HONDURAS: Democracy Now Interview with President Zelaya
EXCLUSIVE: Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Speaks from Nicaraguan Border on Who’s Behind the Coup, His Attempts to Return Home, the Role of the United States and More
In a Democracy Now! national broadcast exclusive, ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya joins us from the Nicaragua-Honduras border for a wide-ranging interview on his attempts to return home, who’s behind the coup, the role of the United States, and much more. “I think the United States is going to lose a great deal of influence in Latin America if it does not turn the coup d’état around,” Zeleya says. “It will not be able to put forth its idea about democracy. It won’t be credible before anyone.” On his message to the Honduran people, Zelaya says they should “maintain their resistance against those who want to take their rights away…so that no one will be able to disrespect them, which is what the coup regime is doing today.” [includes rush transcript]
Guest: Manuel Zelaya, ousted Honduran president.
* Full Democracy Now! coverage of Honduras Coup
AMY GOODMAN: Governments around the world should continue sanctions against the coup regime in Honduras. Those are the comments of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who’s trying to mediate negotiations between ousted Honduran president and the coup leaders. He was speaking at a Latin American summit in Costa Rica a day after the US State Department’s decision Tuesday to revoke the visas of four Honduran coup officials, though the US has not cut off more than $180 million in economic aid.
The Honduran coup officials have indicated a willingness to negotiate. They have, quote, “not yet recognized that President Zelaya should be reinstated,” Arias told reporters in Costa Rica on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, protests in support of Zelaya continue in the Honduran capital and near the border with Nicaragua.
Well, today, in a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we bring you an interview with the ousted Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, who is on the border with Honduras and Nicaragua on the Nicaragua side. I spoke to President Zelaya on Wednesday afternoon, a month after he was seized by armed soldiers and flown out of his country.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any breaking news for us at this hour?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The presidents of Central America are meeting now in Costa Rico, and they’re also putting together a condemnation of the coup. And I think they’re going to take more measures against the coup leaders throughout Latin America.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you have any plans to join them in Costa Rica?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I have sent my representative, who is the Vice President, Aristides Mejia. He will be there representing me and also recognizing the effort being made by President Obama by revoking the visas of the coup leaders. It’s a good sign that declares the coup leaders as enemies of humanity.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s widely recognized that the coup would not stand without US support. What more do you think the United States has to do now?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I realize that President Barack Obama and the State Department were not involved in the coup, but some very conservative sectors in the United States, sectors of the extreme right wing, have a double standard. They talk about democracy on the inside, and outside they talk about dictatorship.
AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, said your going over the border from Nicaragua into Honduras was “reckless.” Your response?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Well, she doesn’t have all the necessary information that I have on the repression in the country that’s being suffered by the people. I have to get close to the people to give them support.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you plan to go into Honduras again over the border?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I would do it right now, if I could. But the military are threatening to assassinate me, to kidnap me. I have never been tried or condemned. This is a de facto regime that’s null and void.
AMY GOODMAN: What about your family? They are attempting to reach you in Nicaragua. What is the situation?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] My family will only go through the military checkpoints, without breaking the state of siege, when they give them security for their safety going in and out.
AMY GOODMAN: They have not got assurances at this point, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Not at all. Last night, in a community that’s sixty kilometers from the border, El Paraiso, twelve kilometers from there, last night, they went to machine-gun the hotel and shout at them with megaphones. The police, supported by the military, are trying to terrorize my family.
AMY GOODMAN: While President Obama called your ouster a coup originally, the State Department is refusing to call it a coup now. Your response, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Everyone in the world—governments, international organizations, all the lawyers and judges in the world—have called the fact of capturing a president at 5:00 a.m. without trying him, shooting arms—that’s a coup d’état. No one doubts that that’s a coup d’état.
AMY GOODMAN: Would it matter if the US government proclaimed this loudly now? Do you want to hear the President, the Secretary of State, call it a coup?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Well, if they look at the analysis, they should call for an international tribunal to condemn them and make this coup guilty of mass killing, because a coup d’état takes power away from people to name their president. The president can only be named by the people, not by the United States and not by the armed forces.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you accepted the Arias accords, the Costa Rica accords? What do you want to see, in order to return to your country?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] We accepted the original proposal of President Arias that had seven points. We accepted the OAS and the UN proposals. The coup leaders have not accepted it.
AMY GOODMAN: In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Micheletti says they will abide by the Arias accords. Is this true? Though they say they do want to see you prosecuted.
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I am willing to submit to a trial at any time, but not to the justice of Micheletti or the military justice of the coup leaders. That’s not justice. That’s an illegal regime and a de facto one.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you want to see the coup leaders tried?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Of course. That should be a norm in any country in order to prevent coup d’états. If the reactionary right begins to use arms, there are going to be uprisings. The guerrilla will reappear. There will be insurrections as a method. And no one will be able to govern in these countries. There is hot blood running.
AMY GOODMAN: Lanny Davis, President Clinton’s lawyer, is the lawyer for the Honduras chapter of the Business Council of Latin America. He says he represents Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. Who are they, as he speaks against your government?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The coup has three actors: those who finance it are them—they finance it; the intellectual authors are political structures; and those who carry it out, which are the military. Those are the three actors in the coup.
AMY GOODMAN: And who are—who is keeping—who is providing the finances? Are you saying that it is these people, Atala and Canahuati?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There are others on the list. There are ten economic groups.
AMY GOODMAN: Vasquez Velasquez was trained at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. Now there are Honduran soldiers training there. Do you think that the training should stop?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I think training should take place based on democratic values, not based on values of coup d’états. There are many honorable and patriotic military. These military have betrayed the armed forces and betrayed the people.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the US should cut off economic aid—what, more than $180 million—to Honduras until you are restored?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I think the United States is going to lose a great deal of influence in Latin America if it does not turn the coup d’état around. It will not be able to put forth its idea about democracy. It won’t be credible before anyone.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is the most single—the single most important action the United States can do now?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The United States is trying to resolve the coup in a peaceful and diplomatic way, and I agree with those manners, but I feel that it must be stronger, because when a coup d’état takes place, this is an act of international terrorism, which affects security in the hemisphere, because it revives the desire for machine guns as opposed to democratic dialogue, and it produces violence. And it should be stopped with greater force.
AMY GOODMAN: Ousted Honduran president Manuela Zelaya, in our national broadcast exclusive. We’ll come back to this discussion after break, where the ousted Honduran president will talk about his attempts to return home and who’s behind the coup and more. Then we’ll go to Colorado Springs. “The Hell of War Comes Home.” We’ll look at the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. They’re known as the “Lethal Killers.” That’s in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on the streets of Colorado Springs. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We return to our exclusive interview with the ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.
AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, some see the coup in Honduras as a new strategy against progressive independent governments in Latin America. Can you put the conflict, the coup, in a larger context in Latin America right now?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I’d be pleased to. The coup in Honduras was made by a group of ambitious businessmen that want to maintain their privileges associated to multinational companies with political puppets and corrupt military. Trying to give it an ideological tint—left, right, Chavism, US right—is an intent to change the face of the coup and to distract attention to other ideological problems, when the problem are the economic privileges of the sectors that want to maintain it.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you plan to visit Washington again?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] As long as I’m invited, I’ll go to Washington, to the OAS, or the United Nations, or the Department of State, Congress, the Senate. This month, I went to Washington five times to respond to these invitations.
AMY GOODMAN: Has the Obama administration invited you now to come back from Nicaragua to Washington?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] No, they invited me once, and I went to speak with Secretary Clinton, but they have not invited me since.
AMY GOODMAN: What did Hillary Clinton tell you? And what did you tell her?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Mrs. Clinton suggested Arias’s mediation to me, and I accepted it. I went to those negotiations. And I think that the United States now has a great responsibility, because the negotiations did not produce the desired results, and they have a greater need to resolve this coup than other countries.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that the coup government is trying to just run out the clock until the election?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] No, I think they want to legitimize the elections through my return, but the two candidates participating approved the coup, supported the coup. And that’s like legitimizing the coup through other people. The elections should be held, but in a broad and democratic way, not with the coup regime, because it would be like extortion for the candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a split in the coup government?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Yes, of course. There is division in the armed forces, in the society. They have installed a repressive regime that’s only sustained by arms. When the armed forces remove their support from the coup regime, five minutes later they will have to leave power.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize winners and their role in the process against the coup—Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu, as well as Oscar Arias?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] President Arias did what he could. He dealt with the coup leaders with kid gloves, but he did what he could, responding to his limitations. And I am grateful to him for what he was able to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Rigoberta Menchu, about three days into the coup, went to report on the human rights situation in Honduras.
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Yes, she has been condemning the coup and has done so very firmly. I think this is a good action, and it speaks well of her.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the role of the Church in the coup, please?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The Church is divided. The cardinal, the only cardinal before the Vatican in Honduras, conspired with the coup leaders. He betrayed the people, the poor. He took off his robes to put on a military uniform. And with his words, he really contributed to the assassinations that have taken place in Honduras.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the beating of the priests, Andres Tamayo and Padre Fausto Milla, leading a protest against the coup?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] All the social organizations have been in opposition, very firmly, for thirty-two days against the coup. They have—which speaks very well of the ability to resist and to not accept a coup d’état.
AMY GOODMAN: What reports, Mr. President, do you have of the human rights situation right now in Honduras—the murders, the beatings, the bombings?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There are thousands of prisoners. There are illegal entries without search warrants into homes. Civilian rights have been denied. There’s a state of siege. There is not freedom of movement or of press. Youth are being assassinated. This is—there is terror like we have never seen in Honduras in this new twenty-first century coup.
AMY GOODMAN: And the role of Billy Joya, who was one of the heads of Battalion 3-16, notorious for its human rights abuse in the early 1980s? His role today as the security aide to Micheletti?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] He has a number of charges against him open for human rights. They accuse him of committing several crimes. And now he is an adviser to the coup regime.
AMY GOODMAN: Battalion 3-16, do you see it being revived?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] With a different name, it’s already operating. The crimes being committed is torture to create fear among the population, and that’s being directed by Mr. Joya.
AMY GOODMAN: You have not seen your family now for more than a month. Can you talk personally about the effect of this, of your separation?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] A great deal of pain for the people and for my family, which are resisting alongside the people, suffering all the attacks of the mass media, who have sold themselves to the coup. Their spirits are being formed. Their consciousness is being formed, and it’s a consciousness that’s very strong, that will come out after this coup so that no one will be able to hurt the people and humiliate them again.
AMY GOODMAN: Some people have commented on your conversion, on changing from allying with the oligarchy to where you are today, with the popular movements. Can you talk about that change?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I practiced liberalism as an ideological method that respects private property, private investment, and respects public freedoms. I turned—I went to a social liberalism, a pro-socialist liberalism, so that the economy benefits the people and not just the economic elites. And this irritated the economic elites. They thought it was dangerous for me to organize the social sectors, and they planned the coup d’état.
AMY GOODMAN: John Negroponte, who was the ambassador to Nicaragua—to Honduras in the early ’80s, also worked with Battalion 3-16. Do you see his hand today, or others, like Otto Reich of the United States?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Otto Reich has already made statements about it. Also Ramon Carmona, who’s a Venezuelan exile in the United States. They have already unmasked themselves. I can’t talk about other people, but I know that there are many hawks from the old guard in the United States and the CIA supporting violence and arms as a method to solve problems. I’m someone who professes peaceful means and nonviolence, and I don’t support force to resolve things, but rather dialogue.
AMY GOODMAN: What is your message to the American people and to the Honduran people?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The people of the United States, their security is linked to the security, the safety of the world. If violence and force explodes in the US’s backyard, it will affect them. They should support peace and nonviolence and not be supporting coup d’états.
AMY GOODMAN: And the people of Honduras?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] That they maintain their resistance against those who want to take their rights away and firm up their social conquest. This will help the people acquire the maturity, so that no one will be able to disrespect them, which is what the coup regime is doing today.
AMY GOODMAN: If you were to return, if you are president again in Honduras, will you call for a constitutional assembly to change the constitution?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I would call for a national dialogue. I am a Christian. I know how to forgive. I think that all human beings have the right to rectify and repent and to be forgiven. Those who commit sins should be taken to justice, to the courts, so that they are judged. I am not a judge. I am president. And my work is always to dialogue to find solutions to the problems.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you plan to run for president again?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I never had that intention. Honduras doesn’t permit reelection. There’s no way legally, within the constitutional order, to make reforms. That could only happen at some point in the future, and that will not depend on me, and it cannot happen at this time, legally.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you accept a moving up of the elections, as was discussed in Costa Rica?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I don’t have any problem with that. I’ve accepted the Arias plan. It’s the coup leaders that have not accepted it.
AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything else you would like to add, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] To thank you and congratulate you, because during the thirty days I’ve been in exile, it’s the best interview I’ve had. Many thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, in this national broadcast exclusive. You can go to our website at democracynow.org for the video or audio podcast and the transcript of the entire interview in both English and in Spanish. A very special thanks to Andrés Conteris of Democracy Now! en Español. As well, we want to thank our translator, Victoria Furrio.