Honduran Activists Report Army 'Forcibly Recruiting' Youngsters in Rural Areas

7-03-09, 9:50 am

Costa Rica – San Jose, 1 Jul (ACAN-EFE) During a telephone conference call with journalists in Costa Rica, Honduran activists today reported that human rights defenders have been threatened and that the Honduran army is forcibly recruiting youngsters in rural areas, following the 'coup' on Sunday [ 28 June].

The denunciations were made by Reina Rivera, director of the Human Rights Research and Promotion Center (CIPRODEH) and the priest Ismael Moreno, of Progreso Radio and director of the Team for Reflection, Research, and Communication of the Company of Jesus (ERIC).

Moreno affirmed that the army has begun forcibly recruiting youngsters, including minors, in rural communities, especially banana regions, to 'strengthen its base.'

'They need to strengthen the base of the armed forces due to a potential uprising by commanders loyal to President Manuel Zelaya,' deposed on Sunday, said the priest, who commented that 'rumors' indicate that there is 'very strong' division within the army's ranks.

He said that he has reports that 'the old guard' of the armed forces is supporting the coup, while 'there are people in the new generation that are more educated and becoming more inclined to the demands of modern democracies.'

Father Moreno assured that Radio Progreso, headquartered in San Pedro Sula, is broadcasting 'clandestinely' since its facilities were taken over by the army last Sunday, hours after President Zelaya was captured and expelled to Costa Rica by armed forces.

For her part, Reina Rivera reported that television channels, radio stations, and the homes of several social activists are being watched by the army.

She also said that nearly 200 people were detained in the pro-Zelaya demonstrations of the past few days, some of whom were beaten and later released.

She also said that six protesters, whom she did not identify, are being sought and accused of 'sedition' and 'rebellion,' while officials and mayors, like Rodolfo Padilla of San Pedro Sula, are 'in hiding' because they are 'persecuted' due to their affinity for Zelaya.

The telephone press conference was organized by the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), whose Central American office is in San Jose, and throughout [the conversation] the activists said they fear for the safety of protesters, human rights defenders, and officials aligned with the deposed President Zelaya.

They also asserted that the large Honduran media outlets 'are aligned with the coupists' since their owners are 'big businessmen' that 'are part of the conspiracy.'

In the event that Zelaya is arrested if he returns to Honduras, as the new President Roberto Micheletti has warned, Rivera said that a 'very complex' scenario would arise, adding that the position of the international community will be 'decisive' in settling the situation.

The coup in Honduras has received the widespread condemnation of the international community and Zelaya announced that he will return to Tegucigalpa this weekend, after the 72-hour deadline given to Micheletti's Government by the Organization of American States to reinstate [Zelaya] as head of state.