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US Backs Illegal Honduran Election, Betraying Proces to Restore Constitutional Order

November 24, 2009

Hillary Clinton, with Honduran golpista and presidential candidate, Elvin Santos, just a few weeks before the coup.  If you compare this with the reception President Zelaya received on his first trip to Washington after the coup, when he was required to meet with Clinton staff before finally getting an audience with her, everything about the US’ integral role in the coup should have been obvious.

United States Backs Illegal Elections in Honduras, Betraying Process to Restore Constitutional Order

Tuesday 24 November 2009

by: Tom Loudon, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
After five months of political chaos in Honduras, repeated attempts to reach a negotiated agreement for restoration of constitutional order have failed due to the defiant recalcitrance of the Roberto Micheletti coup regime and the complicity of the State Department. Given this impasse and the deepening human rights crisis, it is widely recognized that conditions for holding free, fair and transparent elections on November 29, just days from now, do not exist.

 

Recognizing this dilemma, in late October the United States rushed a high-level State Department delegation to Honduras, bringing Micheletti back to the table and brokering the October 30 “National Reconciliation Agreement” requiring the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya by November 5. However, in a move paralleling the behavior of the Micheletti regime, a few days later, State Department officials reversed their position, stating that the elections would be recognized by the United States with or without restitution of President Zelaya, effectively breaking the accord.

In a press release on November 5, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who had been using a procedural tactic to hold up the Obama administration nominations of Arturo Valenzuela and Tom Shannon, suddenly announced that he was withdrawing the hold because he had reached an agreement with the administration relative to the situation in Honduras: “I am happy to report the Obama administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the November 29 elections. Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Shannon have assured me that the US will recognize the outcome of the Honduran elections regardless of whether Manuel Zelaya is reinstated.”

A subsequent announcement by Senator Richard Lugar confirms that in fact the United States intends to recognize elections sponsored by the coup regime without prior restitution of Zelaya. Lugar also announced that the State Department is funding election observer missions from the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.

Lugar also used his statement to encourage Brazil in particular to consider that “recognition of the election will be the only way for Hondurans to look beyond the 5-month-old crisis.” Just a few days ago, the Brazilian foreign minister warned of a “deterioration” of US relations with South America. Brazil is one of 25 countries in the Rio Group which issued a declaration on the same day of DeMint’s statement, declaring that this important group of countries will not recognize a government resulting from Honduran elections if Zelaya is not previously restored.

Late last week, President Zelaya announced that he will not accept restitution at this late date in order to not be used to legitimize elections. In a letter to President Obama renouncing the possibility of a return to office in the days prior to the election, Zelaya wrote, “… 3500 people detained in one hundred days, over 600 people beaten and injured in hospitals, more than a hundred murders and countless numbers of people subjected to torture directed against citizens who dare to oppose the regime and express their ideas about freedom and justice in peaceful demonstrations. All this converts the November election into an anti-democratic exercise under an uncertain state of lawlessness with military intimidation for large sections of our people …”

Zelaya’s assessment of the illegitimacy of elections under current condition is shared by large majorities in Honduras and the international community. The broad-based national resistance movement has called for a total boycott of the elections. Participation in the elections has become a kind of ethical litmus test for all candidates. Candidates who run are widely considered to be supporting the coup, placing tremendous pressure on candidates to withdrawal.

The first candidate to withdraw was Carlos H. Reyes, a well-known Independent Party candidate for president and leader of the resistance movement against the coup. His popularity has surged as revulsion to the violence perpetrated by the coup regime has impacted communities and homes throughout the country. Some strategists believe that had a reinstated President Zelaya endorsed Reyes, he could have won the vote, but would have lost due to fraud. After consulting with grassroots assemblies in different parts of the country, Reyes announced his decision to step down.

Last week, the popular Liberal Party mayor of San Pedro Sula announced that he was stepping down as a candidate, in spite of his healthy lead in the polls. Another  110 mayoral and 55 candidates for Congress are reportedly pulling out of the election, and the number continues to grow. Both the leftist UD and the PINU parties are split, with many Congressional candidates stepping down, but the party leadership wanting to stay in the race. These small parties have the most to lose, as they risk losing the position of their party on the ballot.

The UD party has suffered severe criticism for not withdrawing. Their active involvement in the resistance movement morally obligates them to withdraw, but some party leaders see this moment as an opportunity to win more contests than they normally could. However, as the pressure mounts it seems that withdrawal from the elections by the party is imminent, although not yet certain.

With just days to go until the elections, tensions are mounting in Honduras. Micheletti has threatened those encouraging abstention with lengthy prison terms. The resistance movement has called a civic strike for the entire week prior to elections, widespread protests beginning on Friday and a full boycott on Election Day. This comes in a context of heighten levels of state terrorism.

Recently, the military issued a letter to every mayor in the country, instructing mayors’ offices to compile lists of inhabitants of the municipality who have been working against the coup. The letter asked for the list to be compiled immediately and stated that each mayor would receive a follow up visit. Mayors who do not comply with this order also risk consequences. This systematic profiling of the population is a blatant violation of human rights and dangerous signal of the levels of repression to come.

In declaring that it will recognize the coup regime sponsored elections on November 29 without prior restitution of constitutional order, the United States has emboldened the coup regime, betrayed a lengthy negotiation process and endangered the lives of millions of Honduran citizens who are committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law and who will boycott elections they consider to be illegal.

6 Comments
  1. November 25, 2009 3:52 AM

    Women Nobel Peace Laureates & Women’s Rights Leaders Urge Secretary of State Clinton to Condemn Violence Against Women in Honduras

    November 24, 2009

    –For Immediate Release–
    More than 175 human rights and feminist leaders–including three Nobel Peace Prize winners and leaders of national and international women’s organizations—today sent an Open Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today, urging her to condemn widespread violations of women’s human rights in Honduras.

    “In the lead up to the November 29 elections, we are extremely concerned about the increase in a pattern of repression and abuse of women at the hands of the de facto regime, especially women who form part of the opposition to the coup,” said Nobel Laureate Jody Williams. “Recent reports that the deployment of troops and police has intensified, and women opposition leaders are being targeted, should give the US government ample reason to reconsider its apparent willingness to endorse the elections as legitimate.”

    Williams received the Nobel in 1997 for her prominent role in the international campaign to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines and has worked extensively in Central America to promote peace and human rights.
    “Given Secretary Clinton’s commitment to women’s rights and her pledge to fight violence against women, we are asking her to speak out about the dangerous and appalling situation faced by Honduran women, ” she added.

    The letter was also signed by Rigoberta Menchu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work in advancing reconciliation following Guatemala’s civil war, and by Mairead Maguire, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the civil conflict in Northern Ireland.

    Other signatories to the letter include Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002.

    Human rights organizations have noted a sharp rise in violations against women since the June 28 military coup d’état in Honduras. The letter summarizes 240 cases of violations of women’s human rights recently presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. These include physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment, threats, arbitrary detentions, a rise in femicides, the closure of feminist radio programs and other media, and impunity for crimes against women.

    It concludes, “We urge you to condemn the orchestrated campaign of violence against women being waged by the current de facto regime. Finally, we urge you to insist on a withdrawal of armed forces from the streets, neighborhoods, and homes of Honduras.”

    Honduras has national elections scheduled for November 29, which are being actively boycotted by Honduran women’s groups. The letter states that free and fair elections cannot take place under current conditions.
    “Hastily improvised elections—without the full participation of Honduran society, international recognition, or the reinstatement of the elected president—cannot be free or fair and do not guarantee a return to rule of law. Only a return to rule of law can reestablish legal institutions for redress of human rights violations and end the current situation of impunity for crimes against women.”

    To view the letter visit: http://www.justassociates.org/actions/honduras/honduras_clinton.htm.

    For further information, visit http://www.justassociates.org/actions/honduras_action_coup.html.

    • November 25, 2009 9:42 AM

      Thanks very much for forwarding this letter. I will post it to the blog first thing.

  2. Roger Milbrandt permalink
    November 24, 2009 10:23 PM

    Why this obsession with the question of whether the US will recognize the winner of the 29 November elections? Why this perverse glee about over the “discovery” that the US, which has been scourging Latin America in the name of liberty for two centuries, has been found to be scourging Honduras in the name of liberty?
    US support of a dictatorial regime that came to power through brutally crushing a government with significant popular support might be “news” to the mainstream media but it is merely water running downhill to anyone with a nodding history of Latin America and the treatment it has received from successors of James Munroe.
    The news, because it is a real novelty, is the significant resistance to the extension of US regional hegemony shows by pronouncements of the OAS, ALBA (which should not be ignored) and recently by the Rio Group. The reactions of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Columbia are likely of especial importance and informed discussion of the Honduran situation will analyze their reactions, rather than gloating or lamenting over the deja vu actions and statements of the Obama crew.
    Also, you are explicitly and revealingly wrong when you say the US-brokered agreement of 30 October required the “reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya by November 5.” It included no such stipulation. The US never had the slightest interest in the restoration of Zelaya.
    Empirical support for belief in the enlightened benevolence of US involvement in Latin America is about the same as empirical report for Santa Claus. Get over it, my friend! The reality – that it was your parents who supplied the gifts and that the peoples of Latin America are capable of taking care of each other – is not so bad.

    • November 25, 2009 10:02 AM

      Hi.

      Help me out. Is this a comment to Tom Loudon about his op-ed and you are sharing with blog readers?

      thanks.

      • Roger Milbrandt permalink
        November 25, 2009 12:30 PM

        Magbana,

        Sorry. In the fury of my response, I lost sight of the context. The commentary is a reaction to Tom Loudon, who I think is naive in having expected the US government to seriously oppose an elite coup and who also, in my opinion, misdirects us from the interesting novelty of this situation: the possiblity that a significant number of Latin American governments will break ranks with the US.

      • November 25, 2009 12:43 PM

        Roger,

        Thanks for the clarification. I agree completely with your criticism of Loudon’s op-ed.

        Thanks for taking the time to comment and please continue to do so.

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