Email sent today to a Honduran requesting political asylum

Dear ____,

I am writing in response to your request for information about the situation in Honduras. As someone who has been closely following the human rights and political stability situation in Honduras for over a dozen years; who has written a book and numerous articles on the topic; who has served as an expert witness in over a dozen asylum cases; and who has been living and conducting research in Honduras during the past month, I can say with absolute confidence that I have never seen worse security conditions in this country. And while in the previous decade the victims of extrajudicial assassinations and other forms of state violence were disproportionately young men identified (often incorrectly) as gang members, today a large percentage of the victims fall into two primary categories: people who are involved in or are openly critical of drug trafficking, and individuals who are seen as being critical of the June 28th, 2009 coup. The latter category has included 9 journalists killed in targeted assassinations and the disappearance, torture, and murder of numerous local and national leaders of the non-violent resistance movement and their daughters, sons, brothers and sisters (and brothers and sisters-in-law), all since the beginning of the administration of the current president, Pepe Lobo.

The atmosphere of impunity for violent political crimes is such that almost without exception, those crimes go uninvestigated, and the victims are posthumously slandered by the police and media as having brought their deaths upon themselves, by (as in one case last week of a young man who was executed along with four other friends by unidentified men who shot them at close range with high-caliber weapons on a soccer field) allegedly having carried small amounts of marijuana on their person, or (as in many other cases) by "instigating violence" by calling for a more participatory democratic government. In particular, people who are associated with deposed president Manuel Zelaya's government are at risk, because the legitimacy of the class currently in power depends in large part on their unsubstantiated argument that Zelaya was corrupt and engaged in criminal activities. As such, those who actively defended Zelaya's policies and called for his reinstatement from within his government are similarly despised and targeted by the current regime, which—having a president who is widely seen as lacking a mandate—is controlled by two forces: the military and the small group of powerful business-owning elites. These groups are at times at odds with each other, but they are united against those who opposed the coup. In addition to the targeted violence, homicide rates in general have exploded in the past year, bringing Honduras up to 66.8 homicides per 100,000, one of the highest rates in the world (with even higher rates in urban centers). This generalized violence has served as cover for the explicitly political targeted assassinations that are being carried out on a near-daily basis. It is an extremely dangerous environment, one which has forced well over a hundred people into exile, and many others into a self-imposed house arrest within Honduras, although the latter has been no guarantee of safety; numerous coup opponents and their family members have been abducted from or killed within their homes by death squads in recent months.

Please feel free to share this email with anyone.


Adrienne Pine
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, American University
Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras: