Honduras: Outrageous attacks on Brazilian embassy bring UN rebuke

On Sept. 21, President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya showed up at the Brazilian embassy after secretly re-entering the country, from which he had been expelled in a June 28 coup, and traveling through remote areas to reach the capital. The Brazilian government immediately authorized that Zelaya be allowed to stay at the embassy.

Brazil, like most regional governments, has taken a very strong position against the coup and in favor of Zelaya’s return. Brazilians, including President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva, have not forgotten the bloody history of armed coups and military dictatorships in their own country. Brazil’s ambassador, in fact, is absent from the embassy, having been withdrawn as a protest against the coup.

Zelaya spoke to rapturous crowds of supporters at the beginning of the week, but police and soldiers cleared the crowds with water cannon, tear gas and live ammunition, and have been having running battles with protesters said to number in the tens of thousands almost every day since Zelaya’s return. There have been scores of injured and at least four dead, as well as many arrests.

Evidently the game-changing move by Zelaya in effectuating his surprise return has rattled the coup regime headed by former Congress President Roberto Micheletti, which is now lashing out like a cornered animal.

Zelaya says he is more than willing to have a dialog with all forces in Honduran society and politics, and in fact had a meeting at the embassy with pro-coup presidential candidates running in the November 29 elections. But so far there have been no tangible results; Micheletti still refuses to accept any formula, including one produced earlier by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and supported by the Obama administration, that would return Zelaya to power for the rest of his term, which ends in January 2010.

Micheletti and his allies claim that Zelaya was legally deposed for trying to push a non-binding referendum calling for a vote in the November elections on having a Constituent Assembly in 2010 to rewrite the authoritarian 1982 Constitution.

However, Zelaya supporters counter that the real reason for the coup was worry on the part of the handful of super-rich families who run this poor Central American country that Zelaya was moving left, supporting workers’, women and minority group demands, increasing the minimum wage and integrating Honduras into the left-leaning Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America (ALBA).

Meanwhile, the Brazilian embassy is under siege. Zelaya and some 70 other people in the embassy (relatives and allies of Zelaya, press and embassy staff) say that the government has been interrupting their water, food and electricity supply, and also bombarding the embassy with high decibel ultrasound and poisonous gases.

Dr. Mauricio Castellano, Zelaya’s public health chief, obtained samples of the gases being used for analysis, and reports that they contain concentrations of ammonia (used in pepper gas) and hydrogen cyanide. People in the embassy report headaches, nausea, nosebleeds and blood in their urine, among other symptoms compatible with these poisons.

In addition, it appears that the coup military has deployed Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) to bombard the embassy with high decibel noise. People trapped in the embassy say the noise is “deafening”. Such sound bombardments, which have been used by other military and police forces around the world, can cause permanent hearing damage and other health problems.

Earlier this week, coup police shouted though loudspeakers that they were going to take the embassy by assault; however, this has not happened. Zelaya also reported that he was informed of a plot to invade the embassy, kill him and then claim he had committed suicide.

In New York, both the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations are in session, and the issue of Honduras is on the agenda of both.

In the General Assembly, heads of state from one Latin American country after another have denounced the coup and demanded that the coup regime step down and that Zelaya be restored to the position to which he was elected.

Brazil called for a special closed door session of the Security Council to deal specifically with the attacks on their embassy in Tegucigalpa.

On Sept. 25, the Security Council issued a condemnation of the attacks on the embassy, which constitute a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and thus of international law.

The BBC reports that Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said also “the Brazilian government is concerned that the same people who perpetrated the coup d’état might violate the inviolability of the embassy in order to forcefully arrest President Zelaya”.

The Security Council statement demands that all harassment cease and that the defacto Honduran government make sure that water, electricity, food and communications services to the embassy not be interfered with.

U.S. supporters of the Honduran resistance are calling for everybody in this country to contact the White House and State Department to urge the Obama administration to maintain a firm stance that Zelaya must be restored or the November 29 elections should not be considered valid, as they take place under conditions of repression.

Also, we are urged to call our congresspersons to ask them to cosponsor a resolution in the House of Representatives, H. RES. 630, which calls for the U.S. government to support the return of Zelaya.