In accordance with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ underlying mission to promote rational and constructive U.S. policies towards Latin America, our organization has been delighted to help Miguel Tinker Salas and his associates to distribute the following letter to the President that has already been signed by 240 academics and Latin America experts. This document details the ongoing human rights violations in Honduras and urges President Obama and his administration to take a strong stance against the de facto regime that seized power this past June. While the U.S. government has said that it will support the outcome of the November 29 elections, if conducted under the de facto government these elections cannot be considered free or fair. We are concerned that an apathetic response from the Obama administration will establish a dangerous precedent of support for the military usurpation of a democratic government and lend legitimacy to an abusive and unjust regime. The situation is in danger of becoming a caricature of the lessons that should have been learned during the brutality of military juntas in Latin America during the 1980’s and 90’s.
If interested in expressing support for this letter, please send your signature and institutional affiliation (for identification purposes, only) to Miguel Tinker Salas, MRT04747@pomona.edu, or Dana Frank, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to urge you to stand with democracy and human rights in Honduras. With only days left before the scheduled November 29 elections the U.S. government must make a choice: it can either side with democracy, along with every government in Latin America, or it can side with the coup regime, and remain isolated. Moreover, the U.S. cannot afford to maintain its deafening silence regarding the innumerable and grave human rights abuses committed by the coup government in Honduras – a silence that has become a conspicuous international embarrassment. The U.S. must forcefully denounce these abuses, and match its words with action as well. It must make the coup regime understand that the United States government will no longer tolerate the violence and repression that the Micheletti government has practiced against the Honduran people since seizing power on June 28, 2009.
Honduras now stands at the edge of a dangerous precipice. The coup regime remains determined – in the absence of significant pressure from the U.S. government – to move forward with the elections, in the hopes that the international community will eventually recognize the results. In so doing, they hope to legitimize their illegal and unconstitutional government.
Free and fair elections on November 29 are already impossible, as more than two-thirds of the campaign period allowed under Honduran law has already passed, under conditions in which freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press have all been under attack throughout the country. This repression has been widely documented and denounced by Honduran and international human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.
The Rio Group of 23 nations, which includes nearly all of Latin America and much of the Caribbean, had forcefully declared that it will not recognize the November 29th elections if President Zelaya is not first re-instated. Thus the United States is at odds with the rest of the Hemisphere in its stated willingness to recognize these illegitimate elections.
Free and fair elections can only be carried out in a climate in which debating, organizing, and all other aspects of election campaigns can be conducted in an atmosphere that is free from fear; in which all views and parties are free to make their voices heard – not just those that are allowed under an illegal military occupation. We therefore call on the U.S. government to support an electoral process in Honduras that allows for a full three months – as mandated under Honduran law – for electoral campaigning, to take place after the restoration of President Manuel Zelaya. Only in this way can the electoral process achieve legitimacy in both the eyes of the Honduran people and the international community.
In the months that have transpired since the April Summit of the Americas, we are saddened to see that your promise of treating Latin American nations as equals is evaporating. You declared at that time, “I just want to make absolutely clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in the hemisphere.” In remarks that were recorded, cited, and broadcast all over the world, you asserted: “The test for all of us is not simply words, but also deeds.” Since then, your government has failed to match these words with deeds regarding the coup d’etat in Honduras. As a result, the United States is once again isolating itself in the Americas.
The U.S. must also match its rhetorical commitment to democracy with concrete deeds, and support the immediate restoration of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras and full guarantees of a free and fair election.
Miguel Tinker Salas
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs