Honduran Coup Turns Violent, Sanctions Imposed

Thousands of
Hondurans are now in the streets to protest the coup d'etat in their
country. They have been met with tear gas, anti-riot rubber bullets,
tanks firing water mixed with chemicals, and clubs. Police have moved
in to break down barricades and soldiers used violence to push back
protesters at the presidential residence, leaving an unknown number

If the coup leaders were desperate when they decided to forcibly
depose the elected president, they are even more desperate now.
Stripped of its pretense of legality by universal repudiation and faced
with a popular uprising, the coup has turned to more violent means.

The scoreboard in the battle for Honduras shows the coup losing
badly. It has not gained a single point in the international diplomatic
arena, it has no serious legal points, and the Honduran people are
mobilizing against it. As the military and coup leaders resort to brute
force, they rack up even more points against them in human rights and
common decency.

Only one factor brought the coup to power and only one factor has
enabled it to hold on for these few days-control of the armed forces.
Now even that seems to be eroding.

Cracks in Army Loyalty to the Coup?

Reports are coming in
that several battalions-specifically the Fourth and Tenth-have rebelled
against coup leadership. Both Zelaya and his supporters have been very
conscious that within the armed forces there are fractures. Instead of
insulting the army, outside the heavily guarded presidential residence
many protesters chant, "Soldiers, you are part of the people."

President Zelaya has been remarkably respectful in calling on the army to "correct its actions."
It is likely the coup will continue to lose its grip on the army as
intensifying mobilizations force it to confront its own people.

International Community Imposes Sanctions

In the diplomatic arena, it's not that the coup is losing its
grip-it never even got a foothold. The meeting of the Central American
Integration System in Managua Monday became a forum for pronouncements
from one after another of the major diplomatic groups in the region.
Latin America is a region where diplomatic recombinations have
proliferated in recent years, so the alphabet soup of solidarity
statements just keeps on growing.

The Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) issued a resolution,
announcing the withdrawal of its ambassadors while continuing the
member countries' international cooperation programs in Honduras. The
group urged other nations to do the same-a growing list including
Brazil and Mexico has already followed suit.

The ALBA group cited the Honduran Constitution, which states in Art. 3:

"No one owes obedience to a government that has usurped
power or to those who assume functions or public posts by the force of
arms or using means or procedures that rupture or deny what the
Constitution and the laws establish. The verified acts by such
authorities are null. The people have the right to recur to
insurrection in defense of the constitutional order."

Putting teeth behind the words has already begun. The Central
American countries agreed to close off their land borders to all
commerce with Honduras for the next 48 hours. The Central American Bank
for Economic Integration has cut off all lending until the president is restored to power.

It also called for sanctions in multilateral organizations: "We
propose that exemplary sanctions be applied in all multilateral
organizations and integration groups, to contribute to bringing about
the immediate restitution of the constitutional order in Honduras, and
to make good on the principle of action that Jose Marti taught us when
he said: 'If each one does his duty, no one can overcome us.'"

The Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean nations also met in
Managua and issued a statement condemning the coup and supporting
Zelaya. Organization of American States Sec. General Jose Insulza was
there too. President Zelaya received a standing ovation following his
closing speech.

The U.S. government has been unambiguous in its condemnation of the coup and support of President Zelaya. President Obama stated today:

"We believe that the coup was not legal and that
President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there."
He added, "It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backward
into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of
political transition rather than democratic elections."

After years of the Bush administration, when the commitment to
democracy abroad was decided more on the basis of ideological
affinities than democratic practice, some sectors have trouble
accepting that the U.S. government is condemning the overthrow of a
president who espouses left-wing causes. Note the obstinacy of
reporters at today's State Department press conference:

QUESTION: "So Ian, I'm sorry, just to confirm-so you're
not calling it a coup, is that correct? Legally, you're not considering
it a coup?"

MR. KELLY: "Well, I think you all saw the OAS statement last night,
which called it a coup d'etat, and you heard what the Secretary just
said ..." (Clinton explicitly called it a coup).

This discussion and another drawn-out discussion in which reporters
attempted to open up a window of doubt over support for reinstatement
of Zelaya went on quite a while. Ian Kelly, the Dept. spokesperson,
held fast as reporters tried to equate supposed violations of law by
Zelaya with a military coup in a fantasy "everyone's-at-fault"
scenario. Kelly reiterated that the coup is indeed an illegal coup and
the only solution is the return of the elected president.

The "coup question" is more than semantics and has implications
beyond conservative media's political agenda to justify the coup
leaders. When a legal definition of coup is established, most U.S. aid
to Honduras must be cut off.

Here's the relevant part of the foreign operations bill:

Sec. 7008. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise
made available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall be
obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the
government of any country whose duly elected head of government is
deposed by military coup or decree.

So far, the Obama administration has focused on diplomatic efforts
and is waiting to see how long the Honduran stand-off will last before
looking to specific sanctions. The probability that the coup's days are
numbered makes that a reasonable strategy for the time being.

Attack on Freedom of Expression

The military coup has also launched an all-out attack on freedom of expression in the country. Venezuela's Telesur reports that its team was detained and military personnel threatened to confiscate its video equipment if it continued to broadcast.

The ALBA declaration notes the use of censorship as a tool of the
coup, "This silence was meant to impose the dictatorship by closing the
government channel and cutting off electricity, seeking to hide and
justify the coup before the people and the international community, and
demonstrating an attitude that recalls the worst era of dictatorships
that we've suffered in the 20th century in our continent."

Grassroots organizations that support President Zelaya have faced
an uphill battle against the media, which alternates between scaring
people about the risk to keep them out of the streets and denying the
existence of those who do go out. A message from Via Campesina
Honduras warns people that information is controlled by the coup to
hide opposition, cut off communications on many channels, and only
allow information that favors them. They have now organized to open up
contact with reporters throughout the world.

An increasingly organized opposition and independent media on the
scene and on the net are breaking through the information blockade. A
third source is Twitter.
A major player in the Iranian uprising, Twitter has become the pulse
of, if not the body politic, at least some bodies of that politic.

All this means that the information black-out designed by the coup
is riddled with points of light. It's still hard to get statistical
information like crowd numbers or figures of killed and wounded, but
Honduras is certainly not the isolated and insignificant "banana
republic" it once was.

The Return of the President

Zelaya now leaves for New York City where he will speak before the
General Assembly of the United Nations to further outpourings of
support. In Managua, he announced that from there he will return,
accompanied by Insulza, to Honduras.

In an interview with CNN a coup leader said that Zelaya "can return to Honduras-as long as he leaves his presidency behind."

The Honduran ambassador to the UN, Jorge Reina, said that although
the coup leaders have asked to address the UN, "the UN does not
recognize them ... They have made a serious mistake, those who think
that countries can be led through coups."

"That history has passed."

For More Information

ALBA and Via Campesina Issue New Declarations Against the Honduran Coup

Honduran Coup Moves from Failed Arguments to Repression, International Sanctions Imposed

Resolution from the OAS Diplomatically Isolates Honduran Leaders

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