NEW YORK — While the Honduran government and former U.S. President Bill Clinton claim that the Central American nation is protecting human rights and combating drug-trafficking, Honduras is actually killing opposition members and using U.S. money to fund corrupt police officials, according to a leader in the Honduran resistance movement.
Speaking at New York City’s Judson Memorial Church in Washington Square Tuesday, Gerardo Torres of Honduras’ National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP, in Spanish) said since the 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya the Honduran government has violently cracked down on citizens critical of the new administration and failed to advance human rights in the nation.
“All the money is spent on weapons, propaganda and controlling the mass media,” Torres said. “There are no civil rights in Honduras.”
The coup in Honduras took place on the morning of June 28, 2009 when about 100 soldiers stormed the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa, forcibly removed Zelaya from the premises and flew him to San José, Costa Rica. Citing a plot by Zelaya to eliminate presidential term limits and create a socialist state in the vein of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, the National Congress later that day voted to remove Zelaya from office and swore in Speaker of Congress Roberto Micheletti as president.
“Anyone who gets taken down by a coup so easily, he can not be a dictator,” Torres said.
In the next few months there were mass protests and violence between demonstrators and police. Many countries, including the United States, refused to recognize the interim government and the United Nations called for Zelaya’s reinstatement.
Among the turmoil, Zelaya snuck back into Honduras in September and holed himself up in the Brazilian Embassy. Under this atmosphere, Honduras held elections on November 29, 2009. Porfirio Lobo, of the conservative Partido Nacional, won the election and was installed as president two months later on January 27, 2010. That same day Zelaya flew into exile to the Dominican Republic, after a deal was worked out between Lobo and Dominican President Leonel Fernández that ensured Zelaya’s safe passage out of Honduras.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR, in Spanish) was set up in April of 2010 to look into the events surrounding the coup and any human rights abuses that came out of it. However, Honduran and international human rights groups such as the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which sponsored Tuesday’s event, said that CVR did not comply with international standards.
“In contrast to international recommendations, the CVR was established by presidential decree allowing for the executive to reserve the ultimate authority to determine the structure of the CVR and the participants in the process,” according to the CCR.
The FNRP also claims that while many in the international community believe Honduras is a functioning democracy, it is not. Governmental violence, corruption and censorship of the media are all ubiquitous features in the country, according to Torres.
Since 2008 ten journalists, 60 lawyers, 155 women, and 59 gays, lesbians or transgender people have been killed in Honduras, according to The Miami Herald.
“Of the ten journalists killed, seven were known members of the resistance,” Torres said. “If this were any other country everybody would hear about this. When they kill ten journalists in Honduras, nobody knows.”
All of those cases have gone unprosecuted and the Obama administration is now sending FBI agents and prosecutors to Honduras to help investigate murders in several of the more prominent cases. The Honduran government claims that drug-traffickers and criminals are responsible for the majority of the murders, but Torres said that it is the government itself that is responsible for the deaths.
“[The Honduran government] does it, because they can do it,” Torres added.
The murder rate in Honduras has risen steadily in the last few years. The country had 4,473 in 2008, 5,265 in 2009 to 6,236 last year, a 39 percent increase and now has the highest homicide rate in the Western Hemisphere.