Honduras: Crisis and Progress
By Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond
Today, October 21, the democratic resistance in Honduras will celebrate Artists in Resistance Day. This event contrasts directly with today's official recognition of Honduras Armed Forces day. The resistance, which is working for a truly democratic Honduras, renamed the day and created an alternative celebration because of a brutal police attack on musicians and others last month that left one dead and scores injured.
On September 15, 2010, a non-violent march and musical concert in Honduras was attacked by police and security forces. Incredibly the police involved in the attack made it a point to destroy the instruments of the musicians.
The musicians who were attacked called for today to be renamed Artists in Resistance Day. To mark the occasion the collective Artists in Resistance and the National Front of Youth in Resistance (FNJR) organized concerts tonight in San Pedro Sula and in Tegucigalpa.
These groups reflect just a small sliver of the National Front of Popular Resistance inn Honduras (FNRP for its initials in Spanish), one of the most mobilized social movements currently taking shape in our hemisphere. The FNRP represents social movements, organizations and individuals from nearly every sector of Honduran society. They are organizing to stand up to one of Latin America's foremost human rights crises: the 2009 coup in Honduras and the intimidation, assaults, silencing, and killing of those who have resisted the subsequent regimes that took power. The hope is that today's concerts will underscore the resistance to the crisis in Honduras and mobilize more international solidarity with the FNRP.
Ongoing Crisis in Honduras
Since the coup in June 2009, two regimes the de facto coup government under Robert Micheletti and the administration of the sitting president Porfiro Lobo have done little to protect human rights while police and security forces have subjected members or those identified with the FNRP to mass arrests, beatings, tear gas raids, rape and other forms of torture, and kidnappings. Judges critical of the coup and post-coup authorities have been divested of their positions, transferred arbitrarily, and faced disciplinary proceedings.
At least ten journalists have been killed in 2010 alone, under circumstances overwhelmingly indicative that these were assassinations. Journalists not killed have faced state censorship. Violence and repression of political speech, public assembly, and critical democracy have become a part of daily life.
Rather than investigate these crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions, Honduran officials have looked the other way. The official line mouthed by Honduran officials and getting much play in Honduran newspapers (which make no effort to hide their support for the coup and post-coup regimes) is that this violence is a by-product of drug and gang wars. Sadly, this narrative has gained some traction in the blogosphere and diplomatic circles even though these speculations are not based on any independent investigation or arrests.
The surge in violence against union leaders, community organizers, journalists and activists has in fact come only after the coup and the targets are undeniably leaders and members of the resistance.
According to the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) there have been 83 murders of members of the FNRP, countless injuries from assaults, and a steady stream of exiled individuals who have left the country after being raped or otherwise tortured and/or have had their lives threatened as a result of being part of, or being perceived as part of the resistance.
Time to "Move on"?
Despite the overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya last year, the repressive actions of the interim Micheletti coup regime, the illegitimate "election" of Lobo (one that groups like the Carter Center and even the United Nations refused to observe because of its clear illegality), the lack of justice for any of the victims of the coup and the subsequent and continuing political violence, the post-coup authorities are repeatedly saying that it is time for the Honduran people to move on.
The latest incarnation of effort to "move on" is a bogus invitation by Pepe Lobo to the FNRP to dialogue about the Constituent Assembly process. The FNRP considered the invitation carefully. They met in two separate assemblies--one for the Directorate and one of the General Assembly--and decided to reject the invitation to dialogue because of the ongoing violence and repression directed at the resistance. The reasons for rejecting included the fact that President Zelaya is still being forced into exile with false charges against him, that there are many political prisoners, and that there has no accountability for all the human rights violations against the movement. FNRP leadership stated that this was just another attempt by Lobo to legitimize his authority before a national and international audience.
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Bill and Laura work at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
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