NEWS DAY | Honduras update and media mistakes

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With ousted President Manuel Zelaya inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, the de facto Honduran government has cut off lights, water, and telephones, reports BBC. The government also blocked roads leading into the capital, closed airports, imposed a curfew starting at 4 p.m., and forcibly broke up a demonstration in support of Zelaya.

Supporters inside Honduras reported police attacks on people demonstrating support for Zelaya throughout the day on Tuesday, with reports of at least 172 injured and 350 jailed from Narco News Bulletin. Security forces also occupied buildings next to the Brazilian embassy, lobbed tear gas into the courtyard, and attacked the offices of COFADEH, a Honduran human rights organization:

Later, when the lights were cut, there were fears the authorities might storm the gates [of the Brazilian embassy] at any moment, and side arms were handed out to security guards. The lights soon returned courtesy of the compound’s generator (and gas supplied by La Resistencia). The expected attack didn’t come until dawn, when police launched tear gas shells into the courtyard, and forcibly occupied neighboring buildings.

“These bullies can enter my home, and do anything they please,” said one disconcerted neighbor, lugging her valuables away from the scene. “Just because I live next to the Brazillian Embassy, they treat me like a criminal.”

Apparently, the “bullies” could do as they pleased throughout the capital on Tuesday. To mention just one example: The offices of the Committee for Detained and Disappeared Persons of Honduras (COFADEH) were attacked without provocation, when police fired tear gas canisters at the building.

The New York Times yesterday repeated the old canard, pushed by the coupmeisters and most of the U.S. media, that Zelaya “had violated the law by scheming to extend his term beyond that allowed in the Constitution, and therefore had to go.” In point of fact, the referendum proposed by Zelaya would not have extended his term. Instead, the non-binding referendum would have asked for an expression of voter opinion on rewriting the constitution at a future date, some time after Zelaya’s term expires. As summarized by Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, writing in the Guardian:

A constitutional crisis came to a head when Zelaya ordered the military to distribute materials for a non-binding referendum to be held last Sunday. The referendum asked citizens to vote on whether they were in favour of including a proposal for a constituent assembly, to redraft the constitution, on the November ballot. The head of the military, General Romeo Vasquez, refused to carry out the president’s orders. The president, as commander-in-chief of the military, then fired Vasquez, whereupon the defence minister resigned. The supreme court subsequently ruled that the president’s firing of Vasquez was illegal, and the majority of the Congress has gone against Zelaya.

Supporters of the coup argue that the president violated the law by attempting to go ahead with the referendum after the supreme court ruled against it. This is a legal question. It may be true, or it may be that the supreme court had no legal basis for its ruling. But it is irrelevant to the what has happened. The military is not the arbiter of a constitutional dispute between the various branches of government.

This is especially true in this case, in that the proposed referendum was a non-binding and merely consultative plebiscite. It would not have changed any law nor affected the structure of power. It was merely a poll of the electorate.

Therefore, the military cannot claim that it acted to prevent any irreparable harm. This is a military coup carried out for political purposes.

For in-depth reporting on the political issues involved and on the repression of dissent following the coup, see Benjamin Dangl’s report in UpsideDown World. For a report from inside the embassy very early in the morning on September 22, see Democracy Now.

 

News with attitude, mostly from MN but with occasional forays abroad. News Day summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to Minnesota news.

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