The UN and OAS mustn’t allow the president of Honduras to manipulate them
Protests in Honduras. Photo via Youtube.
Citizens of Honduras fight for their rights in the wake of the 2009 coup.
Honduras has been sunk into a deep crisis since June 28th, 2009, when a coup was carried out against the government of president Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The freedoms of speech, of the press, and of association have been seriously injured, with no institutions to punish those who commit such serious human rights violations.
- Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates. It is also one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, ranking 129th out of 180 in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index. Journalists are regularly threatened, attacked, and killed for their work. The Honduran government fails to punish those who use violence against reporters, essentially granting them impunity. This space will be dedicated to examining the lack of protection for Honduran journalists exercising their profession. Topics will include the use of state-sponsored advertising as a mechanism to reward or punish publications, and censorship and self-censorship as hindrances to democratic progress.
- Born in Cofradía, Honduras, Dina Meza has been recognized by PEN International, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship and Reporters without Borders for her work as a journalist and human rights advocate. Currently, Dina is the driving force behind the creation of Honduras PEN Centre. In 2013, she wrote “Reign of Terror,” an in-depth report on threats to Honduran journalists for Index on Censorship’s magazine. In 2014, she was named one of Reporters Without Borders’ “100 Heroes and Heroines of Information.”
The Organization of American States (OAS), expelled the Honduran state for some time following the coup, however they readmitted them due to pressure from the US—a key aspect in the fatal blow to institutionality. The problem is that this readmission was unconditional, despite the warnings from the international human rights community and national organizations, hence the negative consequences we see today: 96% impunity and a deepening crisis.
Thousands of citizens took to the streets, hundreds were beaten, persecuted, monitored, and jailed. Others—more than 100—were killed during protests demanding the return to institutionality or in circumstances which were covered up so that the crimes would not be linked to the victims belonging to the resistance. The silencing of their voices was a means to stop the demands, and their freedom of speech was buried alongside them.
Until 2013, the gigantic demonstrations that took place during the coup had ceased. The oligarchy continued playing the election game, and made thousands of people across the country believe that, through political participation, the problem would be solved in a general election.
A hopeful card was played by the LIBRE party (Partido Libertad y Refundación), born from the resistance and nourished by the supporters who, encouraged by the prospect of structural changes, bet on them in the 2013 general election. However, the political system didn’t change; the participants in the coup left the structure intact, not allowing for a deep reform of the Electoral Law nor of the Supreme Electoral Court (Tribunal Supremo Electoral or TSE) in charge of the general election.
LIBRE took part under the same rules of the game that have applied since the first general election in Honduras in 1982. Those rules have always favored the bipartisan that keeps millions of people in poverty. The two political parties born from this system simply took turns being in power and shared the nation’s political and economic cake. The other party that also bet on the election was the Anti-Corruption Party (Partido Anti Corrupción, or PAC).
The results of the November 2013 general election were as to be expected: Juan Orlando Hernández, the National Party (Partido Nacional) candidate, won. He’s been accused of the worst electoral fraud in the country, and, within in the last few months, of diverting millions in public funds belonging to Social Security and other state institutions to his political campaign.
Although he admitted to using only a few thousand in his campaign, no institution started an investigation; it was launched following the astonishment of the international community and of the headlines in some of the media at the impertinence of his confession.
Today, there are two new political forces in the National Congress which, should a real democracy exist, would overturn the macabre decisions made in Parliament against the Honduran people. Authoritarianism rules there, however, and despite the protests of both parties, it is the governing party who calls the shots.
Currently, the Honduran people have taken to the streets again as part of the “Outraged” movement. They carry out torch-lit marches as a means of freedom of expression and of citizen demand, requesting the establishment of an international commission against impunity and the ousting of the president and of the Attorney-General and Assistant Attorney-General.
To counteract this movement, the Honduran president has called for an “unconditional dialogue.” The problem is he is meeting with his followers.
These two international bodies have stated that they will participate in the dialogue as facilitators, and have come to the country to meet with, according to them, different sectors. The big problem is they didn’t stop by the hunger strike of the “Outraged.” They left without hearing their side.
I hereby must make an urgent call to these two global forums. As with the coup, they can’t afford to once again let themselves be manipulated into favoring the status quo. If this is to be the case, they’d be making the worst mistake in their history and denying millions of citizens the hope of a country with a better fate. If this is the role they’re going to play, it’s better they don’t come at all.