As customers devour their gourmet burgers and triple decker sandwiches at open air cafes along Parliament Street in Cabbagetown, the Latin American Solidarity Network – Toronto holds a noon hour rally outside Liberal MP Bob Rae’s constituency office Thursday, demanding the return of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya after he was ousted in a military coup last weekend.
The Guardian reported that Zelaya, who had been in office since 2006, was ousted after clashing with the judiciary, congress and the army over proposed constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election beyond a single four-year term. “The coup followed days of tension over Zelaya's attempt to hold an unofficial poll to gauge public support for a November referendum on term limits, considered unconstitutional by his critics. The Honduran military seized Zelaya from his home on Sunday and flew him to Costa Rica, but the generals have not held on to power. The Honduran Congress named its speaker Roberto Micheletti as interim president and the Supreme Court said it had ordered the army to remove Zelaya.
“The Organization of American States (OAS), the region’s principal multilateral forum for strengthening democracy, promoting human rights, and confronting shared problems, set a 72-hour deadline on Wednesday that will expire on Saturday for the interim government to reverse the coup and reinstate Zelaya. But the foreign minister of the interim government said Zelaya would never be allowed to resume office and will be arrested if he returns to the country. The ousted president has vowed to return, accompanied by other Latin American presidents. He may wait until the deadline expires to allow time for behind-the-scenes negotiations.”
There has been almost unanimous condemnation of the coup from both neighbors and world powers including Canada. In a statement published on June 30 on the situation in Honduras, Liberal MP Bob Rae said: “The ousting and detainment of President Manuel Zelya this weekend is a serious blow to the democratic process. A return to this style of military coup is a real step backwards for Honduras and the region.”
Standing on the sidewalk outside Rae’s constituency office Benjamin Santa Maria, a Mexican now living in Canada, says: “We know that for Canadians Latin America doesn’t exist. Our problems don’t matter in Canada. They only want to enjoy our beaches. But when it’s about taking a stand on the political arena, Canadians doesn’t care, especially about Central America. It’s important that Canadians get to know that they belong to the American continent. Our roots are similar because we’re coming from the ancient, rich native cultures.”
Since Honduras gained its independence, it’s been under tight economic control by the United States. A militarized society with a history of human rights abuses, last year Honduras joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), an alliance of leftist leaders in Latin America headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. According to the BBC, President Manuel Zelaya said a lack of international support to tackle chronic poverty forced him to seek aid from Venezuela.
“There is a growing popular resistance in Honduras to the militaries,” says Carlos Torchia, speaking on behalf of the Latin American Solidarity Network - Toronto
“This coup is not only aimed at ending democracy in Honduras but also to reverse the radical changes that are sweeping Latin America led by Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.”
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