December 18, 2017

An Open Letter to the US Congress and US State Department:

As a US-based human rights, grassroots organizing, solidarity, and civil society organization, we are outraged that presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner in the Honduran presidential elections, amid serious and pervasive reports of election fraud and human rights violations.

We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, NOT to recognize the results announced by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

After the initial release of official results in the Honduran presidential election showed the opposition candidate leading by approximately 5 percentage points based on more than half the returns, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (or TSE, by its Spanish initials, which is controlled by the current administration) did not resume releasing presidential election results for more than a day. For comparison, in the 2013 presidential election, the winner was declared with a similar proportion of the returns in. Once the updates resumed, the incumbent, President Hernández, gained ground at a surprising rate and, quickly passed the opposition candidate, according to the TSE’s numbers. The long delay, and the dramatic shift in the tendency of the vote count reported before and after that delay, raise serious doubts about the integrity of this election.

In addition, international delegations from La Voz de los de Abajo, Code Pink, and Witness for Peace witnessed and heard testimony of violent beatings of civilians, the ongoing intimidation through use of security forces, including US-funded security forces, as well as numerous incidents of fraud and violence at polling places. On December 1, a presidential decree suspended Constitutional rights, imposed a curfew, and there have been multiple reports of security forces using live ammunition and violence toward civilians during anti-fraud protests around the country, resulting in at least 22 deaths of protesters at this point.

The US government has been an ongoing supporter and financial backer of the Honduran government, including  supporting  the 2009 coup which led to the right-wing National Party taking power, with Hernández as President of the National Congress from 2010-2013. Furthermore, the US has pushed forward the disastrous, failed Plan Colombia model for Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in the form of the “Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle” aid package. This 750 million-dollar project dressed up as an anti-drug initiative, has been used to create “favorable” conditions for outside investors, at the cost of militarization, violence and corruption that have actively contributed to the kind of deterioration of democracy we are witnessing in Honduras today. Just two days after the Honduran elections the US State Department certified that the Honduran government is meeting human rights and anti-corruption conditions, clearing the way for Honduras to receive millions of dollars in US aid. The circumstances around the election and beyond demonstrate clearly that the Honduran government is not at all meeting those conditions.

If the US has a genuine commitment to democracy, it must:

  • Not recognize the announced election outcome due to widespread reports of state involvement in electoral fraud and violence;
  • Immediately suspend diplomatic relations with the Honduran government, including recalling our Charge D’Affaires/acting Ambassador, until human rights are fully restored, the rule of law has been re-established, constitutional guarantees are fulfilled, and democratic processes and institutions are actually respected.
  • Revoke the State Department’s certification that the Honduran government is meeting human rights and anti-corruption conditions.
  • End US security aid to Honduras, including police and military aid, and support for Honduran security forces though the so-called “Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle” program; Pass HR 1299, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act and its companion bill in the Senate.
  • Condemn the Honduran government’s violent crackdown of protesters and suspension of Constitutional rights, and demand the the Honduran government immediately cease using live ammunition against civilians and remove the military from the streets;
  • Extend Temporary Protected Status for the more than 57,000 Hondurans currently in the United States; and
  • Respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples (including Garífuna communities) and peasant communities organizing to defend and protect ancestral territories, land, water and Mother Earth in the face of militarization and repression by the current Honduran regime.

At this defining moment for the people of Honduras, we urge you to be on the right side of democracy and history, by urgently addressing the fundamental demands outlined in this letter. Thank you for your attention at this critical time.

Signed,

Witness for Peace