First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, Wife of Ousted Honduran President, Speaks Out About Coup
AMY GOODMAN:After a failed attempt to return to Honduras over the weekend, ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has complained that U.S. condemnation of the coup against him is waning. Zelaya had tried to cross back into Honduras from Nicaragua on Friday but stayed for less than an hour.
Zelaya criticized the United States for not doing enough to condemn the regime which ousted him and says the U.S. has stopped describing his removal from power as a "coup.” Zelaya also asked President Obama in a letter to prohibit bank transactions and cancel the U.S. visas of individuals involved in the coup. The list includes the de facto Honduran president Roberto Micheletti, Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi, public prosecutor Rosa America Miranda, and all the heads of armed forces branches led by General Romeo Vasquez Velazquez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Honduras.
Speaking to supporters from the Nicaraguan town of Ocotal, close to the Honduran border, Zelaya called on the U.S. to take a bolder stance against the coup.
PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA:[translated] Secretary Clinton needs to confront the dictatorship with force, so we will be able to speak well about President Obama, confront it with strength. She should stop evading the topic of the dictatorship and confront it, so that we know exactly what the United States’ position is in relation to this coup.
AMY GOODMAN:At a news conference on Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Zelaya’s attempt to cross back into Honduras as “reckless” and urged all parties to, quote, “avoid any provocative action that could lead to violence.”
Meanwhile, human rights groups in Honduras note that two pro-Zelaya demonstrators were killed along the border area, reportedly by armed security forces of the military coup. Honduran troops at checkpoints have prevented thousands from amassing at the border to show their support for Zelaya.
Well, for more on the situation in Honduras and the prospects of the ousted president’s return, I’m joined now by the wife of the ousted Honduran president, First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. She’s spent the past day trying to get to the border and joins me now from the town of Jacaleapa.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mrs. Zelaya. What happened when you tried to get to the border?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] Since our journey began on Friday from Tegucigalpa, there have been checkpoints with police and soldiers all along the way. They have decreed a curfew, which, for us, is a state of siege. Choluteca has already been under the curfew for eighty hours. These are border departments along Nicaragua’s border. They are not allowing food to come into the departments, and they’re also not allowing people that have crossed the border to receive food, medicine, water.
We’ve been waiting at this checkpoint for sixty hours now, which is just twenty-five kilometers from the border. Two days ago, on Saturday, General Romeo Vasquez offered the President’s family a helicopter to transport them to him in Nicaragua. And the President’s office, the current president’s office, issued a communiqué saying that they would place a private jet at the disposal of Mr. Zelaya’s family to go anywhere around the world.
AMY GOODMAN:Why don’t you use it?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] We are Hondurans. This is our land, these are our people, and this is our family. We do not want to go to another country. Our constitution states that no Honduran can be removed from his country. The President was taken out of his home with shots being fired, arms, bayonets. And now they want to commit another crime, taking his family out of the country.
I don’t understand. I don’t know where in the world families are prevented from being united. I want to see my children. I am a mother that wants to see her children and her husband, and we have not seen each other for thirty days. This is not acceptable for us.
The media in Honduras are now saying that the defense minister has said that it’s the First Lady that is causing the demonstrations in the streets. Imagine how they twist the news and information in this country. When we see checkpoints, when it’s the soldiers and the military that have taken over the streets, they are the ones that don’t allow us to go through. And now they say that it’s us that is stopping traffic in this department.
AMY GOODMAN:We’re speaking to the First Lady of Honduras, her husband deposed, President Zelaya. She is trying to reach him on the border.
Mrs. Zelaya, what do you—what is your response to Hillary Clinton calling your husband’s actions “reckless,” trying to cross over the border from Nicaragua into Honduras?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] Do you think it’s reckless to try and rejoin your family? Do you think it’s irresponsible or reckless that someone wants to return to his country? Do you think it’s reckless to try to call the world’s attention to the injustices and the human rights violations that have occurred?
AMY GOODMAN:Your husband has said -- your husband has said that the U.S. is not doing enough to support his return. Is that your feeling, as well? What do you think the U.S. can do?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] It’s been a month since the coup, and every hour, every minute in the country, there is great anguish and desperation. Can you understand what this means for Honduras and for our family, that we cannot even sleep, we cannot be in peace, because at any time we feel like they can come into the house? Can you understand what it means for us that at any moment we could be kidnapped, people could come into our home, they could arrive with a letter saying that we’re going to be held prisoner? The anguish and the suffering and the persecution that we are suffering constantly, how long do we have to wait for these things to change?
AMY GOODMAN:What do you think the U.S. can do?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] The first thing they need to do is to take radical measures against the coup makers, those who have taken away liberty of—freedom of expression, freedom of movement. These are rights that are inherent to all Hondurans. Today we are demanding the return of democracy and the return of peace in our country.
Hillary Clinton is a mother, a wife and also a daughter. And today, I am appealing to her sentiments as a woman, so that she can understand the difficulties that we are experiencing here in the country.
Today we are demanding immediate actions. We are asking for rejection of this coup. We have watched friendly countries around the world, the OAS, the UN, reject it within seventy-two hours and demand the return of the President. Three hundred hours have transpired since the coup, and the President still has not been restored to power.
AMY GOODMAN:Do you think the United States should cut off all economic and military aid to Honduras until your husband is restored as president?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] I thought that that had happened from the first day. I’m surprised that you ask me that, because that means that they’re still supporting this de facto regime.
I’d like to tell you something about what happened to the President, and I’ll give you an example. What would you do if people came into your house and beat you and beat your family, and then this aggressor wanted to sit down with you and say, “OK, be nice, and stay out of the country”? Imagine, they have violated the President’s rights, they have invented accusations of crimes against him, when they never presented any order of arrest. They took him out, tied up, transferred him to another country, and now they sit him down to negotiate with the criminals. Imagine the patience and the tolerance of President Zelaya, who has accepted all the proposals in order to peacefully resolve the problem in our country.
AMY GOODMAN:Is President Zelaya returning to Washington, DC, on Tuesday? We are getting different reports. Is he staying on the border, or is he returning?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] There are rumors that Clinton has issued an invitation for this Tuesday, but we have not received any information, and the President has not received a call about this.
And we want to be very clear: we have a great deal of urgency. We have urgency to resolve the conflict in our country. People are being arrested all around the country, in all the departments, in all the cities. They don’t allow people to move around. They don’t even allow people to gather to places where they can express their will. They need to be heard.
AMY GOODMAN:We have reports that two people were killed, two Hondurans, along the border, going to greet your husband as he came from Nicaragua. Is this true?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] The day after the coup, the army trampled someone in Tegucigalpa and killed him.
AMY GOODMAN:And were you—were you—
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] A young man was killed at point-blank range outside the airport, when he went to receive the President the first time. The only thing that people have now is faith and the desire for the return of democracy to the country.
AMY GOODMAN:Some people are saying that in the next election, you, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of the ousted Honduran President Zelaya, should run for president. Do you have any comment or plans to do so?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] There were two deaths here on the border. There have been injured. People have been arrested. There are indigenous people in the mountains looking for the path to get to the border, because the only thing they want to do is show their will, because the only president they recognize is President Zelaya.
AMY GOODMAN:Are you going to attempt to -- are you going to attempt to see your husband on the border again today?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] Imagine -- in terms of the question about my candidacy, imagine the extent of the evil to think that we are looking for some spotlight. The only thing that I want is to see my husband. I want my children to see their father. And they want to try to convert this into some kind of political act.
AMY GOODMAN:Are you with your children now? Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, you and President Zelaya have four children. Where are they?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] My two younger children are here with me, and my older daughter is pregnant and in a very delicate state. My other child, Hector, is in a safe place, because they’ve tried to use him as a pressure point to keep the President out of the country.
We have been on this checkpoint for sixty hours, and our only demand is to allow us to get to the border so that I can hug the President, hug my husband, and that my children can hug their father.
AMY GOODMAN:Were you tear-gassed or hurt physically in any way as you attempted to move forward?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] No. At the checkpoint, there has been no aggression, and I think that’s because they realize what it would mean for them if they attempt it against the family. But just a few kilometers from the checkpoint, they have been throwing tear gas, beating people, and arresting them.
AMY GOODMAN:We just have thirty seconds. Your final message to the people of the United States and to our viewers and listeners around the world, Mrs. Castro de Zelaya?
XIOMARA CASTRO DE ZELAYA:[translated] We want justice. We want peace. We demand the return to democracy. And as a family, we demand that our family be rejoined, that we can be together again. Mel is the center of our family, and that’s what we’re demanding, to be able to see father, son, children, husband.
AMY GOODMAN:Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, I want to thank you very much for being with us, the wife of the ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. She is attempting to reach him on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, has yet to be able to do so. She also led a major march in Tegucigalpa a week or two ago, just after the coup.
This is Democracy Now! Tomorrow, we’ll speak with the ousted president, with President Zelaya. And you can go to our website for our recent interview with him when he was in Washington, at democracynow.org. Thank you very much, and be safe.