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Rights Action: Protests Challenging to IDB-Funded ‘Shock’ Program Met with Massive Violent Repression

Honduras Regime Impunity Watch

Rights Action – April 12, 2011

 

PROTESTERS ACROSS HONDURAS CHALLENGE IDB-FUNDED ‘SHOCK’ PROGRAM TO PRIVATIZE EDUCATION IN HONDURAS, AND ARE MET WITH MASSIVE VIOLENT REPRESSION

By Karen Spring & Annie Bird, April 12, 2011

 

March 2011 was marked by the worst repression seen against the people of Honduras since the June 2009 military coup.  The repression came in response to massive protests against an all-out final push by the Pepe Lobo regime to essentially privatize Honduras’ public education system while destroying teacher’s independence, politicizing schools, slashing salaries in half and ransacking retirement funds.

 

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(Photo: Karen Spring, Honduras, April 2011)

 

On April 1, 2011 teachers stopped the protests, a gesture to demonstrate a willingness to dialogue.  Pepe Lobo’s response was to publish the names of 300 teachers being summarily fired.  This forced parents and teachers back into the streets, and on Monday, April 11, protests began again.  A national strike will take place on Tuesday April 12, challenging the shock changes to the nation’s education system.  Violent repression of the protests is feared.

 

Strong national and international interests lie behind the plans for the Honduran education system.  Business interests and national political party power structures are teaming up with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (WB), to capitalize on education in Honduras while neutralizing teachers as an important voice in Honduran public policy.

 

MILITARY COUP USHERS IN SHOCK SOCIO-ECONOMIC POLICY MEASURES

 

On March 17, thousands of teachers began protesting as the de facto Honduran Congress examined a new law that fundamentally restructures the Honduran education system on a scale not seen since 1895 enacting what Honduran teachers call the privatization of the national education system.

 

This comes on the coattails of the June 2009 military coup and is just one of a series of ‘shock’ measures being undertaken to profoundly change the way Honduras administers everything from education to water to land rights to electricity to national sovereignty to retirement funds.  It also comes very shortly following the February 1, 2011 approval of a $100,000 technical loan from the IDB, Project Number HO-T1149, for a project called “Support of a comprehensive educational model.”

 

Over the past 16 months of the Pepe Lobo administration, a whirlwind of laws have rushed through congress to facilitate these shock measures, many facilitated by WB and IDB funding, and they are generating massive protests that build on the already widespread rejection of the legitimacy of the Pepe Lobo regime.  Lobo assumed office in January 2010 following illegitimate elections which were carried out by the post-military coup regime, under extreme repression and were not recognized by most of the nations in the Americas.

 

As the population of Honduras witnessed the extreme repression unleashed against protesting teachers and grasped the gravity of the changes to be enacted in the educational system, Hondurans joined the teachers in protest.

 

Since March 30th, parents from communities throughout Honduras occupied schools and blocked roads.  The Lobo regime’s response was to order teachers back to school and send in the military.

 

VIOLENCE TO SILENCE PROTESTS & DESTROY FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

Tear gas, live ammunition, tanks spraying a mix of water and pepper gas, illegal detentions, trumped up charges, violent beatings, disappearance attempts and murder are some of the tactics that the post-coup regime is deploying against the pro-democracy people’s movement and public school teacher’s movement that have taken to the streets to protest government education policies changes since July 2010.

 

Honduran teacher’s professional associations have not only been targeted for destruction by the IDB, as is clearly described in a March 2010 IDB study of the educational labor market in Honduras, but also by the Lobo regime, as teachers have also been a pillar of support for the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP, acronym in Spanish) that formed in opposition to the June 28th, 2009 military coup.  Strategically, destroying the teachers professional societies would mean a directly attack on the FNRP.

 

Since the coup, over 65 members of the pro-democracy people’s movement have been killed, disappeared and directly targeted for their role in the movement, 14 of them being public school teachers.  In addition, human rights organizations have identified over 300 “suspicious” killings, with indications of political motives and/or participation of state security forces.

 

On March 18, a 59-year-old teacher, Ilse Velasquez Rodriguez was shot in the head with a tear gas canister, fell to the ground and was run over by a news vehicle.  Tear gas launchers are considered a lethal weapon if fired directly on targets, an increasingly common practice by Honduran police.  Police and military also shot many tear gas canisters inside the central offices of teacher’s associations, COLPROSUMAH and COPEMH after protests had ended for the day, while teachers were meeting and resting. Dozens were arrested and charged with crimes including sedition, and dozens were injured.

 

The collective power of the teachers, both in the pro-democracy people’s movement and in the struggle against privatizing education, impedes both national interests of the post-coup regime and international interests of the WB and IDB.

 

In an IDB document from March 2010 with recommendations and conclusions regarding ‘needed’ Honduran educational reform, the IDB wrote, “That [The National Teacher’s Work Code] gives the teacher’s union an enormous coercive power over the government.”

 

PRIVATIZATION OF EDUCATION OR “DECENTRALIZATION”

 

Throughout Latin America a series of educational ‘reform’ or ‘decentralization’ programs have been enacted over the past decade, programs promoted by the WB and IDB.  In the case of Honduras the program is called the Honduran Program for Community Education, PROHECO.

 

In this model, the responsibility for administering schools and their funding is given over to non-governmental organizations, and in some countries businesses, that administer schools in theory, though often not in practice, in collaboration with local communities.

 

The PROHECO program was created in Honduras during the presidency of Ricardo Maduro from the National Party.  Administration of PROHECO schools was then charged to a Honduran NGO, the Ricardo Ernesto Maduro Andreu Foundation for Education, FEREMA.

 

The new education law passed on March 31, 2011 amidst massive repression of protests, follows the same model as PROHECO, but rather than just being a handful of schools in each municipality, the new law shifts all public schools from elementary to high school, over to the “decentralized” model.

 

The March 31 education law creates Municipal Educational Development Councils (COMDE) in each municipality, which coordinates administration of schools.  Though not explicit in the language of the law, Honduras’ experience with PROHECO and other experiences in the region make it clear to teachers that the COMDE schools would be administered in coordination with an NGO that administers the schools budgets.

 

WB and IDB technical grants, like the February 1, 2011 IDB grant, are usually extended to help governments prepare the groundwork to receive the multimillion dollar loans to promote new programs.  Teachers expect the IDB to provide a $50 million loan to support the shift to the COMDE model in the near future, and they are also expect that FEREMA would also assume management of COMDE schools.

 

POLITICAL PARTY INFLUENCE IN ALL THE NATION’S SCHOOL

 

FEREMA, created by former National Party president Ricardo Maduro, is closely tied in to National Party structures. The potential for political manipulation through the nation’s schools when managed by a private foundation closely tied to political party structures is tremendous.

 

Political manipulation has already occurred in some PROHECO schools, such as occurred in Santa Rositas, San Francisco de Lempira, where a conflict between National Party municipal and school authorities and the families of the students of the school culminated in the burning of the school in early March.

 

The on-going two year dispute in Santa Rosita centered around municipal and school authorities attempts to fire and replace teachers that were not loyal to the National Party. Local authorities and PROHECO administrators, along with the police and military, entered the school to attempt to physically remove the teachers despite strong resistance from the parents.

 

Many of the PROHECO and municipal officials involved in the attempted illegal firings also have outstanding legal complaints for other abuses, particularly the school director, accused of raping young students and making death threats against the parents denouncing the abuses.

 

In early March the Special Prosecutor for Indigenous Peoples Rights conducted an investigation of the charges and was herself threatened.  When charges were formalized, according to the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organization of Honduras), COPINH, the abusive authorities responded by burning the school.  COPINH was blamed publicly by the media and authorities for the burning while an investigation has still not been carried out.

 

DESTROYING TEACHERS PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

 

In Honduras, it is considered that certain professions like public prosecutors and teachers, should have a certain guarantees to ensure their ability to carry out their profession with independence. Destroying the professional associations not only destroys labor conditions but destroys their ability to act with independence.

 

Teachers’ professional associations have played a key role in the structure of the Honduran educational system for over on hundred years. Teachers associations are more than unions, though they fulfill some of the important functions of unions, such as collective bargaining on teachers working conditions and administration of important benefits like retirement pensions.  But professional associations also accredit teachers, have an important voice in educational policy, and protect the teachers from arbitrary firing / hiring.

 

The creation of the PROHECO program for the first time allowed the government to hire teachers to practice without belonging to professional associations.  PROHECO starting teachers earn salaries of approximately L4500 per month, less than the minimum wage, and are only paid the 10 months of the year classes are in session. The Secretary of Education teachers affiliated with the professional associations earn salaries of about L9800 over the 12 month calendar year, with two additional bonus salaries per year.

 

PROHECO teachers are hired on ten month contracts, which must be renewed yearly.  Since they are hired year to year they have no right to unemployment compensation or retirement benefits.  It also makes their job security contingent on absolute compliance with whatever the school’s administrating NGO demands of them.

 

In short, the experience of PROHECO has confirmed to teachers that the measures being undertaken to dismantle the professional associations and “decentralize” education open up the possibility of politically motivated firing of teachers, while ravaging teachers working conditions.

 

ROB THE TEACHER’S PENSION FUNDS; BUY TEAR GAS & AMMUNITION

 

Ilse Velasquez, the teacher killed in protests on March 18, had hoped to retire this year, but had been told she could not since the teachers’ pension funds were gone.  The de facto Roberto Micheletti regime that took power for 5 months after the military coup until the ‘election’ of Pepe Lobo, illegally took four billion lempiras ($40 million USD) from IMPREMA, the institution that manages pension funds for 68,000 teachers.

 

The stolen funds are believed to have been used by the de facto government to fund the military machine run by the oligarchy, illegal “President” Micheletti and head of the armed forces, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez to repress and terrorize the pro-democracy movement critical of the coup and it’s perpetrators.

 

The Lobo regime has not complied with an agreement reached with teachers in August 2010 to return a portion of the stolen funds to IMPREMA. Instead, the government and Congress have been attacking IMPREMA; attempting to create the impression of corruption and mis-management to convince the population of needed reform.

 

Teachers claim the de facto government, backed by the IDB, intends to consolidate IMPREMA into the IPM (military retirement fund) and that the age for retirement will be raised from 60 to 70.

 

PEOPLE RESIST

 

Attempts to consolidate the privatization process that began under the Maduro administration were largely unsuccessful in the privatization effort during the  overthrown President Zelaya’s term in office from 2006-2009, the IDB and WB seem to be successfully pushing this agenda with the Pepe Lobo’s regime comprised of Honduran oligarchy and business elite, who have many reasons to follow suit.

 

Strong and growing national resistance against the new education law continues. Including departmental assemblies and protests organized by the teacher’s movement and pro-democracy people’s movement. This is despite Lobo’s threat that all teachers that do not present themselves to work will be suspended for one year without pay. Taking democracy into their own hands, municipal consultations are also now occurring throughout the country in an effort to reject the Congress’s recent decision and the new education law.

 

In a last final effort to defend public education to avoid the system to be handed over to the same people that planned and supported the military coup, the teachers, the National Front of Popular Resistance, students, indigenous organizations, churches and parents of public school students continue to resist by occupying schools, holding assemblies, consultations and protesting in the street.

 

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WHAT TO DO – MAKE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS

for HONDURAS’ PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT

 

To make a tax-deductible donation for community based organizations in Honduras’ pro-democracy movement working to defend human rights and the environment and to eradicate poverty and re-found their nation-state, make check payable to “Rights Action” and mail to:

 

UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887

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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, MORE INFORMATION???

Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org

Karen Spring, in Tegucigalpa, spring.kj@gmail.com, 011 [504] 9507-3835

Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org

 

Thank-you.

 

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Banging the Drums of Resistance to the Repression, by Karen Spring

BANGING THE DRUMS OF RESISTANCE TO THE REPRESSION

(by Karen Spring, spring.kj@gmail.com)

 

On March 28th, Miriam was shot by police in the stomach with tear gas canisters, illegally detained and threatened, during a peaceful road occupation to reject the privatization of public education being carried out by the military-backed Honduran regime.

 

Three days after her release, and still recuperating, Miriam was present in Tegucigalpa marching with the Garifuna people.

 

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(Miriam Miranda, Tegucigalpa, April 1, 2011. All photos: Karen Spring)

 

(From a speech by Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), on the streets of Tegucigalpa, April 1, 2011)

 

“Today we are here, present in the capital, not just so people can watch us dance. We do not want to maintain this idea that Garifuna are only useful to dance. As well, we will not be used to help legitimize a government that carried out a coup d’etat.

 

“We are here as Garifuna so we can make visible the problems of the Garifuna people. So that people will realize, on a national and international level, that the Garifuna people are here to reclaim their historical rights.

 

“We are here on the 1st of April, inaugurating the International Year of the Afro-descendents named by the United Nations.

 

“Today we can say that we are facing the second expulsion of our territories, that is why we’re here.

 

“The Garifuna people have inhabited Honduras and resisted for more than 214 years. It is not true that we are just able to dance. That is why we are here. We are here with our identity, our spirituality, our culture, because we have a culture of resistance. Even before a system that wants to eliminate all of the value of our culture. All the value that we are as Garifuna people. We are proud to be Garifuna. The Garifuna culture is a culture of milleniums. The Garifuna people just like the Lenca people, Pech, Mosquito, and Tolipan, all the indigenous and black peoples, we have been resisting against a monoculture, one culture that they are trying to create and say that we are.

 

“We are here to say that we are not interested in speaking with [President] Pepe Lobo because he is not in charge. We want to tell the world that yes, we are present. We do not want them to receive us in the Presidential House … when he [Pepe Lobo} will not dialogue with the teachers. When he is repressing the people. Because of this we are here to say we are present!”

 

THE MARCH OF THE DRUMS; 214 YEARS OF ANCESTRAL RESISTANCE; 2011 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF AFRO-DESCENDENTS

 

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“The sounds of our drums are symbols of resistance.” (Garifuna doctor, Luther Castillo)

 

In Honduras, April is a month of celebration for the Garifuna people. To inaugurate the African Heritage Month during the International Year of Afro-Descendents and 214 years since the Garifuna people arrived in Honduras (forcibly brought here by [British] imperialists carrying out an ethnic cleansing on the island now known as San Vincent), roughly 2000 Garifuna people and 214 drums were brought from various communities on the north coast and Bay Islands of Honduras to Tegucigalpa last Friday, April 1st.

 

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From the National Teaching University to the Central Park, the Garifuna community – joined by Lenca indigenous members of COPINH (Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras) – marched with 214 drums, many maracas while singing and dancing in the streets of the capital city.

 

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But as Garifuna doctor, Luther Castillo said to the crowd, “We commemorate [the African heritage month] but we have nothing to celebrate.” With many colourful written banners carried on the streets of Tegucigalpa, the Garifuna demonstrated the various threats to their culture and survival. All reasons why it’s difficult for the Garifuna to celebrate as they are facing “a second expulsion from their territory.”

 

Banners read:

 

* The Plundering of Garifuna land and Territory is racism

* In the International Year of Afro-descendents, the Robbery of African and Latin American Lands has Intensified

* The Hydroelectric Dam Decrees are Unconstitutional: We Demand the Right to Consultation

* We Demand Integral Agrarian Reform: No to Facusse-landia

* The Municipalization of Education, Water & Indigenous Land is Privatization

 

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Source:

Honduras Military-backed Regime & Impunity Watch

Rights Action – April 6, 2011

 

 

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, ENGLISH & ESPANOL

Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org

Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org

Karen Spring, in Tegucigalpa, spring.kj@gmail.com, 011 [504] 9507-3835

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[en] MISF Briefing: Government-Supported Human Rights Abuses and the Legacy of Impunity

Briefing on Honduras: Government-Supported Human Rights Abuses and the Legacy of Impunity

READ MISF’s FULL BRIEFING, UPDATED OCT. 11 2010, HERE (PDF) AND IN SPANISH HERE (updated Spanish version coming soon).

In the months after the June 28 coup in Honduras, international media and NGOs reported on the de facto government’s suspension of constitutional rights, censorship of media outlets and repression of peaceful demonstrators. Less reported and harder to monitor has been an ongoing wave of human rights violations—illegal arrests, intimidation, police beatings, and suspicious deaths of journalists, resistance leaders, activists, advocates and their family members—which have continued, and in the case of journalists increased, since the inauguration of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

Human rights advocates say they have been witnessing a pattern of abuse strikingly similar to what citizens suffered during the political conflicts of the 1980s. They point to a culture of ongoing repression that has been cultivated by government and military impunity for human rights violations over the last 30 years.

“The connection is very evident in the patterns of repression that have played out. The mode of repression, the sowing of fear, detentions, and the general climate of terror is very reminiscent of the 80s,” Claudia Hermansdorfer, director of the Honduran Center for Women’s Rights, said.

In the 1980s the Honduran Military Battalion 3-16 kidnapped, tortured or “disappeared” citizens. Today at least five former military officers with ties to Battalion 3-16 are reported to hold powerful positions within the government or police (see Former Battalion 3-16 members in positions of power today, below) and little has been done to end a dysfunctional culture of impunity.

In 1994, then Human Rights Commissioner Leo Valladares published numerous recommendations in The Facts Speak for Themselves (Los Hechos Hablan Por Si Mismo) following his independent investigation into human rights abuses perpetrated by Honduran security forces in the 1980s.

In his report, Valladares advised that “the creation of [several specific] greater legal protections will be necessary to prevent disappearances from happening again,” including a “central registry of detained persons” and a “special law regarding detention.” He also recommended several reforms regarding accountability, noting, “The state has the duty and the right to use force against those who violate its laws. The legitimate use of force, however, flows from respect for the Constitution and laws of the nation.” His recommendations include those to “assure democratic and citizen control of all public security actions,” among others.

Those recommendations remain valid today and, regrettably, most have not been acted on by any Honduran government since the report was published. According to Susan Peacock, a former fellow at the National Security Archive who assisted Valladares in his efforts to obtain U.S. declassified information on events in the 1980s, “If those recommendations have not been followed up on, it is unlikely the Truth Commission’s will be. History is likely to repeat itself until actions are taken to break the cycles of impunity.”

The net result is a culture of impunity that has left many Hondurans fearful of the current situation. Bertha Oliva, director of Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), said, “Before, they hid the dead. Now they do it in public, challenging every principle of human rights.”

CLICK HERE to download a PDF of the full backgrounder on government-supported human rights abuses and the legacy of impunity in Honduras. The information provided is based on research that May I Speak Freely Media has conducted over the past 10 years.

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[en] COFADEH: 157 Hondurans have fled into Exile

By Dina Meza, DefensoresEnLinea.com

Original article in Spanish

 

The Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, COFADEH, is able to confirm that there are political exiles. Over the last few weeks, three more people have been taken out of the country because their lives are in danger, bringing the total to 157 persecuted people who have left Honduras, said Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the human rights organization COFADEH.

After declarations by [ousted] President Manuel Zelaya Rosales about the existence of political exiles, the regime of Porfirio Lobo Sosa has tried to delegitimize these allegations, requesting a list of the exiles’ identities. On the matter, Oliva pointed out that COFADEH has registered 157 people in exile due to political persecution by the Honduran State and its agents.

“At the same time they say they are creating mechanisms, they are going looking for people with photographs in hand. They are paramilitaries, death squads that persecute people who have some level of leadership in their communities and neighbourhoods,” denounced the coordinator of COFADEH.

To Oliva, the total of 157 Hondurans who have fled Honduras is a scandalous number, considering that if Honduras is supposedly living through a process of reconciliation, there should not be a single person leaving the country due to terror or political persecution.

COFADEH is not working with cases of family vendettas, but with people involved in the national resistance with some level of leadership in their communities and neighbourhoods who are being followed, pursued using their photographs – in short, we are talking about paramilitaries, death squads, reiterated the human rights activist.

It is about political persecution. If it were not so, why is it that members of the resistance are those who are being persecuted?, she asked while emphasizing the regime’s double standards.

Concerning Porfirio Lobo’s repeated statements asking for the list of exiles in order to prove that they really exist, human rights defender Oliva asked how it is possible that Lobo, who supported left-wing movements in the 1980s, now asks for names and addresses, which would place these people at risk.

“This is not a legend, it is not happening in Bosnia… this false respect of human rights needs to be stopped,” expressed Oliva, who returned last weekend from a trip to the United States where she denounced what is happening in Honduras and, together with the Human Rights Platform [of Honduras], received the Letelier Moffitt award.

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[en] Human Rights Platform: Prevent Intensification of Violence in Aguan Region

Press Release

We Must Prevent the Intensification of Violent Incidents in the Lower Aguan

The Human Rights Platform, in its travels to learn in situ about the conditions of violence in the Aguan Valley and the conditions in which the families organized in the Aguan Unified Farmworkers’ Movement (MUCA) live, visited the La providencia de la Concepción, La Aurora, La Confianza and Los Camarones cooperatives, located along the right-hand riverbank, and the Guanchías cooperative along the left bank.

From this visit, we summarize our report in the following points:

* The facts learned refute the media campaign that criminalizes the actions taken by MUCA, relating them to guerilla groups advised by foreigners who supposedly operate in the region;

* We confirmed the presence in the land occupations of families including children (including infants), pregnant women, seniors, disabled people, living in deplorable conditions;

* The Human Rights Platform has documented complaints that reflect a state of distress, helplessness, and anxiety, caused by the presence of groups armed with sophisticated military equipment (weapons with laser beams and night vision) that harass the population in the area, violent evictions, and constant death threats against members of the different cooperatives;

* The testimonies highlight that various people have been injured as a result of the violent evictions and acts of intimidation, and that a series of anomalies has taken place during illegal detentions: arrest and detention of minors (children between 5 and 8 years of age); confinement in places of detention with no legal authorization (a case in which detainees were held in military facilities in the region); the supposed authorities did not identify themselves at the moment arrest, and did not read the detainees’ rights or inform them of the supposed charges.

* We denounce the precarious situation of the families claiming their right to land in the lower Aguan. Among our discoveries in the settlements, we found that there is little food, serious signs of malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, huts made of palm fronds and/or plastic, where entire families live, and ontop of all of this the lack of medical attention that may cause problems in the children’s development. Furthermore, the Human Rights Platform is concerned about the impossibility of obtaining a working income while the crisis continues.

* In the case of the Guanchías cooperative, the families occupying the property are living in warehouses with toxic waste, which represents a threat to their health. Ontop of this, ten people with rabies due to bat bites have been identified.

* Apart from the violations of the rights to life and to physical and psychological integrity, the rights to education, health, and food are being violated.

As the Human Rights Platform, we declare ourselves in constant vigilance with respect to the situation in the lower Aguan, taking into account that it demands prioritized attention in terms of human rights.

We demand that the Special Attorney’s Office on Human Rights pay close attention to the conflict posed in this region and we encourage the national and international community and international human rights organizations to issue statements with regard to the observations presented in this release.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 24, 2010.

CDM-CIPRODEH-CODEH-COFADEH-CPTRT-FIAN

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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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[en] Juan Almendares: The Electoral Theater of the Military-Political Coup

'The National Constituent Assembly is Not Negotiable' - Photo: Sandra Cuffe

The Electoral Theater of the Military-Political Coup

by Juan Almendares

Translation by Doug Zylstra; originally posted on Quotha.net


“The world is a theater curtain behind which are hid the deepest secrets.”  – Rabindranah Tagore

Here we examine the scene of the 2009 Honduran elections and its relationship with the military-political coup. The theater has two components: the text and the show. The first covers the history, context, time and space, whether real or imaginary. The second the protagonists, antagonists and both active and passive spectators. The military coup is the staging of electoral theater. The curtain opens with the electoral campaign and ends with legal and legitimate elections for the people; if there is electoral fraud, it does not.

On January 27, 2006 the Liberal Party candidate Manuel Zelaya Rosales assumed the Presidency of Honduras,. It is obvious that Zelaya never did have control of the government since the economic, political, religious and military oligarchy has a hegemonic control of the various branches of government, as well as the political, ideological and media apparatus. Consequently Zelaya could never have brought about a coup and become a dictator.

The military coup was strategically focused on Zelaya himself and tried to reduced the problem, through a barrage of propaganda, to the person of the President himself.

But the coup is not about him, it is larger, it is now against the advance of the historical struggle of the Honduran people, currently represented by the National Resistance against the Military Coup.

The coup hegemony is fed by two means: the illegal war of aggression and drama of the elections in November 2009. The political-military coup responds to a joint national and international program designed to use our territory and to sacrifice the civilian population as an experimental theater of incursions and coups in Latin America. It intends to turn Honduras and Mesoamerica into the Vietnam or Afghanistan of the Americas.

Is it legal to have the electoral process under the almost absolute control of the coup forces? Is the Supreme Electoral Tribunal legal? An organism that violates the content of paragraph 2 of Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic stating that “judges who are nominated for or hold elective office may not be elected to Supreme Electoral Tribunal; a prohibition mentioned as a specific part of the precept challenged as unconstitutional.”

The election of citizens as Magistrates and Deputy Magistrate Judges of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is contrary to the Constitution of the Republic under which citizens hold elected positions of popular election, the first as third alderman of Tegucigalpa, the second as Congressman to the National Congress from Francisco Morazán and the third as stand-in Congressman. As stated by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal under Agreement No. 24-2005 published in the Official Gazette number 30,886 on 27 December 2005.

And if the Supreme Electoral Court is not legally composed, will the election be legal? Is it legal for the armed forces, who tortured the legitimate President of the Republic Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who expelled him from the country, who violated the Constitution of the Republic? Their history as supporters of the coup is an indicator of the lack of credibility that the Honduran people have on the outcome of future elections.

And couldn’t panic develop in those voters, men, women and youths who faced persecution, torture and whose relatives were killed by military and police forces?

Can elections be legal when the candidates, presidential, Congressional and mayors of both independent groups and the Democratic Unification Party (UD) have been subjected to torture, persecution and murder of some of its members?

And do not they now have more advantage as far as participation and campaigning those that supported the coup, the Liberal, National, and PINU party over the candidates opposed to the military coup?

Are elections legals in which free speech has been gagged? How can you justify the attacks on Diario Tiempo, the bombings against Canal 11, the militarization and closure of Radio Globo, Cholusat Sur, and the death threats against the director and staff of Radio Progreso and the newspaper El Libertador as well as widespread firings of those honest journalists that worked at media outlets that back the current coup government?

The crux of this story that precedes the vote has been violent, dehumanizing, cruel, degrading and blessed by both the evangelical and Catholic hierarchy, with the false message of the invocation of God, dialogue, democracy and peace while at the same time they beat, torture and persecute massively Members of the Resistance, as well as priests, pastors and nuns.

Behind the scenes of the theatrical scene of elections have operated the local oligarchy, international financial capital, material and intellectual authors of the doctrine of National Security, Low Intensity Conflict War and the Irregular War plans of the Pentagon.

The active international spectators of the electoral theater have condemned the Military Coup and have declared that they will not send observers or recognize the election results.

For passive or neutral viewers, Bertolt Brecht once stated: “The worst illiterate is politically illiterate. He hears, speaks, does not participate in political events … The political illiterate is such a donkey that he takes pride in saying that he hates politics. He does not know that from his ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child and the worst of the bandits who are the corrupt politician, punk and lackey of national and multinational companies. ”

The theater curtain has not yet fallen and the future outcome of Honduras are the scenarios which lead to the return of constitutional order, legal and legitimate elections, the installation of the Constituent Assembly and the transformation of the constitution of the Republic to guarantee respect for human rights, food sovereignty and climate justice.

The other scenario is war. In this regard, the same Brecht added “In wartime, virtues become crimes, religion and honor are used precisely to disguise the real purpose of the war, which is to maintain at all costs the exploitation of the people by the aristocracy and the church .. With war, the rancher’s properties increase, alongside the misery of the pool; The General’s speeches increase, and the silence of the common man grows as well.”

Our human and planetary love and the principles of Non-Violence force us to fight so that on our Mother Earth no Honduran woman or man or citizen of the world is the subject of crimes against humanity or violations of human and planetary rights.

The urgent task is to unite all organizations and individuals that make up the resistance and build the most significant political force in Honduras, to fight for a new people, a new society where true democracy of socio-economic equality prevails; mobilize the conscience of peace and social and climactic justice and against irregular warfare and warring nature that plans more coups and irregular warfare in Latin America.

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