Former U.S. Marine creates citizen journalist site to uncover real story in Honduras

LatinaLista — The overthrow of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya Rosales has created more than just a tiny country defying the world in defending their actions but it has created a surprising spin-off benefit — the rise of citizen journalists.

Citizen Journalist Hunter Smith
Latina Lista first learned that U.S.-based news outlets were getting the wrong story out after hearing from Honduran-based bloggers that pointed out some crucial facts “overlooked” by mainstream media:
1. Zelaya had been breaking the law for several months and his last act was defying a Supreme Court order not to hold a referendum vote that would have extended his presidency.
2. Supporters of the overthrow of Zelaya outnumbered Zelaya’s supporters and the protests held by so-called “coup supporters” were large and peaceful in contrast to the violence perpetuated by the Zelaya marches.
Most of the Honduras-based bloggers that have communicated with Latina Lista are, interestingly, American-born but living for one reason or another in Honduras. Because they speak English, understand what is happening in the country and saw how quickly the world was to condemn the “overthrow,” these citizen journalists have taken it upon themselves to report the story as the majority of Hondurans see it.
The latest citizen journalist to take up the cause of getting the real story out has a story of his own. His name is Hunter Smith and he’s a former Marine. While working in his parents’ business waiting to start school in the fall, Hunter watched the news reports about Honduras.
In his mind, the stories didn’t gel and he felt that the only way to get to the truth was to do something he had never dreamed of doing — being a citizen journalist. So from July 3 to July 17, Hunter has been acting like a journalist — chasing leads, interviewing officials and witnesses and writing up what he has uncovered on his blog Honduras Abandoned.
His insights lead to a very different story that mainstream media continues to report.

Always ready for a new adventure, I decided to go find out for myself. I was tired of biased news reports and I had to see for myself if this tiny Central American country truly underwent a coup, or if they legally removed a potential dictator and chose to be a free people.
This site is just a one trick pony. My stay here in Honduras is quickly coming to an end. Once I return to the States, I will no longer be updating on the situation here in Honduras. All I hoped for was to see what was truly happening and write about it on this little blog. If it was able to accurately inform at least one person, then I consider this venture a success.

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10 Comments

  1. Tony Herrera said:

    Hunter Smith states on his blog: “I looked to the internet where I came across some great articles, that explained what happened was legal.” Yet, fails to provide any links to such articles.
    Hunter Smith may be involved in Citizen Journalism, but it is flawed journalism.
    You indicate that Zelaya was, “defying a Supreme Court order not to hold a referendum vote”.
    There was never any such court order.
    Zelaya’s move violated articles of the Constitution that forbid changes to the presidential limit of one four-year term. Zelaya ran afoul of his support base and the electoral court, the Supreme Court, the attorney general, Congress and members of his own party declared Mr. Zelaya’s intention unlawful.
    The military stepped in and stepped in and the rest is history, but the question remains whether that was that the correct process. Why did the Honduran Congress not simply impeach Zelaya and bring him to trial?
    It still remains to be seen how the interim Honduran government intends to govern as it becomes increasingly isolated. Perhaps, most of the Honduran population support Zelaya’s ouster, but will they continue to do so while they go hungry and trade embargoes are enacted?
    It’s telling that Former U.S. Marine Hunter Smith does not have much of an opinion about Zelaya being deposed by the Honduran military. He’s got little to say about the fact that a military that is both funded and trained with our U.S Taxpayer Dollars has ousted a Democratically Elected President.
    Sorry, but Hunter Smith is not a very good “Citizen Journalist” and sadly little more than a “one trick pony”.

  2. Marisa Treviño said:

    Not sure where the assumption can be made that Smith’s journalism is anymore flawed than that of CNN or any other news organization. The news industry is seeing that citizen journalists, many times, are striving to be just as diligent and trustworthy in presenting another side to stories.
    Also, in rereading my post, I realize I did miswrite – there was no Supreme Court order, it was a Congressional law that was passed not to hold the vote. The Supreme Court order was for Zelaya to reinstate Gen. Vasquez whom the president fired for refusing to help him defy the congressional law. (Check this article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8120161.stm)
    You ask an interesting question — why didn’t they just impeach Zelaya. To me it’s curious that we continue to apply our own standards and practices on a society that has not had as long an experience with democracy as our nation. Why is it difficult to understand that a country, young in democracy, would revert to the most familiar way to oust someone? Just because it was done by the military does not mean that it was a coup in the traditional sense. The military would have stayed in power and they haven’t.
    From what I’ve been reading from bloggers and the news sites in Honduras, things aren’t better yet with this new administration but the expectations are higher. You talk about hunger but there was hunger under Zelaya, and there were monthly teacher strikes and rising unemployment.
    It was great that Zelaya was democratically elected. Unfortunately, his actions showed an all too familiar behavior trend and that was the belief he could do anything he wanted because he was president.
    That the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and the majority of Hondurans chose to oust or support his ouster, regardless of the manner, speaks far greater than one guy who is acknowledged to have been breaking the law and cohorting with Hugo Chavez.
    In this case, I just don’t see a coup like those of the past but I do see a positive change in a people who used to never fight back against corrupt politicians. If this is the definition of the new coup, more power to it.

  3. Bianca said:

    Thanks for the post. Again,I’d still like to see a post/blog for the current reports that are defending Zelaya. I think that this former Marine’s investigative journalism should still be applauded though because he did what most people could not do: he went to find out other perspectives.
    There is a good story on alternet and the correct question on the new referendum was NOT to get him reelected, it was to decide if the people wanted to amend the constitution or not (I could be a bit wrong about the second part).
    Update: I found it:http://www.alternet.org/world/141026/honduran_leader%27s_populism_is_what_provoked_military_violence/
    Pardon me if I’m jumping to conclusions, but who exactly is Mr. Hunter Smith interviewing besides officials? Sorry for the redundancy in the last comment I made about a week or so ago on the last blogger you hosted on Latina Lista, but I feel that I have to reiterate this thought. If you find any voices of native Hondurans that are of the poor and not elite, I think I will be just about fully convinced.
    Thanks for all your updates and guest voz bloggers Marisa!

  4. Marisa Treviño said:

    Hi Bianca, Have been working on trying to find someone. The problem is if they are poor, depending on level of poor, they don’t have access to the internet. Have put out another call to see if there is anyone who supports Zelaya who is blogging but they seem to be a rare breed.

  5. Tony Herrera said:

    I’m not defending CNN or any other mainstream media outlet for their reporting on Honduras. More importantly I believe much of the reporting on Honduras has been flawed very flawed, since very few of them have actually taken into consideration what articles of the Honduran Constitution Pres. Zelaya was violating.
    It’s also important to note that reasonable minds would differ on whether Gen. Vasquez was lawfully fired by Pres. Zelaya.
    The referendum ballots were to be distributed by the Military, as outlined in the Honduran Constitution, on a Sunday, but before that could happen the Honduran Congress hastily passed a law that week (on Tuesday) that appeared to block Pres. Zelaya from “holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections.”
    It’s clear that both sides were making moves clearly in support of their own objectives, but once again how did these move impact upon the Honduran Constitution?
    Much has been stated about the fact that Pres. Zelaya was widely unpopular and his critics have cited the fact that he had less than 30% support. If that was the case, why did the Honduran Congress and Military move to remove him given that by their own accounts it’s unlikely that Zelaya would have been re-elected?
    You indicated that Zelaya’s actions show an all to familiar behavior trend and that he was of the belief that he could do anything he wanted? My question would be, “If the current Honduran Constitution did not explicitly bar referendums, was his move towards a referendum illegal?
    My question is actually rhetorical, because neither of us are experts on the Honduras Constitution. The fact is that all of this has less to do with Pres. Zelaya than it does with his perceived cohorting with Hugo Chavez.
    Still, the fact that the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and majority of Hondurans chose to oust Pres. Zelaya is not enough for us to cheer his ouster and ignore the manner in which he was ousted. What matters is the rule of law.
    It’s great to see the positive change in which people take to the streets in civic engagement, but it’s troubling when citizens end up dying at the hands of the military that is tasked with protecting and defend them.
    We may never really know whether Zelaya was truly breaking the law with his referendum, since Congress clearly moved to block him from enacting such referendum.
    It will be left for the history books to ponder whether Zelaya’s opponents truly followed the Honduran Constitution and whether
    Gen. Romeo Vasquez was lawfully fired by Pres. Zelaya for his refusal to distribute the referendum ballots.
    The UN and OAS have both sided with Pres. Zelaya, so international support is clearly with the ousted President.
    There is no denying that hunger and poverty existed in Honduras under a Zelaya Administration, but it also has long existed before him.
    Honduras and it’s people will sadly be on the losing end of this no-win-situation. Regardless of how people in Honduras and Internationally feel about Zelaya being a pal of Hugo Chavez, his forcible removal from Honduras was a terrible misstep and one the interim government will never admit. The results are clearly more they bargained for, so it begs the question: Could this situation have been handled much differently?
    The answer is a resounding, Yes! The US will cut off millions of Dollars in aid will be cut off. Adding insult to injury Hugo Chavez will move to cut off the $105 million in energy (oil) cooperation funds which Venezuela now provides to Honduras.
    After the dust settles, did the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and the majority of Hondurans win a battle, but lose a War.

  6. Gerardo Paredes said:

    To everyone reading this, please understand these facts>
    The Honduran constitution doesn’t have and explicit clause for impeachment, it only calls for the military to defend the form of government and to make respect of the rule of law.
    The Honduran constitution is not the same as the US constitution, please understand that fact, Zelaya, was and still is an herratic and almost lunatic Chavez funded tyrant who wanted to turn Honduras into another Cuba.
    Most of the opinions you have posted on here pretty much sum all what has been said on a desinformation campaign funded by Chavez.
    Believe me, if Zelaya had done what he tried to do calling for an assembly to reform the constitution, the media wouldn’t had made a fuss about how far our constitution would have been , i dare to call it, Raped, not violated, but raped, and nobody would have say a thing, but now, the Military did their constitutional duty, as stated in the constitution to Uphold the form of government and to keep the rule of law, that thanks GOD that’s what they did.

  7. Hunter Smith said:

    I have a copy of the arrest warrant issued by the Supreme Court, I can take a picture of it and email it to you if you would like.
    Also, some clarifications:
    @ Tony Herrera
    Tony Herrera can find the links to the articles that I referred to if he goes to the 2nd entry on my blog:
    http://hondurasabandoned.blogspot.com/2009/07/first-impressions.html
    The military stepped in because they received the order from the Supreme Court to arrest Zelaya. The mistake they did make was sending him to Costa Rica, which was not stated in the arrest order. The explanation I have been given was because it would prevent more blood shed. The military and government were afraid if Zelaya was placed in a prison or jail, then a mob would gather, try and break him out, so they removed him from the country.
    And as far as not having “an opinion about Zelaya being deposed by the Honduran military.” I said in one of my posts that “all I hoped for was to see what was truly happening and write about it on this little blog.” There is enough opinion and bias in the news, that all I was trying to do was recount my experience.
    I have talked to several taxi drivers that said they had people come up to them and offer them money to drive people to the pro-Zelaya rallies. They will not say this on camera though, for fear of losing their job or worse. Also, I have talked with others who said they had “government officials” show up to their door offering them money to vote early para la cuatra urna. All they had to do was provide their voter identification card and mark that they were in support of the referendum.
    One of the key themes for either support or disapproval of Zelaya goes to giving money, tractors, and discounted gas to the poor. Those that support the interim government say that Zelaya manipulated the poor by offering them the stated three gifts (courtesy of Chavez as I am told but cannot confirm) while the supporters of Zelaya say they like because he gives them those things.
    Also, I have seen little coverage about Zelaya leading a mob to the military base to steal the urnas that were being held. It’s been said that the urnas were already filled with ballots in favor the the referendum, but again, I cannot confirm.
    I am in the process of trying to secure an interview with one of the 15 Supreme Court Justices who made the decision to issue the order to have Zelaya arrested. I will have him explain which laws Zelaya broke, which articles allow the Supreme Court to allow for his arrest by the military, and the secession of command that led to the Interim President Micheletti.

  8. Pete Hunt said:

    Tony said:
    “It’s great to see the positive change in which people take to the streets in civic engagement, but it’s troubling when citizens end up dying at the hands of the military that is tasked with protecting and defend them.”
    More disinformation yet again. One civilian died and it has not yet been proved who fired the bullet. I really do wish people would stop believing what they see on US TV channels.

  9. La Gringa said:

    There is no clause in the constitution to impeach the president (a big mistake, obviously).
    Explanation of the events by the Supreme Court and a committee of the Congress
    http://www.hondudiario.com/Honduras=0083.php
    http://www.hondudiario.com/Honduras=0082.php
    Three articles by Honduran attorneys (at least two of them graduated from Harvard:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-estrada10-2009jul10,0,1570598.story
    (this is Honduran attorney considered for high US Court position)
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0702/p09s03-coop.html
    http://campaign.constantcontact.com/render?v=001YIG3vMfn5eTsrC6BsOGvdNiehQQmEN34_mlVXO0OhLc-J_Q0oPz-ZLGZbGea9uBcuOx3JSBqM1NWgFxoLaM55Lgfcc4WK_oSh8G_sDitGT0jh4WrxcvKEwDB_9rAiOjX2lDDnqfz_oc%3D
    Other good articles:
    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/07/honduran_sovereignty_who_has_j.html
    http://www.heritage.org/Research/LatinAmerica/wm2511.cfm
    http://lagringasblogicito.blogspot.com/2009/07/non-coup-scoop.html
    http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=6328
    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10341&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social-media&utm_term&utm_content&utm_campaign=visits
    http://lagringasblogicito.blogspot.com/2009/07/wall-street-journals-ogrady-does-it.html
    (O’Grady has 3 good articles)
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/07/13/obama_is_wrong_wrong_wrong_about_honduras_97427.html
    http://www.ibdeditorials.com/search.aspx?kw=honduras
    http://lagringasblogicito.blogspot.com/2009/07/now-people-are-starting-to-think-deeper.html
    If they are looking for what Hondurans think, CNN’s iReports have a lot of emails.

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