The September 22 edition of the Honduran evening news program Abriendo Brecha kept a running tally of the day’s mobile phone survey, trademark of Channel 10. The question was whether viewers thought the coup government of Roberto Micheletti had done well not to storm the Brazilian embassy currently housing reappeared Honduran President Mel Zelaya, and the responses hovered between 93 and 94 percent positive. According to newscaster and Channel 10 owner Rodrigo Wong Arevalo, the unconvinced 6 or 7 percent emphasized the need for a quick resolution to the political crisis, which could be brought about in one of three ways: through Zelaya’s abandonment of Honduran territory, Zelaya’s renunciation of claims to the presidency, or Zelaya’s appearance before a tribunal.
At the start of the program Wong had outlined the evening’s upcoming highlights, such as a photo of the interior of the Brazilian embassy – which he promised would demonstrate that despite the lack of bedrooms Zelaya was extremely comfortable – and proof of Brazilian distress that Zelaya was in their embassy. The latter highlight consisted of testimony by a single official in Brazil; the former consisted of a photograph of Zelaya sleeping fully clothed with his feet across a chair and his cowboy hat over his face. Wong specified that the hat was positioned so as to keep out the sunrays but did not specify whether Zelaya’s pajamas had been left in Costa Rica; lest the accommodations did not appear overly luxurious, Wong reminded the audience that at least the embassy had electricity, a statement that often depended on the embassy’s generator when the military cut power to the building. The photo was meanwhile followed by a letter from a viewer asking whether incitement by other media outlets – which had raised the possibility that the Honduran armed forces would enter the Brazilian embassy – really qualified as journalism.
Wong – CEO of Channel 10 and owner of various fashion, sports and tourism magazines – proceeded with his own interpretation of journalism and revealed another photo, this one depicting Zelaya’s companions sleeping on the floor and in chairs under a poster that read “Brasil.” Aghast at the scene inside the embassy, Wong objected that the dirty sleepers were not paying rent and suggested that some of the male sleepers were even hugging other male sleepers. He nonetheless continued to characterize the embassy as a center of incitement and agitation despite the fact that everyone was asleep, with drowsiness perhaps an effect of pre-dawn military efforts to dislodge Zelaya supporters in front of the embassy with tear gas and rubber bullets. As for a videotaped interview with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva shown on Abriendo Brecha, the Brazilian president refrained from urging Zelaya to chip in on rent or electricity but did urge him to refrain from creating a pretext for golpista violence.
When Lula then reiterated that the golpistas must leave the government, Wong disregarded the pronouncement as Lula’s personal opinion and stressed that other opinions were being registered in Brazilian newspapers. The next several minutes of airtime were thus devoted to live video footage of online periodicals in Portuguese, while whoever at Channel 10 was in charge of operating the computer mouse attempted unsuccessfully to click on the photo of the reclined Zelaya. The mouse operator eventually switched to a photo of the US embassy in Tegucigalpa and an article in Spanish on the possibility of transferring custody of the Honduran president to other nationalities, which is perhaps one of the reasons that the Brazilian functionary opposed to Zelaya’s presence in his embassy used the term “hot potato.”
One of the reasons that I watched Channel 10 for 1.5 hours yesterday was meanwhile the curfew imposed by the Micheletti regime, which has already clocked 42 consecutive hours. The curfew announcement had made me wonder at my selection of a windowless pension in downtown Tegucigalpa, where curfew duty fell to a 60-year-old employee named Pedro who enjoyed a monopoly over the television and rejoiced at the restriction of movement of clientele based on the fact that he did not have to be bothered to open the door for anyone. He did, however, let me out of the hotel yesterday morning after emphasizing that I would be arrested, robbed, or killed.
I returned to the hotel in the afternoon to find Pedro at the front desk watching Channel 8, which had put together a photo series of all the things that made Zelaya a liar, complete with upbeat background music and cash register sounds. Pedro nodded approvingly at each image and provided subtitles, such as “Mel’s horse,” “Mel’s logs,” “Mel’s cowboy hat,” and “the Honduran government plane that Mel used to take his daughter to New York.” Following Zelaya’s photo series – which has yet to be augmented with “Mel’s bed in the Brazilian embassy” – was a tribute to Micheletti that included images of women cradling babies.
In a taped interview on Abriendo Brecha yesterday evening, Micheletti stressed that Zelaya’s sleeping quarters would not be disturbed and reminded the audience that his government had always been open to dialogue, the only problem being that no one wanted to listen. It appeared that he had finally devised a way to make people listen, however, when the Abriendo Brecha news team began describing a new “aparato un poco raro” – a slightly weird apparatus – being used by the Honduran military, which caused Pedro to clap his hands and wonder what sort of technology the United States had invented now. Eventually revealed as the sonar, the weird apparatus was defined as the producer of terrible sounds causing physical and mental anguish.
When the instrument appeared onscreen in the back of pickup truck belonging to the Honduran armed forces that was being slowly driven past the Brazilian embassy, Rodrigo Wong Arevalo missed the opportunity to add “alarm clock” to the sonar’s list of functions. A similarly unpleasant manipulation of airwaves was meanwhile taking place at the hotel, where a delay between the upstairs and downstairs television sets – both programmed to Channel 10 – meant that every utterance was heard twice and sometimes three times if Pedro felt the need to repeat it.
Abriendo Brecha concluded yesterday evening with the announcement that Zelaya’s companions inside the Brazilian embassy had abandoned him and a video of a departing bus. The conclusion was subsequently fine-tuned with the information that in fact a smattering of underage companions had merely been removed from the premises; presumably still inside are the slumbering homosexuals, part of the arsenal of invented issues that the Honduran media will continue to exploit in order to distract from legitimate popular aspirations to constitutional change.
First published in Narco News, 23 September 2009