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Human rights violations continue in Honduras

Obed Murillo Mencias. Killed by the armed forces. Gabriel Fino Noreiga. Assassinated by seven bullets. Ramon Garcia. Riddled with bullets. Roger Ivan Bedos. Shot to death. Vicky Hernandez Castillo. Killed by a bullet wound to the eye.

All dead since the coup d’etat of June 28 in Honduras.

That morning at 5:15 am, according to a preliminary report by the International Observation Mission for the Human Rights Situation in Honduras, a group of 15 independent professionals from 13 countries formed on July 17 in Honduras, soldiers from the armed forces invaded the Presidential House and kidnapped Manuel Zelaya, the President of Honduras. Immediately afterward, he was transferred to an air base, where he was flown to Costa Rica.

Despite the lack of constitutional or legal authority, the Congress of the Republic issued a “condemnation of the conduct of President Zelaya for repeated violations of the Constitution and the law and failure to observe the resolutions and decisions issued by the relevant administrative bodies” removing him as President and replacing him with Roberto Micheletti.

On June 30, the following constitutional rights were suspended from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, in accordance with a state of emergency, for a period of 72 hours: personal liberty, freedom of association and assembly, the right to freedom of movement, to leave, enter and stay within the national territory. However, the order for the suspension of these rights continues to be applied and the hours for the curfew are changed randomly on a daily basis.

The Latin American Solidarity Network (LASN) rallied in Toronto on Saturday, condemning the military coup d’etat in Honduras and what they called U.S. involvement and support for a military dictatorship, as they marched in a circle across the street from the U.S. Consulate.

The New York Times reported Friday that “there are significant disagreements in Congress over how to respond to the Honduran crisis, and the threats over the confirmations have evolved into a proxy fight over Honduras. Democrats support a negotiated deal that would let Mr. Zelaya return as president with limited powers. But Republicans back the contentions of the leaders of the de facto regime, who say Mr. Zelaya brought about his own downfall by organizing an illegal referendum to try to extend his term.”

While Canada and the U.S. work towards a diplomatic resolution to the coup, people in the social movement have been detained, tortured, killed or imprisoned illegally in Honduras. “The constitution of Honduras has been put on hold by the military dictatorship,” said Raul Burbano of the Toronto Bolivia Solidarity group. “And these dictatorships couldn’t act with impunity without the support of the U.S. government, of military interests and large multi-nationals. A military dictatorship in Latin America means profits, ignoring workers’ rights and democracy.”

In response, the LASN gathered to denounce the grave human rights violations carried out by the de-facto regime since June 28 and provide solidarity with the grassroots mobilizations that refuse to willingly accept the rupture of democracy in Honduras. Peacefully but militantly, these grassroots organizations have demanded the reinstatement of democracy and President Manuel Zelaya.

The LASN argued that the coup in Honduras doesn’t just impact democracy in Central America and Honduras. It’s a message against progressive movements in the region, particularly an attack against ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) where Honduras was seen as the weak link.

ALBA, an international cooperation organization based upon the idea of social, political, and economic integration between the countries of  Latin America and the Caribbean, is associated with the left, and unlike free trade agreements the ALBA represents an attempt at regional economic integration that is not based primarily on trade liberalization but on a vision of social welfare, bartering and mutual economic aid.

The brainchild of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, ALBA was founded by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004 as a fair trade alternative to US-backed free trade policies and is made possible thanks to Venezuela's oil money.

Here in Canada, the LASN has relentlessly pressured the Canadian government, particularly Peter Kent who is Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas). A couple of weeks ago, they organized a demonstration at his constituency office in Thornhill, Ontario. “His office was closed that day and they refused to meet with us,” said Ilian Burbano of the Latin American Solidarity Network.

But at a cultural festival last week, one of the Honduran activists approached Kent and told him how ashamed the LASN was about Canada’s position. “He (Kent) said that he had been misquoted in the media and would meet with us when he returns from a meeting with the Organization of American States (OAS). Luckily we have this on video with sound saying he will meet with us. So I think it’s going to be difficult for Peter Kent to recant the agreement to meet with us.”

In their letter of August 4 to Minister Kent, the LASN expressed serious concern with the Canadian government’s position regarding the military coup in Honduras. “Your government has refused to explicitly demand the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of President Zelaya,” said the LASN. “Your office has criticized President Zelaya’s peaceful attempts to return to his duties as President…and Canada has chosen not to implement sanctions against the de-facto Roberto Micheletti regime.”

Although June 28 was a day of shame for Canada because the Harper government stood silent as President Zelaya was kidnapped and exiled, Suzanne Weiss of the Venezuela, We Are With You Coalition called the events following the coup a source of hope and inspiration.

“The bold and courageous people of Honduras defied the army by demonstrating, striking and setting up roadblocks and demanding the restoration of their elected government,” said Weiss. “All the governments of ALBA have rallied public opinion and gained popular support for President Zelaya and his brave people.”

Under precarious conditions, Zelaya supporters continue their resistance without food and water, sleeping by the roadside and behind bushes amidst military roadblocks. If they go home at night, they are at risk of being kidnapped.

Jose Martinez of the Toronto Honduran Resistance Front was recently in Honduras and told supporters on Saturday that over a million people are moving towards Tegucigalpa, the capital city of the country, for a mass mobilization. “It’s not that easy because we have the army chasing and killing our people,” said Martinez. “About an hour ago, we received the news that one of our guys was killed by the army.”

Every day, Martinez hears stories about people being kidnapped and killed the previous night. Still, the Zelaya supporters have vowed to continue their resistance until their President is returned to power. Radio Globo Honduras, explained Martinez, has been threatened daily with closure by the military because the de-facto regime doesn’t want their message getting out across the country.

"Fortunately, in Canada we are free to mobilize and speak," said Martinez. "Down there if you talk too
much they come and get you and they kill you."

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