Zelaya struggles to convince U.S. his ouster was military coup
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is having a hard time convincing the Obama administration he was deposed by a military coup.
Zelaya argues that being awakened at 5 a.m. by soldiers in your presidential palace, flown to another country by hooded and armed military guards and deposited on the tarmac in your pajamas pretty much fits the description of a military coup.
The Obama administration agrees the scenario is a coup but maybe not a military coup since the legislative and judicial branches were involved as well.
The Honduran president met Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to prod her on the issue.
He was rewarded with a pledge to cancel $30 million in aid to the de facto government, but did not get a formal military coup declaration. Zelaya said the U.S. decision was nonetheless a sign the region is unified against the coup government.
While he awaits his restoration, Zelaya speaks out frequently on the situation in his country. He’s done the speech so often it has become a routine, delivered with a dry sense of humor.
“In Honduras, on the 28th of June, barely two months ago, a cruel coup d’etat took place,” he told a George Washington University audience Wednesday.
It was a poorly managed affair, Zelaya said, citing a Spanish constitutional law expert who labeled it “anti-aesthetic.”
“I can say that it was obscene and not aesthetic to pull out a president at 5 a.m., raiding his residence, shooting guns,” Zelaya said, adding that soldiers pumped 150 bullets into a metal door at the house.
He had his cell phone as he left his room, and made an effort to call his wife to let her know.
“When they saw my cellular, they didn’t want me to make a call to let the people know perhaps,” he said. “They surrounded me, 10 military men with their rifles.
“They were saying, “This is a military order. If you do not let go of your cellular, we will shoot you.
“I was dragged in my pajamas, as we say. I was put in a plane by force,” Zelaya said.
Three armed military men in fatigues with hoods on their heads accompanied him on the plane.
“Perhaps they were thinking they would throw me out of the plane. I mean, why so much force in a small plane?
“I asked the one that was closer to me, I asked, ‘Officer, where are we overflying?’” Zelaya said. “And he said, ‘I don’t have any orders to advise you of anything.’”
“Forty minutes later we were landing at San Jose, Costa Rica. I thought it was strange that they didn’t deplane, but they were careful to open the door. They pulled out the steps — it’s a small plane — and they told me, ‘Get off.’
“So they just left me on the street, in my pajamas. And what do I do now, in my pajamas? I’ve never experienced something so bad. They just turn around, put the steps up and left.”
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias came to the airport to greet him, and a news conference was called.
“They offered me if I wanted to change, that they could give me some clothes — a suit,” Zelaya said. “But I said I wouldn’t fit in President Arias’ clothes. They would be short for me.”
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Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Zelaya gestures at letter outside State Department after meeting with Clinton); Reuters/Jason Reed (Zelaya discusses his ouster on Wednesday in a speech at George Washington University)