The return this week of ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya has brought Honduras back into the mainstream media.
Zelaya is now staying at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. Thousands of his supporters assembled outside the embassy on Tuesday only to be dispersed by Honduran soldiers using truncheons, water cannons and tear gas, while the entire country put under all-day, all-night military curfew.
On Tuesday night, shooting was heard through much of Tegucigalpa, as soldiers and police were sent to break up the blockades and try and detain anyone they found in the streets.
Although the conflict in Honduras has been out of the news, protests against the coup government headed by Roberto Micheletti have gone on continuously since the overthrow, and the government has reacted with a harsh suppression of rights.
On Wednesday Honduran Doctor Juan Almendares wrote an open letter to the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations urging immediate action:
The systematic violation of human rights in Honduras has increased. Our nation has been converted into an immense jail in which no access is permitted to the wounded and the tortured, in which food and water cannot be taken to people who have been arbitrarily jailed, or detained in stadiums, sports fields, clandestine jails and army and police detention centers.
There is a situation of extremely high risk for malnourished children in various hospitals who are not receiving food due to the state of siege – many risk death due to hypoglycemia .
Thousands of tear-gas canisters and bombs have been fired from planes and troops. There are hundreds of civilians who are wounded, detained and tortured.
Zelaya’s ouster unleashed popular resentment of Honduras’ oligarchical government which has made no effort to address the problems of the poor. Even Zelaya’s modest reforms such as raising the minimum wage, which had previously been under one dollar a day, were met with resistance. Zelaya’s attempt to call a popular referendum as a first step toward a more democratic form of government was more than the ruling elites could allow, leading to his ouster.
Honduras is a small country, a backwater in global affairs, but it is an important test for the Obama administration. The oppression by the coup government must be condemned and efforts to bring a more open form of government must be supported.