “We’re ready to take him 
out of there by force,” said the Colonel. “We’re just waiting for the order.”

One did not have to go far to see evidence of the 
tactics being employed by the authorities. 
Leaving the hotel this morning on my way to the 
Brazilian Embassy, I encountered several young 
men fleeing a squadron of baton-wielding police. 
As I watched, the officers caught up to two of 
them and commenced beating them viciously, even 
after they had fallen to the ground.

“We were just walking to work,” said Aron 
Antonio, bleeding profusely from multiple head 
wounds. “I can’t understand why they attacked 
us.” I called an ambulance on my cell phone, but 
by the time it had arrived, Antonio’s companion 
had lost consciousness. The youth’s eyes refused 
to dilate, and he began to vomit where he lay in the gutter.

“The people can’t even walk the streets in 
peace,” Bertha Oliva told me. “They’re being 
beaten just for stepping out of doors. [The 
police] hunt them as if for sport. What kind of a country has this become?”

By the time I reached the Embassy, the crowds had 
been dispersed, and masked police and soldiers 
had cordoned off the street, forbidding even 
international journalists and human rights 
workers from approaching. A few hours later, a 
pick-up truck with massive speakers was wheeled 
in, to direct constant loud music toward the building.

I spoke by phone with Father Andres Tamayo – 
Catholic priest, and leading figure in the 
anti-coup movement – who was trapped with Zelaya 
inside the Embassy. “There are police in front of 
the building, and all of the surrounding houses. 
The government is also listening in, and blocking 
our calls,” he said, just before the line went dead.

Late Tuesday afternoon, 85 people were allowed to 
leave the Embassy. About 70 more – including 
Zelaya’s wife and young grandchildren – remain 
inside. Meanwhile, the resistance movement shows no signs of slowing down.

“We will be in the streets again tomorrow,” said 
Juan Barahona. “We will not give up until Mel 
Zelaya returns to the presidency.”

When asked what he thought would be the likely 
response from the authorities, Barahona conceded 
it might well be more of the same. ““The police 
will not tolerate us. They’ll probably attack us 
again. But what else can we do? This remains an unequal struggle.”

Shortly after being turned away by police, while 
seeking to bring food and water to those in the 
Brazilian Embassy, Bertha Oliva echoed Mr. Barahona’s sentiments.

This is a one-sided war,” she said, nodding 
towards the masked officers. “They’re the only ones committing violence.”

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