Office > Press Releases > Press Releases: 2009 > Press Releases: November 2009
November 29, 2009
We commend the Honduran people for peacefully exercising their democratic right to select their leaders in an electoral process that began over a year ago, well before the June 28 coup d’etat. Turnout appears to have exceeded that of the last presidential election. This shows that given the opportunity to express themselves, the Honduran people have viewed the election as an important part of the solution to the political crisis in their country.
We look forward to continuing to work with all Hondurans and encourage others in the Americas to follow the lead of the Honduran people in helping advance national reconciliation and the implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Significant work remains to be done to restore democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, but today the Honduran people took a necessary and important step forward.
Meanwhile in Honduras:
BERTA OLIVA, HUMAN RIGHTS MONITOR, COFADEH (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The facts clearly show numerous human rights violations that range from the illegal detentions by paramilitary and military groups to the people we find murdered and tortured. What we have is a series of documents, testimonies, and information that gives rise to our clarity and conviction that we face a militarized state with a defined and systematic practice against those who oppose the coup and anyone who takes a position other than that human rights means singing songs, while at the same time torturing and detaining people and raping women. They have a clear objective, which is to silence and intimidate. For example, we’re concerned by the letter that was sent by the armed forces to all the mayors in the country on October 22, looking to identify members of the resistance.
FREESTON: Since the army sent that letter, resistance members across the country have faced increasing persecution.
OLIVA: In the last weeks we have seen a rise in the death threats received by leaders nationwide, specifically teachers. In other words, the teachers are a primary target for the regime these days.
FREESTON: One of the latest teachers to be assassinated was Gradis Espinal, a vocal resistance leader from the community of Nacaome.
OLIVA: The evidence so far shows that he was kidnapped by death squad members and that members of the army and police were very close by. We can’t be afraid, given the facts, to conclude who is behind the repression.
FREESTON: On Friday, women’s rights leader Merlin Aguigure was detained for having paint in her vehicle. And fellow women’s rights activists gathered outside the jail to demand her release.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are in a very unequal struggle right now. The coup has come to destroy a process of constructing mechanisms for defending the human rights of women.
FREESTON: These can be added to the dozens of assassinations, tortures, and rapes, over 4,000 illegal detentions, and regular attacks against anti-coup media that have characterized the run-up to the elections. The two central sources for information critical of the regime, Channel 36 and Radio Globo, have been shut down this week. Foreign minister for the coup government Carlos Lopez Contreras admitted to shutting down Channel 36 earlier this week, saying, “If you heard what the channel is saying daily, you would see that in any country in the world, with or without elections, this channel would have been suspended.” Meanwhile, the army has temporarily deputized thousands of reserves—an action only permitted in times of war, according to the Constitution. And the national chief of police claims to be scanning text messages for anti-coup rhetoric.
OLIVA: They’re trying to create a culture of fear, where a terrified population gives rise to the culture of silence that they seek so they can act with total impunity.
RAFAEL ALEGRÍA, COUP RESISTANCE LEADER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This is the first time in this country’s history that so many candidates, including many with real chances of being elected, [have been] renouncing, and renouncing due to their conscience. I believe it’s a patriotic move, given the historic moment that we are living in—a coup d’état, insecurity, and illegitimacy in the country, the legally elected president holed up in the Brazilian Embassy for 61 days, himself denied the right to vote.
FREESTON: Only the governments of Taiwan and the United States have sent international observers, and a delegation funded by the US State Department arrived at the electoral tribunal at the same time that leaders of all six independent human rights monitors in Honduras were delivering their requests that the elections be suspended.
DR. JUAN ALMENDARES, COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): It will not have the legitimacy of the people. Neither will it be recognized by the entire international community. How could you recognize a government that has violated our human rights, that has tortured? What democracy are we talking about?
FREESTON: In a letter to Brazilian President Lula da Silva, US President Barack Obama confirmed that the US would join Panama, Costa Rica, and Taiwan as the only countries to guarantee the recognition of the winner of the election.
ALMENDARES: We are calling on President Obama to support democracy and not become a follower of Bush.