Letter to the President: Honduras Human Rights Violations and Elections
by COHA Staff
In accordance with the Council on Hemispheric Affairs’ underlying mission to promote rational and constructive U.S.
policies towards Latin America, our organization has been delighted to help Miguel Tinker Salas and his associates to
distribute the following letter to the President that has already been signed by 240 academics and Latin America
experts. This document details the ongoing human rights violations in Honduras and urges President Obama and his
administration to take a strong stance against the de facto regime that seized power this past June. While the U.S.
government has said that it will support the outcome of the November 29 elections, if conducted under the de facto
government these elections cannot be considered free or fair. We are concerned that an apathetic response from the Obama
administration will establish a dangerous precedent of support for the military usurpation of a democratic government
and lend legitimacy to an abusive and unjust regime. The situation is in danger of becoming a caricature of the lessons
that should have been learned during the brutality of military juntas in Latin America during the 1980’s and 90’s.
If interested in expressing support for this letter, please send your signature and institutional affiliation (for
identification purposes, only) to Miguel Tinker Salas, MRT04747@pomona.edu, or Dana Frank, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear President Obama,
We are writing to urge you to stand with democracy and human rights in Honduras. With only days left before the
scheduled November 29 elections the U.S. government must make a choice: it can either side with democracy, along with
every government in Latin America, or it can side with the coup regime, and remain isolated. Moreover, the U.S. cannot
afford to maintain its deafening silence regarding the innumerable and grave human rights abuses committed by the coup
government in Honduras – a silence that has become a conspicuous international embarrassment. The U.S. must forcefully
denounce these abuses, and match its words with action as well. It must make the coup regime understand that the United
States government will no longer tolerate the violence and repression that the Micheletti government has practiced
against the Honduran people since seizing power on June 28, 2009.
Honduras now stands at the edge of a dangerous precipice. The coup regime remains determined – in the absence of
significant pressure from the U.S. government – to move forward with the elections, in the hopes that the international
community will eventually recognize the results. In so doing, they hope to legitimize their illegal and unconstitutional
Free and fair elections on November 29 are already impossible, as more than two-thirds of the campaign period allowed
under Honduran law has already passed, under conditions in which freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of
the press have all been under attack throughout the country. This repression has been widely documented and denounced by
Honduran and international human rights organizations, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Human
Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.
The Rio Group of 23 nations, which includes nearly all of Latin America and much of the Caribbean, had forcefully
declared that it will not recognize the November 29th elections if President Zelaya is not first re-instated. Thus the
United States is at odds with the rest of the Hemisphere in its stated willingness to recognize these illegitimate
Free and fair elections can only be carried out in a climate in which debating, organizing, and all other aspects of
election campaigns can be conducted in an atmosphere that is free from fear; in which all views and parties are free to
make their voices heard – not just those that are allowed under an illegal military occupation. We therefore call on the
U.S. government to support an electoral process in Honduras that allows for a full three months – as mandated under
Honduran law – for electoral campaigning, to take place after the restoration of President Manuel Zelaya. Only in this
way can the electoral process achieve legitimacy in both the eyes of the Honduran people and the international
In the months that have transpired since the April Summit of the Americas, we are saddened to see that your promise of
treating Latin American nations as equals is evaporating. You declared at that time, “I just want to make absolutely
clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments,
wherever it happens in the hemisphere.” In remarks that were recorded, cited, and broadcast all over the world, you
asserted: “The test for all of us is not simply words, but also deeds.” Since then, your government has failed to match
these words with deeds regarding the coup d’etat in Honduras. As a result, the United States is once again isolating
itself in the Americas.
The U.S. must also match its rhetorical commitment to democracy with concrete deeds, and support the immediate
restoration of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency of Honduras and full guarantees of a free and fair election.
Miguel Tinker Salas
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs
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This analysis was prepared by COHA Staff
Posted 12 Nov 2009
Word Count: 800