Crofton man calls attention to atrocities in Honduras

Just a few days ago, Nick Carroll was aiding poor and badly beaten residents in detention camps in Honduras, victims of the fallout from the military overthrow of its democratically elected president. The de facto military government suspended the country’s constitution and locked down the city following Zelaya’s return.

Carroll, 86, spent last week carefully navigating the streets of Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital city, during the brutal nights and days following the implementation of martial law in the country.

A retired educator, Carroll is also a veteran civil and human rights advocate. He said he helped start an interracial relations club at Georgetown Preparatory School in Rockville, where he taught Latin and French in the 1940s. He was part of the Vietnam protest demonstrations in the 60s and worked for 25 years studying desegregation for the U.S. Department of Education.

Carroll also spent a good deal of time advocating for peace in civil-war-torn Nicaragua. His interest in the country led him to the solidarity work Hyattsville-based Quixote Center does in the country.

He eventually started traveling to Nicaragua on Quixote-sponsored missions.

In June, Honduras’ democratically elected president, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was escorted out of the country by armed soldiers in a military-led coup after Zelaya tried to drum up support to amend the country’s constitution to extend the one-term limit of the president.

Other Central and South American countries have refused to recognize the de facto government and fear the return of military coups to their countries.

Meanwhile, relatively few news organizations seem to be covering the conflict and the United States appears to be waffling on its position regarding the new government, observers said.

That prompted the Quixote Center to get engaged in the crisis.

“We thought this was the kind of situation that demanded us to get more involved,” said Tom Loudon, the center’s co-director. “(The resistance) is very widespread and entirely nonviolent. We’re looking at something very much historic in Latin America.”

The center has sent more than a half dozen delegations to the country on fact-finding missions since the conflict erupted. Carroll was part of an eight-member delegation that arrived in the country Sept. 16.

Carroll and the delegation were on their way north to Santa Rosa de Copan and San Pedro Sula when Zelaya returned to Honduras and sought refuge inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Almost immediately, military personnel locked down the city, a curfew was put in place that kept residents inside for 45 hours, and disobedient citizens were beaten and rounded into baseball stadiums that were being used as detention camps.

“It was eerie driving around at night with nobody on the streets,” Carroll recalled.

Carroll and the delegation had rallied with Zelaya sympathizers outside the Brazilian embassy prior to the city’s lockdown. He said he saw the scars from people, many of them women and juveniles, beaten by armed guards on the streets.

In the impoverished neighborhood and barrios the delegation visited, residents stayed out past the curfew, burning tires in spontaneous celebrations in direct defiance of the government. But violent protesting and rioting was nonexistent.

“There were no guns on the street. Everything was so one-sided,” Carroll said of the military presence in Tegucigalpa.

Loudon said the Quixote group hopes to establish a long-term or permanent representative in the country to keep track of conditions.

Carroll said the trip was one of the most memorable he’s been a part of, and he hopes word about the conditions Hondurans face reaches the most ordinary citizen in Crofton and the United States.

“This is something that needs to be out there,” he said.

This article appeared on Oct. 2, 2009 in the Annapolis Capital daily and the author was Ryan Justin Fox rfox@capitalgazette.com…