Honduras: resistance continues despite repression

On Aug. 22 a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued what it called “preliminary observations” on the human rights situation in Honduras since a June 28 coup removed president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office. The delegation, headed by Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero, said that from its visit it had “confirmed the existence of a pattern of disproportionate use of public force, arbitrary detentions, and the control of information aimed at limiting political participation by a sector of the citizenry.”

Supporting the findings of Honduran human rights monitors, the CIDH delegation cited testimony about the killings of at least four people and injuries to dozens of others; sexual violations of women during the repression of demonstrations, including the rape of a woman by four police agents in San Pedro Sula; the arbitrary detention of 3,500-4,000 people during demonstrations; and harassment of the media. Carlos López Contreras, foreign minister in the de facto government established by the coup, dismissed the report as “a form of pressure by the OAS on the government of Honduras so that it will accept a proposal for mediation” presented by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. The report was released just two days before the scheduled Aug. 24 arrival of an OAS delegation including seven foreign ministers for talks with the de facto government. (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 23 from AFP, Notimex, PL; CIDH press release, Aug. 21; AFP, Aug. 23)

The people behind the coup are now calling for repression because they are desperate, Juan Barahona, head of the leftist Unitary Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH), said at a demonstration in Tegucigalpa on Aug. 19. The 54 days of grassroots resistance had broken the morale of the coup’s supporters, he told the protesters, who chanted: “Forward, forward, the struggle is constant.” However, the labor movement has backed away from an open-ended strike the main union confederations started on Aug. 6 to demand President Zelaya’s restoration to office. The teachers union, one of the most militant, sent its members back to the classroom for three days starting on Aug. 17. The teachers were to resume their strike Aug. 20-21, when other unions planned a two-day general strike. Unions were also planning strikes to coincide with the Aug. 24 visit of the delegation of OAS foreign ministers.

Meanwhile, the local organization of Vía Campesina (“Campesino Way”), the international campesino movement, continued an occupation of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) that it began weeks before. (Prensa Latina, Aug. 20, 23; Honduras Laboral, Aug. 17 from Comunicaciones Vía Campesina en Honduras; Pueblo en Linea, China, Aug. 21; Adital, Aug. 20)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 25

See our last post on Honduras.