Sunday, September 27, 2009

Toque de Queda/Toque de Guerra

I usually try to keep my blogs upbeat and positive, which is why I've been putting off this entry for a while... Most folks, I believe, are aware of recent political events in Honduras--my awareness was rather limited, but I've learned a lot in the last week or so just from watching the news/talking to people. Back at the end of June, there was a coup. Two weeks ago, Mel Zelaya, the former and some would claim rightful president of Honduras entered the country somewhat secretively and has been camping out at the Brazilian embassy ever since.

The de-facto leader, or as he refers to himself, the "constitutional" president, Micheletti, instantly declared that the nation be put on national curfew (toque de queda). As far as I can tell, this was done to squelch any organizing or protests amongst Zelaya supporters and it worked. When the curfew was briefly suspended on Wednesday to allow people to go out and buy food/supplies, the protests resumed and there were national fuel shortages due to the panic over how long this curfew could have lasted. When we went out even in Comayagua, the streets were gridlocked with people out buying staples in a frenzy (like Northern Virginia supermarkets before a predicted snowstorm).

In terms of how this affected me personally, we had two days off of school because of the curfew, and were somewhat afraid to walk down the street even to the pulpería (local convenience store) at first. Once things calmed down and we realized our neighborhood wasn't really a war zone, we just focused on watching the news pretty much 24/7. I must admit, as much as I really dislike that "I'm proud to be an American" patriotic song, the line about "at least I know I'm free" did strike a chord with me during the Honduran nationally imposed curfew. I have never really experienced what "not freedom" is in terms of political decrees, and while it wasn't awful, it really did feel limiting, uneasy, and arbitrary (dare I saw unjust?). This is why many people half-jokingly call toque de queda (curfew), "toque de guerra." (something like "state of war" or "a touch of war")

One comment made by one of my roommates was that Micheletti and his rich friends were essentially unaffected economically by the national curfew, but those who live on daily wages and who sell their wares in the street took a major hit. Some businesses have closed down or have limited their hours due to the political instability. As my roomie says, "Micheletti doesn't give a crap about the ladies selling tortillas in the streets."

I'm not going to offer much political commentary because I'm sure others do it a lot better than I do. Here are some articles regarding the current situation:

Especially alarming are the smear campaigns and the media censorship
(Thanks, Dad, for the NYT link. The smear ads were well-done and on the air constantly... kind of disturbing propaganda)

Two reporters from a Guatemalan TV station were beaten, bloodied, and thrown out of the country, and their reporting was taken off the air for several hours (replaced by oh-so-informative reggaeton music videos). It was also absolutely intriguing to watch pro-Micheletti Honduras news stations and then watching pro-Zelaya Venezuelan news essentially making fun of the de facto government, calling them pirates (one of the reporters even wore an eye patch!) and calling the whole situation pathetic. I then switched to the more balanced Al-Jazeera and felt a little better.

Here is a REALLY interesting public announcement from the US Embassy in Honduras regarding the constitutional rights Micheletti has suspended during this most recent political crisis...

Most notably, the following rights have been suspended:

Article 69: The right to personal freedom
Article 72: Freedom of Speech
Article 78: Freedom of Association
Article 81: Freedom of Movement
Article 84: The right to due process

Hope you didn't want to speak out against the government or anything... Here's Amnesty International's take on the issues:

Right now, we are no longer on toque de queda, although it was briefly imposed again last Saturday night, ruining my social life (haha). Basically, daily life continues as normal for now, but we are all waiting to see who will make the next move, and what national consequences it will have.


  1. Great post. I've been listening to the news and thinking of you.

  2. Won't we be glad when elections come along?