Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Pre-Election Environment in Honduras

by Galen Cohee Baynes, Nicaragua International Team

Hondurans light candles

Young girl lights a candle at a vigil for the International Day Against Violence Against Women near the barricaded Brazilian Embassy. Honduran human rights organizations have recorded twenty nine cases of rape by the military and police since the June 28th coup.

On the walls and street-signs of Tegucigalpa, graffiti proclaiming “Yes to the Constituent Assembly!” and “Go Home, Coup-mongers!” is juxtaposed with posters advertising the presidential candidacies of Elvin Santos and Porfirio Lobo. With just four days remaining before the November 29 elections, which Micheletti’s regime has been adamantly advertising as a solution to the five month-old political crisis in Honduras, the red and blue colors of the two main political parties have consumed the city. Despite the fanfare, the prospect of elections hosted and strictly controlled by a repressive coup regime - with the democratically elected president barricaded in the Brazilian embassy, independent candidates boycotting the electoral process, and independent media outlets being shut down - doesn’t seem to all Hondurans to be any solution whatsoever.

“It’s not even worth the effort to go out and vote on Sunday,” says one taxi driver in the capital. “These elections are illegal. The candidates are not concerned about the people of Honduras.” Indeed, “No,” has been the most common answer to the question, “Will you vote on Sunday?” in the streets of Tegucigalpa.

This sentiment on the part of a significant portion of the Honduran citizenry (not to mention the example set by the Organization of American States, the European Union and the United Nations not to send election observers to Honduras this weekend) has been ignored in Washington. Newly-appointed Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, announced two days ago that U.S. election observers from the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute will be present in Honduras on Sunday. This announcement comes on the heels of comments from the State Department that the election results will be recognized by the United States whether or not Manuel Zelaya is previously restored to the presidency. With these assurances coming from Washington, Micheletti’s government has pushed ahead with the election proceedings.

For the coup regime, pushing ahead includes committing human rights atrocities. Unconfirmed reports of the political assassination of yet another professor in southern Honduras are circulating today. Cases of arbitrary detention continue to flow into the offices of the human rights organization COFADEH. The independent television station, Canal 36, is off the air and the screen reads only, “Our signal is being blocked to prohibit us from distributing information.” These are the conditions that, for the U.S. State Department, constitute ‘free, fair and transparent elections’ in Honduras.

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