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After two days hitching rides on tractors through the mountainous back roads of Honduras, hiding from military checkpoints in car boots, Honduras’ democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya quietly slipped into the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa last Monday (21st). Zelaya promptly appeared on the embassy balcony to announce his return, sparking a siege of the embassy and a wave of protest and repression across the country.

On hearing of Zelaya’s return, thousands immediately descended on the embassy to show their support and protect the president. After seeing their laughing denial of Zelaya’s return disproved, the coup regime responded by announcing a national curfew, cut off the embassy’s electricity and water and sent hundreds of soldiers and police to surround the embassy. At 5am the next morning the military began to disperse the peaceful crowd with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and live rounds.

During the assault, police also attacked the offices of the Committee for Detained and Disappeared Persons of Honduras (COFADEH), firing tear gas into the building. COFADEH Director Bertha Oliva said: “The people can’t even walk the streets in peace. They’re being beaten just for stepping out of doors. [The police] hunt them as if for sport.” COFADEH alone documented 36 serious injuries and at least two deaths while independent reports indicated police arrested around 350 people and detained them in the Villa Olympica football stadium.

After dispersing the crowds, masked police and soldiers cordoned off the streets around the embassy, preventing access even for international journalists and human rights workers. A few hours later they wheeled in a pick-up with massive speakers in the back and began to direct a constant stream of loud music at the embassy building.

Honduran congressman Marvin Ponce, who was with Zelaya in the embassy, described the regime’s reaction as: “a reflection of their philosophies, this government of putschists. They don’t respect human rights. They don’t want a political dialogue.”

Despite the curfew remaining in place throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, Hondurans have continued to take to the streets, with thousands marching against the coup, setting up barricades of burning tires and participating in protest caravans of hundreds of vehicles. Attempting to regain control, police and military have been confronting marchers on the city streets and in residential areas, raiding houses in poor neighbourhoods in search of dissidents.

Coup leader Roberto Micheletti initially demanded Brazil either grant Zelaya asylum in Brazil, or turn him over to be tried. However, he now appears to be cracking, first stating: “I will talk with anybody anywhere at any time, including with former President Manuel Zelaya”, before inviting an Organisation of American States (OAS) delegation to the country to broker an agreement. Short of a full-on assault on the embassy of the country with Latin America’s biggest air force, it might be the only chance he’s got.

* For background see SchNEWS 691, 682

** See also and


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