Friday, July 31, 2009

More on the Honduran military

I keep repeating that the Honduran military's position is critical to any resolution to the current crisis. It seemed quite clear that they had shifted to support the Arias Accord. Head of the joint chiefs Romeo Vásquez now says there were never any negotiations with the United States (which had been reported). He says the statement released by the military should be viewed only as support for Micheletti, and that the institution has no opinion about what decisions that government makes.

When asked about human rights violations, he responds that the military follows orders. Apparently doing so means they are not responsible for anything.

Ustedes han sido acusados de violar los derechos humanos, ¿cómo responde usted a esas acusaciones?

Lo que hicimos fue cumplir las órdenes de un poder del Estado. Nosotros no hemos violado los derechos humanos, hemos dado cumplimiento a las leyes del país.

Quick translation: You've been accused of violating human rights, how do you respond to these accusations?

What we did was carry out orders from a State power. We have not violated human rights, we have carried out the laws of the country.


Nell 9:53 AM  

Perhaps this would be the moment to mention that the police and military jointly cracked down in a massive and violent way yesterday, arresting people at roadblocks and demonstrations across the country in groups of 30, 50, and 70. These arrests including physically attacking reporters, whose cameras and cell phones they smashed, and members of the popular movement leadership, such as Juan Barahona, and Carlos Reyes.

They beat Reyes, who is a presidential candidate, badly enough to break his arm. A man who was part of a peaceful demonstration in Tegucigalpa, Roger Abraham Vallejo Cerrado, was shot in the head by police and is in critical condition in hospital.

Someone is giving these orders. If it's not Micheletti, and I suspect it's not, then it's the money men.

The U.S. government and all the rest of the governments in the hemisphere must respond immediately with asset freezes and other sanctions, targeted at the military high command and the people who are employing Lanny Davis as well as the politicians who are the public face of the coup.

While all this was going on, Amb. Llorens was meeting with Pres. Zelaya just over the border. Shame he couldn't have gone a week ago, but that seems to be the U.S. approach here: do the right thing, but make sure it doesn't happen soon enough to blunt its effect.

Nell 10:01 AM  

correction: Llorens and Zelaya met in Managua, not at the border encampment.

Xiomara Castro de Zelaya and her family left El Paraiso last night and returned to Tegucigalpa, accompanied by hundreds of supporters (a situation of mutual protection, considering the scale and nature of the assaults on anti-coup protestors yesterday).

Nell 10:03 AM  

This is a moment in which any leaders in the church and the military who see a future for democracy in Honduras need to speak up and separate themselves from the repression that's being meted out to preserve an illegitimate, thuggish coup regime.

Anonymous,  11:20 AM  

Post facto ass-covering. Nothing more.

RAJ 12:18 PM  

First point: the violence yesterday was the result of a change in policy by the de facto regime, as announced by their security minister in a morning briefing: they would no longer tolerate road blockages. The orders were changed to "dislodge". Reports from Honduras show they followed dispersed demonstrators, in helicopters, even onto buses, and beat them deliberately.

Today, Micheletti announced that they will not tolerate any road blockages.

So expect more violence; and note that this tends to reinforce the argument that, far from fading away, the popular resistance and its tactic of road blockage is affecting the nation.

And on Greg's main point: I find it hard to believe the NY Times made up the whole story about two colonels visiting DC to get help to revise the press release that came out in support of the San Jose Accord. Which makes Romeo Vásquez' statement that there was no such meeting, and his repudiation of the reading of that statement, interesting as a potential indication of internal dissension within the military. While of course impossible to verify, the statement I translated from mimalapalabra has enough insider details about generals who frankly I had never heard of before to suggest it is from military sources, which would be another indication that General Vásquez is losing the support, if he ever really had it, of his troops.

Finally, I remain curious about why the Public Prosecutor asked specifically that the raid on President Zelaya's house be carried out by a different officer. The Supreme Court orders for the raid were sent to both Zelaya and Lieutenant Colonel Rene Antonio Hepburn Bueso, who the prosecutor had requested.

Honduran colleagues note that Vásquez was understood to be close to Zelaya, something reiterated as well by the statement posted on mimalapalabra. Perhaps the prosecutor was not so sure that he would carry out the ordered raid. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, in the famous Radio Globo interview, raked him over the coals for his betrayal.

The military story remains the one I think most likely to indicate whether there can be a road out of all this. Micheletti and Congress are stalling, clearly. The National Police turning violent is a bad sign, and I am concerned that this will only get worse. It also raises the question: will Ramon Custodio admit these are violations of human rights?

Nell 2:38 PM  

@RAJ: Who is the minister of security in the coup government? I saw a reference to a 'roadblocks won't be tolerated' announcement in a story today, but without a name.

will Ramon Custodio admit these are violations of human rights?

Certainly not. He'll join police spokesman Daniel Molina in sayin that the protestors themselves shot Rodrigo Vallejo, just as he did when he insisted that they rather than the soldiers had shot Isis Murillo at the airport on July 5.

As for the tear gas, water cannons, and beatings... well, as Ginger Thompson was at pains to point out in her 78-word story, some of the demonstrators blocking the road had long sticks. And pick axes! It's remarkable that GT, who reported from Mexico during the long protests after the Calderon-Amlo elections, hasn't picked up that roadblocks are constructed with cement and asphalt chunks dug out of the surroundings with... pick axes.

RAJ 7:44 PM  

Mario Eduardo Perdomo Cerrato is the de facto regime's designated Secretaria de Seguridad. Orlin Cerrato, spokesperson for the National Police, is the person I have seen quoted as referencing the communique from the Secretariat.

Nell 8:33 PM  

Thanks very much, RAJ.

In my 10:03am comment above, I expressed a hope for religious leaders to start going public against the coup. Here's a July 29 letter from several Protestant pastors, joining much earlier anti-coup statements from the Catholic bishops of the Trujillo and Santa Rosa de Copan dioceses.

Unknown 4:56 AM  

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