11 Oct 2009

Green Left eyewitness account of the coup in Honduras

Just had this from my friend Karl Cosser of Green Left Weekly reporting from Honduras... events like the coup drive climate change, the indigenous and peasants are cleared from land, forests chopped down and gas and oil extracted.

In Honduras right wing death squads from the Colombian AUC are being recruited. The Honduras coup is a challenge to left green movements across Latin America...talking of which see you on the Moblisation tomorrow in London. Greens need to be centrally involved in showing solidarity for people in Honduras....right on to Karl.

The people of Honduras continue to demonstrate against the illegal coup that overthrew elected President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya on June 28. October 5 marked the 100th day of struggle and 100 days without Mel, the real president of Honduras.

One piece of graffiti reads “100 days of struggle”, while protesters carried placards saying “100 days and the people are not silenced”.

It is truly inspiring to see people take to the streets after 100 days of brutal repression from the coup regime, of which a majority of Hondurans and other governments and international institutions do not recognise as the genuine government.

Zelaya was physically removed at gunpoint and forced into exile for proposing the possibility of a democratic process to change the constitution. The coup leaders conveniently interpreted a non-binding vote on whether or not to organise a referendum on the issue of organising a constituent assembly scheduled for the day of the coup as a breach of the constitution.

This was their justification for their serious, ongoing, breach of democracy and human rights.

Since the beginning of the coup, thousands of people have been detained and up to 100 people have disappeared. At their headquarters, members of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG) spoke of one friend and comrade, Professor Roger Vallejo, who died from a bullet wound to the head on August 1.

A more recent loss came on September 27 when tear gas bombs were fired into a crowd, inducing an lethal asthma attack for Wendy Elizabeth Avila.

The October 5 demonstration was held just up the road from the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya has sought refuge since he sneaked back into the country on September 21. The sheer numbers of heavily armed riot police and military present was phenomenal.

Many people, armed only with placards and banners, chanted “What will we do to get rid of this motherfucker”. People wore red headbands with “They are afraid because we are not afraid” printed on them and waved the Honduras flag.

Eventually, demonstrators were forced to move on and were escorted by riot police back to the city centre. During the march back, the police stopped everyone, blocking off each end of the street and preventing people from moving on.

People waited in suspense for possible further repression and one woman began yelling at the police. After about 20 minutes of not knowing what would happen next, police began letting people through the blockade one person at a time.

The next day, the coup regime’s decree suspending human rights, which was employed to arrest people without a warrant or reason, was lifted. This was seen as a victory by the resistance and people became more confident to take to the streets.

Although the Brazilian embassy was still under siege by the military, a protest march made its way back to the city centre uncontested.

However, this breathing space afforded by a lower police presence weight was short lived. The repression resumed the following day.

On October 7, negotiations between Zelaya and the coup regime were underway to seek to resolve the crisis in Honduras.

It is constitutionally necessary for Zelaya to be allowed to continue his term of presidency until it expires in January in order for the elections being held at the end of November to be considered legitimate. The coup regime is acting with complete hypocrisy, considering it used a supposed breach of the constitution as the justification for the takeover.

While talks occurred, the protest started out peacefully. People then decided to test out the recently lifted decree and continue the protest further up the street, away from the Brazilian embassy and towards the US embassy.

Riot police began to put on their gas masks as they hurried up the road to form a blockade.

As protesters approached the blockade unarmed, police began to fire several tear gas bombs into the crowd, releasing copious amounts of gas forcing people to run back down the road.

After the gas dispersed, people began to walk back towards the police only to be met by another round of tear gas bombs fired directly at the crowd. This caused difficulty in breathing and intense pain in the face and eyes.

Everyone ran for cover to get way from the gas and avoid being hit by the metal tear gas canisters being shot at people. These have the potential to seriously injure or kill.

As heavily armed police wearing gas masks began to advance on protesters, myself and several other people were let into the fenced off private property of a car park, with the owner locking the gates behind us.

By now, I could see dozens of armed soldiers come out on to the main road from a side street. Police sought entry into the car park and fired another tear gas bomb towards us. We were forced to escape down the only alternative exit — a steep muddy slope of dense jungle towards the river.

On the way down, we saw a soldier on the other side of the river and hid in the jungle for several minutes. At the river, we met others also trying to get away and we crossed the river to seek a safe place to get back onto a nearby street.

Walking further along the river, we were spotted by another armed soldier and fled back across the river and up the hill. We came to a back street close to the Spanish embassy and took temporary refuge there.

Calling other protesters to find the safest way back into the city centre, we made it back — exhausted and covered in mud, but okay.

As these protests continue daily, Zelaya is demanding he is reinstated to continue his term as the democratically elected president of Honduras. Until that happens, the protests by the Honduran people will not end.

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