Dark Days in Honduras

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The situation in Honduras has only worsened since the coup on June 28th when the Honduran military rousted President Manuel Zelaya from his bed, and flew him to Costa Rica in his pajamas. Here is a recap:

The coup regime, led by Roberto Micheletti, rejected a request by the secretary general of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, to restore ousted President Zelaya. In response, Honduras was suspended from the OAS on July 4th. The next day, the de-facto government refused to allow President Zelaya to return, forcing his plane to circle above the capital’s airport, while thousands of his supporters protested below.

It is positive that the U.S. government has condemned the coup and called for the restoration of democracy. But the Obama administration should state in no uncertain terms that aid will be suspended, as required by law. It should also support the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya.

We are especially concerned with the suspension of civil liberties by the Micheletti government and excessive use of force by security forces towards protestors. The international community should insist that the Honduran government disclose the whereabouts of and ensure the safety of those detained.

Latin America should not return to the dark days of coups and repression. Whatever disagreements Mr. Zelaya’s opponents have with him, they must be resolved within the democratic framework. The United States must work with all of our neighbors and the global community to restore democratic rule.

Below are links to a number of official statements, news articles, and other documents regarding the coup, the international reaction, and concerns about human rights and freedom of expression and assembly in Honduras. See also an article by Geoff Thale of the Washington Office on Latin America regarding “What’s Behind the Honduran Coup.”

1. The coup has been strongly condemned by the international community.

International organizations have vigorously called for Zelaya to be reinstated as the elected president of Honduras, including the UN General Assembly, OAS, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The European Union issued a statement condemning the coup, and all European Union member states have withdrawn their ambassadors.

Latin American governments of all political stripes have issued statements condemning the coup and calling for Zelaya’s immediate reinstatement. This includes, for example, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. The Mexican government extended “diplomatic and consular protection” to Zelaya’s foreign minister, Patricia Rodas. The Group of Rio, Mercosur, ALBA and Caricom all issued statements denouncing the coup.

Many countries and institutions are suspending aid and/or trade with the coup government in Honduras. The World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank suspended aid and loans. 

The U.S. government has condemned the coup and suspended joint military operations with the Honduran military, but as of July 3rd, was still determining whether to suspend all assistance. (U.S. law requires aid to be suspended under in the situation of a coup.) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 29th that “The United States has been working with our partners in the OAS to fashion a strong consensus condemning the detention and expulsion of President Zelaya and calling for the full restoration of democratic order in Honduras.” However, neither Secretary Clinton nor President Obama has called directly for President Zelaya to be reinstated.

2.  Many human rights and other nongovernmental groups have denounced actions by the Micheletti government that restrict freedoms and violate human rights. 

These include allegations of arbitrary detention, possible disappearances, restrictions of freedom of assembly and press (including the shutting down of several television and radio stations), excessive use of force against protestors, and forcible recruitment of young men by the armed forces. Some social activists, journalists and politicians are reportedly in hiding. The regime enacted a decree on July 1st suspending civil liberties and allowing police and military to enter homes and detain people for more than 24 hours. On July 5th, the AP reported at least one person killed and several wounded amongst those calling for President Zelaya to be able to return to Honduras.

Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Amnesty International
Washington Office on Latin America
Latin America Working Group coalition
National Alliance of Caribbean and Latin American Communities
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Latin American human rights organizations

3.  Press freedom organizations have denounced restrictions on the press by the Micheletti government and have expressed concern for the safety of journalists.

Reporters Without Borders
Committee to Protect Journalists
Inter-American Press Association

This was adapted by Millie Moon from an article written by LAWGEF, the Center for Economic Policy Research and the Center for International Policy.