For immediate Release: updates on Coup in Honduras
30 June 2009

School of the Americas Watch, Latin America Office

For Immediate Release:

The situation in Honduras turned violent when over 10,000 people gathered in the streets to protest the coup Monday evening. Using tear gas, high-powered water and guns (it is still not clear whether soldiers were armed with rubber bullets or otherwise) many people were wounded and there has been one confirmed death in the capital, Tegucigalpa. In the capital, pro-coup marches are occurring, defended by the police and national guard. As of Tuesday morning, the resistance movement to the coup is gathering in Tegucigalpa, to determine how and where to take to the streets. Therefore, there is anticipation of violence today, as soldiers are expected to react violently today to protesters as they did yesterday.

Violence has also broken out outside of Tegucigalpa. In the interior of the country, especially in the state of Olancho, the military has been conducting home invasions in order to capture and detain youth. Many youth have fled to the mountains, and their whereabouts are unknown. The military is violently disbursing pro-Zelaya marches, and many protesters are missing. The local media is refusing to air any comments about the violence and human rights abuses taking place in the country, insisting that nothing is amiss. An international news crew from TeleSur was detained and beaten while broadcasting the oppression of protesters by the military.

Yesterday in a meeting of the Rio Group, President Zelaya reiterated that he is the only president of Honduras, and that he has not stepped down. He declared his plans to return to Honduras on Thursday, mostly likely accompanied by the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), JosÚ Miguel Insulza. Argentine president Cristina Fernandez also plans to accompany Zelaya on Thursday. The coup in Honduras has been unanimously condemned throughout the Western Hemisphere, and has also been condemned by the United Nations and European Union. Zelaya spoke on Tuesday in front of the United Nations.

Notably, two army battalions have refused orders from the coup government. They are the Fourth Infantry Battalion in the city of Tela and the Tenth Infantry Battalion in La Ceiba (the second largest city in Honduras), both located in the state of Atlantida.

The coup leaders include several well-known human rights abusers, such as the retired Captain Billy Fernando Joya Amendola, who was a member of the CIA-trained 3-16 batallion from 1984-91, one of the most notorious battalions noted for human rights abuses during that time.. Bertha Olivar, of COFADEH, calls the coup advisers a line-up of the "Galley of Terror". Furthermore, two coup leaders, Air Force Commander General Luis Javier Prince Suazo and Army General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, were trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, Formerly known as the School of the Americas--SOA), a US army school located in Fort Benning, GA, whose graduates have been linked to some of the largest human rights atrocities in Latin America's history.

COFADEH (ComitÚ de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos en Honduras or the Honduran Committee of Families of the Disappeared or Detained), a leading Human Rights group in Honduras, has gone hospital to hospital attempting to document the cases of violence and human rights abuses. They are conducting this documentation work because the national Human Rights Commission, headed by Ramon Custodio and the Fiscal (Attorney General), Sandra Ponce, have thus far refused to document and denounce human rights abuses since the coup began Monday morning and are fully supporting the coup government.

One of the first moves of the the army and de facto government was to cut electricity and telephone lines throughout most of the country. Later Monday two television channels were re-established, both of which maintained that Zelaya had voluntary resigned, the change of power was constitutionally legitimate and that the new President had the support of the majority of the Honduran people. Through TeleSur, a transnational South American television news station, the public in South America has been able to see on the ground footage of protests in Honduras as well as streamed footage from the Honduran pro-coup news stations. Hondurans within their country are much less informed than larger Latin America because the coup government has been able to stop TeleSur from broadcasting. Information is arriving to Honduran people about the whereabouts of President Manuel Zelaya and the vast international support he has by way of people from outside Honduras calling to cell phones of friends and family inside who are inside the country. The biggest issue now are human rights abuses inside the country.

COFADEH calls on the international human rights community to denounce the blatant disregard of human rights abuses by Ramon Custodio and Sandra Ponce.

Bertha Olivar, of COFADEH, is available for interviews (in Spanish) by the media. She can be reached in Honduras at 011-504-8991-0259 (cell) or 011-501-222-7144 (land line).

School of the Americas Watch, Latin American Office
Barquisimeto, Venezuela
30 June 2009