The Honduran coup has dropped all pretenses of legality over the past few days as it enters into a phase of desperate repression since the return of President Manuel Zelaya on Sept. 21 and the surge in grassroots mobilization against the coup.
The resistance march yesterday reported many detained, beaten and chased. Photos reveal the brutality of the torture that arrested demonstrators have undergone. Neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa report that military tanks have been moved in to break up groups of protesters. The Armed Forces have threatened movement leaders and are targeting teachers and youths.
The coup regime lifted the general curfew for several hours yesterday, leading to panic-buying and a run on banks. The curfew was then imposed again "indefinitely", causing even greater panic. Following pressure from the U.S. government and others, the increasingly erratic coup regime lifted the curfew today.
But no-one knows how long that will last since the regime depends on repression to maintain power. It also means more people will be in the streets and subject to arbitrary arrest and beatings. Demonstrations in Tegucigalpa have grown daily despite the curfews, road blocks and repression. Neighborhoods throughout the capital city and in many other cities are organized and carrying out daily protests.
Jessica Sanchez of Feminists in Resistance, just sent in this account of how the police are even raiding hospitals to capture wounded demonstrators after beating them:
"I just got back from the hsopital where I took my brothers who were arrested by the police after the march and savagely beaten, while the police screamed that this way they would learn not to go around in marches and that Mel couldn't save them from a beating. One of my brothers (21 years old) has bruised lungs from the beating and the other has two broken hands... They also detained several compañeras from Feminists in Resistance who were later released because they were carrying their identification as part of the Women's Human Rights Observatory. What seems incredible to me is that the police are taking people (mostly youths) from the hospital... They are going into the hospitals every two hours, to see who they'll take out. WE CAN'T ALLOW THIS! The Red Cross hasn't done anything, but there are nurses and members of the resistance inside the hospital who helped us a lot."
We have received reports of persecution by police on motorcycles, hunting down protesters like animals. An eight-year old boy became the latest casualty—not coincidentally, all on the side of the people against the coup—when he died yesterday of tear gas asphyxiation.
Juan Almendares, of the Honduran Center for Torture Prevention, reports that Honduras has become "the largest prison in the world." He notes, "There is a permanent state of siege here. Human rights organizations and medics are not even allowed to attend to the tortured and wounded. The office of the Committee for Families of the Disappeared was bombed with tear gas... Children and the sick in the hospitals are undernourished since with the curfew, which is a death warrant, they do not receive food and are dying of hypoglycemia."
These facts are not disputed and have been corroborated and denounced in recent days. Amnesty International called the situation "alarming" and called for the de facto regime to "stop the policy of repression and violence and instead respect the rights of freedom of expression and association." The organization added, "We also urge the international community to urgently seek a solution, before Honduras sinks even deeper into a human rights crisis." The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has requested permission to send an emergency delegation.
In developments in the international arena, Brazilian President Lula da Silva used his address to the UN General Assembly to call for the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya, who is still holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
"The international community demands that Mr Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country and must be alert to ensure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras," he stated.
International organizations have joined the Brazilian government in calling for action from the UN Security Council (see letter below). UN Secretary General announced that UN support for the Honduran elections scheduled for Nov. 29 and has been suspended due to the lack of minimum requirements for "credible elections" under the coup. Anti-coup forces have vowed to boycott the elections and Panama's new rightwing government is alone in claiming it would recognize the results.
The situation has reached all-out crisis proportions. Urgent action is needed from everyone who believes in democracy, and seeks to stop the bloodshed and avoid the terrible precedent of rule by force in the Hemisphere.
To take action:
Open Letter to Security Council Members on Addressing the Crisis in Honduras
As feminist organizations and networks and women’s groups working to address the crisis caused by the recent coup d’état in Honduras, we look to the United Nations Security Council urgently to act to address this crisis. We call on the Security Council to condemn the repressive actions and human rights violations committed by the coup government against the Honduran people, to protect the civilian population of Honduras and to support an immediate return to constitutional order, in accordance with existing international treaties and agreements to which the state of Honduras is a signatory.
We look forward to your government, as a member of the Council, supporting a strong and compelling statement from the international community. We also look forward to your support for urgent and immediate measures to address the security situation in Honduras and to protect and safeguard the rights of the Honduran people, including women who are being particularly affected by this crisis. This support would be an affirmation of the Security Council’s commitments expressed in resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security.
Since the return of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya to Honduras on September 21, the country has seen a dramatic rise in violence by the military and police forces causing further insecurity for the people of Honduras and a suspension of their civil liberties, following the orders of the de facto regime:
• An unjustified curfew was decreed, beginning September 21, 2009, to suppress the peaceful gatherings in support of President Zelaya’s return – including the violent suppression of a large gathering outside of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Electrical power was cut off for 48 hours and there are widespread reports of human rights violations committed in response to these gatherings.
• At 5 a.m. on September 22, police and military contingents, using tear gas, dyed water, shrill alarms, beatings and bullets, forcibly removed those who remained in front of the Brazilian embassy. There are preliminary reports of three people being killed by gunshots to the head and reports of many others being assaulted; including an eight-year-old boy who died due to tear gas asphyxiation.
Those remaining near the embassy, including many children, are under siege conditions and are not being allowed access to food or water. Furthermore, press freedoms are being severely restricted and members of the international media who were at or near the Brazilian Embassy have been beaten and forcibly removed by the police.
• People who were making their way towards the Brazilian embassy from different parts of the city and from throughout the country have been detained on the road and prevented from moving freely. The military has set up roadblocks to prevent convoys from entering the city.
• Those who were detained or injured are being held in illegal detention centers, such as those set up at Chochi Sosa stadium and at San Francisco military base. In San Pedro Sula, detainees are being taken to the Olympic Stadium. Reports as to the number of detainees vary between 150 and 1,000. The military has even detained people who were in hospitals. This situation is reminiscent of the coup d’état in Chile in 1973, when thousands of innocent people were captured and detained at the stadium in Santiago.
In all of this, Honduran women have found themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation – both as participants in the resistance and as families of detainees. The preliminary results of the Feminist Fact-Finding Mission that was carried out in August by a delegation of human rights defenders from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America documented numerous cases of abuse and sexual harassment committed by the police force. These facts and other reports from numerous other international fact-finding missions to Honduras in the wake of this coup confirm that bold action is needed.
We look forward to receiving your support in urgently addressing this crisis.
(Photos: Walter Javier Rodgriguez)