Photographers' Blog

In exile with the President

October 1, 2009

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

Then comes the fiesta; Zelaya greets the masses by waving the national flag. Even though joy is everywhere, a cloud of uncertainly begins to form…

LEFT

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya waves the Honduran flag inside the Brazilian embassy after his arrival in Tegucigalpa September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

RIGHT

Supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya cheer as he arrives outside the embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

He decides to camp right where he is. His supporters celebrate and sleep outside. And I, with the cement floor as a mattress and a backpack as pillow, get no sleep amidst the screams and chanting. This atmosphere continues until we face a cloud of tear gas at 5:30 the next morning.

A large company of soldiers and police use more gas than I have ever encountered before, even in my home country Chile, to clear supporters from the street. The gas hangs from my mask as I step outside to cover the clashes. I soon have to decide whether to stay outside and continue as the only photographer covering the gassing, or enter the building again. When I try to return into the embassy I find the door locked. I bang hard but I know nobody will open it with Zelaya inside.

TOP

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya are seen on a roof outside the Brazilian embassy after police fired tear gas, in Tegucigalpa September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

BOTTOM

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya cover their faces as they react to the tear gas fired upon them by police, inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

The iron fence of a neighboring house turns into my best option to climb over into a long alley with a courtyard in the back. Then, I scale a wall to reach the roof of the house and jump down into the Embassy compound. I am “home” again.

In the middle of Zelaya’s first press conference to denounce the military operation, soldiers on the outside use a high-frequency acoustic device to disperse the crowd.

Soldiers put up a high-frequency acoutic device to disperse supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

There is an atmosphere of great tension. We believe our hours to be numbered. I become worried and begin to think of my family. Some followers on the inside of the embassy are evacuated. An important photo of Zelaya sleeping across two chairs gives me a moment of joy, as if life were thanking me at that very moment.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya sleeps inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa September 22, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

It is to be a somber afternoon, and a night to forget. I sleep holding my camera, my finger practically on the shutter ready for what seems the imminent intervention, ready to protect myself, ready to shoot.

Wednesday, after two days inside the embassy, there is no food, no telephone, no rest, no bath and no clean clothes. A day of meetings for Zelaya and the tension continues, even more so at night. Soldiers bang on their shields as they surround the building. It becomes a war of nerves. Stones hit the roof as the National Anthem is played on powerful sound equipment placed nearby. Inside there is fear, much fear.

Police patrol outside the Brazilian embassy as ousted President Manuel Zelaya remains a refugee inside, in Tegucigalpa September 23, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Nervous journalists pace back and forth while making contacts and all types of interpretations of the events. Zelaya calls a meeting of everyone inside, but without cameras. The meeting is disappointing from both the human and professional perspectives. Among us are supporters of all types, humble, fanatic and political, a combination that makes me nervous. I don’t believe any of them. I want to leave.

Thursday comes along and at least I am able to receive food from my colleagues on the outside. Part of the package was consumed by the soldiers who promised to pass it in. Then comes an alleged toxic gas attack; it seems the end is near. Everybody runs, but no one knows what is happening. In the end it is nothing important, if it even happened at all.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya holds a surgical mask over his face during a news conference in which he accused the de facto government of injecting “toxic gas” into the Brazilian embassy where he has taken refuge, in Tegucigalpa September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Zelaya and his followers assume a strange attitude towards us. They become tense and don’t accept explanations. They become irritated by our photos of them sleeping, after seeing them published in the local media. The local press seems to have twisted the information to political ends. It makes me feel suddenly exhausted. They all speak, they all know, but none of them listen.

Zelaya finds out about my photo of him sleeping that was published around the world, and he calls me over. He applauds the picture for reasons I understand but don’t agree with. For him, my presence should be limited to being a simple witness.

I try to take more photos and get closer to the experiences of humble people that are chasing the dream of living with social justice. The class struggle continues tirelessly.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya speaks with the media as supporters sit around him at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa September 23, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

For the first time in a week I receive clean clothes and I take a shower. We work out a system to share the bathroom among colleagues. Whoever is inside calls the other when he’s about to finish, and the other rushes in when the door is opened. There are only two showers for 70 people, except for Zelaya, his family and closest friends.

Supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya practice daily hygiene inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Once again on the hard floor, I try to sleep. Tomorrow my colleagues will try to pass me a mattress, which I await anxiously. I search in vain for cardboard. My back aches, but the fatigue allows me to forget and sleep.

I begin to get into the routine of waiting for my food at the door; everybody wants to eat. Two days earlier a policeman ate up the food that one of my colleagues had sent me. Yesterday the priest that is keeping Zelaya company handed my four bags of food to the supporters because I wasn’t around right when the package arrived. I fabricate a spoon out of a plastic cup. Then I begin to think about washing my clothes, and end up paying a supporter to do mine. The supporters eat whatever the United Nations sends in. Zelaya eats his own food and I eat the Reuters food. We are envied for the air mattresses. Groups are formed, the family is expanded, the house is established, and I continue living here.

As the days go by the tension persists with helicopters flying continuously overhead. Tegucigalpa survives between the fear and the lies.

A soldier with a mask is seen through a window as he stands guard outside the Brazilian embassy where ousted President Manuel Zelaya has taken refuge, in Tegucigalpa September 27, 2009. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Another day, more shadows, more photos, more Micheletti on the radio, more politics, more ignorance, more opposing pride, more history, and me in the middle. At the end of the day another phone call. My wife says, “Our son is fine, we’ll see you soon.”

For a slideshow of Edgard’s work from within the embassy enter here.

Comments
20 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

muy buen trabajo esta buena la historia

Posted by rudy quiroz | Report as abusive
 

great story, great pictures!

Posted by mirella | Report as abusive
 

Zelaya can never return as president. The constitution is clear. Zelaya gave up his own power weeks ago. He is no longer president.

No matter what the international community wants, or what Brazil wants, the Honduras constitution is the only important matter. And yet, you do not even mention the consitution at all. As if it was meaningless to you.

And returning Zelaya to power would also breach the constitution. Meaning he simply cannot return. Even if Zelaya had the public support, which he doesn’t.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

The article is quite gripping as, the narration along with right pictures gives a perfect story.

Posted by Nijith | Report as abusive
 

GO OUT, Zelaya!!! Go out to our country and our embassy. We do not want you. I rate you. You are a corrupt politian like Hugo Chavez.

Posted by aulete | Report as abusive
 

Fantastic, gripping story. Thank you for getting the news to the outside world.

Posted by Teka | Report as abusive
 

Nice photos. Extremely biased story. Zelaya was legally removed from office and his opponents have the OVERWHELMING support of the Honduran people. The REAL story is the way in which the international media has turned the criminal Zelaya into a martyr and how they have ignored the importance of the Honduran constitution and the will of the Honduran people.

Posted by Felipe | Report as abusive
 

Dear Reporter,Mr.Edgard,
You are with ousted president with the same place for 10 days are exiting,marvelous,and very adventurous one.
My wholehearted welcoming to this open world and fearless journalism.
No other words to express you.
Honestly writing, this journalistic world council should give an outstanding award to you.
Please add me as a your friend to this regard.
What a photography,what a lively and a very true writing to our best of knowledge and belief.
I wish you all the best.
Looking forward to get more interesting and more lively photos with fair ,real journalistic reporting from you.

 

He repeats the lie “president.” This man is the ex-president, evicted by constitutional means. But communist reporters can be expected to lie.

In the Spanish civil war reporter Ernest Hemingway used a pistol and hand grenades by day and wrote “objective” reports about the war by night.

Posted by Timuchin | Report as abusive
 

Zelaya is the President of ALL Honduras; if he is not restored the upcoming election is meaningless…..this is a fact and the international community would not recognize the elections…it’s will be considered illegal.

Posted by Carl | Report as abusive
 

I am a born and raised American from the heartland of the US. My government is a disgrace on the issue of Zelaya. It is unbelievable that the idiots in the White House and State Department are supporting Zelaya the communist. He violated the trust of the people of Honduras and it’s constitution. What has gone wrong with my country where the unacceptable is now acceptable, our president in the absence of leadership has become an apologist and the government supports communist fanatics. Is this what Oboma ment when he spoke of change?

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive
 

@ Carl.

You should read the Honduras constitution.

“Article 239 — No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.”

“Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

Breach of the constitution is defined as treason. And the supreme court of Hondurus is charged with upholding the constitution.

Where the Supreme Court needs to enforce the constitution, they may request the citizens or the “national security forces” (Army) to assist them. And under the constitution, the Court’s request for assistance must be obeyed.

The reason a coup happened, was because the constitution allows a coup in this situation. The military upheld the constitution, exactly as it was intended.

What happened in Honduras was constitutional. Obama knows this. Brazil knows this. Zelaya knows this. The UN knows this. You know this.

But it seems the constitution doesn’t matter to anyone except Honduras. But no matter what you think or say, the constitution remains as it is on paper. And you cannot deny what the constitution says. Zelaya is history.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive
 

Edgard:

Un gran reportaje, muy descriptivo y profesional.
Un abrazo desde La Araucanía.

Posted by Cristian Acuña | Report as abusive
 

Hmmm may know the Articles of the Honduran Constitution, but s/he fails to properly interpret them in this case.

First, s/he cites Article 239, which prohibits a Honudran President from proposing to reform the constitutional ban on re-election of a president. The PROBLEM is that Zelaya merely supported an opinion poll asking the electorate whether the would support Congress CONVENING a Constitutional Convention. The encuesta (public opinion poll) did not refer removing the ban on a second term. The coup leaders and their supporters LIE when they say it did.

There was not ‘treason’ under this Consitution – written during the last military junta in 1982 – because Zelaya did not propose the change. The movement for changes in the Constitution have been proposed for many years by organizations representing civil society, including worker and campesino unions. They believe the Constitution favors the elites in Honduran society. The attempt to define this as a ‘power grab’ by Zelaya was dishonest.

Both the national election for the next president AND the survey regarding the Constitutional amendment would have been conducted the SAME DAY. Because Zelaya could not run for office in November, it would have been impossible for him to extend his term in office.

The coup planners and their supporters have spread the ‘big lie’ and, unfortunately, the mainstream media has swallowed it.

Posted by Guerote | Report as abusive
 

Guerote.

You seem to have forgotten that the Honduras Supreme Court is who analyses and makes ruling on the constitution. Not you or Zelaya.

Zelaya attempted to assist in treason in 1985. The court had reason to believe he was trying again. They ruled that the encuesta was not to proceed. Government agencies agreed. Zelaya defied the court, the court who are charged with upholding the constitution.

Whether Zelaya proposed the changes, or supported changes proposed by his political allies, mean nothing. Even if he supported the changes, that was enough for Article 239 to activate.

And Zelaya was using violent mobs to have his way. Even right now, he calls his supporters to take to the streets and disobey the courts and government.

The courts, the congress and the military all support what has happened to Zelaya. Not even the people disagree. Those violent people who are out on the streets are small compared to the marching in the street of those who wanted Zelaya gone.

And you believe that the mainstream media has spread the big lie? Why do you think this.

Look around you. No media is talking about the constitution. The UN all supports Zelaya even in exile. Honduras government and court is barely being heard by anyone in world media.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive
 

Excelent work, at least you were able to tell the thruth. Many people keep repiting “The Constitution”. We the people are the Constitution. We have the right to elect our goberment. Therefore Micheletti was not elected by the people. Micheletti controling the congress who invented a fake resignation letter from Zelaya, The Supreme Court, and the Arm Forces, suspending basic human rights. That, my friend, is not Constitutional; is a DICTATORSHIP!!

Posted by velinda | Report as abusive
 

!!!VIVA LA DEMOCRACIA¡¡¡ – Edgard Garrido: excellent work.

 

Edgard, super tu trabajo, arriesgado,pero al fin y al cabo, es lo que te gusta, y para mi, eres el mejor en esto.
Abrazos desde Chile, estamos pendiente de lo que pase en la Embajada de Brasil de Tegus.

 

BRASIL is broking the Viena Convention.

Article 41.

1.Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such
privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State. They also have a
duty NOT TO INTERFERE IN THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS of that State.

2.All official business with the receiving State entrusted to the mission by the sending State shall
be conducted with or through the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the receiving State or such other
ministry as may be agreed.

3.The premises of the mission must not be used in any manner INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE FUNCTIONS OF THE MISSION as laid down in the present Convention or by other rules of general international law or by
any special agreements in force between the sending and the receiving State.

Posted by aulete | Report as abusive
 

Remember, Zelaya IS NOT a refugee. According to the brasilian president he is a visitor. The brasilian embassy on Honduras is been used for Zelaya political porpuse. This IS NOT allow according to Viena Convention.

On article 3, Viena Convention says what is the functions of a diplomatic mission. Read.

Article 3

1.The functions of a diplomatic mission consist, inter alia, in:

(a) Representing the sending State in the receiving State;

(b) Protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State and of its nationals, within the
limits permitted by international law;

(c) Negotiating with the Government of the receiving State;

(d) Ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the receiving State, and
reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State;

(e) Promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the receiving State, and developing
their economic, cultural and scientific relations.

2.Nothing in the present Convention shall be construed as preventing the performance of consular
functions by a diplomatic mission.

Posted by aulete | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  • Editors & Key Contributors