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Out of Exile: Part II of Exclusive Report on Ousted Honduran President Zelaya’s Return 2 Years After U.S.-Backed Coup

June 01, 2011

We continue our coverage of the historic return of ousted Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, who on June 28, 2009, was kidnapped at gunpoint and put on a plane to Costa Rica in a coup orchestrated in part by two generals trained in the United States. Scores of peasants, teachers, journalists, farmers have been assassinated since the coup. This week 87 U.S. Congress members sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for the suspension of aid to the Honduran military and police until steps are taken to hold security forces accountable for human rights abuses. "Defense and security forces have to exist," Zelaya says in an interview with Democracy Now! at his home in Tegucigalpa. "But violence always will be the worst method in order to correct either political or social problems. Poverty and corruption cannot be battled with more arms, but with more democracy." [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue today with our coverage of the historic return of the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya. On June 28th, 2009, hooded Honduran soldiers kidnapped Zelaya at gunpoint, put him on a plane to Costa Rica, stopping at a U.S. military base in Honduras called Palmerola.

Scores of peasants, teachers, journalists, farmers have been assassinated since the coup two years ago. This week, 87 U.S. Congress members sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on her to suspend U.S. aid to the Honduran military and police, putting mechanisms in place — until mechanisms are in place to ensure security forces are held accountable for abuses.

Almost two years in exile, President Zelaya was, until his family was able to return this weekend. They were greeted by tens of thousands of supporters as they arrived Saturday in the capital city, Tegucigalpa.

I sat down with former President Zelaya at his home on Sunday and started by asking him if he supports the U.S. Congress members’ calls to cut U.S. military aid to Honduras in light of the grave human rights violations.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I am not in favor of any action which involves violence. I am opposed to the death penalty. I am opposed to war. I am opposed to the acts of torture that are committed in all kinds of places around the world. And I am not in favor at all of increasing armaments or militarism. I am not opposed to security forces of the state. These have to exist. Defense and security forces have to exist. But violence always will be the worst method in order to correct either political or social problems. Poverty and corruption cannot be battled with more arms, but with more democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your plans right now?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I came back because of one point of the accord that Lobo was in agreement with: reconciliation and free elections. If they have free elections within two years, the movement that I am the head of, we will win the elections. And I invite you in the year 2013 to come here and witness this election. Come and see the triumph of a popular movement, if there are elections that are free.

AMY GOODMAN: One last point. What about holding those who fomented the coup accountable? Do you believe that they should be punished?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Justice does not have any obstacle which should prevent it from moving forward. I presented international juridical complaints because of the coup, and they are still moving forward. The political crimes were also about creating an amnesty in Honduras. But the genocides, the magnicides, the assassinations and the tortures are a process which is ultimately judicial.

AMY GOODMAN: And you think they should be punished?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Justice should be applied for those who are responsible for the crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get into the country on the 21st of September?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] There were a lot of people who cooperated with that. It took two days, overnight, and we finally achieved it. Eight military checkpoints. Several vehicles were used. Doubles, doubles of mine, were used. One was left in Nicaragua, another in Guatemala. And so, the cameras were filming those doubles, and I was already there, and I was sneaking into the country. And so, it was a strategy that we, ourselves, planned very well. And it was necessary. I wanted to enter in and to interfere with the system and to interfere with the Department of State itself, which was basically being very ambiguous.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have tried many times to come into this country. How does it feel to be home?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] It has taken half of my stress away. To be in exile is a torture. It’s a torture. It’s a torture. In your unconscious, you feel something so strange to be in exile. Everything is strange in exile, and it’s a great pressure. And the pressure disappeared when I landed in Honduras, and it automatically disappeared. I was able to recover myself internally. There’s one word that a Dominican says, Juan Pablo Duarte: "To live without a homeland is to live without honor." And that is exile.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, speaking to us in his home in Tegucigalpa on Sunday, after his return. The September 21st we were talking about was September 21st, 2009. He had been ousted at the end of June. A week later, he attempted to fly into the country with the former head of the U.N. General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, the former foreign minister of Nicaragua. He attempted to fly in, but the military prevented him from landing at the Tegucigalpa airport by lining up trucks at the airport. More than 100,000 people gathered at the airport at that time to try to receive him. The Honduran military opened fire, and they killed a young man. When President Zelaya returned on Saturday, the first place he stopped was at the memorial for Isis Obed Murillo, 19 years old, who was killed on that day just a week after Zelaya had been ousted by hooded Honduran soldiers at gunpoint at his home at 5:00 in the morning. On September 21st, a few months later, Zelaya attempted to get into the country and succeeded. No one knew until now how exactly he did it, and he just told us about the body doubles. He made it into the capital, Tegucigalpa, and holed up in the Brazilian embassy for more than four months.

To see our reports with Democracy Now!’s Andrés Conteris in the embassy, you can go to our website at, as well as to see the full interview with President Zelaya, the zelayaon">first part of which we played yesterday.

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