Honduran Coup Regime Blocks Ousted President Zelaya’s Return; Troops Open Fire on Supporters at Airport Killing Two

AMY GOODMAN: A week after a military coup in Honduras, soldiers and riot police blocked the airport runway Sunday evening preventing ousted President Manuel Zelaya from returning to the country. Heavily armed Honduran soldiers also used tear gas and machine guns to disperse an unarmed crowd of over tens of thousands of people who had come from all over the country, despite military blockades, to wait at the airport and welcome back their ousted President. At least two people were reportedly killed and more wounded. After several failed attempts to touch down at Tegucigalpa airport, Zelaya’s plane eventually flew to Nicaragua, where he met President Daniel Ortega. He was accompanied by the President of the UN General Assembly Miguel D’Escoto Brockman on the plane. Zelaya then went on to El Salvador where he is due to meet the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay and the head of the Organization of American States. On Saturday, the OAS suspended Honduras. It marked the organization’s first suspension of a country in over 45 years. For more from Honduras, we are joined on the line from Tegucigalpa by Andres Conteris. He is the Program on the Americas director for Nonviolence International. He worked as a human rights advocate in Honduras from 1994 to 1999. He is a co-producer of “Hidden in Plain Sight,” a documentary film about U.S. policy in Latin America and the School of the Americas. And he works with Democracy Now! in Espanol. Tell us what happened. You were at the airport?


ANDRES CONTERIS: Yes, I was at the airport and it was a day of mostly peaceful demonstration. The estimates on the numbers were well over 100,000 people in the streets of Tegucigalpa going to the airport. The police would block the marchers, but then every half hour or so, they would retreat and therefore, causing a pause in the march but creating a sense of peace on both sides. So most of the day was very, very coordinated and there was no problems . The violence erupted later in the afternoon and it is very clear a sharpshooter was the one responsible for killing one of the protesters near the airport entrance.


AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us throughout the weekend how things went down, and what happened when president Zelaya, the ousted president, was flying over the airport?


ANDRES CONTERIS: Throughout the weekend, things have been getting more and more intense because first, the expected arrival of president Zelaya was last Thursday. He announced that himself. Then the OAS said they needed some time to give Honduras a chance to return to constitutional order and return him to power. So the OAS gave Honduras, the regime here, three days. Then Zelaya said he would come on Saturday and was postponed until yesterday, Sunday. Throughout this time, the repression in the country has become more and more intensified. People from our on the country have been trying to get to the capital to show their support for their president. Dozens of buses have been prevented from coming into the capital. One of the buses was machine gunned on its tires. Father Andres Temallo was beaten along with others while trying to come to the capital. This along with the fear and intimidation tactics that are used against human rights leaders and especially members of the press that are trying to get the word out about those in the country to are against the coup.


AMY GOODMAN: Andres, what exactly is happening with the media in Honduras right now?


ANDRES CONTERIS: The media overwhelmingly in this country is controlled by an oligarchy that is very supportive of this coup. And so they are only trying to get out the story about some of the demonstrations that have been in favor of Roberto Micheletti taking power a week ago yesterday. However, the press who is trying to give a balanced approach and to give voice to those who are in the streets yesterday and the recent days, in addition to yesterday. They are finding—they’re facing incredible repression. There was a journalist on Friday murdered after leaving Radio America in San Juan Pueblo in the rural area in the north. Then there are two journalists who are in hiding. One is the head of channel 36 and the other is the director of Radio Global. Other journalists who have decided to continue their programming are facing death threats. And fear and intimidation tactics. One journalist jumped three stories when the soldiers came to get him in Radio Global on the day of the coup. And the reason he did so is because he had been tortured in the 1980’s and he feared this would happen once again. He fractured his shoulder and has lesions around his body. Another journalist had his family threatened and just two days ago, his two sons on the street were threatened with a revolver a car with darkened windows on the street.


AMY GOODMAN: Also a bomb on July 4th, Saturday exploded at Channel 11 in Tegucigalpa?


ANDRES CONTERIS: That happened at 9:30 PM at night. It was the first bomb that had been placed in the institution that actually went off. The material damage was severe, there was no one else hurt. Channel 11 has not been known as a channel that would give the side that is countered to this regime that is in power now, but they were attempting to do some small efforts to give a balanced approach. Even in doing that, that is what caused them to be a target of this bombing. Other channels closed, I said channel 36, also channel 45. In terms of radio, Radio Global in Tegucigalpa is the station that is most been under attack. I mentioned a man who jumped three stories, the director is in hiding. Other journalists are under life threats. One of the radios stations in the countryside, Radio Progresso, this was shut down. Radio Progresso is a very, very progressive voice run by the Jesuit community. One station here in Tegucigalpa that carries the headline news of “Democracy Now!” was clearly forced to take headline news of “Democracy Now!” off the air because we have been reporting on the coup. So the press censorship has been very, very severe and intimidation and terror tactics against journalists have been in incrementing.


AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the curfew? The sunset to sunrise curfew that has been imposed. Also, BBC reported that as president Zelaya, the ousted president was not able to land, his supporters at the airport began shouting “We want blue helmets,” meaning UN peacekeepers.


ANDRES CONTERIS: Yes, the curfew was first imposed the night of the coup, in fact. The coup happened very early in the morning a week ago Sunday on the 20th of June. And the curfew was imposed that night from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. That was put in place for the next few days and then the Congress passed a law that extended the curfew, but not only that, it limited guaranteed constitutional rights of freedom of gathering, freedom of association, and basically freedom to protect their very rights. In other words, once the curfew is in force, which was 9PM which yesterday was changed until 6:30 PM, until 5:00AM in the morning. During that time any house can be raided and all the constitutional guarantees of the citizens here are canceled. The international press has also received harassment, if they trying to report an anti-coup position. They have been threatened with leaving the country, especially journalists from Telesur and others from Venezuela.


AMY GOODMAN: Andres, very quickly, because we just have a minute, can you talk about the situation of the United States not calling it a coup in Honduras and the very close US relationship with Honduras, particularly the aid that is not been cut off, though military cooperation, the Obama administration as announced has been cut off?


ANDRES CONTERIS: The US policy towards Honduras has historically been one of having great deal of control and the U.S. policy continues to be that. It is very clear that the US is trying to associate itself with not only Latin America, but the entire world. But even though the United States is not following even U.S. law which says no aid, either economic or military, can go to a country when it is declared that a coup has happened. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have said a coup has happened, but have legally declare that the case. That means aid has continues to flow, even though the State Department has used the words, there has been a pause and even though the Pentagon has said that the associations between the U.S. Military and Honduran military have been minimized.


Even those symbolic efforts, even if they have happened, it does not mean the aid should continue to flow. And therefore the U.S. is in violation of its own law in continuing to support this regime. The history of the U.S. in this country is also full of repression. The School of the Americas trained the coup leader here, the general who took over. And Billy Hoya also related to Battalion 316, a death squad which was founded during the time of John Dimitri Negroponte. Billy Hoya is a key security advisor to the so-called President Micheletti. So the ties of U.S. policy here continue to be damaging and U.S. is not taking an active role in resolving this crisis.

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