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The Forgotten Women of Honduras

November 8, 2009

Sadly, the crisis in Honduras continues. While the Honduran Congress seemed poised to considering reinstating Zelaya even if for a short, token period of time, in order to ensure that the US would recognize the upcoming election results, something inexplicable happened- Assistant Secretary of State Shannon went on CNN Espanol and let it be known that the US would recognize the Honduran elections regardless of whether or not Zelaya was returned to power in the interim. Thus, the coup government and the Honduran Congress have absolutely no reason to reinstate Zelaya or even consider doing so before the elections take place at the end of November.

This was a total about-face on the part of the Obama administration and quite frankly, I am stunned. Had Secretary Shannon NOT made those remarks on television things might have turned out differently. Of course, I have no idea what went on behind the scenes, ie. did the State Department, prior to that interview, officially put the coup government on notice that it didn’t matter if they restored Zelaya to office in the interim period? The press pool at Friday’s State Dept. daily press briefing tried to get Ian Kelley to answer that simple question but he would not.

Here is a snippet which explains what is essentially taking place and unfortunately, the US has now been pitted against the entire Latin American community:

FREESTON: The accord was brokered by the United States. And while the official US position has always been that Zelaya is the legitimate president of Honduras, the State Department’s top official for Latin America, Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon, while appearing on CNN Español on Wednesday, pledged US support for the upcoming elections regardless of whether or not Zelaya is returned to power beforehand.

~~~

Courtesy: CNN Español

REPORTER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): So, for the US, the case is that the crisis is all but over. The elections will be recognized on the 29th, and the Hondurans will resolve the question of Zelaya, whatever the result may be.

THOMAS SHANNON, US ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The future of the Honduran democracy is now in the hands of the Hondurans.

REPORTER: So the US is done, and whatever happens happens, and you will recognize whatever happens on the 29th.

SHANNON: Yes, exactly.

~~~

REINA: We understand that Hondurans need to resolve Honduran problems. But when a dictatorial regime assumes power by force, the only guarantee that the people can have when their rights are being violated is the support of the international community, which is why the accord has a verification commission.

FREESTON: Many are interpreting this as confirmation of previous suspicions that the US government has been willing to accept the coup all along and that the US has been doing its part to help the coup regime delay until the November elections, where its rule could be legitimized. The accord calls on all parties to support the November 29 elections, and it gives control of the military over to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the same tribunal whose representatives were in Washington, DC, just three weeks ago lobbying the US to recognize the elections regardless of the human-rights situation on the ground of Honduras. Their press release argued that, quote, “… it is critical that these elections remain separate and independent from the current political fray.” (October 14, 2009) Oliva believes that with or without Zelaya, the elections are not a solution.

OLIVA: The elections will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it’s the coming elections that will make things worse if they take place. What makes them think that the Honduran people are going to gather to vote when those who are guarding the ballots are the same soldiers that overthrew and expelled President Zelaya and the same soldiers and police that have repressed the Honduran people throughout this dictatorship? Who’s going to trust them?

FREESTON: It appears that for those opposing the coup in Honduras, this agreement has only made the situation worse. Their elected president is still trapped inside the Brazilian embassy, surrounded by the police and military. Their resistance continues to face massive repression while being informed that both the exiled and de facto presidents have agreed that they can’t vote on whether or not to rewrite their own constitution. And now the international community is debating whether or not to recognize elections scheduled to take place in roughly three weeks, all under a regime that has yet to recognize the movement’s right to peaceful assembly.

Here is an excellent video that explains the situation over at Real News:

Who are the ultimate victims in this? The usual suspects- the poor and of course, women. However, very little has been reported about the oppression of pro-democracy protesters and the systematic rape and abuse of women. Human rights organizations have been trying to get the attention of the US administration, with little result:

On Nov. 2 representatives from Honduran women’s organizations presented a grim panorama of violations of women’s human rights by the de facto regime led by Roberto Micheletti before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Their testimonies provided documented proof that the coup regime and its security forces have been responsible for rapes, beatings, murders and harassment of Honduran women in the resistance movement, and the dictatorial elimination of gains in gender equity. These crimes against women have been committed in the context of impunity for the perpetrators.

As the U.S.-brokered agreement between Micheletti and the legitimate government led by President Manuel Zelaya falters, the on-going crisis in Honduras continues to claim victims and women are particularly at risk. As in violent dictatorships throughout history, women’s bodies have become a battleground. Honduran women have formed the backbone of the resistance movement against the coup from Day One and suffered systematic and gender-targeted repression as a result.

Honduras has a strong and organized feminist movement. This movement came together, fortified by the integration of hundreds of independent women, in the coalition Feminists in Resistance following the coup. It has seen its members beaten, its hard-fought gains rolled back, its institutions taken over and its projects for gender equity in public policy shattered over the past four months, under an illegitimate and ultraconservative regime. Despite the personal risk and the continuous setbacks, it remains strong and united and committed to restoring the rule of law necessary for peaceful advances in women’s rights.

During this week, which many hoped would mark the return to constitutional government, the coup regime made another key move against women’s rights. On Nov. 3, a law pushed through the day after the coup by the de facto regime went into effect that prohibits the morning-after pill, ignoring Honduran women’s demands for the right to make their own decisions on reproduction and denying the basic tenet of separation of church and state.

The rapid deterioration in respect for women’s rights in Honduras can only be halted by an immediate return to a constitutional government. An agreement brokered by the State Department has so far failed to resolve the crisis and end the coup. This can be attributed in large part to a CNN interview with State Department official Tom Shannon that cast doubt on the U.S. commitment to reinstate the elected president, emboldening the coup regime in its efforts to preside over elections currently scheduled for Nov. 29.

In a famous speech to the Beijing conference in 1995, Hillary Clinton proclaimed that “women’s rights are human rights” and that “women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected.” As Secretary of State, she has publicly affirmed that women’s rights will be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. However, Clinton has yet to acknowledge the growing evidence of the violation of women’s rights under the Honduran coup regime. It is time to take a firm stand to restore respect for human rights and end the coup.

Read the rest of the article: here.

I know conservatives in Congress have been putting tremendous pressure on the Obama administration to go easy on the pro-business, wealthy, coup government but I just wish President Obama would stand on principle and not waver at the first sign of controversy or push-back. I know it’s easy for me to say this sitting her in Boston at my computer- I’m not the one that has to take the political heat, but I’m also not the one that promised “change” and a reversal of eight years of hypocritical diplomacy on the part of Bush & Co.

I understand that President Zelaya was more of a leftist than the U.S. liked, but sometimes democracy is a double-edged sword and at times we have to take certain democracies as we find them, whether or not we agree with the choices of the electorate of the particular country in question. The people of Honduras chose President Zelaya and it sends a dangerous message to the world that the US believes some democratic principles are optional depending on whether we agree with particular leader in question.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. still4hill permalink
    November 8, 2009 12:51 pm

    Well, we didn’t help Aristede in 2004 either, and he, too, was democratically elected. I expected this administration to function differently from the G.W. Bush one. But Shannon is a Bush appointee, and,
    you can’t make this stuff up, check out his wikipedia page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_A._Shannon,_Jr.

    He is Obama’s nominee for Ambassador to – (drumroll) – BRAZIL! Can you imagine?

    In the transcript, when he says “exactly” – it is stunning!

    I am glad you posted the story about the women, THAT is not anywhere near the media radar that I can see.

  2. November 8, 2009 3:44 pm

    I am not sure why the media is not covering this at all – its the perfect example of how those who are not empowered fall between the cracks unless someone speaks up for them. Thank goodness some human rights organizations are looking into this but unless the media covers it it’s almost as though it’s not happening.

    Remember how after the Iranian elections the MSM were caught offguard and it was only after social networks like Twitter, Facebook and blogs put them to shame that they started covering the demonstrations- the same sort of thing is happening minus the social networking sites and blogs putting this issue in the spotlight. I think the problem is that the US and much of Europe don’t like the leftist-leaning Zelaya and they prefer the decidedly pro-business Micheletti and thus they are willing to overlook things like a military coup- and yes, it seems that it was likely a military coup despite not being labeled as such by the admin.

    Whether one is conservative of liberal, the crackdown on human rights the rape and abuse of women is unacceptable- you would think that in itself would make the MSM realize that this story worth covering.

  3. November 8, 2009 4:50 pm

    There should be little surprise about the results of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose “double-dealing agreement” and the comments of Tom “Double-Dealer” Shannon on CNN. The US collaborated thoroughly with budding golpistas in the months before the coup. With as much money as the US gives Honduras for its military, there is no way that the military made its move on the morning of June 28 without full approval by the US. This was a US coup based on the template used in Haiti — get rid of the democratically-elected president, involuntarily exile him, and when the masses rise up, knock them back down with brutal military force.

    The reason the US did not want to declare this a “military” coup in Honduras is that the military is the only thing that could prop up this profoundly unpopular coup. If the military had laid down its arms, the coup regime would have fallen within days.

    From an article by Barry Grey: “US Seeks Deal between Honduran Coup Leaders and Deposed President”

    “A few days after the coup, the NYT reported “an unnamed US official as saying that US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon and US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens spoke to “military officials and opposition leaders.” He said, “There was talk of how they might remove the president from office, how he could be arrested, on whose authority they could do that.” The game plan was, “to effect a de facto coup, but without a direct use of the military and under the cover of constitutional legality. That would, it hoped, reverse Washington’s declining influence in Latin America and pave the way for an offensive against Chávez and his left nationalist allies in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries aligned with Venezuela in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.”

    Finally, Micheletti’s tantrums and intractability were pre-mediated, with the approval of the US, in order to eat up the clock. Any negative reaction to Micheletti was feigned by the State Department.

    President Zelaya has known for a long time that the US was going to drop him like a hot potato. His first indication came when he made his first trip to Washington after the coup and sought a meeting with Clinton. He got to see her a few days later, but only after meeting with lower ranking State Department staff. The only reason for Clinton to treat a democratically-elected head of state in such a disrespectful manner is because she knew she would not be dealing with him in the future.

    As with Haiti, shame on the US for its total disregard for the people of Honduras.

    • still4hill permalink
      November 8, 2009 5:22 pm

      I wrote to Colin Powell at the time. I had friends in the Aristede government and was worried about them. He said he had “no interest” in doing anything further for Aristede. I did not care for Aristede, but he was democratically elected by people who had never ever had a chance to vote before. Some were gunned down at the polls.

      Americans have no appreciation for this. The poor turnout at the polls last Tuesday in NJ shows exactly how much those “new voters,” registered last year for the GE, care about their government and their precious right to vote. It is all superficial, and they are uninformed.

      They voted for a rockstar with the “Hope & Change” one hit wonder. And who and what are guiding our Honduran policy? Two holdovers fromt eh same administration that let Aristede go down in flames: Llorens and Shannon. This is simply Bush III. Llorens should have been recalled a long time ago. He has not been a help down there.

  4. MikeH permalink
    November 21, 2009 7:14 pm

    So, for an update – Michelleti will be ceding power to his cabinet a week before the election and presumably through the election process. I’m interested in how this election will be administered? Will there be an international or regional observation team? I understand that the U.S. has a lot on its plate at the moment, but why is its recognition of the election already a done deal?

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