Ex-Honduran leader complains of harassment as legislators back outster


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — For 73 days now, toppled Honduran
President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya has slept in the library of the
Brazilian Embassy, where soldiers outside harassed their former
commander-in-chief by barking like dogs, meowing like cats and blasting him
with the Mexican ballad “Two-legged Rat.”

“The Brazilian embassy is a neo-Nazi concentration
camp,” Zelaya told The Guardian newspaper.

The president who was forced out at gunpoint five months ago
put his fate Wednesday in the hands of the Honduran congress, which debated for
hours on whether to let him finish his term, which ends Jan. 27. More than 90
legislators — a clear majority — signed a motion ratifying Zelaya’s June
ouster, giving the 56-year-old former rancher few hopes of making his way back
to the presidential palace.

He’s more likely to spend the rest of his mandate at the
embassy, where clothes are washed by hand and canines sniff the food brought

The congressional debate came five months after the military
broke into Zelaya’s house at dawn and ushered him to Costa Rica. Zelaya sneaked
back to his country and holed up at the embassy, where the United Nations
Security Council said he has been subjected to harassment.

“Confinement is always a very difficult situation,
especially when you are defenseless, surrounded by hundreds of soldiers
constantly pointing their weapons,” said Carlos Eduardo Reina, the latest
of Zelaya’s advisers to abandon the embassy. “Especially when you are
being subjected to radiations, cell phone blockages, music at midnight, shrill
noises that alter your ability to hear. So many things; so many things.”

Zelaya and about 300 of his followers rushed the embassy on
Sept. 21. At first, the scene was chaotic. The light and water were cut off,
and hundreds shared a handful of restrooms.

The number of people at the embassy quickly trickled to
about 50, including five journalists. One of them fasted in protest and drank
his own urine.

The president, the journalists and the presidential advisers
slept on air mattresses while the rank and file caught winks on cardboard. The
military issued arbitrary rules: They let food in and allowed used clothes —
but none new. No iPods or TVs.

They were entertained by board games they designed
themselves and the never-ending supply of books about Brazil. A musical band
formed, while an electrician rigged a universal mobile phone charger and fixed
the sole TV.

“I wore the same clothes for a week,” said Gerardo
Valladares, a Zelaya backer who remained for 55 days. “The worst part was
the loud noise they blasted at us using some kind of sonic apparatus. This
device is for use in open fields, and we were in an enclosed space. You had to
open your mouth and cover your ears, but there was nowhere to hide from such a

Marco Giron, a physician who left the embassy two weeks ago,
said the military harassed Zelaya and his followers in a variety of ways that
affected their health. He said a strange globe with a hose attached was perched
outside the window; Zelaya believed it piped in toxic gases.

Supporters wrapped Zelaya’s room in foil to protect him from
the radiation waves to block cell phones, which they believed were harmful.

The loud noises and the signals they used to block the cell
phone rattled their nerves, the doctor said. People started getting nosebleeds
and having trouble hearing, Giron said. After a few days, Giron asked the
United Nations to send in medical facemasks and hand sanitizer, because so many
people were getting sick.

“They said we were crazy,” Giron said. “They
wanted to affect the presidents’ nervous system and ours. They wanted a serious
siege against us, and they got it. Some people even started to


Giron treated dozens of people, but never Zelaya.

“That man is like an oak,” Giron said. “He
never got sick.”

Rafael Sarmiento, 25, said he left after 40 days with
permanent nerve damage.

“I have to open my eyes in the morning with my
fingers,” said Sarmiento, a member of the pro-Zelaya Resistance Movement.
“People would wake up in the middle of the night screaming from
nightmares. The psychological pressure was incredible. It was something new
every day.”

The handful of journalists at the embassy said they were not
affected by any devices, but noted that on one occasion, 40 people got diarrhea
after the food went bad while the military took two hours examining it.

Zelaya, his family and aides controlled three of the six
bathrooms, leaving the dozens of sick people to share the other three.

“Of course there was a lot of harassment, especially in
the night,” said Fabiano Maisonnave, a correspondent for Brazil’s Folha de
Sao Paulo newspaper. “I don’t believe they were using X-rays or some kind
of supersonic device or any stuff like this. There were people who said they
had symptoms of that, and even the president said it, but we journalists never
believed in that.”

But Maisonnave noted that Zelaya’s sleep-deprived militants
suffered worse conditions than anyone else, because they were forced to rest on
cardboard on the floor outdoors.

“These people were in a very, very stressful
situation,” Maisonnave said. “We were not in that situation.”

De facto President Roberto Micheletti told McClatchy
Newspapers in a September interview that technicians tested the air and found
no such gas poisoning took place. The National Police also denied the use of
radiation or toxic gas.

Giron said he and other supporters were pressured by
Brazilian diplomats to leave. Now, only about 20 followers remain, including
Zelaya’s chief aide Rasel Tome.

“We will stand firm,” Tome said, “until we
are successful in restoring democracy.”

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.