As people all over the United States celebrated the Fourth of July with barbeques and fireworks, a different type of patriotism was being seen throughout Honduras as Honduran citizens, young and old, took to the streets to rally and protest. As you may or may not know, last Sunday morning (June 28th) there was a coup d'état here in Honduras. The cowboy hat wearing, motorcycle driving, moustache faced ousted president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales (aka Mel), was accused by congress, the military, and the supreme court of Honduras of breaking the constitution.
Ever since I arrived in Honduras I had been hearing about something called La Cuarta Urna which aimed to amend the constitution of Honduras to allow a president to serve more than one term of four years, among other things. During the first four months that I was here, I would see commercials, billboards, and other propaganda all over Honduras as the President attempted to garner support from the Honduran people.
Many people said that Mel was trying to follow in the footsteps of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (he did something similar a few years back and was able to remain in power). Mel’s term is up at the end of this year and the people thought that he was trying to make these changes for his own benefit and was attempting to be able to remain president of Honduras for an indefinite period of time.
Last Sunday this proposition was to go to vote. In the week leading up, knowing that the vote would controversial, Mel asked the head of the military to provide support in hopes to keep order. The military head refused; saying that the vote was unconstitutional and Mel immediately relieved him of his position but he was reinstated by congress just a few hours later. After these events, it could be seen that the vote would not go smoothly but it went on as scheduled. On a side note, the Peace Corps office in Tegucigalpa told us that we were to stay in our sites and couldn’t travel between the morning of the 27th and the morning of the 29th so that we would stay away from any protests or roadblocks that may be happening.
Well, the morning that the vote was supposed to happen, the military rushed into the presidential palace, supposedly with guns, and took Mel, said to be wearing his pajamas, to the airport and flew him to Costa Rica. Immediately thereafter, the man that lost to Mel in the last elections, Roberto Micheletti, was sworn in as president.
During the past week the news of what happened here has been gaining national attention. I have not heard of a single country that supports what the new administration is doing and many have withdrawn their ambassadors from the country. The World Bank has frozen credit and, after failing to meet a 72-hour ultimatum to reinstate Mel, Honduras has been kicked out of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Mel has threatened to come back and take back his position on various occasions. First he was going to come back on Thursday, then he was going to come back yesterday, then he was going to come back today. But, alas, still no sign of the guy. The new president has threatened to arrest Mel if he attempts to re-enter the country and he closed the airport today so that Mel couldn’t fly back. Micheletti says that he is not afraid of Obama or Chavez and the only way that he would give up his new position would have to be through force. As the saga continues, Hondurans continue to choose sides and take to the streets in support of their favorite. It seems that there is now a clear division between Zelaya and Micheletti supporters and whatever happens there is going to be one group that will not be happy and some fear violence will ensue.
So that is where we sit as of right now. Here in Ocotepeque, things have been relatively peaceful. There have been a few rallies in the park but nothing violent. We have been under a national curfew from 9 pm to 6 am since last Sunday, the “Standfast” order from the Peace Corps has been extended and we continue to be stuck in our sites. Don’t worry about me, I am in a safe city hours away from where most of the protests have been happening. The Peace Corps says that they are in communication with the U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C. and will let us know of any new developments.
Because of all that is happening, work continues to be slow for me. I work with an organization that is supported by the government and, with all the uncertainty, people are less motivated than usual to do any work. The children of Honduras suffer as the teachers have been on strike for the last two weeks because they have not been paid. But other than that, life here continues on as usual. There has been much speculation by volunteers on what will happen and what we think should happen but I guess we just have to trust that we will be taken care of. Since I am so close to the borders of El Salvador and Guatemala, I was thinking that if things got really bad, I would just run down the street and hop the border.
That’s all I got for now. I hope all of you had a fantastic Fourth of July and that you were able to spend the day with friends and family. I will keep you all posted on what happens here. My hand is all better, gracias a Dios, and I am happy and healthy. I will leave you all with a picture I snapped from my porch the other day as the afternoon rains were seceding and a rainbow appeared above the hills. Enjoy.