By Riahl O'Malley
Witness for Peace
Two years ago today, Manuel Zelaya, then the democratically-elected president of Honduras, was forcibly ousted by the Honduran National Guard. The Obama Administration initially denounced the illegal coup as a threat to democracy in the region. Three months later Porifio Lobo was voted president in elections many considered illegitimate. Lobo demonstrated himself to be a friend to the business elite, many of whom had played a key role in instigating and financially maintaining the coup. His administration rolled back Zelaya’s minimum wage hike and moved towards privatizing public resources. Though the new administration was not recognized by the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS) or a number of Latin American nations, the United States quickly resumed the funding to military and police forces that had been halted since the coup took place.
Since the coup, a wave of human rights violations has taken place across the country. Many of these violations have not been investigated or prosecuted, including crimes associated with the coup itself. The impunity rate is 90%. Violence perpetrated by the U.S.-funded military and police forces has disproportionately impacted women, indigenous groups, and members of the LGBTQI community, as well as journalists and those who speak in opposition to the current government.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has taken the lead in pressuring the international community to recognize the Lobo administration. Earlier this month Honduras was accepted back into the OAS. Manuel Zelaya’s return to Honduras just a few days earlier was painted as a symbol of a political return to normal. However, many people have been reluctant to celebrate due to ongoing death threats, attacks and assassinations.
Earlier this month 87 members of Congress, pressured by Witness for Peace and our allies, signed a Dear Colleague Letter asking Hillary Clinton to halt military funding going to Honduras and to speak out against the abuse. Instead, just last week Secretary of State Clinton met with Central American leaders – including Porfirio Lobo – and pledged a 13% increase in spending to the region through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).
Today, thousands of Hondurans are expected to gather to mark the ongoing repression.
Meanwhile, Witness for Peace, which has been bringing delegations of U.S. citizens to Honduras since the weeks immediately following the coup, is preparing for two additional fall delegations to the country. To learn more, click here.