TEGUCIGALPA — Sitting next to her younger brother’s white casket on the back of a pickup truck, an angry Rebeca Murillo screamed at soldiers guarding the city’s international airport as the hearse drove past the deadly site.
”Assassins!” she repeated several times over.
Her brother Isis Obed Murillo, 19, was shot by Honduran soldiers following violent protests that broke out when thousands awaited the unsuccessful return of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
The teenager’s name and the images of his bloody body being carried away from the scene have now become a rallying point for those against the post-Zelaya government. Grafitti bearing Isis’ name has been spray-painted on city walls with words calling for Zelaya’s return.
”He was just a kid standing up for his rights,” said José Miguel Otero, 23, at a recent pro-Zelaya march down one of Tegucigalpa’s main streets. “His sacrifice has now given others like me the courage to continue standing up for what we believe in.”
Honduras’ youth have become an integral part of manning the rallies and marches both for and against Zelaya’s ouster. For many Hondurans born after the 1980s, the stories of coups and military regimes were things of the past, circumstances they learned about in history books or from tales told by parents and grandparents. Now, lessons of life and liberty, democracy and protest are becoming intertwined with their everyday lives.
Murillo himself was from Villeda Morales, a mountain town on the outskirts of the capital, named after former Honduran President Ramón Villeda Morales, who was forced from office by the country’s military in 1963. The country also experienced coups in 1955 and 1972. The 1970s marked a period of military rule in the country until democratic elections were held in 1981.
In the country’s three past military coups, there was never a large outpouring of organized protests or demonstrations, because young and old feared retribution or death.
”Those were the real military coups” said Roberto Eduardo Antuñez, 70, a retired attorney living in Tegucigalpa, who recalls all three of the country’s coup d’ états. “People were too afraid to do anything in those days. Protests on the streets would not even be conceivable. If you spoke against the regime then, you knew you would be blacklisted from getting any jobs.”
The importance of having Honduras’ youth engaged in the movements on either side of the issue is not lost on older generations. Television stations geared toward youth with music videos and news segments are now using the programs to call for unity.
A day before Zelaya was expected to land in Honduras, the national television station, Channel 8, debuted a program called NotiJuventud, where three charismatic young men in their 20s spoke of sports, road trips and the need to “unite for peace.”
”I remember watching the Honduras-versus-El Salvador soccer game and how happy we all were,” said one of the show’s presenters named Wilmer. “I was hugging people I didn’t even know. We were all just happy for our country. If we were able to be so united then, we should be able to unite now.”
In a country where roughly half of its 7.8 million residents live on less than $2 per day, Zelaya has attracted a large following among young school teachers and state workers for whom Zelaya pushed wage increases. His rallies also have attracted the presence of stick-hoisting youngsters who cover their faces with bandannas.
”I’m not just standing here for me, I’m standing here for my future children,” said José Rodolfo Gómez, 25, an elementary school teacher in a cowboy hat and a T-shirt bearing the image of Argentine revolutionary leader Ernesto ”Che” Guevara.“If they can go in and manhandle our president now, what will that mean in the future?”
Many young professionals and university students have sided with the new government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, saying Zelaya’s politics were too divisive and leading the country down a communist path.
”I think young people were engaged at some political level, but I think when Zelaya tried to start bullying his way for a second term, we started becoming more alert,” Karla Espinosa, 25, said as she marched at a pro-Mincheletti rally. “I think this will be a lesson to all the young people, that we have to open our eyes, and be vigilant of our leaders, not just take a back seat as things happen.”
While youth-driven political movements elsewhere — most recently in Iran — have relied heavily on Internet mediums like Twitter or Facebook, only a small percentage of Hondurans own a computer or have access to the Internet. According to UNICEF, less than one percent of the country’s population were Internet users as of 2006, the most recent data available.
WORD OF MOUTH
Instead, youngsters have relied largely on word of mouth between the tightknit coloñias, or neighborhoods, that comprise the capital city. Those that have cellphones tend to send text messages, or mensajitos as they are called here.
Television stations have also aired announcements detailing locations for the rallies. It’s also where news of Murillo’s death and burial was carried.
Murillo originally hailed from Zelaya’s rural home state of Olancho, but his family moved into a small brick house without glass in the windows in the Villeda Morales community less than a year ago. His father held nightly evangelical church services in the home.The teenager, described by neighbors as reserved, worked at a supermarket stocking groceries and was one of 11 children. Just a day after Zelaya’s removal, he started making the roughly 30-mile journey to central Tegucigalpa to join the Zelaya rallies.
”He never really talked about political stuff, he just said he wanted to defend our country,” said neighbor Ana Carolina.
Honduras’ human rights commission has said it will investigate Murillo’s slaying, while military officials contend they only fired rubber bullets into the crowd.
The bloody melee took place July 5 when soldiers fired off shots and threw tear gas into the crowd, after an unruly segment of protesters attempted to tear down a chain link fence blocking access to the runway where the plane carrying Zelaya’s was attempting to land.
Murillo was shot in the back of the head. A group of men quickly grabbed his body and loaded him onto a flatbed truck trying to make its way through the crowd. TV camera crews captured his last gasps of breath, in videos that have since been posted on YouTube.
By Monday afternoon, Murillo’s family and friends were en route to Olancho to bury him in his white coffin, where he wore a crisp white collared shirt.
”How sad,” Ana Carolina said. “I don’t think anyone thought it would come to this.”
SOURCE: Miami Herald, http://www.webcitation.org/5iqtk8yk3