This is an urgent plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Immediately condemn the violence unleashed against the Honduran people by the de facto regime and take every peaceful measure possible to avoid a bloodbath in that country.
The coup has deployed the police and Armed Forces to the Brazilian Embassy where President Manuel Zelaya continues to take refuge. It launched a violent attack on the thousands of protesters who gathered there to support Zelaya. The repression has resulted in scores of citizens wounded and taken prisoner and unconfirmed reports of four dead. The euphoria that erupted in Honduras yesterday with the appearance of the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa has rapidly changed to terror as the huge demonstration finds itself under siege.
In a blatant violation of freedom of speech, the Armed Forces took over the dispatch center of the electricity system on Sept. 22 and cut off the circuits that supply electricity to independent media, particularly television's Channel 36 and Radio Globo--the most important outlets for information not controlled by the regime. Radio Globo, whose internet site provides firsthand information to people throughout the world, went back on briefly but is now off the air again. Many cell phones are blocked, and all national airports have been closed to prevent the arrival of international diplomats and reporters.
Over the past days, observers feared that the coup was planning to order the armed forces to storm the Brazilian embassy. Such a flagrantly illegal and violent act would have converted the Honduran crisis into an international crisis of unprecedented proportions. Although, coup leaders backed down on the attempt to justify taking over the embassy by force under heavy pressure from the U.S. government, they temporarily cut electricity to the embassy where President Zelaya is protected and food and water supplies are running low.
In a live interview shortly after his arrival in Tegucigalpa, President Zelaya called on the entire international community to condemn the repression. He remains in the Brazilian Embassy, accompanied by embassy personnel and supporters.
"There is a regimen of terror in the country that should be attended to by the international community," he stated. When questioned about the possible siege of the embassy, Zelaya urged the international community to "act with firmness so the regime will not carry out this terrible crime."
Meanwhile, coup leader Roberto Micheletti called for the immediate arrest of President Zelaya. Head of the Armed Forces Gen. Romeo Velasquez stated that the army will continue to comply with orders from the coup.
Luz Mejias, president of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission told the press that the Commission is receiving "very serious reports of violations of human rights" by the Armed Forces. "We must establish the responsibility of each and every individual who issued these orders to repress protesters... The situation is very grave." She called for the restitution of constitutional order and urged the return to power of the constitutional president "who has been received with violent repression." Mejias noted that the curfew, lifted for seven hours today to allow people to obtain food and permit a march of pro-coup supporters, is a clear violation of human rights and legal norms.
An official press report of the Commission "strongly condemns the excessive use of force in the repression of protests that have taken place in Tegucigalpa, near the Embassy of Brazil, the current location of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales." There are calls for the presence of the International Red Cross. Although the coup has reportedly stated it will receive a delegation of the Organization of American States, that has not happened.
The coup's actions over the past 24 hours violate international law and the basic principles of U.S. foreign policy. Sec. of State Clinton and President Obama must speak out to condemn these measures, which include:
- The closure of airports in the entire country
- Armed Forces cut-off of electricity to independent media
- The violent eviction of peaceful demonstrators supporting Zelaya's return, including reports of killings
- The militarization of Tegucigalpa, with the presence of specialized police forces, the army and masked agents
- Attacks with tear gas and bullets
- Persecution of movement leaders and arbitrary arrests
- Restriction of movement at all major entry points to the capital city
- Imposition of a curfew, now reported to be "indefinite"
Juan Almendares, of the Honduran Center for Torture Prevention, reports that Honduras has become "the largest prison in the world." He notes, "There is a permanent state of siege here. Human rights organizations and medics are not even allowed to attend to the tortured and wounded. The office of the Committee for Families of the Disappeared was bombed with tear gas... Children and the sick in the hospitals are undernourished since with the curfew, which is a death warrant, they do not receive food and are dying of hypoglycemia."
These facts are not disputed and have been corroborated and denounced in recent days. Amnesty International called the situation "alarming" and called for the de facto regime to "stop the policy of repression and violence and instead respect the rights of freedom of expression and association." The organization added, "We also urge the international community to urgently seek a solution, before Honduras sinks even deeper into a human rights crisis."
Daysi Flores of Feminists in Resistance who we worked closely with on the women's delegation last August sent this account yesterday:
"Early this morning, military forces attacked those of us outside the Brazilian Embassy. There are no words to describe the brutality of the attack--they chased us, threw bombs, beat us and now are hunting down everyone who took refuge in the surrounding area. There are 65 of us, mostly women and children here; we are under siege, our telephones are tapped, there is a squad three houses away and they are making rounds searching for signs of life to burst in. We have very little water and no food, the tear gas has permeated the atmosphere and our eyes and noses are irritated. Some of the women have been taken prisoners and according to the last communication they have been taken to a stadium called Chochi Sosa. The electricity went back on recently and so we are able to send this e-mail. We can hear the military movements outside, the cars, helicopters, bombs, shots, clashing of metal, stomping of boots, sirens and in a cruel joke on all Honduran citizens they are playing the national anthem at full volume over and over... We call on everyone to contribute by denouncing the violation of basic human rights being perpetrated by the military forces of the de facto regime."
The State Department continues to play ostrich faced with the increasing reports of human rights violations by the coup.
Sec. of State Hillary Clinton cannot call herself an international advocate of women's rights while ignoring the plight of these Honduran women who are a worldwide inspiration for feminist organizing in the fight for democracy. She cannot call herself a representative of U.S. values abroad while turning a blind eye to the brutality and illegality of a coup regime, crazed by power and isolated among governments for its lack of respect for the rule of law.
Clinton continues to make statements divorced from the current dire reality in Honduras. In a meeting yesterday with President Oscar Arias she stated, "...we have certainly communicated very directly our expectation that there will be order and no provocation on either side. This is not just a one-sided request. It goes to both sides. Both sides have supporters who need to be restrained and careful in their actions in the days ahead." Today the reality is that the Armed Forces under the coup regime are carrying out not just a "provocation" but a brutal attack on protesters. Yet the images, the testimonies and the news reports are still being ignored by the U.S. government.
The U.S. government must issue a firm statement in defense of human rights and the strongest possible message to the coup to desist in its attack on the Honduran people and the constitutional order.