Less bread and circuses, more gas and noise bombs

Poison gas, bread and photo opportunities on the 90th day of the Honduran coup, reports James Wilde
September 2009

On Thursday Hondurans were treated to a public relations barrage. The junta minister responsible for food and prices toured the supermarkets offering assurance after Wednesday's panic buying and looting. And in case the news was actually reflecting that the Golpistas had nearly lost control, several thousand 'camisas blancas' were mobilised from the civil service to attest that the junta could put more supporters on the streets than the resistance. The craven television and press duly showed aerial photographs of the of the de facto government supporters covering a couple of blocks near the United Nations offices.

The resistance meanwhile were making their presence felt in the barrios and the National University was essentially closed down around 11am after protesters started bonfires. The students, in the absence of any decisive action by the chancellor's office, voted with their feet, opting to leave rather than face another brutal shut down by the security forces.

Today, Hondurans woke to a strange series of events, starting with the presidential candidates visiting both junta leader Micheletti and President Zelaya at the Brazilian Embassy. Press photographers have been allowed unrestricted access to the embassy, while Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Red Cross medical staff and Zelaya's personal doctor were denied access to investigate claims that gas and non-lethal noise bombs had been thrown into the embassy earlier today.

Hondurans could be forgiven for considering these turn of events with a certain amount of incredulity given recent reports that the curfew is costing the economy $50 million a day.

Consider this figure, in light of a recent report from Honduran business organisations that said international assistance for the 2009 was estimated to be around $250 million. This external assistance does not primarily fund development projects but subsidises basic government budget expenditures such as the health and education sectors. So while the wealthy politicians and business leaders behind the coup may be able to 'run out the clock' until presidential elections, the majority of Hondurans will have to make do an any way they can.

Meanwhile the UN Security Council met today in a private session but rather than a full debate that the Brazilian and other OAS member states had requested, they restricted their debate to the harassment of the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. A simple statement was issued demanding the de fact Honduran Government observe the diplomatic conventions on foreign missions.

Rain is falling this evening and people's basic anxieties about food were solved by the panic stocking up on basic necessities earlier in the week, so perhaps parents will be trying to explain today's news to their children, most of whom have not attended classes since the curfews were first imposed on Monday.










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