Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Discusses Coup, Costa Rica Talks, U.S. Role and More

Source: Democracy Now!

[Watch the video interview here]

JUAN GONZALEZ: Talks between the ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and the leaders of last week’s military coup begin today in Costa Rica. Speaking late Wednesday Zelaya said he is seeking the resignation of the interim Honduran government within 24 hours. He emphasized he was in Costa Rica for talks but not for negotiations with the forces that ousted him. Citing widespread international support Zelaya added that he expects to be shortly reinstated as president. Zelaya and his rivals agreed to talks mediated by Costa Rican president and former Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias after Zelaya met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington this week. The interim government led by Robert Micheletti has said Zelaya will not be reinstated as president and tried for abusing the constitution if he returns.

AMY GOODMAN: Well shortly before the ousted president Manuel Zelaya left Washington, DC for Costa Rica, he set down for brief interview with Juan Gonzalez and me.

Mr. President, welcome to “Democracy Now!” can you tell us what you have agreed to, what you expect from these talks, and if you been satisfied with your meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] I think that both President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton as well as U.S. Ambassador in Tegucigalpa, Hugo Lawrence, and all the other officials have been completely categorical and clear. While there have been other opinions voiced in the United States, they’re not been official government statements. They have condemned the coup, asked for my reinstatement and in addition are not recognizing the de facto government’s decisions.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, your opponents who engineered the coup claim that you were trying to subvert the constitution of 1982. What were you trying to do with the referendum that you were holding and is it true that as they say, your were trying to illegally extend your term?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] That is completely false. In Honduras we do not have reelections and I never intended to be reelected. That will be a matter for another government, another constitution and another Constituent Assembly. The Popular Consultation is a survey, just like the Gallup one does or other polling groups. It does not create rights. It has no power to impose. It is not obligatory, its an opinion poll. How could this be a motive for a coup d’etat? No one has tried to me. I was expelled by force by the military. This is an argument made up by the coup plotters. Don’t believe them.

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, the United States has not cut off aid to Honduras. Do you think they should because of the coup?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] We only have humanitarian aid coming from the United States the U.S. held up military aid, our officials in Washington have been replaced because they left with the coup. They were changed yesterday. And all of the U.S.’s messages have been consistent with the firm condemnation of the coup and supporting democracy in Latin America.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, you came to office thought to be conservative leader, but yet in your time in office, you sharply increased minimum wage, provided for free school lunches for children, you lowered the price of public transportation. Do you think these policies are the reason behind the elite of Hondurans supporting the coup against you?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] I came to power with a very clear programmatic and ideological platform, to empower citizens in their rights, to empower them economically, socially and culturally and also politically, all the reforms I have proposed are meant to give more power to the population. I do not believe in elites. I don’t believe in military elites or economics elites. I believe that it is the people who have the strength to make the changes. That is why I called my campaign “citizen power." The first law I made was that a citizen participation and the law I was applying with the survey was for citizen participation. We helped the poor along with the First Lady, we have reduced poverty by 10% we’ve had the country growing by 7% economically. So, there is a reactionary group in Honduras. Honduras is controlled by a group of 10 families that control the entire economy. So, they have been jealous of my actions in favor of development for themselves and their families. But they refuse to allow change or transformation. They looked for a political arm and a military arm to stage a coup d’etat.

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. President, can you describe exactly what happened the morning of the coup and who exactly you think is behind this?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] They attacked my house at 5:30 in the morning. A group of at least 200 to 250 armed soldiers with hoods and bulletproof vests, and rifles aimed their guns at me, fired shots, used machine guns, kicked down the doors and just as I was, in pajamas, they put me on an plane and flew me to Costa Rica. This all happened in less than 45 minutes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Mr. President, some people have speculated there were former members of the Bush Administration that were waging a campaign against you here in the United States. Otto Reich, a former administration official in charge of Latin American affairs had been making allegations about corruption in your country, specifically related to the government-owned telephone company, HONDUTEL. Do you think this had any impact in terms of how the current administration is regarding your presidency?

MANUAL ZELAYA:[translated] The bad guys always join together. But there are more of us good people and we’re also united and we will win out over them. So don’t worry about that. I need to tell you I have to leave for Costa Rica and I am grateful for your interview, and I will continue to support you. The only system I believe in is democracy. It is the political system that gives political rights to the citizenry. Human rights guarantee our freedoms, but the political system we must support is democracy. If we allowed armies, drug, trafficking elites or economic elites or international mafia, even the transnational corporations to impose governments or presidents on us by force, we will be losing five decades of democratic reform in America. President Obama has a firm position and I hope it will remain so until we resolve this problem so it will serve as an example. So that a fractious group of military men never again break into the home of a president and without trying him first, without taking into court but rather capturing him and then wanting to try him. This should not happen.

AMY GOODMAN: The ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya spoke with us right before leaving for Costa Rica with the mediated talks with the leaders of the military coup. The U.S. has not cut off economic aid to Honduras which amounts to more than $43 million. But after our interview yesterday, U.S. Embassy in Honduras announced is had suspended $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras shortly after the coup. This is Democracy Now!