Late yesterday afternoon, we received notice from Witness for Peace that Sen. Ed Markey (MA) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL) began circulating a sign-on “Dear Colleague” letter in the U.S. Congress to President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo, urging them to investigate and condemn recent threats against human rights defenders, journalists and international human rights observers in Honduras. So far, Representatives Johnson (GA), Kaptur (OH), Holmes Norton (DC), Ellison (MN), Espaillat (NY), McGovern (MA), Jayapal (WA), Khanna (CA), Lee (CA), Gutiérrez (IL-4), and  Pocan (WI-2) have joined Sen. Markey and Rep. Schakowsky on this letter.

Call the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) today and ask to be connected to the office of your member of Congress. Demand safety for people who are doing important human rights work or reporting on matters of public interest.

The danger is serious. Journalists, as well as the director of the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, have received threats and been attacked in Honduras. Foreigners documenting human rights abuses have been deported, and smear campaigns have targeted people critical of the Honduran government, even extending to Witness for Peace delegations. Some of these threats and attacks have come from members of Honduran state security forces, which the U.S. funds.

Rep. Schakowsky and Sen. Markey’s letter calls on the Trump administration to:

-communicate concern to the Government of Honduras and request that it investigate these attacks, determine if state security forces were involved, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

-direct the State Department to 1) provide Congress with a detailed assessment of the efficacy of current Honduran government efforts to protect freedom of expression, and 2) reassess its certification of human rights conditions in Honduras.

-immediately investigate threats against U.S. citizens, report the findings of the investigation to Congress, and include in the report what actions the administration has taken in response.

Call your members of Congress (both Senators and your House Representative) NOW to ask them to take action to help protect journalists, human rights defenders and international observers.

Sample call script:

“My name is ________ and I’m a constituent calling from _________. I’m calling to ask Senator/Representative _____ to sign the Markey/SchakowskyDear Colleague” letter calling for immediate action to address an alarming recent pattern of threats against journalists, human rights defenders, and international human rights observers working in Honduras. The letter is just circulating for two days and is crucial to the protection of people doing the vitally important work of documenting and relating the human rights situation in Honduras to the U.S. and broader international community.

Has Senator/Representative _______ seen this letter? Can I count on him/her to sign on? Please call me at (_your phone number_) to let me know if you have seen the letter, and if Senator/Representative _____ will sign it.”  To sign on to the letter contact Aaron Weinberg with Rep. Schakowsky (Aaron.Weinberg@mail.house.gov) or Satrajit (Jitu) Sardar with Sen. Markey (Satrajit_Sardar@markey.senate.gov).

 

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Activists in El Salvador are currently fighting against the potential privatization of water in their country. Many areas of the country are dependent upon unrestricted access to local wells in order to obtain potable water. If water were to be privatized, many Salvadorans would lose their access to clean drinking water, as the costs of water as a market-based commodity would exceed the means of the majority of Salvadorans.

 

Current government data shows that 90% of the country’s surface water is irreparably polluted, and 1.5 million Salvadorans lack access to potable water. Andrés McKinley, a mining and water specialist at the University of Central America, spoke to the diren nature of the situation: “We are reaching the crisis level of having 1,700 cubic meters of freshwater per capita, while Guatemala and Nicaragua have between 15,000 and 30,000!” Without unrestricted access to clean drinking water, the human rights situation in El Salvador could take a sharp turn for the worse.

 

The leftist political party, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), has supported environmental organizations and the broader social movement, seeking to protect water as the vital resource that it is and to ensure its equitable distribution through the proposed “General Water Law,” which was originally introduced in 2006. The General Water Law would, among other goals, define and protect water as a human right, as well as ensure universal access for the population and integrate community consultation into national decision-making regarding water usage.

 

The FMLN has coordinated with the National Water Forum to introduce an updated version of the law in 2013 in the Environmental and Climate Change Commission of the Legislative Assembly. With this cooperation, the debate over water regulation pushed forward, with ninety-two articles approved before the discussions were stopped by the opposition, who insisted that the private sector be included in the new regulatory bodies the General Water Law was proposing.

 

The right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party is instead proposing a “Comprehensive Water Law,” which would bring corporate entities into the management of the country’s water system. Since the right-wing’s proposal, protests in rejection of their proposal have been near-constant. Despite these protests, the right-wing parties obtained a supermajority in the legislature following the 2018 elections, and are moving forward quickly in taking steps to pass their bill.

 

Despite the right-wing parties’ efforts, opposition to their bill remains strong, with numerous entities taking public positions against the proposed law. For instance, the Catholic Church has also been outspoken in their support for community partnerships in the regulation and usage of water, and against the privatization of water by large corporations. The Catholic Church and the Jesuit-run University of Central America (UCA)  produced a study on water management in Latin America, which was then delivered to Salvadoran lawmakers as Congress considered the Comprehensive Water Law.

The study, which was drafted in 2017 by Costa Rican specialist Lilian Quezada with support from UCA, shows that most Latin American countries have a state regulatory body that manages water with a focus on the citizens’ common good. UCA chancellor Andreu Oliva added that the report will allow members of Congress’ Environment and Climate Change Commission to get a “better overview of the importance of water being managed by public entities, as opposed to the private sector.”

 

San Salvador Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas said that the Salvadoran Catholic Church will continue to defend the rights of the country’s poor, demanding a “fair, efficient and equal water law.”

 

The bishops of El Salvador have also taken a stand in urging lawmakers to oppose any plans for privatizing water, saying the poor could not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity. In a statement issued in June and titled, “We will not allow the poor to die of thirst,” the Salvadoran bishops’ conference cited Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which states, “Access to potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition for the exercising of all other rights.”

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Guatemala is at a crossroads. President Jimmy Morales, backed by the military, has disobeyed the orders of the highest court and will kick out of the country a UN-backed commission battling corruption, impunity, and criminal networks…and unlike many others in the international community, the U.S. is not speaking out against his words and actions. Click here to respond to an action alert from Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA to call on the State Department to strongly support the independence of the Constitutional Court

For the last 12 years, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG, for its Spanish acronym), in cooperation with the last two Guatemalan Attorneys General and the Constitutional Court, has reduced the impunity rate from over 95% to 72% and battled to dismantle hidden criminal networks that have infiltrated all branches of government and security forces. They have investigated and secured the conviction of two former presidents and advanced court cases against some of the highest level military and government officials who perpetrated genocide against the Indigenous peoples and “disappeared” non-combatant Guatemalan civilians during the civil war. However, hidden criminal networks remain entrenched. The U.S., to its credit, has supported CICIG’s efforts with $42.5 million since its inception, but it looks like that support may end.

This year, CICIG accused current President Jimmy Morales of corruption. On August 31, he announced he would not renew CICIG’s mission and gave CICIG one year to leave the country. Dozens of security forces stood behind him as he spoke. U.S.-donated army vehicles with mounted machine guns were deployed to CICIG’s headquarters. September 5, Morales banned the head of CICIG, Ivan Velasquez, from re-entering Guatemala, ignoring an order from the Constitutional Court not to interfere with CICIG’s work. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called President Morales to say that Washington supported Guatemala’s sovereignty and would work with Guatemala to “reform” CICIG. It is pretty clear to CRLN that it is the Guatemalan government, military and police that need reform–not CICIG,

Click here for a New York Times article about the situation.

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CRLN is a member of the national Honduras Solidarity Network, which put out a statement recognizing today as the 9th anniversary of the U.S.-supported coup in Honduras. 9 years later, the oligarchy that initiated the coup has consolidated its power and democratic norms have eroded.

Click here to read the statement and to take action on three items:

  1. Sign an Amnesty International action alert to free political prisoner Edwin Espinal
  2. Send an email to demand fundamental changes in U.S. policy on Honduras
  3. Ask your Representative to cosponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (in Illinois, Reps. Rush, Lipinski, Gutierrez, Quigley, Davis, Schakowsky, and Foster are already co-sponsors)

 

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On Sunday, Guatemala’s volcano Fuego erupted twice with explosive force, sending ash skyward upwards of 15 kilometers and releasing lava and 100 m.p.h. pyroclastic flows that buried communities close to it.  At present, more than 3,200 people have been evacuated, but the death toll is at 69 and expected to increase.

 

We’ve listed below links to trustworthy organizations in Guatemala that are doing direct relief work and receiving donations to help assist with buying medicine, cleaning supplies, and clothing; rebuilding homes and communities; and other aspects of disaster relief. Some of these organizations are also posting daily updates on their work.

 

Common Hope: https://www.commonhope.org – click on the “For more information” in the red bar. There is a donation link at the bottom of the information.

 

Wings:  https://wingsguate.giv.sh/6a14

 

Friends of Guatemala: https://www.facebook.com/fogrpcv/posts/1638548842927425?hc_location=ufi – earmark “Volcan de Fuego” (donation button is on the facebook page)

 

Alticultura: https://www.gofundme.com/Alticultura – earmark donations for “Volcan de Fuego”

 

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11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of Central Americans and other immigrants with Temporary Protected Status and would suspend U.S. military aid to Honduras. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support the following House bills:

 

American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253)

 

Background: Until the recent past, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for renewable periods of 6 to 18 months to immigrant applicants from countries in which civil unrest, violence, epidemic or natural disasters made it unsafe for them to return to their countries. In return, immigrants could get registration documents and authorization to work. Up through January 1, 2017, there were people from 13 countries eligible for TPS.

Under the Trump Administration, DHS is conducting a country by country review to assess whether or not to extend TPS. So far, DHS has ruled that TPS holders from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan will have to leave the U.S., despite continuing violence or lack of recovery from natural disasters in their countries of origin. TPS will continue for Syrians who came to the U.S. before August 2016, but those who came after that date cannot apply for TPS, despite the continuation of the war. The decision on whether or not to extend TPS for Hondurans has been delayed until June 2018.

 

Bill summary: H.R. 4253 would change the status of eligible immigrants from 13 countries with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to a status of LPR, lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Immigrants would be eligible to apply if they were granted or were eligible for TPS status, or granted DED, on or before October 1, 2017. Immigrants must apply for this status change within 3 years of the bill’s date of enactment. After 5 years of LPR status, immigrants could apply to become U.S. citizens.

 

Status: Currently has 97 co-sponsors, is in the House Judiciary Committee, and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 4253. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. TPS holders have been in the U.S. for a long time and are well integrated into U.S. communities: Most TPS recipients have been in the U.S. for at least 15 years and many over a couple of decades. They have married U.S. citizens and/or have U.S. citizen children who were born here. It makes sense to naturalize TPS holders rather than deport them and separate them from their families and communities. In addition, 88.5% of TPS holders are in the labor force, higher than the national average. They have jobs that are essential to the economic health of the U.S.
  2. TPS holders contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy. Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients alone are projected to contribute an estimated $164 billion to America’s GDP over the next decade, according to the American Immigration Council. The AFSC cites the $6.9 billion the contribute to Social security and Medicare. They pay income taxes. Their work is integral to large industries such as construction, home health care, and hospitality.

 

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1299)

 

Bill Summary: This bill prohibits U.S. funds from being made available to Honduras for the police or military (including for equipment and training), and directs the Department of the Treasury to instruct U.S. representatives at multilateral development banks to vote against any loans for the police or military of Honduras, until the Department of States certifies that the government of Honduras has:

  • prosecuted members of the military and police for human rights violations and ensured that such violations have ceased;
  • established the rule of law and guaranteed a judicial system capable of bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses;
  • established that it protects the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, government critics, and civil society activists to operate without interference;
  • withdrawn the military from domestic policing; and
    brought to trial and obtained verdicts against those who ordered and carried out the attack on Felix Molina and the killings of Berta Caceres, Joel Palacios Lino, Elvis Armando Garcia, and over 100 small-farmer activists in the Aguan Valley.

 

Status: Currently has 71 co-sponsors and is in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It needs more co-sponsors, preferably some Republicans, to get out of Committee. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1299. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. The U.S. should not fund security forces that have committed such an alarming number of human rights abuses with a 97% impunity rate. Some argue that U.S. training for Honduran troops will professionalize them or that funding Honduran troops will give the U.S. influence over them, but there is no evidence of improvement since the 2009 military coup d’etat. Those who planned that coup are still in power. In fact, there is credible evidence that units of the Honduran military trained by the U.S. are operating as “death squads” and have hit lists of the leaders of various social movements. Berta Cáceres was one casualty. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/28/berta-caceres-honduras-military-intelligence-us-trained-special-forces
  2. The U.S should not entrust funds to an administration as corrupt as that of Juan Orlando Hernández’ in a country with such a weak judicial system. There is rampant institutional corruption in Honduras. High-level officials siphon off money from public institutions for their own gain or for political advantage. The looting of at least $350 million from the social security system by its chief administrator, part of which funded National Party efforts to elect current President Hernández in 2013, is an example. Officials also have been implicated in taking bribes from drug trafficking gangs in exchange for allowing gangs to operate without police interference. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/corruption-honduras-result-of-functioning-system-report
  3. The U.S. should not fund security forces used by an illegally installed president to repress nonviolent dissent against his electoral fraud. President Hernández ran for a second term, forbidden by the Honduran Constitution, and the vote count was labeled “highly irregular” by the Organization of American States, whose initial call for new elections was rebuffed. The U.S. congratulated Hernández on his “victory.” Hondurans call this a “second coup.” Hernández uses the military in domestic policing, also forbidden by the Constitution, and has formed a Military Police Force in addition to the National Police. All security forces have been deployed against the many people who protested the election results, with 30 people killed, scores wounded, and many rounded up and thrown into prison since the November elections. https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/us-policy-perpetuates-violence-honduras

 

 

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1. Contact Honduran Authorities

2. Contact US and Canadian Representatives

Long-time Honduran activist Edwin Espinal was arrested by US-trained police forces
on January 19, 2018, on trumped up charges related to protests against the
presidential election fraud on November 26, 2017. Since the elections, at least 35
demonstrators and bystanders have been killed during anti-fraud protests, the
majority carried out by state security forces which routinely fired live bullets at
protesters. In the same context, according to data from Honduran human rights
organizations, at least 393 people were injured and 76 people tortured. The Public
Prosecutor’s Office, which has two embedded US advisors, has yet to prosecute any
of the murders by state forces, but instead, has arrested and pressed charges
against dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators.

We encourage you to join the Global Day of Action today, March 19,
2018, to demand the immediate freedom of Edwin Espinal and all political prisoners in                                                                                                        Honduras.

Edwin Espinal and other 25 political prisoners have been targeted for their role in the
opposition to the elections and involvement in anti-fraud protests. They face
fabricated charges including accusations of terrorism, arson and criminal
association. Some cases are being reviewed by judges embedded in military-led
task forces and many arrests were carried out by US-trained, vetted, and financed
security forces like the special forces TIGRES unit. The majority of the 26 Honduran
political prisoners are being held in newly built US-modeled, military-run, maximum
security prisons and their cases have been plagued by the refusal of Honduran state
prosecutors to share information with their attorneys. Judges ordered pretrial
detention for all 26 political prisoners who could remain in prison for years while
awaiting trial. The political prisoners are being held in jails across the country – in the
northern cities of Tela and El Progreso, in the “La Tolva” prison in Morecelí, El
Paraiso, and the “El Pozo” jail in Ilama, Santa Barbara.

US-trained security forces and officials have not only carried out the arbitrary
detentions of political opposition and social movement leaders, but in some cases
run the prisons. Human rights defenders, journalists, and even the attorneys and
families of the accused have been denied access making it extremely difficult, if not
impossible, to verify their conditions. We know that some political prisoners have
been held for long periods in solitary confinement and denied their essential rights
under the law. This is deeply regrettable but not surprising in a political environment
where corruption and impunity are rampant.

Edwin Espinal has been subject to state harassment, violence, and threats since the
2009 US-backed coup, which has led him to receive precautionary measures by the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. On March 3rd, Edwin Espinal began
a hunger strike to demand that he, political prisoner Raúl Eduardo Álvarez, and other
inmates be taken to see a physician. There is some sort of flu-like virus circulating
inside the jail module where approximately 200 prisoners are being held. Edwin and
other prisoners have been refused medical attention for several days. In another
maximum security prison where 15 political prisoners are being held, a tuberculosis
outbreak was recently reported, suspecting at least 30 cases and 5 deaths. The
prevalence of these illness can be linked to the poor conditions inside the prison
including severe water shortages and less than adequate amounts of food provided
to prisoners

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Since the murder of Indigenous environmental activist Berta Caceres on March 2, 2016, presumably to stop her activities to organize resistance against the building of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam on a river sacred to the Lenca people, her family has called repeatedly for an independent international investigation. The Honduran government could not be trusted to carry one out, first accused COPINH members and others close to Berta, has refused to share information about the investigation with the family, and has stalled the progress of the case at every turn. The family believes that high level Honduran government officials, in collusion with the dam company (DESA), are complicit in Berta’s assassination.

Therefore, In November of 2016, the International Advisory Group of Experts (GAIPE) was created to carry out this investigation on behalf of the family. They made their

report

public on Wednesday, November 1.

Even though the Honduran government refused to release all the evidence, they did, when ordered by a court to do so, hand over some of it. GAIPE’s conclusions based on even this smaller proportion of the evidence confirm the Caceres family’s suspicions. Excerpts from the report:

“Based on the analysis of [this partial] evidence collected, GAIPE has documented criminal conduct and irregularities in the investigation, and has identified the possible intellectual authors of the murder.” [The Honduran government has repeatedly claimed that it has been pursuing the investigation diligently and that those arrested for the crime were not acting on higher orders, that there were no other intellectual authors of the crime.]

“This report demonstrates that shareholders, executives, managers, and employees of DESA; private security companies working for DESA; and public officials and State security agencies implemented different strategies to violate the right to prior, free and informed consultations of the Lenca indigenous people. The strategy was to control, neutralize and eliminate any opposition [to the dam].” They did this through “smear campaigns, infiltrations, surveillance, threats, contract killing, sabotage of COPINH’s communication equipment; cooptation of justice officials and security forces, and strengthening of parallel structures to State security forces.”

GAIPE found “willful negligence” on the part of the international financial institutions, who funded the  project and “had prior knowledge of the strategies undertaken by DESA,” to protect the human rights of the affected communities.

“GAIPE established,


with evidence that has been in the possession of the Public Prosecutor’s Office since May 2, 2016


[emphasis CRLN’s], that the planning, execution and cover-up of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores’ murder started in November 2015. That period coincides with the mobilization of indigenous communities and COPINH in opposition to the Agua Zarca Project.” [The early possession of this evidence establishes the government’s role in the cover up of the murder.] “The failure to provide access to this information has also promoted impunity for criminal attacks against members of COPINH and Lenca communities that oppose the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project.”



CRLN would like to publicly thank Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for issuing statements after the release of the report to publicize its findings:


Rep. Schakowsky’s statement:

“Berta Caceres was murdered in cold blood almost two years ago, and justice has yet to be served.”

“The report released this week gives us clear and unequivocal evidence of how carefully orchestrated the assassination plot was and how rampant the impunity has been. It is unacceptable that, despite the mounting international and domestic pressure, the Honduran Public Ministry has dragged its feet and refused to conduct a thorough and fair investigation. Berta’s family has put themselves in great personal danger and spared no expense to ensure that this private investigation was completed. Now it is time for justice to be served. The Honduran government should know that the world is watching, and that their mishandling of this crucial trial will not go unnoticed. An ally of the United States like Honduras must commit to fostering an independent press, an impartial judicial system, and a robust and free civil society.”


Sen. Patrick Leahy:

“This damning report corroborates what many have suspected — that the investigation of Berta Caceres’ murder has been plagued by incompetence, attempts to stonewall and deflect blame to protect those who conceived of and paid for this plot, and a glaring lack of political will.  The Public Ministry needs to fully disclose, without further delay, all testimony and electronic and ballistics evidence to the Caceres family’s legal representatives and defendants’ lawyers, as required by law.  The Ministry also needs to ensure that every piece of evidence is properly safeguarded, and to follow the evidence wherever it leads to arrest those responsible.

“It is shameful that despite intense domestic and international pressure, this horrific case has languished, while those responsible have sought to derail it.  And there are hundreds of other Honduran social activists and journalists who have been similarly threatened and killed, whose cases have not even prompted investigations.

“Any hope that the Honduran Government may have of continued U.S. assistance under the Alliance for Prosperity Plan will hinge, in part, on the outcome of the Caceres case, acceptance of the legitimate role of civil society and the independent press, and top-to-bottom reform of the judicial system.”

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An anti-democratic drama is being played out in Honduras, as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) just announced late afternoon yesterday a victory in the polls for President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who will now be allowed to serve an un-Constitutional second term. He has already concentrated power in his own hands such that he controls Congress, the Supreme Court, and has closed media outlets critical of his administration.

 

Click here to sign onto an action alert from Witness for Peace calling for the U.S. to suspend security aid until the TSE agrees to an open and transparent count of the votes and an impartial investigation of allegations of fraud.

 

The behavior of the TSE has been highly irregular since election day last Sunday. The members of the TSE waited almost 10 hours to make any announcements about the vote count after the polls closed, then making public at 1:40am that with more than half the votes counted, opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was leading by 5%. At that point, TSE judge Marco Ramiro Lobo pronounced that statistically, the vote count in favor of Nasralla had an “irreversible tendency.”  In the 2013 elections, with this proportion of the votes counted, the TSE declared Juan Orlando Hernandez the victor, but this time, the TSE went silent for a day and a half while tensions and suspicions mounted in the public that the members were scheming about how to increase the vote totals for Hernandez. An observation mission from the European Union issued a statement critical of this behavior and urging the TSE to keep frequent, open and transparent communications with the public. They also criticized the lack of press time and space given to opposition candidates before the election and the vastly greater amounts of money spent and press time given to Hernandez. In the 2013 elections, it came out later that his party, the National Party, had stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from the country’s health system to fund Hernandez’ campaign and buy votes.

 

Starting mid-day Tuesday, the TSE made regular announcements about new vote totals coming in from the countryside which were overwhelmingly in favor of Hernandez. Videos of National Party members stamping ballots for Hernandez, allegations of vote buying by the National Party, and photos of police and military intimidation in various parts of the country were flying around on social media. Then late Wednesday afternoon, the TSE pronounced Hernandez the winner by 22,000 votes. Nasralla has refused to accept the results, saying that the election was stolen. The U.S. has said that it will work with whoever wins, but calls to the Embassy by CRLN questioning the integrity of the electoral process before theTSE declared a victor were answered firmly that the Embassy considered the elections free and fair and that we should just wait for the results.

 

Nasralla’s party (a coalition party of Libre and PINU, the Alliance Against the Dictatorship) wisely has kept copies of the vote tallies at each precinct. Given the strange behavior of the TSE and the amount of social unrest, an independent and transparent vote recount is in order.

 

Click here to sign onto an action alert from Witness for Peace calling for the U.S. to suspend security aid until the TSE agrees to an open and transparent count of the votes and an impartial investigation of allegations of fraud.

 

To read more about the Honduran election, see links below. For statements from Honduran civil society organizations, see attached documents.

NYT:

“Political Unrest Grips Honduras After Disputed Election.”

Honduras Culture and Politics blog:

“What May Be Coming in the Honduran Elections”

(posted Monday giving reasons for why the vote count was highly unlikely to change in favor of Hernandez)
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Tens of thousands of Hondurans have been in the streets protesting what they see as a stolen election since the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced that the vote totals show current President Juan Orlando Hernandez winning by a little over 1%. There are grounds for their suspicions:


  • The Economist,

    before the election, published an article,

    “Is Honduras Ruling Party Planning to Rig an Election?

    saying that they had a recording of a training session for National Party members who would be manning voting tables at polling places on election day that included 5 methods for rigging votes in favor of the National Party presidential candidate, sitting President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
  • The TSE initially stalled the announcement of voting results an unprecedented 10 hours after the polls had closed, then over the next week experienced what they described as “computer crashes” 3 times, after which the tendency of the votes (the percentage going to each candidate) shifted dramatically in favor of President Hernandez. Before the “crashes”–which caused delays of 5 or more hours–the tendency was a 5% lead for opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. A TSE member in the first announcement stated that the vote tendency toward Nasralla’s lead was “irreversible,” and that a win for Hernandez would be statistically virtually impossible.

The military, military police, special forces, and national police all have had a heavily armed presence in the streets to shut down the protests and were using live ammunition as well as rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons against the crowds as of last week. 8 people have died, many more have serious injuries, and over 500 have been arrested.

Then, in an astonishing event last night, some of the Cobra special forces, later joined by the National Police, announced they were going on strike until the political crisis was resolved. Sovereignty is lodged in the Honduran people, according to the Constitution, and the police stated they were no longer willing to follow orders that expected them to confront and repress the people’s rights (presumably to free speech and assembly). They stressed that what they were doing was not to be considered political, nor a labor complaint, but that they felt they were being asked to do things that violated basic rights. Unfortunately, the military and military police are still in the streets with their U.S.-provided weapons and “counter-insurgency” training.

This action of the police must be supported by

renewed calls for a political solution to this crisis, namely a recount of the contested vote tallies with the presence of all political parties and ideally supervised by an independent, international body such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

While many international organizations have called for such a recount, the U.S. Embassy has not. Further, with ironic timing, the State Department has just certified that Honduras is making improvements in cleaning up corruption and in meeting human rights standards, so that military aid and Alliance for Prosperity funds (much of it designed for security forces to prevent people from migrating to the U.S.) will not be held up.

Please call Senator Durbin’s office (202-224-2152) and Senator Duckworth’s office (202-224-2854) and the office of your Representative (ask to be connected to their office after calling the Captiol Switchboard at 202-2243121) with the following message:


I am concerned that the U.S. says it promotes democracy when, in fact, it is aiding a foreign government that is in the process of conducting election fraud. Right now in Honduras, 9 days after the Honduran people voted in a national election, tens of thousands are in the streets protesting that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), appointed by current President Juan Orlando Hernandez, has engaged in fraud in order to give Hernandez more votes.


The protesters have been violently repressed by the military and police, who have killed 8 people and injured many, yet the protests continue. People are saying that this feels like a second coup.


The Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union have both called for recounts of the contested votes to resolve the crisis, and last night, the National Police went on strike and also called for a resolution of the crisis. Only the U.S. Embassy continues to support the TSE. I am calling on (Senator Durbin or Senator Duckworth or Rep. ____) to make a public statement challenging the State Deparment and Embassy’s position and calling for a vote recount. It should compares the polling place tallies held by representatives of the various political parties with those recorded by the TSE. All political parties should be present and ideally the recount should be supervised by an independent, international body such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The U.S. should not recognize a new President in Honduras before such a recount, or a new election, takes place.

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