Myriad anti-coup marches en route from different parts of Honduras have merged into eight and are set to converge tomorrow, August 11, on the cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Father Andrés Tamayo, leading the march originating in the department of Olancho, speculated to me on Saturday that the planned simultaneous convergence on Honduras of a delegation from the Organization of American States would lessen the chances of the Honduran military firing on the crowd.
Chances have since returned to normal, however, with coup President Roberto Micheletti’s decision to revoke and then merely postpone the OAS invitation. These maneuvers are apparently due to the fact that OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has insisted on including himself in the delegation and denying the spot to someone more open to reconsidering Honduras’ suspension from the organization, which was enacted when the country expatriated its legitimate president, Mel Zelaya.
As for the practice of firing on crowds, the Zelaya administration had previously recognized the likelihood that Padre Tamayo himself would be fired on due to his opposition to logging and general environmental destruction, and had facilitated the temporary acquisition of military bodyguards for the Salvadoran priest in addition to facilitating his acquisition of Honduran nationality. Tamayo’s personal security had therefore diminished when President Zelaya suddenly became non-President Zelaya and the Honduran military demonstrated that it, too, was capable of abrupt reorientation.
Zelaya’s reorientation in other areas earned him the praise of Padre Tamayo, who on Saturday cited him as an example of human potential to reform penchants for logging. Thus, despite the overlapping history of the Zelaya family and the logging industry in the department of Olancho where Padre Tamayo’s ministry is located, the priest’s environmentalist marches on Tegucigalpa had gained him an audience with the president and had, according to him, ultimately reduced the number of trees being removed from the Honduran forest.
When I informed the owner of my hotel in Tegucigalpa this weekend that I would be meeting up with Padre Tamayo’s march, which set out from Olancho on Tuesday and was now nearing the capital, having covered over 20 kilometers a day, the owner had two principal concerns. The first was whether I wanted to change my name to Belén Guevara; the second was whether the marchers would complicate his arrival to a scheduled racketball game outside the city.
Such complications, it turned out, were not a feature of the march, which was being conducted down the side of the highway with a handful of boys directing traffic around it. Motorists who waved or gave the thumbs up received similar gestures in return from the marchers, plus shouts from Padre Tamayo to get out of their cars and start marching; less enthusiastic motorists received the pro-coup label “golpistas!”
A short middle-aged man in a straw hat, Padre Tamayo was at the head of the procession behind four women holding two Honduran flags between them. When I asked Tamayo to estimate the number of marchers behind him, he glanced back at the throng and announced a thousand, a figure that presumably included some marchers who were not currently present. Numbers were expected to swell, however, as the march approached Tegucigalpa and as marchers felt less inclined to intersperse their marching with driving home to their own beds. Padre Tamayo marvelled at the low cost of the excursion, which depended not only on free accommodations in the form of mattresses in village schools but also on food donations from villagers.
Village indoctrination had thus far not been met with armed repression, and, when our march past a military base triggered no response, Padre Tamayo surmised that the military was either plotting something or had decided that it was time for Micheletti to follow in Zelaya’s migratory footsteps. He was distracted from his ruminations by water distribution, and began shouting instructions to the marchers to hydrate themselves such that they might march on to China if need be. He then busied himself shouting instructions at the pickup truck bearing the water to distance itself and its exhaust fumes from the procession.
Whenever Padre Tamayo deemed the marchers in excessive disarray, he commanded them to form two straight lines and threatened the impending arrival of the press, who would discredit the coup resistance for reasons of disorganization. In the end criticism was averted by the failure of the Honduran media to cover the eight marches on Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula; as for media shortcomings in other nations, Padre Tamayo lamented CNN’s conviction that the only newsworthy item emanating from Latin America was Hugo Chávez.
The concerns of the Honduran media were recently expressed on the front page of the daily El Heraldo, which conveyed US President Barack Obama’s conviction that he could not just push a button and restore Zelaya to the presidency; the OAS has meanwhile proven even less capable of pushing buttons with its revoked and then postponed welcome to Honduras. Micheletti might have displaced the blame for the delays by citing a concern for the incoming delegation’s safety based on the fact that international flights into and out of Honduras are currently being conducted without the supervision of anti-coup meteorologists.
Honduran paper La Tribuna meanwhile selected a different focus for its August 8 edition, featuring coup General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez as the star of its Saturday magazine Día 7. Vásquez was granted a spread with two pictures of him gesticulating and one full body shot stretching the length of the page, complementing the full body shot of Miss Colombia in bikini which concluded the magazine. In the interview accompanying his modelling session, Vásquez reveals that he had been on the verge of retirement to a tranquil family life but that God had apparently had other plans for him. The world has thus now acquired proof that God’s military counsel did not end with his suggestion that George W. Bush invade Iraq.
Spiritual issues resurfaced at the anti-coup march on Saturday, where a 50 year old teacher from Tegucigalpa explained to me that she had joined the procession that day based not only on the health benefits of marching but on the disillusionment she had experienced when her evangelical pastor sided with the golpistas. An Olancho farmer who had recently crossed the mountains to Nicaragua to participate in the pro-Zelaya gathering on the border meanwhile argued that the complications caused by mixing religion and politics were evidenced by Honduran cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, who had urged Zelaya not to return to Honduras and cited the Catholic Church’s concern for casualties. A different mixture has been proposed by Padre Tamayo, who has declared Micheletti an hijo de puta who thinks himself a higher being.
First published in Narco News, 10 August 2009.