Friday, July 3, 2009
The police were waiting outside the gate at the airport once our plane arrived in Tegucigalpa. After clearing immigration and customs, I noticed that family and friends of travelers were not allowed to wait inside the airport, forced to wait outside the main entrance. I assumed that the government requested a stronger police presence inside the airport, preparing for Manuel Zelaya's return to Honduras. Before finding a taxi to take me to my hotel I picked up a copy of El Heraldo which showed the extent of yesterday's protests. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of my taxi driver's knowledge, but he confirmed my suspicions that the police force is rotating officers at the airport, ready for "Mel" to return.
After reading through today's issue of El Heraldo I decided to head straight off to the Presidential Palace where I assumed there would be more protests. As I navigated through the streets I passed numerous locals waiving flags, holding up signs and banners, and chanting in the streets. I continued in the direction they came from, hoping to encounter similar demonstrations I saw in the local papers. I made my way to the street behind the Presidential Palace and saw a couple hundred people scattered about, some walking down the streets, others gathered on the sidewalk, and some surrounding the local media news crew, chanting and talking with the journalists. The crowds were voicing their support for their government's actions. They held up signs demanding that they maintain democracy, no to communism, and that Manuel Zelaya remain outside of the country.
Currently, there is a curfew in place in Tegucigalpa. I have been told the official time to be off the streets is 10:00 PM, while I have been recommended to be inside my hotel by 9. The army is on foot, patrolling the streets surrounding the Presidential Palace and maintaining a presence on the street corners. The police are supplementing the army positions, also on foot and driving around ready to maintain the peace. Despite the increased law enforcement presence, the streets are calm, citizens are continuing on with their lives (once they finish demonstrating their support or disapproval with the government), and consumer goods prices remain stable.
I am being told that Manuel Zelaya will be returning to Honduras this weekend, with a strong belief that it will be Sunday. There is speculation as to whether he will be flown in or snuck into the country in an unmarked vehicle so that he is not arrested immediately upon arrival. His supporters worry about his return, fearing for his personal safety. Others are wondering why the US is not supporting the actions of Honduras. They cannot understand why the US is condemning the actions of their government, claiming that democratic procedures must be followed, even though they have followed their constitutional process.
For some more detailed explanation of the actions taken by the Honduran government and the removal of Manuel Zelaya, check out the articles by Octavio Sanchez and Erick Erickson.
Update: A quick explanation of the pictures: The sign in the first picture reads, "Our country is not for sale. Those that want to sell it are out."
Also, the squad patrolling the streets looks very vigilante and aware of their surroundings. Before I pulled my camera out they were complacent and uninterested in their work. As soon as I had my camera pointed at them they put on a different face. The soldiers behind the gate were standing guard at one of the entrances at the Presidential Palace.
Regarding the demonstrations that occurred within Honduras yesterday, July 2nd, here is a list of numbers attended according to the July 3 issue of El Heraldo:
Number of Protesters for the New Government:
Tegucigalpa - 55,000
Choluteca - 25,000
San Pedro Sula - 50,000
Number of Protesters against the New Government:
Tegucigalpa - 3,000
El Heraldo continues by stating that the reoccurring themes within the rallies in favor of the new government were that the protesters were in favor of democracy, asked for peace within the country, and respect of the law. Also, downtown Tegucigalpa is now being plagued with graffiti against the new government.