Washington’s Invented Honduran Democracy

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Revised and amended version of COHA communiqué of April 22, 2010
President of Newspaper Guild Joins COHA in Expressing Their Extreme Concern Over the Ongoing Massacre of Honduran Journalists

Washington’s Faux Honduran Democracy has deceived very few in the Hemisphere, with News Journalists Paying the Heavy Price

• U.S. Newspaper Guild president blasts killing of seven Honduran journalists (COHA’s first and longtime chairman, the late Charles Perlik, Jr., also served as the president of the Newspaper Guild)
• With the wave of killings now besieging the Central American country, the White House needs to show that it’s willing to support democracy in Honduras
• It’s disappointing that the Obama administration’s position on Honduran policy has helped to create an environment for the sixth murder of a Honduran journalist in recent days, making the tiny Central American country the world’s murder capital when it comes to gunning down media professionals.

The Honduras Overthrow and Washington’s Failings

Since the constitutionally-elected government of President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, 2009, Washington has dragged its feet and repeatedly has acted as an apologist in defending the Honduran de facto government of Roberto Micheletti and its successor, the elected government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Although the (U.S. based) National Democratic Institute at first characterized Lobo’s election as democratic; in fact balloting was boycotted by dozens of anti-coup candidates and was carried out under conditions of state-sanctioned violence. The UN, EU, OAS and the Carter Center refused to send monitors to Honduras to evaluate the quality of the elections. Most of the world has established a cordon sanitaire around the increasingly tainted heir of the coup government and has blocked military, financial, and diplomatic ties to it. We expect the same from the U.S.

The DeMint Affair

Washington’s Latin American policymakers insisted that they were following a policy aimed against the protagonists of a coup d’état against the legitimate Zelaya government, but the reality of U.S. policy was another matter. The June 2009 coup that ousted Zelaya took place five months after the Obama administration had assumed office. In October of 2009, COHA expressed its extreme concern that arch-conservative Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) had been playing a destructive role in the formulation of U.S.-Honduran foreign policy by placing a “hold” on two U.S. diplomatic nominations by the Obama White House. These included Arturo Valenzuela, who had been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. COHA further reported that “Senator DeMint has stated that he would release his hold on the confirmations of Valenzuela and [Thomas] Shannon [to be Ambassador to Brazil] only after the U.S. affirms that it will recognize the upcoming November elections in Honduras.”

This scenario came to pass as DeMint publically “announced the lifting of the veto since he had secured a commitment from the Obama administration to recognize the Honduran elections on November 29th.” It was later revealed that this commitment came in the form of results of a telephone call from Secretary Clinton and Valenzuela assuring DeMint (according to the Senator) that regardless of whether President Zelaya joined a then U.S.-advocated unity government involving the major political forces in Honduras (as stipulated in the San José-Tegucigalpa accords), the U.S. would recognize the election’s results. In other words, the Secretary of State and Valenzuela were prepared to allow DeMint to sabotage the U.S.’s stance on Honduras by caving in on the most important Latin American-related decision of the Obama presidency based on DeMint’s prosaic, if not insulting terms. The amended U.S. position was at variance with the conduct of the vast majority of nations in the hemisphere and the world, including most of the OAS leadership and the entire EU.

As a result of the alarming series of murders of journalists now occurring in Honduras, President Bernard J. Lunzer of The Newspaper Guild Communications Workers of America (representing thousands of working journalists in the U.S. and Canada) joins with Larry Birns, the director of the Washington-based Council in Hemispheric Affairs, in denouncing the slaughter of seven working journalists in a little over a month (as compiled by LatinNews).

    1. Joseph Ochoa (1 March, in the capital Tegucigalpa);
    2. David Meza (11 March, La Ceiba);
    3. Nahún Palacios (15 March, Topoa, near La Ceiba);
    4. Bayardo Mairena (26 March, on a road in the province of Olancha, bordering Nicaragua)
    5. Manuel Juárez (killed with Mairena)
    6. Luis Antonio Chévez Hernández (12 April, San Pedro Sula)
    7. Jorge Alberto “Georgino” Orellana (20 April, San Pedro Sula)

It should also be noted that just hours ago, a reporter for a Vera Cruz daily was kidnapped, the eleventh such event to have occurred since 2003.

There has been no compelling evidence that the Honduran government has been seized by any great sense of urgency regarding the danger facing working members of the Honduran press. To the contrary, Honduran authorities have shamelessly come up with a canard attributing the rash of politically-motivated extrajudicial murders now being witnessed to common criminals. What is acutely troubling is that the State Department has not made it a matter of high priority that its protégé, the government of President Lobo, seems not to be overly concerned about what is occurring in Honduras, nor, for that matter, does Washington. This is unacceptable.