image-title


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)
Read More
image-title

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.

Read More
image-title

[Español Aqui]

CRLN is seriously concerned about increasing levels of violent threats against the Lenca indigenous inhabitants of Rio Blanco, who have been resisting the illegal construction of a hydroelectric dam across a river on their lands. This is exactly the type of escalating threats that ended in the murder of Berta Caceres, so it is imperative that we act now. We received a request from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) for international voices to add to COPINH’s complaints to the Honduran authorities about the threats and crops destruction and to ask them to act to protect members of the Rio Blanco community.. Apparently, the police have started accompanying armed men with guns responsible for the threats rather than arresting them.

 

Please email the Human Rights officer at the U.S. Embassy, Jason Smith, SmithJA6@state.gov, or call the Embassy at 011 504 2236-9320 and ask to be connected to Jason Smith. Please also call the Honduran Ambassador to the U.S., Jorge Alberto Milla Reyes, 1-202 966-7702. You can use the following script:

“I am very concerned about the increasing frequency of violent threats by men with guns against members of the community of Rio Blanco, Intibuca, including death threats against the children of Francisco Javier Sanchez. Threats of increasing frequency preceded the murder of Berta Caceres, who worked with this community, so the threats must be taken very seriously. The community has identified one individual making threats–Franklin Madrid–and has asked for the authorities to arrest him and any others making threats. Instead, the police have accompanied those making the threats.The U.S. funds training for the Honduran police. If they are abusing their positions as law enforcement, they should not receive U.S. funds. Please call on the Honduran authorities to protect the lives of people in Rio Blanco by arresting and bringing to justice those who are harassing them.”

The COPINH letter follows:

COPINH urgently communicates to the national and international community our serious worry about the defenseless state of the Lenca people in Río Blanco, faced with armed men and constant threats. We insist that the authorities take immediate action to protect the physical wellbeing and lives of COPINH members in Río Blanco, who continue to defend their ancestral territory against the invasion of people linked to the DESA corporation.

Continue reading Action Alert: Contact officials to demand protection for Rio Blanco

Read More
image-title

Rep. Hank Johnson reintroduced the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act in the 115th Congress as House Resolution 1299 (HR 1299) on March 2, the first anniversary of the slain indigenous rights, feminist, and environomental activist. The bill would suspend all U.S. military and police aid to Honduras, including equipment and training, until basic human rights conditions are met. The Honduran police and military have been implicated in hundreds of human rights violations since the 2009 overthrow of the government, and we should not be supporting them with our tax dollars.

We have an amazing opportunity in the two years of the 115th Congress (2017-18) to generate enough support for this bill to get it passed. Already, Representatives Schakowsky, Lipinski, Gutierrez, Rush, and Davis from Illinois have signed on to co-sponsor. Here are three good reasons you might give us permission to sign your name on a letter to your Representative in support of this resolution, which CRLN staff will deliver when we are in DC for Ecumenical Advocacy Days:

  1. Berta’s family supports this bill, and we in CRLN believe in supporting the survivors of human rights abuses. Two of the suspects arrested in connection with Berta’s murder worked in military intelligence and were trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas, and Berta’s family believes the intellectual authors of the crime occupy positions at the highest levels of government. Withdrawing financial support, along with communicating the reasons for doing so, would be a blow to these forces and might weaken their position within Honduras.
  2.  The social movements in Honduras (LGBT, women, Indigenous, Garifuna, labor unions, environmentalists, small farmers), and the journalists who cover them, are under constant threat of violence, and we in CRLN want to do everything in our power to send the message that they have international solidarity in these dangerous times. There have been credible allegations by an army defector of the existence of death squads within the Honduran military who have received U.S. training and who have a hit list of prominent social movement leaders. We need to stop U.S. training that results in assassinations.
  3. The current President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and his administration and political party are riddled with corruption. He has been named by a drug trafficker leader on trial in New York as receiving bribes from his cartel, with Hernandez’ brother acting as liaison. His National Party stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the national health insurance system to fund his first campaign. He will run again for President this fall, which violates the Constitution; and he fired four Supreme Court justices who objected and appointed four who were in favor of his re-election bid in order to be able to run again. The U.S. should not reward with funds someone who seems willing to benefit himself at the expense of his country.

 

For further reading, here are some recent articles on Honduras:

By Berta Caceres’ nephew on the anniversary of her assassination: Click Here

“Berta Cáceres court papers show murder suspects’ links to US-trained elite troops”: Click Here

By Steven Dudley of InSight Crime on Honduran presidents’ link to gangs:Click Here

“Protesters in DC confront Honduran president over Berta Cáceres murder”: Click Here

Read More
image-title

Three CRLN staff and board members traveled to Honduras February 28 – March 8 together with La Voz de los de Abajo, one of CRLN’s partner groups. Below is a reflection by Sharon Hunter-Smith upon visiting two communities engaged in land recuperation as part of the National Center of Rural Workers.

 

Our group from Chicago stood staring at the rough wooden table, which held 2-dozen or so spent tear gas canisters plus a couple of bullet shells, collected by the 9th of July community from the area immediately surrounding the place where we stood. The largest one, designed to be fired from a rifle, was stamped “Made in U.S.A.” The connection between U.S. military and police aid to Honduras and the violent persecution of impoverished Honduran farmers was crystal clear in the objects before us.

The original rural community of 28 families has been tear gassed and evicted from their simple hand-built dwellings and cultivated land 26 times by the Honduran military or police. In the last surprise eviction on January 13, 2017, the police followed the fleeing people, even women and children, across the valley, shooting all the way. One man was shot in the leg and a pregnant woman miscarried after running away, panicked, from the “security” forces. They also tore down and burned houses, stole or burned possessions and tools left in and around the houses, and cut down some of the fruit trees and crops. Since then, the women and children, have moved to a nearby community while the men have re-occupied the land.

“Thanks be to God that we continue to live on this land,” said one man. After each violent eviction, the community’s commitment is to return and resettle on the land within 24 hours of being pushed off, rebuilding houses and restoring crops as they are able. The bravery and endurance that this strategy demands is fed by their hope of land ownership. They experience other threats in the form of arrest warrants against them and death threats from the national or military police. “Every time we receive a group of international people who are in solidarity with us, it gives us the strength to keep going on with our struggle,” said another.

This community of formerly landless people, organized by the Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC–National Center of Rural Workers), settled this abandoned and desert-like land in 2010. They dug trenches and bought plastic pipes to carry water for irrigation and drinking water from a spring 3 kilometers away. They planted fruit trees and other crops to feed their families. A dry hillside turned green and provided a way to make a living. The CNTC works with 203 other communities, like 9th of July, who are reclaiming land and putting it to good use in 14 of the 18 Honduran departments (what in the U.S. would be called states).

The National Agrarian Reform Law provides that idle land fit for farming can be expropriated and awarded to indigent and landless persons by the government, but this does not happen often. To force the issue and obtain the land essential for rural people to support themselves and their families, the CNTC works with landless people to settle and plant on unused, undeveloped or abandoned land. The occupants then file for title to the land under the Agrarian Reform Law with Honduran National Agrarian Institute (INA).

Read More
image-title

Given Honduras’ human rights situation, CRLN will provide for its members a monthly update on human right issues afflicting the country.

(Español aquí)

  • The Honduran authorities arrested another suspect of the assassination of Berta Caceres, Henry Javier Hernandez Rodriguez, a former member of the Honduran military, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Berta’s family demands the arrests of those that planned the murder. However, the Honduran authorities don’t seem to be making any effort to prosecute the real intellectual authors of Berta’s assassination.
  • Gustavo Castro, who survived an assassination attempt when Berta Caceres was murdered, filed a formal accusation against the Honduran State for human rights violations. 
  • Global Witness released a report that denounces, after a two-year investigation, that 120 environmental activists have died since 2010 in Honduras and that at the heart of the conflict are the rich and powerful elites, among them members of the political class. The Guardian analyzed the Global Witness report, focusing on the involvement of politicians and the business elite in the murder of the environmental defenders. Global Witness also denounces that the U.S. continues to provide security aid to Honduras despite the continuous human right violations by the state. Just this week, the U.S. gave the first Alliance for Prosperity funds ($125 million) to the Honduran government.
  • President Juan Orlando Hernandez is seeking a reform to the Penal Code and introduction of new legislation which would provide more power to the security forces of the country. Also, with this legislation, police, military and security forces who kill or injure civilians in “defense” would be exempt from justice. CARITAS Honduras said this legislation would bring the country back to the 80’s when the opposition and media were persecuted and practices of forced disappearances occurred regularly. Amnesty International, among other international and national organizations, is critical of this reform of the Penal Code.
  • Miriam Miranda and other members of the Afro-Honduran Garifuna cultural group OFRANEH were harassed and threatened by the Honduran Police in early January. The police wanted to illegally detain Miranda and three other human right defenders, during a checkpoint in La Ceiba. Miriam has protective measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).
  • Journalist Igor Padilla, was assassinated in the Northern part of Honduras. Honduras is one of the most dangerous and deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist. Padilla became the 63rd media worker to be killed since 2003. 50 of the 63 murders took place since 2009 and 24 alone in 2014 and 2015.
  • OFRANEH is fighting against Indura Hilton, which wants to build resorts on their ancestral lands in Northern Honduras, and denounces the role of the Attorney’s General Office in granting access to that land to Indura Hilton
  • Honduras celebrated National Women’s day this past January 25th, and local women right’s defenders and organizations protested the continuous violence and discrimination against women in the country.
  • President Hernandez is actively seeking an illegal re-election, prohibited by the Honduran Constitution, and is harassing the opposition. In the previous election, the National Party stole funds from the Social Security system, leaving sick and economically poor people without medicine and treatments, in order to finance his political campaign.

Read More
image-title

Honduras is the most dangerous country in the world in which to be an environmental activist and one of the most dangerous to be a journalist, union member, or member of a social movement opposed to the current Honduran administration’s policies. Members of the military and police have been implicated in violence against, including assassinations, of members of these groups. 97% of crimes committed in Honduras are left unsolved, with no consequences for the perpetrators.

In this context, we thank you for your signatures supporting the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 5474). They helped CRLN convince 7 out of 10 Democratic Illinois U.S. Representatives to co-sponsor this important legislation introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson. By the end of 2016, the bill, which would suspend U.S. security aid to Honduras pending compliance with international human rights standards, garnered a total of 52 co-sponsors nationwide.

Because the 114th Congressional session ended January 3 and any legislation that did not come to the House and Senate for a vote ended with it, H.R. 5474 will need to be reintroduced in the 115th Congressional session that runs from now through the end of 2018. Rep. Hank Johnson plans to reintroduce this bill.

As soon as that happens, CRLN will contact U.S. Representatives from Illinois to ask those who signed on (Schakowsky, Gutierrez, Davis, Rush, Quigley, Lipinski) to do so again. We will contact those of you in their districts to contact them, identify yourselves as CRLN members, thank them for their co-sponsorship last year, and ask support them to sign on again.

For those of you in districts whose Representatives did not co-sponsor, we will construct new arguments for why they should co-sponsor and will contact you at the appropriate time for signatures again to show support in your district for this bill. In addition, we have a fresh opportunity to speak with Representatives elected in November (Brad Schneider in the10th District, who replaces Bob Dold; and Raja Krishnamoorthi, who replaces Tammy Duckworth—now one of Illinois’ U.S. Senators—in the 8th District).

It is vitally important to people whose lives are under threat in Honduras that the U.S. stop providing weapons and training to the forces under the authority of the current Honduran President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, whose party illegally used and deprived the public of funds designated for the health care system to support his last election and who has just orchestrated a change to the constitution to allow himself to run again for President in 2017. Under his administration, military and police forces have been unleashed to do violene against those who oppose the corruption and anti-democratic maneuvers of many of those currently in power.

If you would like to take part in a delegation to Honduras to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Berta Caceres’ death and visit other groups struggling to defend their land and human rights, click here for more information.

Read More
image-title

On Friday morning, December 16th, CRLN, La Voz de Los de Abajo, and several other Chicago partners delivered over 200 holiday post cards signed by Illinois residents to Senator Durbin’s Federal Plaza office urging him to place an immediate hold on all military and police aid to Honduras pending compliance with international human rights standards.

 

CRLN members and many friends stepped up to sign letters to Senator Durbin, a high ranking Senate Appropriator and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, who has the power to suspend security aid to Honduras given the grave and consistent state-sponsored human rights violations in that country. Our folks met briefly with Senator Durbin’s staff who expressed concern with the situation and who ensured us that they would give the Senator our message. At this time, they were unable to give us a definitive answer about withholding security aid. We will continue pressuring Senator Durbin into 2017 and we expect to work hard to win support from Senator-elect Duckworth as well.

The 200 signatures delivered to Durbin also appeared on letters to Illinois members of the House urging that they support H.R.5474, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, a bill that would also suspend U.S. security aid to Honduras. At this time, seven out of ten Democrats in the Illinois delegation have decided to cosponsor the legislation, a major win that would not have been possible without grassroots pressure from those who signed.

 

Berta Cáceres, co-founder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), was assassinated on March 2nd, 2016 and in the nine months that have passed since her murder, her case files have been stolen and her family has been kept in the dark about the judicial process. In July, COPINH member Nelson Garcia was murdered and Tomás Gomez Membreño, COPINH’s current General Coordinator who visited the Senator’s office asking that he withhold security aid in June 2016, recently survived an assassination attempt.

 

In October, Jose Angel Flores, President of the campesino organization MUCA (Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan) and Silmer Dionosio George, another MUCA leader, were killed by gunmen as they left a meeting of MUCA members. More activists and human rights defenders were illegally detained and threatened by Honduran security forces while peacefully protesting highway privatization. The latest report on Human Rights in Honduras from the Association of Citizen Participation reported that in 2016 there were 32 assassinations of human rights defenders, environmental activists, and Indigenous and rural farmer defenders.

Despite these ongoing attacks, credible accusations of Honduran state complicity, and an ongoing 95% impunity rate, the U.S. has sent over $200 million in police and military aid since the 2009 coup and, last month, the State Department certified—with little to no evidence—the Honduran government for having met human rights conditions, thus releasing $55,000,000 in security aid.

 

In response, roughly 200 Illinois residents were represented in the December 16th holiday post card delivery urging the Senator to use his, “power to suspend security aid to Honduras until their police and military demonstrate compliance with international human rights standards. Our tax dollars can no longer provide Honduran security forces with both the material resources and international legitimacy to commit human rights violations with impunity.”

 

While the 114th Session of Congress has adjourned for 2016, we will continue supporting our partners in Honduras and pressuring Senator Durbin and all of our elected officials to suspend U.S. security aid and to respond to the ongoing assassinations of and violence against human rights defenders in Honduras.

Read More