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(Updated Sept. 27) Insurrection in Honduras: Resistance Front says ‘we won't rest until victory’
Residents of Hato de Enmedio, Tegucigalpa, take control of their barrio. September 22, 2009.
By Federico Fuentes, Caracas
September 25 — Green Left Weekly — “The whole world knows that what we have here in Honduras is a coup regime”, Armando Licona, a leader from the Revolutionary University Student Front said. Green Left Weekly spoke with Licona, whose organisation is part of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup (FNRG), on the phone from the Honduran capital, Tegucilgalpa.
Today (September 25), the military attacked the Brazilian embassy with chemical weapons. President Manuel Zelaya is bunkered down in the Brazilian embassy after secretly re-entering the country on September 21.
The Honduran poor have waged a campaign of constant resistance against the coup regime to demand that Zelaya is restored and a constitutional assembly called to create a new constitution to meet the peoples’ needs in one the hemisphere’s poorest nations.
Since Zelaya’s return, both repression by the dictatorship and resistance by the people have significantly increased. An unknown number of peaceful protesters have been killed or disappeared, and the regime rounds up protesters daily. Despite this, protests continue on the streets.
Licona said that, despite the repression, “our dignity will not allow us to give up”. “We are a people fighting to ensure that the great changes we have initiated come to fruition. We will not rest until President Zelaya is restored to power and the national constituent assembly is called, which will allow these great changes that we dream of become reality — a country based on social justice that is not in the hands of some eight or 10 rich families who do whatever they want with complete impunity.”
Licona explained: “Today, the 91st day of resistance, we held a massive march in Tegucigalpa. But the most serious event was the attacks made against Zelaya ... they are using chemical weapons [on the embassy] causing many people inside to vomit blood.”
Dirian Pereira, from the FNRG international commission, told GLW that, despite Zelaya denouncing the chemical attack, the International Red Cross, the Human Rights Committee of Honduras and Zelaya’s doctors were denied entry by the military. The soldiers “had orders to not let any one pass”. “This is chemical warfare … it seems clear that the order is to get Zelaya out dead or alive — but preferably dead.”
Meanwhile, the regime has again imposed a night curfew across most of the country, which resistance activists expect will be enforced with brutal repression, and met with defiant resistance.
Licona said: “The coup regime wants a bloodbath. But the resistance has stood firm on its strategy of peaceful mobilisations, even despite their attempts to infiltrate our marches to carry out acts of vandalism, carrying guns. [The regime is] totally armed, that is why it is hard. What we see is a resistance and a people with dignity, but who are fighting with their hands in the face of bullets, batons and tear gas.”
The attack against the embassy comes less than 24 hours after the coup regime said it was willing to start a dialogue with Zelaya, who has continuously repeated his willingness to talk.
Licona told GLW that the supposed dialogue attempt “was a proposal of the coup plotter [Roberto] Mitchelleti [installed by the coup as ``president'']. What they want is a pretext to claim that all possible avenues of dialogue have been exhausted.”
Pereira agreed: “We believe that the arrival of the four musketeers of the right, that is, the four presidential candidates of the right-wing parties, that talked to Mel [as Zelaya is popularly known] in the embassy was in order to take a photo with him and immediately circulate it in the media as a way of saying ‘look, these people are hugging each other’. Prior to this meeting, they met with Micheletti. They came, spoke with [Mel] and what they said to him was that he should hand himself in. He simply said that the only way out was with his restitution [as president].
“We believe that they staged this show in order to stop any possible [United Nations] intervention of ‘blue helmets’, because the UN Security Council was meeting. They wanted to stop any possible negotiation in this direction. I think that to a certain extent they achieved this, because the Security Council resolution simply condemns what they are doing to the [Brazilian] embassy.”
Pereira explained the position of the FNRG: “We have four well-defined positions: 1) the restoration of President Mel Zelaya; 2) the restoration of constitution order; 3) the withdrawal of the military to its barracks; and 4) the installation of the national constituent assembly. We will not back down on these.”
Pereira said the resistance would continue with its street protests on September 26. “There will be a march starting at 8am where we will once again aim to bring together the largest number of people possible. In the afternoon there will be a caravan of vehicles throughout the barrios and colonias [poor neighbourhoods].”
Latin Radical radio report: Honduras coup regime ups the ante
September 26, 2009 -- Latin Radical -- Andres Conteris, journalist for Democracy Now, is inside the Brazilian embassy in Honduras with President Manuel Zelaya. The embassy is under siege by the Honduran armed forces, who have attempted to cut food supplies, water and electricity, jam communications. The army has set up sound boxes that emit high-pitched, irritating high-decibal noise inside the embassy grounds.
Conteris speaks with Australian community radio station 2NimFM's Latin Radical program and describes
the situation there just a few hours after the Honduran military pumped noxious gas into the embassy grounds.
Honduras: People’s insurrection forces regime to consider talks
By Federico Fuentes, Caracas
September 24, 2009 — Green Left Weekly — The coup regime in Tegucigalpa is crumbling in the face of growing resistance from Honduran people and international condemnation that followed the daring September 21 return of legitimate President Manuel Zelaya, who is now inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.
The dictatorship ordered the police and military to violently repress the thousands who protested outside the Brazilian embassy, as well as the people on the streets across the country. An unknown number of people have been killed, including an eight-year-old girl, and hundreds arrested.
The response of the Honduran poor, determined to see “their” president returned to office, was to launch an insurrection in the impoverished neighbourhoods. With street battles raging, and barricades raised, a number of working-class neighbourhoods declared themselves “liberated zones”.
The international isolation of the coup regime also worsened when United Nations general secretary Ban Ki-moon said on September 23 that elections organised by the Micheletti dictatorship would not be “credible” and the UN was withdrawing all assistance (worth US$1.3 million) for a coup regime-organised November 28 poll.
Desperate, the regime has now opened dialogue with Zelaya — something it refused to do for three months. The resistance plans once again to take to the streets of Tegucigalpa on September 25 to demand Zelaya’s reinstatement and the calling of a constituent assembly.
The issue of organising a constituent assembly to redraft the constitution was the detonator for the June 28 coup. That day, a non-binding referendum was meant to be held, asking the people whether they were in favor of a constituent assembly to rewriting the 1982 constitution — put in place by the military dictatorship at the time.
Gilberto Rios, a leader of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, told Green Left Weekly over the phone from Tegucigalpa: “President Zelaya has met [today] with a few people from the right wing to see if they could start a process of dialogue. It possible that the level of tension will briefly come down, although tomorrow will be a climactic day of mobilisations — boosted by the support we received in the UN.”
Explaining the course of events on September 24, Rios said: “The National Resistance Front had called on the people to not mobilise in the centre of Tegucigalpa. Instead, it was proposed that people should organise protests in their barrios and colonias [poor neighbourhoods], in order to avoid any provocations by the march of the camisas blancas [white shirts, supporters of the coup].”
Many feared the pro-coup march could be used as a trigger for street clashes and further repression. Some had warned of plans to stoke violent confrontations near the Brazilian embassy.
Resistance activist Ricardo Salgado told GLW that the march was further evidence that “a section of the armed forces and the coup regime still look to carry out extreme measures” to end the anti-coup resistance.
In the end, the pro-coup march was very small and largely consisted of public servants forced to attend, Rios said.
Both Rios and Salgado confirmed that numerous avenues of dialogue had been opened up between Zelaya and coup representatives over the last 24 hours. Salgado said: “Last night a representative of the [coup] government arrived at the Brazilian embassy to explicitly propose to the president that he resign and that Micheletti would also resign. This was considered unacceptable [by Zelaya], as it would basically legitimise the coup.
“Then, this afternoon, Father Juan Jose Pineda, a bishop in Tegucigalpa who is very close to Cardinal Rodriguez, one of the coup plotters” also visited Zelaya, “we suspect to offer some kind of negotiation … on behalf of the de facto government”.
Salgado added, “later on today [Zelaya] will meet with Father Luis Alfonso Santos, who is decidedly against the coup and who just released a 12-point declaration [in which he states] his support for the people, constitutional restoration and the recognition of the legitimate right to insurrection of the people have in the face of a government imposed by force”. He said this seemed to confirm that the Catholic Church would play an important role in any negotiations.
Furthermore, the candidates that stated their intention to run in the November presidential elections met on the afternoon of September 24 with Michelleti, and met with Zelaya later that tonight.
Rios said the National Resistance Front “is and has always been open to dialogue, as long as it contemplates the restitution of Zelaya and the jailing of those responsible for the coup”.
“The [plan to organise a] constituent assembly is also non-negotiable. The constitutional order was broken as a result of the coup and the constitution orders that a constitution assembly be held [in such a scenario] so that cannot be up for discussion on the negotiation table.”
Rios told GLW that Zelaya “has spoken with the resistance and that we have the same position in regards to what is up for discussion and what is non-negotiable”. He added that he didn’t think the dialogue would succeed “very easily or quickly”.
“The coup regime has its own internal contradictions”, Salgado said. “Although it has attempted to maintain the facade of a strong regime backed by repression, it is clear that the country is in a very bad state and groups of business owners have said it is necessary to negotiate with the president. “If we take as our starting point the fact that these business owners are the financiers of the coup, then what we are talking about is sections of the coup regime recognising the need to negotiate.”
Salgado said: “My personal opinion is that while it is true that the resistance forces have not matured enough yet to be able to stage an insurrection capable of overthrowing the coup regime, it has been able to reach a high level of organisation.”
This means that Zelaya “will need to count on the leadership of the National Resisatnce Front for any proposed solution to the current situation, because that is where he finds his social base. His popularity is based on [including] a large range of people, from popular leaders in the barrios, to teachers to supporters of his former party.”
Repression and mobilisation
Rios said: “There continues to be a strong presence of military and police helicopters [circling Tegucigalpa] because the National Resistance Front is meeting. So I think that if the dialogue does not begin today, we will probably face a night where we will see a repeat of the last few nights — where there has been a lot of repression in the colonias with many people detained.”
Salgado agreed, saying “the last few nights have been very tense … the military has been carrying out a campaign of attacking the popular barrios and poor colonias. They have approached homes without any warnings and carried out extrajudicial break-ins into — taking the young men out, beating up the parents. The exact toll of deaths and those disappeared is difficult to be determine. We are expecting that [the coup regime] will announce another curfew for tonight. So what we could expect more repression . And no doubt the people will once again mobilise tonight, on the streets in their barrios.”
Boosted by the UN resolution and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez’s “educational speech [at the UN General Assembly], which reminded us of why we are involved in this resistance movement”, Rios said the resistance will be gathering at 8am September 25 at the Pedagogical University — “for what will be a very climactic mobilisation”.
Latin Radical radio report: Insurrection against the coup
September 24, 2009 -- Latin Radical -- Ricardo Salgado from Honduras talks to Warwick Fry on the 88th day of the Honduras coup -- and now insurrection against it -- with people defying the coup regime's attempts to impose a round-the-clock curfew. 50,000 people are still demonstrating in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and the military have taken over two sports stadiums to hold people they have arrested. The popular media (radio Globohonduras and Canal 36) are holding out despite attempts to shut them down, and have reported and frustrated two planned attempts to assassinate President Zelaya within the Brazilian embassy.
Honduras: Street battles rage as military attacks pro-democracy uprising
By Federico Fuentes, Caracas
September 24, 2009 — Green Left Weekly — Street battles continued to rage late into the night of September 23 in the poor neighbourhoods of the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, after a day marked by brutal military and police attack on a massive demonstration in support of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Zelaya, whose pro-poor policies outraged Hondura' ruling elite and US corporations, was overthrown in a June 28 military coup and exiled to Costa Rica. On September 21, Zelaya stunned the world by re-entering Honduras and taking refuge in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa.
This daring action — after 88 straight days of resistance to the coup, with strikes, protests and road blockades by the poor majority — set off a renewed wave of mobilisations across the country to demand Zelaya’s reinstatement.
As battles between unarmed protesters and heavily armed security forces raged on Honduras' streets, world leaders condemned the coup regime at the United Nations General Assembly meeting.
However, while governments from across the world called for the immediate retun to power of Zelaya, US President Barack Obama managed to go through his entire speech without mentioning the word ``Honduras''. This is despite the fact that all officers in the Honduran military, which carried out the coup and was shooting live rounds at unarmed protesters as Obama spoke, are trained by the US military. This military training has not ceased since the June 28 coup.
The presentation of the public position of his government — which is desperately seeking a way to end the anti-coup insurrection that has broken out in the impoverished Central American nation — was left to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly.
Dirian Pereira, from the international commission of National Resistance Front of Resistance Against the Coup (FNRG) , spoke to Green Left Weekly over the phone from Tegucigalpa, sounding clearly shaken by the brutality of the repression meted out earlier in the day. Her voice trembling, she said: “In all honesty, the repression was extreme. There was no contemplation nor respect nor anything for human rights. The repression was extremely strong. We still do not know what the coup regime aims to do with the opposition, because as each day passes, the situation becomes more and more intense.''
Called by the FNRG , the massive protest that began at 8am on September 23 was a strong demonstration of the people’s will to see their elected president return to the presidential palace.
Due to a spate looting caused by the coup regime's total curfew that led to shortages of food and medicine, the regime temporarily lifted it between 10am and 5pm.
Pereira said: “The mobilisation was extremely large, making use of the fact that the curfew had been lifted. The people spilled out onto the streets en masse ... The police tried to provoke the protesters in order to create chaos, but the resistance ignored them.”
The aim of the protest was to peacefully march to an area close to the Brazil embassy, where Zelaya remains despite the regime cutting off electricity, blocking food and firing tear gas into the compound.
Gilberto Rios, a leader of the FNRG, told GLW over the phone: “When we got to the zone, the police, without any prior provocation on behalf of the protesters, began launching tear-gas canisters. The march was quickly dispersed. Many had to be taken to hospital and a number of young people were arrested.”
Despite this, the battle on the streets of Tegucigalpa continues.
“Right now, throughout the night, there have been a number of shoot outs in the different colonias [poor neighbourhoods] of the capital”, Pereira said. “There are parts that are practically in insurrection, there are colonias that have declared themselves liberated zones. They are well organised, they have set up three, fours layers of barricades to stop the police entering.”
Both Pereira and Rios explained that the repression by the regime, which has left an unknown number of people dead and hundreds arrested, had increased support for the resistance.
“Everything is possible”, Rios told GLW. “There is a strong feeling of rejection towards the Honduran armed forces who have been attacking its own people, similarly with the police ... Where I live, the police came to repress peaceful protests and that caused even more people, who although they are against the coup had not joined the resistance, to join the street battles.”
However, as the intensity of the situation mounts, “sectors of the population are beginning to feel that some kind of foreign intervention can prevent a bloodbath”. Rios insisted, however, that “for us, the problem must be resolved internally”.
Pereira said the talk of possible foreign intervention was coming mostly from right-wing forces who are feeling desperate, as they are losing control of the situation.
Rios said the coup leader Robert Micheletti “has explained it in the following terms: they consider themselves to be a ‘little Berlin’, they feel like the Nazis when they were completely surrounded at the end of the war.”
The coup regime has shifted from arguing it was invincible to “now talking about how they are willing to die in the government palace before handing over power”.
Rios had earlier in the night told GLW that the FNRG had not been able to meet due to the confusion and the pace of events. However, Pereira later confirmed they had meet. However, the resistance has not yet announced what its next steps will be. When ready, information would be conveyed via Radio Globo, Pereira said. Radio Globo has acted as a voice for the resistance and its broadcasts are often disrupted and sabotaged has by the military.
Pereira called for people around the world to “remain alert to what is occurring, denounce it, hold solidarity actions and remain up to date on news coming out of Honduras, because here the news is changing from hour to hour, it is changing every little while”.
Rios said: “All of this [international solidarity] is important for saving lives.”
Pereira said: “I want to say to the whole world that we continue to stand firm resisting. We are not going to allow this to slip through our hands, because just now, we have the people with us.”
Honduras: `There is a people’s insurrection'
By Federico Fuentes, Caracas
Green Left Weekly -- September 23, 2009 — Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a military coup on June 28 and currently in the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, has told Telesur TV that the coup regime is planning to take over the embassy. He says they plan to assassinate him.
Ricardo Salgado, an activist in the Honduran anti-coup resistance, told Green Left Weekly over the phone from Tegucigalpa that “the decision we have all taken is to fight with everything we have”. Salgado said there was an “intense reaction on the part of the resistance in many zones across Tegucigalpa, in what we call barrios and colonias [poor neighbourhoods]. I would say that there are some 15-20 highly populated barrios that frankly find themselves in a situation of total insurrection, fighting against the police, against the army and even against paramilitaries."
The mass resistance to the coup has continued for three months, with daily protests, strikes and road blockades. With Zelaya’s return the Honduras, a desperate coup regime has significantly increased repression. The people are increasingly in open rebellion.
“We have evidence that paramilitaries are participating in the street battles in some of the colonias. The police are trying to retake positions but the people’s insurrection is occurring in places that geographically are very far apart from one another'', Salgado told Green Left Weekly.
On the situation in Tegucigalpa, he said: “All the shops are closed and there is a shortage of food, of medicine. “At any moment we could see the looting of shops, because the people are entering into desperation mode. Moreover, it seems that, although there is not as much news regarding this, that in the interior of the country there are strong insurrectional mobilisations in very small zones. This has to do with the tactic of protesting close to home.
“The people are spontaneously taking the decision to resist and the line coming from the [National Resistance Front Against the Coup] was, for today, to resist close to one’s home. But tomorrow we are calling on everyone to march [in Tegucigalpa].''
Salgado confirmed to GLW that the national front has called a march for September 23 that will start at 8am outside the Pedagogical University Francisco Morazon.
He called on all alternative media outlets to join the campaign of informing the world about the truth of what is occurring in Honduras — and in denouncing the murderous plans of the coup regime.
* * *
Al Giordano from Narconews reports:
September 22, 8:03 pm: An interesting development today in the popular barrios and colonias of greater Tegucigalpa: The coup's military curfew -- now extended for a total of 36 hours until 6 am tomorrow morning -- is causing major hardship for the great mass of Honduran citizens who live day to day. Small shop owners, street sellers, mercado workers and so many others generally don't have savings. If they don't work on a given day, they and their families don't have food to eat that night. A great many don't have refrigerators and they shop the same day for the food they will eat. The curfew is causing shortages of food and other basic products of daily life, and preventing many from being able to afford what little they need. And while the general view in the popular (read: poor) barrios have been anti-coup, the curfew has brought forward a rage and a higher level of organisation overnight.
Add to that the fact that the National Police have spent last night and today busting into those neighbourhoods to enforce the curfew -- because many citizens aren't paying it any mind as it interferes with their daily subsistence level survival -- and has overreacted with great violence, shooting tear-gas canisters into homes, invading people's houses, and such. This has caused a generalised phenomenon throughout the metropolitan area: People have come en masse out of their homes, chased the police out of many of those neighbourhoods, and erected barricades to keep them out. They are now organising to maintain those barricades. The coup regime thus, overnight, has lost any semblance of control of considerable tracts of urban Honduras. Tegucigalpa is beginning to look a lot like the city of Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006.
September 22, 8:46 pm: After a bizarre press conference held in English and translated into Spanish, in which a staffer, Carlos Lopez Contreras, represented coup "president" Micheletti (without Micheletti being present -- his handlers have hidden him away for good reason), and in "cadena nacional" (broadcast on all stations by law), the regime has extended the curfew now for 50 hours, until 6 pm September 23.
September 22, 8:54 pm: From Quotha.net, more detailed info on the neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood uprising underway in greater Tegucigalpa:
The de facto government, through its violence and denial of constitutional and human rights, has managed what Zelaya alone had not fully succeeded in doing: uniting the entire country in the struggle for freedom. Today, they resistance underwent an important shift: it went local. The following Tegucigalpa neighborhoods are defying the curfew and protesting against the coup d'etat:
- Arturo Quesada
- Barrio Morazán
- Centroamérica Oeste
- Cerro Grande
- Ciudad Lempira
- Colonia 21 de Febrero
- Colonia 21 de Octubre
- El Bosque
- El Chile
- Flor del Campo
- Hato de Enmedio
- La Fraternidad
- Residencial Girasoles
- Residencial Honduras
- San José de la Vega
- Víctor F. Ardón
- Villa Olímpica
In some places people have repelled the police, while in others the terrain is in dispute. The police are using live ammunition. Barricades are everywhere. This list was current at 7pm (September 22) local time in Tegucigalpa.
The latest extension of the curfew just announced -- preventing Hondurans from working or shopping all day tomorrow, too -- will only exacerbate this situation.
* * *
Al Giordano from Narconews reports on September 23, 2009:
In recent days, the Honduran coup of "president" Roberto Micheletti has demonstrated, again, that it is incapable democratic governance. Peaceful Hondurans came to the Brazilian embassy to greet their only elected president, Manuel Zelaya, and they were violently driven away with water cannon, tear gas, billy clubs and rubber bullets. National Police then followed the dispersed crowd into the popular barrios to wound and maim them, and invaded homes that provided them refuge. That led to scenes like in the neighbourhood of Hato de Enmedio [see video above], and in more than 20 heavily populated slums in and around Tegucigalpa yesterday.
Clueless desk editors like those at the New York Times titled these conflicts "Riots in Honduras". But you don't need to be able to understand Spanish to see and hear, in the video above, that, distinct from rioters, the young people of the neighbourhood who came out and violated the military curfew to defend their neighbourhood from this police invasion know and have memorised complicated political slogans and rhymes which they chanted in unison. "Riots" are disorganised explosions. This neighbourhood, and others like it, however, have been forced by the realities of the coup to organise themselves to a greater extent than ever before.
In neighbourhoods like Hato de Enmedio, where a majority of Honduras' citizens live, you can also see in the video see that not even the main street in the barrio is paved. Many of the homes have dirt floors as well. And if a citizen is harmed by a robber or predator, you can call the police, but they won't come. People who live in neighbourhoods like this only see the police when they invade, like they did yesterday, to enforce an unenforceable curfew on people who, if they obeyed the curfew, would starve of hunger. A curfew is unsustainable on a people that live hand to mouth, day to day.We can also see in that video the revelation that the tear-gas canisters shot by the National Police yesterday were stamped as property of the government of Perú, suggesting strongly that Peruvian President Alan García is a participant in smuggling arms to the Honduran coup regime.