Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Interim President Micheletti has offered to step down from the Presidency if it would bring peace to the country.
Labor leaders are planning strikes at State-held companies later this week.
The Bloque Popular will be at Carasal, this is the Northern road into Tegucigalpa.
These two political groups are now coming together and coordinating their actions for a unified front.
UnoAmerica will be holding a meeting tomorrow morning as well.
A psychological war has taking place in Honduras this past week, as text messages are being forwarded to avoid certain locales certain days under threat of possible violent action by the Zelaya supporters. However, there have been no attacks or threats at any of these places.
Zelaya made an announcement earlier this week that if he is not reinstated into power by the end of this week, then "there are other forms of actions we are already organizing for my return to the country at whatever cost."
Monday, July 13, 2009
To begin with, I am proud to be an American. I do, however, strongly disagree with the direction our country has been heading the past few months. I recently finished serving my country as a rifleman in the United States Marine Corps.
I enlisted late 2004, and after boot camp and the school of infantry I was sent to Fox CO 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. Up until my assignment to 2/5 all I had been told was that I was going to Iraq, yet the Marine Corps had different plans for my unit, and we were sent on the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
We were on ship and traveled to different countries in the Western Pacific. We were in the Philippines during the mudslides, and different elements of the unit helped in the search and rescue effort. I was not part of the rescue operation, as I was in one of three squads that were sent to Jolo Island, providing security while Air Force Engineers built new school buildings.
My second deployment was to ar Ramadi, Iraq, where 2/5 was one of the surge elements. Now I am not going to go into details of the deployment, but the deployment was a success, contrary to the initial reporting from many main stream media news releases.
I saw first hand the changes that were taking place during the al Anbar Awakening. Police recruits were receiving formal training, Our combat outpost hosted two platoons from our company and elements of the Iraqi army and Police. Local governing boards were established and there was a sense of order in the streets. The Iraqi's began policing their own neighborhoods, working shoulder to shoulder with their US counterparts. Despite all of these positive gains being made, it took awhile for accurate stories to surface.
I extended my contract to do a third deployment with Regimental Combat Team 5 where I was a part of a platoon of infantryman, tasked out with company and regimental level missions. Throughout 2008, I saw how the US was handing control back to the Iraqi's, with little press available because of the media circus surrounding the election trail.
I saw first hand the good that was being done overseas, yet the news was inaccurate and unfair, especially to the families of servicemen and women. I am now experiencing the same fears and worries that family members of the armed forces experience, as close friends of mine (which should be read as "brothers") are now in Afghanistan and I have to dig for information to see how they are doing, and all I can do is pray for their safety and success.
In June the world watched as Iranians took to the streets, protesting the election results, and the US administration say idly by, with the decree that the US can not interfere with other governments. Yet with the removal of Zelaya from office, President Obama was quick to take a stance, siding with Zelaya and against the "coup".
Immediately, an overwhelming majority of national (and international) press began condemning Honduras. I looked to the internet where I came across some great articles, that explained what happened was legal.
I was working at my parent's business for the summer until I return to school in the fall. Always ready for a new adventure, I decided to go find out for myself. I was tired of biased news reports and I had to see for myself if this tiny Central American country truly underwent a coup, or if they legally removed a potential dictator and chose to be a free people.
This site is just a one trick pony. My stay here in Honduras is quickly coming to an end. Once I return to the States, I will no longer be updating on the situation here in Honduras. All I hoped for was to see what was truly happening and write about it on this little blog. If it was able to accurately inform at least one person, then I consider this venture a success.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
They prayed for peace. They prayed for guidance. They prayed for support.
Friday night I had the opportunity to do a ride along with a local police force in Tegucigalpa to witness the enforcement of the curfew. Curfew hours were from 11:00 PM through 04:30 AM. A little after the commencement of the nightly curfew, I was able to load up in one of the police trucks and take off on patrol.
The streets were quite well before the beginning of the curfew. The officer in charge (OIC) called each of the checkpoints on the radio and asked for a situation report. One of the checkpoints called in they had a vehicle pulled over, and so the OIC instructed the driver to take the vehicle to that checkpoint.
The checkpoint was being held at a main thoroughfare, consisting of one police truck and the crew inside. While one of the officers was questioning the civilian that they had whistled to the side of the road, the remaining elements of the team were standing on the street corner watching and waiting for any more traffic to appear. After some questioning, the driver was told to continue home and reminded of the curfew hours.
We loaded back up into the truck, and continued on with our patrol. I noticed that we kept passing groups of people walking down the road, yet we never stopped and questioned them. I asked the OIC why we did not stop to question those individuals. He told me that they were employees at a local business that were just getting off of work, and that there was no need to question them. Since they were returning back to their homes after work, they didn't present a risk and that they are allowed to continue with their business. The people they were looking for were drunks, vandals, and troublemakers.
With the streets quite, the OIC decided to take the patrol to the poorest neighborhood in his area of operation. It was interesting how once we left the commercial district and better off neighborhoods and continued to the poor neighborhoods, the amount of graffiti on the buildings dropped drastically, almost to the point of being non-existent. During the patrol, the truck had it's lights in operation, but once we entered the poor neighborhood, the lights were turned off. They explained that they shut the lights off in this neighborhood so they do not create a scene. In the past, they have patrolled with their vehicle lights on, and some of the residents began throwing rocks and glass bottles at the vehicle. They were not their to disturb the residents, and so we continued through the neighborhood without any incidents.
Close to the end of the patrol, we returned to the original checkpoint, where they had pulled over a teenager who was out past curfew. The teenager was out with his friend just cruising around, with full knowledge of the curfew. The police looked at the teenagers personal and vehicular documents, and made the decision to bring him back to the police station where he would remain until the cessation of the curfew. It was a little after midnight at this time, and the OIC told the team at the checkpoint to escort the teenager back to the police station and call it a night (the teenager did not leave his vehicle abandoned in the street, he was allowed to drive behind the patrol truck to the station).
On our way back the OIC explained that they had been pulling the checkpoints off the streets around midnight every night. They manned temporary posts to show their presence, but would not remain on the streets for the nights entirety.
Back at the station, the other patrol trucks began showing up, where the teams would remain for the duration of the night, ready to be dispatched at a moments notice. I thanked the OIC for allowing me the opportunity of the ride along, and was given a ride back to my hotel for the night.
Curfew restrictions were lifted today in Tegucigalpa, showing one more step to normalcy.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
While events were unfolding at the airport, Telesur was broadcasting live from Chavez's office. There are military messages on the white board that seem to indicate Chavez had an influence on Sunday's violence.
I do not have time to provide my own translation of this article because I am heading to a meeting, but Google or Yahoo's translator program can provide a rough translation.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Throughout the cities of Honduras, there were protests from 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM for peace and democracy. Organizers were preparing for the demonstration in Tegucigalpa, hanging banners and setting up audio equipment for today's protest. Groups of supporters began arriving early.
Police and soldiers were scattered about the corners surround the square, with a larger concentration around the congressional building. Attitudes were relaxed, unlike the tenseness that was evident during the marches in support of Manuel Zelaya.
The procession of supporters arrived before 11:00 AM, shouting logos like "Out with Mel!" The plaza was filled with supporters of the Honduran government, and their decision to remove Mel Zelaya.
Speakers at the rally consisted of organizers, mothers, fathers, and students who spoke out against the crimes committed by Zelaya, Hugo Chavez's support of Zelaya, and they claimed their support for the constitutional removal of Zelaya from office.
Armida de Lopez Contreras, an organizer for the rally, gave a detailed explanation of why they are rallying for their government and against Zelaya. She explained that this is a pacific demonstration from the Honduran citizens, and that this is not the result of what has occurred in recent events, but has been gaining momentum over the course of two months. Mel Zelaya is a totalitarian and wanted to run a vote on Monday (June 29) that was contradictory to the Constitution. The Honduran Supreme Court had warned his Zelaya that his actions were unconstitutional, and the two political parties united and voted to remove him from office.
Lopez continued that this is in fact not a military coup. The Supreme Court ordered the military to remove Zelaya from office, and the decision to take him out of the country was made for his own personal safety. Zelaya is now manipulating the OAS and other nations. His removal and prevention of serving in the government fall in accordance with Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution.
When asked about the claim from Zelaya's supporters that the government is paying the attendees of the pro-government demonstrations, those that were questioned said there is no truth in the claim. Luis Flores countered that Hugo Chavez is sending money into the country, and that the poor are being manipulated by promises of more money to be sent their way.
Student Juan Galvez talks about the increase of drugs within schools. He stated that before Zelaya's turn as President that illegal drugs were not being sold in school, but during Zelaya's presidency, drugs were easily available. Claims have been made that planes carrying drugs from Venezuela have been arriving in Honduras.
The organization Generacion X Cambio (Generation for Change) was at the rally today. Jordi Roig, a member, said they are now in a fight for their future and they do not want what has happened in Venezuela to happen to their own country. They do not support the unification of Zelaya and Chavez.
At the end of the demonstration, participants returned back to work and their homes, but they will be ready to take to the streets again in support of their democracy.
Monday, July 6, 2009
This is just a rough translation, as I am hurrying to make it available in English:
The Minister of Defense Adolfo Lionel Sevilla said this afternoon that the bullet that killed a young man at the demonstration Sunday in the Toncontín airport did not come from a military weapon.
According to the experts, the bullet that took the life of a young 19 year old, was not from a military caliber. The report reveals that the direction the young man died does not coincide with the trajectory of the direction of the bullet from the armed forces.
Ramón Custodio: army used rubber bullets
The National Commissioner of Human Rights, Ramón Custodio, said this Monday that the military did not cause the death of the young man that passed away yesterday during the disturbances that happened at the airport in Tegucigalpa.
"Whoever shot wanted this person to die", said the Commissioner of Human Rights Ramón Custodio and adding that the military elements used rubber bullets to drive away protesters who caused destruction in the international airport.
The supporters of removed President Manuel Zelaya tried to enter the Southern air strip, knowing of the arrival of the ex governor, who was traveling in a Venezuelan plane.
Custodio said that an investigation is due before blaming the Honduran military for the death of a young man, identified as Isis Oved Murillo, 19.
In this incident, where there also was the use of tear gas, 11 people were injured.
The spokesman of the Secretary of Security Héctor Iván Mejía assured this Monday that one person lost their lives from yesterday's disturbances, and not two as cited by some international agencies.
From the public relations from the Hospital Escuela, Helga Flores said nine of the injured were discharged from the hospital this Monday.
She explained that all that were checked in had slight blows "from wood, rocks, and hits from the crowd." She confirmed that noone had gun shot wounds.
Flores also denied a second death. "We investigated, called to the Morgue Escuela, the intensive care, and ruled out the second death from yesterday."
The officer claims that protesters had wire cutters (I did see protesters with wire cutters) and began cutting the chain link fence and ripping it down. The crowd convened onto the fence, ready to rush onto the tarmac at the airport. Shots were fired from the military, however as of right now it is uncertain whether the casualties were the result of a military issued weapon.
As the rally came to a close, the police arrested 20 Nicaraguans from the crowd, who were armed with .357 pistols. Right now they are being detained and questioned as to their entry into the country and actions at the rally. Besides the Nicaraguans that were arrested yesterday, the officer claimed that there were foreigners from Cuba and Venezuela as well. He was unable or unwilling to provide more details on the other nationals.
The military is doing an autopsy on the bodies, checking the ballistics of the entry and exit wounds, and looking for the round. There is speculation within the military that it was armed protesters who fired the killing shots, as of yet no conclusion has been reached.
The Honduran army has troops stationed along the border with Nicaragua at various posts, much like the Border Patrol in the United States. They too are hearing that Nicaragua has troops moving to the border, but they have no confirmation on the matter. The Honduran military is prepared to defend itself and its borders.
I am unable to provide the name and rank of the officer who provided the interview, for his own personal safety and for his career as well.
Editor’s note: Hunter and I have been discussing for several hours on how to proceed. We have been trying to get the US Embassy to discuss but Hunter keeps getting the run around. He has not seen anything in the local press (which surprises us and gives us some pause) and I have not seen anything on the internet. Hunter is publishing this with the knowledge that it has not been confirmed with any other source besides the one officer. If linking or quoting, please note that he is still trying to get confirmation but has hit a brick wall. If someone has the ability or contacts to confirm or deny, please do so.
Update: New releases from El Heraldo:
12:17 PM Innocent. The national commissioner for Human Rights, Ramón Custodio, said it wasn't the soldiers that shot the young man who died yesterday.
01:31 PM Interference. Commissioner Hector Ivan Mejia said they they have identified in the demonstrations supporting Manuel Zelaya foreign nationals from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
02:54 PM Intervention. The Nicaraguan Army reiterated today that they have not mobilized their troops to the Honduran border, as said Sunday by President Roberto Micheletti.
03:16 PM Borders. The Defense Secretary called upon the people to be calm and not to fear a military intervention from Nicaragua.
03:21 PM Nicaraguans. Four people of Nicaraguan nationality, who intended to join the protests in favor of Zelaya, were detained this afternoon by the police, while coming to the north of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
03:22 PM Almost 100. According to the subcommittee of the Metropolitan Police, so far 96 Nicaraguan citizens have been detained during this time of convulsion in Honduras.
Also the the schools are scheduled to resume with classes today.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
He did see an older man in a white shirt reach down into the blood pool and cover his hands. He then wiped them on his shirt to make it look like his blood or that he had been involved. Hunter saw what he thought was an AP photographer take the man's picture. Hunter said if you see it on the web, don't believe it. It was faked.L. Douglas Garret found the picture ran by Reuters and Legal Insurrection has already posted on this topic. The elderly gentleman reached down and wiped the blood on his shirt on his own accord, Reuters just happened to capitalize on his actions.
The rally began at Plaza Miraflores, this time taking a different route to the airport. There were few differences between yesterday and today's march. As we started approaching the airport, the police were already in position blocking access to the airport. Again, the front line of the demonstration formed a human chain by interlocking arms and restricting their fellow demonstrators from directly engaging the police. One of the head organizers made his way to the front and began conversing with the head of police on site, and the police chief agreed to let the demonstrators continue towards the airport with a guarantee of a peaceful demonstration. The police fell back, and the protest organizers enforced that the crowd wait a few minutes to allow the police to assume their new position down the road before continuing on.
The next blockade was reinforced with the military and more police. Some were armed while others had riot gear and shields. During the standoff a rock was thrown from the crowd which impacted one of the police officers in the helmet. The police did not respond with force, nor did they call for the individual who threw the rock to come to them so they could arrest him. The protesters quickly pointed out the youth, grabbed him, and escorted him towards the back of the crowd. Again, negotiations took place, and it was the military that left the position first. Negotiations continued, and eventually the police began falling back.
As the crowd neared the airport, tensions began to rise and there was a group of demonstrators that began rushing towards the police position. Numerous protesters were grabbing and holding onto anyone rushing towards the police. While a majority of the police continued to fall back, there were small groups that remained in place, tighening their position, not allowing anyone to pass. From my perspective, not once did I see any of the police use any force on the demonstrators.
The crowd was eventually calmed down, and remained outside the front entrance. Some of the more vocal demonstrators led the crowd in chants and songs, while after some time a group of demonstrators broke free from the demonstration and continued down the road where a chainlink fence is all that divides the runway from the regular streets.
There were rumors floating around that Mel Zelaya was soon to be landing at the airport, so I raced inside with the rest of the press, hoping to get to a position where I could get some good coverage. Amongst the press in the airport was a representative from Code Pink who was there to protest the "military coup" in Honduras. Not wanting to be around her, I decided to leave the inside of the airport and cover what was happening in the streets.
Commotion began coming from the crowd, saying that something happened at the far end of the airport where the other demonstraters were. I watched as a paramedic raced through the blockade and I followed in trace.
At the far end I noticed how portions of the chain linked fence had been torn to the ground. As I continued forward, I noticed a group gathered around a spot in the street. I made my way to the center of the circle and saw a puddle of blood on the street. The protesters explained that the military on the other side of the fence began firing into the crowd and that they killed some of the protesters (I heard 2 or 3 dead).
One of the protesters was carrying emtpy shells of 5.56 in his palm, and he claimed that they were from the soldiers. I have no way of confiming if that is true or not, since they had been removed from the site. On top of a hill there was another gathering of people, where they encircled another puddle of blood. Again, I was told that the military opened fire on the crowd.
There was a sense of anger, sadness, dispair, and frustration within the crowd. Some of the protesters were up along the fence screaming death threats to the military, while others were throwing rocks. I talked with Martin Castillo, a protester that witnessed the shootings, and he explained that the military approached the fence and used CS gas on the crowd. The crowd responded by throwing rocks back at the military, and that the military responded back by firing into the air while some fired into the crowd. I cannot confirm the accuracy of his testament.
I tried making my way back to the hotel to upload pictures, when my father texted me saying that it looked like Zelaya was about to return. I ran back to where the shootings occured. The police blocked the runway and the plane was unable to land. The organizers urged the crowds to leave the site because they did not want any more bloodshed for the day.
That essentially covers the details of today's events. Pictures to be coming soon.
Person there told him that rocks had been thrown at soldiers and one (soldier/police)walked up to the fence and started shooting. I need to clarify that Hunter did not see this but was told this from the protesters. He has no confirmation that this is what happened. People were showing Hunter the brass and it appeared to be 5.56. He did not see any on the ground and does not know if this was from the shooter. Said everyone was scrambling around trying to find some.
Protest organizers are trying to send people home. They do not want any more blood shed. Crowd has calmed down but it was very tense when Hunter first arrived. police/army had pulled back from fence. Few people are leaving and he said the crowd is a lot better now. He got pictures of the blood. He did not hear the shots personally.
He did see an older man in a white shirt reach down into the blood pool and cover his hands. He then wiped them on his shirt to make it look like his blood or that he had been involved. Hunter saw what he thought was an AP photographer take the man's picture. Hunter said if you see it on the web, don't believe it. It was faked.
He is heading back into the crowd and will update if anything warrants further coverage. Plans on posting pics and his write up when he gets back to hotel. It will be better than mine. Doing this from hastily scratched notes while confirming his safety.
Please note this is not confirmed. Again, this is not confirmed. Please take with a grain of salt until I can confirm with Hunter via voice or email
Rumor on the ground is that Mel is on his way and should land in an hour. Just rumors in the crowd. Will update when I hear more from Hunter. He has been with the crowd since morning when they marched on the airport @ 11:30 central time.
Update: Some quick notes before heading to the Airport for today's rally:
Honduran officials are saying that they will not allow the plane carrying Manuel Zelaya to land at the international airport. He is scheduled to arrive between 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM today.
A curfew is in effect until this coming Wednesday, from 2200 - 0500. The curfew may be extended depending on the reception of Zelaya today. Shops, restaurants, and bars are closing early because of the curfew, but the Hondurans are carrying on with their daily routine when they are not protesting. The nearby mall is full of youths and adults, all spending money and with no worry for an economic crisis. Consumer goods prices are remaining stable, including gasoline prices.
Access to governmental buildings is somewhat restricted from what I've been told. It appears that anyone wishing to enter is questioned and profiled before being allowed to enter the buildings. The Marines working at the Embassy are not allowed to leave the premise for an undisclosed time frame, all dependent on how things play out here in Honduras.
The school system has been closed in Tegucigalpa, and I am not sure if it is the same throughout the country. The school's faculty have taken to the streets and demonstrating in the rallies, supposedly all in support of Mel Zelaya. After talking with many parents, they are frustrated by the fact that their children are not in school learning. They wish that the teachers will return to work, and educate the future of Honduras.
National and some international media (what appears to be mainly Latin American) is on ground reporting on the demonstrations. El Honduras is still in print covering the rallies. It is rumored that CNN en Español was off the air while the military removed Mel Zelaya from his house, but I have caught CNN on the air since then.
I tried uploading the second half to the first video, but it was taking too long to upload. I will try and get it up tonight. Many thanks to the following bloggers who have helped spread the word and linked to this site:
The Other McCain
Doug Ross @ Journal
It was an interesting day today in Honduras. I got word that there was going to be a rally held by supporters for Mel, but before leaving for the rally point, I discovered that Rigoberta Menchu is staying in the same hotel that I am. I quickly wrote a note to leave for her at the front desk, and the receptionist said she was eating breakfast in the hotel dining room and that I could go talk to her myself. I found her in the restaurant and introduced myself to her, explained my situation, and informed her that I was interested in her plans as to helping reunite the Honduran people. Unfortunately, I was not received with much interest, and I doubt that she will offer me the chance to sit down and talk with her.
The rally started off very quiet, and it appeared that most of the people gathering were mainly spectators. Unlike the small demonstration I was at yesterday, there was limited police presence and no military presence. As the numbers started increasing so did the trucks with the stadium speakers strapped to the beds. The music and chants coming from the speakers pumped the crowd up, and they began calling for the return of Mel and the continuance of Democracy, while reiterating this was to be a peaceful demonstration.
The protesters were lead in various chants and songs, while the organizers created four lines to maintain order throughout the march. It looked as if the rally would be continuing towards the Presidential Palace, so I hopped into a cab to beat the crowd.
The police and the army set up blockade around the Palace. With their riot gear and shields, the police formed a chain along the street, prepared for an encounter with the protesters. The chants and screams from the rally became more audible, and soon they were on scene. The truck that appeared to hold the main organizers of the rally stopped in a roundabout, while a group of young protesters took off running towards the police blockade.
Ready for a clash, I was surprised when the protesters stopped a good distance short of the police, turned around, and formed a human chain and maintained their position to limit the advance of the crowd. I talked with the man in charge of the security element of the rally. He introduced himself as Edy Castro, a volunteer who was frustrated with the removal of Mel Zelaya.
I was able to spend a few minutes talking with Edy, and he reassured me that everything was going to be calm today, that the group is not advocating violence, only a peaceful demonstration. The crowd, he said, was made up of the poor, the working class, and students, all whom were angry with their government and the "illegal" action they had taken. He complained that they suffered from a lack of water, sporadic electricity, minimal education, and limited communication with their governmental officials. He accused the government of paying a 300 Lempira ($15-16 US) bribe to individuals who attended the rallies in support of the new government.
Continuing through the streets, the rally approached the international airport where Mel Zelaya is rumored to be returning to. The road leading to the airport was blocked off by the police, and the organizers reminded the attendees that the protests was a peaceful one, and to leave the police alone. The security crew formed their own blockade a yard in front of the police, holding and pushing back any protester that got to close.
The police were ordered to fall back, and they took off running, which only encouraged the crowd to chase after them. A new blockade was set in front of the entrance to the airport parking lot, with the military reinforcing the police. The shouts and screams continued, calling for justice and the return of Mel. Eventually, the crowd carried on, further down the streets along a chain linked fence that neighbored the runway.
As the rally came to a close, there was an important news release over the radio. Manuel Zelaya is scheduled to return to Honduras Sunday at 12:00 PM local time, arriving at the international airport. Plans were quickly made for the supporters to return tomorrow to show their support for the former President.
It appears that the outcome of tomorrow's reunion depends on the treatment of Manuel Zelaya and his return to Honduras. If he is allowed to enter the country peacefully and not be taken to jail, then the protesters for Zelaya will remain peaceful. However, if Zelaya is arrested, there is a strong possibility that the organizers of the protest will not be able to maintain a certain level of peace within the crowd and violence may ensue.
What I read in El Heraldo about the protests in support of Zelaya differed then what I saw in person. Thousands of supporters were present calling for integrity of the press, and that the number of protestors at the rally get counted accurately. I was hoping to get to a rally in support of the new government on Sunday to fairly compare the two groups, but with Zelaya's possible return tomorrow, it is necessary for me to be at the airport, waiting for the events to play out.