In Honduras these days, death threats seem as common as the taco-like baleadas sold on street corners nationwide. And like the baleadas, the threats certainly aren’t empty.
Since President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa took office January 27, at least a dozen activists have been assassinated, and many more have been beaten, sexually assaulted, kidnapped, or attacked. Meanwhile, Lobo has been trying to convince the international community that things are back to normal after the June 28, 2009, coup that overthrew popular president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya and after Lobo came to power in a discredited election last November.
On the one-year anniversary of the coup, hundreds of thousands of Hondurans marched in the streets to denounce the Lobo government. Many Hondurans have not accepted the post-coup political landscape. They are calling for a national assembly to revise the constitution and empower a truly democratic government.
Lobo’s administration maintains it had no part in the coup, and has lobbied the international community to restore aid, diplomacy, trade, and other relations. To the chagrin of human rights groups, the United States has accepted Lobo’s election and nearly normalized its dealings with Honduras. In April, President Obama praised Lobo’s leadership and efforts at “reconciliation” since the coup.
Lobo’s government “is a continuation of the coup regime,” says Dana Frank, a history professor at the University of California-Santa Cruz who is working on a book about the AFL-CIO’s Cold War involvement in Honduras. “Clearly the U.S. is complicit. It’s not just looking the other way; it’s pressuring the Organization of American States to recognize the government; it’s endorsing Lobo in every way it can.”
In June, COFADEH, the Committee of Families of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras, had documented 52 political killings and 300 serious human rights abuses since the coup. In the first five months of Lobo’s administration, COFADEH documented at least 12 political murders, 63 serious death threats, and a significant number of home invasions, arrests, sexual assaults, and other attacks with political motives.
Assassins and kidnappers are operating in broad daylight, and they are dumping bodies in plain sight. Yet investigations go nowhere, and police make few arrests. In most cases, the assassination victims are well-known activists who are visible in their communities but not the most nationally and internationally prominent leaders. The intent appears to be to make anyone involved in the resistance feel they could be next.
This is but an excerpt from the Honduras story in our September issue. To read the full article, and to subscribe to The Progressive for just $14.97 (a 75% discount!), simply click here.