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  October 1, 2009

"Nothing happening" in Honduras

Military shuts down all anti-coup radio and TV, silencing all reporting on the resistance movement
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Dr. Luther Castillo is a spokesperson for the National Front Against the Coup, a coalition of various civil society organizations and individuals who oppose the June 28th, 2009 coup in Honduras, and advocate for a popular constitutional assembly as the resolution to the crisis. He has helped organize and lead over 90 straight days of civil disobedience since President Manuel Zelaya was expelled from the country by the military, and the popular consultation on opening the constitution was canceled. Dr. Castillo graduated in 2005 from the Latin American Medical School in Havana, Cuba. He then returned to his homeland of Miskitia on the Honduran coast, where he led construction of Honduras’ first Garifuna Rural Hospital. The project now serves over 20,000 people in the surrounding communities. In 2007, Dr. Castillo was named “Honduran Doctor of the Year” by Rotary International’s Tegucigalpa chapter. He is featured prominently in the award winning documentary Salud.

Honduras is under martial law as executive decree PCM-M-016-2009 has suspended numerous constitutional freedoms including: personal freedom, the right to free thought, the right to organize and meet, the right to free movement, freedom of the press, rights to privacy in one's own home, and protection against arbitrary detentions. The coup regime has routinely infringed these rights throughout the past three months, but it used the current degree to mobilize the military to shut down all anti-coup media outlets, thus eliminating any news of the resistance from the media. As filmmaker and resistance member Oscar Estrada writes, "it's like we never existed."


JESSE FREESTON, PRODUCER, TRNN: Tuesday marked the 431st anniversary of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, a day usually marked with parades and fireworks, except for this year, since the people of Honduras are currently living under Executive Order PCMM 016 2009, which suspends their constitutional freedoms of association and assembly for 45 days. It also suspends constitutional articles protecting personal freedom, freedom of mobility, the right to due process, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression. Even the media outlets that have been key supporters of the coup took editorial positions against the decree, causing de facto president Roberto Micheletti to announce plans to repeal it. But he didn't specify when.

ROBERTO MICHELETTI, DE FACTO PRESIDENT, HONDURAS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We will revoke the decree at an undetermined time, when the moment is right, so we can have peace and tranquility.

FREESTON: Regardless of when it's repealed, many believe that the damage has already been done. The decree was imposed on Sunday, thereby largely hindering the massive anti-coup protests that had been planned for Monday in order to mark the three-month anniversary of the coup. More importantly, however, the military used the temporary suspension of press freedom to forcibly shut down all anti-coup media, including the national independent radio network, Radio Globo.

CARLOS PAZ, EMPLOYEE, RADIO GLOBO (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): At 5:28 or 5:30 in the morning, the military raided the station by breaking through the front gate.

FREESTON: This occurred just one week after Micheletti accused the station of media terrorism for reporting on President's Zelaya's return to the country. On Wednesday, despite announced plans to repeal it, the same decree was used as justification for a joint military police operation to evict 55 peasant farmers from the National Institute for Agrarian Reform. The farmers had maintained the building's occupation since the first day of the coup, both in protest as well as out of fear that their land deeds would be manipulated for agribusiness purposes. The Real News spoke to Dr. Luther Castillo, founder of the first-ever rural hospital serving Honduras's Garifuna community. Castillo was in Washington to speak on behalf of Honduras's National Front against the Coup, where he denounced the de facto regime's formal negation of constitutional rights.

LUTHER CASTILLO, SPOKESMAN, HONDURAS ANTI-COUP FRONT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The decree is part of the coup regime's desperate plan to control this great mass of people that reject the actions of the coup regime. They have incredile media control, as only 3 sources were transmitting what was really happening in the country. They are Radio Globo, Radio Progreso, and Channel 36. They were immediately shut down because they were the only real media. The people on the coast don't even know what is happening in the capital because there is no media that can cover it. Meanwhile, the coup leaders themselves own all the traditional media. Look how many stations Rafael Ferrari owns, how many the oligarchy have. Now all the media in the country are in their hands. They are airing cartoons and soap operas at the same time that they're repressing the people in the streets, saying that nothing is happening in Honduras.

FREESTON: Honduran filmmaker Ă“scar Estrada describes the significance of the media crackdown in his Wednesday blog post from Tegucigalpa. He writes: "Our homes continue to be silent as we refuse to tune in to radio stations that accept the coup, that repeat the same lies. We choose silence. The closure of our communication media was a huge blow to the resistance. . . . It's hopeless to seek information from the conventional channels, where no one is saying anything about the reality in the country. It gives the impression that we never existed." Upon news of this crackdown, the United States representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Lewis Amselem, was a lone voice in blaming President Zelaya for the situation, saying, "Zelaya's return to Honduras is irresponsible and foolish and it doesn't serve the interest of the people nor those who seek the restoration of democratic order in Honduras." This mirrors the response from Secretary of State Clinton after Zelaya attempted to return to Honduras by land in late July.


July 24, 2009

HILLARY CLINTON, US SECRETARY OF STATE: President Zelaya's effort to reach the border is reckless. It does not contribute to the broader efforts to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis.


FREESTON: Castillo contrasts this against the fact that no US official has yet to criticize the coup regime for any of its well-documented human-rights abuses.

CASTILLO: Who could possibly qualify President Zelaya's return as irresponsible? Who brought about violence in Honduras? It was the de facto regime's coup d'Ă©tat. We would like to hear the US representative to the OAS condemning as irresponsible the massacre of civilians in Honduras. We would like to hear the US representative condemning the rape that soldiers are carrying out on women in Honduras. We would like to hear the US representative branding the state of siege and the military curfews as irresponsible. We would like to hear the US representative in the OAS condemning all the torture employed as irresponsible, condemning the shutting down of media outlets as irresponsible. At best, their behavior demonstrates antagonism.

FREESTON: On Tuesday, the US State Department stood firmly behind Amselem's comments and return to its regular message equating both sides of the conflict.

PHILIP J. CROWLEY, US ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: We have said throughout this process that all sides need to act constructively, avoid the kind of provocative statements or actions that would precipitate violence and inhibit the resolution of this situation. And I think our acting representatives simply said, with regard to, you know, statements that President Zelaya and his supporters have made, that they act in a more constructive and positive manner.

CASTILLO: The ones with weapons are the soldiers. The ones with the tear gas canisters are the soldiers. The ones who are attacking people with chemicals are the soldiers. The ones with tanks and pepper spray that repress the people are the soldiers. Therefore, when they call for peacefulness, they should specify who needs to be peaceful. We as a popular movement have never ordered a single violent action.

FREESTON: Castillo believes that the US bears a good deal of responsibility for the actions of the coup regime in Honduras, not only because of its lack of criticism and its continuing financial support for the regime, but also because it was the US initiative to sponsor negotiations with Costa Rican president Ă“scar Arias that gave legitimacy to the de facto regime in the first place.

CASTILLO: They took authority away from the UN and the actions it could take. The UN rejected the coup in a quick and timely manner, and the OAS condemned the coup in a quick and timely fashion. They overstepped the Organization of American States, an organization that represents all the countries of the Americas, to give authority to just one man, the president of Costa Rica. This served as a delay mechanism, putting at a table two entities that are not equal, but sitting them together, sitting a coup leader, a murderer, and his criminals with the constitutional president of the republic. We must be clear that these two things are eminently different.

FREESTON: Meanwhile, the US Library of Congress recently released its import on the legality of the coup, declaring Zelaya's kidnapping illegal, but his removal from power legal. This report has been criticized on numerous levels, including it's the failure to mention the forged resignation letter that the Honduran Congress produced when it voted President Zelaya out of power on the day of the coup. It also left out the fact that the Congress doesn't have the power to remove the president, or that violations of the Constitution are to be tried in court.

CASTILLO: The report is a strategy to justify the unjustifiable, part of the search for how to legalize a coup d'Ă©tat in the 21st century. It's just another tool for those looking to install a laboratory in Honduras that will provide information for how to carry out the coups to come, to destroy those presidents with populist tendencies that are elected by the people of Latin America.

FREESTON: The prospect of a new formula for military coups has captured the concern of many. Neighboring El Salvador played host to a rally on Saturday in support of the Honduran coup resistance. El Salvador recently saw its first ever peaceful transfer of power, electing for the first time a president that is not supported by the country's powerful oligarchy. Praised as heroes by many across the border, in Honduras the resistance has found itself the target of repeated insults by the coup regime and its supporters.

MICHELETTI: The resistance are nothing more than insurgents, nothing more than bums looking for a chance to steal.

FREESTON: As for Dr. Castillo, Micheletti's regime has already canceled the funding for his groundbreaking hospital project. Castillo believes that his story is just one example of the cause-and-effect of the coup in Honduras.

CASTILLO: This is a huge peoples' movement. Even in the most remote regions, like the Mosquitia in Colón, there are community anti-coup committees. Imagine in the remote places, where I am from, where there's no electricity, no highway, and no potable water, it's been more than 212 years since the Garifunas arrived in Honduras, and we still don't have access to all these things—212 years without electricity, without basic health care, without transportation infrastructure. We were never seen as humans. Now even there we see active anti-coup organizations, active committees demanding the return of their constitutionally elected president who gave them the opportunity to share their opinion.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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