LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Congresswoman Silvia Ayala Multi-Tasks to Restore Democracy as Self-pitying Expat Blogger Attempts to Smear Her While Updating Amazon Wish List
Congresswoman Silvia Ayala of the anti-coup Unificación Democrática (UD) Party had just returned from Mexico and was en route to the Dominican Republic, part of a trajectory aimed at strengthening international condemnation of the June 28 coup d’etat against President Mel Zelaya. She made time to speak with me at a cafeteria in the northwestern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and arrived with her husband and two children, who alternately contributed anecdotes to the discussion, answered Ayala’s cell phone, and—in the case of her young son—drew pictures in a notebook.
A lawyer herself, Ayala announced that about 200 Honduran attorneys had actively joined the coup resistance despite the general alliance between Honduran law school faculties and the political right. The Spanish description of the alliance exploits the homophonic similarity between derecho—law—and derecha, right, with additional Spanish homophony made possible by the arrival that day of Judge Baltasar Garzón of Spain to investigate coup regime violations of derechos humanos, human rights.
In the back room of a natural food and medicine shop in the western Honduran city of Santa Rosa de Copán on Monday afternoon, Narco News director Al Giordano and I met with Catholic priest and shop owner Fausto Milla, who had just returned from a meeting in Managua, Nicaragua with ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya. A spry 81 year old, Padre Fausto erupted into laughter at the news that Al had been jailed 27 times in the United States and slapped him on the arm.
Padre Fausto later chronicled his own share of detentions, which included being kidnapped by paramilitaries in Honduras in 1981 on charges of inciting guerrilla activity based on his concern for campesino and indigenous rights. In captivity, Fausto was subjected to a schedule of sitting in rooms with torture instruments and being removed whenever someone needed to be tortured physically rather than psychologically. He subsequently spent a number of years in exile in Mexico; as for other Hondurans in exile, Fausto boasted that Zelaya had spoken with him and other Hondurans for four hours the previous day in Managua, neglecting a group of visiting European parliamentarians.
According to the Padre, Zelaya told a story during the meeting about an incident that reportedly occurred in 2006, involving a longstanding deal with Texaco, Shell, and other fuel companies in which the Honduran government paid them an extra three cents for every dollar’s worth of gas imported. In Padre Fausto’s version, Zelaya had asked the companies if they intended to maintain a monopoly on fuel imports or if any old “Juan or Pedro” could import, as well. Texaco and Shell had denied having any problems with Juan and Pedro’s entrepreneurial endeavors.
Last Thursday night in the northeastern Honduran port of Trujillo, Narco News director Al Giordano and I visited the Bahia Bar, past clients of which had allegedly included Marine Corps officer Oliver North in the 1980s. North’s patronage was presumably an effect of the bar’s proximity to the Trujillo airfield, which functioned as a transit point for Colombian cocaine en route to the United States.
To reach the Bahia Bar one must first cross the airfield’s wide asphalt runway, which in addition to being unilluminated at night also lacks any sort of control tower. A similar lack of supervision was apparently enjoyed by Colonel North in the 1980s, when—as demonstrated in a later Congressional investigation by US Senator John Kerry—he utilized cocaine profits to fund guerrilla war against Nicaragua.
At an internet café in Tegucigalpa the other day, I came across Thomas Friedman’s August 15 article in the New York Times Online, entitled “The Land of ‘No Service,’” which I assumed would be about a poorly functioning McDonald’s in one of the post-Soviet states. When I discovered it was instead about Friedman’s visit to Botswana, I decided it was not any less relevant for me to write about Thomas Friedman in the midst of a Honduran military coup than for Thomas Friedman to write about Africa.
From Chief’s Island, Botswana, Friedman begins:
If you travel long enough and far enough — like by jet to Johannesburg, by prop plane to northern Botswana and then by bush plane deep into the Okavango Delta — you can still find it. It is that special place that on medieval maps would have been shaded black and labeled: ‘Here there be Dragons!’ But in the postmodern age, it is the place where my BlackBerry, my wireless laptop and even my satellite phone all gave me the same message: ‘No Service.’”
LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Introducing Micheletti, man of god; Honduran populace meets its de facto president after almost two months
Pages 2 and 3 of yesterday’s La Prensa are devoted to an interview with Honduran coup president Roberto Micheletti entitled “Nada me ha quitado el sueño”—roughly “Nothing keeps me up at night.” The first paragraph informs us that this interview constitutes the first time Micheletti has spoken openly with the national media, which calls into question what Micheletti was hiding when he announced at a July 1 press conference in Tegucigalpa that time was on the side of the coup regime when it came to the return of ousted President Mel Zelaya. Also called into question is why the de facto president has jeopardized La Prensa’s scoop by also giving interviews to Channel 5 TV and to the McClatchy newspaper chain in the last 48 hours.
As for why the coup has not interrupted Micheletti’s sleeping patterns—which are presumably easier to maintain when time is on one’s side—he assures us that his conscience is not burdened by the military interruption of the sleeping patterns of Zelaya, who was removed from his home in his pajamas on June 28. La Prensa asks whether he is not kept up at night by threats from the international community and Zelaya himself; Micheletti responds with a request for Hondurans to vote on November 29 in defiance of international threats not to recognize a government elected via illegitimate elections. US ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens may have further eased Micheletti’s conscience last week by explaining at a meeting with an American human rights delegation that “you don’t boycott,” which for the moment served as the US stance on such elections.
LIVE FROM HONDURAS: FARC goes without food in order to fuel unrest in Honduras; Honduran media indicate need for course in constructing news headlines that are not contradicted by subheadlines
While attempting a nap in my hotel room in Tegucigalpa the other day, I overheard a British backpacker down the hall ask the owner of the hotel what was going on in this country. I thus accepted that the nap attempt was over, acquainted as I was with the acoustical setup of the hotel and the longwinded pedagogical tendencies of its owner, who had been especially thrilled with the arrival of a traveler from France the week before and the ability to invoke French revolutionary models of executing traitors. Proposed Honduran traitors had incidentally not included General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who had assured ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya that the coup against him was simply a matter of business and nothing personal; other matters of business included the increase in minimum wage by which Zelaya had traitorously rendered workers slightly less disempowered.
The British backpacker was treated to a new revolutionary theme, in which resistance to the coup regime of Roberto Micheletti was being funded by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. In my hotel owner’s view, the FARC was paying Nicaraguans and Salvadorans to pretend that they were Hondurans opposed to military coups, although he did not explain why the organization did not use its funds to pay its own guerrillas to pretend they were not starving in the Colombian jungle. Also not accounted for in the current theory was why a participant in last week’s anti-coup marches in Tegucigalpa had explained to me that marchers would not respond to police beatings by beating up police based on the principle that “we are all Hondurans.”
LIVE FROM HONDURAS: US Ambassador Hugo Llorens Discloses Secrets of the Honduran Coup; Chinese Viewing Prohibited
While awaiting the arrival of United States Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens to a meeting at the US embassy in Tegucigalpa Friday morning, Deputy Mission Chief Simon Henshaw spoke to an American human rights delegation from Global Exchange. The meeting had been organized by Andrés Conteris, founder of Democracy Now! en Español, who had managed to get me into the embassy despite the fact that I was not on the list and that my shoes set off the metal detector.