Global Exchange human rights delegation: On the ground findings from Honduras

Global Exchange Delegation members traveled to Honduras from August 7 to 15 to witness and assess the current situation. We visited and spoke with human rights officials, leaders of the “National Front Against the Coup,” worker and campesino leaders, a Catholic priest and environmental activist (Father Andrés Tamayo), Mrs. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya (the first lady of Honduras), Carlos H. Reyes (Independent Presidential candidate for the November elections), lawyers, women’s rights activists, an opposition radio station, dozens of rank and file protesters and many people on the streets and service workers in hotels, taxis, and restaurants.

The military coup d’état on June 28, 2009 violated the Honduran constitution but has been supported by an alliance of wealthy elite, a coalition of business leaders representing the biggest business interests. The Catholic Church leadership and faithful were sharply divided over these political and social justice issues, as were some of the growing Evangelical congregations. These groups were offended by some of the measures President Zelaya had taken such as sharply raising the minimum wage  and instituting other reforms beneficial to the poor majority, as well as positioning Honduras geo-politically within the ALBA, the Bolivarian alternative for Latin America. The stated reason for the coup (that Mr. Zelaya was removed and exiled because of constitutional violations), does not appear to have merit.

Members of our delegation participated in and observed both the daily demonstrations demanding the return of President Zelaya and a constitutional assembly to reform the constitution. We observed that the resistance to the coup is large, diverse, and appears to be growing after 48 days. This movement includes working people, professionals, campesinos, public employees, elderly, indigenous, women, and students. The daily demonstrations were well-organized, intentionally peaceful, inspiring and huge. We were impressed by the courage, determination and unity of the people in the streets and in meetings. We observed the mass-media vastly underreporting the extent of the protests against the defacto regime and we witnessed ongoing human rights abuses perpetrated by police and military against protesters. Over 90% of the dominant media is owned by coup supported businesses. Their use of slanderous and biased language to describe the activities of the pro-Zelaya demonstrators labeling them as vandals and terrorists made their position evident.

Our delegation met for an hour with United States Ambassador Hugo Llorens.  Only the U.S. and Japan have not withdrawn their ambassadors after the military coup. Mr. Llorens  assurred the group that that the U.S. was opposed to the coup and was doing everything possible to restore the constitutional order and the return Manuel Zelaya to the presidency. We pointed out the need for the U.S. to take stronger measures against the de facto regime such as cutting off all military and economic aid, freezing the assets of the coup leaders and principal supporters, revoking visas to the coup leaders and principal supporters, ending all training of Honduran military, including soldiers trained at Fort Benning, and withdrawing the U.S. Ambassador. The United States should legally declare that a military coup has occurred so that all non-humanitarian aid would be halted under Section 7008 of the Foreign Operations law. We urged the U.S. to join the other countries in the Americas who have stated their intention not to support or recognize elections in Honduras if they take place under a coup regime.

We believe Honduras is becoming more dangerous by the day. As the resistance to the coup grows, so does the repression and many expressed their fear of a civil war. The coup in Honduras poses a threat to countries seeking to strengthen their democracies. The failure of coup leaders to engage in serious negotiations, together with the stalling by the U.S., and their unwillingness to act in concert with other nations of the Americas, all increase the likelihood that there will be a boycott of the November elections extending the crisis into next year and beyond.   This has implications for all of Latin America. The United States’ actions are being watched by all.

Allan Fisher

afisher800@yahoo.com

415-585-0414

Members of delegation: Maria Robinson, Marin Interfaith Task Force, Tiburon, California, Judy Ancel, Cross Border Network Justice and Solidarity, Kansas City, Kansas, Allan Fisher,  and Alice    Kitchen, Social Worker, Kansas City, Missouri

Global Exchange staff: Andres Thomas Conteris, Joe Shansky

Suggested actions:

1.  Call your U.S. Representatives and ask them to support House Resolution 630 sponsored by Representatives McGovern, Delahunt, and Serrano.

2.  Call the White House and the State Department requesting that they freeze accounts and deny visas to the US for anyone involved in the illegitimate government, recall our US Ambassador, and stop all military and non humanitarian aid.

3.  Sign on to Rep. Raul Grijalva ‘s letter that is circulating in the House of Representatives asking the President to denounce the coup and freeze U.S. assets and suspend visas to visit the US for all coup leaders.

4.  Call US Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Foreign Affairs committee in the Senate and US Representative Berman, Chair of the same committee in the House and ask them to sponsor hearings to explore the facts for the American public to hear.

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