Nov 30, 2009

Honduran "Electoral Observers" Launch Verbal Attack on Americas Program Director

I have been here in Honduras watching the development of the elections since Friday, Nov. 27. Last night I gave a television interview to an international agency. A group of credentialed elections observers gathered around and immediately began yelling insults at me when we finished the filming. I am attaching a letter to the U.S. Embassy that I sent last night. These are the highlights of what occurred:
  • Supposedly impartial observers call for me to be thrown out of the country for criticizing the elections
  • Over fifty people surround me and order me to "tell the truth about our democracy" (which I readily agree to do) and accuse me of being a "liar" and "enemy of Hondurans"
  • Tribunal Court security escorts me out of angry crowd
  • Honduran press reports that I am Venezuelan and an agent of Chavez
The letter follows. I am now involved in submitting a human rights complaint and trying to correct all the rumors and errors that are circulating in the press. I will be writing on the elections themselves very soon.

Dear Embassy personnel,

I was asked to appear as an analyst on Al Jazeera television, out of Washington, on a live block at 8:00 p.m. We were filming in the middle of the hotel Marriott, second floor hallway, where the Electoral Tribunal and the media were announcing preliminary results. There were many people around and although I didn't notice at the time, apparently many gathered to watch the filming.

When asked by the interviewer my opinion of the elections, I stated that I did not think that the elections could resolve the deep political crisis in the country, that many people were not satisfied with the process since democratic order was not restored prior to the elections and that many countries were not recognizing the process. It was only about a 4-5 minute interview. As soon as we were off the air, the people gathered around pressed in on me and began to scream "liar," "why do you lie to the world," "here we have democracy," etc. A national observer, and many other people were yelling that I had given false information (I actually gave no information on elections results since there are no reliable data out yet and said that we would be seeing a war of statistics where one side will proclaim high abstention and the other high turn-out, and indeed that is already happening). They began to literally scream in my face, especially an "international observer" who said he was from the Chamber of Commerce. The press continued to ask questions, in part to shield me from the hostility of the crowd. I was willing to engage in conversation despite the aggressiveness and ugliness of the mob at first.

Then the crowd, led by national observers began to chant "democracy" to which I replied that there, we were in complete agreement. They pressed in more and more, screaming louder and louder at me, everyone chanting "fuera del país" "que se vaya" "sácala de aquí" etc. I said I felt in danger and wanted to leave. Some people including a man who apparently was from the security of the Electoral Tribunal escorted me downstairs and we managed to get out of the crowd, which followed me to the elevators, still screaming. When I got downstairs, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that people on the ground floor who had not even taken part in the incident upstairs knew me and began yelling for me to leave the country as well. No one followed me or physically assaulted me and I was able to leave the area.

Later many people called to say they saw a clip of the incident on television. It really was a small riot in the hotel. Despite the fact that i clearly identified myself as a US citizen and political analyst, the Honduran press reported that I was Venezuelan—a complete fabrication of course—I´ve never even set foot in that country. Some apparently said I was with Telesur, and others that I was an Al Jazeera reporter, when in fact this agency simply engaged me as an analyst.

The level of intolerance and aggression was totally unexpected and disconcerting. I have never in my life encountered such a hostile response to a difference of opinion or been punished for expressing my views like this. I have been reporting on the lack of freedom of expression, the censoring and shutting down of media here in Honduras as a serious violation of basic civil liberties, and now I understand the context of intolerance and violence in which it takes place firsthand. Analyzing international relations is my job at the Center for International Policy and I have every right as a professional to interpret world events and opine on them. I understand that many can disagree but I do not understand why that disagreement should devolve into aggression and hostility.

I am profoundly upset by the attitude of these national and international observers who are supposed to be impartial but are unable to accept an opinion different from their own, and have demanded that I be thrown out of the country for expressing my opinions. I am not an electoral observer and was not here as an electoral observer. I have seen many heated elections in my life but never been the victim of a verbal lynching like the one I experienced last night, and much less from individuals charged with validating the fairness and openness of the electoral process. Political differences are not the issue here, the issue is tolerance and respect for others.

I am now concerned for my safety under a coup regime that has carried out massive human rights violations with impunity that I myself as a member of the international delegation on women´s human rights have documented in our delegation in August. My face has been broadcast over national television, accompanied by lies and distortions. I can take care of myself and have no reason to consider myself to be in imminent danger that I know of, but I ask the US Embassy to be aware of my situation and warn that if anything does happen to me it will be necessary to investigate the implication of the coup regime and its supporters, given the threats that I have received.


Laura Carlsen

Nov 28, 2009

Coup Security Forces Raid Campesino Organization Day Before the Elections

Today, heavily armed members of the national police, military and criminal investigation units under the coup regime raided the Honduran farm organization COMAL (Alternative Community Marketing Network) in Siguatepeque, in Comayagua. COMAL is a coalition of 42 small-scale farming and women's organizations from throughout Honduras.

At 1:40 p.m. about fifty members of the security forces broke into the offices of COMAL. After breaking down the doors with their guns and intimidating the employees, they produced a search order a full twenty minutes later. The offices were ransacked, under an order that stated authorization to search for weapons and "materials that could threaten lives".

At 2:30 the raid spread to the training center of the organization. Security forces confiscated four computers, including the accountant's computer. They also took educational materials used in community workshops to analyze the current political situation and publications from the non-violent resistance movement. The soldiers referred to these materials as "proof" of subversive activities. Intelligence agents removed a list of all the people who had attended workshops in the organization and employees. They took the entire petty cash fund as well.

The offices were left in total disarray, employees were stripped of their cellphones and held in the offices during the raid. No one had been arrested at last report. Security forces continued to ransack the offices until 5:20 p.m.

Miguel Alonzo Macias, director of planning and projects for COMAL, stated that the police and soldiers entered heavily armed and nervous. Among the information they took from the offices were computer archives containing photographs of the peaceful marches where members of the organization demonstrated against the coup, "where they can see the faces of everyone of us who participated," and testimonies from communities describing violations of human rights under the coup. The group fears further persecution.

In a phone interview, Macias stated, "What just happened to us is evidence that basic guarantees of individual human rights and institutional rights do not exist in Honduras. As a result, the objective conditions in terms of the personal security for people to be able to vote freely don't exist either."

"It's important for the international community and international human rights groups to be aware that this is happening and of what kind of military actions are being carried out. These actions are clearly meant to intimidate the population that sees things differently than the de facto regime and that condemns the coup."

"The security forces have our names, identification numbers, vehicles and photographs. We now have to take precautionary measures to protect ourselves and our families. The international community should demand respect for human rights in our country, where these rights are being constantly violated. We also demand assurances for the safety of our people and other detained and identified as under watch by security forces."

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Nov 26, 2009

Violence and Tension, Prelude to Honduran Elections

  • Shootings and raids create tense backdrop for today’s vote
  • Human rights groups' petition to suspend elections ignored by court
  • Groups cite "...systematic and serious violation of human rights and decrees that restrict the rights and liberties of the Honduran population"
  • Organizations establish Human Rights Platform to monitor and defend against expected rise in repression

Ángel Fabricio Salgado lies in a hospital bed in Tegucigalpa, hovering between life and death. He and three companions were shot by soldiers when they inadvertantly ran into an unmarked roadblock near army headquarters.

His sister-in-law, Ana Elvir, tells Radio Globo, “He was shot in cold blood. Then they (the military) cleaned up the mess. This was a crime and no one has even come to question us about it." Her voice trembling, she adds "It's unbelievable what’s happening to us... How can you carry out elections in this situation?"

Members of Amnesty International maintain a permanent presence outside Angel´s hospital room. Doctors do not expect him to emerge from coma, thus adding a death to the tally of pre-electoral human rights violations.

Miles away from Angel's deathbed, soldiers and police used weapons to break down the doors of a national coalition of small farmers' and women's organizations. Once inside, they ransacked the offices and the nearby training school for four hours and took away computers, booklets and photographs of peaceful marches against the coup. The latter, they claimed, were “subversive materials.”

Although most streets appear calm and polling places have reported no incidents so far, reports of repression and coercion have been pouring into the human rights hotlines established by non-governmental organizations. In the last twenty-four hours, human rights organizations have received and confirmed reports that several houses of resistance leaders have been raided. Residents report that at 4:00 a.m. 200 soldiers entered the Tegucigalpa neighborhood of Hato de Enmedio, searched homes without presenting a warrant or reason, and arrested one resident. The farm community of Guadalupe Carney, in the department of Colón—active in the resistance—has been surrounded by some 200 soldiers.

A Military Affair

The National Front against the Coup has called a "popular curfew" that started at 6 p.m. Saturday and is scheduled to last until 6 a.m. Monday morning. The coalition of grassroots organizations has urged its members to carry out the boycott of the elections and avoid conflict by staying home during polling hours. In many places, there is a notable decrease in the number of people in the streets.

To this writing, no major deployment of military units in the capital city has been observed or reported. However, the military plays a key role in every facet of the elections. At the polling place located in the "Republic of Uruguay" school, officials from the National Party described the process: the military delivers elections materials before dawn, armed soldiers remain outside the polling place during voting hours, then army units collect the ballots. Results are tallied and phoned in from the polling places.

These procedures leave yawning gaps in vigilance and control. To some degree, fraud has been a feature of Honduran elections in the past. But this year's elections in the context of a boycott and a concerted effort to legitimize the takeover of June 28, present much greater challenges than usual. With the exception of a few members of the UD party, there are no members of the opposition to the coup watching over the polls. Experienced elections observation organizations have refused to participate in the Honduran elections, citing a lack of basic conditions to professionally carry out the task and the questionable nature of the elections themselves. A representative of the U.S. government's National Democratic Institute stated that its mandate is not to "observe the elections" but to "accompany the electoral process," due to lack of conditions for formal electoral observation. Organizations including the Carter Center, which has done elections observations in the past, are instead sending human rights monitoring missions.

The Honduran Armed Forces have been sending out signals to the population in resistance that they continue to be in charge. Selective repression immediately preceding the elections has been used to intimidate communities and neighborhoods. Police patrols spotted on the road this morning, were heavily armed and dressed in full riot gear. The police have established checkpoints to frisk drivers and passengers in numerous points throughout the city.

The security forces charged with overseeing the electoral process are the same ones who broke the constitutional chain of command by kidnapping and exiling the president on June 28. They are also the same ones accused of multiple assassinations of demonstrators and resistance leaders, arbitrary detentions, torture and beatings.

Risks and Red Flags

At an assembly of neighborhood leaders on Saturday, participants listed potential problems in zones throughout the country. First, they noted that resistance leaders have been harassed in their homes and could be targets. Second, they called on all members to watch out for strangers who could provoke violence pretending to be members of the resistance.

Despite the popular curfew, Gilda Rivera, a resistance leader and director of the Center for Women's Rights expects some demonstrations to occur in different parts of the capital and the country. President Zelaya, calling in from the Brazilian Embassy where he remains in limbo, called on people to go out and show their support for the boycott. These demonstrations could be met with repression. The uncertainty of elections that are not recognized by the majority of neighboring nations, boycotted by much of the population and conducted under an illegal regime has created a climate of tension and nervousness.

Rivera predicts an increase in repression and targeting of mid-level leaders of the resistance. She warns of red flags in places of strong resistance including Santa Barbara, Tocoa and Olancho.

Human Rights Groups Claim "lack of guarantees" for Free and Fair Elections

Prominent human rights organizations in Honduras filed a petition in the National Electoral Tribunal on Nov. 27 to suspend the Nov. 29 electoral process for lack of minimal conditions necessary to carry out free and fair elections.

Andrés Pavón, president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH); Bertha Oliva, of the Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared (COFADEH); Gilberto Rios, Executive Secretary of FIAN Honduras; Gilda Rivera Sierra, Director of the Center for Women's Rights; Juan Almendares, Director of the Center for Prevention, Treatment, Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and their Families (CPTRT) and Reina Rivera Joya, Director of the Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH) list eight motives for suspension, along with documentation.

Faced with a concerted campaign to recognize tomorrow´s elections held under the coup regime, the human rights groups present powerful arguments for why elections under the current conditions cannot be considered valid. the document explains:

"Fair elections don’t just depend on sophisticated technologies, international observers, or strict compliance with terms and requirements; they must also be preceded by a clean electoral process, product of a climate of full freedoms, in which candidates and voters can express themselves freely and equally, without fear of being assassinated, tortured, detained or imprisoned, as has happened in Honduras since June 28.

Some examples: the former presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes was seriously injured after being brutally beaten in a peaceful demonstration; the same happened to congressional candidate Marvin Ponce; Congresswoman Silvia Ayala’s house was raided and her computer taken; the nephew of Alejandro Villatoro, owner of the anti-coup Radio Globo, was shot by hitmen; vice candidate for mayor of Santa Barbara and resistance member, Eliseo Hernandez Juarez, was assassinated."
It also notes that, "Government employees and workers in the private sector are being obliged to vote under threat of being fired from their jobs" and that the suppression of independent media constitutes a violation of freedom of expression inconsistent with free and fair elections.

Nov 17, 2009

AFL-CIO Letter to Clinton Opposing Honduran Elections

The AFL-CIO, the 11-million member labor federation, has joined human rights groups and others in urging the U.S. State Department to oppose the elections in Honduras scheduled for Nov. 29 unless "President Manuel Zelaya is reinstated and free and fair electoral conditions are guaranteed."

The unions' stand is a confirmation of their position to impose the June 28th coup in Honduras and a recognition that the political and human rights situation in the country make any semblance of fair elections currently impossible. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka notes that at least twelve trade unionists have died in the context of the coup amid an atmosphere of violent repression of political opposition.

Read the full text of the letter below:

November 13, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Madame Secretary:

On behalf of the over 11 million working women and men represented by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO), I want to express our appreciation for your commitment to include international labor and human rights standards in U.S. foreign policy. In the near future I look forward to discussing these subjects with you, including the future of U.S. labor diplomacy.

I also want to express our concern with the democratic, labor and human rights crisis in Honduras. The AFL-CIO passed a resolution on the situation at our national convention in September, which is enclosed. It asks our Government to maintain its suspension of military aid to the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, as well as taking other critical measures, "until President Manuel Zelaya is restored to his democratically elected office and human and trade union rights have been restored." I hope that you give it the most serious consideration.

Our position on the crisis had been developed in consultation with the Honduran labor movement, which is unequivocally opposed to the June 28 coup, to the continuation of the de facto government, as well as to any future elections conducted by the Michelleti regime.

We are troubled that the agreement to reinstate President Zelaya by November 5th (the Tegucigalpa/San Jose accords), in preparation for the November 29th elections, has now unraveled. The failure of the Honduran Congress, in consultation with the Supreme Court and with other institutions, to approve President Zelaya's reinstatement, has created an unstable and untenable situation. Roberto Micheletti's announcement of an interim unity government without the representation of President Zelaya invalidates elections planned for November 29th.

The current environment in Honduras, including an illegitimate government in power makes free, fair and open elections impossible. The violent and coercive repression of political opposition to the de facto regime, including trade unionists, has continued. At least twelve trade unionists have died since June 28th. National and international human rights organizations report ongoing human rights violations committed by state security forces, including killings, severe beatings, sexual violence, the imprisonment and torture of activists, as well as the arrest and detention of President Zelaya's supporters.

For these reasons the AFL-CIO asks our Government to make clear its opposition to the conduct of national elections in Honduras November 29th, unless President Zelaya is reinstated and free and fair electoral conditions are guaranteed. We also ask the United States Government to implement the recommendations contained in the resolution passed at our convention in September.

Looking forward to hearing from you on all of these matters.


Richard L. Trumka

cc: Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon
Ambassador Arturo Valenzuela

Nov 11, 2009

U.S. State Department Sells Out Honduran Democracy for Senate Confirmations

• Policy change to recognize elections without reinstatement of Zelaya torpedoes peace agreement, mollifies Republicans and alienates Latin America

• President Zelaya pronounces Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord a “dead letter”

• Anti-coup organizations call for elections boycott on Nov. 29

In one of the lowest points in U.S. diplomatic history, the State Department announced a turnabout in its Honduran policy and stated it will recognize the results of Nov. 29 elections even if held under the military coup.

The new strategy to promote elections without first assuring a return to constitutional order torpedoes the accord that the State Department itself brokered and was signed by President Manuel Zelaya and coup leader Roberto Micheletti on Oct. 29.

On Nov. 4, just days after Secretary of State Clinton anounced a major breakthrough in resolving the Honduran political crisis, Asst. Secretary of State Thomas Shannon stated in an interview with CNN that “the formation of the National Unity Government is apart from the reinstatement of President Zelaya” and that the Honduran Congress will decide when and if Zelaya is reinstated. His surprise declaration scuttled the point of reinstatement in the agreement, leaving the matter up in the air while confirming that the U.S. government will recognize elections anyway.

U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Lewis Anselem and Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens confirmed this new position. At the OAS meeting, Anselem, whose disparaging remarks toward Latin American countries have alienated many southern diplomats, criticized the other nations’ refusal to recognize elections staged by a coup regime, “I’ve heard many in this room say that they will not recognize the elections in Honduras… I’m not trying to be a wiseguy, but what does that mean? What does that mean in the real world, not in the world of magical realism?”

Llorens also portrayed the new policy as pragmatism, stating on Nov. 8, “The elections will be part of the reality and will return Honduras to the path of democracy.”

The repeated use of "reality" as the justification for the policy change shows an attempt on the part of the State Department to unilaterally impose a definition of Honduran reality—contrary to its own previous definition and that of the international community. This unilateral diplomacy harks back to Bush foreign policies that many Americans and Latin Americans believed had been thrown out with the incoming Obama administration

The Diplomacy of Deceit
As analysts piece together the events of the past few days that took us from breakthrough to breakdown in international efforts to restore rule of law in Honduras, the real story emerges.

As former ambassador Robert White writes today, Tom Shannon met with Republican Senator Jim DeMint on Oct. 20 and DeMint urged him to recognize the Honduran elections without the reinstatement of Zelaya. DeMint offered to release his holds on Shannon's nomination to the ambassadorship of Brazil and the nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to fill Shannon's shoes as Asst. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

DeMint, who traveled to Honduras to meet with the coup regime last month, had blocked these two key State Department nominations ostensibly in protest of the administration’s policies to reinstate Zelaya.

White reports that there is every indication that Shannon had already formulated this critical change in policy to abandon the demand for reinstatement when he flew down to Tegucigalpa on Oct. 28, and that coup leader Roberto Micheletti knew this. That left only President Zelaya and the rest of the world in the dark as to the real goal of the negotiations.

What will surely go down in the books as one of the worst diplomatic agreements ever, was hammered out by the State Department team—Shannon, joined by Obama advisor Dan Restrepo and the man who has now been sent in to try to clean up the mess, Craig Kelly. It was signed by the two parties on Oct. 29.

The agreement includes a commitment to form a Government of National Reconciliation by Nov. 5. It calls for the Honduran Congress to vote on returning presidential powers with no deadline whatsoever. It includes a non-binding opinion from the Supreme Court, again with no deadline.

In retrospect the trap is clear. The agreement left open the absurd but possible solution of having the coup form the unity government without a legitimate president, with non-compliance made to seem the fault of Zelaya if he refused to participate. So why did Zelaya sign?

Many of us believed at that point that the State Department was negotiating in good faith to reinstate the president and that the Congressional vote was merely a face-saving measure for the coup. Zelaya had laid out a position in negotiations that it should be the Congress, and not the Court, that made the decision to revoke the destitution decree. In the context of unspoken agreements with members of the Honduran Congress and the U.S. State Department, the understanding was that the need to hold recognized elections and the threat of more sanctions had finally broken the intransigence of the coup and paved the way for a return to constitutional rule.

Lest there be any doubt about the deal, DeMint released a press statement bragging “Senator secures commitment for U.S. to back Nov. 29 elections even if Zelaya is not reinstated.”

The statement reads, “I am happy to report the Obama Administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the November 29th elections... Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Shannon have assured me that the U.S. will recognize the outcome of the Honduran elections regardless of whether Manuel Zelaya is reinstated. I take our administration at their word that they will now side with the Honduran people and end their focus on the disgraced Zelaya.”

He goes on to lay out his scenario for the anachronism of the first elections staged by a military coup in the 21st century.

“Now, thanks to the Obama Administration’s welcome reversal, the new government sworn into office next January can expect the full support of the United States and I hope the entire international community. I trust Secretary Clinton and Mr. Shannon to keep their word, but this is the beginning of the process, not the end. I will eagerly watch the elections, and continue closely monitoring our administration’s future actions with respect to Honduras and Latin America.”

The Washington script played out. On Nov. 9, the Senate confirmed Valenzuela. DeMint lifted his hold on Shannon's confirmation, although another Republican stepped up to protest, this time over Cuba policy. With Shannon's confirmation still blocked, it seems the Republicans repaid the diplomat in his own coin.

DeMint's crowing is understandable. The recent machinations mean that a rightwing coup could remain in power to preside over elections in which only pro-coup candidates are likely to participate. It means a setback—not defeat—of the popular movement to hold a constitutional assembly and push forward with policies to relieve the suffering of the poor and build greater equality.

But DeMint cannot take full credit for the reversal. The Clinton State Department had been signalling a reversal on the commitment to restore Zelaya for months. Statements became more and more ambivalent, sometimes saying it supported Zelaya's return and others calling only for a "return to constitutional order" without mentioning Zelaya even when pressed. This past week was the first time that it marked a clear "no-Zelaya" strategy option.

In Whites's words, "As Shannon well knew, this change of policy would give away the principal leverage the U.S. could bring to bear to persuade the de facto government to permit the prompt return of President Zelaya." By going back on the commitment to withhold recognition of elections held under a coup regime, the U.S. government has given coup leaders and the armed forces a green light to remain in power until a new president is sworn in on Jan. 27.

That president, if indeed the crisis doesn't explode into even greater proportions before then, will likely not be recognized by most of the countries in the hemisphere or a huge percentage of the Honduran population. Governance in these conditions will be impossible. Unless Zelaya is restored immediately, the groundwork has been laid for a prolonged and severe period of violence and unrest in Central America.

Move Producces Anger and Distrust in Latin America
The Honduran Congress has set no date for voting on reinstatement of President Zelaya and indicated he will not be reinstated before the elecitons.

Recall that Zelaya’s reinstatement was the key point of the San José Accords that the State Department organized under the auspices of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, and the center of resolutions in the United Nations and the Organization of American States, both supported by the U.S. government.

The UN declaration resolves, “To reaffirm that President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales is the constitutional President of Honduras and to demand the immediate, safe, and unconditional return of the President to his constitutional functions.”

The July 1 resolution of the OAS, “Demands the immediate and unconditional restoration of the legitimate and Constitutional Government of the President of the Republic, Mr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and of the legally established authority in Honduras;” Honduras was suspended from the OAS as a result of the failure to reinstate President Zelaya, amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve that end.

The new U.S. position has raised the ire of other Latin American countries. At a meeting of the OAS Nov. 10, many expressed a commitment not to recognize coup-held electons. Secretary General Jose Insulza stated that the organization would not send elections observers to Honduras.

The Rio Group, which includes the U.S.’s most powerful allies in the region, Mexico and Brazil, issued an unequivocal statement Nov. 6 calling for the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya. It was signed on to by the meeting of Latin American and Caribbean foreing ministers held simultaneously in Montego Bay.

The 24 Latin American nations stated, “The immediate reinstatement of president Jose Manuel Zelaya in the office to which he was elected by the Honduran people constitutes an indispensable prerequisite to re-establish constitutional order, rule of law and democracy in Honduras, as well as for the normalization of relations between the Republic of Honduras and the Rio Group and for it to be possible to recognize the results of elections scheduled to take place on Nov. 29.”

Craig Kelly, one of the architects of the diplomacy of deceit revealed in the Oct. 29 agreement, has now been dispatched to patch things up. He did not receive a warm welcome from President Zelaya and unless he carries a mandate for repentence in his briefcase, he will have very little room to maneuver.

Nov 6, 2009

Communique from President Manuel Zelaya on Failure of Accord (translation)


From the Desk of the President


Our arms are ideas, the struggle is a peaceful one

Accord Fails for Lack of Compliance by Micheletti

Mr. Micheletti's mockery of the Honduran people and the international community by boycotting the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord and allowing the deadline to pass on the organization of the Government of Unity by not convoking the National Congress according to his faculties and signed commitments, manifests an evident lack of will to comply with the letter and spirit of the Accord, and a rejection of the Plan Arias proposal and the resolutions of the OAS and the United Nations. We therefore declare the Accord as failed due to the non-compliance of the de facto regime with the commitment that by this date the Government of National Unity and Reconciliation should have been organized and installed, which by law should be presided over by the President elected by the people, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

1. We are not willing to surrender the rights of the people by legitimizing this Coup d'Etat.

2. We reject the militarization of society and that the President of Honduras be named by the elite of the Armed Forces.

3. Democracy is a supreme value of society and the only path to confronting the problems of the third poorest economy in Latin America, for which we are not willing to allow anyone to steal our Democracy with this kind of trap.

4. The permanent violations of Human Rights, the suspension of civil liberties, and the confiscation of communications media, as well as the situation of the President elected by the people surrounded by soldiers in the Brazilian Embassy, and the ongoing political persecution, constitute clear proof of the preparation of a huge political-electoral fraud for November 29.

5. We announce our complete rejection of this electoral process and its results, due to the vices mentioned above. Elections under a dictatorship constitute a fraud for the people.

Nov 5, 2009

Report on Women's Human Rights Violations Shows Systematic Attack on Women Under Honduran Coup

On Nov. 2 representatives from Honduran women's organizations presented a grim panorama of violations of women's human rights by the de facto regime led by Roberto Micheletti before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Their testimonies provided documented proof that the coup regime and its security forces have been responsible for rapes, beatings, murders and harassment of Honduran women in the resistance movement, and the dictatorial elimination of gains in gender equity. These crimes against women have been commited in the context of impunity for the perpetrators.

As the U.S.-brokered agreement between Micheletti and the legitimate government led by President Manuel Zelaya falters, the on-going crisis in Honduras continues to claim victims and women are particularly at risk. As in violent dictatorships throughout history, women's bodies have become a battleground. Honduran women have formed the backbone of the resistance movement against the coup from Day One and suffered systematic and gender-targeted repression as a result.

Honduras has a strong and organized feminist movement. This movement came together, fortified by the integration of hundreds of independent women, in the coalition Feminists in Resistance following the coup. It has seen its members beaten, its hard-fought gains rolled back, its institutions taken over and its projects for gender equity in public policy shattered over the past four months, under an illegitimate and ultraconservative regime. Despite the personal risk and the continuous setbacks, it remains strong and united and committed to restoring the rule of law necessary for peaceful advances in women's rights.

During this week, which many hoped would mark the return to constitutional government, the coup regime made another key move against women's rights. On Nov. 3, a law pushed through the day after the coup by the de facto regime went into effect that prohibits the morning-after pill, ignoring Honduran women's demands for the right to make their own decisions on reproduction and denying the basic tenet of separation of church and state.

The rapid deterioration in respect for women's rights in Honduras can only be halted by an immediate return to a constitutional government. An agreement brokered by the State Department has so far failed to resolve the crisis and end the coup. This can be attributed in large part to a message from State Department official Tom Shannon that cast doubt on the U.S. commitment to reinstate the elected president, emboldening the coup regime in its efforts to preside over elections currently scheduled for Nov. 29.

In a famous speech to the Beijing conference in 1995, Hillary Clinton proclaimed that "women's rights are human rights" and that "women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected." As Secretary of State, she has publicly affirmed that women's rights will be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. However, Clinton has yet to acknowledge the growing evidence of the violation of women's rights under the Honduran coup regime. It is time to take a firm stand to restore respect for human rights and end the coup.

The following is a summary of the testimonies presented before the ICHR prepared by the participants:

The context of women’s human rights violations:

• On June 28th, 2009, the democratically elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was taken from his home in the middle of the night and flown to Costa Rica by military transport. Since June, frequent power cuts, curfews, the controlling presence of military and police and check points throughout the country, sustained media blackouts, press censorship, repression and violence have become daily occurrences.

• Since the coup, there have been more than 100 non-violent street demonstrations in the capital city of Tegucigalpa alone, all of them disbanded by the security forces of the de facto government. The violence used to disband protesters has varied, ranging from threats and blockades, to the use of tear gas, sound devices, beatings and shooting.

• Women make up over 50% of the anti-coup demonstrators and continue to increase in their numbers and leadership. Honduran Feminists in Resistance is an ad-hoc alliance of dozens of women’s groups and individuals that coordinates pro-democracy actions and participates in the National Resistance Front, as well as documenting and attending to increasing violations of women’s human rights under the de facto regime.

• It is estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 illegal detentions have occurred since the coup; in the first 15 days after the coup, there were close to 1,000.

• Among the rawest forms of repression against women in this context is sexual violence. From dozens of documented testimonies show systematic intimidation aimed at stopping women from participating in protests and in the resistance. Women report that police and military abuses and attacks are accompanied by threats and insults, such as, “You’re asking to be raped if you get involved in these things.”

• The incidence of women’s human rights violations far exceeds those reported; fear of retribution and threats of violence against victims and their families discourage women from coming forward. Women victims are unwilling to report abuse to the police because police forces are often the perpetrators of the violence in the first place, along with other security forces. Under the de facto regime, the Honduran government’s Office of Women’s Human Rights and Office for Human Rights, which are responsible for investigating and providing legal defense for victims of abuses, have refused to follow up on complaints of human rights violations against security forces.

Specific Human Rights Violations:

During a fact-finding mission with international human rights experts and observers in August, over 400 cases of violations of the human rights of women were registered. Of these, 240 testimonies were documented. The following facts are drawn from those testimonies.

• Among the principle violations that women experience are physical aggression, including kicking, beating, insults, and deep contusions caused by nail-studded police batons; sexual abuse; psychological intimidation and attacks with tear gas.

• Two women, Wendy Avila and Olga Osiris Ucles, died of complications from tear-gas exposure. Nine women LGBT activists were killed, with their bodies showing evidence of torture. The state refused to provide a forensic autopsy for two of the women: Vicky Hernandez and Valeria Ucles.

• The most prevalent forms of police and military violence against women involve insults and beatings aimed at women’s vaginas, breasts, hips and buttocks.

• Of the 240 cases registered, 23 women were victims of groping and beatings targeted to the breasts and crotch area as well as sexual insults and threats of sexual violence.

• Of these 23 cases, 7 involve rapes that occurred in the cities of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, El Progreso and Danli. These were all gang rapes carried out by police and used explicitly to “punish” women for their involvement in demonstrations. It is suspected that all were pre-meditated as the police involved used condoms. These rapes all occurred while the women victims were apprehended after peaceful demonstrations or during curfews. Of these 7 cases, only 1 woman has presented a formal case to the authorities (the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights). The other victims have presented their testimonies to women’s human rights organizations but have refused to register their cases with the Honduran government Office of Human Rights or Office of Women’s Rights.

• While it is certain these are not the only cases, all the women who are victims give three reasons why they do not register their complaints with the authorities: 1) they fear that the inevitable police investigation will involve the men who perpetrated the crime; 2) since the coup, women do not trust the judicial system to provide an effective response; and 3) where cases have been reported, the police have refused to register the complaint, as in the case of a 17-year-old raped in the company of another woman on September 22nd.

• Since June 28th, there has been an increase in the incidence of femicide. According to a report on violence against women produced by UNDP and the Autonomous University of Honduras, 312 women were violently murdered between January and February of 2008; an average of 26 femicides per month. Until March of 2009, there were 16 per month. According to figes from the Office of Women’s Rights, 325 femicides had been reported through the end of September (an average of 31 per month), and during the month of July alone there were 51 femicides.

• Under the dictatorship there has been a rollback of gains in women’s reproductive rights. On June 29th, one day after the coup, an initiative to ban emergency contraception (earlier vetoed by President Zelaya) was approved.

• Since the Decree of September 21st that removed guarantees for individual freedoms, peaceful protests have moved from the main streets to the neighborhoods and communities. To suppress these demonstrations, the de facto government has armed the military with rubber and wooden bullets, nail-studded clubs, batons, metal tubes, eargas and pepper gas. ’. Neighborhood attacks have had a disproportionate affect on women. Attacks are often carried out in the middle of the night by patrols of 4 or more police officers who break into houses and then stay there for many hours. Women with children are unable to flee and are thus trapped in their homes, a situation that increases their sense of vulnerability and defenselessness.

• Women attempting to flee such attacks have been shot during fire fights, There are numerous cases of women who have been detained by police or the military for more than 3 or 4 hours. Detainees report that they were not informed of the cause of their detention and were denied the right to a legal defense. They were also been deprived of medicines, food and water during detention.

• Human rights lawyers are defending 12 cases of women who have been accused of sedition under the decree PCM-16-2009, 22nd of September, which restricts constitutional guarantees.

• The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights required the Supreme Court of Honduras to provide protective orders for 92 women who are under surveillance and who fear for their lives. No action has been taken by the de facto government.

• Numerous women human rights defenders have been persecuted and watched by security forces.

• Feminists and women leaders in the resistance, along with teachers and lawyers with the Lawyers Front against the Coup, have received death threats direct from the police and military, or by e-mail or on cellphone voicemail. The most high-profile women leaders have received threats where the caller uses their name and profession, indicating the level of police and military surveillance of women in the resistance.

• Three radio programs of women’s organizations have been taken off the air and denied broadcasting licenses under coup decrees that suppress freedom of expression. Documents justifying their removal cite their “disrespect for the Constitution” for broadcasting their legal and political analysis and for condemning the coup.

Testimony given by:
Jessica Sanchez, human rights advocate with Honduran Feminists in Resistance
Adelay Carias, human rights advocate with the Center for Women’s Rights and Feminists in Resistance

Nov 4, 2009

Zelaya Asks Clinton for Clarification: Complete Translation

Every day that goes by since the Oct. 29 peace accord in Honduras, raises the possibility of more bloodshed, chaos and conflict. With consequences this dire, there is no room for further delays or maneuvers to subvert the agreement.

It was supposed to be relatively simple: The de facto regime implicitly recognized that it's position was unsustainable when high-level U.S. government officials and other international leaders told them so last week. Cornered, it signed the agreement that includes reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya.

Reinstatement passes through what was meant to be a face-saving process of giving a symbolic role to each of the three branches of government. The Supreme Court, a body in tight alliance with the de facto regime and its preferred arbitrator, would offer a non-binding opinion. The Congress would then retract its decree calling for Zelaya's restitution, which was largely symbolic since the president was kidnapped and forced out of the country by the military. The forged letter of resignation also presented in Congress has already been proven false so does not need to be formally rescinded.

But as the days go by without a Congressional decision, the press in Honduras, the United States and around the world is reporting the same situation with wildly divided interpretations. The last straw was Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon's appearance on CNN saying that "Both leaders took a risk and put their trust in congress but, at the end of the day, the accord requires that both leaders accept its decision," and indicating that the U.S. would endorse elections staged by the coup. Shannon's statement led many to believe that the U.S. government would support an outcome that did not involve reinstating the elected President.

President Manuel Zelaya, from his refuge in the Brazilian Embassy wrote the following letter to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, asking for clarification of the current situation:

Tegucigalpa, November 3, 2009

To the Honorable Secretary Clinton,

Given the surprising declarations today by Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon on CNN, where he speaks about the agreement ignoring the fact that it is still in the process of being complied with, the government of the Republic of Honduras respectfully requests clarification from the Government of the United States.

We recognize the right of the U.S. government to express itself freely, but on this occasion we are obliged to publicly present this respectful request to the Secretary of State of the United States, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, to clarify to the Honduran people if her country's position has been modified or changed regarding its condemnation of the coup d'etat in Honduras, its commitment to comply with the resolutions of the OAS and the United Nations, and its support and respect for the democratic spirit of the Arias Plan, now ratified in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Agreement; or whether, rather than maintaining the positions listed above, it now seeks to recognize the elections in any case, without waiting for compliance with the accords, without reverting the coup d'etat, and without resolving the profound crisis in our country.

Congressman Cesar Ham, presidential candidate for the Democratic Unification Party; Carlos H. Reyes, independent presidential candidate; 50 mayors and 20 congressional representatives of the Liberal Party and the list of congress members of the Innovation and Unity Party (PINU) have reaffirmed their intention to withdraw from the electoral process if President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales is not reinstated in the Presidency of the Republic prior to the elections. The National Front Against the Coup D'etat, made up of 42 grassroots organizations, labor federations and indigenous and farmer organizations, along with myself and my government, will also not recognize the results of elections held under a military dictatorship regime and proven violations of human rights.

Today the Commission of Verification was installed as established in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, in which one of the members is the Secretary of Labor of the Government of the United States. This is the only commission authorized to interpret the agreement. Therefore, the announcement today by Asst. Secretary of State Thomas Shannon conflicts with the Commission of Verification.

Democracy is a universal value and a right of the peoples. We are confident that the United States, as it has done up to now, will continue alongside the Honduran people and the Latin American community in this peaceful process of rebuilding democracy and the rule of law in Honduras, by refusing to recognize the use of military force to resolve political conflicts through coups d'etat.

In expectation of your response, I reiterate to you my highest consideration.

Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales
President of the Republic of Honduras