TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – For two weeks, I have slept with my finger on the shutter button, just meters from where Honduras’ President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a coup, waits in refuge and hopes for a return to power.
As a Reuters photographer in Honduras, I was one of the few reporters who managed to slip into Brazil’s embassy when Zelaya crept back into the country and sought refuge here, almost three months after troops toppled him and sent him into exile.
Urgent news flash! Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has returned to the country after 82 days in exile. I kiss my wife and son. “Bye, see you soon.” I rush out without a shower and without socks. The first information places Zelaya in the U.N. building in Tegucigalpa. It must be true.Fifteen minutes later 50 supporters are cheering victory for Zelaya outside the building. His closest allies appear making gestures of triumph. Zelaya has returned, but it soon becomes obvious that he isn’t exactly there. The lie is a strategy to confuse the de facto state security that had blocked his previous attempts to return. Suddenly one demonstrator screams, “To the Brazilian embassy!” And I follow.
Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya gather after learning of his return, outside the embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
Hundreds of his followers pack so tightly in the doorway that they seem about to asphyxiate themselves. The door opens and I push with all my might to within two steps of the entrance but the mob is too much. The door closes and I am being smothered until a local colleague pulls me free. A minute later I try again and manage to enter completely, gasping. I race inside as if I was returning home.Today, as I write this, it is that same embassy that I have been calling “home” ever since.Right now it is midnight, the best time to concentrate and write about my experiences – complex, joyful, exhausting, arduous, but above all inspiring.I keep running and running without looking back. I climb a staircase to reach a room that has since become my living quarters. I am told that Zelaya is in the next room, where he remains to this day. People that enter and exit his room confirm his presence, but I need to see him. A door opens and there he is! I take two photos and make my first dispatch.
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya greets supporters inside the Brazilian embassy after his arrival in Tegucigalpa September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido