Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rights Action report on killings and attempted killings linked to the Honduran electoral process

Rights Action has published a report on the violence in the months leading up to the November 24 elections in Honduras, including a list (based on the information available) of the names of the victims of murders or attempted murders, their party affiliations and political involvement, and a description of the circumstances of the crimes. “The intent of the incomplete list,” they state,
…is to encourage a discussion of the circumstances in which the Honduran elections will occur. Almost a month remains until Hondurans will cast their votes in the 2013 General elections. To date and since the May 2012 Primary Elections, there have been a disproportionate number of killings and attempted killings targeting LIBRE candidates. A thorough investigation of each case is a difficult if not impossible task before November 24. But our hope is that this incomplete list raises significant questions about how democratic and fair voting and election campaigning can be held in a context of on-going terror, violence and impunity affecting candidates and their families throughout the country.
They provide some background and context:
Honduras has maintained a two party political system for decades. However, in the wake of the June 28, 2009 military coup a strong new political force emerged, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) which sought to oppose the coup through peaceful means. After overthrown president Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras, the decision to participate in the 2013 General Elections was taken by the resistance movement and the FNRP, and the first major third political party in the modern history of Honduras was created: the Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation) party, or LIBRE.

Including LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, there are eight presidential candidates participating in the November elections involving nine political parties, as one, new, non-traditional party formed an alliance with the existing Unión Democrática (UD) party (2).

Though President Porfirio Lobo’s post-coup regime has been promoted internationally as a government of ‘Unity and National Reconciliation’, it includes none of the key actors who were forcibly removed from power during the 2009 coup. The Canadian and United States government as well as the European Union have stood behind the false projection of reconciliation and unity projected by the Honduran government (3).

Lobo’s term in office has been marked by unprecedented levels of violence: Honduras today has one of the highest homicide rates in the world coupled with a high impunity rate (4). The Lobo government’s efforts to persuade the international community that the government is taking effective action against the country’s rampant violence - as Honduran Vice President María Antonieta Guillén attempted to do at the UN Assembly on September 27, 2013 (5) - has been followed by continued massacres and killings in Honduran streets and the on-going systematic targeting of political opponents and social activists (6).

Since the 2009 coup, international human rights organizations including the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Commission, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have noted gross human rights abuses particularly targeting certain sectors of Honduran society – lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, and opponents of the current post-coup military regime (7).

The 2013 General Elections will occur in a historical and on-going context of gross human rights abuses committed by the current government and the 5-month de facto government of Roberto Micheletti that preceded it, June – November 2009. A lot weighs on the results of the General Elections, whether it’s the US Government and OAS hoping for a seemingly clean, democratic and reliable election, or the sympathizers of the LIBRE party, hoping for a transformation of Honduran society as per the promises and principles of the FNRP.

The coup and its repercussions over the last four years have polarized Honduran society. At odds are those hoping to change the status quo and reject the interests behind the 2009 coup – largely the FNRP and the political party that grew from that movement, the LIBRE party - and those that perpetrated and/or supported the coup and hope to maintain the status quo - largely business elites, the two traditional political parties (the National and Liberal Parties) and its allies.

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