THE REGISTER CITIZEN: Give Hondurans More Time for Fair Elections
November 3rd, 2009
By Roxanne Hanson
The June coup that ousted Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected
president of Honduras, continues in a stalemate. With constant pressure
from the United States, the European Union, international institutions
like the United Nations and Organization of American States, and
international mediators like former President Jimmy Carter, the de
facto regime led by Roberto Micheletti finally agreed to come back to
the negotiating table. But they also continue to block all proposed
solutions that would return Zelaya to office.
administration has spoken out against Micheletti’s executive decree
suspending constitutional rights, which coincided with the repression
of peaceful protests and raids pulling independent media off the air.
recent visit to Honduras, along with reports from Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, and the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, confirms that this is a well-founded concern. I saw
hundreds of soldiers and police, in full riot gear, surround protesters
and use tear gas to break up peaceful groups of less than 200 people.
Illegal detentions, assault, and even political assassinations have
chilled the voice of Hondurans struggling for their democracy.
despite the regime’s documented human rights violations, House and
Senate Republican lawmakers have flown to Honduras to show their
support for Micheletti’s coup.
The State Department, meanwhile,
has tried to isolate Micheletti, and currently backs the proposed San
Jose Accords brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to resolve
the four-month-old crisis. The accords call for Zelaya’s return to
office, amnesty for all parties, and elections to be held at the end of
November. By all accounts, the accords, which Micheletti refuses to
accept, offer him a great deal.
The coup and ongoing repression
have greatly damaged the rule of law and civil society in Honduras. The
only way to ensure that democracy isn’t permanently crippled is to send
a clear message that the United States doesn’t recognize the demands of
bullies who throw democratically elected leaders out of the country in
the middle of the night in their pajamas. President Obama and his
administration have the opportunity to demonstrate strong support for a
nonviolent movement for democracy in Latin America, instead of military
With constitutional rights restored only recently and
continued media censorship, it’s hard to understand how negotiators can
expect Hondurans to hold a free and fair election in less than a month.
The United States, along with the rest of the world, has said it won’t
recognize the November elections. However, the Obama administration has
recently wavered on this important commitment. The U.S. can’t allow the
coup leaders to drag their feet on reaching an agreement so that they
can weasel their way into power through illegitimate elections.
the constitutional leader of the country is returned to office,
Hondurans must be given the political time and space they need to make
an informed decision about his successor.
While the coup’s
regime may leave the presidential office, the lasting effects of this
crisis will be with the country, and the rest of Latin America, for
years to come. After such a polarizing and divisive time, the people of
Honduras deserve more than a few days to decide their future.
Roxanne Hanson traveled to Honduras as a delegate with Witness for Peace.