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[en] MISF – Fear and Loathing in Honduras: Elections Under Repression

Fear and Loathing in Honduras: Elections Under Repression

May I Speak Freely Media
November 20, 2009

As Honduras’ Nov. 29 election day quickly approaches, the broader picture of whether the vote can truly be free and fair has so far escaped the attention of the U.S. government and much of the world’s mainstream press. While focusing on the terms of the Tegucigalpa-San José Accords, their compliance or lack thereof, and the seemingly two-dimensional Manuel Zelaya/Roberto Micheletti dispute over the country’s presidency, government and media observers alike have paid scant notice to the ongoing suppression of civil, constitutional and political rights of the dissenters, which seriously undermines any hope for an end to the political crisis, let alone an unfettered electoral process. As Bertha Oliva, director of the Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, testified in a Nov. 5 U.S. Congressional briefing, “Dialogue under repression isn’t dialogue … nor is dialogue that doesn’t recognize human rights.”
Free and fair?

International standards of free and fair elections, set out by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1994 and subsequently adopted by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 2000 and the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001, call for basic rights of political expression, movement within the country and an equal basis for campaigning of all parties. In an essay on the topic, Eric Bjornlund of Democracy International wrote, “The political environment should be free of intimidation.” On its face, these conditions don’t seem to be met in Honduras’ current political climate.

Honduran and international human rights groups, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have expressed concerns over political repression and recognition of election results. Much of Latin America, including Brazil and Argentina, have announced they will not recognize the election results.

MISF has previously reported widespread media repression since the June 28 coup, including the September closure and seizure of assets of Radio Globo and Canal 36, two of the last independent opposition voices on air. The two stations have since resumed broadcasting, albeit with limited transmission capacity. Just today Reuters reported that Canal 36 news programming was interfered and prempted by cowboy movies.

MISF Associate Producer Oscar Estrada said that the stations are severely self-censoring, fearing a repeat of military reprisals. One Radio Globo journalist, Luis Galdámez, has persisted in criticizing the de facto government on his daily program “Behind the Truth,” and, according to Amnesty International, has been receiving death threats. On Nov. 19 it was reported that Canal 36’s broadcast signal was being interfered with and news programming replaced with cowboy movies.

The Honduran government on Oct. 5 issued a decree authorizing the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) to shut down any medium that calls for abstaining from the elections or that “incites hatred,” which, according to Estrada, is widely taken as code for speaking against the state. While Conatel hasn’t yet enforced the decree, Reina Rivera, director of the Honduran NGO Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (Ciprodeh), said she expected it will in the immediate run-up to election day.

Privation of civil liberties has also been reported by MISF. A Sept. 27 emergency decree restricting free speech, assembly and movement—all critical aspects of a free electoral cycle—which de facto president Micheletti had promised to annul, wasn’t repealed until Oct. 25, a few days before the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord was reached. That the decree has largely been replaced by more focused decrees issued by individual ministries much to the same effect.

In addition to the Conatel decree, the national police have issued a resolution, a demonstrably illegal act, that any march or protest requires 24 hours’ notice and permission from the police. In practice, however, this policy has only applied to leftist and independent candidates, for whose events the police are the first—and, as a consequence, last—to show up.

Another decree, issued by the Security Ministry, classifies as terrorism any takeover of public space by the resistance and the use of loudspeakers. To date, several leftist political rallies, which by necessity use sound systems, have been charged in this manner.

The dissolution of any agreement on the return to power of the deposed Zelaya—a precondition to election participation given by the Resistance Front Against the Coup and the popular independent candidate, union leader Carlos H. Reyes—has resulted in the effective disenfranchisement of the opposition in the elections. Reyes has officially withdrawn from the race and the Front, as have 102 of the 128 Innovation and Unity Party congressional and mayoral candidates, as well as a faction of Zelaya’s (and Micheletti’s) majority Liberal Party.

Many leftist organizations and Zelaya himself consider the election hopelessly unfair, have called for its boycott and have begun a process to legally contest and postpone voting.

On Nov. 17, Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubí announced that the 530 prosecutors of the Public Ministry will be actively seeking out and cracking down on anyone who commits “electoral crimes,” such as impeding the voting process, urging people to not participate, or destroying political propaganda, all of which will be punishable with a four-year prison sentence. The practical effect of these strictures is to further stifle opposition voices by stripping them of the one recourse they had left.

The international justice organization CEJIL reported to the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Nov. 10 about persecution and retaliation against judges and public defenders who have expressed opposition to the coup. “The acts against these officials are an illegal restriction of their rights and an intimidation tactic to silence their voices and those of the thousands of people who oppose the regime,” said Viviana Krsticevic, executive director of CEJIL.

Honduras rights advocate and former independent slate candidate Berta Cáceres, speaking with the Chilean publication El Clarín, noted that the Electoral Tribunal has engaged the military—the same body that has been illegally arresting, beating up and even killing members of the coup opposition—to supervise the balloting. She said whoever is elected on Nov. 29 will represent a “golpista” government.

Explaining an increasingly widely held view within the country, MISF’s Estrada said, “All the parties have begun to sound like one because [the military,] under its doctrine of national security, runs the country, and will continue to run the next government.”

Ciprodeh’s Rivera said reports are already coming in of heavy militarization in certain remote areas known for being armed, and she fears armed conflict. Ulises Sarmiento, a Liberal Party candidate for deputy in Olancho province and a strong resistance advocate, was attacked Nov. 18 by at least eight men armed with heavy weaponry and grenades. Two of his security detail, Delis Noé Hernández, 27, and José Manuel Beltrán, 35, were killed in the attack.

According to both Estrada and Rivera, the election has stoked fears among Hondurans on both the right, who fear unrest in the streets and the implementation of Hugo Chavez-style populism, and the left, who fear massive, possibly armed repression, and the legitimization of the coup through the voting process.
U.S. recognition

The United States has not only not made any acknowledgement of such apparently unjust and illiberal electoral conditions, but is indicating support for the election and recognition of its outcome.

As a primary broker in the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, the U.S. State Department initially seemed to be riding to the rescue in a last-ditch effort to reinstate Zelaya to power preceding the elections. However, when it became evident that Honduras’ Congress was not going to make a timely decision on Zelaya’s restitution and when Micheletti unilaterally formed the unity government, the United States insisted that the accord was still in force, indicating at a press conference on Nov. 6—a day after the deadline to reinstate Zelaya—that it would likely still recognize the election.

While this statement seemed to confuse many, it is clearly the official State Department position, since Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, echoed them a couple days earlier on CNN en Español, where he stated, “The future of Honduran democracy is in Hondurans’ [Congressional] hands,” answering affirmatively a question about recognizing the elections, no matter what transpires.

An end to the crisis?

Both Honduras and the United States want to see an end to the crisis, which is unlikely to come with the election. According to Estrada, “This will end one of three ways: by means of a patent campaign of terror that decapitates all the populist organizations; by way of an accord that brings about genuine constitutional reform; or, the third option, war.”

According to Estrada and Rivera, the election has stoked fears among Hondurans on both the right, who fear unrest in the streets and the implementation of Hugo Chavez-style populism, and the left, who fear massive, possibly armed repression, and the legitimization of the coup through the voting process.

For more information

Berta Oliva (COFADEH) Gives Testimony at Congressional Briefing sponsored by Rep. Grijalva D-AZ.” Quixote Center, November 12, 2009.

Bjornlund, Eric. “Free and Fair Elections.” Democracy International.

Casasús, Mario. “Bertha Cáceres: ‘El pueblo busca estrategias para el desconocimiento de las elecciones en Honduras.‘” El Clarin, November 11, 2009.

Con 530 fiscales perseguirán los delitos electorales: Rubi.” El Tiempo, November 17, 2009.

Entrevista Thomas Shannon en CNN 04-Nov.” YouTube.

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal.” Reuters, November 20, 2009.

Honduras: Honduran radio journalist fears for his life: Luis Galdámez.” Amnesty International, Novermber 16, 2009.

IACHR concludes its 137th period of seessions.” Organization of American States, November 13, 2009.

Parks, James. “Trumka: Free Elections Not Possible Now in Honduras.” AFL-CIO Now Blog, November 16, 2009.

Poder Judicial persigue a jueces opuestos al golpe.” VosElSoberano, November 14, 2009.

U.S. Department of State. “Daily Press Briefing.” November 6, 2009.

U.S. Department of State. “Daily Press Briefing.” November 18, 2009.

Zelaya Rosales, Manuel. “Carta Presidente Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales al Presidente Obama.” November 14, 2009.

Zelaya to legally contest Honduras elections.” Agence France Presse, November 18, 2009.

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal.” Reuters, November 20, 2009.

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About: Founded in 2001, May I Speak Freely Media (MISF) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting social change through media. Twenty-five years after the Honduran military, with support from the United States, committed brutal human rights abuses against its citizens, MISF Media is working with human rights advocates, international NGOs and grassroots organizations to document rights abuses and justice efforts in Honduras, help victims tell their stories, raise public awareness, and prevent the repetition of past U.S. foreign policy mistakes. Offering journalism, historical records, and other educational material, www.mayispeakfreely.org serves as a resource for policy makers, rights advocates, academics, journalists, activists and the general public. MISF Media is a fiscally sponsored nonprofit project of Media Island International, Olympia, Wash.

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[en] Dr. Juan Almendares – The Honduran Resistance: A New Hope is Born

National Resistance Movement in Honduras. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

By Dr. Juan Almendares, October 2009

The military coup in Honduras of 28 June, 2009, has been stripped of its democratic facade. The watchwords of the ‘de facto regime’, that have emerged from the violence, are: “God, Law and Order”.

The regime has openly adopted the methods of Stroessner, the late dictator of Paraguay, on declaring a State of Emergency – in reality a State of Siege – that aims to suppress all resistance and silence all opposition. It has closed down Radio Globo and CHOLUSAT SUR, two principal media houses that have continuously and valiantly provided news on the real situation in Honduras.

The legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, together with his family and associates, have been subjected to physical and psychological torture; and for all practical purposes deprived of their liberty in the embassy of Brazil, in violation of international treaties.

International pressure has forced the de facto regime to dialogue with President Zelaya. But this is a solipsistic dialogue that is being prolonged cynically and endlessly, with the aim of legitimising the forthcoming [November 29th] `presidential elections´ being conducted by the illegal regime under their `democracy´.

The country is divided between the coup forces and the anti-coup forces. The two sides have completely different and antagonistic philosophies, discourses, practices and methods.


The golpista (coup) philosophy assumes that it is the owner of reality, by right, and by inheritance. This ‘reality’ is fixed and immutable.  It is established and sanctified by the god of the powerful and the theology of armed and violent oppression; a reality in which the gilded world of the rich is in confrontation with the oppressive world of the poor and with those who have no right to justice and to love.

The golpistas´ conception of the world is based on an a-historical, ontological vision; one in which the social being has no place and the people do not exist.

It is this frame of reference which justified the military coup that aborted the holding of a non-binding poll – the “Fourth Ballot” – in which the people were to be asked their opinion on the installation of a National Constituent Assembly.

The golpista ideology holds that the “Constitution is God.” It’s advisors and practitioners are disciples of the Pentagon’s ‘School of the Americas’ and of the extreme right in the United States and Latin America.

The epistemology underlying the vision of the golpistas is one that totally ignores the potential of the people as subjects, capable of understanding and changing social reality.

Knowledge and education are a function of the market and of capital accumulation. The regime´s assumptions of its own validity and political legitimacy go along with a kind of legal formalism in which the law is completely separate from social life.

This view is not only perverse but false, for it flagrantly distorts the truth. It denies that a military coup took place, falsifies records and ignores the systematic violations of human rights and corruption.

The method of the golpistas is to promote a “syndrome of attrition and of physical, mental and political exhaustion”. The strategy seeks to defeat the opposition by means of irregular warfare; media, religious and military terrorism; detentions, beatings and torture. It includes assassinations of leaders, teachers, artists, youth and women – femicide has increased by 60 percent.

The economic cost of the military coup, in the first three months, has been over $800 million, implying a loss of nearly $30 million a day.


But in the face of all this pain and suffering a giant has awoken; a new hope has been born. The Honduran people has rediscovered itself. Moved by its dreams of freedom, it acts in defiance of those who have hitherto sought to shut it out from the making of history.

The myths of media power have been shattered. The powerful, with their technology of manipulation, have failed to deceive the people. The walls of silence have collapsed. Charcoal burners, the colours of the earth, have served as tools for the working people and artists in the making of their own history: in writing, painting, dancing, acting, singing the poetry of freedom; confronting tanks, shrapnel, toxic gases and treacherous daggers with shouts of pain and anger: “!Golpistas! Golpistas!”.


A people have been born, a new hope, in the form of the National Front Against the Military Coup. Its objectives are organized mobilization to struggle against injustice, to build political power through genuine participation of the citizenry in the National Constituent Assembly and to profoundly transform the Constitution of the Republic.

Its principles are based on “Non-Violence”. It has sustained over one hundred days of heroic marches under the sun and the rain of bullets, beatings, stabbings and the terror of noxious gases.

However, in a country still under military occupation by the United States, where the cowardly Honduran armed forces and police spend huge amounts of money at the expense of hunger and disease of children and environmental destruction by multinational corporations; they will never extinguish the courage and the voices of nonviolence shouting in every corner of Honduras: ‘Long Live the Resistance!’

The martyrdom and heroism of the Honduran Resistance is a call to all peoples of the world for no more military coups and no more military bases in Latin America.

It is a call for human and world peace; for respect for the dignity of our peoples and for their history; for social and environmental justice in the heart of Mother Earth.

The path of hope and liberation, in the face of crimes against humanity, is through full consolidation of the Resistance as a nonviolent political, cultural and spiritual force that builds and leads the taking of power.

No change that is genuinely democratic can occur if it excludes the National Front Against the Coup as the largest and most significant political force in Honduras. It is the most indisputable historical fact of our present and of the future; a force with which the people dream and are constructing the dawn of a new day for our country.

Juan Almendares, Tegucigalpa, October, 2009
Landline: 504-237-5700; Cell-phone 504-9985-4150
(Google translation revised by Norman Girvan)

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[en] IACHR: Preliminary Observations on the IACHR Visit to Honduras


Tegucigalpa, Honduras, August 21, 2009 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today concluded its on-site visit to Honduras, which began on August 17, 2009. The purpose of the visit was to observe the human rights situation in the context of the coup d’état of June 28, 2009. The delegation was composed of the IACHR President, Luz Patricia Mejía; the First Vice President, Víctor Abramovich; the Second Vice President and Rapporteur for Honduras, Felipe González; Commissioner Paolo Carozza; and Executive Secretary Santiago A. Canton. The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Catalina Botero, was also part of the delegation.

The IACHR requested the visit on June 30, 2009, received consent from the State on July 13, 2009, and came to an agreement with the President of the Supreme Court of Justice to conduct the visit. The preliminary observations presented today are based on information received before and during the visit. The Commission will prepare a final report that it will publish in the near future.

During the visit, the IACHR met with representatives of the de facto government and representatives of various sectors of civil society, and received more than one hundred individuals who presented complaints, testimony, and information. In Tegucigalpa, the delegation met with authorities of the three branches of government, human rights defenders, political and social leaders, nongovernmental organizations, and parents of families. On August 19, Commission delegations traveled to Tocoa, in the department of Colón, and to San Pedro Sula, in the department of Cortés, where they held meetings with representatives of civil society and local authorities. In Tocoa, the IACHR received more than 40 teachers, journalists, political leaders, and social leaders, and met with representatives of the police, the Army, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as well as with local business owners and students. In San Pedro Sula, the Commission received more than 50 representatives of civil society organizations, met with members of the media, heard testimony from individuals injured during the suppression of demonstrations, and met with authorities from the municipality, the police, and the armed forces. On August 20, Commission delegations traveled to the towns of El Paraíso and Comayagua. In El Paraíso, meetings were held with civil society organizations and the mayor’s office, and testimony was received regarding the events of July 24-27, 2009, when a continual curfew was imposed for three days. In Comayagua, the IACHR received information about the events of July 30, 2009, when a demonstration was suppressed and nearly 150 people were detained for a period of 6 to 14 hours. The IACHR obtained this information by taking testimony from those affected and from witnesses, as well as from local police and Army authorities and the regional Office of the Public Prosecutor. The Commission thanks everyone who facilitated the organization of this visit.

* * *

On June 28, 2009, the IACHR condemned the coup d’état and the interruption of the constitutional order, and made an urgent call to restore the democratic order and to respect human rights, the rule of law, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. In addition, all the States of the hemisphere unanimously and immediately condemned the coup d’etat. The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the coup d’état, demanded the return of President Manuel Zelaya, and declared that no government that emerged from the institutional interruption would be recognized. On June 30, the OAS General Assembly gave the de facto government of Honduras a 72-hour deadline in which to restore President Zelaya to power, and on July 4, 2009, it suspended the State of Honduras from the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS.

The Supreme Court of Justice, the National Congress, and other Honduran actors have a different reading than that of the international community as a whole as to the legitimacy of the coup d’état, as they believe that the acts of June 28, 2009, were carried out with strict adherence to the Constitution. The Commission considers that even when there may be differences of opinion on this matter, the obligation to guarantee the rights of persons does not change, since this is incumbent at all times on all those who hold public power, regardless of any interpretation that may be made of the events of June 28, 2009.

The OAS General Assembly’s decision does not suspend the obligations Honduras acquired when it ratified the American Convention on Human Rights in 1977 and other inter-American human rights instruments, based on which the IACHR continues to observe the state of human rights in the country. In addition, in its July 4 resolution the OAS General Assembly specifically reaffirmed “that the Republic of Honduras must continue to fulfill its obligations as a member of the Organization, in particular with regard to human rights.” Moreover, Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter establishes that, in the case of a suspension from participation in the OAS, “The suspended member state shall continue to fulfill its obligations to the Organization, in particular its human rights obligations.”

Since June 28, 2009, the Commission has received numerous complaints about human rights violations in the context of the coup d’état. In all these cases, the Commission proceeded immediately to communicate with the State, based on the American Convention and the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. On June 28, the IACHR granted precautionary measures that were subsequently expanded on June 29; July 2, 3, 10, 15, 24, and 30; and August 7 and 17, 2009. These measures were intended to safeguard the life and physical integrity of a total of 106 individuals about whom the IACHR had received information indicating a situation in which there was an imminent risk of irreparable harm. The IACHR also requested information on four occasions, under Article XIV of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, with regard to the situation of five persons whose whereabouts had not been able to be established. Finally, the Commission also made various requests for information under Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights regarding such situations as the application of the decree to suspend guarantees, the use of the curfew, repression of public demonstrations, detentions of thousands of demonstrators, attacks against the communications media, harassment of journalists, and temporary shutdowns of media outlets by the Army.

The Commission’s communications were directed to the Office of the President of the Congress and the Office of the President of the Supreme Court of Justice, given the impossibility of addressing the constitutional President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Rodas. The Supreme Court of Justice provided information on the status of remedies of amparo, habeas corpus, and motions of unconstitutionality being processed, and asked the various jurisdictional bodies, security agencies, and the National Commission on Human Rights to provide information as to whether there was any pending complaint or request for a precautionary measure in favor of the beneficiaries.

With regard to the requests for information, based on Article XIV of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons, the IACHR received information from the Supreme Court of Justice, from other State entities, and from civil society. Based on the information provided by the authorities, the Commission believes that the situation of three of the individuals has been cleared up, but the whereabouts of two persons have not yet been clarified. One of these individuals was seen for the last time at a demonstration held on July 12, 2009, and the other was allegedly kidnapped from her home on July 26, 2009.

Democratic Institutional System

Representative democracy is the form of political organization adopted explicitly by the OAS Member States. The OAS Charter establishes in its principles that “the solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy.” Along these lines, the OAS Charter states that “representative democracy is an indispensable condition for the stability, peace and development of the region” and proclaims that one of the essential purposes of the Organization is to “promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention.” The process of creating mechanisms to strengthen democracy throughout the region was consolidated in September 2001 with the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which establishes: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

The Member States have expressed themselves explicitly on the close link between democracy and the observance of human rights. The Inter-American Democratic Charter reaffirms that “the promotion and protection of human rights is a basic prerequisite for the existence of a democratic society.” It states: “Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.”

The Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have on many occasions made statements affirming that close link. In its Advisory Opinion 8, the Inter-American Court stated: “In a democratic society, the rights and freedoms inherent in the human person, the guarantees applicable to them and the rule of law form a triad. Each component thereof defines itself, complements and depends on the others for its meaning.” For its part, the Commission has indicated that the democratic system and the observance of the rule of law are critical for the effective protection of human rights and that, at the same time, the complete guarantee of human rights is not possible without the effective and unrestricted recognition of political rights.

Considering the interrelationship between democracy, the rule of law, and the observance of human rights, the IACHR considers that the coup d’état carried out through the removal of the constitutional President has an immediate impact on the observance of the rule of law and of human rights in Honduras. The Commission was able to verify during its visit that the interruption of the constitutional order brought about by the coup d’état has been accompanied by a strong military presence in various spheres of civilian life; the suspension of guarantees through the implementation of a curfew that does not meet the standards of the inter-American system; and the ineffectiveness of judicial remedies to safeguard people’s fundamental rights.

Along these lines, the Commission received information about the strong military presence in schools and at the National University, and the Army’s shutdown and occupation of television and radio channels during the coup d’état.

It is also of concern to the Commission that the Army has actively participated, along with the National Police, in controlling demonstrations. While under exceptional circumstances the armed forces may be called on to participate in controlling demonstrations, this exercise must be limited to the maximum extent, because the armed forces lack the necessary training to control internal disturbances. According to information received from the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, and the military high command, the military forces participate under the command of the police forces, under a constitutional provision that allows such an arrangement. However, as the Inter-American Commission and Court have indicated, the use of force on the part of State security forces must be of an exceptional nature, and must be planned and limited proportionally by the authorities. It is also worth noting that the bodies of the inter-American human rights system have established previously that the States must limit to the maximum extent the use of the armed forces to control internal disturbances, since the training they receive is designed to destroy the enemy and not to protect and control civilians, which is the type of training police agencies typically receive.

The suspension of guarantees is provided for in Article 27 of the Convention as an exceptional mechanism for suspending the enjoyment and exercise of rights “in time of war, public danger, or other emergency that threatens the independence or security of a State Party.” However, for a suspension of guarantees to be legitimate, it must meet a series of requirements established in the Convention. The first of these requirements is that the suspension of guarantees be adopted by a government that exercises public power legitimately, within the context of a democratic society. Also, as the Inter-American Court has stated, “The suspension of guarantees lacks all legitimacy whenever it is resorted to for the purpose of undermining the democratic system. That system establishes limits that may not be transgressed, thus ensuring that certain fundamental human rights remain permanently protected.”

On June 28, Mr. Micheletti announced the beginning of the curfew during a press conference held at the National Congress, with no information as to the legal instruments on which this action was based. The timeframe established for the curfew was from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. for the two days following the takeover of power.

One of the grounds the de facto government invoked to restrict the rights of the people of Honduras was Decree No. 011-2009, which established a curfew beginning on June 30, 2009. Consequently, before any particular analysis on the State of Honduras’s compliance with human rights obligations, the Commission believes it is necessary to analyze the compatibility of the curfew decree with the American Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 27.

Decree 011-2009 established the curfew for a period of 72 hours, applicable between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Although this period expired on July 3, 2009, the curfew continued to be implemented for more than a month without any type of legal foundation. Thus, contrary to what is established in the Constitution, the state of exception was established by decree of the de facto government, for a shorter period of time than was implemented in practice, and without being published in the Official Gazette. The subsequent ratification by Congress and publication on July 27, 2009, does not right these original wrongs.

In accordance with Article 27 of the American Convention, the scope of the suspensions must be strictly necessary to relieve an emergency situation, and this implies limiting the scope of time and space, and the rights that are suspended. The Commission deems that, in the context of the coup d’état, curfews have been implemented since June 28, 2009, without justification as to their reasonableness or relevance to the situation that led to the state of exception. In particular, reference must be made to the events of July 5, 2009, when President Zelaya tried unsuccessfully to return to the country by air. The curfew established originally was in effect from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. However, at 6 p.m. it was announced on national television that the curfew would begin in half an hour and would last until 5 a.m. In addition, the discretionary way in which the curfews have been established is reflected in the lifting of the measure on July 12, 2009, and its resumption on July 15, 2009, with no justification of the causes that would warrant a new suspension of rights.

Even within a legitimate state of exception, each act of implementation must be reasonable, that is, it must be strictly appropriate for the occasion and the scope of the state of exception, without any type of discrimination. The IACHR has verified that during the implementation of the curfew, thousands of people were trapped between military roadblocks without justification. In addition, the curfew was not uniformly applied throughout the country, and in fact there was discriminatory enforcement of the restriction of the right to circulate. Thus, for example, the IACHR was able to confirm that in the town of El Paraíso some people were allowed, in a selective and discriminatory manner, to move about during the curfew.

This situation is aggravated by the absence of judicial control of the rules governing the state of exception. For five decades, the Commission has consistently underscored the foundational importance that, in a democratic society, there be judicial control of the acts of public power. During its on-site visit, the Commission received testimony consistent with a great deal of information it had received since June 28, 2009, indicating that the judicial remedies available in Honduras do not currently offer efficient and effective protection against human rights violations in the context of the coup d’état. The de facto government’s initial acts include a suspension of guarantees that has not been subject to judicial scrutiny, despite having been called into question by various motions of amparo. Under the current circumstances, the Commission deems that these actions should have received the highest priority.

The Commission has received similar information from all sectors to the effect that the majority of the habeas corpus actions presented to challenge detentions are rendered moot because the alleged victims have already been released. The Commission would like to stress the importance of resolving habeas corpus actions with utmost promptness in all cases. The Commission saw firsthand, for example, a place of detention consisting of three small cells in which between 80 and 100 people had been held for several hours. While the law allows for detentions within a 24-hour period, the Commission deems that the situation created by the detention of several dozen people should receive immediate attention. Moreover, the Commission has received testimony and information regarding the fact that some judges responsible for writs of habeas corpus have been mistreated, threatened, and intimidated so that they will not carry out their duties.

On another matter, the Commission has received consistent and repeated information confirming that, in many cases, the offices of public prosecutors have not begun official investigations into the existence of groups of people who have been injured and in custody. In the case mentioned in the previous paragraph, a number of those detained were injured and had previously been treated in hospitals, but the public prosecutor who visited them did not draw up a list. When asked to explain the situation, the Public Ministry indicated that the reason for this omission may have been that people do not trust the institution. The Commission deems that it is critically important for the Public Ministry to carry out its role regardless of the opinion or political affiliation of those who receive its services.

The deterioration of institutions without a doubt affects the regular functioning of Honduran society. One example is the information received by the IACHR indicating how children’s right to education has been affected. The Commission understands that these arguments arise in a context in which teachers, parents, and even those being educated hold conflicting opinions in an intense social debate. The genesis of the matter, the Commission believes, is that doors for democratic dialogue have been shut, which hinders a resolution of this conflict. The Commission will evaluate all the complaints it has received and will report on its conclusions in the near future.

Violations of Human Rights

Along with the loss of institutional legitimacy brought about by the coup d’état, which affects the regular functioning of democratic institutions, during its visit the Commission confirmed a pattern of disproportionate use of public force, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry. The Commission confirmed the use of repression against demonstrations through the placement of military roadblocks; the arbitrary enforcement of curfews; the detentions of thousands of people; cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; and poor detention conditions. The control of information has been implemented through the temporary shutdown of some media outlets; a ban on the transmission of signals of certain cable television stations that were reporting on the coup d’état; the selective use of power outages to affect the transmission by audiovisual media reporting on the coup; and attacks and threats against journalists from media outlets with editorial positions opposed to the coup d’état.

In addition, the IACHR received testimony indicating that acts of harassment have been perpetrated against individuals who have publicly demonstrated political affinity with President Zelaya. Governors, deputies, mayors, and social leaders who had allegedly demanded the restitution of the constitutional president have reported that they were subject to reprisals, threats, acts of violence, budget cuts, and military occupation of the public installations in which they worked, among other measures. President Zelaya’s family, in particular, informed the Commission about the harassment and smear campaign that have affected all of their members.

Excessive Use of Force in Public Demonstrations

Political and social participation through public demonstrations is essential to democratic life in societies and is of vital social interest. People from all political sectors have the right to fully and freely exercise their right to freedom of expression and their right to assembly, without violence and in accordance with the law and inter-American standards for the protection of human rights. As the Inter-American Commission and Court have indicated, the State not only should refrain from interfering with the exercise of these rights, but it should also adopt measures to ensure that these rights can be exercised effectively.

As the Commission has stated on previous occasions, the State has the authority to impose reasonable limitations on demonstrations so as to ensure that they are peaceful or in order to contain those who demonstrate violently. However, in exercising this authority, the conduct of its agents must be limited to employing the safest and least harmful measures, since the grounds for breaking up a demonstration should be the duty to protect people. At the same time, the legitimate use of public force in such situations presupposes—necessarily—that the force is proportionate to the legitimate end being sought, reducing to a minimum the possibility of causing personal injuries and the loss of human lives.

With regard in particular to the use of firearms, the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states: “Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms.” Likewise, the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states expressly: “The use of firearms is considered an extreme measure.” Under Article 9 of the Basic Principles, meanwhile, firearms shall not be used against persons except when there is an imminent threat of death.

The Commission was informed during its visit that the demonstrations have been peaceful, with the exception of some cases in which there have been acts of violence, some of them serious, against persons and against property. These include the burning of a restaurant and of a bus, and attacks against a congressional deputy and several journalists.

The Commission learned that in demonstrations that were suppressed throughout the country—including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, Comayagua, and the town of El Paraíso—there was a pattern of excessive use of public force. In fact, several of the demonstrations held since June 28, 2009, were broken up by public security forces, both police and military, resulting in deaths, cases of torture and mistreatment, hundreds of injured, and thousands of arbitrary detentions.

Right to Life

The American Convention on Human Rights establishes in its Article 4 that every person has the right to have his life respected and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. In the domestic arena, Article 65 of the Constitution of Honduras establishes that “the right to life is inviolable.”

Isis Obed Murillo Mencías, who was 19 years of age, died on July 5, 2009, as a result of a bullet wound to the head, which he sustained while participating in a demonstration outside Tegucigalpa’s Toncontin Airport. The repression was carried out by the National Police and the Army. During its visit, the Commission received concurring testimony from several people about this event. In terms of the investigation, the IACHR was informed by the Secretary of Defense of the de facto government, Adolfo Lionel Sevilla, that there was an Army report on the death of the young Isis Obed. However, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, indicated that the investigation was still underway. In addition, the Commission was informed by official sources that the report prepared by the armed forces on the military operation at the airport recognizes that members of the public forces fired arms against a group of demonstrators. The Commission was also informed about the existence of forensic reports indicating that the projectiles that caused the death are compatible with the weapons used by the public forces. The Office of the Special Human Rights Prosecutor informed the Commission that it had opened an official investigation to determine the circumstances and responsibility for this death.

The body of Pedro Magdiel Muñoz was found on July 25, 2009, in the department of El Paraíso, near the border with Nicaragua. His body bore signs of torture that had been hidden under a clean shirt that had been put on him after he was killed. The IACHR received testimony from two persons who witnessed his detention by members of the Army hours before his body was to appear. The witnesses informed the Commission that the victim had actively participated that day in demonstrations in front of military roadblocks set up in the area.

On July 30, 2009, Roger Vallejos Soriano, a teacher, received a bullet to the head during demonstrations held in Comayagüela, and he died on August 1. The State informed the Commission that an investigation is underway.

On August 2, 2009, Pedro Pablo Hernández died from a bullet wound to his head. According to testimony presented to the Commission, the gunshot came from a member of the military who was at the military roadblock located at the intersection of the Jutiapa detour, in the Jamastran valley, on the road from Danlí to Trojes. The Office of the Public Prosecutor reported that the case is being investigated.

Right to Humane Treatment

Article 5 of the American Convention on Human Rights recognizes every person’s right “to have his physical, mental, and moral integrity respected.” It also expressly states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.” For its part, the Constitution of Honduras establishes the following in its Article 68: “Every person has the right to have his physical, mental and moral integrity respected.” The right to humane treatment, like the right to life, cannot be set aside under any circumstance.

The IACHR received testimony from more than 100 people verifying that the repression of public demonstrations was characterized by a disproportionate use of force. In fact, in the various departments to which it traveled, the Commission received testimony about individuals wounded by lead bullets or injured by blows with police truncheons and other blunt objects made of rubber, iron, and wood, and about the indiscriminate use of tear gas, as customary methods used to deter demonstrations. The Commission received testimony from dozens of people with serious injuries to the head as a result of the repression exercised both by police and military personnel. The IACHR verified that men, women, and elderly people showed bruises on various parts of their body, and it heard various accounts of people who were subject to humiliation and torture. In San Pedro Sula, in particular, the Commission was told that during the acts of repression, police officers raped a woman, and several persons received blows to the abdomen and the genitals, and pepper gas was sprayed in their eyes.

The Commission received testimony about the August 14 repression on the Choloma bridge in San Pedro Sula. According to the information received, the police threw tear gas canisters and began to beat and detain demonstrators. The IACHR heard the testimony of two female demonstrators who indicated that members of a strike force, the Cobra Command, chased them for several blocks then struck them on the legs and buttocks with police truncheons while insulting them. Another woman told the Commission that police officers stripped her naked from the torso down, hitting her brutally with their truncheons. The Commission also received the testimony of a worker who was beaten at that same demonstration and who suffered a fracture of the nasal septum and cuts to his forehead and head.

One person affected testified to the Commission that he had been traveling in the region near Las Manos, near the border with Nicaragua, at the end of July. Military elements stopped the bus in which he was traveling to the border city of Las Manos, in the department of El Paraíso, and they forced it to turn back, after subjecting passengers to humiliations and insults. When the bus turned back, the military men fired, and a bullet hit the man in the ear, blowing off a piece of it. At first, the hospital did not want to treat him, saying that he was a terrorist.

Information was also received about police brutality at a march toward the National Congress in Tegucigalpa, held on August 12. According to the testimony, when they arrived at the destination of the march, members of the Army, the National Police, and the elite Cobra Command repressed demonstrators by beating them as well as bystanders who were not participating in the protest. The Commission heard testimony from a man who was sitting on a bench when he saw a demonstrator receive a brutal beating. He recounted the following: “A teenager was running down the avenue, and the military men grabbed him and hit him with an iron stick. I told them, ‘You’re going to kill the boy,’ and then one of the military men said, ‘Grab that old man,” and they started to beat me.”

Two brothers who had left the August 12 demonstration in Tegucigalpa told how military men forced them off the bus with blows of the fist then took them to the Congress, where the brothers, along with others who had been detained, were forced to take off their shirts and shoes. According to the testimony of one of the brothers, “They were hitting me in the face and pressing my testicles with their police clubs. They made me fall to the floor, which was very hot. The police stood on my toes and smashed them over and over. I lifted my head because the [concrete] was burning me, and they clubbed me twice.”

Several individuals became victims of persecution by the Comayagua security forces after participating in demonstrations. One of the victims said that after the demonstration in which she had participated had already been dispersed by the members of the security forces, police entered the house in which she had taken refuge, apprehended her, made her get in a military truck where there were other people who had been detained, and then threw tear gas inside the vehicle. The Inter-American Commission heard similar testimony from various individuals regarding this incident. Information was also received about the use of tear gas canisters thrown inside family homes in which demonstrators had allegedly taken refuge.

Right to Personal Liberty

Article 7 of the American Convention on Human Rights states that “every person has the right to personal liberty and security” and “no one shall be deprived of his physical liberty except for the reasons and under the conditions established beforehand by the constitution of the State Party concerned or by a law established pursuant thereto.” It also states that “no one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or imprisonment” and that “anyone who is detained shall be informed of the reasons for his detention and shall be promptly notified of the charge or charges against him.” For its part, Article 69 of the Constitution of Honduras indicates: “Personal liberty is inviolable and may be restricted or suspended temporarily only in accordance with the law.”

Another method used by the de facto government to silence and obstruct expressions of protest has been the use of detentions of demonstrators and even of individuals who were in the immediate vicinity of demonstrations without participating in them. According to the information received, between 3,500 and 4,000 people were arbitrarily detained by the police and the Army during the demonstrations. The Commission confirmed with various sources that in many cases, no record was made of their detentions, or records were inconsistent; nor were judicial authorities or public prosecutors informed. No charges have been brought against these individuals, who were released hours after their detention. According to what was reported to the Commission, the arbitrary detentions allegedly lasted for periods ranging from 45 minutes to 24 hours. According to these reports, those who were detained were subject to blows, threats at gunpoint, and verbal attacks. It was also reported that some of the cells to which they were taken were covered with urine and feces. The Commission received information that at some police posts the judges responsible who appeared in response to petitions for habeas corpus were mistreated, threatened at gunpoint, and verbally abused.

For example, on August 12, 28 persons were arrested (27 adults and one minor) during the march toward the National Congress. Three of them were charged with terrorism and given conditional release. The other 24 were charged with crimes of sedition, damage to private property, illegal demonstration, and theft. Those detained were taken to installations of the Cobra Battalion, which is not equipped as a detention center but is a training camp for specialized forces. At the Cobra Battalion, those detained were confined to the stands of a sports stadium. Once 24 hours had passed—the period in which, under constitutional guidelines, they had to be released—the Office of the Public Prosecutor filed indictments against them. The afternoon of the following day, at a police installation, a hearing was held on the indictments. It wasn’t until that moment that those who had been detained learned of the charges against them, which were the grounds for their detention. During the hearing, police forces and members of the Cobra Command were inside the room. All those detained were released on different dates between August 14 and 20; 18 have been exonerated and the other 6 continue to face prosecution on the illegal demonstration charges.

From July 24 to 27, between 4,000 and 5,000 people were trapped between military roadblocks in the border area with Nicaragua, in the department of El Paraíso, during the enforcement in that area of a continual curfew by virtue of consecutive extensions every 12 hours. The Commission received concurring testimony from numerous witnesses indicating that during this period they did not have access to water, food, or medicine; that they were repressed by security forces through the use of tear gas; and that those who were injured did not receive medical attention.

The Commission considers it imperative that the de facto government adopt urgent measures to guarantee the right to life, humane treatment, and personal liberty of all persons. It is essential that serious, exhaustive, conclusive, and impartial investigations be done of all cases involving human rights violations. The Commission underscores the need for those who are responsible to be duly tried and punished, and for adequate reparations to be made to the family members and victims of violations that are attributable to agents of the State. To this effect, it is critical that the Office of the Human Rights Prosecutor continue and expand the task it must carry out to investigate the totality of violations that have occurred in the context of the coup, and that no obstacles are placed in the way.

During its visit, the Commission received testimony stating that in the context of the demonstrations and the repression and detentions carried out by police officers and members of the military, women were especially subject to acts of violence and humiliation because of their gender. The Commission confirmed that, while they were under the direct control of members of the police and Army, many women were subject to abusive and denigrating treatment that included having their breasts and vagina groped. In other cases, the Commission received information that some of the women had had their legs spread open and their genitals touched with police truncheons.

Right to Freedom of Expression

The guarantee and protection of freedom of expression is an essential condition for the defense of all human rights and for the very existence of any democratic society. The American Convention on Human Rights establishes the right to freedom of expression in its Article 13, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression” and indicates that this includes “freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one’s choice.” Meanwhile, Article 72 of the Constitution of Honduras recognizes the freedom to express thoughts “by any means of dissemination, without prior censorship.”

The Inter-American Court has consistently stressed the importance of this right, holding that:

Freedom of expression is a cornerstone upon which the very existence of a democratic society rests. It is indispensable for the formation of public opinion. It is also a condition sine qua non for the development of political parties, trade unions, scientific and cultural societies and, in general, those who wish to influence the public. It represents, in short, the means that enable the community, when exercising its options, to be sufficiently informed. Consequently, it can be said that a society that is not well informed is not a society that is truly free.

The IACHR has received information about situations that have arisen since the coup d’état that constitute serious violations of the right to freedom of expression. During the visit, it was confirmed that on June 28, 2009, various media outlets—in particular, television channels and radio stations—were forced, by military occupations of their facilities, to suspend their broadcasts. In some cases, they were subject to technical restrictions such as power outages and takeovers of broadcast repeaters and transmitters, which made it impossible for them to report on what was happening. It was also verified that several cable channels were taken off the air and that TV programs that took a critical view of the coup were suspended. Other mechanisms for controlling information have included calls from various public officials, especially members of the public forces, about the inadvisability of transmitting information or opinions against the de facto government. There have also been detentions, attacks, and the destruction of equipment that reporters use to do their jobs, as well as violent attacks and death threats by private individuals against the media.

The IACHR has been able to note that following the coup d’état, the communications media in Honduras have become polarized. The publicly owned media, due to their inadequate institutional design, are not independent from the executive branch; as a result, they are openly biased in favor of the de facto government. Journalists and media outlets that are perceived to be closely aligned with the government have been targets of strong acts of aggression, presumably by people who oppose the coup d’état. Other media outlets that are perceived as backing the resistance movement have seen their journalistic efforts constantly affected both by agents of the State as well as by private individuals who restrict their reporting work. In the current sharply polarized environment, there are few media outlets that have made a public commitment to civil organizations that they will present pluralistic information without having their editorial position affect their reporting. However, the task of providing information freely is not easy to sustain, as the de facto government has powerful mechanisms for interference and intimidation that can be used either openly or covertly, with the excuse of formally applying pre-existing laws. In addition, the threats and violent attacks by private individuals have seriously hampered the exercise of the journalistic profession.

Closure of Media Outlets

The IACHR was informed that on June 28, military personnel occupied the installations for the transmission antennas of various television and radio channels in the vicinity of Cerro de Canta Gallo, in Tegucigalpa, and kept technicians from turning on the transmitters for several hours. The transmission antennas of Channels 5 and 3, Channel 57, Channel 9, Channel 33, Channel 36, Channel 30, Channel 54, and Channel 11 are all in that area. This measure, along with the constant cutoffs of electric power, hampered the ability of these channels to transmit signals. On another matter, the State-owned Channel 8 did not transmit for more than a day. When it resumed its transmission, its management had changed, as well as its programming. The signals of several private channels—Channel 6, Channel 11, Maya TV, and Channel 36 in Tegucigalpa; and La Cumbre and Televisora de Aguán, channel 5, in the department of Colón—were interrupted by military takeovers or on instructions from the Army.

Also occupied or surrounded by members of the public forces were Radio Progreso, in the city of El Progreso, department of Yoro; Radio Globo, in Tegucigalpa; Radio Juticalpa, in the department of Olancho; and Radio Marcala, in the department of La Paz. In this last case, members of the military tried to shut down the radio station, but residents in the area blocked their path and the station kept transmitting.

Besides this situation, it was confirmed that the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) gave instructions to cable television providers that either directly or indirectly led them to remove from their lineup international channels or national programs transmitted by local channels. Such was the case of CNN en Español, Telesur, Cubavisión Internacional, Guatevisión, and Ticavisión, among others.

Power Outages

In the morning hours of June 28, there were selective power outages, according to complaints received by the IACHR. The power outages hampered the ability of radio and television stations to transmit freely, included sectors where the transmission towers operated, and affected telephone services for both land lines and cellular phones.

Detentions of Members of the Media

The IACHR received information to the effect that several journalists were detained, attacked, and threatened for reasons directly linked to the exercise of their profession. On June 28, 2009, cartoonist Allan McDonald was detained along with his 17-month-old daughter, by soldiers belonging to the Armed Forces who broke into his house and burned his cartoons and drawing materials. That same day, members of the public forces held a group of reporters from Telesur and The Associated Press in Tegucigalpa to question them about their visa status. This operation, against Telesur and VTV, was repeated on July 11. The following morning, members of the police forces kept the reporters from leaving the hotel for several hours. The crews from both channels left Honduras the next day because they believed that their security was at risk.

The journalists illegally detained and beaten by members of the public forces included: Naún Palacios, in Tocoa, Colón, on June 30, 2009; Mario Amaya, a photographer from the Diario Hoy, on July 2; Rommel Gómez, in San Pedro Sula; the director of Radio Coco Dulce, Alfredo López, on August 12 in Tegucigalpa; and journalist Gustavo Cardoza of Radio Progreso, on August 14, in Cortés. At that same demonstration, an independent journalist from Tela, Edwin Castillo, was beaten by security forces.

Attacks and Threats against the Media

The IACHR received information about serious and multiple attacks suffered by journalists due to acts carried out by public forces or private individuals, but always for the purpose of preventing them from freely doing their work. Thus, for example, Juan Ramón Sosa of the daily newspaper La Tribuna was beaten and insulted when he covered a demonstration on June 29 in Tegucigalpa. According to the information received, photojournalist Wendy Olivo of the Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias was assaulted by members of the public forces when she tried to photograph people who had been detained at a police station and refused to turn over her camera. On July 30, a number of journalists and cameramen were allegedly assaulted by members of the police in the context of security forces’ response to the demonstration that day in Tegucigalpa. According to the information received, Karen Méndez, a journalist from Telesur, was pushed and threatened by a police officer, while a cameraman from the same station, Roger Guzmán, was also attacked and had work materials seized. José Oseguera and Luis Andrés Bustillo, cameramen from the Maya TV program “Hable como Habla,” were allegedly beaten in the Durazno area, on the northern exit out of Tegucigalpa, on July 30, 2009. Edgardo Castro, a journalist from the Televisora Hondureña de Compayagua, allegedly was assaulted on July 30, 2009, when he was filming police actions against protestors at the demonstration in Tegucigalpa. His equipment was also allegedly damaged. On August 5, 2009, a photographer from the daily Tiempo, Héctor Clara Cruz, was covering a student demonstration at the National Autonomous University of Honduras and was beaten by members of the police so that he would stop taking pictures of the confrontation. On August 12, 2009, Richard Cazulá, a Channel 36 cameraman, allegedly was beaten by members of the public forces and his camera was allegedly damaged, when he was filming a demonstration in Tegucigalpa. On August 14, 2009, during a demonstration, a group of police attacked photographer Julio Umaña from the daily Tiempo—who had shown them his accreditation—and confiscated his materials.

In terms of attacks against journalists that stem from actions of private individuals, the IACHR observes that for the most part these took place while they were covering demonstrations. In Tegucigalpa, three journalists from the Channel 42 program “Entrevistado” allegedly were attacked on June 28, 2009, by a group of demonstrators, who also knocked them down and broke their cameras. On June 29, 2009, El Heraldo photographer Johnny Magallanes allegedly was attacked when he was covering a demonstration in front of the Presidential House in Tegucigalpa. On July 1, some demonstrators who presumably belonged to the resistance movement assaulted Carlos Rivera, a correspondent for Radio América in the city of Santa Rosa de Copán. Henry Carvajal and Martín Rodríguez, a photographer and journalist from the newspaper La Tribuna, reported that they had been subject to acts of aggression by demonstrators belonging to the resistance on July 26 in the department of El Paraíso.

In addition, information was received indicating that several members of the media have been threatened since the coup d’état as a result of their work in journalism. The threats have come from different sectors and have been made via the telephone, electronically, or in person, when the journalists cover demonstrations or news events related to the political crisis. The IACHR was able to note that threats to prevent the free exercise of journalism have been on the rise in recent weeks. Members of the media who have been subject to serious threats include, among others: Madeleine García and other members of the Telesur crew; Esdras Amado López (Channel 36); Eduardo Madonado (“Hable como Habla” on Maya TV); Jorge Otts Anderson (La Cumbre channel in Tocoa, Colón); Johnny Lagos (El Libertador); José Luis Galdámez (“Tras la Verdad” program on Radio Globo); Andrés Molina (Radio Juticalpa); Carlos Lara, Wilfredo Paz, and Rigoberto Mendoza (in Tocoa, Colón); members of Radio Progreso; members of Radio La Voz Lenca, among other independent or community radio stations; Francisco Montero (Radio Sonaguera); and Héctor Castellanos (a program on Radio Globo), to name some examples of threats coming from members of the public forces or from sectors presumably associated with the de facto government. In addition, Carlos Mauricio Flores and Fernando Berrios, of El Heraldo, received death threats in the context of violent attacks on the newspaper for which they work; these presumably came from radical groups opposed to the coup d’état. Finally, Dagoberto Rodríguez of Radio Cadena Voces has also suffered acts of aggression and threats presumably made by groups that belong to the resistance movement.

Attacks on Media Outlets

As has been stated previously, the IACHR observed a growing polarization that has manifested itself, among other ways, in the form of violent attacks by private individuals against the communications media. Such attacks appear to have intensified in recent weeks.

Information was received about an attempted attack on Radio América on June 30, when a bomb was placed on the broadcaster’s premises in Tegucigalpa. On the night of July 4, in Tegucigalpa, an unidentified individual allegedly left an explosive device in the Centro Comercial Prisa, the shopping center where the offices of the newspaper Tiempo and Channel 11 are located. At the end of July, an explosive device was found against the Channel 6 facilities in San Pedro Sula. On August 14, hooded and armed individuals burned a vehicle that was delivering the newspaper La Tribuna. The next day, unidentified persons launched five Molotov cocktails against the building of the daily El Heraldo; these nearly caused a fire in the newspaper’s offices.

Based on Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, the State has the international obligation to guarantee and protect freedom of expression. It should refrain from using direct or indirect mechanisms of intimidation and should protect the life and physical integrity of members of the media, whatever their editorial stance. Consequently, the Commission urges the State to respect the free exercise of this right; refrain from using direct or indirect forms of intimidation or censorship; investigate acts of aggression to which members of the media and media outlets have been victims; protect the life and physical integrity of members of the media as well as the installations of media outlets; and promote an atmosphere of tolerance and pluralism that allows for the widest possible debate on public issues.


The Commission confirmed during this visit that the coup d’état of June 28 has created a situation of democratic illegitimacy that has a negative impact on the fulfillment of the human rights of all the people of Honduras.

The Commission confirmed the existence of a pattern of disproportionate use of public force on the part of police and military forces, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry. This resulted in the deaths of at least four persons, dozens of injuries, thousands of arbitrary detentions, the temporary shutdown of television channels, and threats and assaults against journalists.

The Commission verified the existence of a sharp polarization that has influenced the communications media and that affects the free flow of information and the possibility of a vigorous, unrestrained debate of issues related to the interruption of the institutional order. The Commission was also able to confirm the existence of serious restrictions to the exercise of freedom of expression coming from the de facto government, which have generated an atmosphere of intimidation that inhibits the free exercise of freedom of expression. Finally, the Commission was able to prove the existence of death threats and violent attacks from various sectors against journalists and media outlets due to their editorial position.

Based on the American Convention on Human Rights, ratified by the State in 1977, the State has the international obligation to prevent violations of human rights when they occur, and to investigate, try, and punish those responsible. To this effect, the Commission urges the State to respect the right to life, to humane treatment, to individual liberty, and to freedom of expression.

The Commission would especially like to call attention to the valuable work of human rights defenders. They have played a key role in obtaining information and in working to protect people’s rights, under conditions of personal risk.

The Commission will continue to observe the human rights situation in Honduras in the context of the coup d’état and will make its final report on this visit public in the near future.

The bodies of the inter-American human rights system have maintained on repeated occasions that the democratic system is the principal guarantee for the observance of human rights. In this regard, the Commission considers that only the return to the democratic institutional system in Honduras will make it possible for the conditions to be in place for the effective fulfillment of the human rights of all the people of Honduras.

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[en] Yves Engler, rabble.ca: Canadian media silent on Honduras coup

| August 17, 2009

The dominant Canadian media’s coverage of the coup in Honduras has been atrocious.

Even a close observer of the Canadian press would know almost nothing about the ongoing demonstrations, blockades and work stoppages calling for the return of elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Since Zelaya was overthrown by the military on June 28 the majority of teachers in Honduras have been on strike. Recently, health workers, air traffic controllers and taxi drivers have also taken job action against the coup.  In response the military sent troops to oversee airports and hospitals across the country.

For more than a week protesters from all corners of the country walked 20 km a day and on Tuesday tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on the country’s two biggest cities, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. These demonstrations prompted the de facto regime to re-impose a curfew in the capital, which had been in effect in the weeks after the coup.

This resistance — taking place under the threat of military repression — has gone almost entirely unreported by leading Canadian media.  So has Canada’s tacit support for the coup.

Last Tuesday the ousted Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister told TeleSur that Canada and the U.S. were providing “oxygen” to the military government. Picked up by numerous Spanish language newspapers, Patricia Rodas called on Canada and the U.S. to suspend aid to the de facto regime.

During an official visit to Mexico with Zelaya last week, Rodas asked Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who was about to meet Harper and Obama, to lobby Ottawa and Washington on their behalf. “We are asking [Calderon] to be an intermediary for our people with the powerful countries of the world, for example, the U.S. and at this moment Canada, which have lines of military and economic support with Honduras.”

To my knowledge, no Canadian media reported Rodas’ comments. Nor did any Canadian media mention that Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Neil Reeder, met coup officials in Tegucigalpa last week. The Canadian media has also ignored the fact that Canada is the only major donor to Honduras yet to sever any aid to the military government.

Latin American (and to a lesser extent U.S.) media have covered Ottawa’s tacit support for the coup more closely than the Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen and most of the rest of the Canadian media. When Zelaya tried to fly into Tegucigalpa a week after the coup Canada’s minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, told the Organization of American the “time is not right” for a return. The New York Times ran two different articles that mentioned Canada’s anti-Zelaya position while Bloomberg published another.  Many Latin American news agencies also printed stories about the Conservative government’s position; however, the Canadian media was uninterested.


A few weeks later Zelaya attempted to cross into Honduras by land from Nicaragua.  Kent once again criticized this move. “Canada’s Kent Says Zelaya Should Wait Before Return to Honduras,” read a July 20 Bloomberg headline.

A July 25 right-wing Honduran newspaper blared: “Canadá pide a Zelaya no entrar al país hasta llegar a un acuerdo” (Canada asks Zelaya not to enter the country until there’s a negotiated solution).

After publishing a number of articles about Ottawa’s position in the hours and days after the coup, Mexican news agency Notimex did a piece that summarized something this author wrote for rabble.ca.

Then on July 26 Notimex wrote about the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s demand that Ottawa take a more firm position against the coup.

Both of these articles were published (at least online) by a number of major Spanish-language newspapers.

Finally, a month after the coup there was a small breakthrough into Canada’s dominant media. CBC radio’s The Current provided space for Graham Russell from Rights Action, a Canadian group with a long history in Honduras, to criticize Ottawa’s handling of the coup.  Unfortunately, Russell’s succinct comments were followed by the CBC interviewer’s kid gloves treatment of Minister Peter Kent. Still, the next day the Canadian Press revealed that Ottawa refused to exclude Honduras from its Military Training Assistance Program, a program rabble.ca reported on days after the coup.

Uninterested in the Conservative government’s machinations, the Canadian media is even less concerned with the corporations that may be influencing Ottawa’s policy towards Honduras.  Rights Action has uncovered highly credible information that Vancouver-based Goldcorp provided buses to the capital, Tegucigalpa, and cash to former employees who rallied in support of the coup.

As far as I can tell, the Halifax Chronicle Herald is the only major Canadian media outlet that has mentioned this connection between the world’s second biggest gold producer and the coup.

Under pressure from the Maquila Solidarity Network, two weeks ago Nike, Gap and two other U.S.-based apparel company operating in Honduras released a statement calling for the restoration of democracy.

With half of its operations in the country Montréal-based Gildan activewear, the world’s largest blank T-shirt maker, refused to sign this statement. According to company spokesperson Genevieve Gosselin, Gildan employs more than 11,000 people in Honduras. Without a high-profile brand name Gildan is particularly dependent on producing T-shirts and socks at the lowest cost possible and presumably the company opposed Zelaya’s move to increase the minimum wage by 60 per cent at the start of the year.  Has Gildan actively supported the coup like Goldcorp? It is hard to know since there has yet to be any serious investigation of the company’s recent activities in the country.

The Canadian media’s coverage of the coup demonstrates the importance of independent media. We need to support news outlets willing to challenge the powerful.

Yves Engler is the author of the recently released The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and other books. The book is available at blackbook.foreignpolicy.ca. If you are interested in helping to organize an event as part of the second leg of a book tour in late September please contact: yvesengler[at]hotmail[dot]com.

# # #

article published by http://rabble.ca

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[en] FIRE: Women’s Human Rights Week in Honduras, August 17-21, 2009

Local internet cafe owner not involved in protests but dragged and beaten anyways. San Pedro Sula, August 3, 2009. Unknown photographer.

Feminists in Resistance in Honduras:


August 5, 2009

FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour/
Radio Internacional Feminista

Resolution of the crisis in Honduras needs to include feminist and women’s perspectives, including a commitment to break the impunity surrounding violations of women’s human rights, both in the recent military coup d’etat, and going back to the 1980s with the dictatorships in Honduras.

This is a central imperative of “Honduran Feminists in Resistance,” a group working with feminist and women’s organizations in Central America, Mexico and the United States to organize Women’s Human Rights Week in Honduras, August 17-21, 2009. They are organizing a “Feminist Transgressional Watch,” (http://www.petateras.org/observatorio.htm) based on a model designed by Petateras, one of the organizers of the initiative.

FIRE is also one of the coordinators, and will cover the event, conduct interviews and collect testimonials and cases of violations of the human rights of women. Other organizers of this initiative include: Just Associates (JASS), and the Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Equality (Mexico).

“Feminists in Resistance” have been active with strategies of resistance against the coup in the streets with participation in marches & protests, working at the grassroots level in communities to provide information and design actions, and coordinating with national, regional and international networks and social movements to promote international solidarity with their struggles.

An international delegation including human rights activists, investigators, legal experts and journalists from Central America, Mexico and the United States, will travel to Honduras in mid-August to document violations of women’s human rights. Femicides and attacks on women were more than three times higher during the coup and ongoing crisis, according to Gilda Rivera of the Women’s Rights Center (CDM — Centro de Derechos de las Mujeres) of Honduras.

The feminist observatory will work with Feminists in Resistance to gather information, testimonies, and statistics through meetings with organizations and individual women regarding violations of women’s human rights and the impact of the coup and aftermath on the lives of women and their families, which will be compiled as a preliminary report. This information will be disseminated through national, regional and international media by journalists in the delegation.

A FIRE team will also be broadcasting live through the internet, and be posting interviews and other audio files on their website, along with photos and written articles in Spanish and English.

The live FIRE transmission will take place on Wednesday, August 19, and will include a virtual feminist observatory for listeners around the world who are encouraged to send emails (observatorio@radiofeminista.net) and also call us with messages of solidarity to the Honduran women in their struggles (FIRE’s cell phone in Honduras: 504-9507-9208).

FIRE will interview Honduran women and members of the international delegation for the broadcast, but also feminist and human rights activists, Nobel Prize Laureates, and others via telephone who were not able to join the delegation.

The last night of the Women’s Human Rights Week will feature a concert and cultural activity with musicians and artists from Honduras and the region.

# # #

For more information write to Margaret Thompson (margieratt@yahoo.com) or Yarman Jiménez of FIRE at: yarman@radiofeminista.net or petateras@gmail.com.


· Feminists in Resistance (Feministas en Resistencia) of Honduras

· FIRE – Feminist International Radio Endeavour (Radio Internacional Feminista) www.radiofeminista.net

· Petateras — www.petateras.org

· Just Associates (JASS) – www.justassociates.org

· Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue & Equity  (Mexico – Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad)www.consorcio.org.mx/site/

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Filed under ENGLISH, human rights & repression, international coverage, international solidarity, news & updates from Honduras, press releases & communiques

[en] GRITtv: Laura Flanders interviews Rick Rowley & Sandra Cuffe

August 4, 2009.

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Filed under audio & video, ENGLISH, human rights & repression, international coverage

[en] May I Speak Freely?: HONDURAS NEWS IN REVIEW: July 10 – Aug. 3, 2009

Police Violence in the central park of San Pedro Sula. August 3rd. Image from video taken by Alfredo Bogran.

Honduras News in Review—July 10-Aug. 3, 2009

1. Post-coup death toll rises
2. International human rights delegation observes “systematic violations of human rights”

3. Repression severe on Nicaraguan border as Zelaya supporters gather to meet exiled president
4. Protests in Tegucigalpa, other cities meet with violent police, military response
5. Human rights NGOs take action on behalf of detainees, at-risk citizens
6. U.S. State Dept. maintains guardedly pro-Zelaya stance
7. U.S. Congress divided on Honduras
8. Honduran Congress members “deliberately kept out of legislative session” that ousted Zelaya
9. Excerpt of July 21 letter from Manuel Zelaya to Barack Obama
10. Human rights ombudsman Ramón Custodio censured by international human rights advocates
11. San José Accord still on table, but conflicts loom large
12. Elite Honduran business interests flex behind-the-scenes power in de facto government
13. “Cuarta urna” proposals had raised hopes among Honduras’ marginalized communities
14. Kidnapped journalist found dead
15. Other news in brief

1. Post-coup death toll rises

On July 25, fellow Zelaya supporters found the body of 23-year-old Pedro Magdiel Muñoz Salvador, notably bruised and stabbed 46 times, near a roadblock in El Paraiso. Muñoz had been among the approximately 5,000 supporters heading to the Nicaraguan border to greet deposed president Manuel Zelaya as he attempted to cross into the country. According to independent journalist and MISF associate producer Oscar Estrada, who has been sending daily updates of events on the ground, Muñoz had been part of a small group that had most actively challenged a police blockade in El Paraiso—one of 15 set up between Tegucigalpa and the border with Nicaragua. Muñoz allegedly had been arrested the previous evening, a claim that police officials denied. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for an investigation into the murder, and urged the interim government to “adopt every measure to guarantee the right to life, integrity and security to all citizens of Honduras.”

The following day, Jorge Edgardo Cruz Sierra, 35, and Víctor Samuel Almendárez Fuentes, 12, were killed outside the National Stadium in Tegucigalpa after a soccer match. A third victim, Francisco Javier García Ortega, 45, died a few days later. Official reports attributed the deaths, along with at least five gunshot injuries, to a clash between rival fans that was subsequently subdued by police with tear gas and live ammunition. Some accounts said that the incident was provoked by gun-wielding fans who were waiting outside the stadium, as police had searched people on their way into the match. By contrast, Estrada suggested the police aggression was in response to crowd protests over the death of Muñoz and “the state of repression” in the country, not a soccer riot. According to Estrada, a block of fans had come into the game with a banner depicting Pedro Muñoz’s face; that section of the crowd was repeatedly skipped in the television coverage of the game, he noted. After what Estrada called “an extremely boring match,” which ended in a 0-0 tie, “the youth left protesting … yelling, ‘Murderers! Murderers!’” Television reports and a video posted to YouTube showed a police officer firing into the crowd. On July 29, Orlin Javier Cerrato Cruz, spokesperson for the Ministry of Security, allowed for the possibility that one of the deaths could have been at the hands of an officer. “We need to look at all the evidence to be able to ascertain whether [a police officer] is responsible.”

On July 29, a 38-year-old teacher, Roger Abrahán Vallejo, was shot in the head by police during a protest in northern Tegucigalpa. Witnesses said the shooting occurred as hundreds of police charged a crowd of protesters. Vallejo died in hospital three days later. Teachers present at the Hospital Escuela, where Vallejo was being treated, reported the presence of police and military forces at the health-care facility. According to Sergio Rivera, a member of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Honduras, police “forced their way into the wounded leader’s room … to intimidate his companions.” Police officials said were opening an investigation to determine whether the shot that killed Vallejo was fired by a police officer.

The first death directly tied to events related to the coup occurred on July 5, when Isis Obed Murillo, 19, was shot and killed when police fired into a crowd of Zelaya supporters awaiting the ousted president’s arrival at the Tegucigalpa airport. Since then, several other killings have been reported, although reports have varied and it is unclear whether all are related to post-coup events. Nevertheless, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has noted and requested clarifying information regarding the following six alleged murders (in addition to Muñoz): the death of journalist Gabriel Fino Noriega, Radio América correspondent in San Juan Puebla, Atlántida, killed on July 3 as he left the Radio América offices; the discovery of a body in “La Montañita” with apparent signs of torture and a T-shirt supporting the Zelaya administration’s “cuarta urna” proposal; the discovery of two bodies in a barrel in Tegucigalpa, with money and cell phones still intact, and their arms bound with shoelaces; the July 11 murder of popular leader Roger Bados, in San Pedro Sula; and the July 12 murder of popular leader Ramón García, in Santa Bárbara. [AP, 7/25/09; Oscar Estrada report, 7/27/09; EFE, 7/28/09; La Tribuna, 7/29/09; El Tiempo, 7/29/09; IACHR press release, 7/27/09; La Tribuna, 7/27/09; HablaHonduras, 7/31/09; AFP, 8/2/09; La Jornada (Mexico), 8/2/09]

2. International human rights delegation observes “systematic violations of human rights”

A fact-finding team of 17 representatives from European and Latin American human rights organizations visited Honduras to observe the human rights situation first hand, releasing on July 23 a preliminary report of their findings. The Observation Mission on the Human Rights Situation in Honduras said it verified many reports of abuses earlier in the month, including at least six extrajudicial killings and two confirmed disappearances. There were a number of other murders that they did not have the time to verify, according to an AlterNet reporter writing from inside the country, who was told by a member of the mission that if they had “stayed longer, the numbers of political murders would be higher.” The mission’s report also verified and documented many reported instances of press repression (see MISF 7/28 report) and also noted a credible report of paramilitary organizations, supposedly with drug trafficking connections, dressed in camouflage and acting in conjunction with the 15th Battalion of the Honduran Army in the Colón region. A final report from the mission is expected soon. On July 30, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), one of the participating organizations, issued a statement of concern over the human rights situation in Honduras, urging that the international community continue to condemn the coup, that the European Union suspend economic cooperation with Honduras, and that the U.N. high commissioner conduct a field visit to the country, among other things. [International Observation Mission preliminary report, 7/23/09; AlterNet, 7/28/09; FIDH, 7/30/09]

3. Repression severe on Nicaraguan border as Zelaya supporters gather to meet exiled president

A group of observers from the United Nations arrived at the Honduran border with Nicaragua on July 27, where supporters of Zelaya had been congregating since July 24 to greet the deposed president, who had promised to cross the border there over the weekend. The delegation, strictly there to document human rights conditions, reported shortages of water and food for the inhabitants in areas affected by the round-the-clock curfew, which covered approximately one third of the country and ultimately lasted five days. They received reports of a Red Cross vehicle that was trying to make it through to an encampment of protesters with basic provisions, which was denied passage by a military roadblock.

Movement to the southern border was impeded by as many as 15 military roadblocks, which stopped the busloads of supporters, forcing them to walk. Independent journalist and MISF associate producer Oscar Estrada witnessed first-hand many of the events at the border, and reported that throngs of supporters joined Zelaya, despite being deprived of transportation. Via Ciudadana, an international campesino rights organization, reported that marchers were variously tear-gassed and shot at, resulting in at least three injuries. On July 25, news broke that Via Ciudadana leader Rafael Alegría had been arrested. Estrada and the group of reporters with whom he was traveling were able to locate Alegría, along with roughly 150 peaceful protesters, in the local jail. With the help of Juan Almendares, director of the Center for Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and their Families, Estrada and the reporters were able to secure Alegría’s release, as well as those of the women being held, who had complained of sexual harassment as well as threats of sexual abuse. The same day, popular leaders Bertha Cáceres and Salvador Zúniga, of Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations (COPINH), and Miriam Miranda, of the Garifuna organization OFRANEH, were also detained but subsequently released.

A report from women’s group Feministas en Resistencia substantiates a claim that at least one Honduras Red Cross vehicle was used to transport tear gas and arms to the barricades along the southern route. This has had the effect of undermining the trust local people have in the aid organizations generally and the Red Cross specifically. Although the Red Cross said they never sent a unit in that direction, they have not denounced the misappropriation of their symbol by government forces, nor have they made a formal complaint to appropriate authorities, according to the group. [Oscar Estrada report, 7/27/09; Via Ciudadana; Revistazo, 7/28/09; Feministas en Resistencia, 7/28/09]

4. Protests in Tegucigalpa, other cities meet with violent police, military response

Violent repression exploded on July 30 in the El Durazno section of Tegucigalpa, a day that union leader and National Front Against the Coup organizer Juan Barahona called “the fiercest repression we have experienced to date.” Many nonviolent protesters and bystanders were beaten, including independent presidential candidate Carlos Reyes, whose arm was broken, MISF associate producer Oscar Estrada, whose camera was destroyed and confiscated along with his footage and cell phone, and president of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH) Andrés Pavón. CODEH released a full account of their experience on the streets, reporting that disproportionate amounts of police and military forces were on hand, stopping buses full of people headed to El Durazno and briefly hijacking them, with helicopter support, to locations far from the protests. Some of these busloads were detained.

The protesters on hand were tear-gassed and beaten, seemingly at random. When one man who had stopped to take pictures was chased into his office, Pavón tried to intervene, stating his credentials. The police officer threatened him, calling human rights worthless and attempting to hit him with his baton. The account continued, “We bore witness to the disproportionate and beastly nature of the aggression. They were detaining the protesters, marching them down the street, single file, which recalled [a scene from] the Jewish ghettos.”

After being loaded onto trucks, the protesters were taken to the police’s Fourth Precinct or the Army’s Seventh Regional Command, where they joined over 100 detainees. By CODEH’s count, at least 16 people were severely wounded, and one, Roger Abrahán Vallejo, killed by gunshot. (See top story.) Reports from Comayagua city yielded similar stories, with at least 100 detained, over 20 severely wounded, and gas canisters being thrown inside the cells. Similar reports from Copán city emerged from protests there the following day. The New York Times also reported clashes in at least four cities. [NY Times, 7/31/09; TeleSur, 7/30/09; (Editor’s note: COFADEH reports will be posted to mayispeekfreely.org soon]

5. Human rights NGOs take action on behalf of detainees, at-risk citizens

In its legal capacity, CODEH made claims of habeas corpus for people detained in Tegucigalpa, Comayagua and Copán July 30 (see above story), only to be frustrated by judges who arrived after the detainees had been released without any intake or discharge records on file, leaving no evidence of the witnessed illegal detentions. CODEH has made four formal reports of human rights abuses to date, calling out numerous members of the de facto government for their roles in the events since June 28, including the previously reported state of exception decree, domestic media repression, and treatment of foreign diplomats.

According to an interview earlier in the month with Reina Rivera, former director of the Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights, the military and the police are working in very close coordination, with the latter appearing to take orders from the former rather than checking its power in-country. She said that reports of disappearances are currently being verified, and that claims of forced military conscription, reported by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and others, have been followed by reports that these are now “voluntary,” due to pressure from NGOs.

On July 24, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expanded its list of people granted precautionary measures “in order to safeguard the life and personal integrity of persons in Honduras, who, according to information received, are at risk.” The expanded list names scores of people, including journalists, union leaders, leaders of local NGOs and former government officials. The commission has also requested information on specific claims of murders, beatings, death threats, press repression and other forms of abuse. [MDZ Online, 7/11/09; Revistazo; Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Precautionary Measures 2009]

6. U.S. State Dept. maintains guardedly pro-Zelaya stance

On July 27, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly restated the official U.S. stance on Honduras, saying, “We want the restoration of democratic order. And that includes the return by mutual agreement of the democratically elected president, and that’s President [Manuel] Zelaya.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been more guarded in her assessment, omitting the last sentence regarding the return of Zelaya, saying, as she did on July 7, “We hope at the end of this mediation there will be a return of democratic constitutional order that is agreed to by all concerned. The exact nature of that, the specifics of it, we will leave to the parties themselves.”

Despite having generally expressed a position against the interim government, the State Department has not legally declared the Zelaya’s removal a coup d’etat, a position that Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley restated plainly in a July 20 briefing. Although the Obama administration and State Department have used the word “coup,” it hasn’t legally been declared such; clauses in the Foreign Assistance Act and Millennium Challenge Accounts call for the immediate termination of the flow of aid to a country in which a coup has “legally” taken place. At stake are $43.2 million in foreign aid slated for Honduras in 2009, including Millennium Challenge compact monies. There is $130 million left to be disbursed to Honduras under the Millennium Challenge through 2010. Over $20 million in military and police assistance and other aid programs have been suspended thus far, and $11 million in Millennium Challenge monies have yet to be authorized.

The argument for not cutting off aid has a humanitarian dimension—Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, with the most extreme inequality in wealth distribution. Cutting off aid would mainly affect the roughly 5.2 million people living under the poverty line, and not necessarily those pushing for the coup. Those who favor a tougher stance echo the words of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who said in a July 15 Miami Herald op-ed, “If those who overthrew Zelaya remain intransigent, we must look at additional cuts, without harming the poor more than Honduran politicians already have. In addition, we should consider pursuing punitive measures—including suspending travel visas—for anyone involved in suppressing the Honduran people.”

Spokesperson Kelly also stressed the department’s desire to have both parties adhere to the mediation talks headed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. On July 28, the United States applied more pressure on the de facto government by revoking diplomatic visas for four of its officials: Tomas Arita Valle, the Supreme Court justice who signed the order for Zelaya’s arrest; José Alfredo Saavedra, president of the Honduran Congress; human rights ombudsman Ramon Custodio; and Adolfo Lionel Sevilla, defense minister in the interim government. In a briefing that day, Kelly added that the State Department would further support the Zelaya government in this matter. “Once they submit the proper notification of termination on [Embassy diplomats and staff who support the de facto regime], the United States will take steps to terminate their status,” he said. [Miami Herald, 7/15; U.S. State Dept., 7/27/09; U.S. State Dept., 7/28/09; Reuters, 7/28; Business Week, 7/29]

7. U.S. Congress divided on Honduras

Meanwhile, in Congress, two starkly different resolutions on Honduras are competing for support. H. Res. 630—which Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., introduced July 10—”condemns the June 28 coup d’etat in Honduras and refuses to recognize the de facto Micheletti government installed by that coup d’etat.” It also specifically calls for Manuel Zelaya to be reinstated and for the Obama administration to suspend any non-humanitarian aid, which it has not done to the full extent possible. Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a co-signer of 630, has been circulating a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that cites human rights abuses and urges the United States to take further action against the de facto government, including a suspension of non-humanitarian aid and a freeze on bank accounts and assets of individuals involved in the coup. Grijalva said such actions would have no adverse effect on the people of Honduras, but would force the de facto government to “abandon its uncompromising stance.”

On the other hand, H. Res. 619, put forth July 8 by Rep. Connie Mack, R.-Fla., “condemns Mr. Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales for his unconstitutional and illegal attempts to alter the Constitution of Honduras,” and calls the actions of June 28 legal and constitutional. Mack, who, along with his Republican colleague Rep. Brian Bilbray of California, returned from a July 25-26 weekend trip to the country, said Zelaya “is playing a game here and [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez is pulling the strings.”

The bill supporters are currently engaged in a race for broader support, as 630 currently has 44 co-signers—mostly a liberal coalition of minorities and their supporters—while 619 has 41 co-signers—conservative Cuban exiles and their allies. [The Hill, 7/28/09; Huffington Post, 7/28/09; Library of Congress, H. Res. 619; Library of Congress, H. Res. 630; The Hill, 7/28]

8. Honduran Congress members “deliberately kept out of legislative session” that ousted Zelaya

A growing number of Honduran congressional deputies are speaking out against the coup and affirming that they did not participate in the June 28 vote—initially reported as nearly unanimous—to remove President Manuel Zelaya from office and instate Roberto Micheletti, the congressional president, in his stead. In a July 26 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a group of five representatives, including Copán deputy Elvia Valle, wrote, “We and other members of Congress were deliberately kept out of the legislative session which ousted President Zelaya. We were first informed that there would be no session that day, and a small group of us was notified that a session would be taking place at the very last minute, with full knowledge that we were then at great distances from the capital city.” Honduran Ambassador to the U.S. Enrique Reina and Armando Sarmiento, former Director of the Honduran Tax and Customs Bureau, told MISF at least 26 deputies were not present for the vote, while another who was present did not provide a “yes” vote but was counted as such.

Those 27 representatives signed their names to a follow-up letter to the U.S. Congress on Aug. 3, denouncing the dismissal of Zelaya, the denial of due process to Zelaya, the prevention of their participation in the vote, and the use of “progressive and systematic” repression and intimidation tactics against deputies speaking out against the coup. Comprising 20 Liberal Party members, five from the Democratic Union Party, and two from the Christian Democracy Party, the group noted that they “represent a broad slice of the political spectrum in Honduras—from former close allies of Roberto Micheletti, the de facto head of state, to strong supporters of Preseident Zelaya’s party and members of other political parties.” The group wrote in its July 26 letter, “In our country the coup not only turned back time several decades, to an era when it was common practice for the military to overthrow presidents, but it also sent us back to a time when civil liberties were systematically violated in the name of national security.” [MISF interview with Ambassador Enrique Reina and Armando Sarmiento; Honduran deputies’ July 26 letter to Clinton and Aug. 3 letter to U.S. Congress (Editor’s note: images of letters will be added to mayispeakfreely.org soon)]

9. Excerpt of July 21 letter from Manuel Zelaya to Barack Obama

“… I call upon the Honorable President Barack Obama to take concrete action aimed at restoring the constitutional order of the Republic of Honduras and ending the violations of human rights and the bloody repression of the people who are in the streets demanding justice by DECLARING the consequent state of emergency, prohibiting bank transactions and canceling the visas of the conspirators and those directly responsible for my absuction and the interruption of constitutional order in my country, designating them as “Specially Designated Persons” and adding them to the Executive Order 13224 of the United States of America, the following individuals: The High Command of the Armed Forces of Honduras presided over by Division General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and composed of Brigadier General Miguel Angel Garcia Padget, in his rank of General Commander of the Army, Commander General of the Navy, Rear Admiral Juan Pablo Rodriguez R., an Brigadier General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, Commander General of the Airforce; the directorate of the National Congress of Honduras presided over by Roberto Micheletti Bain, and composed of Jose Alfredo Saavedra, Toribio Aquilera, Ramon Velazquez Nassar, Marcia Facusse de Villeda, Rolando Dubon Bueso and Antonio Rivera Callejas; Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubi, and Public Prosecutor Rosa America Miranda.” [Translation by Embassy of Honduras, Washington, D.C.; text provided to MISF by Honduran Ambassador Eduardo Enrique Reina]

10. Human rights ombudsman Ramón Custodio censured by international human rights advocates

A group of Latin American, North American and European human rights lawyers, in a July 1 letter to the Federation of Iberoamerican Ombudsmen (FIO), denounced Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio for endorsing the coup and failing to defend human rights in the country. Custodio is the Honduran representative to the FIO. The letter called for an investigation into Custodio’s actions and that he be urged to “fulfill his constitutional duty to defend and protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law because, with his actions and omissions, he has discredited and delegitimized the institutional figure of the ombudsman and the Iberoamerican Federation of Ombudsmen.”

On July 27, Nicaraguan human rights prosecutor and FIO President Omar Cabezas announced the opening of an office in Nicaragua to receive complaints of human rights violations by the de facto government in Honduras. He said the office was needed because Custodio “is supporting the coup government and is not assuming his duties.” (La Opinión reported Aug. 3 that Custodio had been expelled from the FIO, while La Journada reported that he had been expelled from the International Federation of Human Rights; however, the claims are in question, as neither organization appears to have made public statements to that effect.)

An open letter to Custodio, dated July 26, from former friend and colleague Knut Rauchfuss of the NGO Justice is Health, based in Bochum, Germany, went further in explaining why Custodio’s international peers—and many Honduras human rights figures—were so disappointed with him. “You are no longer a fighter for human rights,” Rauchfuss wrote, “but rather an accomplice to lies and brutality, an accomplice to military men and assasins. Each day, another [news] article appears, where my old friend Ramón Custodio presents himself as custodian to the Honduran ruling class and its military coup, articles in which you present yourself publicly exonerating soldiers who killed protesters, and letters in which you deny that political prisoners exist and in which you exonerate, too, the torturer Billy Joya. Where is the Ramón Custodio who agreed with the principles of justice and humanity? Where is the Ramón who respected human dignity?” [Editor’s note: Joya, a former Honduran Army captain, has assumed the role of security adviser in Micheletti’s cabinet. Joya is accused of the illegal detention, torture and murder of civilians in the 1980s, when he was a commanding officer in the military intelligence Batallion 3-16.]

Custodio is also one of the officials whose U.S. visa was revoked. (See story above.) In response to U.S. State Department’s action he said, “I prefer to die with dignity in Honduras before being subjected to blackmail and coercion.” During the 1980s, as president of the NGO Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras, Custodio actively spoke out against illegal detentions, disappearances and the government’s failure to abide by its own constitutional guarantees, and he advocated on behalf of victims and their families. [Rauchfuss letter via Listas RDS-HN, 7/27/09; La Prensa, 7/30/09]

11. San José Accord still on table, but conflicts loom large

Talks between the two Honduran governments—that of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and of de facto President Roberto Michelleti—as mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, have taken a tumultuous course over the past few weeks, breaking off several times before reaching a near agreement late last week. The latest proposal, dubbed the San José Accord for the Costa Rican city by that same name, consists of 12 points:

(1) power sharing under a unity government, accepting the recently passed general budget; (2) a general amnesty for political offenses regarding the conflict, and general delay of any lawsuits extending six months; (3) renunciation of a poll or any other act regarding a Constitutional Assembly; (4) moving up elections by a month to Oct. 29; agreeing to international monitoring from now until transfer of power in January; (5) affirming neutrality of armed forces and requesting their assistance with electoral monitoring; (6) return of powers of state to their pre-June 28 status, with Zelaya as president; (7) establishing a verification commission, presided over by the Organization of American States, to make sure the accord is followed, as well as a truth commission, led by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to clarify the deeds that occurred before and after June 28; (8) normalization of status between Honduras and the international community; (9) accord effective at the moment of signing; (10) differences in interpretation will be taken up by the verification commission; (11) setting forth a calendar for all steps to take place; (12) commitment to execute accord in good faith.

On July 25, the Honduran military issued a statement that it supported this plan and would not stand in the way of Zelaya entering the country with the accord in place. This move seemed to provide an opening for Micheletti to consider it, which he indeed did signal in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on July 27. On July 30, the New York Times reported unnamed officials as saying that Michelleti had called President Arias the previous day to express his support for the San Jose Accord. There was even movement in the Honduran Congress to study the proposal with the expectation of a quick resolution. Zelaya has already agreed to the accord. In July 29 broadcast on San Pedro Sula TV station, he said, “To avoid going against the Arias plan, we will change strategy [on Constitutional reform], but reform is still coming.”

On July 31, however, Michelleti dashed any glimmer of hope by issuing a statement, which said, in part, “We respect many of the points of the agreement but we do not accept some of them like the return of Mr. Zelaya. We don’t accept it in this country under any circumstance. If he wants to come back he can, but only if he faces trial.” A high-ranking diplomatic mission is slated to travel to Honduras in an effort to persuade the interim government to accept all 12 points of the plan.

The diplomatic drama took place against the backdrop of developments on the ground, which might have complicated negotiations. On July 24, Zelaya, along with a throng of supporters gathered at the Nicaraguan border, briefly crossed over into Honduras soil in defiance of the military, which had threatened his arrest if he did so. The event, which drew thousands of supporters defying curfews and making their way through the jungle, drew the ire of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called the move “reckless.” Many Zelaya supporters still remain just over the border in Nicaragua in camps, where Zelaya is reportedly preparing a “popular militia” to guard him when he returns to the country for good.

Meanwhile, the Honduran Public Ministry has filed charges against Zelaya and his former minister of the presidency, Enrique Flores Lanza, for the falsification of documents in connection with an investigation of illegal use of funds for publicity spending, presumably connected to the “cuarta urna” opinion poll to have been conducted on June 28. The charges include a request for an arrest warrant for the deposed president. [NY Times, 7/19/09; NY Times, 7/23/09; NY Times, 7/25/09; NY Times, 7/26/09; Wall St. Journal, 7/27/09; Huffington Post, 7/27/09; NY Times, 7/27/09; Bloomberg, 7/29/09; Proceso Digital, 7/30/09; Proceso Digital, 7/30/09; NY Times, 7/30/09; La Tribuna, 7/30/09; NY Times, 7/31/09; Washington Post, 7/31/09; AFP, 8/1/09]

12. Elite Honduran business interests flex behind-the-scenes power in de facto government

A recent article in The American Prospect revealed that Lanny Davis, chief U.S. lobbyist and public-relations strategist for the pro-coup forces in Honduras, is being paid by members of the Honduras chapter of the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL), including his main contacts, Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. Atala and Canahuati are two of eight extremely powerful families in Honduras, who together control much of the country’s media outlets and other business interests. According to the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, CEAL is a continuation of the same core group of business, political and military interests that during the 1980s comprised the Alliance for Progress and Development of Honduras, an anti-Communist group closely tied to the military that COFADEH and other human rights organizations consider a principal actor behind the infamous military intelligence Battalion 3-16 of that era, believed to have functioned as a death squad.

In a July 30 New York Times article revealing de facto President Roberto Michelleti’s brief flirtation with accepting the San José Accord, which would allow the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, unnamed sources were quoted as saying that Michelleti faced stiff opposition from these elite business interests in welcoming Zelaya back to the country. Michelleti issued a statement the following day unequivocally stating that his government was no longer considering any resolution that would bring Zelaya back, citing internal resources and “private companies” who had agreed to “freeze prices on the basic basket of goods … for as long as is necessary,” as a firewall against international isolation and pressure to do otherwise.

Those private companies do not include some major apparel manufacturers with interests in the country, including Nike, the Adidas Group, The Gap and Knight’s Apparel, who on July 28 issued a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for a restoration of democracy in Honduras. [American Prospect, 7/22/09; Nike, 7/27/09; All Headline News, 7/28/09; NY Times, 7/30/09; NY Times, 7/31/09]

13. “Cuarta urna” proposals had raised hopes among Honduras’ marginalized communities

The Honduran military recently made available on its Web site an extensive pdf document, which—in the midst of 156 pages listing pre-coup timelines, justifications for military and court actions to remove Manuel Zelaya from power, and miscellaneous legal documents—included a publicity flyer, apparently from the campaign to rally support for Zelaya’s “cuarta urna” opinion poll that was slated to have taken place on June 28. With no mention of a call to extend presidential term limits, the flier included a list of proposed changes the Zelaya government had hoped to introduce in the event a constitutional assembly was called to order. Among the 10 points listed were the promotion women’s rights, “guarantees of a multicultural and pluri-ethnic society,” and political reforms that would have allowed for more minority representation in government. Ironically—since a key criticism of the process was the perception of Zelaya’s desire to hold on to power—one of the points allowed for midterm votes of confidence for local, congressional and presidential representatives.

Beyond coup d’etat or rule of law, Zelaya or Michelleti, the promise of constitutional reform reportedly struck a chord with many disempowered communities, especially the Garifuna population, an ethnic subgroup descended from Amerindian and African people, of which there are roughly 400,000 in Honduras. Garifuna community activist Alfredo López told the Miami Herald, “We have no political visibility in this country and that makes us extremely vulnerable. The constitutional assembly would have given us a chance to change that.” For some Garifuna, Zelaya’s ouster meant dashed hopes, which is why they said they were marching not necessarily in support of Zelaya, but for a change in the status quo. According to Carlos Mauricio Palacios, a historian who has worked with indigenous communities, “[The constitutional assembly] was important, not just for the Garifunas, but all the minority communities. This was a chance to secure rights that have long been denied to them.'” [Documento Auditoría Jurídico Militar de las FFAA Sobre Sucesión Presidencial en Honduras, PDF; Honduras Coup 2009, 7/27/09; Miami Herald, 7/22/09]

14. Kidnapped journalist found dead

On July 8, the body of reporter Bernardo Rivera was found buried on a mountainside in the Copán region. Rivera, a former congressional deputy, was kidnapped on March 14 and apparently died in an escape attempt sometime in April. The NGO Reporters Without Borders issued a statement condemning the events, adding that the Honduran government had taken too long in coming to grips with the seriousness of the crime wave sweeping the country. [La Tribuna, 7/13/09; La Tribuna, 7/13/09; previous story: HNR, 5/1-31/09]

15. Other news in brief

Shortly after the events of June 28, the Honduran Foreign Ministry ordered all its diplomats home, and the ambassador to the United States, Roberto Flores Bermudez, complied, saying “This is not a coup d’etat, but rather a process in which a judicial order has been carried out.” Eduardo Enrique Reina, a former vice minister of foreign relations and private secretary to Honduras’s ousted president, presented himself on July 16 as Zelaya’s ambassador to the country. [Miami Herald, 7/3/09; The Hill, 7/16/09] Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, minister of culture under the Zelaya administration who fled to Mexico after hiding in Honduras for seven days following the coup, and Enrique Reina, the new ambassador to the United States, reported that some ministers’ personal bank accounts and credit cards were frozen for more than a week following the coup. [MISF interviews with Fasquelle and Reina]

For background information on the June 28 coup, along with links to original Honduran government documents, read our Backgrounder: Making Sense of the Honduran Coup.

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[en] Dominion: Five things the Corporate Media doesn’t want you to know about the Coup in Honduras

[posted by Dawn Paley: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/weblogs/dawn/2795%5D



1. It was a military coup carried out on behalf of corporate, national and transnational elites. “Restoring Democracy” though a military coup is akin to bombing your way to peace.

2. Coup participants were trained by the CIA and at the School of the Americas. Reactionary, anti-democratic US training grounds such as these are responsible for mass murder throughout the Americas.

3. President Mel Zelaya is a centrist, and his movements towards the “left,” such as joining the ALBA trade block, are a result of massive popular pressure for change.

4. The constitutional referendum was not focused on extending Zelaya’s term limit. The referendum on the constitution marked the beginning of a popular process of participative democracy, which is extremely threatening to local and transnational elites.

5. Transnational corporations support the coup. Goldcorp has been bussing employees to pro-coup marches, other Canadian companies have stayed silent and are complicit in the coup.

Photo of demonstrators in Tegucigalpa by Sandra Cuffe

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[en] Rights Action: Honduran Coup Resistance Alert #31 – Voices from Catacamas

Day 25 of Honduran Coup Resistance, July 22, 2009, Alert #31

“… you have to be careful. There’s no law here these days.”


Update: from Jonathan Treat, journalist in Tegucigalpa

Article: by Jonathan Treat, “Voices from Catacamas, Hometown of Honduran President, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya”


Grahame Russell (Rights Action co-director): 1-860-3… (Connecticut), info@rightsaction.org
Jonathan Treat (journalist in Tegucigalpa): [504] 8877-4161,

Please re-distribute this information all around.

To get on/ off Rights Action’s email list: http://www.rightsaction.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=3/

To donate funds to pro-democracy movement in Honduras: see below

* * *

UPDATE by Jonathan Treat in Tegucigalpa ([504] 8877-4161, jonathantreat@gmail.com)

Today, July 22, marks the 25th day of non-violent resistance to the coup and the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti  in Honduras.  The atmosphere in Tegucigalpa is tense, marked by sense of uncertainty and fear.  The Micheletti regime has shown an unwillingness to seriously negotiate a peaceful solution to the current political crisis, and the talks in Costa Rica moderated by Oscar Arias have been postponed.

In Tegucigalpa today, supporters of the coup government organized marches, sparing no irony in labeling them pro-“Peace and Democracy”.  Using tactics reminiscent of the cold war, they invoked images of Hugo Chavez to raise the specter of “communism/socialism”, fuel fears and justify the coup as an attempt  to preserve “democracy” in Honduras.

The pro-demcracy/pro-Zelaya movement also staged demonstrations throughout the city.  Fortunately, there have not been reports of any violent confrontations between the two groups or with authorities.

In Honduras’ new “democracy”, curfews remain in place—anyone in the streets late at night can be arrested and jailed without question.   Throughout Tegucigalpa the military presence is pervasive, and troops and police regularly are stopping vehicles to demand identification.

The Micheletti regime seeks to close the only pro-democracy/anti-coup television station in Honduras, Canal 36.  They are hoping to apply a constitutional clause related to media, citing the channel’s ‘threat to national security’.

Throughout the week, the regime has blocked the broadcast of channel 36 news as reports denounced the de facto regime and its repression of the popular movement.

The remaining local media coverage of current events in Honduras is shamelessly supportive of the Michelleti regime—not surprising considering the interests they represent.

In the U.S., the lack of objectivity of mainstream corporate media (difficult to watch from the perspective of the popular, nonviolent, pro-democracy movement here in Honduras) was manifested in CNN’s broadcast, yesterday, of Patricia Janiot’s “interview” with deposed Honduran President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya.  Patricia Janiot’s coverage was more a manipulated cross-examination of the elected leader of Honduras than an interview.

It is recommended viewing for anyone trying to understand the manipulated media coverage taking place at the international level, all of which puts the peace and security of a majority of pro-democracy, pro-Zelaya Hondurans at greater risk.

Yesterday a taxi driver in Tegucigalpa asked, “Who will be the victims of the violence that might break out any day?  It won’t be rich Hondurans.  We are a peaceful people.  Hondurans haven’t known war,” he said.  “Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador—they have known violence.  People there knew how to fight repressive governments.  Here in Honduras, war is something we don’t know much about.”  Some observers worry that perhaps that fact is something that the current regime is banking on.

* * *


By Jonathan Treat (in Tegucigalpa, July 22, 2009)

“… you have to be careful. There’s no law here these days.”

A few horses lazily graze the rolling green pastures surrounding the modest ranch house of currently deposed Honduran president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya. It is an unlikely place for a tense standoff. But the bucolic setting for the president’s personal residence in Catacamas, Olancho is a potential tender box.

On the one side are Honduran military troops, and national police. On the other, a diverse mix of pro-Zelaya supporters from the community—local leaders of the pro-democracy movement, housewives, farmers, ranchers, students, professors, business owners, and workers.

The burning issue here: the return of the President Zelaya to Honduras—and to the seat of the presidency.

On July 17, when townspeople learned that the military had surrounded the president’s family house, more than four thousand protesters marched to the house to take it back. When confronted by the crowd, the fifty or so soldiers quietly retreated.

Since then, the pro-democracy movement in Catacamas has maintained a constant vigil at the president’s residence. The home has become a symbol of popular resistance. Hundreds of people from communities around the state of Olancho gather here daily to guard the property and wait anxiously for the return of President Zelaya. Military planes and police helicopters circle in the skies above the crowd—an ominous reminder of the powers they’re confronting.

The small (30,000) agricultural town of Catacamas, Olancho, is about four hours west of the capitol of Tegucigalpa. Informal conversations with a variety of townspeople—at the local plaza, in taxis, stores, restaurants, Internet cafes—reveal widespread support for President “Mel” Zelaya. The local, hometown enthusiasm is natural, but the consistently positive comments of people in the community of Catacamas reveal more than a “local boy makes good” dynamic.

“I completely support the president. Look, I’m going to be frank—I’ve never voted before. But I know too much about Mel,” said one man, a self-described campesino who farms a small plot of land. “He’s not like other presidents I’ve seen. He’s humble. You see him eating at local markets, attending funerals and fiestas with the people—he´s not arrogant.”

A local taxi driver had this to say: “My father worked for Mel for 11 years, before he became our president. And I know he helps people. Since he’s been president, he has shown that. He’s done good things for the poor—giving pensions to the elderly, raising minimum wage, and improving schools and clinics. He’s a good man.”

Marlon Escoto, rector of the National University of Agriculture, was more measured in his critique. “President Zelaya isn’t perfect. But he’s much better than other presidents, and he has definitely made some positive changes that are benefitting the poor,” he said. “The elites here thought that during his campaign he was just saying populist things to get elected. But he has followed through. And that has alienated many in the ruling elite in Honduras.”

People in Catacamas also seem to be unanimous on another point—that the de facto government seized power illegally, through a military-supported coup.

“I just don’t understand this argument about whether it was a coup or not. The OAS, the United Nations, every country in the world, and Obama have all called it a coup” said one Catacamas taxi driver. “A coup is exactly what it is—and it´s shameful.”

At the local town plaza, a couple of men sit on a bench, watching some children kick at a limp soccer ball.

When asked about the current situation, one shakes his head sadly. “For a poor man, the coup is cruel. We’ve suffered before, but not like now. When you have to struggle to put enough food on the table, well, it’s an injustice.”

The other man adds an ominous note. “The coup is creating a dangerous situation. There are lots of guns in Olancho, since the (US-backed, anti-Nicaragua) Contra war (of the 1980s). Mel needs to come back, and soon.”

Not surprisingly, the pervasively pro-Zelaya sentiment of people here—and their consistent, active non-violent resistance—isn’t popular with the current regime.

On June 28, the day after the military coup, roughly 2000 people from Catacamas and neighboring communities mobilized to make the four-hour journey to Tegucigalpa to join the groundswell of popular opposition to the coup. But less than an hour into the trip, the caravan of cars and some thirty buses were confronted by military troops. An eyewitness reported that the soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons, shooting out the tires of ten of the buses, bringing the caravan to a halt.

Since then, military checkpoints are commonplace throughout Olancho state. There is a strong sense of indignation in the community, but it tempered with caution.

“The military regularly stops people leaving the town,” said one Catacamas resident. “You have to give them your documents, and tell them where you are going and why you’re going there. And people who are known as leaders of the movement against the coup have been told to turn around and go back home, or face arrest.”

One local taxi driver was stopped by the military when driving through town. “They have no right,” he said angrily. “It’s against the constitution for military to stop civilians—only police have that authority. I was furious, but you have to be careful. There’s no law here these days.”

There is also an ongoing curfew here—anyone on the streets after 11 p.m. risks being jailed. One young man said that the previous night he didn’t make it home in time. He showed me nasty cuts on his wrists from being roughed up by authorities while handcuffed.

The road that leads to President Zelaya’s personal residence is not what one might expect. Turning off the highway is an archway with a simple wooden sign announcing “Villa Linda”. The only guards to at the entrance to the property are cattle guards—anyone can approach the house unquestioned. And these days many people do—on foot, packed into the beds of old pickups, and in latest model trucks with their conspicuous curves, chrome and polarized windows.

The crowd of people who have gathered here is diverse, and there are no obvious distinctions between class or social status. People here voice a common goal—nonviolent resistance to Micheletti regime and the return of Zelaya to the presidency. In the meantime, they intend to make sure that the army keeps its hands off the president’s home.

Over the weekend (July 19, 20), several hundred people from Catacamas and neighboring communities gather at the President Zelaya’s family home. They chat in the shade of the three open air palapas (gazebos), on the front porch, or on the grassy grounds. Local vendors sell snacks and soft drinks, and kids play on swings and slides. Some dance to the music blaring out over loudspeakers. In the afternoons, there is food for everyone. One woman, a local teacher cooking up a meal for the crowd over a wood fire speaks with obvious defiance.

“We’re here because we are people with conviction. We know that our constitutional president is Manuel Zelaya. We elected him, and we’ll be here until he is back in power in Honduras. So we came to take this house back from the army. When they saw us coming, they left. But we know they are still around, waiting—we’ve seen them, some wearing ski masks,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. The people of Catacamas have courage. We’ll be here in this struggle until the president returns home.”

People gather to share the meal, chatting and laughing. Throughout the day, the atmosphere here has generally been relaxed and festive, more like a picnic than a stronghold of nonviolent resistance.

The mood changed, however, as local pro-democracy leaders provided updates of the ongoing, difficult negotiations taking place in Costa Rica. Things are not going well. Although President Zelaya has agreed to sit down and discuss and negotiate each and every point offered by moderator Oscar Arias, the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti government refuses to even consider the critical first point of Zelaya’s return to the presidency—the central point that this crowd is interested in. The news has serious, worrisome implications.

“I remember very well how things were during the 1980s. I understand the pain and suffering of living under a military regime. I don’t want to go back to that. We’re asking the world to help us, to demand the return to constitutional law—and the return of our president,” said one of man in the crowd, a professor at the local university. “The situation is very dangerous. We don’t want to see people pick up arms. We don’t want to see any bloodshed.”

A student, upon hearing the news of the stalled talks, says that he supports Pres. Zelaya completely but that he wants him to do everything possible to avoid an outbreak of violence.

“I want Mel to come back to Honduras. I want to see him return as president. I trust him, and I think he is sincere,” he said. “But I have two daughters. I don’t want to see a war. I hope he continues to negotiate.”

Unfortunately, there seems to be nothing left for President Zelaya to negotiate; he has agreed to discuss and negotiate all the terms presented by mediator Oscar Arias. But in spite of the unanimous condemnation of the current regime by governments around the world, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the suspension of all aid to Honduras by the European Union and the threat of the same by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—Micheletti and the military coup regime remain defiant. And Hondurans brace themselves for the possibility of a violent storm.

Note: On Tuesday, July 21 a caravan of more than 500 vehicles drove through Catacamas and neighboring communities in peaceful protest of the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, the ongoing military repression. They demanded the immediate return of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency. Military planes flew overhead. The electricity to the entire town was cut off for much of the day. There were at least five checkpoints between Catacamas and Tegucigalpa, attended by military troops and national police who demanded identification and searched vehicles.

* * *


UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA:  552-351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8


• unequivocal denunciation of the military coup
• no recognition of this military coup and the ‘de facto’ government of Roberto Micheletti
• unconditional return of the entire constitutional government
• concrete economic, military and diplomatic sanctions against the coup plotters and perpetrators
• respect for safety and human rights of all Hondurans
• application of international and national justice against the coup plotters, and
• reparations for the illegal actions and rights violations committed during this illegal coup

FOR MORE INFO: see series of Honduras Coup Alerts at www.rightsaction.org.  Contact Grahame Russell at info@rightsaction.org or Annie Bird at annie@rightsaction.org

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[en] MISF: Honduran human rights, press freedoms eroded since June 28

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 6, 2009. Carlos H Reyes, Juan Barahona, Mery Agurcia & Radio Progreso.[Coup opposition and union leaders Carlos H Reyes and Juan Barahona listen as Mery Agurcia of the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) describes the ongoing repression against social activists, journalists, and the public in general. Press conference, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 6, 2009. PHOTO: SANDRA CUFFE]


Honduran human rights, press freedoms eroded since June 28

(Published on ‘May I Speak Freely?’ & updated 07/22/2009)

While the debate over whether to call the military-backed ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya a “coup d’etat” remains at the forefront of media attention, a pattern of official violence and media repression points to a greater concern: the significant deterioration of human rights in the country since the events of June 28. Although Honduras has historically lagged in indicators of violence, democracy, human rights treatment and transparency, the rate of rights abuses in recent weeks is unprecedented.

The Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Dissapeared (COFADEH) issued an extensive report on the 1,155 human rights abuses they have cataloged since the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28. The vast majority of these claims (1,046) were illegal detentions, mainly for violating curfew and for engaging in protests. In addition, 65 people were reportedly beaten and injured, some seriously, by police or military security officers, and there were 16 reported death threats by officials. Further, one death has been definitively linked to actions by security forces.

A number of watchdog groups, NGOs and media outlets—including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, International Freedom of Expression Exchange, and the Honduras-based Committee for Free Expression—have reported a pattern of censorship, self-censorship due to concern for personal safety, and military repression of free expression in the three weeks following the June 28 ouster.

A few minutes after the coup began, a power outage silenced all of the country’s radio and TV stations for five hours. When power resumed, most stations aired only cartoons and soap operas, while the public TV station Canal 8—which is being operated by the interim government—resumed normal programming.

Since then, news outlets backing the ouster have largely been allowed to broadcast without interruption, and they have sought to portray a sense of normalcy—images of Hondurans standing in lines at banks or eating at restaurants—while the reality on the ground has been quite different.

Those outlets not entirely supportive of the interim government, however, have been shut down or heavily censored. Reporters Without Borders reported that the military told the news media in the Colón region that in order to avoid being closed down, they must broadcast only information provided by Micheletti’s government and refrain from criticizing Zelaya’s ouster.

Military officers have at times been stationed inside the offices of the independent Radio Globo Honduras and other broadcasters, listening to programming and actively censoring content. In a country where radio is the primary source of information for much of the population, especially the economically disadvantaged, the dismantling of radio stations critical of government actions has been a major blow to the flow of information.

“Anything we get here is rumor; there’s no official information,” said Honduran filmmaker and MISF associate producer Oscar Estrada. “It’s psychological warfare.”

Numerous journalists have reported receiving death threats. One reporter, Luis Galdamez, who hosts a show on Radio Globo, reportedly told RightsAction.org, “I get death threats every day. I don’t even read my text messages anymore, they’re so grotesque.” Jhony Lagos, editor of the independent monthly El Libertador, told Reporters Without Borders that he had been receiving anonymous threatening calls to his cell phone.

Many reporters have gone into hiding, including Eduardo Maldonado, a former presidential candidate and critic of de facto President Roberto Micheletti who hosts a few news programs on Maya TV. He is now taking refuge at the American Embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Multiple documented reports exist of more active repression, including attacks on stations—a grenade was thrown at Canal 11’s headquarters on July 4—and the destruction of broadcasting equipment at Canal 5 and Radio Globo. The COFADEH report tallies 27 individual cases of repression against news outlets and reporters.

Sandra Ponce, special prosecutor for human rights, said there have been five formal complaints brought before the Public Ministry regarding aggression, threats or other inhibitions to the free exercise of the press, including Canal 42, Diario El Heraldo, Canal 66 (Maya TV) and Radio Globo. Additionally, 11 foreign reporters for two Venezuelan-based television stations, regional network Telesur and national station Venezolana de Television, were harassed by police and ultimately expelled from the country on July 13.

Human Rights Commissioner Ramón Custodio, however, has reportedly not been investigating abuses, having declared his support for the de facto government. Estrada said that on a July 20 radio program, Custodio contended that complaints against the Micheletti government were being manufactured by Zelaya and his supporters in order to destroy the country.

“People are upset,” Estrada said, “not just about Zelaya, but also about human rights, about the destruction of democracy, about the history of our country. They are fearful of the people who are in control.”

For more information:

Press Freedom Under Attack in Honduras

Americas Quarterly blog July 16, 2009

General repression

Cofadeh report July 15, 2009

Conexihon/C-Libre, edition 117

Freedom of press violated

La Tribuna, July 13, 2009

Women’s radio programs censored

Revistazo, July 13, 2009

Venezuelan reporters leaved after police harassment

Committee to Protect Journalists July 13, 2009

Critics Cite Slanted Local Coverage, Limits on Pro-Zelaya Outlets

Washington Post July 9, 2009

Press freedom violations continue post-coup

International Freedom of Expression Exchange, July 8

Skewed coverage has followed Honduran coup

Committee to Protect Journalists, July 8, 2009

Honduras:Intimidation of Media workers and Protestors Rising

AIUSA Honduras page, Amnesty International USA, July 7, 2009

Media in coup storm

Reporters without Borders, July 6, 2009

Honduras: Free expression flogged

Inter Press Service, July 3, 2009

Continuing hostilities toward reporters

C-Libre, July 3, 2009

Coup bodes ill for media regardless of outcome

Reporters without Borders, July 1, 2009

http://www.conexihon.com/ediciones/edicion117/NOTAS/n_libertad-expresion2.html (Spanish version)

After Honduran coup, reporters detained, signals blocked

Committee to Protect Journalists, June 30, 2009

Honduran army smothers media after coup

Reuters, Mon Jun 29, 2009

Inter-American Comission on Human Rights on limitation of freedom of press

Conexihon/C-Libre, June 29, 2009

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