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Some in Honduras are now calling their former congressional leader turned de facto president “Pinocheletti,” in reference to Chile’s military dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ousted Socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973 and remained in power for 17 years.
Micheletti has done many of the same things Pinochet did right after seizing power, following the typical blueprint for military coups: Impose a curfew; suspend constitutional rights and personal liberties; crack down on the media; and go after political and social leaders aligned with ousted president Manuel Zelaya.
Hondurans demanding the return of Zelaya are nevertheless ignoring the decree and exercising those rights, including the right to assembly and association, and the right to circulate freely within the country. In fact, Hondurans keep protesting on the streets, and pro-Zelaya demonstrators from around the country continue their march towards the capital today.
Just like Pinochet, Micheletti and the military that made his presidency possible claim that the coup (which they don’t recognize as such) was completely justified and legal, and that the president had violated the constitution and was acting out of legal bounds. In fact, yesterday the de facto government issued an international arrest warrant against Zelaya. Micheletti says that if Zelaya sets foot in Honduras, he will be arrested and brought to trial. The problem is that no one is really sure on what charges.
In a recent CNN interview with Honduras' general prosecutor, Patricia Janiot asked why, if Zelaya had acted illegally, he was not impeached and tried, instead of having the military barge into his home firing submachine guns, arresting him in pyjamas and putting him on a plane to Costa Rica. The general prosecutor responded: “No one really understands our country. You would have to be here to fully understand.”
What would the region look like today if the international community had reacted in such a united and swift way against other military coups across the continent in the 1970s and 1980s? What would have happened in Chile or in any other Latin American nation suffering military coups then, and how many tens of thousands of lives would have been saved, if: