“On [Honduran Independence Day], in the city of San Pedro Sula, people from the resistance movement—including families from children to grandparents—went to the central park to celebrate. The crowd was waiting for a concert to begin, when, from all four corners of the park, tear gas bombs began exploding, shots were fired, and terror filled the streets… The perpetrators destroyed all the band’s instruments… and broke into a radio studio and beat up the owner. Many children, men and women were hospitalized because of damage caused by the tear gas.”
Since the elections in Honduras on November 29th, 2009, the U.S. government has been portraying the crisis in Honduras as “resolved.” But according to the Honduran Human Rights Platform, a coalition of six major human rights groups which includes Gilda Rivera of the Center for Women’s Rights (CDM), who recounted this story, the repression and human rights violations that began with the coup have continued. LAWGEF worked with our partners to open space for their voices to be heard by the U.S. Congress, the Obama Administration and the public during the week of October 13th, 2010, when representatives of the Human Rights Platform visited Washington to receive the Letelier-Moffitt International Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies.
“We are experiencing a continued state of dictatorship masked as a democracy. Every day we are subjected to persecution, threats, forced internal displacement, exile, torture, and murder,” reported Bertha Oliva of the Committee of Family Members of Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). Her organization refuses to recognize the Lobo Administration and encourages international bodies like the Organization of American States (OAS) to maintain the same line.
“The problem with President Lobo’s government is that it speaks in a pro-human rights rhetoric, but the military forces have more power in this government because the generals that were behind the coup are now part of government institutions,” explained Wilfredo Méndez of the Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH).
“The military and police in Honduras are being used fundamentally to repress a people that demands better living conditions,” said Gilberto Ríos of the FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN). “It is not a military that is defending national sovereignty. It is not a military that is combating… organized crime. It is a military to defend the de facto regime.”
The Platform, which also includes the Committee in Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH), is calling for a constituent assembly to revive democracy in Honduras and for a true truth commission that would uncover what has actually happened since June 28th, 2009. “We want to reconcile,” said Mr. Méndez. “But the path towards reconciliation is through justice.”
And what can we do to help from here in the United States? Ms. Oliva asked that we continue to put “pressure on your government to not support the military and police forces that are repressing the Honduran people.” A recent letter from Rep. Sam Farr and 29 other members of Congress to Secretary of State Clinton delivered a similar message and called for prompt action to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses, including those allegedly involving members of security forces.
As Juan Almendares Bonilla, executive director of the Center for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and their Families (CPTRT), put it, “[This] is not only about stopping [military] aid, it is about changing policies. We want policies of love, solidarity and friendship… We do not want the military policies that we have now.”
To learn more, see LAWG’s Huffington Post blog, “Human Rights Abuses Continue in Honduras. And the Band Plays On.”
To see a video of this year’s Letelier-Moffitt Awards ceremony, click here.