Human rights in Honduras

Followers of Latin American politics awoke in June to a familiar, if long-absent, nightmare: A president forced out of his house in pyjamas and onto a plane into exile. Yet, despite the death of 19-year-old-protestor Isis Obed soon after, the Honduras coup did not follow the region’s old pattern of terror and disappearances. Instead, human ...

578886_091020_honduras2.jpg
578886_091020_honduras2.jpg

Followers of Latin American politics awoke in June to a familiar, if long-absent, nightmare: A president forced out of his house in pyjamas and onto a plane into exile. Yet, despite the death of 19-year-old-protestor Isis Obed soon after, the Honduras coup did not follow the region's old pattern of terror and disappearances.

Instead, human rights groups report a low, but constant level of violence towards protestors, which seems to be having a demoralizing effect without raising terribly strong reactions from the internal and international communities. A member of the Organization of American States' human rights group explained:

Followers of Latin American politics awoke in June to a familiar, if long-absent, nightmare: A president forced out of his house in pyjamas and onto a plane into exile. Yet, despite the death of 19-year-old-protestor Isis Obed soon after, the Honduras coup did not follow the region’s old pattern of terror and disappearances.

Instead, human rights groups report a low, but constant level of violence towards protestors, which seems to be having a demoralizing effect without raising terribly strong reactions from the internal and international communities. A member of the Organization of American States’ human rights group explained:

We did not find people disappeared like you’d have seen 20 years ago … [The de facto government will] detain 100, 150, 200 people at a march and put them in a detention facility. They will only beat up a dozen of them. In the meantime, it’s enough to break up the demonstration and make people a little more careful about going out next time.”

Nonetheless, the human rights situation is far from innocuous. Human rights groups in Honduras claim that between 10 and 15 people have died as a result from run-ins with the armed forces, several bodies have been found under suspicious circumstances. The most recent death is that of union leader Jaire Sanchez, who died this weekend from a bullet wound received at a protest. Dozens of other defenders of Zelaya claim to have been threatened.

The de facto government has been blocking investigations into abuses, making corroboration more difficult, according to Human Rights Watch, which has urged the international community to reject any deal that involves amnesty for human rights violations. Here’s how the OAS mission describe the situation back in August:

[A] pattern of disproportionate use of public force on the part of police and military forces, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry. This resulted in the deaths of at least four persons [at that time], dozens of injuries, thousands of arbitrary detentions, the temporary shutdown of television channels, and threats and assaults against journalists.

In the face of an OAS delegation to investigate possible violations, de facto President Roberto Micheletti finally made good yesterday on a promise to reopen two opposition broadcasters shut down 22 days ago. 

It has become a nightmare of a different sort, the negotiators probably feel it’s the kind where you’re running but just can’t seem to stop going in circles, as the clock ticks down to the Nov. 29 elections, scheduled before the coup and which many countries have promised not to recognize if an agreement between ousted President Zelaya and Micheletti is not reached soon.

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Jordana Timerman is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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