(Updated Sept. 25) Honduras: Zelaya returns — Resistance prepares more action; coup regime reacts with repression

Democracy Now! report, September 22, 2009. Click HERE for program transcript.

[Follow the latest developments live (in Spanish) on Telesur and Radio Globo Honduras.]

By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

September 22, 2009 — Green Left Weekly -- The dictatorship in Honduras, which overthrew the elected government of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, has unleashed a wave of repression against the masses of people who have taken to the streets following Zelaya's dramatic return on September 21.

Zelaya, who was exiled by the military, secretly entered the country, travelled to the Honduran capital of  Tegucigalpa and sought asylum in the Brazil embassy two days ago. Masses of his poor supporters, who have waged three months of peaceful resistance against the coup, gathered outside the embassy — defying the coup regime’s imposition of a total curfew.

Dirian Pereira, a member of the international commission of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras (FNRG) told Green Left Weekly from Tegucigalpa: “The repression has extended into the neighbourhoods [of Tegucigalpa] and other parts of the country. There has been repression in La Canada, which has a high population of teachers. Similarly in Cerro del Picacho and other places. They are raiding houses and launching tear gas canisters everywhere, with is obvious affecting the population a lot.”

Pereira said “some 2000 people were being detained on the outskirts of the city”, while around 150 had been jailed in Tegucigalpa and 50 in San Pedro Sula. Images are also emerging of large numbers of protesters being rounded up and detained in a soccer stadium in Tegucigalpa.

The coup regime began its wave of repression around 4am on September 22 when the military launched a brutal attack on protesters gathered outside the Brazil embassy. They had been gathering there since the previous day to welcome Zelaya back.  

The brutal repression forced protesters to leave the area. Soldiers then raided the two surrounding houses, blocked off all road access to the embassy, and cut off the embassy’s electricity and water. Tear gas has also been launched into embassy grounds and ear-piercing noise blasted into the area in an attempt to force Zelaya out.

“The fear is that they will attack the embassy ... they may even try and assassinate Mel [as Zelaya is popularly known], although this is speculation”, Pereira said.

In light of the “extreme repression, the National Resistance Front will be meeting in the next few hours to decide what position to take”, added Pereira.

The website of the FNRG posted a declaration calling on “all of the resistance” to participate in “a peaceful march tomorrow, September 23 at 8am in front of the Pedagogical University Francisco Morazan”.

Zelaya returns — the people celebrate

By Federico Fuentes, Caracas

Green Left Weekly -- September 21, 2009 — “Telgucigalpa is one big party”, said Dirian Pereira, member of the international commission of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup in Honduras, speaking to Green Left  Weekly over the phone from the Honduran capital. President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, returned to Honduras on September 21 and took refuge in Brazil's embassy in Telgucigalpa.

Thousands of people have gatheredin the capital to welcome him back almost three months after the military kidnapped him at gunpoint in the early hours of the morning and flew him into exile in Costa Rica.Mass resistance on the streets from the poor majority, demanding “their” president's return, has continued unabated since. From the Brazilian embassy, Zelaya called for the Honduran people to celebrate on the streets. The coup regime responded by announcing a curfew.

The Honduran people celebrate the return of ``Mel''. Photo: Sky News.

“The people are totally ignoring the curfew”, Pereira said. “The curfew started at 4 pm, right about the time that most people are leaving work. All of this is a demonstration of the desperation of the coup regime that wants everyone to simply go home. But the people are coming out of work and are not going to their home. Many have gone to the Brazilian embassy to greet their president. It is a big party.”

Pereira said people were flooding in from all parts of the country to hold for a massive mobilisation on September 22. “The buses that are arriving from San Pedro Sula, that are arriving from many other parts of the country, are being stopped on the outskirts of Tegulcigalpa. But the people are simply stepping off the bus and marching together into the centre.”

President Manuel Zelaya greets supporters from inside Brazil's Telgucigalpa embassy. Photo: Sky News.

For the Honduran elite behind the coup, Zelaya’s crimes included increasing the minimum wage by 60% and blocking privatisations. His biggest crime, however, was to open a democratic process to change the constitution. Similar process have occurred in recent years in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador — with the poor and indigenous peoples winning many important rights for the first time.

On June 28, a non-binding referendum had been organised that asked whether the Honduran people supported the calling of a constituent assembly to discuss, debate and vote on a new constitution.

Zelaya had also developed closer relations with countries such as Venezuela and Cuba, joining the anti-imperialist Bolivarian Alternative of Our Americas (ALBA) bloc.

After almost 90 days of mass resistance and daily protests on the streets, combined with a diplomatic offensive to restore democracy headed by Zelaya and the ALBA nations, “Mel”, as he is warmly referred to by the poor sectors of Honduran society, has finally returned to Honduras.

He is calling on the people to mobilise and ensure that legitimate government is restored.

Asked what could be expected to occur in the next few hours, Pereira told GLW: “This is still to be seen, because the de facto government says that nothing is happening, that Honduras is calm and that all of this is the result of the curfew. The curfew was enacted in order to intimidate the people so that they would not go and join those from the resistance front at the embassy. They did it to create fear in the population.

“They say that they will not negotiate … but Mel has come with the intention of negotiating. We don’t know what will happen ... but we are continuing to demand a constituent assembly.”

A delegation from the Organization of American States is set to arrive in Honduras on September 22 Honduras. The OAS has been promoting Plan Arias, drawn up by mediators, which would see Zelaya restored to power, but with his hands tied and forced to accept power-sharing arrangements with those who overthrew him.

Pereira said the problem for the popular organisations and the National Resistance Front is that “the Plan Arias does not contemplate a constituent assembly. As far as we know, there is also a UN commission coming.

“We will see what happens, but regardless the organizations are here demanding a constituent assembly.”

[Green Left Weekly hopes to have ongoing coverage on the dramatic developments in the struggle for democracy and justice in Honduras in the coming days.]

National Resistance Front Against the Coup condemns repression

September 22, 2009 -- To the national and international community we denounce that at the first hours of the morning a strong contingent of police and military violently attacked the peaceful protest that was happening around the Brazillian embassy to celebrate the return of the legitimate President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

The repressive bodies made use of firearms, teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against people who were in the area, some of which were still sleeping. There are people injured from bullets and gravely beaten in the Hospital Escuela. The exact number of detained is unknown.

We condemn these acts of barbarity that are rooted in a state of siege that violates fundamental human rights.

To the human rights organisations and the peoples and governments of the world, we call to join in repudiation against the brutal actions of the de facto regime installed by the Honduran oligarchy.

To the Honduran people we urge you to stay alert to the next instructions emanating from the coordinators of the Resistance.

Via Campesina: The resistance does not stop and President Zelaya arrives in Honduras! In spite of the repression, the end is near for the coup regime!

By Via Campesina

September 22, 2009 -- After 86 days of struggle and resistence from the heroic people of Honduras against the military coup, this day started the fall of the coup regime with the arrival of the deposed president Manuel Zelaya to Tegucigalpa. An enormous mobilisation of masses, from all corners of the country, started to arrive to the capital city to receive president Zelaya, to demand his restitution and put an end to the coup regime led by Roberto Micheletti.

Since the early morning, once the news of the return of the president got out, thousands of hondurans arrived first at the offices of the United Nations and then marched toward the Brazilian Embassy to receive Zelaya. There, president Zelaya met with a commission of the National Resisatnce Front Against the Coup. Immediately the coupsters mobilised thousands of soldiers and officials of the National Police to intimidate and try to control the uncontainable wave of Hondurans who were yelling, Yes we can! Yes we can! The aggressions and intimidations of military forces of the regime, throughout the day, did not manage to intimidate or unmotivate the pacific but militant and willing to resist, demonstration. Thus, the regime decreed a curfew starting at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and Micheletti issued a public warning of heightened enforcement against the people.

But no one can detain these heroic people.

Despite the machinery of repression of Micheletti’s coup regime, with deaths, injured, imprisoned and disappeared, the people, gathered in the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, the marches, the blockades, the cultural activities of prostest and the concentration of masses have not ceased, on the contrary, they have spread across the entire country in opposition to the coup. Since the beginning, the resistence identified very clearly their objectives:

1. The restoration of the legitimate presidency of Zelaya.

2. The celebration of a Constitutional Assembly.

3. Reform the constitution to construct a true popular and sovereign democracy.

Now is the beginning of the construction of popular democracy which mobilised thousands of workers, peasants, women, indigenous, afrodecendents, teachers, students, human rights activists and the general population, since Sunday the 28 of June, when the military captured president Zelaya, deported him to Costa Rica, and installed a usurper as president.

But also the most difficult phase of the struggle is to come, as the coup regime, cornered by the popular struggle, is capable of committing bloody repressions in an attempt to seize power. The following days will be the most difficult for the resistance struggle.

Therefore, La Via Campesina makes an urgent call to its member organisations, to allied social movements and all people of the world to be on red alert and dispatch international solidarity as widely as possible to detain attempts of tragic repression against the Honduran people and its leadership, and to ensure the immediate fall of the coup. We are making a call to send international missions to accompany the Honduran people in these next days, and to demand that your goverments acts now to put an end to the coup regime and to collect funds to economically support the struggle.


Via Campesina

* La Via Campesina
International peasant movement
Movimiento campesino internacional
Mouvement paysan international

secretaria operativa/operative secretariat:
Jln. Mampang Prapatan XIV no 5 Jakarta Selatan, Jakarta 12790 Indonesia

Tel/fax: +62-21-7991890/+62-21-7993426
Email: viacampesina@viacampesina.org

Seven million Hondurans under house arrest as Micheletti writes of `democracy'

September 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

By Al Giordano, Narconews

Hondurans outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa yesterday greet their returning president. This morning, coup regime troops attacked them violently, sending 24 wounded to hospitals. D.R. 2009 Mariachiloko, Chiapas Indymedia.

The Honduran coup regime’s 26-hour martial curfew upon the entire country effectively places 7.5 million Honduran citizens – men, women, children and elders – under house arrest. They are prohibited from going to work, to the store, or to walk down the street to visit a neighbour. Anybody on the street is subject to arrest, for violation of the curfew.

If this happened to you, what would you call it?

The stated pretext for this heavy-handed maneuvre is nothing more or less than that the regime, its “president” and its security forces have been embarrassed before their countrypeople and the world. Yesterday morning’s claims by coup “president” Roberto Micheletti that news reports could not possibly be true that the legitimate President Manuel Zelaya was back in town, that the regime’s intelligence forces had his every step followed and “knew” he was “in a hotel suite in Managua'', became egg on Micheletti’s face when Zelaya appeared from the rooftop of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa September 21 to greet a multitude of citizens who want their elected president restored.

The military curfew has no practical reason. It will not bring the expulsion, anew, of Zelaya from national territory. It will not hasten his capture by the regime. And it does not make the regime any more legitimate. To the contrary, it demonstrates, again, its repressive, anti-democratic and usurper character. It is a desperate act meant to punish the entire Honduran people for, after 86 days, not “getting with the program” and backing the coup. It is a tantrum by the man-child Micheletti to lash out and insist, “I’m in charge, here,” but it only serves to underscore, again, that he is not in control of the country or its people.

Thousands violated the curfew blatantly last night keeping watch outside the Brazilian embassy. In the morning, the coup’s security forces entered, shot tear-gas canisters at the crowd (and over the embassy wall) and violently attacked the peaceful protesters. Local hospitals report 24 wounded from the invasion. National Police, additionally, waged a separate attack on the human rights organisation COFADEH (family members of the disappeared and detained) at 8 am, September 22, launching tear-gas missiles through its glass windows.

Radio Globo now reports that the same Supreme Court that contorted the Honduran constitution to create a legal curtain around the June 28 coup d’etat is now meeting to cook up its latest kangaroo jump: a court order to invade the embassy – which is Brazilian territory under international law – to capture (or assassinate) President Zelaya. So large and irrational is the regime’s obsession with the presence of one solitary man in the country that it confines every citizen to his and her home and tears up the constitution, again.

In a whining attempt to claim victory out of what is the coup regime’s single most stunning defeat to date, Micheletti had his US handler Lanny Davis whip up an op ed column published last night in the Washington Post.

Here’s a quick translation from its hurried English to plain talk: “I did nothing wrong and why doesn’t anybody in the world understand me?” It is the speech of a child to mommy and daddy after he is caught stealing from the candy store again. From the first sentence, when he complains that, “Manuel Zelaya has surreptitiously returned to Honduras”, Micheletti seems to think that the world has forgotten that Zelaya very openly attempted to enter his own country twice this summer – announcing where and when in advance – and it was Micheletti who blocked an airport runway and sent troops to the border to keep the elected president out, even as he insisted that he wanted to place Zelaya under arrest.

“The international community has wrongfully condemned the events of June 28 and mistakenly labeled our country as undemocratic”, Micheletti lamented at the very hour he was ordering the 26-hour curfew. How could anybody possibly think that a warden that orders 7.5 million people to remain locked in their homes could somehow be “undemocratic''?

“Coups do not allow freedom of assembly, either. They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less a respect for human rights”, wrote Micheletti, as his troops readied this morning’s attack on a free assembly and a human rights office, and just hours after he accused independent TV and radio stations of “media terrorism” for having reported the truth that Zelaya had returned (see Belén Fernández’s related report from Tegucigalpa today: Radio Globo and Channel 36 Announce the Return of Zelaya).

Micheletti’s column is easily recognisable to readers in the United States as coming from the same script that his lobbyist Lanny Davis used last year to insist, long after Hilary Clinton had lost the Democratic presidential nomination, that she was, in fact, winning. And it comes off just as pathetically.

Meanwhile, in the regime he calls a “democracy” seven and a half million people are confined to their homes. Micheletti isn’t a “president”. He’s a two-bit warden, coming to grips with the painful reality that he is neither a head of state, nor ready for prime time.

Update September 22, 2:46 pm. Tegucigalpa: Further showing his grand commitment to "democracy" and law, Micheletti's security forces are presently reading the search and seizure order through a megaphone to the Brazilian embassy. It could be a bluff, but if Zelaya doesn't fall for it (and Narconews predicts he won't) and the coup troops invade the embassy, all hell is going to break loose on an international level, just as the United Nations General Assembly begins its most important session of the year in New York.

Brazil's foreign minister, in New York, has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. The US State Department has called on the de facto regime to respect Brazilian territory, as US President Obama has just appointed US Representative Bill Delahunt leader in the US Congress against the Honduran coup, to the US delegation at the UN session, perhaps an indication of some plans afoot up there.

Is the coup regime that desperate and stupid to commit an act of war against Brazilian territory? (Two words to ponder: Blue helmets.) We'll shortly find out, and report it here.

September 22, 3:18 pm: Micheletti blinks:

Honduras' de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, said on Tuesday he has no intention of confronting Brazil or entering its embassy where ousted President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge to avoid arrest.

"We will do absolutely nothing to confront another brotherly nation. We we want them to understand that they should give him political asylum (in Brazil) or turn him over to Honduran authorities to be tried," Micheletti told Reuters.

Meanwhile, at least two popular barrios in and around Tegucigalpa have defied, en masse, the curfew order and chased National Police out of their communities: El Pedregal and Colonia Kennedy. They've erected barricades and declared the coup regime and its security forces non grata.

September 22, 5:57 pm: Brazil has now put its request for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council in writing. It clearly considers the hostile actions by the Honduras coup regime of cutting water, telephone and electricity to its embassy and the physical intervention by regime security forces to prevent food, water or other provisions from entering the building as acts of war.

The Security Council has five permanent member states -- Russia, China, Great Britain, France and the United States -- and five rotating seats now filled by Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya, Burkina Faso and Vietnam. Do the math. The presidency of the Security Council rotates month by month. In September of 2009 that chair belongs to the United States. The council will meet tomorrow morning to discuss the situation in Honduras and whatever requests Brazil makes. Perhaps related: US President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly at 10 am tomorrow in New York.

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.

Military and police repression of Zelaya supporters. School of the Americas (SOA) graduate-led Honduran military surrounds Brazil embassy

SOA Watch -- September 22, 2009

SOA Watch's Latin America Coordinator Lisa Sullivan just talked with our friends at COFADEH, the Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared, minutes after their offices were attacked with tear gas by the police. There are reports of three deaths during the day, but COFADEH has not been able to confirm this information yet.

The baseball stadium of the Villa Olimpica is being used to detain protesters that are rounded up by the military and the police.

The houses next to the Brazilian embassy have been evacuated, taken over by the military. There are concerns that there are 25 minors among the 60 at the embassy.

President Manuel Zelaya, after over eighty days in exile, has returned to Honduras. In a BBC interview, Zelaya said "[We travelled] for more than 15 hours... through rivers and mountains until we reached the capital of Honduras, which we reached in the early hours of the morning. We overtook military and police obstacles, all those on the highways here, because this country has been kidnapped by the military forces."

The coup regime has imposed a curfew for the entire country from 4pm September 21 afternoon until 6pm September 22. Media outlets are being silenced and cell phone and email correspondence is being limited, in a repeat of the tactics immediately following the June 28 2009 military coup by graduates of the [US-funded and -run] School of the Americas [military training program].

Thousands defied the orders and gathered in front of the Brazilian embassy, where Zelaya is currently staying. Radio Globo reported from the convergence in front of the Brazilian embassy: "We are hear peacefully, unarmed because we are the people and don't fear the military. The military must serve the people and their democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya."

However, the SOA graduate-led Honduran military and the police moved this morning against the peacefully assembled crowd in front of the Brazilian embassy and disbursed them with bullets and water tankers. Supporters of the constitutional president of Honduras are being attacked and beaten. The embassy is now surrounded by the military. The coup regime leader, Roberto Micheletti, threatened to cancel the embassy's immunity if Zelaya were not handed over to the de facto regime. An overall atmosphere of insecurity is now being imposed.

President Zelaya called on the armed forces not to attack their own people and encouraged the Honduran people to continue mobilising for peace and the restoration of constitutional order. The National Resistance Front Against the Coup has sent out a call for a national strike today, and for people to come from all parts of the country to the capital to continue the show of popular support for the return of the democratically elected president.

Our fear that the coup authorities would crack down even harder, now that their end is near, is materialising.

Visit SOA Watch to send protest messages and for more updates.

Venezuela’s Chavez says hand power the Zelaya

By Kiraz Janicke, Caracas

September 22, 2009 -- Venezuelanalysis.com -- Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez today congratulated the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, on his "heroic" return to his homeland 86 days after he was ousted by a military coup on June 28. Chavez called on the coup regime, headed by Roberto Micheletti, to peacefully hand power to Zelaya. 

Chavez, who received a telephone call from Zelaya informing him of his arrival in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, during a televised inauguration of an education project in Caracas, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the news.

"Zelaya has returned in a heroic manner", Chavez said, reporting that the Honduran president, accompanied by four companions, arrived in Tegucigalpa after two days of travel by land, "crossing mountains and rivers, risking their lives".

"We demand the coup plotters in Honduras respect life; respect the dignity of the president. He is the President of Honduras and they should hand over power", he added.

Micheletti, who has repeatedly threatened to arrest Zelaya on his return, initially denied reports that the constitutionally elected president was in the country, claiming it was simply a campaign of "media terrorism," however Zelaya's presence was confirmed by the Brazilian embassy in Honduras where he sought refuge.

Speaking to the press Zelaya called on the Honduran Armed Forces to "respect the human rights of the Honduran people", as dramatic scenes broadcast by the Venezuelan-based Telesur showed thousands of his supporters converging on the Brazilian embassy to celebrate his return.

"To the commander general of the armed forces of Honduras... I peacefully make a call for sanity, so that there is no violence on the streets. The people here are unarmed, shouting for joy", he said.

Zelaya said he had come to engage in a peaceful dialogue and called on the Honduran people to organise themselves to "reconstruct democracy" adding that the power of the people, "is capable of achieving great transformations."

Miguel Insulza, president of the Organization of American States, confirmed today that he had spoken to Zelaya by telephone shortly after his arrival in Tegucigalpa and has called an extraordinary meeting of the OAS to analyse the situation. Insulza is expected to arrive in Honduras on September 22 to meet with Zelaya, meanwhile he has called on the de facto regime to guarantee the safety of Zelaya and respect the integrity of the Brazilian embassy.

The ousting of Zelaya has been almost universally condemned by the international community, including the OAS, the UN Generally Assembly and other international bodies, which have called for the "immediate and unconditional return" of the democratically elected president.

However, the response of the U.S. government has been ambiguous. Although US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have made comments calling for the return of Zelaya, the US has failed to legally define the coup as a "coup", has been slow to cut financial aid and has continued training the Honduran military.

International pressure for the coup regime to step down has been growing. On September 10, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) confirmed that they will not recognise the results of the Honduran elections in November if these elections are carried out while the coup government remains in power.

Inside Honduras, resistance to the coup has been reflected in daily street demonstrations over the past three months, as well as numerous strikes and road blockades.

Gilberto Rios from the National Resistance Front against the Coup told Venezuelanalysis.com that the economic impact of the coup had been disastrous and that more and more sectors were joining the resistance every day. The return of Zelaya has bought the crisis to a head.

Juan Barahona, the coordinator of the National Resistance Front against the Coup said the streets of Tegucigalpa are flooded with people protesting the coup and that "there is a mass popular reaction".

``It's very difficult for the coup regime to maintain itself in power for more than 24 hours, the armed forces would have to carry out a blood bath to stop this", he told Venezuelan Television (VTV) on September 22.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said, "This could be the moment of truth for the Obama administration. If Zelaya is back, they will have to choose sides. It is pretty clear that the rest of the world will stand with Zelaya, for his return to the presidency, and for the restoration of democracy in Honduras."

"The arrest of Zelaya on dubious charges -- which the regime has no legal authority to pursue -- would increase its isolation, and possibly sanctions, from the international community", Weisbrot added.

However, Roman Vásquez Velásquez, chief of the armed forces stated his support for Micheletti and the coup regime has imposed a military curfew.

In a second broadcast Chavez again called on the coup regime to step down, "The people of Honduras are in the street waiting and we hope that the coup regime gives up power and are not going to massacre the people or attempt any such madness. The world is watching."

[First published at Venezuela Analysis.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sun, 09/27/2009 - 18:02



Extra! September 2009

By Mark Cook

The pretext for the Honduran coup d’état is nothing new. In a remarkable replay, bogus charges that the corporate media in the U.S. and Europe have repeated endlessly without attempting to substantiate—that Honduran president Manuel Zelaya sought to amend the country’s constitution to run for another term—are virtually identical to the sham justification for the 1964 coup against Brazilian president João Goulart.

The Brazilian coup, depicted at the time as a victory for constitutional democracy, kicked off a series of extreme right-wing military coups against democratically elected governments throughout the Southern Cone of Latin America and beyond. Brazil was turned into a base for subversion of neighboring democratic governments (National Security Archive, 6/20/02); Goulart and a previous Brazilian president, Juscelino Kubitschek, both died in 1976 in incidents that have since been attributed to the multinational assassination program Operation Condor (Folha, 1/27/08; Carta Maior, 7/17/08). Given that history, the strength and unanimity of Latin American and international condemnation of the Honduran coup—despite a worldwide media disinformation campaign against Zelaya—is hardly surprising.

On March 31, 1964, the democratic government of Brazil’s Goulart, a wealthy rancher hated by big business for having dramatically raised the minimum wage, was overthrown in a coup d’état organized by ultra-rightist elements in Brazil’s military and strongly backed by the U.S. government. For decades, U.S. officials denied involvement in the coup, but in 2004 the nongovernmental National Security Archive (3/31/04) published newly declassified documents revealing President Lyndon Johnson’s personal involvement and a massive U.S. military and CIA commitment.

At the New York Times, which editorially cheered the “peaceful revolution” (4/3/64), influential columnist Arthur Krock (4/3/64) accused Goulart of seeking to “prolong [his term] by removing the constitutional ban against consecutive presidential succession.”

“What really happened,” Krock declared, in phrasing repeated almost word for word 45 years later in Honduran coverage, “was the failure of a bid for power, contrary to a fundamental principle of the Brazilian Constitution.” Newsweek (4/6/64) and Time (4/10/64) ran similar allegations, also without providing any evidence.

Evidence is just as little needed today, as corporate journalists drape baseless claims with the word “fear” (instead of “assert” or “contend”) in the apparent belief that it absolves them of any responsibility to evaluate whether there is any truth to the charge: “Critics feared [Zelaya] intended to extend his rule past January, when he would have been required to step down,” the New York Times wrote (7/6/09) in a typical passage. Nowhere did the article or others like it attempt to evaluate whether this would even have been possible, given that Zelaya was not a candidate in the country’s November elections and would have to give up the presidency to his successor in January. In fact, Zelaya’s own vice president had resigned in order to run for the presidency.

Media depictions of Goulart as a “leftist” and ally of Castro found their echo in coverage of Honduran President Zelaya as a “leftist” (e.g, Reuters, 7/31/09) and “power- hungry protégé of U.S.-hating Venezuela President Hugo Chávez” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/19/09). Forty years after the Brazilian coup, the New York Times (6/23/04) was still running the line that “the armed forces overthrew Mr. Goulart’s government, fearing he intended to install a Cuban-style Communist regime in Brazil.”

There was never the slightest evidence that Goulart intended to install a “Cuban-style Communist regime,” any more than that he was attempting to run for another term. As with Zelaya in Honduras, Goulart’s real crime was to use the minimum wage and similar measures to attempt to moderate the extremes of wealth and poverty in his country; Latin America has long suffered from the greatest income inequality in the world (U.N. Human Development Report, 2007/2008). As the National Labor Committee (6/27/07) reported, Honduras’ minimum wage was reduced in 2007, in a race to the bottom against neighboring Nicaragua, when the country joined the Washington-sponsored Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The U.S. corporate media’s cheering for the 1964 coup in Brazil foreshadowed their support for other Latin American dictatorships. In July 1976, four months after the military seized power in Argentina and while tens of thousands were being tortured and killed across the Southern Cone, the New York Times (7/24/76) published a dispatch from Rio headlined “Grip of Latin Military Squeezes Leftists Out.” The article, which did not mention or even hint at the death and torture squads operating across the continent, justified the overthrow of democratic governments in Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, reciting unquestioningly the militaries’ own versions of why they seized power.

“Most of the South American military groups reached power during political and economic crises that saw the decomposition of civilian institutions, threats to the unity of the armed forces and open appeals by civilian leaders to the military to abandon its political neutrality,” the article declared, speaking of the militaries’ success in dealing with “subversives” in cooperation with the School of the Americas. It was accompanied by a photo from Pinochet’s Chile of a soldier standing over a box with several handguns. The caption read: “A Chilean soldier guards weapons taken from leftist terrorists.”

U.S. corporate media extolled the economic programs of the dictatorships, ultra-neoliberal policies that greatly increased inequality throughout the region and ended all too often in economic breakdown. Almost two years after the 1964 Brazilian military coup, by which time the intensity of the political repression was undeniable, Time magazine (12/31/65) praised the coup government for slashing wheat and oil subsidies, “thus halting a wasteful drain on Brazil’s treasury.” The effect in skyrocketing food prices was devastating to most Brazilian families. The same article praised the coup regime’s ending of “labor’s inflation-producing 75 percent-to-100 percent wage hikes.” “Many Brazilians still gripe about this year’s 45 percent increase in the cost of living,” the magazine acknowledged, “but businessmen give [Economic Planning Minister Roberto] Campos a rousing cheer, and foreign investors are registering their votes with money.”

Time added approvingly that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, virtually or entirely absent from Brazil since 1959, had extended massive new loans. The loans, which often disappeared into the pockets of the key figures in the military dictatorships, saddled country after country with massive debts by the early 1980s.

U.S. corporate media typically depict the plotters of these sorts of coups as responsible leaders stepping in to save the country from an erratic left-winger who had lost all popular support because of disastrous economic policies; accordingly, the plotters in Tegucigalpa were described as the “interim government” (AP, 8/1/09), the “caretaker government” (New York Times, 7/6/09), even the “new government” (New York Times, 7/8/09). Newspaper editors are familiar with phrases like “coup leaders,” “coup government” and “de facto rulers,” and use them when they wish—but those were conspicuously missing in most coverage.

Unfortunately for their purposes, the media’s attempt to present the coup group as responsible leaders kept being undermined by the behavior of the leaders themselves. They flew the democratically elected president they had just overthrown into forced exile clad in his pajamas (Washington Post, 7/28/09). They waved around an obviously forged presidential “letter of resignation” that the Honduran Congress straightfacedly pretended to believe in order to “legalize” his ouster (BBC, 7/28/09). (The Honduran Congress has no constitutional authority to dismiss a Honduran president.) Apologists for the coup kept forgetting their lines about term limits, complaining instead about the deposed president’s raising the minimum wage (AP, 8/6/09).

Attempts by the coup leaders and their Washington-based apologists to claim that they were acting in accordance with the Honduran constitution were so laughable that even the corporate media relegated them to guest columns on the opinion page. The drumbeat of such op-eds (e.g., New York Times, 7/7/09), however, with virtually no opposing viewpoints published*, would lead U.S. newspaper readers to believe falsely that Zelaya was ousted because he tried to use a referendum to extend his term in office.

In one widely circulated column, the Los Angeles Times (7/10/09) featured Miguel Estrada, a Bush administration Appeals Court nominee blocked by a Democratic filibuster. Estrada, like other coup defenders, stressed that the current Honduran constitution mandates removal for any president who attempts to change the constitution to run for a second term. The trouble is that Zelaya never proposed anything of the sort—something Estrada had to admit. He asserted, however, that that was the “only conceivable motive” Zelaya could have had for seeking a new constitutional convention—which would have occurred after Zelaya’s successor had already been elected.

Even if Estrada’s sleight-of-hand assertion were true, Zelaya would have had a right to indictment and trial. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons to rewrite the Honduran constitution. It was written in 1982, during the thinly disguised military dictatorship of Gen. Gustavo Alvarez. Alvarez, a School of the Americas alum who worked closely with U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, set up the death squads that terrorized Honduras and made the country’s security forces indistinguishable from the country’s extreme right wing. It was in May 1983, under the current constitution, that the Honduran congress adopted the infamous Decree 33. As Gerry O’Sullivan wrote in the Humanist (3/1/94), the decree “declared anyone a ‘terrorist’ who distributed political literature, associated with foreigners, joined groups deemed subversive by the government, damaged property or destroyed documents.”

The U.S. corporate media have carefully averted their eyes from such history as that of General Alvarez—as from the role of School of the Americas graduates in the current coup. It was thanks to the School of the Americas Watch and the National Catholic Reporter (6/29/09), not the corporate media, that the public learned of ongoing U.S. training of the Honduran military, despite the Obama administration’s claim to have cut military ties. When history repeats itself, don’t look for accurate coverage from those who got it wrong the first time around.

* The L.A. Times did publish one of the very few op-eds critical of the coup plotters’ pretexts, a piece by Mark Weisbrot (7/23/09).

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