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Oct 11 / Elizabeth DiNovella

Honduran Human Rights Abuses Continue

Estela Garcia grew up in El Salvador during the civil war and its aftermath. But when she went to Honduras this year to investigate human right abuses, she was taken aback.

“The first shock was the huge military presence,” she says. “In Tegucigalpa, there are military checkpoints on the roads.”

Garcia has been to Honduras several times this year, working on human right investigations with local organizations. Garcia has previously worked for Oxfam, USAID, and the Lutheran World Federation in El Salvador. She just started working for U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities group. She’s in Madison to participate in the 25th anniversary celebration of the sistering relationship between Madison and Arcatao, Chalatenango, El Salvador.

 

It’s been more than two years since the Honduran military carried out a coup against the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya, with the support of Honduran business leaders and rightwing groups. Zelaya has returned to Honduras, and Honduras has returned to the Organization of American States, but things have not returned to normal.

Since the 2009 coup, there has been an increase in death squad activity and the criminalization of social protest.

“Assassinations and other human rights abuses are done with impunity,” says Garcia. “Crimes are not formally investigated.”

She adds that journalists are afraid for their lives, since sixteen have been killed since the coup.

In reaction to the overthrow of Zelaya, a vibrant social movement has taken root in Honduras. Students, teachers, labor unionists, LGBTQ activists, artists and human rights activists have formed an umbrella group called the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP).

According to the human rights group COFADEH, more than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since the coup.

Students especially have felt the brunt of the brutality. “I’ve been to Honduras seven or eight times and every time some shocking violence happens against them,” says Garcia. “During my last trip in September, a soldier allegedly stabbed a student with a bayonet.”

The Honduran Solidarity Network is calling on Congress to cut military and other foreign aid to Honduras until the human rights situation improves. The U.S. government reinstated military aid months after the coup. What’s more, this May the U.S. Embassy sponsored a conference in San Pedro Sula titled, “Honduras Open for Business.” (Which sounds a lot like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.)

Given that we have a budget crisis, Garcia asks: Why not cut aid to human rights abusers?

 

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