Caracas, Venezuela - The text message that beeped on my cell phone this morning read "Alert, Zelaya has been kidnapped, coup d'etat underway in Honduras, spread the word." It's a rude awakening for a Sunday morning, especially for the millions of Hondurans that were preparing to exercise their sacred right to vote today for the first time on a consultative referendum concerning the future convening of a constitutional assembly to reform the constitution. Supposedly at the center of the controversary is today's scheduled referendum, which is not a binding vote but merely an opinion poll to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to eventually enter into a process to modify their constitution.
Such an initiative has never taken place in the Central American nation, which has a very limited constitution that allows minimal participation by the people of Honduras in their political processes. The current constitution, written in 1982 during the height of the Reagan Administration's dirty war in Central America, was designed to ensure those in power, both economic and political, would retain it with little interference from the people. Zelaya, elected in November 2005 on the platform of Honduras' Liberal Party, had proposed the opinion poll be conducted to determine if a majority of citizens agreed that constitutional reform was necessary. He was backed by a majority of labor unions and social movements in the country. If the poll had occured, depending on the results, a referendum would have been conducted during the upcoming elections in November to vote on convening a constitutional assembly. Nevertheless, today's scheduled poll was not binding by law.
In fact, several days before the poll was to occur, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled it illegal, upon request by the Congress, both of which are led by anti-Zelaya majorities and members of the ultra-conservative party, National Party of Honduras (PNH). This move led to massive protests in the streets in favor of President Zelaya. On June 24, the president fired the head of the high military command, General Romeo Vásquez, after he refused to allow the military to distribute the electoral material for Sunday's elections. General Romeo Vásquez held the material under tight military control, refusing to release it even to the president's followers, stating that the scheduled referendum had been determined illegal by the Supreme Court and therefore he could not comply with the president's order. As in the Unted States, the president of Honduras is Commander in Chief and has the final say on the military's actions, and so he ordered the General's removal. The Minister of Defense, Angel Edmundo Orellana, also resigned in response to this increasingly tense situation.
But the following day, Honduras' Supreme Court reinstated General Romeo Vásquez to the high military command, ruling his firing as "unconstitutional'. Thousands poured into the streets of Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa, showing support for President Zelaya and evidencing their determination to ensure Sunday's non-binding referendum would take place. On Friday, the president and a group of hundreds of supporters, marched to the nearby air base to collect the electoral material that had been previously held by the military. That evening, Zelaya gave a national press conference along with a group of politicians from different political parties and social movements, calling for unity and peace in the country.
As of Saturday, the situation in Honduras was reported as calm. But early Sunday morning, a group of approximately 60 armed soldiers entered the presidential residence and took Zelaya hostage. After several hours of confusion, reports surfaced claiming the president had been taken to a nearby air force base and flown to neighboring Costa Rica. No images have been seen of the president so far and it is unknown whether or not his life is still endangered.
President Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, speaking live on Telesur at approximately 10:00am Caracas time, denounced that in early hours of Sunday morning, the soldiers stormed their residence, firing shots throughout the house, beating and then taking the president. "It was an act of cowardice", said the first lady, referring to the illegal kidnapping occuring during a time when no one would know or react until it was all over. Casto de Zelaya also called for the "preservation" of her husband's life, indicating that she herself is unaware of his whereabouts. She claimed their lives are all still in "serious danger" and made a call for the international community to denounce this illegal coup d'etat and to act rapidly to reinstate constitutional order in the country, which includes the rescue and return of the democratically elected Zelaya.
Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have both made public statements on Sunday morning condeming the coup d'etat in Honduras and calling on the international community to react to ensure democracy is restored and the constitutional president is reinstated. Last Wednesday, June 24, an extraordinary meeting of the member nations of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), of which Honduras is a member, was convened in Venezuela to welcome Ecuador, Antigua & Barbados and St. Vincent to its ranks. During the meeting, which was attended by Honduras' Foreign Minister, Patricia Rodas, a statement was read supporting President Zelaya and condenming any attempts to undermine his mandate and Honduras' democratic processes.
Reports coming out of Honduras have informed that the public television channel, Canal 8, has been shut down by the coup forces. Just minutes ago, Telesur announced that the military in Honduras is shutting down all electricity throughout the country. Those television and radio stations still transmitting are not reporting the coup d'etat or the kidnapping of President Zelaya, according to Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. "Telephones and electricity are being cut off", confirmed Rodas just minutes ago via Telesur. "The media are showing cartoons and soap operas and are not informing the people of Honduras about what is happening". The situation is eerily reminiscent of the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Chávez in Venezuela, when the media played a key role by first manipulating information to support the coup and then later blacking out all information when the people began protesting and eventually overcame and defeated the coup forces, rescuing Chávez (who had also been kidnapped by the military) and restoring constitutional order.
Honduras is a nation that has been the victim of dictatorships and massive U.S. intervention during the past century, including several military invasions. The last major U.S. government intervention in Honduras occured during the 1980s, when the Reagain Administration funded death squads and paramilitaries to eliminate any potential "communist threats" in Central America. At the time, John Negroponte, was the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras and was responsible for directly funding and training Honduran death squads that were responsable for thousands of disappeared and assassinated throughout the region.
On Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS), convened a special meeting to discuss the crisis in Honduras, later issuing a statement condeming the threats to democracy and authorizing a convoy of representatives to travel to OAS to investigate further. Nevertheless, on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, Phillip J. Crowley, refused to clarify the U.S. government's position in reference to the potential coup against President Zelaya, and instead issued a more ambiguous statement that implied Washington's support for the opposition to the Honduran president. While most other Latin American governments had clearly indicated their adamant condemnation of the coup plans underway in Honduras and their solid support for Honduras' constitutionally elected president, Manual Zelaya, the U.S. spokesman stated the following, "We are concerned about the breakdown in the political dialogue among Honduran politicians over the proposed June 28 poll on constitutional reform. We urge all sides to seek a consensual democratic resolution in the current political impasse that adheres to the Honduran constitution and to Honduran laws consistent with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
As of 10:30am, Sunday morning, no further statements have been issued by the Washington concerning the military coup in Honduras. The Central American nation is highly dependent on the U.S. economy, which ensures one of its top sources of income, the monies sent from Hondurans working in the U.S. under the "temporary protected status" program that was implemented during Washington's dirty war in the 1980s as a result of massive immigration to U.S. territory to escape the war zone. Another major source of funding in Honduras is USAID, providing over US$ 50 millon annually for "democracy promotion" programs, which generally supports NGOs and political parties favorable to U.S. interests, as has been the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the region. The Pentagon also maintains a military base in Honduras in Soto Cano, equipped with approximately 500 troops and numerous air force combat planes and helicopters.
Foreign Minister Rodas has stated that she has repeatedly tried to make contact with the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, who has not responded to any of her calls thus far. The modus operandi of the coup makes clear that Washington is involved. Neither the Honduran military, which is majority trained by U.S. forces, nor the political and economic elite, would act to oust a democratically elected president without the backing and support of the U.S. government. President Zelaya has increasingly come under attack by the conservative forces in Honduras for his growing relationship with the ALBA countries, and particularly Venezuela and President Chávez. Many believe the coup has been executed as a method of ensuring Honduras does not continue to unify with the more leftist and socialist countries in Latin America.
UPDATE 1: As of 11:15am, Caracas time, President Zelaya is speaking live on Telesur from San Jose, Costa Rica. He has verified the soldiers entered his residence in the early morning hours, firing guns and threatening to kill him and his family if he resisted the coup. He was forced to go with the soldiers who took him to the air base and flew him to Costa Rica. He has requested the U.S. Government make a public statement condemning the coup, otherwise, it will indicate their compliance.
UPDATE 2: 12pm noon - The Organization of American States is meeting in an emergency session in Washington concerning the situation in Honduras and the kidnapping of Honduras' president. Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, just announced that the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua in Honduras have just been kidnapped along with Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, and are being beaten by Honduran military forces.
President Obama has made a statement regarding his "concern" for the situation in Honduras and a call to all political leaders and parties to "respect democratic norms". However, this statement is NOT a clear condemnation of the coup d'etat that has taken place during the early morning hours on Sunday. Nor did Obama indicate, as other countries have done, that Washington would not recognize any other government in Honduras other than the elected government of Manual Zelaya.
Opposition forces in Honduras, led by a US-funded NGO Grupo Paz y Democracia, have stated via CNN that a coup has not ocurred, but rather a "transition" to democracy. Martha Diaz, coordinator of the NGO, which receives USAID funding, has just declared minutes ago on CNN that "civil society" does not support President Zelaya nor his "illegal quest" to hold a non-binding referendum on a potential future constitutional reform. She justified his kidnapping, beating and removal from power as a "democratic transition". Again, this is eerily reminiscent of the coup d'etat in Venezuela in April 2002, when so-called "civil society" along with dissident military forces kidnapped President Chávez and installed a "transition government". The goups involved also received funding from the U.S. government, primarily via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and later from USAID as well.
CNN en Español, Telesur, and other international television stations reporting on the situation in Honduras have been removed from the airways in the Central American nation. The whereabouts of the Foreign Minister and the ambassadors of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua are still unknown. OAS General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulze has announced he will travel immediately to Honduras to investigate the situation. President Chávez of Venezuela has also announced an emergency meeting of ALBA nations in Managua, Nicaragua, as soon as this evening.
More to come as the situation develops over the next few hours. Catch live blogging at www.chavezcode.com.
UPDATE 3: 12:18pm - Dan Restrepo, Presidential Advisor to President Obama for Latin American Affairs, is currently on CNN en Español. He has just stated that Obama's government is communicating with the coup forces in Honduras, trying to "feel out" the situation. He also responded to the reporter's question regarding whether Washington would recognize a government in Honduras other than President Zelaya's elected government, by saying that the Obama Administration "is waiting to see how things play out" and so long as democratic norms are respected, will work with all sectors. This is a confirmation practically of support for the coup leaders. Restrepo also inferred that other countries are interfering in Honduras' international affairs, obviously referring to Venezuela and other ALBA nations who have condemned the coup with firm statements earlier this morning.
UPDATE 4: 12:26PM - President Chávez of Venezuela has just announced that the Cuban Ambassador in Honduras has been kidnapped and beaten by Honduran military forces. The Venezuelan Ambassador was beaten, kidnapped and left at the side of a road outside of Tegucigalpa. Chávez has denounced that both CNN and Venezuelan private station Globovisión have been trying to justify the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras. Chávez is live from the presidential palace together with the Honduran Ambassador in Venezuela. Chávez spoke with Fidel Castro in Cuba just over an hour ago regarding the situation. Both Cuba and Venezuela, along with Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have unilaterally condemned the coup in Honduras.
UPDATE 5: 12:30PM - Foreign Minister of Honduras Patricia Rodas has been taken from her home by soldiers, beaten and imprisoned. Serious human rights violations are occurring in Honduras and President Obama has so far only said he is "concerned". Another showing of a US double standard? Since Zelaya is a "leftist" president, will the Obama administration refuse to condemn the coup against him?
Chávez announces that President Bachelet of Chile has also condemned the coup in Honduras and is emitting a formal declaration.
UPDATE 6: 1PM - President Zelaya is speaking right now live from San Jose, Costa Rica, alongside the right-wing president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, who traditionally has been a staunch ally of Washington. Arias has just adamantly condemned the coup against Zelaya and called for the whole hemisphere to follow suit.
UPDATE 7: 2:00PM - SOA WATCH CALLS FOR URGENT CALLS TO STATE DEPT
Military Coup in Honduras
A military coup has taken place in Honduras this morning (Sunday, June 28), led by SOA graduate Romeo Vasquez. In the early hours of the day, members of the Honduran military surrounded the presidential palace and forced the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into custody. He was immediately flown to Costa Rica.
A national vote had been scheduled to take place today in Honduras to consult the electorate on a proposal of holding a Constitutional Assembly in November. General Vasquez had refused to comply with this vote and was deposed by the president, only to later be reinstated by the Congress and Supreme Court.
The Honduran state television was taken off the air. The electricity supply to the capital Tegucigalpa, as well as telephone and cellphone lines were cut. Government institutions were taken over by the military. While the traditional political parties, Catholic church and military have not issued any statements, the people of Honduras are going into the streets, in spite of the fact that the streets are militarized. From Costa Rica, President Zelaya has called for a non-violent response from the people of Honduras, and for international solidarity for the Honduran democracy.
While the European Union and several Latin American governments just came out in support of President Zelaya and spoke out against the coup, a statement that was just issued by Barack Obama fell short of calling for the reinstatement of Zelaya as the legitimate president.
Call the State Department and the White House
Demand that they call for the immediate reinstatement of Honduran President Zelaya.
State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414
UPDATE 8: 2:10PM - CNN broadcasts from Honduran congree; stating Zelaya has resigned
Incredible! Just like Venezuela, April 2002. CNN has just issued a report saying that the Honduran Congress has just read President Zelaya's resignation from the presidency and the head of Congress will be the new president of Honduras. However, just under one hour ago, President Zelaya spoke live from Costa Rica and did not give ANY indication whatsoever that he was going to resign. Zelaya moreover reiterated that he remains the elected president of Honduras until 2010 and was hoping to return to his country as soon as possible... Is the resignation letter real? Or is this yet another strange repetition of Venezuela in 2002 when the opposition forces released a forged resignation letter they attributed to President Chávez but had actually been doctored by the coup leaders...
UPDATE 9: 2:20pm -President Zelaya Denies Resignation, Live On CNN
President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was just live on CNN enEspañol, confirming that he never signed nor authorized his resignation fromthe presidency. This is a coup d'etat taking place, he denounced. The Hondurancongress has forged a resignation letter removing illegally the president frompower. They say it's a correspondence they have received and have to process,but have not confirmed its authenticity. MAJOR COUP UNDERWAY.
UPDATE 10: 3:00PM -PEOPLE Taking To Streets In Honduras To Protest Military Coup
Minister of the Presidency in Honduras, Enrique FLoresLanza, is live on "Once Noticias" Channel 11 news in Hondurasaffirming that hundreds of thousands of Hondurans are taking to the streets todemand the return of President Zelaya. He has confirmed that President ZelayaHAS NOT RESIGNED and the letter presented by the Congress is a FAKE.
The OBAMA Administration has not yet called for theunequivocal reinstatement of Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras.
Call the State Department and the White House
Demand that they call for the immediate reinstatement ofHonduran President Zelaya.
State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard:202-456-1414
The Honduran Congress and Supreme Court are backing theArmed Forces and the military coup. They say a military coup per se has notoccurred because the military does not want to take power, but rather the headof Congress will be named president.
PRESIDENT ZELAYA WAS BEATEN AND KIDNAPPED FROM HIS HOUSETHIS MORNING AND TAKEN BY FORCE TO AN AIRPLANE AND SENT TO COSTA RICA. FOREIGNMINISTER PATRICIA RODAS HAS BEEN BEATEN, KIDNAPPED AND IMPRISONED BY MILITARYFORCES AND IS STILL IN CUSTODY, HER WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN. HONDURAN TELEVISION ISTRYING TO SAY THIS IS NOT A COUP. BUT THIS IS A COUP D'ETAT AND MUST BEUNILATERALLY CONDEMNED AND DEFEATED BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TOGETHERWITH THE HONDURAN PEOPLE.
UPDATE 11: 3:15PM -International Community Unanimously Rejects Military Coup In Honduras
The Organization of American States, ALBA nations, EuropeanCommunity, United Nations, UNASUR, MERCOSUR and even the United States have nowALL condemned the military coup underway in Honduras. HOWEVER, the HonduranCongress, Supreme Court and military are refusing to recognize their actions asa coup d'etat.
Still the other nation to not unequivocally call forPresident Zelaya's immediate rescue and reinstatement is the United States,nevertheless, Hillary Clinton has issued a statement condemning the"situation" in Honduras and calling for "respect" forconstitutional order.
Electricity and state media outlets in Honduras are stillshut down in order to impose a curfew and blackout state so the military coupcan succeed.
Honduran Congress live on CNN en español, Jose AlfredoSaavedra, Secretary of the Congress, has just read a Decree declaring PresidentZelaya no longer President of Honduras because he wanted to proceed with theopinion poll scheduled to occur today.
What happened to the validity of all those who voted forZelaya? He is the elected president since 2005!
UPDATE 12: 3:30PM -Honduran Congress Says Can't Allow Constitutional Assembly To Ever Take Place
A member of Honduras' Congress has just admitted that indiscussions with the US Ambassador in Honduras, the US Ambassador suggestedthey just let the opinion poll take place and then vote against theConstitutional Assembly in November, but, said the congressmember, "wecan't just allow 'these people' to do this with the help of Venezuela andCuba."
"we can't have a constitution that allows the 'people'to elect members on the supreme court and allows the 'people' to be involved ingovernment".......
They also blamed Zelaya for increases in corruption,drugtrafficking and the relationship with "chavismo" in Venezuela....
Nevertheless, they can be in disagreement with Zelaya'spolicies, but he was elected by a majority of Honduran people and still remainspopular as their president...It's the elite and the conservative parties, whichhave power in Congress, who have backed this coup...
UPDATE 13: 3:44PM - Fake Resignation Letter From Zelaya Dated 3Days Ago
Alleged resignation letter with forged signature fromPresident Zelaya is dated June 25, 2009. This is completely ridiculousconsidering that up until he was violently kidnapped this morning, Zelaya gaveno indication whatsoever that he was planning to resign. Today, in is forcedexile from Costa Rica, he has reaffirmed his role as constitutional presidentof Honduras and denied any resignation via letter or any other means.
The Honduran Congress has violated the human rights of itscitizens and has brutally repressed members of Zelaya's administration. ForeignMinister Patricia Rodas, who was beaten and taken from her home a few hoursago, has still not resurfaced.
The Honduran Congress says they have not executed a coupd'etat but rather are installing "rule of law" and"democracy". WTF?????
BTW, the FAKE RESIGNATION letter states:
Due to the polarizing political situation in the country,which has provoked a national conflict that is eroding my political support,and due to my uncureable health problems that have impeded me fromconcentrating on my fundamental duties in the government, I am handing in myirrevocable resignation as President of the Republic, together with my Cabinetmembers, effective as of today.
With my resignation, I hope to contribute to healing thewounds in the national political environment.
Jose Manual Zelaya Rosales
President of the Republic of Honduras
Addressed to: President of the National Congress
Honorable Representative Don Roberto Micheletti Bain
THIS IS CLEARLY A FAKE! AND THE GUY IT'S ADDRESSED TO,MICHELETTI, IS THE ONE THE CONGRESS JUST NAMED PRESIDENT OF HONDURAS!
Also, the "health problems" referred to in theletter are regarding the opposition's claim that President Zelaya is"mentally ill". Hmmm....the Venezuelan opposition has tried to saythe same about President Chavez and have even had psychiatric studies conductedto back their "accusations".
Maybe all of us are mentally ill who fight for social andeconomic justice and refuse to bow to imperialism, fascism and military coups!!
UPDATE 14: 4:10PM -If Obama Does Not Refuse To Recognize Coup Leaders Than Us Approving MilitaryCoup
AS of this time, late Sunday afternoon, after the HonduranCongress has illegally removed President Zelaya from power and violentlykidnapped and forced him into exile in Costa Rica, the Obama Administration hasSTILL NOT stated that it WILL NOT recognize any other president of Hondurasother than the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
All of the nations in the region have made clear that theywill only recognize President Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras.Even the United Nations and European Community have made clear the samesentiment. Only the Obama Administration has made no statement confirming thatit will not recognize the head of Congress, who just declared himself presidentof Honduras, as a legitimate leader.
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! We must DEMAND the Obama Administrationrefuse to recognize any other president than Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. If theObama administration's rejects such a demand, then it is evidences its role inthis illegal military coup.
UPDATE 15: 4:32PM -Massive Human Rights Violations Underway In Honduras
The Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, elected in November2005, has been kidnapped, beaten and forced into exile in Costa Rica. A fakeletter of resignation, with his forged signature (see blog entry below), wasused by Honduras' opposition majority Congress to justify the president'souster. Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas was brutally beaten and kidnapped bymilitary forces in her residence just before noon and taken into custody. Shehas not been seen since.
In complete violation of diplomatic law, the ambassadors ofVenezuela and Cuba were both beaten and kidnapped for a short period byHonduran soldiers, under orders of the coup leaders. They have both beenreleased and have taken refuge again in their respective embassies.
A non-binding vote, scheduled for today, on a possiblefuture constitutional assembly, was impeded by the coup leaders, violating theHonduran people's right to vote and participate in their political processes.
Nations around the world, including the United Nations,Organization of American States, Latin American countries and even the UnitedStates have condemned the events in Honduras. Only the Obama Administration hasyet to clarify whether they will recognize the illegal coup government led bythe president of Honduras' congress, Micheletti.
UPDATE 16: 5:00PM - Illegal Swearing In Of De FactoPresident In Honduras
RIght now the Honduran Congress is illegally swearing in thepresident of Congress, Micheletti, as the de facto president of Honduras, inthe next development of this ongoing military-civil coup taking placethroughout the day.
President Zelaya is still in forced exile in Costa Rica,after being beaten and kidnapped by soldiers under orders of those involved inthe coup. Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas is still disappeared, after also beingbeaten and taking prisoner by the Honduran military in clear violation of herrights.
The United States maintains a military base in Soto Cano,Honduras, that houses approximately 500 soldiers and special forces. The U.S.military group in Honduras is one of the largest in U.S. Embassies in theregion. The leaders of the coup today are graduates of the U.S. School of theAmericas, a training camp for dictators and repressive forces in Latin America.
Will the Obama Administration recognize the coup governmentin place now in Honduras? Or will Obama call for the reinstatement ofconstitutional president Manuel Zelaya. We are waiting to hear from the WhiteHouse....
Tonight, a special meeting of ALBA nations has been convenedin Managua, Nicaragua. Heads of state or high level representatives fromBolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela, Dominica, San Vincent and Antigua andBarbados are expected to attend.
UPDATE 17: 5:37PM -Coup Government In Place In Honduras
It's official, illegal, but official. Roberto Micheletti, upuntil right now the head of Congress, has just been sworn in as de factopresident after violently ousting President Zelaya from power, kidnapping himand forcing him into exile in Costa Rica. Micheletti just gave a speech beforeCongress, broadcast live via CNN en Español and Telesur, along with Honduranstations, was enraged with power, often yelling and declaring his "utmostrespect for democracy and the constitution" (?!) He also discussed how his"cabinet" which he is about to announce, will "restoredemocracy" and "respect for the constitution" to the country. Herepeated over and over again that what took place was not a military-civil coupbut rather a "civil society" action to "ensure democracy".
Still no word about kidnapped and beaten Foreign MinisterPatricia Rodas' whereabouts. The Congress also did not explain PresidentZelaya's beating and kidnapping and forced exile or the forged resignationletter, which they now obviously are no longer using as a legitimate"justification" for the coup. It's just too bogus.
BTW, The US Military Group in Honduras trains around 300Honduran soldiers every year, provides more than $500,000 annually to theHonduran Armed Forces and additionally provides $1.4 million for a militaryeducation and exchange program for around 300 more Honduran soldiers everyyear.