A year after the coup in Honduras, the Obama administration, to its shame, has thrown itself fully behind the country’s ongoing repressive regime.
On June 28, 2009, the Honduran military deposed President Manuel Zelaya in his now-famous pajamas, with the collusion of most of the country’s ruling oligarchs. A year later, the country’s military and ruling elites remain in tight control after the fraudulent election of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa last November.
Massive state-sponsored repression continues to terrorize the opposition — although rarely reported in the U.S. media.
Paramilitary-style assassinations are picking off opposition activists or their children one by one, with near-total impunity. At least fourteen people associated with the opposition or critical of the regime have been killed since Lobo’s inauguration, including seven journalists and three trade unionists.
Just in the last month, armed invaders shot up the offices of the bottling-plant workers’ union in Tegucigalpa, the capital. A group of armed men who arrived in police and military cars shot and killed a peasant activist. And more than 300 police and military officers surrounded and shut down a tiny community radio station on the southern coast.
The Lobo government is a direct continuation of the coup. A member of one of the elite families who have ruled Honduras for generations, Lobo came to power after an election that most opposition candidates boycotted because the military occupation’s repressive crackdown did not allow for free and fair elections.
Once in office in January, Lobo reappointed the very same generals who had launched the coup, then soon after named General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, their top leader, to be head of the state-owned telephone company, and another top military officer to oversee the airports and immigration service. Lobo has also placed local police forces throughout the country under the direct control of the military; they now patrol the streets together.
Lobo is trying to cover all this up by calling his regime a “Government of National Reconciliation.” He’s launched a “Truth Commission,” which ostensibly will cleanse the nation of its coup trauma. But the commission does not allow victims to testify, only covers incidents before Lobo’s own regime, and has no enforcement powers.
Meanwhile, Lobo has fired five judges, magistrates and public defenders because they oppose his government’s ongoing corruption and impunity.
Despite this abysmal record, the Obama administration fully supports the repressive Lobo government. The United States is supplying military aid and training, and offering so-called humanitarian aid that legitimates the regime. The State Department asserts that everything has settled down now in Honduras and only the “extreme left” opposes the Lobo government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton routinely chastises the other nations of Latin America — including Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela — that refuse to recognize Lobo’s administration.
Rather than side with the first military coup in Latin America in decades, the Obama administration should instead withdraw its recognition of the Lobo government, cut all aid and training for the Honduran military, and insist on an end to the chilling repression and impunity that continue to terrorize Hondurans.
Only then can Obama enter into the kinds of respectful relations with Latin America that he has promised.
Dana Frank is a professor of history at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the author of a number of books, including “Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.