Zelaya in Honduras, Strike Looms

Juan Ramon Duran

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at the OAS on July 4, 2009.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at the OAS on July 4, 2009.

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 21 (IPS)  – Ousted President Manuel Zelaya snuck back into Honduras and took refuge Monday in the Brazilian embassy in the capital with the aim of returning to power by means of mass demonstrations and a general strike led by the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d’Etat.

But he said there would be no violence, and called for all sectors of society to engage in dialogue.

“I’m in Tegucigalpa again, determined to rebuild democracy through dialogue,” Zelaya told Canal 36, a TV station that has given favorable coverage to the 86 days of protests against the Jun. 28 coup – the longest protest movement in the country’s history.

The news of Zelaya’s return spread like wildfire around the country, and the members of the Front who had begun to gather at the “Vicente Cáceres” Central Institute, the largest high school in the capital, immediately headed to the United Nations building in downtown Tegucigalpa.

However, it transpired shortly afterwards that rumors that Zelaya was in the United Nations offices were false.

Then at noon local time, they headed to the Brazilian embassy, where they saw the deposed president, wearing his trademark white sombrero, brown leather jacket and black pants. The leader was reunited with his wife, Xiomara Castro, who arrived at the embassy at the head of thousands of supporters.

In his first statements to the press, Zelaya confirmed that it took him two days to travel from Nicaragua to the mountains of Honduras. “I cannot give details, because I don’t want those who helped me to be bothered,” he added.

Before talking to the press, Zelaya spoke on the telephone with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, asking him to talk to other Latin American presidents to continue building diplomatic support for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Honduras, which began when Zelaya was forced out of his home by the military at gunpoint and put on a plane to Costa Rica, still in his pyjamas.

Zelaya also called Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who authorised him to enter the Brazilian embassy and promised him a conversation with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the next few hours.

To shouts of “Yes, we did it!” members of the Front met with Zelaya, who came out on to a balcony at the embassy to greet the demonstrators, mainly members of the governing Liberal Party and the left-wing Democratic Unification Party (UD), as well as trade unionists, small farmers, teachers, and members of community organizations from poor areas of Tegucigalpa.

After 86 days in exile, Zelaya called for a broad social dialogue to put an end to the crisis. “We don’t want violence; I am a man of peace and of God,” he said, addressing a large number of local and foreign journalists in the embassy.

“The officers and soldiers of the armed forces should not attack the people. We are unarmed people. I call on all Honduran people, my friends and supporters, to come to Tegucigalpa and gather outside the Brazilian embassy, to rebuild the power of the people.”

He said reconciliation must be based on dialogue and prejudices of all kinds must be left aside, while calling for diplomatic support from the international community. “I have an open heart, and may it be God who rewards those who deserve to be rewarded and punishes those who should be punished,” he said.

Coup President Micheletti Denied Reports

De facto president Roberto Micheletti initially denied reports that Zelaya was in Honduras, saying they were part of “the media war waged by a TV and radio station that put out false information every day to intimidate and confuse the population.”

The de facto government’s defense minister, Leonel Sevilla, and the director of the migration office, Nelson Mejía, denied that Zelaya was in Honduras and confirmed that the police would enforce the arrest warrant issued by the Supreme Court on Jun. 28.

After the coup, during which the door to Zelaya’s home was shot open by the military in the middle of the night, the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations, and a large number of governments and organisations condemned the coup, and not a single country has recognized the de facto government.

Micheletti and his supporters, meanwhile, argue that there was no coup, but merely a “presidential succession in line with the Honduran constitution.”

The U.S. government cancelled the visas of Micheletti, the president of the legislature, Alfredo Saavedra, and 14 of the 15 Supreme Court magistrates, as well as key officials of the de facto regime.

The United States also cancelled millions of dollars in military aid and development aid.

Only Japan, Israel and Taiwan have maintained full diplomatic ties with Honduras, while most other countries have recalled their ambassadors in Tegucigalpa.

The de facto government has insisted on going ahead with the Nov. 29 elections as scheduled, despite the fact that the international community – including the governments of Latin American countries, the United States, the European Union, and OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza – has vowed to refuse to recognize the results of the elections.

Zelaya’s plan is for a huge influx of people from all around the country to surround the Brazilian embassy, and for public employees to go on strike. Many people in government jobs belong to the three main trade unions, that are part of the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d’Etat.

The teachers’ unions have called on their members to join the strike and travel to the capital to support the president.

Meanwhile, the armed forces commanders and police chiefs called emergency meetings to decide what to do.

Zelaya expects OAS Secretary General Insulza to arrive on Tuesday, in order to engage in talks to restore the country’s institutional order.

Zelaya’s term is scheduled to end in January.