Monday, July 6, 2009

Tragedy at Toncontin: Army Shoots and Kills Protesters

Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
July 5th, 2009.
Issues: Impunity / Coup d’Etat

On the day when ousted President Manuel Zelaya was slated to return, thousands of supporters gathered at the Pedagogica University in order to march towards Toncontin Airport. Meanwhile, at the airport, some gathered early to await Mel’s arrival despite the suffocating presence of Honduran security forces.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 people marched towards Toncontin Airport to welcome “Mel”.

Even though the security forces held several check points to stop the march, the Police and Army decided to allow the march’s arrival to Toncontin. Until then, both sides had behaved remarkably respectful and peaceful.

The protesters even applauded the Police’s decision to let them through.

Nevertheless, a few minutes later, on the far end of the landing strip, tensions brewed out of control. When protesters began trespassing the barbed-wire fence, the army responded by shooting tear gas and live rounds. One person was killed on the scene, dozens were injured, and overnight, at least three other people died in local hospitals.

“The armed forces have fired live rounds against unarmed civilians. For over five hours, the protesters behaved respectfully of the army and police. There had been no confrontations. No one had sticks or guns. The march’s organizers had even decommissioned stones from a few protesters. But the army shot at us just like that, in cold blood. There was no need to shoot! Yes, some had started to cut and remove the barbed-wire fence [so as to enter the landing strip], this cannot be denied. But it was not necessary to shoot civilians with live rounds. Once again, so that the people of Honduras will remain united: the blood of a martyr is the seed for many Hondurans who will stand up and remain firm against such de facto government – this government of delinquents. We are only following Article 3rd of our Constitution: ‘Nobody should obey a Government which has reached power by means of usurpation.’”
-Cesar Omar Silva, television journalist for State-owned Channel 8.

Manuel Zelaya’s airplane flew over Toncontin airport a couple of times before aborting landing attempts and headed for Managua, Nicaragua. The plane was not given permission to land as military personnel and vehicles blocked the runway. His plans for a return to Honduras are not yet known at this time.

BBC News has published the best video so far of the Army’s repression against the protesters. The army’s shooting can be clearly seen:

Versión en español aquí.

This photo-essay was completed with the contribution of Angela J. Bunch C.


Anonymous said...

100,000?! An exaggeration.

The soldiers stayed inside the airport. The protesters remained outside. Where did they get the shells?

Anonymous said...

I' cant believe the irrelevant question (100.000!?),that only speaks about the ignorance people won't let go. There could've been only five protesters, and still no right, WHATSOEVER TO SHOOT CIVILIANS. If the president was not doing his job he should have been judge in court, but never deported by a de facto gov. It is sad how people look at this...and instead of say something about democracy (the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves)they try to blame it on the population (because they elected the president, and only them have the RIGHT to do something about it)
Pablo Lopez

Anonymous said...

"If the president was not doing his job he should have been judge in court" -- That is what happened. The Supreme Court ordered Zelaya's removal and the Congress confirmed it the same day.

And to repeat the question of the first Anonymous, if the soldiers used force to prevent the protesters from reaching their positions, then where did the protesters get the shells?

Anonymous said...

First, the president was NOT judged in court, he was flown out of the country without due process.....that is against the Honduran constitution....that is why it was a coup....

I agree that the military had no right to open fire against the civilians.
You did not answer the question from anonymous though is true that the soldiers didn't leave the airport--so how did those people get the shells?..shells don't normally fly that far....also, in this article it says that no-one was carrying weapons (sticks, rocks) but that is not true. ....Most were not carrying weapons, but a few were..they had sticks and rods to be used like batons. I saw it. I have pictures of them. Also, yes, 100,000 is an exaggeration..there were many thousands but it wasn't 100....
This was definitely a coup, and it should be resisted peacefully--I completely agree with that, but you only hurt the cause when you publish non-accurate information...this is a good chronology with great pics of what happened, but people can dismiss this as biased, or non-credible, because of those few inaccurate statements. Don't give them the opportunity.

Will Shetterly said...

100,000 is not necessarily an exaggeration. Some people estimated 500,000 marched that day.

Stephanie said...

Thank you James for posting these pictures. I hope many people get to view them and realize the severity of this past week.

It is indeed a sad time for the people of Honduras. There was hope that no-one would die but man cannot withstand the force of a bullet.

cubacall said...

Maybe they didn't do things correctly however i do think i was in the best interest for their country. Having lived half my life in cuba i wouldn't want Honduras to become like it.