HONDURAS: Urgent Call-ins Needed to Congress members & Senators

From Rights Action
HONDURAS: Urgent Call-ins Needed to Congress members & Senators
October 11, 2010


October 11, 2010

Please call and write to your representatives in the US House of Representatives to TODAY to urge them to sign onto the letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which is being sponsored by Representative Sam Farr and ask that military and police aid be cut off to Honduras.

In addition to educating fellow congress members, this letter calls for a suspension of police and military aid to Honduras and it calls on the State Department to stop advocating for a return of Honduras to the OAS.

The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill is in its final moments before the House would approve the budget for foreign operations of the US government in 2011. Currently the bill contemplates normal and continued funding to the Honduran military and police, despite the military coup and massive, politically-motivated, grave human rights violations.

Representative Barbara Lee's office is proposing conditioning of military aid on human rights, a measure that has had little to no impact on US aid to Colombia. While "conditioning" aid may be better than nothing, police and military aid should be completely cut off as occurs in Title IV of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill.

On Thursday, October 14, 2010, the Honduran Platform for Human Rights will testify in a briefing in Congress. They will give first hand testimony about the systematic State repression occurring through out Honduras. Please reinforce their message with your calls and letters.

Below - find the telephone number for the House of Representatives switchboard, where you can ask to be transferred to your representative, a sample letter expressing concerns, and the full text of Representative Farr's letter.

House of Representatives Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Sample Letter:

Dear Representative X:

I write to urge you to sign onto the dear colleague letter on Honduras being sponsored by Representative Sam Farr, and to urge you to support cutting off military and police aid to Honduras.

Funding for Honduran police and military is unacceptable. In Honduras, killings of political opponents of the government, in which the military junta behind last years' coup hold key positions, are occurring almost every week.

A return to military coups and military governments in Latin America is a direct assault on stability and democracy in all of the Americas, including the United States. It is not in the interest of the well being and security of our families, and much less the people of Honduras.


[Your Signature]

Text of Representative Sam Farr's Dear Colleague Letter

Support Democracy in Honduras

Ever since the Micheletti coup d'état disrupted Honduran democracy on June 28, 2009, freedom of political expression, free speech and human rights have been under constant assault. Please co-sign the below letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The letter calls attention to the more atrocious violations of human rights and incidents of politically motivated violence. The letter calls on the Obama Administration to curtail assistance to the Lobo government until it protects the rights of all Hondurans, not just political supporters, and remove people who participated in the coup d'état from the leadership of government corporations. PLEASE NOTE: The deadline has been extended to COB, Wednesday, October 13. To sign on, please contact caitie.whelan@mail.house.gov.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We are encouraged to see that the U.S. government has acknowledged the gravity of the political and human rights situation in Honduras. The August 4, 2010, trip by senior State Department official Maria Otero to review the state of human rights and democratic governance under Honduran President Porfirio Lobo demonstrates a new assertiveness by the Obama Administration to observe and protect political and human rights in that country. We believe U.S. assistance, particularly military and police aid, should be suspended until the government of Porfirio Lobo distances itself from individuals involved in the June 28, 2009, military coup d'etat and adequately addresses the ongoing human and political rights violations.

We have received credible reports from Honduran human rights organizations that abuses continue with near impunity. Members of the human rights community, journalists and activists continue to be attacked and intimidated. The Honduran Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared (COFADEH), a highly esteemed human rights organization, reports assassinations, arbitrary arrests, beatings and death threats targeting political activists and the human rights workers who attempt to protect them. COFADEH described August as a "black" month for human rights and has documented a disturbing number of incidents that have taken place in recent weeks.

Since the beginning of August 2010, at least six individuals identified with the opposition movement against the Lobo Administration have been murdered, including several rural activists, a teacher union leader and a journalist. Several journalists known for their criticism of the coup d'etat have been arbitrarily detained or suffered physical attacks. An opposition radio station - Radio Uno of San Pedro Sula - was forced off the air and its transmission cables were cut; police fired tear gas and a water cannon at demonstrators outside the radio station. The Honduran authorities have failed to investigate and prosecute dozens of other murders and violent attacks against pro-democratic political activists since the June 28, 2009, coup d'etat. The victims and their families have been left vulnerable with no access to justice. There is serious concern that the rule of law is directly threatened by members of the Honduran police and armed forces.

On the weekend of September 17, 2010, a leader in the Social Security labor union, Juana Bustillo, was assassinated while riding in a car with the union's president Hector Escoto, who was hospitalized. Earlier in September, four peasants were murdered in the Aguan region - home to a land conflict where landless peasants are attempting to secure plots to build homes. In the first incident, three people were killed, allegedly by private security guards of Miguel Facussé Barjóm -- one of Honduras' largest landowners. In the second incident, Francisco Miranda, a leader among landless peasants, was shot several times by unknown men while running errands on his bicycle. The newspaper La Tribuna, owned by Facussé's nephew, reported that the killing was part of a dispute internal to the landless peasants' organization.

On many occasions, Honduran authorities have summarily dismissed the attacks against political activists, human rights defenders and journalists as a symptom of criminality linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. Crime is a problem; however, since the June 28, 2009, coup, there has been a distinct pattern of political violence that merits a strong U.S. response.

It is our expectation that the Obama Administration will advance justice by urging the Lobo Administration to vigorously investigate and prosecute threats and attacks against activists and journalists, and to suspend any members of the police or military credibly alleged to be involved in such crimes while investigations take place. In addition, the State Department should urge the Lobo Administration to recognize the undeniable political character of many of the attacks against activists and journalists. A strong democracy provides security to those who participate peacefully in political process; lack of security demonstrates deficiencies in Honduran democracy. Tragically, since the August 4, 2010, visit of Undersecretary of State Maria Otero, Honduras has not advanced human rights or political freedoms. Until the government of Honduras makes sustained progress in improving its deplorable human rights record, we believe it is inappropriate to provide direct assistance to Honduran authorities, particularly to the police or military.

We also urge the Obama Administration to refrain from supporting the immediate re-entry of Honduras in the Organization of American States. The Obama Administration does a great disservice to democracy and human rights across the Western Hemisphere by making an exception for Honduras, while the Lobo Administration continues to include perpetrators of the June 28, 2009, coup d'etat and fails to prosecute politically motivated crimes.


How to support Honduras' pro-democracy, anti-coup regime movement: info@rightsaction.org

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Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org
Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org