Today in passing, a Honduran colleague told me that the latest news was that the national police were on strike because they had not been paid and that, when the de facto regime’s designate to run the Treasury, Gabriela Nuñez, said she would get them back pay, they said they would refuse to accept it.
The story is less important as a statement of fact, although AFP reports today confirm that at least some of the National Police joined the national strike today demanding extra pay for the work created by the coup (!), and Telesur reportedly interviewed a “police official” who said the police would stay in their stations, and not carry out orders to detain Zelaya.
Rather, I offer the story — complete with the second half about rejecting payment from the de facto regime, for which I have no independent support — as evidence of the hopes Hondurans waiting for some turning point in their quest for restoration of the constitutional government are placing in the police or military changing sides.
How widespread police participation in the national strike might have been is an open question. The pro-coup Honduran paper La Tribuna said the strike was limited to a single station, accounting for 200 officers. AFP reported mixed findings:
In the streets of Tegucigalpa, police were not observed, while many public buildings remained guarded by military officers. Nonetheless, in the traffic stops installed on the route toward the Nicaraguan border there were police working together with soldiers, as confirmed by journalists of the AFP.
But the most interesting report in this vein comes from La Vanguardia of Spain and provides the title for this post. Here, for the non-Spanish speakers, is a translation of the direct quotes from police interviewed by reporter Joaquim Ibarz in the border town of Los Manos:
Alejandro Diaz, chief inspector of police: “Ha, ha, ha” . . . “Me detain him? Ha, ha, ha. What are you saying!”
Lieutenant Colonel Juan Ramón Gavilán Soto, in charge of the military outpost: “We don’t have orders to detain him, nor are we here for that. We should only guard security and avoid disturbances.”
What might such isolated reports tell us about the actual situation on the ground? It is hard to know how they will translate into action once President Zelaya passes the border. But the consensus among the Central Americans here in Costa Rica has been that it will take the police and military deciding not to support the de facto regime for there to be any chance of restoration of the legitimate government.
This article was first published by the Honduras Coup 2009 blog on 23 July 2009; it is reproduced here for educational purposes.