In the shadow of Michael Jackson’s death, many of you might still be unaware that Honduras is experiencing political turmoil in the likes that it has not seen since the last Cold War. Last Sunday around midnight the President, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was arrested and exiled to Costa Rica in his pajamas. This military coup occurred on the eve of a referendum that would have allowed Hondurans to vote to change the Constitution that currently only allows a President to serve a single term of four years. The referendum was to change the Constitution to either allow a second term or unlimited terms. With the Congress and the Military against Zelaya, they deemed the referendum to be unconstitutional. Instead of going through the democratic process of impeachment, the Congress decided to take him out and put Congress in command.
As you can imagine, Hondurans and the Peace Corps Volunteers are in a minor state of distress. Stories are spreading of military police making their rounds through towns confiscating weapons and arresting boys and men between the ages of 15 and 45 to draft them into the military. I walked out of my house today to find the streets eerily empty and everything closed down. Even the three donkeys that hang out around the corner were no where to be found. Now how am I supposed to escape if even the donkeys are out of business? Bus tires have been slashed and roadblocks have been placed throughout the country to prevent protestors from entering the Capital. I walked hesitantly down the block expecting for a truck load of armed soldiers to turn the corner and force me to fight for the Honduran army. I’m prime real estate down here considering I’m bigger than most Hondurans.
The U.S. and the U.N. are calling for Zelaya to be reinstated and there is talk of Zelaya coming back on Thursday with military reinforcements from Venezuela. The Congress has not backed down and is threatening to arrest Zelaya upon reentering the country. All signs are pointing to a showdown with opponents on both sides. I live in Zelaya country considering he is from Olancho and the people are very upset with his arrest. The anti-Zelayas support the Congress’s actions as they feel Zelaya was leading Honduras down the path of a dictatorship.
At this point in time, I feel a possibly false sense of security. Although my community feels safe, the frequent calls to other volunteers and family members have me on edge. Just about every hour my phone rings or I get a message from other volunteers and we discuss what crazy things are going on in each of our towns. My one bag that we´re allowed to take if evacuated is packed as I wait for the text message saying we´re heading to safer grounds to wait till things calm down. The last few days I’ve holed myself up in my room surviving on mangoes and peanut butter.
Meanwhile, the new training class of volunteers that was scheduled to arrive in Honduras on Wednesdayon is heading off to the Dominican Republic to wait this ordeal out while the rest of us currently serving volunteers stay the course! I guess this is what they meant by the slogan “How far will you go?” Well, I think a few earthquakes, a pandemic flu outbreak, and now a military coup is pretty damn far? Especially, considering I haven’t even been here for five months.
I hope you all enjoy your Fourth of July weekend, but remember the 200 or so volunteers here in Honduras who are on lockdown waiting to see how this crisis plays out. Here’s hoping that my next post will be written under much calmer and happier circumstances.