Monday, October 19, 2009

Two important pieces of information regarding Honduras

October 18, 2009

Sister Cities Friends,

Two important pieces of information regarding Honduras
passed on from our friends at Rights Action:

1) News Video:

Please watch and share this excellent short news report
from the Al Jazeera Program "Fault Lines" (Two 11 minute
videos). It provides invaluable background info and
highlights the work of the social movement:

2) Dear Colleague Letter to have Obama speak out
more forcefully against the coup and its human rights

Representatives Grijalva and Serrano are circulating
a Dear Colleague Letter (see below) on Honduras.
Please contact your congressperson and ask
them to sign on! At this point there are only 4 signers!

Please forward this letter to your Representative and ask them to sign this letter, calling on Pres. Obama to denounce human rights abuses in Honduras.
Current Signers: Grijalva, Serrano, Stark, D. Davis, Shakowsky
From: Daniel Z. Brito, Legislative Assistant, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (gree-HAHL-vah)
1440 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, 202.225.2435,\

October 13, 2009
"The new decree is simply aimed at silencing us once and for all." (Channel 36 director Esdras Lopez)

Dear Colleague:

Since the return of Manuel Zelaya, recognized by the Obama Administration as “the democratically elected and constitutional leader of Honduras.,” the de facto regime in that nation has intensified its assault on Hondurans demanding a return to democracy.
Dictator Roberto Micheletti suspended the constitution on September 27 in Executive Decree PCM-M-016-2009 and forces loyal to the regime then attacked and shut down the last independent media in the country, leaving the junta firmly in control of what Hondurans see and hear.
Despite widespread reporting that the Decree has been “rescinded,” the rescission STILL has not been printed in La Gaceta, meaning the Decree is still legally in effect, and de facto, it is still being enforced with brute violence by the coup regime.
Also, the Micheletti dictatorship published on Saturday, October 10, another decree granting themselves the power to shut down independent media. "The new decree is simply aimed at silencing us once and for all," said Channel 36 director Esdras Lopez.
The New York Times last week finally reported on the widespread rights abuses occurring under the Micheletti dictatorship: “Eleven people have been killed since the coup, according to the Committee for Families of the Disappeared and Detainees in Honduras, or Cofadeh.
“[…] The groups describe an atmosphere of growing impunity, one in which security forces act unhindered by legal constraints. Their free hand had been strengthened by an emergency decree allowing the police to detain anyone suspected of posing a threat.
“In the 1980s, there were political assassinations, torture and disappearances,” said Bertha Oliva, Cofadeh’s general coordinator, in an interview last week, recalling the political repression of the country’s so-called dirty war. “They were selective and hidden. But now there is massive repression and defiance of the whole world. They do it in broad daylight, without any scruples, with nothing to stop them.”
Please join me in writing to President Obama to ask that his administration finally and firmly denounce these human rights abuses and join the consensus in the Americas regarding the scheduled elections.
To sign this letter, please contact Daniel Brito via email or at x. 5.2435.
Raúl M. Grijalva, Member of Congress
Jose E. Serrano, Member of Congress
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President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20502
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to you regarding an urgent situation where lives are at stake and action on your part may prevent further tragedy.
Since the return to Honduras of President Manuel Zelaya, the de facto regime has taken further repressive measures, in addition to the previous violations of basic rights and civil liberties which have been recognized and denounced by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and all of the key Honduran human rights NGOs, among others.
According to reports from the media and rights organizations, the coup regime violently dispersed a gathering of Hondurans in front of the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa with tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets, resulting in numerous casualties, including several reported fatalities.
While the siege of the Embassy is a serious violation of the Vienna Convention, more disturbing is the broad assault against the Honduran people unleashed by the coup regime.
On September 22, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stated that “given the reports we have received, and the poor track record of the security forces since the coup, we fear that conditions could deteriorate drastically in the coming days.” That same day, the Americas Director for the London-based rights organization Amnesty International, Susan Lee, has stated that “the attacks against human rights defenders, suspension of news outlets, beating of demonstrators by the police and ever increasing reports of mass arrests indicate that human rights and the rule of law in Honduras are at grave risk.”
The international community has also spoken out regarding the worsening human rights situation in Honduras. On September 22nd, Mexico released a statement in the name of 23-member Rio Group demanding that the de facto government stop carrying out “acts of repression and violation of human rights of all Hondurans.” The following day, the Presidency of the European Union seconded the Rio Group statement.
Mr. President, we were glad to hear State Department spokesman Ian Kelly on September 22 reaffirm the position of the Administration that Manuel Zelaya is the “democratically elected and constitutional leader of Honduras.” But unfortunately, the mixed messages that have characterized the Administration’s response persist.
The head of the US delegation to the Organization of American States Lewis Amselem represented our nation in that body by saying “Zelaya’s return to Honduras is irresponsible and foolish and it doesn’t serve to the interest of the people nor those who seek the restoration of democratic order in Honduras […] Everything will be better if all parties refrain from provoking and inciting violence.”
Not content to place equal blame on both the victims of the violence and the perpetrators, he then chose to personally insult Mr. Zelaya, saying “The president should stop acting as though he were starring in an old Woody Allen movie.” State Department spokespersons have declined numerous opportunities to distance your administration from Amselem’s words.
We note that, unlike the coup leaders, President Zelaya has indicated his openness to dialogue and has accepted the San Jose agreement that emerged from the US-backed mediation process led by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica.
The suspension of rights announced by the junta on September 27 in Executive Decree PCM-M-016-2009 is still being enforced, according to numerous reports, with independent media outlets like Radio Globo and Canal 36 already having been raided and had their equipment stolen.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has declared that “the suspension is a violation of international law, as it was adopted to sustain the illegitimate government that arose from the rupture of the democratic institutional order, which took place on June 28, 2009.” The IACHR also expressed “deep concern over this decree, whose provisions arbitrarily restrict fundamental human rights and contain vague regulations that grant absolute discretion to the authorities, especially the Army and the Police forces.”
Though we commend the administration for having strongly stated their support for the restoration of democracy in Honduras, we are concerned that neither you nor the Secretary of State has denounced these serious human rights abuses in a country where US influence could be decisive.
It is now more urgent than ever to break this silence. It is critical that your Administration immediately clearly and unequivocally reject and denounce the repression by this illegitimate regime. We can say sincerely and without hyperbole that this action on your part will save lives.
Furthermore, the vast majority of our neighbors in the region, including Brazil and Mexico, have clearly indicated that they will not recognize the results of elections held under the coup regime.
On September 29, Costa Rican President and US-appointed mediator Oscar Arias noted the regime’s continued rejection of the San Jose accords, and warned that Honduran elections cannot be recognized by the international community without a restoration of constitutional order. Arias said, "the cost of failure of leaving a coup d'etat unpunished is setting up a bad precedent for the region. […] You could have remembrances of a bad Latin American past, insisting on elections under these circumstances and overlooking items in the San Jose Accord.”
It is time for the administration to join this growing hemispheric and international consensus and unambiguously state that elections organized by an undemocratic government that has denied critics of the regime the right to free speech, assembly, and movement, cannot and will not be considered free and fair by our government.
We feel it is imperative that the administration step up its efforts to bring about a prompt restoration of democracy in Honduras, together with other regional leaders.
We eagerly await your reply.

* * *

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