Honduran Coup Subverts Vote, AJWS Partner Responds


Honduran Coup Subverts Vote, AJWS Partner Responds

June 29, 2009

June 29, 2009

The hopes of Hondurans eagerly anticipating a visit to the polls were dashed in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, June 28th. As the Honduran people prepared to vote on a referendum that would convene a constitutional assembly, soldiers entered President Manuel Zelaya's residence, removed him at gunpoint, and forced him onto a plane to Costa Rica. Since the coup, the military forces responsible have occupied the country, instituted checkpoints and surveillance and stifled protests.

Tensions between Zelaya and other sectors of the government, including the military, Parliament, and Supreme Court, had been mounting all week. Sunday's poll—which the military opposed and the Supreme Court ruled illegal–had been proposed by Zelaya to give Hondurans the chance to express their opinion on the possibility of a constituent assembly to modify the Constitution.

Honduras's government, dominated by business interests and plagued by endemic corruption, has long excluded the majority of the population from meaningful participation in political decision-making; the election of Zelaya in November 2005 on the Liberal Party platform represented a departure from decades of exclusionary politics. Many in civil society saw Sunday's intended vote as a positive step in the grassroots movement for real democracy in the country.

Sunday's coup d'etat is being roundly denounced by the international community and civil society. The Organization of American States, the European Union, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and numerous governments, including the United States, have denounced the coup and called for immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya.

Inside the country, civil society groups are reporting a series of violations of fundamental rights. The coup government has issued arrest warrants for between 14 and 30 social movement leaders, shut down many internal communications and media outlets including CNN, declared a curfew for civilians and has installed army troops on the streets of Honduras's cities and towns. On Monday, June 29, social movements called for an immediate general strike, mass demonstrations in front of the presidential palace, and demonstrations around the country to call for the removal of the coup and Zelaya's return.

Creating a Groundswell of Dissent

AJWS Grantee Takes the Lead in Opposition

Protest on the ground is being led by AJWS partner the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which has been a leader in the Honduran popular movement for years. Since President Zelaya proposed the idea of a constitutional assembly last year, COPINH has advocated vigorously for it as a way to "re-found" the country on the basis of participatory democracy and social justice.

COPINH's leaders are potential targets of reprisals because of their support for President Zelaya and their energetic denouncement of the coup. The home of one of COPINH's founders, Berta Cáceres, has been under police and military surveillance since last Friday. Despite threats to their personal safety, the organization's leadership are mobilizing a groundswell of protest, urging to Hondurans go to the polls to make a statement that democracy will not be suppressed by armed force, that the voices of the people will and must be heard.

In their statement released Saturday, COPINH said:

COPINH condemns the cowardly coup d'etat against the Constitutional President of the Republic Manuel Zelaya Rosales. We denounce the fascist and terrorist role of the armed forces, of the national congress headed by Roberto Michelleti Bain, of the communications media of sectors of the ultra-right, and the rest of the institutions submissive to the interests of the oligarchy and imperialism that this morning kidnapped the president, prior to the initiation of the popular consultation.

The people are still participating in the non-binding referendum—even faced with repression, even as the campaign of fear continues, and even when confronted with the butt of soldiers' rifles. There is practically a state of siege in the capital and the rest of the country; electricity is cut off, they have a list of leaders to be captured, and Hondurans who are bravely demonstrating in front of the presidential residence are surrounded by tanks and helicopters. Even so, they have installed the polls and are exercising their right to participate in the consultation as a form of rebellion. The Honduran people are mobilizing. Since early morning, our organization is calling out its members and has already begun the journey with representatives of the Lenca People on the way to Tegucigalpa.

We tell everyone that the Honduran people are carrying out large demonstrations, actions in their communities, in the municipalities; there are occupations of bridges, and a protest in front of the presidential residence, among others.


Emergency Relief Grant Funds Opposition Efforts

AJWS is providing COPINH with a rapid-relief grant, to promote advocacy and leaders' safety in response to the coup. The grant will support security measures and the movement and communications of COPINH leaders in response to the coup. It will allow 30 COPINH leaders to maintain communications, denounce actions of the coup's orchestrators, find safe places to stay and move around within the country. It will also permit 100 Salvadoran international observers that have been working with COPINH to leave Honduras safely.