Honduras Cracks Down On Zelaya Supporters

Yolanda Chavarria, 80, pro-Zelaya protester in Tegucigalpa i i

Yolanda Chavarria, 80, stands in front of police officers during a demonstration in support of Honduras' ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, in Tegucigalpa on Monday. Rodrigo Abd/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rodrigo Abd/AP
Yolanda Chavarria, 80, pro-Zelaya protester in Tegucigalpa

Yolanda Chavarria, 80, stands in front of police officers during a demonstration in support of Honduras' ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, in Tegucigalpa on Monday.

Rodrigo Abd/AP

The de facto government in Honduras shut down two media outlets Monday that leaned heavily in favor of the country's deposed president, Manuel Zelaya.

The closures came after the government declared a state of emergency Sunday night, giving security forces broad powers to arrest people, ban public gatherings and curtail freedom of the press.

The U.S. government told the de facto government to immediately reverse the measures.

Despite the new ban on protests, Zelaya supporters took to the streets Monday in front of the National Teachers College in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

The deposed leader snuck back into Honduras a week ago and took refuge at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he has remained since. The acting government has resisted international pressure to allow the leftist president to be reinstated.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti, who replaced Zelaya, says the decree is in response to Zelaya's calls for "insurrection." The decree issued Sunday night bans "unauthorized" public gatherings and gives the police the power to arrest people without warrants.

In front of the teachers college, one of the leaders of what's known as "The Resistance," Rafael Alegria, says the new measures are an outrage, particularly since they ban public gatherings with an election approaching.

"It's a constitutional violation of individual, social and political rights," Alegria says. "Imagine, we are talking about having elections, and this is going to be in place for 45 days."

Riot police in gas masks quickly surrounded the Zelaya supporters and fenced them into one city block.

Before dawn, security forces had stormed the offices of Radio Globo and TV Channel 36. Both stations were immediately shut down. The two outlets were the main broadcast channels for the pro-Zelaya camp. The stations regularly had interviews with Zelaya.

Radio Globo, however, often had breathless accounts of things that were totally untrue. On Friday, the station reporter who is holed up inside the Brazilian Embassy with Zelaya reported that the embassy was under attack. He described the army shooting and bombs going off, and he called on Zelaya supporters to rush to the compound.

However, there were no shootings or bombs that day at the embassy.

Micheletti says he is not going to tolerate media outlets that are irresponsible.

At the protest Monday, supporters of Zelaya chanted, "Fatherland or death!"

Gerardo Alvarenga says that Radio Globo and Channel 36 were the only stations he trusted, and that he turned to them to find out about upcoming protests. He says the government took off the air the channels that tell the truth.

"If you watch the other television stations, you'd think Honduras is a paradise right now," he says as he waves his arm at the lines of riot police and the helicopters overhead.

Monday was the three-month anniversary of the coup that toppled Zelaya, who had urged his supporters across Honduras to take to the streets in what he was calling the final battle to reclaim the presidency.

The strict new security measures, however, kept any large protests from developing.

Honduras is sharply divided between supporters of Zelaya and supporters of Micheletti. After a week of curfews and protests that shut down parts of the capital, the state of emergency is popular with some. But members of the Honduran Congress are debating whether Micheletti went too far.

Congresswoman Doris Gutierrez says public rallies cannot be banned for the next 45 days when elections are taking place in just 60 days.

"If you prohibit people from gathering, from moving freely, the candidates are going to have to suspend their campaigns. The people are going to be afraid to participate," Gutierrez says.

She says Congress is considering trying to override all of the new security measures Micheletti put into place Sunday.

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