Is Zelaya’s new army really “pacific”?

    As negotiations with Costa Rican president Óscar Arias between the two claimants to the Honduran presidency remain unproductive, reports say that ousted leader Manuel Zelaya is massing a “pacific resistance army” on the Nicaraguan side of his country’s southern border. Says Costa Rica’s English paper, the Tico Times:

    Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will mobilize a “popular, pacific army” of loyal followers to join him in his promised return to Honduras, he said from his exile post in Nicaragua opposite the border with his homeland.

    “We will begin with a training period. The best way is for five trainers to train 20,” Zelaya said Wednesday evening to a crowd of hundreds of supporters in Ocotal. He added that the struggle will remain peaceful and the members of his force “will use weapons of intelligence and reason.”

    China’s Xinhua tells the same story:

    The National Front of Pacific Resistance created by ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in Nicaraguan border with Honduras, will become the People’s Army of Pacific Resistance, Zelaya announced Thursday.

    Zelaya announced in Ocotal, 26km to Honduran border, the beginning of a training, education, exercise, and vigilance stage of the new people’s Army.

    However, Zelaya said it is a pacific people’s army needed in Honduras to defend its conquest and rights with the weapons of intelligence and reason.

    Zelaya told the press that he has visited many estates in the nearby of the bordering zone, where the camps of his resistance army could be set.

    It is encouraging to see that, in a crisis with so much potential to erupt into regional war, at least one of the sides has decided to pursue its goals with coordinated, principled, nonviolent methods. But the AFP, also reporting on Zelaya’s utterances last week, tells a very different, much less rosy story:

    “Either the coup is reversed or generalized violence is coming,” Zelaya warned the interim government headed by Roberto Micheletti in an interview Friday with Nicaragua’s state-owned Channel 4 TV.

    “The people have the right to protest, to insurrection. This is the case of the Honduran people, which is being brutally repressed,” he said.

    Soon after, around 100 Honduran men belonging to Zelaya’s “popular army” began training exercises in a camp on the Nicaraguan side of the border with Honduras, an AFP journalist witnessed.

    The recruits, mostly young men and all unarmed, exercised, marched, and carried out maneuvers under the direction of leaders who said they were Honduran army veterans.


    Zelaya announced Wednesday that — with permission from leftist Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega — he would organize his own army based on the more than 300 Honduran supporters that gathered at his base at the border town of Ocotal, 226 kilometers (140 miles) north of the Nicaraguan capital Managua.

    This will be “the popular militia that will guard the president upon his return,” Zelaya said.

    “If you want peace, prepare for war,” Ortega said. “Precisely to avoid war we have to prepare for whoever thinks they can come take a stroll in Nicaragua.”

    Ortega said that “it made no sense to launch any aggression against Nicaragua” because it has a well trained army ready to defend the country.

    No mention of “pacific.” It doesn’t directly speak of weapons, but you can bet “Honduran army veterans” aren’t working from the playbooks of Gandhi or Gene Sharp. Not a popular resistance movement but an elite guard for the president. Which account is true, or more true? What is Zelaya creating?

    If you can shed any light on these conflicting accounts, please let us know in the comments.

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