Friday 18 September 2009
by: Tom Loudon, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis
On the 80th day of the coup, both the de facto government and the resistance movement against the coup held marches to celebrate the anniversary of Central America's independence from Spain. At a military parade, de facto President Roberto Micheletti defiantly insisted that it would take a military intervention to remove him. Meanwhile, thousands of coup resisters, with elected President Manuel Zelaya's wife at the head, marched through the central park of Tegucigalpa, where last month police and military attacked peaceful protesters and passers-by. The massive resistance movement in Honduras continues to grow, denouncing the violent coup as an illegal takeover on the part of neocolonial economic and military interests.
The EU used the occasion of the anniversary to promise further sanctions if there was not a return to constitutional order. Secretary of State Clinton merely lamented "the turmoil and political differences that have ... divided Honduras."
During the month of August, the coup government of Honduras suffered a number of setbacks on the international level. First, was the release of an Amnesty International Report highlighting "serious human rights concerns which should be addressed as a matter of urgency." The report corroborated "increasingly disproportionate and excessive use of force being used by the police and military to repress legitimate and peaceful protests across the country."
Subsequently, delegations arrived from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACH), the OAS and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The preliminary report from the IAHC confirmed that coup leaders in Honduras have committed thousands of violations of human rights. The Commission also said that "only a return to institutional democracy" will allow Honduras to restore individual rights.
The OAS delegation, after two unsuccessful attempts to enter Honduras, made a short visit in which they again attempted to persuade the coup government to accept the San Jose Accords. During his visit, OAS Secretary General Insulza stated: "The message to the de facto government is still very clear: Why cause harm to the population when there is a very clear solution by way of the San José Accord? I hope that this is understood."
The visit, which perhaps had the most influence on the behavior of the coup government, was that of the International Criminal Court. One of the members of this delegation was Judge Garzon, the Spanish judge who brought the infamous Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to trial. Garzon stated that he was, " gravely concerned by the human rights situation in the country."
Honduras, unlike the United States, is a signatory to the ICC. Serious human rights crimes committed in Honduras and not prosecuted by Honduran authorities can lead to charges being filed by the International Court. At a press conference, ICC representatives indicated that among the cases they investigated were seven which they considered possible cases for the ICC. They also stated that charges could be brought against intellectual authors of crimes as well as actual perpetrators.
By the end of August, tactics of the security forces had changed. Frontal attacks on marches and caravans seem to have stopped. However, other forms of intimidation have been adopted. The police and army follow along with the marchers, (in an attempt to intimidate them), either directly behind or on either side of peaceful protesters. Security forces take photographs of protesters and follow them after the marches disburse. They arrest anyone caught spray-painting.
A notable exception to this new approach occurred during a protest in Choluteca when the mayor arrived at a protest armed with a pistol and accompanied by some 100 men armed with machetes, who proceeded to attack the demonstration. The demonstrators were protesting the presence of Elvin Santos, the Liberal Party candidate for president, whom they consider illegitimate. Five of the protesters were arrested.
Selective murders continue on a weekly basis. On Saturday, August 29, Ismael Padilla was murdered by unknown assailants in front of his house. Padilla was president of the Association of Microbuses, and had accompanied President Zelaya to pick up ballot boxes in one of the buses on the day before the coup. His assassination was a clear message to all who oppose the coup and support the call for a Constitutional Assembly.
International pressure on the coup government mounted in September. Most countries, including the United States, have said that they will not recognize elections if Zelaya is not first returned to power. The EU recently promised further sanctions if there is not a return to constitutional order. The EU also said that it will not send observers to the November vote if it is overseen by the coup regime. The UN announced that it has cut off funding that it had been providing for the election process.
The United States cut more aid and announced that visas were being revoked for 17 key people in the coup government, including the de facto president, attorney general, head of armed forces and all 14 Supreme Court judges. Perhaps even more threatening to the coup regime, the United States canceled an unknown number of visas for powerful civilians who back the coup. This past weekend, Adolfo FacussÈ, president of the powerful National Association of Industries of Honduras, which many think has financed the coup, was taken off his flight from Honduras and held by ICE agents in Miami before being deported back to Honduras. Creating this kind of embarrassment may just be the most effective thing the US has done to date to discourage supporters of the coup. A few days prior to his trip, Mr. FacussÈ announced a plan devised by business owners to increase the vote in the November elections. Pro-coup businesses are considering offering discounts to people who show the ink on their fingers indicating that they have voted.
Earlier this week, an incident occurred at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Several countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Mexico refused to allow the representative from Honduras to stay in the session unless he was approved by President Zelaya. After several hours of conflict, which postponed the opening of the session, he was escorted out by UN guards.
Despite increasing international pressure, the coup government seems determined to hold out at all costs. As the day of the scheduled election grows closer, a negotiated solution to the crisis becomes less viable. A broad-based national coalition against the coup has called for a boycott of the elections if President Zelaya has not been returned to power. But the coup regime passed a law making it illegal to advocate that others not vote. If elections are held under these conditions, it will certainly spark increased social unrest.
Independence from national and foreign neocolonial elites remains a vibrant hope for the people of Honduras. The resistance movement in Honduras has called on the international community to take more measures to isolate the coup regime. Given the history of US domination of Honduras and increasing evidence linking US corporate interests and senior US government officials with the coup, the Obama Administration has a particular obligation to make sure that US policy in Central America is aligned with democratic efforts to build more just and equitable societies, rather than neocolonial elites.
Tom Loudon is co-director of the Quixote Center in Washington, DC.