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Photo essay: Honduras, July 5: 100,000 gather to greet `Mel', army shoots and kills protesters

Photos and text by James Rodríguez (posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.)

[Versión en español aquí. See also ``Photo essay: Honduras, July 4 -- `Mel, Amigo, El Pueblo Está Contigo' (`Mel, our friend, the people are with you!')'' by James Rodríguez.]

Tegucigalpa, Honduras -- July 5, 2009 -- -- On the day when ousted President Manuel Zelaya was slated to return, thousands of supporters gathered at the Pedagogica University in order to march towards Toncontin Airport. Meanwhile, at the airport, some gathered early to await Mel’s arrival despite the suffocating presence of Honduran security forces.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 people marched towards Toncontin Airport to welcome “Mel”.

Even though the security forces set up several checkpoints to stop the march, the police and army decided to allow the march’s arrival to Toncontin. Until then, both sides had behaved remarkably respectful and peaceful.
The protesters even applauded the police’s decision to let them through.

Nevertheless, a few minutes later, on the far end of the landing strip, tensions brewed out of control. When protesters began entering through the barbed-wire fence, the army responded by shooting tear gas and live rounds. One person was killed on the scene, dozens were injured and overnight, at least three other people died in local hospitals.

“The armed forces have fired live rounds against unarmed civilians. For over five hours, the protesters behaved respectfully of the army and police. There had been no confrontations. No one had sticks or guns. The march’s organisers had even taken stones from a few protesters. But the army shot as us just like that, in cold blood. There was no need to shoot! Yes, some had started to cut and remove the barbed-wire fence [so as to enter the landing strip], this cannot be denied. But it was not necessary to shoot civilians with live rounds. Once again, so that the people of Honduras will remain united: the blood of a martyr is the seed for many Hondurans who will stand up and remain firm against such de facto government – this government of delinquents. We are only following Article three of our constitution: ‘Nobody should obey a Government which has reached power by means of usurpation.’” -- Cesar Omar Silva, television journalist for state-owned Channel 8.
Manuel Zelaya’s airplane flew over Toncontin airport a couple of times before aborting its landing attempts and headed for Managua, Nicaragua. The plane was not given permission to land as military personnel and vehicles blocked the runway. His plans for a return to Honduras are not yet known at this time.
BBC News has published the best video so far of the Army’s repression against the protesters. The army’s shooting can be clearly seen at

[James Rodríguez is an independent photo-documentarian based in Guatemala.This photo-essay was completed with the help of A. J. Bunch C. It is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. It first appeared at]

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