UNITED NATIONS – Honduras' ousted president addressed the United Nations General Assembly by cellular phone late Monday from the Brazilian embassy in his country where he is holed up, calling on the world body to guarantee his personal safety and turn back the "dictatorship" that has taken power.
"Those who still harbored any doubt that a dictatorship has been installed here can lay those doubts to rest," Manuel Zelaya said via a telephone brought to the General Assembly podium by his foreign minister, Patricia Rodas. "This is a fascist dictatorship that has repressed the Honduran people."
Zelaya sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy on Sept. 21, after slipping back into his country.
He urged the U.N. to adopt a "firm position" against the "barbarism" of the government that deposed him in a June military coup, speaking for several minutes and drawing sustained applause from assembled diplomats, some of whom stood.
Rodas then spoke for about half an hour, saying "our president is under siege by military forces."
"He is being threatened constantly," she said. "Every minute, every second, there could come to pass a tragic event that would bring history to a standstill."
The government that seized power, sending Zelaya into exile in his pajamas, has suspended civil liberties, silenced opposition broadcasters and sent police and soldiers into the streets to face down pro-Zelaya protesters.
Rodas said "the lives of our president and our people are in peril," claiming Honduran authorities "are mobilizing" against the Brazilian embassy.
On Monday, the head of the coup-installed government, Roberto Micheletti, denied that, repeating a pledge not to attack the Brazilian Embassy.
He also sent "a big hug" to Brazil's president, a day after giving him a 10-day ultimatum to expel Zelaya or move him to Brazil.
Rodas said that in addition to closing opposition media, authorities had tortured at least two Honduran journalists and expelled some international reporters. She claimed police have raped women during street demonstrations and dragged Zelaya supporters off to sports stadiums where they have remained detained indefinitely.
"Honduras is becoming an enormous prison, it is becoming an enormous concentration camp," Rodas said.
The foreign minister, who herself was forced out of the country the same day Zelaya was, has made similar claims in recent days, however, and Honduran authorities have said repeatedly there is no truth to them.
Rodas' comments came after U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said any attack by police and soldiers on the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa "would be a disaster."
Pascoe told a news conference that the situation in the Central American country "took a seriously bad turn with the threats on the Brazilian embassy."
"This of course is a very serious problem for all of us," Pascoe said. "It would be a disaster if any action were taken to violate international law on the inviolability of the embassies."