Honduras Truth Commission: Yes, it was a coup

The Honduras Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by former Guatemalan vice president Eduardo Stein, presented the report to current Honduran President Porfirio Lobos, Honduran chief justice Jorge Rivera Avilez and OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza in Tegucigalpa July 7. The report concludes that the June 28, 2009 removal from office of former President Manuel Zelaya was in fact a coup d’etat—and not a constitutional succession as some of Zelaya’s opponents claimed. The report further asserted that National Congress overstepped its powers when it nominated its speaker Roberto Micheletti as interim president. According to the commission, the interim administration was therefore illegal and a “de facto regime.”

The commission also accused Micheletti’s regime of repression, saying government forces killed at least 12 people using “disproportionate force and tear gas” during anti-coup protests. “State agents or other perpetrators who apparently were serving the interests of state repression selectively assassinated” eight others, the commission found. The report did not identify the eight people assassinated, but it said high-ranking army and police officers ordered and covered up the killings.

But the Honduran left was not entirely happy with the report, accusing it of downplaying the repression under Micheletti’s regime. Some estimates have placed the death toll at as many as 150 in the coup’s aftermath. No one has been arrested or charged with any of the killings.

Furthermore, the commission did not completely exonerate Zelaya, finding that his decision to press ahead with a referendum on constitutional change after it had been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and National Congress was “a point of no return” in the crisis. Zelaya reacted angrily to this finding. “I never in my life violated any laws,” he told the AFP news agency, saying that if he had in fact violated the law he would be facing criminal charges now. “There have been no charges filed against me,” he said.

Zelaya added to the Associated Press: “Contrary to what we hoped, impunity continues to favour those who carried out the coup d’etat and restrictions and political persecution is still taking place against members of the opposition.” (AlJazeera, July 8; BBC News, July 7)

See our last posts on Honduras and Central America.

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