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LIVE FROM HONDURAS: Peaceful march interrupted by bus on fire

Anti-coup protest in city of San Pedro Sula.

Anti-coup protest in city of San Pedro Sula.

The first piece ofinformation I received upon inserting myself into the march on Tegucigalpa yesterday morning was that sometimes it was good to cry. It turned out that this advice, delivered by a female schoolteacher from exiled Honduran President Mel Zelaya’s hometown of Catacamas, was a reference to the predilection for tear gas on the part of the Honduran police force. I thus appeared to be the only person in the vicinity who did not participate in the unanimous negative response whenever someone in the crowd shouted: “Are you scared?”

This particular march, led by Father Andrés Tamayo, had originated over 200 kilometers away in the state of Olancho and was one of a number of such anti-coup processions that had converged into eight and were currently descending upon the cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. The Olancho marchers had spent the previous night at a school on the outskirts of the capital, where I had joined them for a cultural evening featuring ranchera tunes about Zelaya, traditional Garifuna dancing, musical performances by students, and poetry composed by teachers regarding a fatal bullet recently bestowed by the Honduran police on the head of professor Roger Vallejo Soriano.

The star of the evening was an intoxicated man in a soiled yellow shirt that had participated in all of the aforementioned activities; the audience was less entertained by post-cultural activities, which included a lack of mattresses for them to sleep on. As for the general level of sobriety among marchers, this stood in stark contrast with union marchers I recently observed in Buenos Aires, where the unifying element appeared to be boxed wine.

I got a ride to the convergence of marches on the capital yesterday with members of the Olancho coup resistance who had preferred to sleep in a hotel in Tegucigalpa rather than not on a mattress but who nonetheless boasted that they would accept an incoming bullet on my behalf. Marching dangers appeared to be confined for the time being, however, to getting speared by sun umbrellas, and the Honduran soldiers outside the Congress building merely made mobile phone videos of the shouts directed at them by passersby.

The merging of marches produced between 400 and 400,000 people, depending on whom I asked, and took place around an intersection populated by establishments such as Burger King, Texaco, and Citibank. The setting thus appeared to be well suited to the announcement from a megaphone in the back of a pickup truck that the Honduran coup was made in the USA; subsequent emanations from the truck included speeches by Padre Tamayo and Zelaya’s wife and daughter.

As for the international community beyond the US, my marching companions were at first convinced that the proposed delegation from the Organization of American States had in fact arrived to Honduras on schedule and was currently lodged in the Marriott Hotel, also located in the area; they changed their minds after receiving telephone confirmation of the contrary. The practice of rejecting of international groups had meanwhile been extended to a Honduran military contingent en route to Lebanon, where it would have presumably contributed to the inability of the UN peacekeeping force to keep the peace. The turnaround constituted the primary complaint of Monday’s El Heraldo, which documented global persecution of Honduras through photographs of soldiers who thought they were going to Lebanon kissing their loved ones goodbye.

Other complaints came from a man who was marching beside me until the crowd was commanded to form three straight lines. According to him, coup President Roberto Micheletti should be made to hike from one side of the country to the other in order to better understand the people’s struggle; he conceded that other options for dealing with Micheletti included amnesty, which was one of the principles of the San José Accord mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and intended as a benefit for Zelaya. An employee of my hotel in Tegucigalpa had denied the legality of such benefits, and after watching a television program on the subject one evening had informed me that amnesty was not applicable in situations in which a person had not been tried. After endeavoring for several minutes to recall what was applicable in such situations, the man triumphantly produced the word impunidad, and explained that allowing the elected president to resume his post would be equivalent to allowing un-tried prisoners out of jail.

The emphasis on three straight lines broke down yesterday with the burning of a bus, which members of the Olancho resistance argued had been enacted by a small group in retaliation for an attempt by the bus to run them over. As for the breakdown of political negotiations, Micheletti had previously expressed a temporary willingness to consider the San José Accord but had claimed that other sectors of Honduran society were opposed.

Such societal sectors may have included the Honduran military, presumably exempt from political amnesties. My companions from Olancho have expressed their conviction that Micheletti is ready to abandon leadership of the country but that he is blocked by the Armed Forces, who also blocked the marchers’ march on the presidential palace yesterday.

 

First published in Narco News, 12 August 2009

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1 Comment

  1. Neil says:

    Loving your stories from Honduras! Wish I was still there.

    Teinen miedo? Estan cansado? NO!?! Entonces… adelante, adelante la lucha es constante.

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