2009-07. Tragedy at Toncontin: Army Shoots and Kills Protesters
July 6th, 2009
July 5th, 2009.
Issues: Impunity / Coup d’Etat
On the day when ousted President Manuel Zelaya was slated to return, thousands of supporters gathered at the Pedagogica University in order to march towards Toncontin Airport. Meanwhile, at the airport, some gathered early to await Mel’s arrival despite the suffocating presence of Honduran security forces.
Even though the security forces held several check points to stop the march, the Police and Army decided to allow the march’s arrival to Toncontin. Until then, both sides had behaved remarkably respectful and peaceful.
Nevertheless, a few minutes later, on the far end of the landing strip, tensions brewed out of control. When protesters began trespassing the barbed-wire fence, the army responded by shooting tear gas and live rounds. One person was killed on the scene, dozens were injured, and overnight, at least three other people died in local hospitals.
“The armed forces have fired live rounds against unarmed civilians. For over five hours, the protesters behaved respectfully of the army and police. There had been no confrontations. No one had sticks or guns. The march’s organizers had even decommissioned stones from a few protesters. But the army shot at us just like that, in cold blood. There was no need to shoot! Yes, some had started to cut and remove the barbed-wire fence [so as to enter the landing strip], this cannot be denied. But it was not necessary to shoot civilians with live rounds. Once again, so that the people of Honduras will remain united: the blood of a martyr is the seed for many Hondurans who will stand up and remain firm against such de facto government – this government of delinquents. We are only following Article 3rd of our Constitution: ‘Nobody should obey a Government which has reached power by means of usurpation.’”
-Cesar Omar Silva, television journalist for State-owned Channel 8.
Manuel Zelaya’s airplane flew over Toncontin airport a couple of times before aborting landing attempts and headed for Managua, Nicaragua. The plane was not given permission to land as military personnel and vehicles blocked the runway. His plans for a return to Honduras are not yet known at this time.
Versión en español aquí.
This photo-essay was completed with the contribution of Angela J. Bunch C.