HONDURAS – Surprise Return of Ousted President Sparks Protests
Following the surprise return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya on Monday, thousands of protestors gathered in support outside of the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya is currently seeking refuge, defying a city-wide curfew. As reported by the AP, a 26-hour curfew in the capital began Monday afternoon, with the international airports closed and road blocks erected to prevent future protests. According to the BBC, police have surrounded the Embassy, wearing riot gear and firing tear gas into the crowd in order to dissolve the protesters.
De facto President Roberto Micheletti, initially unaware of Zelaya’s return, has now asked the Brazilian Embassy to hand over Zelaya to stand trial on 18 counts of corruption and treason. However, both the US and the EU have urged both leaders to remain calm and encourage respective supporters not to resort to violence.
With the upcoming elections on November 29th just a little over two months away, the possibility for increasing violence in the country continues to exist. A recent Amnesty International Report (pdf) stated:
Concerns include the increasingly disproportionate and excessive use of force being used by the police and military to repress legitimate and peaceful protests across the country. Female protestors are particularly vulnerable and some women and girls taking part in the demonstrations are reportedly suffering gender based violence and abuse at the hands of police officers.
The de facto government now faces pressure to enter into talks with the ousted President, which could lead to further human rights violations of supporters and crack downs on media as previously documented by AI and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission reports. Although some have argued that Zelaya’s presence may be helpful to resolving the current governing dispute, analysts warn that the president’s presence in the city is likely to move the conflict into the streets.
- Amnesty International Report: Honduras: Human Rights Crisis Threatens As Repression Increases
- Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report: Preliminary Observations on the IACHR Visit to Honduras
- BBC News Q & A: Crisis in Honduras
It’s imperative that dialogue begin … (that) there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras, It’s also imperative that the return of President Zelaya does not lead to any conflict or violence but instead that everyone act in a peaceful way to try to find some common ground – Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State
I was traveling for around 15 hours using different routes and different methods of transport to arrive here and call for dialogue, which is my role as the elected president of Honduras – Honduran President Manuel Zelaya
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- September 24: Commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
- September 24-25: G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA.
Jennifer Ferreri contributed to this post.
Human Rights Flashpoints is a weekly column about countries at risk of escalating human rights violations and is brought to you by AIUSA’s Crisis Prevention and Response team.