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OAS meeting concludes and Zelaya plans his return

James Wilde reports from Honduras

July 5, 2009
4 min read

Sunday 12:40 am Honduras … The OAS session in Washington has just concluded. The session was broadcast live on the internet and CNN Espanol carried the debate. Essentially, the entire membership agreed to suspend Honduras from the OAS following the refusal of the Honduran government to reinstate president Mel Zelaya.

The Canadian ambassador expressed concern about president Zelaya returning at this time because his safety could not be guaranteed. The Canadian ambassador proposed that rather than Mel Zelaya return at this time, a delegation of OAS members and diplomats should try once again to negotiate with the acting Honduran government. There seemed no clear response to the Canadian ambassador’s proposal and the session was concluded.

CNN conducted a live interview with Zelaya immediately after the meeting. He appeared determined to return as planned sometime on Sunday. Zelaya said the delegation accompanying him was voluntary (presumably that meant the group was not selected or mandated by the OAS) but he believed it would include, as previously announced, the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador.

From the perspective inside Honduras, the proposed return of Zelaya today seems extremely risky not only for Zelaya but for the country as a whole. The acting government of Honduras has continued to be obdurate and unprepared to compromise. There appears to be a lack of objectivity and the junta has lost any sense of proportion. The statements of Mr Micheletti and the acting government official are increasingly strident, reckless and belligerent, seemingly acting without any regard for International concern about their actions.

Today I reviewed amateur footage of Honduran army troops shooting the tyres off yellow school buses that were allegedly part of a convoy of buses attempting to transport Zelaya supporters to the capital. The incident was claimed to have taken place within the past two days at Limones, 112 kilometres northeast of Tegucigalpa. If this was an actual incident, it demonstrates the ill discipline of the soldiers and the lack of effective control of the security forces by the acting government.

I have also read reports in the British media; the BBC and the Guardian that hand grenades have been thrown at government buildings and businesses over the past several days. I live above the historic city centre and work just inside the barrio of Comayaguela, immediately across the river from the congress building. I can state categorically that no acts of violence, particularly hand grenade attacks, have occured anywhere in the Centre over the past five-days. I cannot, however, attest to what may have occurred around the presidential secretariat on Blvd Juan Pablo Segundo or other areas of the city. Many of the government building are spread all over the city.

It is important to emphasise that other than one act of alleged vandalism on a fast food restaurant, the pro-Zelaya demonstrators have been peaceful with the exception of the stone throwing and tyre burning in front of the presidential secretariat earlier in the week, which the police countered with rounds of teargas. On Thursday, the congress enacted emergency legislation that suspends fundamental rights, specifically; arrests without warrants, individuals detained up to 24 hours without access to legal counsel and restrictions on freedom of assembly.

Mr Micheletti and the congress continue to insist that they have acted in order to protect the Honduran constitution and preserve democracy while at the same time suspending fundamental rights and providing the acting regime with draconian and authoritarian powers.

Given the present volatility of internal debate within the country and the unpredictable character of the acting Honduran government, I am deeply concerned about the potential for confrontation and violence at Toncontin airport in the event of Zelaya’s return today. I am not confident that Micheletti and the congress will act with due restraint, respect for diplomatic conventions or exercise adequate control of the Honduran security forces.

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