Hondurans Call Out for Help from the International Community

emergency international delegation to Honduras, organized from the
United States by CODEPINK, Global Exchange and Non-Violence
International, began its fact-finding mission in the wake of the June
28 coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya.

We started out with a briefing by the Network of Sustainable
Development (Red de Desarrollo Sostenible, a 15-year-old organization
devoted to the exchange of information about sustainable development.
It has now become a center for exchanging information about the coup.
Using blogspot, facebook, twitter, myspace, flickr and youtube, the
Network's network is abuzz with hour-by-hour accounts of political
developments. Their communication system has become a critical way for
Honduras to get information, since the coup leaders have muzzled the

The Network has a history of being objective and staying above
politics, but the staff is outraged by the coup. "This was just over
the top," said National Coordinator Raquel Isaura, who is being
targeted by the right for some anti-coup internet messages posted under
her name. "A military coup in this day and age must be condemned by all
sectors of civil society."

Like many Hondurans, Network Director Candalario Reyes Garcia is deeply
worried about the future. "In the 80s we were terrorized by the death
squads called Batallion 316. These same death squad leaders are still
in the military today and if they take control of this country, we're
in for some truly dark days ahead."

Demonstrations against the coup have been taking place all over the
country, but they are not reported in the news and protesters are
beaten and tear-gassed by the military. Some movement leaders have been
arrested, others are in hiding. The military has also prevented
demonstrators from converging on the capital, Tegucigalpa. We met Juan
Amilcar Colindres, a professor at the National University of
Agriculture in Catacamas. The day after the June 28 coup, he helped
organize 8 busloads of people--students, professors, community
members--to go protest in front of the Presidential Palace. They were
stopped enroute by the military, who insisted that they turn back and
ended up shooting at the bus tires to disable the vehicles. "When the
soldiers started shooting, people ran into the woods, terrified. The
military destroyed 13 tires and we had to pay over $1,500 to repair the
buses. Worst of all, we were never able to reach the capital to demand
the return of President Zelaya. The same thing has happened to groups
all over the country."

When I asked Colindres why his group supported Zelaya, he said that for
the first time in decades, the government of President Zelaya increased
the budget for public universities and increased scholarships for the
students. "We have a lot of poor students who were helped by this
government. We don't want the elite to take back the government and use
it, as they have in the past, to enrich themselves and impoverish the

Our last visit of the day, which went on for hours, was a fascinating
gathering with members of the indigenous community, Lencas and
Garifanos. This group was lucky to have made it to the capital, where
they are camping out in a school auditorium. Entire families, from
babies to grandmas, participate in roving protests every day. They keep
moving so the military doesn't know where they will be from one day to
the next.

One by one, these very humble and poor people told us about their
situation, their beliefs, their fears and their dreams. Valentina
Dominquez, a primary school teacher, said, "Our people are suffering
from poverty, and President Zelaya tried to help. He raised the minimum
wage and in the schools, he made sure that all the children were given
snacks. He made school registration free and increased programs to help
the 20% of Hondurans who don't know how to read or write. That's why we
made our way to Tegucigalpa to defend his government and overturn the
coup. But we are repressed by the military and have no one to defend us
but God," she cried. "That's why we need help from the outside

Teresa Reyes, with the organization of black Hondurans called OFRANEH,
said this new regime was terrorizing the people. "On the day of the
coup, they cut the electricity, blacked out the news, and told us not
to leave our houses. We were scared, we are scared, and we're
exhausted--some of us have been walking for days to get here. But even
so, we were determined to keep protesting."

Salvador Zuniga, one of the heads of the Civil Council of Popular and
Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), talked about the extreme
poverty and illiteracy in Honduras, and the desire of poor communities
to participate in determining how the nation's resources are used and
distributed. Honduras is notorious for a small group of families
controlling most of the resources, from the media to the mines. "With
the vote that was supposed to take place on Sunday, President Zelaya
simply wanted to ask the people if they liked the idea of rewriting the
Constitution, of setting up a new legal framework for determining how
decisions get made. The powerful elite in this country was terrified
that this process would result in a new economic model at the service
of the people, as we have been seeing in other countries of Latin
America. That's why they organized the coup, to maintain their
stranglehold on the economy."

Melicio Intibuca, an elderly farmer, was terrified that Honduras would
revert to the past days of military dictators. "If Zelaya doesn't
return, the repression will get worse. These people don't respect the
life of the President, so do you think they'll respect the life of us
poor people? Already our people have been killed, wounded and are in
hiding. That's why we're appealing to you, in the international
community. The United States should cut off all aid to this government
and demand the return of Zelaya. Please, don't let us return to those
dark days of death squads and violence."

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