|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF HONDURAS
Ousted Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya declared today that he will return to his country on Thursday and he did not fear for his life, because “the blood of Jesus Christ”, his convictions and conduct during his entire life, as well as the Honduran masses who had taken to the streets, would protect him.
He told a joint press conference held with the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, shortly after he addressed a session of the Assembly at United Nations Headquarters: “I have always said that anyone who was afraid, should not become a politician. Because when the powerful come to perform extortion or anything, you have to denounce them, or shut up. When a force shows up to humiliate you, you must not give up the sovereignty of your country or the dignity of your country”.
He said he found it paradoxical that he was able to address the world body the Organization of American States (OAS) tomorrow, and speak to a number of Presidents, and yet he was not allowed to speak in his own country, because all the media had been shut down or censored.
Repeating a position he had stated in his speech to the General Assembly just moments earlier, Mr. Zelaya declared: “We have in my country a de facto military regime; an illegitimate one.”
He told correspondents that he would be returning to Honduras on Thursday, accompanied by General Assembly President d'Escoto, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. “This is a struggle for all of us,” he said, “the struggle for the respect for others’ rights; which is peace.”
Asked if reports rife in the Middle East region that the coup could not have taken place without the tacit or actual approval of a “Western power” or Western powers, and to identify such a power, Mr. Zelaya was emphatic in his response: “No. No. The United States has changed a great deal. And Europe has changed. They have been imperial powers. But, I have listened to President Obama. It is not only that he condemns the events, but he has demanded the restoration of the President,” he said. Similarly, the American ambassador in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, had similarly taken the same position against “the coup powers”.
He said: “Those gentlemen over there find that -- this is strange -- but the world is united behind democracy. It is a guarantee for all, and I believe that this has been an absurd, arbitrary action by a group of people who manipulated the army with the goal of getting even richer.”
He said that he was not afraid of threats of arrest should he return to Honduras, stressing that he expected that when he travelled there on Thursday, his supporters, his enemies and the military would be there. “In the three years in government, I have not harmed a single person. I have not persecuted a single person, not even the opposition. But, I have spoken and I have mentioned the difficulties”. He did that he was the President, and it was the president’s responsibility to say those things. In that context, therefore, he was not afraid to return on Thursday, because he had been expelled by force. He would do so as he had always done: as a citizen and as the President.
It was his expectation that, when he returned home, the people would do what they always did; they would say: “Commander-in-chief, we’re at your orders. And the military will have to rectify. There is no is no other possibility.”
Asked what guarantee he had that he would not be arrested immediately after he stepped off the plane, Mr. Zelaya said his only guarantee was that the perpetrators of the coup had seen what they had provoked. The country was totally paralysed since Sunday, with airports and borders closed. Europe had said today it was withdrawing its ambassadors, while all Latin and Central American ambassadors had been recalled.
Just 15 minutes earlier, he had learned that the European Union was withdrawing all its ambassadors, and the World Bank and the Development Bank were withdrawing accounts from Honduras. “There was no recognition by anyone. “They are the only ones that recognize themselves. They have been totally rejected.”
He said he had no intention of staying in power beyond his term, which ends next 27 January, and he would return to the country-side where he came from as a farmer, and would have no role in governing the country.
Mr. Zelaya said he was scheduled to leave New York for Washington, D.C., later, where he had been invited to address the Organization of American States assembly. He said the assembly was expected to pass a resolution censuring the coup leaders that ousted him. He said he had not asked for any appointments in Washington, although he had been told that he might be able to meet with “some official sectors of the United States”. The United States itself had offered a great deal of support for his return, he said.
Asked if he was disappointed that neither United States President Barack Obama nor Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had requested a meeting with him, and whether he felt the United States was willing to help in his reinstatement as President, he asked correspondents to remember that he was in the United States “practically by surprise”. The President of the General Assembly spoke to him last night when he was in Managua. United States officials were just informed this morning that he was here in the United States, and that he was at the United Nations and would be at the OAS, he explained. “What I have received is direct communications from the ambassador; all of the communiqués, President Obama’s statement yesterday were a very clear-cut rejection of this coup”.
He went on to explain that when such incidents occurred, governments usually left themselves a little time to see what was happening and investigate. But in this case, the United States took a stand against the coup on the very first day, because this was a violation that affected everyone.
“So, I believe I am convinced, and trust me, that we’re all united against this situation,” he added.
He denied he had convened any constitutional assembly aimed at ensuring his continued stay in power beyond his constitutional term –- an action seen by many as the cause of his ouster -- explaining that even if he was offered the possibility of remaining in power, he would not do it. He said he could never have considered convening such a constitutional assembly, because it was forbidden by the existing constitution. That task was up to the forthcoming Administration, as there was no re-election provided for in the Constitution. “I am going to fulfil my four years; I am going to fight to have the four years respected, because it’s part of our law,” he said, adding that all of the country’s radio and television channels, and newspapers, were censored and occupied by the military. It was merely an argument that those who removed him from office were using to support the coup d'état, he said.
He said he had been told that the military had cut power to those stations still transmitting; people had been arrested and a great many people had been wounded. Additionally, there were demonstrations throughout the country -– more than 20 of them protesting spontaneously for their democratic rights, because democracy was the right of the people, and not of the President.
Asked if he saw any possibility of compromise that might get him back without any bloodshed, the Honduran leader said he was a proponent of non-violence and a tolerant person who would not condone the use of force at all, because he believed the use of force was an illegitimate recourse. “Even if the state authorizes the use of force, it is still illegitimate. Even in demanding your rights,” Mr. Zelaya asserted. He explained that there were certain non-violent practices that people could exercise, citing as examples the right to strike, the right to public demonstrations and the right to protest.
He rejected critics who said that he contributed to the situation in Honduras by not obeying the constitutional tribunal or following the orders of the congress and, therefore, was in some way “responsible” for the crisis. He said whenever reforms had been proposed in human history, those in power often declared them illegal in the same way that it used to be said that women’s rights were illegal and slavery legal, and demanding that slaves could become citizens was illegal. Any proposal to change such thinking was opposed by those in power at the time.
* *** *