Three years to the day after a June 28, 2009 coup d’etat ousted Honduras’ democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, the coup’s legacy is one of ongoing murders, impunity for repression and killings, and more coups and coup attempts elsewhere in Latin America, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today.
Weisbrot cited this week’s murder of Carlos Jese Portillo Yanes, a member of the anti-coup Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) and the LIBRE political party, as the most recent example of ongoing post-coup repression in Honduras.
“The coup’s legacy of murders and repression of coup opponents, campesinos, journalists and members of the LGBT community is partly a legacy of the U.S. government’s response to the coup, which it consistently supported,” Weisbrot said. “If the U.S. had demanded the reinstatement of Honduras’ democratic government, instead of undermining this goal at the OAS and other fora, the outcome would have been very different. Instead, the U.S. continues to increase funding to Honduras’ notoriously corrupt security forces, despite the protests of many members of the U.S. Congress.
“We can see the U.S. reacting in a similar way to Friday’s undemocratic removal of president Fernando Lugo in Paraguay,” Weisbrot added. “Were the U.S. to tell the coup regime in Paraguay that it won’t support it, Paraguay would be isolated and would have to respect due process and its own constitution.”
The coup in Paraguay is the latest in attempted illegal removal of a president in Latin America since Zelaya’s ouster. Police in Ecuador attacked and later held President Rafael Correa hostage in September 2010 in what Correa and many outside observers called a coup attempt.
Weisbrot noted that in both the cases of Honduras and Paraguay, the U.S. government privately described the plans and actions to remove the democratically-elected presidents as “illegal” – showing a clear knowledge that these were coups-d’etat — while publicly refusing to call them coups. State Department cables from 2009 made available by Wikileaks show that U.S. Ambassador Liliana Ayalde warned that Lugo’s “political enemies” could “pursue political means like [i]mpeachment to remove him from office,” which State Department officials described as “interrupting the democratic process.” The U.S. ambassador to Honduras in 2009, Hugo Llorens, sent cables from Tegucigalpa describing the June 28 events as having “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.” Despite this private acknowledgment, the Obama administration refused to publicly recognize Zelaya’s removal as a military coup. To date, the U.S. State Department says it has not yet determined whether Lugo’s ouster was a coup d’etat.
Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has become the “murder capital of the world”, according to a UN study on homicides, with dissidents, people who opposed the coup, campesinos, journalists, and members of the LGBT community often in the cross hairs. 84 members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week urging U.S. action against murders of LGBT activists and community members in Honduras, noting ongoing impunity for the killings of people such as Walter Trochez, who was a well-known gay activist and member of the resistance to the coup. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting in December 2009.
This week’s letter follows another letter to Clinton in March from 94 members of Congress asking her “to suspend U.S. assistance to the Honduran military and police given the credible allegations of widespread, serious violations of human rights attributed to the security forces.”
Carlos Jese Portillo Yanes is the most recent member of the political opposition to be assassinated. His body was found in a plastic bag on Monday after he was seen being forced into a truck by three men Sunday and driven off.
“The escalating ‘war on drugs’ in Honduras is another legacy of the coup,” Weisbrot noted. “It is questionable whether we would see the kind of incidents under Zelaya or his party as occurred on May 11, when pregnant women and children were shot dead from U.S. State Department-owned helicopters, with U.S. DEA agents on board. The coup has led to the breakdown of many of Honduras’ key institutions, including its police forces and judiciary, where corruption and abuses are increasingly rampant.”