A crowd of more than 60 people gathered in Union Square Park on Tuesday in support of the deposed Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, whose recent reentry into the country he once led has touched off violent protests, governmental repression and international tensions.
The rally, organized by the USA Honduras Resistance Coalition in conjunction with several other human rights and Latin-American political groups, took place on a chilly evening with many protesters thankful that a candlelight vigil was on the agenda. Forming a solid wall along the plaza of the park, the protesters were at first content to stand passively, informing passersby of their purpose by holding up their signs and Honduran flags. That changed as they started marching in a large circle while shouting pro-Zelaya slogans and vowing that “the people of Honduras will continue to struggle.”
“We want to restore peace in our country, and we want to restore the legitimately elected president,” said Carlos Zelaya, Manuel Zelaya’s older brother, who was in town to address the United Nations and was on his way to Washington to lobby Congress and meet with the Organization of American States. He thanked the protesters for their support and urged them to continue working for his brother’s restoration. Through an interpreter, Zelaya also said that he had spoken to his brother recently, and that his brother had managed to stay strong because of the resistance of the Honduran people.
Manuel Zelaya surreptitiously returned to Honduras on September 21, nearly three months after the Honduran military seized him in his home and flew him to Costa Rica. Zelaya has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since his return, while his successor, de facto leader Roberto Micheletti, has cracked down on pro-Zelaya protesters and media outlets, imposed curfews, issued a decree to suspend civil liberties, and given the Brazilian embassy an ultimatum to turn over Zelaya. “We want to exert pressure through the OAS, UN, and Congress to make Micheletti relinquish power, power that was acquired by force and is illegal under the Constitution,” explained Celso Castro, coordinator of the USA Honduran Resistance Coalition, an organization formed in the wake of the June 28th coup.
Some protesters, including several New York City Board of Education employees, carried signs condemning the de facto government for killing teachers.
“We’re here in solidarity with the teachers and the people of Honduras,” explained Olivia Cylich, a member of the committee on special education in the Bronx. “Teachers have been at the forefront of the democracy movement in Honduras. I know of at least four teachers who have been killed since the coup, and they need our help.”
Janitzia O’Neil, a school counselor at University Heights High School in the Bronx, said that the situation in Honduras is deteriorating into chaos. “The University of Honduras is free to the public, but classes have been suspended,” said O’Neil. “There’s no food. There’s less work and no pay. People are being pummeled by the uncertainty of what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s terrible. The United States needs to do something.”
What the United States has, and has not, done was one of the dominant themes of the evening. Many in the multi-ethnic crowd of Hondurans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Pakistanis and Caucasians carried placards criticizing President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not doing enough to restore Zelaya to power.
As President, Zelaya had proposed a non-binding voter referendum on whether to add a ballot question in the upcoming November elections asking voters if they favored calling a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. Many Zelaya opponents had interpreted this move as his attempt to stay in office by removing the constitutionally mandated term limit on the presidency. Zelaya had also angered influential business leaders and conservative politicians by supporting laws increasing the minimum wage, and also by drifting towards the leftist regime of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
“He was beginning to look out for the poor folks and that’s a no-no with the oligarchy in Honduras,” said Castro.
Full article at The New York Globe.