Hondurans scramble for food as presidential crisis drags on
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Hungry Hondurans scrambled through looted stores and lined up for food yesterday during a break in a long curfew called to halt violence that erupted with the return of the country’s deposed leftist president.
Troops and police ringed the Brazilian Embassy, where the nation’s ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, took shelter on Monday after returning home in a daring challenge to the interim government that threw him out at gunpoint in June. Leaders of the interim government have vowed to arrest Zelaya if he leaves the shelter of the diplomatic mission.
Most Hondurans were trapped as well, cooped up in their homes since Monday evening by a government order to stay off the streets, an order ignored by some looters and pro-Zelaya protesters.
Schools, businesses, airports, and border crossings closed, though the new government lifted the nationwide curfew for six hours yesterday so that businesses could open briefly and people could buy what they needed.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil used the podium at the UN General Assembly in New York to demand Zelaya be reinstated as Honduras’s president, and the US State Department called for restraint by both sides.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the United States, which has been in contact with Honduran officials, had helped persuade authorities to restore water and power service they had cut at the Brazilian Embassy.
About two dozen people at a supermarket littered with overturned shelves hunted through shards of glass for undamaged food.
Thousands of Zelaya supporters marched in the direction of the Brazilian Embassy but were blocked by soldiers and riot police, who used tear gas to disperse them after the protesters threw rocks and sticks.
Police said they arrested 113 people after scores of businesses were looted, as protesters skirmished with officers Tuesday night.
Zelaya told the Argentine cable channel Todo Noticias that 10 of his supporters had been killed, though he gave no details. Authorities said there were no deaths, though they said one person suffered a gunshot wound.
Dr. Mario Sanchez at the Escuela Hospital in Tegucigalpa said three people were treated for gunshot wounds there.
At an upscale shopping mall in the capital, women wearing track suits and pearl earrings formed a bumper-to-bumper line of orange shopping carts that snaked around the parking lot of a Price Smart they expected to soon open.
“This is a nightmare,’’ said Lijia Acietuno, a 26-year-old business manager. “Look what this man has done to our country,’’ she said, referring to Zelaya.