Hondurans Call Out for Help from the International Community
Our emergency international delegation to
We started out with a briefing by the Network of Sustainable Development (Red de Desarrollo Sostenible) a 15-year-old organization devoted to the exchange of information about sustainable development. It has now become a center for exchanging information about the coup. Using blogspot, facebook, twitter, myspace, flickr and youtube, the Network’s network is abuzz with hour-by-hour accounts of political developments. Their communication system has become a critical way for Hondurans to get information, since the coup leaders have muzzled the press.
The Network has a history of being objective and staying above politics, but the staff is outraged by the coup. “This was just over the top,” said National Coordinator Raquel Isaura, who is being targeted by the right for some anti-coup internet messages posted under her name. “A military coup in this day and age must be condemned by all sectors of civil society.”
Like many Hondurans, Network Director Candalario Reyes Garcia is deeply worried about the future. “In the 80s we were terrorized by the death squads called Batallion 316. These same death squad leaders are still in the military today and if they take control of this country, we’re in for some truly dark days ahead.”
Demonstrations against the coup have been taking place all over the country, but they are not reported in the news and protesters are beaten and tear-gassed by the military. Some movement leaders have been arrested, others are in hiding. The military has also prevented demonstrators from converging on the capital,
When I asked Colindres why his group supported Zelaya, he said that for the first time in decades, the government of President Zelaya increased the budget for public universities and increased scholarships for the students. “We have a lot of poor students who were helped by this government. We don’t want the elite to take back the government and use it, as they have in the past, to enrich themselves and impoverish the people.”
Our last visit of the day, which went on for hours, was a fascinating gathering with members of the indigenous community, Lencas and Garifanos. This group was lucky to have made it to the capital, where they are camping out in a school auditorium. Entire families, from babies to grandmas, participate in roving protests every day. They keep moving so the military doesn’t know where they will be from one day to the next.
One by one, these very humble and poor people told us about their situation, their beliefs, their fears and their dreams. Valentina Dominquez, a primary school teacher, said, “Our people are suffering from poverty, and President Zelaya tried to help. He raised the minimum wage and in the schools, he made sure that all the children were given snacks. He made school registration free and increased programs to help the 20% of Hondurans who don’t know how to read or write. That’s why we made our way to
Teresa Reyes, with the organization of black Hondurans called OFRANEH, said this new regime was terrorizing the people. “On the day of the coup, they cut the electricity, blacked out the news, and told us not to leave our houses. We were scared, we are scared, and we’re exhausted—some of us have been walking for days to get here. But even so, we were determined to keep protesting.”
Salvador Zuniga, one of the heads of the Civil Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), talked about the extreme poverty and illiteracy in
Melicio Intibuca, an elderly farmer, was terrified that
Medea Benjamin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is cofounder of Global Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK (www.codepinkalert.org)