Let me step aside from the activities of our delegation during our week in Honduras and interject a personal plea:
If you’re like me, you get all kinds of appeals for calls and letters of support, for donations to make and for delegations to join. The pain of the world cries out to us daily, and our efforts seem so inconsequential. Perhaps, like me, you have often passed them by, or also like me, you’ve joined delegations from time to time.
Here’s the thing: This time is different, really different.
Honduras is on the tipping point between peaceful negotiations and civil war. The uneasy political truce in Honduras is breaking down, right now, after the years of increasing intimidation and assassinations since the military coup against the constitutionally elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.
As you may know, the military kidnapped Zelaya and somewhat melodramatically flew him out of the country at night in his pajamas. Since then, a wave of protest, repression and assassination has swept the country.
Whatever tenuous agreements among the political parties that have held the country together since the military coup, ruptured at last November’ contested election. In the midst of counting the ballots, when it appeared that the opposition candidate Salvador Nasrallah was winning, the election commission stopped the count. The counting resumed hours later, yet Nasrallah’s lead had vanished and the Hernández had a 1.5 percent edge. Perhaps it is worth nothing that the election commission is dominated by Hernández supporters. Opposition candidate Salvador Nasrallah refused to accept the result.
Afterwards, the Organization of American States agreed there was evidence of fraud and called for a new election, but the U.S. has tacitly supported Hernández as the winner.
Over the coming months, the crisis is likely to grow worse. The opposition Alianza shows no signs of giving in this seizure of power by Juan Orlando Hernández and his right-wing National Party. In December, Zelaya issued an appeal to the American people to make every effort to stop the “immoral support” that the U.S. government has given to the dictatorship of Hernández. In his appeal, he wrote:
The electoral fraud supported by the U.S. State Department in favor of the dictatorship has forced our people to protest massively throughout the country, despite savage government repression that has taken the lives of more than 34 young people since the election, and in which hundreds of protestors have been criminalized and imprisoned.
After this electoral coup, police and military forces have been sweeping through opposition villages, harassing and threatening people in their homes. The death toll is now reaching about 40, often merely bystanders at protests who are fired upon with live ammunition.
It’s bad enough that some police officers are questioning and rebelling against their orders.
That is why I appeal to you, now, at this moment, to stop and help tip the balance toward peace and away from violence and repression. Any action you take to influence the U.S. in favor of peaceful domestic dialogue may save real lives, right now. You can:
- Call, email or write your Congressional representative to ask him or her to support the ‘Berta Caceres’ resolution A.R. 1299 to stop military aid to the Honduran government until the security forces stop violating human rights and past perpetrators are brought to justice.
- Send a donation to the emergency fund to support SHARE and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. [Yes, every delegation runs more on faith than dollars!]
- Or designate your donation to SHARE on behalf of Radio Progreso.
- Even a simple email to Radio Progreso and Padre Melo to show support for free and independent news would help. (Email: email@example.com.) If Melo and the station receive emails, they can print these out and show the wide range of support from people of good will to anyone who questions their rights to free speech and assembly.
I wouldn’t stop to ask you this unless I really believed that American voices at this moment could save lives over the coming months. The pressure on the American government is vital to at least give the Honduran civil society a chance to work things out on their own without the historical interference of the imperial giant to the north.
David A. Sylvesteris a Bay Area writer, teacher and contributor toTikkun. A Roman Catholic, he is also a member of Beyt Tikkun and has traveled to El Salvador as an election observer in 2009 and to Iraq in 1998 on a humanitarian mission with Voices in the Wilderness. In 2006, he served three months in a federal prison camp for civil disobedience at the U.S. army base at Fort Benning to protest the U.S.-training of Central American military troops.