A few days prior to the return to Honduras of former president Mel Zelaya, overthrown in a June 2009 coup d’état and subsequently exiled to distinguished guest-hood in the Dominican Republic, I met with the director of the state-owned Radio Honduras, Gustavo Blanco. Previously a top employee with anti-coup Radio Globo, Blanco’s ideological incompatibility with Globo’s political orientation was once again underscored when he informed me that the anti-coup National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) was composed largely of violent troublemakers and uneducated poor people who didn’t even understand why they were resisting the coup.
Our ensuing debate resulted in a number of additional claims on Blanco’s part, such as that 59-year-old Honduran teacher Ilse Velasquez—who this past March was struck in the face by a police-fired tear gas canister and then promptly run over and killed by a press vehicle—was actually to blame for her own demise given that she should have understood that her body type was not compatible with street protesting:
ME: People of a certain body type do not have rights?
BLANCO: She was fat.
According to Blanco, the close-range firing of tear gas in crowded areas was meanwhile sanctioned by international law in situations in which said crowds were obstructing the flow of traffic. As anyone who has spent time in Tegucigalpa knows, obstructions to traffic flow occur fairly constantly, with or without the presence of teachers peacefully protesting the privatization of public education and post-coup government confiscation of their pension funds.
Honduran media logic was also deployed against the teaching profession in July 2009 when professor Roger Vallejo’s elimination, apparently by police bullet, was justified in the daily El Heraldo as being an effect of his choice to “abandon his classroom” in order to demonstrate against the illegal overthrow of the elected president. As for the convenience of the notion of FNRP dependence upon violent troublemakers when it comes to excusing violent repression by the security organs of the state, this was confirmed when, shortly after the obliteration of Ilse Velasquez, Human Rights and Labor Attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa Jeremy D. Spector characterized the teachers’ movement as involving “thugs”. He did, however, refrain from employing Blanco’s characterization of the Honduran police forces as “angelitos”.
Other prior victims of the little angels and their friends include Honduran teenager Isis Obed Murillo, shot and killed by the military on July 5, 2009 at Tegucigalpa’s Toncontin airport, where anti-coup Hondurans had gathered with the expectation of celebrating the repatriation of Zelaya, whose plane was ultimately unable to land and who only resurfaced in Honduras in September, where he took up residence in the Brazilian embassy before being re-expatriated in January of 2010. Zelaya’s re-repatriation today took place at Plaza Isis Obed Murillo, located in the southern section of the Toncontin landing strip.
Scheduled to arrive at 11 A.M. on a flight from Nicaragua, Zelaya landed four hours late. The crowd of expectant thugs—estimated by event organizers to consist of 1.5 million Hondurans (out of a population of 7.5 million)—remained nonviolent despite the unexplained delays, intense sun, and decided lack of personal space in which to combat suffocation. Many attendees had arrived the previous day and had spent the night in the midst of a torrential downpour. Added strains to the nervous system included the concentrated flag-waving and musical fanfare accompanying the arrival of commercial aircraft; following each premature climax, the thugs would once again accept that Mel was not in fact arriving on Copa Airlines, and the cycle would begin anew.
As for the lack of police and military stationed within Plaza Isis Obed Murillo, this may have had something to do with the lack of violence.