(Updated October 2) Honduras: Dictatorship steps up reign of terror, resistance pushes on

Democracy Now! September 29, 2009.

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By Fred Fuentes, Caracas

October 1, 2009 — Green Left Weekly — The dictatorship in Honduras, which overthrew the elected government of Manuel Zelaya in a military coup on June 28, has stepped up its reign of terror. A state of siege remains in place. The most recent targets of the repression have been Radio Globo and Channel 36 — the two main media outlets opposed the coup and giving the popular resistance movement in the Central American country a voice. The continual repression has affected the size of anti-coup protests.

However, the ongoing resistance has caused further cracks to open within the pro-coup forces as support for the resistance spreads.

“They have just attacked our comrades from the resistance who had been protesting at the offices of Radio Globo”, Dirian Pereira from the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras (FNRG) told Green Left Weekly over the phone from the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

“They were brutally attacked, the police fired tear gases and a number of people were beaten up. Right now, there is no media outlet that is speaking about the resistance”, said Pereira about the shutdown of Radio Globo and Channel 36. Having shut down critical media, “they are carrying out heavy acts of repression. This morning they kicked out some peasant comrades who had been occupying the office of the National Agrarian Institute.”

Gilberto Rios, an FNRG leader, told GLW: “This is the 10th time that they have taken [Radio Globo] of the air and left us without any possibility to communicate. They are violating an elementary right, which is the right to information and free speech. They are hitting us hard, and the balancesheet we have drawn up is that this is not positive.

``Nevertheless, the majority of the population is against the most repressive measures the government is carrying out. This has meant that more sectors are joining the resistance against the coup. We are converting ourselves into a force that, if we can unite, will defeat this coup.”

On September 28, coup leader Roberto Micheletti declared a state of siege, suspending all civil liberties. A day later, under pressure, he promised to lift it. However, Pereira said: “The only thing they have said is that they will study the decree because the Congress asked them to … but they have not annulled it. Micheletti said that maybe next week they will annul it, but the repression continues. They are trying to undermine the motivation of the resistance to fight.”

Rios added: “Their attitude is one of strength that, according to our reading of the situation, does not correspond with the strength they have. Rather, it comes from the strength of the forces supporting them — the transnational companies such as Exxon Mobil and other powerful financial forces that are behind this coup.

"In that sense, there is not only a Honduran coup. We have already defeated the Honduran coup. What we are fighting to defeat now is the coup by the transnationals.”

A proposal to end the conflict between the coup regime, backed by the oligarchy, and the poor majority supporting Zelaya has emerged from a group of Honduran business leaders. The proposal would result in both Micheletti and Zelaya resigning. Power would be handed over to a United Nations mission that would oversee elections.

Rios said: “The proposal reflects a decision taken by the oligarchy in the face of the elections scheduled for November 29. The siege decree would exclude any possibility of the presidential candidates being able to carry out a political campaign during the next 45 days — leaving only a week or two for campaigning. Many see this as an attempt by the Micheletti government to prolong their stay in power beyond the date of the elections.

“This reflects a lack of confidence among [those that support the coup]. There is a process of fracturing within the oligarchy that is in power as a result of the coup. That is why the resistance is standing firm on its proposals. The resistance is continuing to make the same demands as always: the reinstatement of Zelaya and a national constituent assembly.”

On the possibility of a UN intervention, Rios said: “The resistance is not in favour a such an intervention.”

The mass protests continue. The resistance called a mobilisation for Friday, October 2, outside the US embassy in the morning and protests in the poor neighbourhoods throughout the afternoon and night. The FNRG has also called a meeting of the neighbourhood-based resistance groups in Tegucigalpa for Sunday, October 4. 

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September 30, 2009 -- Latin Radical -- Ricardo Salgado, from the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, has just returned from the Brazilian embassy where President Manuel Zelaya is defying three police lines and attempts by the coup regime to dislodge him. The Honduras resistance movement is planning mass marches for tomorrow, and will attempt to retake Radio Globo which was shut down by the coup regime yesterday. Radio Globo is still broadcasting through the internet and a network of smaller community radio stations. Will the resistance movement cause the de facto coup regime collapse under its own weight of repression?

Original audio source (rricardo.salgadobonilla_30_Sep_2009.mp3)

12.7 Mb 128 kbps. mono 14 minutes.

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September 29, 2009 -- Democracy Now! -- The Honduran coup regime has been forced to reverse a harsh crackdown on civil liberties amidst growing protests for the restoration of the ousted President Manuel Zelaya. But Honduran forces still blocked a large protest march and shut down two media outlets that have criticized the coup regime. Meanwhile, a top US diplomat criticised the coup regime’s decision but then turned around to issue a harsh condemnation of ousted Zelaya. We go to Honduras to speak with Andrés Conteris from inside the embassy where Zelaya is hiding and speak to Luther Castillo, a Honduran doctor who is in Washington to speak with US lawmakers.


Andres Conteris, Program on the Americas director for Nonviolence International. He worked as a human rights advocate in Honduras from 1994 to 1999 and is a co-producer of Hidden in Plain Sight, a documentary film about US policy in Latin America and the School of the Americas. He also works at Democracy Now! en Español.

Dr. Luther Castillo, indigenous physician from the Atlantic Coast of Honduras. He founded the first hospital and health centre in that region, the Garifuna Rural Hospital, after studying at the Latin American Medical School in Havana, Cuba. He is also secretary of communications for the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras. Shortly before the coup, he had been named director of International Cooperation in the Honduran Foreign Ministry.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The coup regime in Honduras appears to be backing off its attempt to shut down protests and limit free speech amidst growing protests for the restoration of the ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

On September 27, the coup government of Roberto Micheletti announced a forty-five-day decree that imposed sweeping restrictions on civil liberties, including banning unauthorized public meetings, allowing the government to shut down broadcasters, and giving police the authority to make arrests without warrants.

After Honduran congressional leaders warned they would not approve the decree, Micheletti gave a televised news conference September 28 evening asking for, quote, “forgiveness from the Honduran people” and said he would lift the decree as, quote, “quickly as possible”.

Earlier that day, masked police officers and soldiers shut down two media outlets that have criticised the coup regime. Government forces also cordoned off a street to prevent a march of several hundred supporters of ousted President Zelaya.

Zelaya has remained inside the Brazilian embassy since defiantly returning to Honduras one week ago. The Micheletti government has now given Brazil a ten-day deadline to hand over Zelaya or face the embassy’s closure. The coup regime issued the threat as its soldiers continued to surround the embassy and limit the delivery of supplies. Brazil has rejected the ultimatum and says Zelaya will stay as long as he needs. Brazil’s representative to the Organization of American States, Ruy de Lima Casaes e Silva, warned of the severity of the crisis.

    RUY DE LIMA CASAES E SILVA: [translated] The situation in the embassy is a grave situation with a potential for drama. For that reason, the Brazilian government, by way of their foreign minister, solicited the UN Security Council to conduct a meeting to specifically deal with the insecurity of Brazil’s embassy in Tegucigalpa, especially as regards disrespecting the norms established in international charters regarding diplomatic missions.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: The coup regime on September 28 refused entry to a delegation from the Organization of American States that had come to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis. Speaking in Washington, the US ambassador to the OAS, Lewis Amselem, criticised the coup regime’s decision but then turned around to issue a harsh condemnation of ousted Zelaya.

    LEWIS AMSELEM: We therefore call on all within Honduras and outside Honduras to avoid actions and pronouncements which foment unrest and violence. The return of President Zelaya to Honduras, absent an agreement, is irresponsible and foolish and serves neither the interests of the Honduran people nor of those seeking the peaceful reestablishment of the democratic order in Honduras.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: On September 28 night, Zelaya addressed the United Nations General Assembly via a mobile phone that his foreign minister held up to the podium.

    PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] My greetings to the United Nations. My greetings to the United Nations. Anybody who had any doubt that a dictatorship is taking hold of my country, now with what has happened in the last ninety-three days of repression, I think that any of those doubts that might have subsisted are dispelled. But besides being subject to a coup d’état, Honduras is being subjected to a fascist rule, which is suppressing the rights of its citizens and which is oppressing the Honduran people.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We go now to the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where we’re joined via Democracy Now! video stream by Andrés Conteris. He is the Program on the Americas director for Nonviolence International and also works at Democracy Now! en Español. He has been inside the Brazilian embassy for the past week.

We’re also joined from Washington, DC by Dr. Luther Castillo. He’s an Indigenous physician from the Atlantic Coast of Honduras. He founded the first hospital and health centre in that region. He is also secretary of communications for the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras. Shortly before the coup, he had been named director of international cooperation in the Honduran Foreign Ministry.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! First, we’re going to go to Andrés Conteris. He’s joining us on the telephone, actually, from inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Andrés, welcome to Democracy Now!

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: It’s a pleasure, Sharif.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Can you start off by telling us what exactly is happening right now inside the embassy? What do you see outside? Are soldiers outside the embassy?

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: Yes, there are many soldiers right outside the embassy. There are some hundreds, but the visible right outside here are probably a dozen. This place has been militarised since just over a week ago, right after the return of President Zelaya to Honduras. The repression was immediately felt in the very, very violent eviction that happened exactly one week ago this morning. Over 500 revellers who were dancing in the street were brutally repressed by the soldiers. Tear gas was used, and that tear gas completely filled the embassy here.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And Andrés, you’ve been there for a week now. We’ve heard reports of a sound weapon being used, similar to the one that we reported on used in Pittsburgh at the G-20. Can you confirm or deny that?

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: That weapon having to do with audio definitely was used: a very sharp, piercing noise that really, really causes deep, deep distress. Other weapons have been used. I have not been able to confirm gases used after the tear gas incident, but other people did feel a attack by gas during this past week.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And the coup regime has given the Brazilian embassy ten days to hand over Manuel Zelaya or grant him asylum in Brazil. Brazil has denied this, has refused to do so. What is President Zelaya saying right now about what’s happening?

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: What President Zelaya is saying is that the international community needs to follow up with the declarations that were approved by both the United Nations, the OAS, as well as the San Jose Accord. He is very open to dialogue in that framework of those documents. Every single one of them says that he needs to be restated—reinstated as the president, the democratically elected leader of Honduras. And this coup regime here is not willing to do that.

Other things that he says clearly are having to do with the incredible amount of repression that is being felt around Honduras. Just yesterday, they buried a young woman named Wendy, who died as a result of the tear gas a week ago here in the embassy area. She had asthma and suffered from that, was hospitalised and then later died. She’s just one of many, many who have passed away as a result of the brutality of the Micheletti regime.

And what is really disconcerting is that the United States, through the Obama administration, has not said one word condemning the human rights atrocities here, in spite of the fact that they have been very, very well documented by the most recognised human rights organisations in the world. Congressmember Grijalva of Arizona wrote a very clear letter to Obama documenting all of this, and there has been no response by this administration in terms of publicly condemning the human rights violations by this regime.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And speaking of the US response, last night we heard possibly the harshest condemnation from a top diplomat, a US top diplomat, Lewis Amselem, the representative to the OAS. He called Zelaya’s return “irresponsible and foolish”. Your response?

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: This comment by ambassador Amselem comes a week after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clearly welcomed President Zelaya back to Honduras. So we’re seeing a double face in terms of the policy from the Obama administration in terms of, is he welcome, or is it foolish for him to have returned.

One thing to know about the background of ambassador Amselem is that he was with the SOUTHCOM, the Pentagon’s organisation in Latin America. And the military policy with regard to Honduras has to be mentioned, because it’s very key. The US continues to train Honduran soldiers at the School of the Americas, in spite of the fact that they have said that ties had been severed. Honduras remains invited to the military maneuvres called PANAMAX 2009, which were twenty-one countries invited from September 11 to September 22. And Honduras was on the list. The Pentagon never withdrew them. And the only reason they didn’t participate is because other countries in South America refused to go to the maneuvres if Honduras was going to remain as participating.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And this issue of the crackdown on civil liberties, Micheletti issued a decree on Sunday, a forty-five-day decree, with sweeping restrictions on civil liberties. He has pledged to reverse that, following congressional leaders not giving him support. But this did—the day after he issued the decree, he closed down two media stations, one of them being Radio Globo, that I believe President Zelaya has frequently done interviews on. What has been the effect of this inside the embassy?

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: Inside the embassy, what we have been feeling is a terrorism on the part of this regime as they issued this decree, which really defines them outright as an absolute dictatorship. Constitutional guarantees in the Honduran constitution defend the right to gather, defend the right to movement and thinking and freedom of expression by the media. All of these were the articles that were suspended by this decree imposed by Micheletti, and because of pressure from Honduras' congress, as well as international pressure, he was forced to back away from that. However, it did really cause a chill here at the embassy, as well as around the country.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We’re also joined in Washington, DC by Dr. Luther Castillo.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dr. Castillo. You are the secretary of communications for the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras. You’re also a physician in Honduras, running a hospital there. First, tell us why you’re in Washington, DC.

DR. LUTHER CASTILLO: Well, good morning to everyone.

We are here in Washington, DC, trying to meet some human rights organisations and contact with some US Congress representatives like Congressman Grijalva, who has been writing a great letter addressed to the President Obama to take immediately action on this violation of human right that is happening in Honduras every day.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And you have called for a boycott of the elections in November? Why?

DR. LUTHER CASTILLO: Because we recognise that this election in November is an illegal election, who are going to be running in November. One of the strategies that the de facto government is trying to do in this illegal election is to do a continuation of a coup d’état in Honduras. Then all the issues that will be addressing by this de facto government is an illegal issue, then that makes that election in November to be illegal then. Our organisation, that’s the national committee against the coup d’état, who is inside there, all the civil organisation, Indigenous organisations, unions and other organisation in Honduras, are against this election in November, and we consider it illegal.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Now, Dr. Castillo, you founded the first hospital on the Atlantic Coast region in Honduras. Talk about what that hospital was providing and what has happened since then, since the coup.

DR. LUTHER CASTILLO: Then this hospital was founded by Garifuna doctors who were training in Cuba. Then we returned back to our community to give healthcare to all people that didn’t have healthcare before. Then we started to build the hospital with our own community. And with President Zelaya, we signed an agreement how to give support and sustainability to this process, where we have been attending more than 300,000 people for free in the area.

And now the de facto government have been cut and have been—deny the agreement that we signed before with President Zelaya. Then that make our hospital now without helps to attend all those people, who are in the deep mountain and the more forest area and the department of Colon and Gracias a Dios, near to La Mosquitia, then who really need our help in those areas.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And why has the coup regime tried to take over the hospital? Have they given you a reason for this?

DR. LUTHER CASTILLO: They just, I think—they just give us—tell us that we have to—we are working in the community as illegals there, and they just send us a new agreement to sign that new agreement, who didn’t recognise our doctors who are working there in the area with us. They don’t even give us any reason why they are doing that.

Then we are accustomed to fight against that. We live in Honduras. We really know what the discrimination that we have been facing as a poor people, as the Garifuna people in Honduras then. We decided, with our community and our doctors, to be there, to stay there and keep looking for solidarity and work, continue helping our people there.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And finally, Dr. Castillo, you, yourself, personally have been targeted by the regime. How are you returning to Honduras, and how are you surviving there?

DR. LUTHER CASTILLO: Then I will be returning back. We just came here to do this work with—that national committee give us to do here, because we have to be there with our people, fighting, and we have to be there with our people, demonstrating peacefully in the street that we are against that regime of brutality that is happening in Honduras.

One of the real things that we like to clarify that we have been listening to  some of the representative of the Organization of American States, I think this issue is concern to Honduran people, you know, to appoint if he’s responsible or irresponsible, that action that President Zelaya took. We want to clarify that President Zelaya is the only president who was be elected for us as Honduran people. He’s the only constitutional president of Honduras. Then we decide and we think, as Honduran people, that it’s a responsible action of President Zelaya to return back to our country. He’s a Honduran, and we elect him as a president. Then I think that issue is concerning us, and we don’t think that it’s a irresponsible action that he is taking right now. Then we want him to return to Honduras. And when some people are talking about what is concerning to the peace of Honduran people, we have been more than ninety days in the street demanding the immediately return for President Zelaya. Now he’s in the country. I think we congratulate that action, that courage of President Zelaya to return back to Honduras. That represent one of the step that we have to take to bring peace to our country.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And what would you like to see the United States to be doing? What would you like to see President Obama to be doing regarding Honduras?

DR. LUTHER CASTILLO: Then we would like to see President Obama condemning all these violation of human right that have been happening in Honduras. We would like to see President Obama condemning and talking about all those people that have been killing in the street, all those young people who have been killing in the street, assassination. We would like to see President Obama talking to condemn all those women who—what military have been violating in the street of Honduras. And we would like to be—President Obama pushing more pressure on the—and the economic sanction to those [inaudible] family who are supporting the coup attack in Honduras. And we would like to see President Obama declaring definitely this issue as a military coup attack in Honduras.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: And finally, Andrés Conteris, any final words from inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa?

ANDRÉS CONTERIS: The United States has been having a trade embargo against Cuba for decades. And if they would even consider an economic embargo against this regime, this coup would end. That’s because there’s more than 70 to 75 per cent of Honduran trade is with the United States, and they could not withstand a trade embargo. So the US has arrows in its quiver that it could use to end this crisis, but it is choosing not to do so. And the US people must rise up and pressure the Obama administration to do more for Honduras and human rights here.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Andrés Conteris, thank you very much for joining us. He’s the Program on the Americas director for Nonviolence International, also works at Democracy Now! en Español. And special thanks also to Dr. Luther Castillo. He’s an indigenous physician from the Atlantic Coast of Honduras, secretary of communications for the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras.

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Latin Radical: Andre Conteris from inside the Brazilian embassy

September 29, 2009 -- Latin Radical -- Andres Conteris, journalist for Democracy Now,  is inside the Brazilian embassy in Honduras with President Zelaya, who has taken refuge there until he is restored to his legitimate role. The Brazilian embassy is under siege by the Honduran armed forces, who have attempted to cut food supplies, water and electricity, jam communications and set up sound boxes to emit high-pitched, irritating high-decibal noise inside the embassy grounds.

The coup regime has declared a suspension of all constitutional rights and put an ultimatum to the Brazilian government. International reaction to this disturbing move has been disappointingly slow, especially from the US. The toll of casualties is mounting, the latest a woman who died from the effects of the teargas assault on the Brazilian embassy. Radio Globo is no longer transmitting, but has maintained its internet stream (listen HERE). The Honduran coup regime is reacting hysterically and with excessive force against the popular outrage that has only grown over the last three months, with hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets in protest on a daily basis.

Like other independent journalists and commentators he expresses profound disappointment in the lack of reaction by the US to this most recent travesty (among many) of the coup regime, not only against their own people, but against internationally agreed conventions and accepted norms of civilised behaviour.

Original audio source (AndresContrenasEmbassy29_Sep_2009.mp3)

Video of the aftermath of the military raid that shut down Radio Globo.

Coup oppresses Honduran people, Zelaya tells General Assembly

September 29, 2009 – United Nations News Centre With a “dictatorship” having taken over Honduras, the recent coup d’état is oppressing the people of the Latin American nation, ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya has told the General Assembly, calling for the assistance of the United Nations in restoring the rule of law.

Mr. Zelaya – who is seeking shelter at the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa – spoke by telephone on September 28 to the General Assembly during the address of Foreign Minister Patricia Isabel Rodas Baca to the annual high-level debate. (Watch a video of the address HERE. Requires Real Player.)

“I call on the United Nations to give assistance to reverse this coup and to ensure that democracy is available to all nations of the world”, he said last night.

Mr. Zelaya, who was ousted by the military in June, also appealed to “civilised nations of the world to maintain a firm position against barbarity”.

Current authorities have shut down media outlets, a move he characterised as a “serious crime.”

Civilised nations, he said, must take a stand against barbarism, he stressed, appealing to the United Nations to reverse the coup and ensure that democracy is spread to all of the world’s nations.

“No matter how small we are, we deserve no less than any other society”, Ms. Rodas Baca told heads of state and government gathered at UN headquarters, paying tribute to Hondurans for their efforts to find a solution to the crisis.

On September 25, the UN Security Council stressed the need to ensure the security of the Brazilian embassy where Mr. Zelaya has been holed up for the past week.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated today that threats on the Brazilian embassy in Honduras are “unacceptable”.

Speaking to reporters in New York, he said international law is clear: sovereign immunity cannot be violated. “Threats to the embassy staff and premises are intolerable. The Security Council has condemned such acts of intimidation. I do as well, in the strongest terms.”

The top UN political official warned yesterday that any action taken against the embassy in would be a disaster.

“I must say the situation there took a seriously bad turn with the threats on the Brazilian embassy”, Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe told a news conference, referring to published reports that the de facto government has given the embassy 10 days to decide whether to grant Mr. Zelaya asylum or hand him over.

“It’s a very serious problem for all of us. It would be a disaster if any action were taken to violate international law on the inviolability of the embassies. We’re also concerned to see the worsening situation as the de facto government has been turning up the screws internally, closing media outlets and also taking state of emergency measures against the population.

“We’re very concerned about all of that and have been trying to work with others to see whether we can move that process forward”, he added, reiterating UN readiness to provide whatever help it can to resolve the crisis and its full support for the efforts of Costa Rica's President Óscar Arias Sánchez to mediate the crisis.

During the General Assembly’s high-level segment, many Latin American countries – including Brazil, Venezuela and Panama – have voiced their support for Mr. Zelaya’s return to power.

Today, Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Samuel Santos Lopez also condemned the coup during his address to the General Assembly, saying that “from this moment we assert our definitive decision not to recognise the results of any electoral farce in that country."

“With this coup they sought to kill the democratic hopes and initiatives of the Honduran people, just as they sought to thwart the fraternal process that is the ALBA,” he added, referring to the bloc known as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas.

“The ‘ALBA’ is the basis for the horizontal and inclusive cooperation between our peoples. Its membership increases day by day.”

CISPES: Demand the new foreign policy Obama promised!

US State Department blames Honduran President Zelaya for military coup’s brutal violence against civilians

September 29, 2009 -- Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador -- On September 21, President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras, taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy. The Honduran military, under the command of the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, immediately began to attack the embassy with tear gas and other chemicals. Violations of international law have continued, including cutting off electricity, water and food, drawing recent condemnation by the UN Security council.

Even worse, the military has dramatically increased violence against the civilian population demonstrating in support of the legitimate president Zelaya (watch a video here). Among other deaths, Wendy Elizabeth Avila was killed by tear-gas intoxication during the violent displacement of protesters outside the Brazilian embassy on September 22. International human rights groups have documented assassinations, torture and rape of regime opponents since the coup on June 28.

On September 26, coup leader Micheletti signed an executive order that suspends all constitutional guarantees for 45 days, including freedom of the press and freedom to assemble. This decree prohibits meetings and demonstrations that do not have the permission of the military. Following the order, various independent radio and television stations have been shut down, in some cases violently.

Rather than denouncing the clear human rights violations by the Honduran military, the US Obama administration had remained silent. As Mark Weisbrot, director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, stated, "After 90 days and not one word from the Obama administration on the abuses in Honduras, it looks an awful lot like a tacit endorsement of the repression by the US government.” (Read the press release from CEPR here or breaking news from the journalist Laura Carlsen of Americas Policy Program here.)

On September 28, 2009, the US State Department broke its silence, but not with the condemnation and swift action the Honduran people have been calling for.

Instead, officials from the US State Department blamed Zelaya of for the violence being waged on the Honduran people. Lewis Amselem, interim US representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) stated, “The return was irresponsible… Zelaya and those who facilitated his return are responsible for the actions of their followers.”

Please join individuals and organisations in denouncing the State Department's tacit endorsement of the coup regime! This is far from the “new” foreign policy that Obama promised; in fact it is a terrifying throw back to US-supported coups in Latin American and the brutal military violence that has ensued (several top military officials in Honduras were trained by the United States at the School of the Americas).

The State Department should take immediate and decisive action against the de facto regime, declare the situation in Honduras a MILITARY coup, and cut all aid to Honduras as required by law.

1. Call the State Department comment line at 202-647-4000 or write President Barack Obama and urge the administration to:

a.) Call for a return of Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras and demand that the coup authorities, the army and the police respect the right to assembly and the human rights of the citizens of Honduras.

b.) Emphasise that any bloodshed and violence is the responsibility of the coup government and the security forces which they command.

2. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to speak to your Representative and Senators (or send an email to your Senators and Representative) with the same message. Also encourage your Representatives to sign on to the Delahunt-Serrano-McGovern House Resolution 630 condemning the June 28 military coup in Honduras.


The sordid history of Lewis Amselem, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS

From: http://machetera.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/the-sordid-history-of-lewis-amselem-deputy-u-s-permanent-representative-to-the-oas/

September 29, 2009

In 1989, the Current U.S. Representative to the OAS Covered Up a Case of Torture in Guatemala

By Jean-Guy Allard

Translation: Machetera

Lewis Amselem, the head of the U.S. delegation to the Organization of American States (OAS), who called President Manuel Zelaya’s return to his country “irresponsible” and “foolish” was denounced years ago for having concealed the identities of individuals, one of whom was a U.S. national, who tortured and raped a U.S. nun in Guatemala.

On November 2, 1989, Dianna Ortiz was kidnapped, raped and tortured by members of Guatemalan security forces, supervised by a North American citizen.

Since then, Ortiz has tried, tirelessly, to get the U.S. government to reopen the files of all those who were victims of brutality in Guatemala during the period of the pro-USA dictatorships.

“Zelaya’s return to Honduras is irresponsible and foolish and it doesn’t serve the interests of the people nor those seeking a peaceful reestablishment of democratic order in Honduras,” said Lewis Amselem, with an arrogance correspondent to his role as Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS.

Amselem was Human Rights Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala during the government of Vinicio Cerezo, a civil administration under which the army continued to savagely attack guerrillas.  Cerezo was criticized for his inertia in confronting cases of human rights violations.

Coincidentally, 1989 was the year when the CIA agent and terrorist of Cuban origin, Luis Posada Carriles, passed through Guatemala, where he fabricated a cover for himself as head of security for the state telephone company, Guatel.  President Vinicio Cerezo granted him special powers that turned him into a virtual gangster.  He is credited with a series of executions, kidnappings, swindles and frauds during that period.

A Pit Full of Corpses

Dianna Ortiz was an Ursuline nun when she decided to dedicate herself to society’s most humble, and went to Central America with other nuns, to work as a nurse in small indigenous communities.  Very soon she received anonymous death threats accusing her of complicity with guerrillas and ordering her to leave the country.

According to her account of a day in November, 1989, two men captured her in a garden of a community center, and took her in an unmarked police car to the former Polytechnic School, a military academy in Guatemala City.

A horrible interrogation began during which Ortiz was burned more than 100 times with cigarettes and raped repeatedly by her torturers, who ordered her to identify “subversives.”  The treatment was so rough that she fainted.

According to a report published in 1996 by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Ortiz, “at one point regained conciousness and found that her wrists had been tied over her head with a bra.  It seemed that she was in a patio.  Then she felt various people move a heavy slab on the floor.  They lowered her into a pit full of corpses.  She fainted again.  When she awoke, she was on the floor and the men had started again to abuse her sexually.”

The interminable torture session was interrupted by the arrival of a person who was called Alejandro, who explained that she’d been confused for a guerrilla leader named Verónica Ortiz Hernández.

While “Alejandro” was taking her in his Jeep to the “house of a friend of the Embassy,” Dianna escaped, by taking advantage of a stop at a traffic light.

A Bush Holdover

What followed in the subsequent years was a true ordeal for a woman already destroyed by this hellish experience.

The Guatemalan Defense Minister, Hector Gramajo, said publicly that Dianna Ortiz had made up her story, adding insults and slanderous insinuations of a sexual nature.

Researching the subject, reporters from ABC News identified the source of these degrading rumors.  They came from the Office of Human Rights’ Lewis Amselem, who upon being asked about them, vehemently denied any involvement.

The Reverend Joseph Nangle of the Assisi Community, said later that Amselem had spoken on the subject in his presence, with an outrageous vulgarity.

Other people confirmed Nangle’s comment and added that Amselem multiplied his insulting references to the presence of religious volunteers in Guatemala’s indigenous communities.

On October 16, 1996, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission recognized the veracity of Ortiz’s declarations, based on the information presented and its investigation and analysis of the case, and condemned the Guatemalan government.

However, the U.S. Ambassador, Thomas F. Stroock and his employee, Amselem, who constantly hindered the investigation, are not mentioned in the document.

In 1995, a U.S. court sentenced Hector Gramajo to pay $47 million to Ortiz and his other victims.

Amselem was a diplomat from the Bush Administration, who remained in place, just like many other ultra right-wingers in the current Obama administration.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity.This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.