Sunday, July 19, 2009

No Justification for Coup in Honduras

No Justification for Coup


By Bertha Oliva

Miami Herald

July 15, 2009



As a Honduran human-rights activist, it has been

disturbing to hear the drumbeat of voices in the U.S.

media justifying what is taking place in my country.

While the Organization of American States, the United

Nations and heads of state from countries across the

political spectrum worldwide have condemned the coup,

commentators in The New York Times, Washington Post and

The Wall Street Journal have called it a ''democratic''

coup, while others have blamed exiled President Manuel

Zelaya for it happening in the first place.


U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fl., has joined the chorus as

well, introducing a resolution in support of the de

facto regime in the name of ''the Honduran people,''

just days after the coup leaders murdered peaceful

citizens on the streets of Tegucigalpa.


The events that have unfolded in Honduras are a

forceful and illegal overthrow of a democratically

elected government. To justify this act by adding the

adjective ''democratic'' to the coup is not only an

oxymoron, but a blatant inaccuracy.


Many in the United States have declared that the

proposal by President Zelaya to hold a national

consultation on constitutional issues was so dangerous

that he somehow brought the coup on himself. To set the

record straight, what was scheduled to take place on

Sunday, June 28 was not a vote on Zelaya's ability to

continue in office, but a nonbinding survey on the

possibility of holding a constitutional assembly.


To purposefully misconstrue this as an aggressive,

''anti-democratic'' act is to stretch the truth to its

breaking point, in the service of a pre-determined

position against the Zelaya government's policies or politics.


When our fragile democracy and millions of lives are at

stake, what is truly dangerous is for influential

opinion leaders in the United States to imply that

certain kinds of democratically elected governments

''deserve'' overthrow. In a society based on Rule of

Law, there are various mechanisms available for an

opposition to make claims against a sitting

administration. Kidnapping a president at gunpoint and

spiriting him over the border is not one of them and

declaring marital law is not one of them. Even the top

legal military advisors to the de facto regime in

Honduras admitted that their actions were -- and are -- illegal.


My experience as the director of a human-rights

organization that has represented the families of

Hondurans ''disappeared'' for more than 20 years inform

my fears of a return to the horrors we lived in the

last century. Unfortunately, these fears have proven justified.


The last few days have been an uncanny repeat of

atrocities that we thought were left behind in the

1980s: forced detentions, murder and violent repression

of peaceful protesters, media censorship and suspension

of constitutional rights. The situation has garnered

swift reproach from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty

International and other prominent watchdog groups, but

the stifling of dissent has only intensified inside the country.


President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary

Clinton have spoken up for democracy and human rights

in condemning the actions of the coup leaders. Now the

United States must put its money where its mouth is by

formally recognizing what happened as a coup d'etat and

suspending all aid to and trade with Honduras until the

legitimate president is restored to power.


Honduras is deeply dependent on the United States,

which is the market for roughly 70 percent of its

exports. U.S. trade and aid are the backbone of our

economy. If the U.S. does not cut ties with Honduras,

it is sending a clear signal of tacit support for those

who took power illegally as well as the abuses of power

we have seen in the week the regime has been in place.


Actions speak louder than words. The U.S. government is

uniquely positioned to play the deciding role in

whether or not Honduras is returned to democracy or

plunged into dictatorship. Along with my fellow

citizens, I pray that this is a moral and political

responsibility that the Obama administration will not ignore.



Bertha Oliva is director of the Honduran Committee of

Family of the Disappeared Detainees (Comite de

Familiares de Detenidos Desparecidos en Honduras --

COFADEH) in Tegucigalpa.




No comments: