The situation in Honduras has become increasingly tense since the military coup on June 28th, when President Manuel Zelaya was removed from his home and put on a plane to Costa Rica. The Congress then voted to accept a resignation letter, which he denied signing, and replaced him with congressional leader Roberto Micheletti.
During the weeks following the coup, Honduran human rights groups denounced serious violations of civil and human rights, including the military takeover of TV and radio stations, the killing of one protestor when soldiers allegedly shot live bullets into a crowd; several possible extrajudicial executions; over 350 detentions of protestors and those violating a government-mandated curfew; and numerous threats against social leaders, human rights activists, journalists, and politicians opposed to the coup.
The dispute that led to the coup centered on the issue of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution. Those who support the Micheletti government claim that President Zelaya was violating the law in his maneuvering to get a vote on the constituent assembly, and was seeking to perpetuate himself in power. However, the Zelaya government had backed down from calling for a vote and was only calling for a nonbinding survey. Even if a vote had gone forward on a constituent assembly, it would not have led to Zelaya extending his term, since he would have left office by that time.
Honduran society is sharply divided, and there are both avid proponents and opponents as to whether there should be a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution, as well as strong detractors and supporters of President Zelaya. But perspectives on this issue should not overshadow the central point that the removal of President Zelaya by force was not legal or democratic.
In the past weeks, LAWG and coalition partners have been urging members of the House of Representatives to cosponsor H.Res. 630, sponsored by Representatives William Delahunt, James P. McGovern and Jose Serrano. H.Res. 630 condemns the coup d’etat, and calls for the restitution of the elected government of Manuel Zelaya. It urges the Obama Administration to suspend non-humanitarian aid to the de facto Micheletti government, and calls for international observation of the November elections. Lastly, it welcomes the ongoing mediation of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The resolution is careful not to pass judgment on the Zelaya administration or on the question of a constitutional referendum, but simply calls for the restoration of the democratic order. Check our website for updates on the resolution and what you can do to get your member to cosponsor.
President Arias of Costa Rica exhorted “all leaders in the Americas to see the Honduran crisis for what it is: an urgent call for the profound social and institutional changes our region has delayed for far too long.” This military coup has been a harsh reminder for Latin America and the world that the decades of military coups and dictatorships are not far behind us, and now governments need to focus on building the strength of their people and their democratic institutions, not their militaries.