Honduran Truth Commssion and the Continuing State Sponsored Violence

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her recent trip to Latin America announced that the U.S. would restore economic aid to Honduras.  This aid money was cut after the June 28, 2009, coup d'état when Honduran officials refused to reinstate Manuel Zelaya as president.  This restoration of aid may be a step in restoring justice in Honduras, but ONLY if the U.S. steps up and publically condemns the state-sponsored violence in Honduras, and requires that human rights are respected before it normalizes relations.  The U.S. must also insist that the Truth Commission being set up to investigate the events leading up to the coup be an impartial body run by trustworthy international figures and include scrutiny of events after the coup.

 

After the coup, the new regime decided to carry on with the previously scheduled presidential election despite national and international pressure to first reestablish constitutional order.  The elections were boycotted by a large portion of the population.  Since the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo, the new president, on January 29th, the national non-violent movement resisting the coup has faced increasingly severe human rights violations including detention, torture, rape, assault, disappearances, and assassinations.  The resistance movement refuses to recognize what they see as an illegitimate government and is calling for a National Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the constitution.

 

In recognizing the results of the fraudulent election, the United States has essentially blessed the coup and given permission to Honduran officials to retaliate against the members of the resistance movement, human rights defenders, and those working for social change.  The restoration of economic aid in the midst of this political violence further conveys that the U.S. government will continue to permit the violation of human rights in Honduras.

 

Leaders of the resistance movement are being killed at an alarming rate in a systematic attempt to destroy the movement.  Neither the police nor the courts hold anyone responsible for these murders.  It is clear that the violence, impunity, and the atmosphere of fear and terror created by the Honduran authorities are meant to try to wear down and defeat the resistance movement.  The tactic of "disappearing" people by death squads has reemerged as a popular way to control and instill fear in the population. 

 

Although a Truth Commission has been established, its members will be appointed by the same people who supported the military coup.  The Commission was supposed to be established by February 25, but those in charge of appointments have not done so in a timely manner.  The Honduran members of the Commission have been announced, but the international members have not yet been selected.  There are serious concerns that those members already appointed to the Commission are not objective or qualified.  It appears that the Commission will be nothing more than a way to make it appear that the Honduran authorities actually care about reconciliation and human rights.  The Honduran Congress (with the support of the US) has already decided to give amnesty to those who are responsible for the coup in June and to those who committed the subsequent human rights violations, so the Truth Commission merely reinforces the atmosphere of impunity that already exists.

 

Despite the fear felt by many members of the resistance movement, they continue with their nonviolent movement by continuing to speak out against the coup, the fraudulent election of Lobo, and the ever growing list of human rights violations.  Nevertheless, the resistance movement faces a great challenge, and they need international support. 

 

The U.S. government needs to step up and publicly condemn the continuing human rights violations in Honduras and denounce the role in the violence played by the coup regime and the current authorities.  There must be complete and impartial investigations of all the attacks against members of the resistance movement, and those responsible for the violence must be held accountable.  There needs to be a truth commission that actually reveals the truth about the state-sponsored violence in Honduras since the coup.  Until these steps are taken, the U.S. as well as other countries should be cautious and reluctant to restore economic aid and friendly relations with the Honduran government.