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Repression Escalates in Honduras as Coup Leaders Attempt to Consolidate Power

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While the mainstream press barely mentions the situation in Honduras now, just over one month after the coup, numerous reports are coming out of Honduras that the human rights situation is deteriorating fast as the coup government attempts to consolidate power in that country. This attempt at consolidation appears to be taking the form of a full-scale assault upon the social movements who are struggling mightily, through non-violent tactics, to restore President Zelaya to office.

I have received reports from Lisa Sullivan at the School of the Americas Watch that the well-respected Committee of the Families of the Detained Disappeared (COFADEH) "has information that the coup govt, in conjunction with business groups, is hiring assassins to murder leaders of the popular movement. [COFADEH] believes that this has been the case with some recent murders of journalists and social movement leaders (Fino Noriego, Roger Bados, Roger Garcia)." This is very troubling, but not surprising given that Michelleti's chief security adviser, Billy Joya, was associated with the infamous Battalion 316 which engaged in death squad activities in the 1980's.

A report by the International Mission for Solidarity, Accompaniment, and Observation in Honduras ("International Mission") cites alarming statistics on the growing political violence being carried out by the Honduran military and police forces since the coup on June 28, 2009. The International Mission explains that, "according to reports from the police in the capital of Tegucigalpa, gathered by the Honduran human rights organization, CODEH, there were 62 people murdered here during the first 28 days after the coup." As the Director of CODEH, Andres Pavon, explained to the International Mission, many of the victims have been shot dead with bullets of the same caliber as is used by the police and the armed forces.

One specific example of state violence against the non-violent protest movement given by the International Mission was the Honduran police force's firing upon a peaceful demonstration on July 30, 2009. As the International Mission reported:

In the attack on the demonstration one person, Roger Abraham Vallejo Soriano, a 38 year old teacher, was shot in the head from close distance. He has undergone immediate surgery but his condition remains critical. Nine more persons were taken to the local hospital for medical treatment, including Carlos H. Reyes, a coordinator of the national front against the coup d'etat and chair person of the trade union STIBYS, and an official, non-party candidate in the presidential elections scheduled for November this year.

The wounding of STIBYS leader Carlos H. Reyes follows the attack on the STIBYS offices where a bomb was exploded after an anti-coup meeting on July 26. Moreover, this bombing followed on the heels of the express warning of Billy Joya, the security adviser to the coup government, that there were going to be bombs.

All of this underscores the need for the swift restoration of democracy to Honduras. Indeed, this call has found somewhat unlikely advocates in Nike, The Gap and Adidas who have been appalled by the attack on human rights which has followed the coup in Honduras. In response, these companies have all called for the restoration of constitutional democracy in that country and have specifically urged that "civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association be fully respected." (See Press Release.)

Finally, to do your bit to support the non-violent resistance to the coup in Honduras, go the following link and donate: Alliance for Responsible Trade. You can also support efforts to send emergency medical relief to Honduras by going to Global Links and specifying, "Honduras Emergency Medical Relief."