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Ground truth in Honduras: A "bloodless" coup takes a deadly turn.
For one moment it seemed they could succeed, with police who blocked the road moving to let the protesters through after negotiation, showing the corps may have split loyalties.
But the airport grounds itself were guarded by soldiers bearing automatic rifles.
An hour before the plane was due to land, some protesters started breaking the airport fence, and the troops unleashed their gunfire onto the streets around the facility.
Thousands scattered and ran; a few foolhardy protesters threw rocks back. A fast food chicken and seafood restaurant had all its windows blown out, its customers sprinting away so fast that one women left a shoe amid the shattered glass.
The gunfire crackled in fits and bursts for almost 20 minutes, as protesters hid behind breeze block walls or ran into homes of kindly local residents.
When the smoke eventually cleared, the 19-year-old lay dead — identified as Isis Obed Murillo from the rural province of Olancho — and 30 others were taken into hospital with wounds, several which could prove fatal.
Honduran journalist Cesar Silva stood close to Murillo as the bullet went through his head and helped pull his body into a car.
“He was still slightly conscious even after the bullet went through. But then he passed away,” Silva said, the victim’s blood covering his arms and green T-shirt. “He was not trying to break through the fence or anything. He was just standing there and didn’t get down fast enough.”
Shortly after the shooting, Zelaya’s plane appeared in the sky to the thunderous cheer of supporters.
But with troops and soldiers blocking the runway, it circled round several times then beat a hasty retreat to Salvador via a refueling stop in Nicaragua.
As he flew over, Zelaya said he regretted his inability to land in a live interview with Latin American network Telesur.
“I’m doing everything I can. If I had a parachute I would immediately jump out of this plane, ” he said from the airplane.
From Salvador, Zelaya promised to continue his struggle to regain the presidency, raising speculation that he may sneak over the mountainous land border into his homeland.
Any such incursion could spark more violence, with the threat of two proclaimed governments dividing the nation into civil war.
But for Zelaya and his allies in governments across Latin America, it is crucial to not let the coup set a precedent for taking presidents out in putsches as they were for much of the 20th century.
“What we see is a return of the right in Latin America,” Zelaya said as he flew over his the Honduran mountains and banana fields. “ It is a more reactionary right, more prone to killing, more fascist than in the past.”
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