Honduras Delegation Report – Aug 6, 2009

This morning, after preparing our letter to Ambassador Llorens, we rushed off to the US Embassy for a meeting. After a wait, we were greeted by Mike Gorman, the person responsible for ‘human rights’. He was very courteous, but unfortunately used the same double speak that those in the State Department have refined so eloquently.

He insisted that the State Department had in fact classified what has happened here as a coup. He promised to send us the press releases which could prove that. We insisted that the US government should join the rest of the international community and actually condemn the coup. They should then take appropriate actions which are required based on that condemnation. He insisted that all US aid except for humanitarian aid has effectively been cut to the coup government. He said that there have been no aid disbursements to Honduras since the coup happened, and the Embassy doesn’t have any contact with the Executive branch of the Honduran government.

Mr. Gorman also insisted that they were adamant that the coup government accept the San Jose accords. We repeatedly stated that more effective pressure was necessary on the people responsible for the coup, and the US was in the position to exert that pressure. The escalating level of repression demands escalating actions by our government, which if it doesn’t act, demonstrates more clearly their collusion with the coup.

Unfortunately we remember where Ambassador Llorens has been and who his friends have been over the last decades. To quote from Wikipedia- In 2002 and 2003, Llorens served in Washington, D.C., as the Director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council. There he was the principal advisor to the President and National Security Advisor on issues pertaining to Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. His tenure in this position included the 2002 Venezuelan coup d’état attempt.

Hugo Llorens is a Cuban American whose friends in Washington include Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and Elliot Abrams. Those associates certainly raise suspicions as to what his real role in the Honduran coup may have been, both in the design and now in the aftermath, as this government demonstrates shocking disregard for basic human rights.

Mr. Gorman promised us that he would attempt to arrange a meeting with the Ambassador; however, after reading our letter it is likely that he won’t find time in his schedule.

Immediately after our meeting, we heard that University students at the UNAH (National Autonomous University of Honduras) had taken over their campus during the previous night and that the police had arrived mid morning to dislodge them by force. In Latin America the autonomy of public Universities is given utmost respect, and police are prohibited from entering. Every day the coup government acts in ways that defy reason. The police arrived with tear gas and a tanker filled with some kind of pepper gas, which they launched at the students over the course of several hours.

The pitched battle still raged when we arrived on the scene, and the sting of tear gas remained strong in the air. Two courageous members of our delegation decided to venture past the police lines and onto the campus. The witnessed the volleys of pushing by the students and pushback by the police with tear gas, pepper gas and their clubs. Several students were reported injured.

When the Rector came out to speak to the police, they pushed her and a professor to the ground. The rule of law seems to be coming apart at the seams here in Honduras. The numbers of those in resistance and their resolve continues to grow, but the capacity of the coup leaders to violate human rights seems to have no limits. It was reported that the police taunted students saying- "for every visa that gets revoked, there will be another person killed".

After we left the University for a meeting at COFADEH, the human rights office, to plan our agenda for the next few days, a message arrived that teachers were being fired in towns around El Paraiso for not having conducted classes during the days when the 24 hour curfew was in effect. They would have had to have broken the law by teaching, but are now apparently being punished for abiding by the law.

This evening as we tried to make our way back to the hotel, traffic in the city was a nightmare. In response to what happened at the University today, students had decided to block several key locations, snarling traffic all over the city.

The marches across the country which will culminate in concentrations in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa began today. People will be walking 15 kilometers a day for the next six days, sleeping wherever they are along the road at night. They will be coming from all parts of the country and will converge in these two cities to demand a restoration of Constitutional order here in Honduras.

Tomorrow part of our group will travel to Olancho, to visit the father of the young man who was shot and killed by the army at the airport one month ago today. He has been jailed on what are suspected to be bogus charges from more than five years ago. Our delegation will accompany the lawyer who represents him, and hope to be able to visit with him in the jail. On their way, they will stop to greet the marchers they will encounter coming to Tegucigalpa on foot from different locations.

The remaining members of the delegation will work on compiling a report on the most serious human rights abuses over the past five weeks. The attorney general under the coup government has been very slow in responding to human rights violations brought before the courts.

This is a photo from the web site- http://miradadehalconhn.blogspot.com/ of the police knocking down the Rector of the UNAH University. Her name is Julia Castellano. (She is the woman with the grey jacket. The man and woman in front and behind her are teachers at the University