By: Karen Spring, Rights Action (firstname.lastname@example.org)
** SEND BY US & CANADIAN-BASED NGO, RIGHTS ACTION www.rightsaction.org **
Full report: http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/killings-and-attempted-killings-honduras-may-2012-present-linked-electoral-process
As the November 24, 2013 General Elections approach in Honduras, a discussion of human rights violations surrounding the electoral process is paramount in understanding the historical and political context in which the elections will take place.
This report is intended to promote that discussion by providing a list of killings and armed attacks against candidates, party and campaign leaders, and their families since May 2012, six months prior to the November 2012 Primary Elections. The purpose is to draw attention to the context of violence, insecurity and apparently politically motivated killings that are occurring in the lead up to the 2013 General Elections.
A Brief Analysis of the Incomplete List
According to the list below, which is undoubtedly incomplete, LIBRE party (‘Libertad y Refundación’ Party) pre-candidates, candidates, their families and campaign leaders have suffered more killings and armed attacks than all other political parties combined. The disproportionate number of killings of LIBRE candidates, seems a clear indication that many of the killings have been politically motivated.
To date, the information on the list indicates that each political party has suffered the following:
|Political Party||Armed Attacks||Killings|
|Partido Anti-Corrupcion (PAC)||1||1|
|FAPER - Unión Democratica (UD)||0||2|
|Democracia Cristiana (DC)||0||0|
|Partido Innovación y Unidad (PINU)||0||0|
These incomplete results highlight the terror, violence and impunity in which the November 24 General Elections will take place. Regardless of the political affiliations of the victims of these attacks, it remains unclear how “clean, credible, and reliable” elections on November 24, as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske has called for, can occur if so many attacks against candidates, campaigners and their families continue (1).
A Context of Violence and Human Rights Abuses
Honduras has maintained a two party political system for decades. However, in the wake of the June 28, 2009 military coup a strong new political force emerged, the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) which sought to oppose the coup through peaceful means. After overthrown president Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras, the decision to participate in the 2013 General Elections was taken by the resistance movement and the FNRP, and the first major third political party in the modern history of Honduras was created: the Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation) party, or LIBRE. Including LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, there are eight presidential candidates participating in the November elections involving nine political parties, as one, new, non-traditional party formed an alliance with the existing Unión Democrática (UD) party (2).
Though President Porfirio Lobo’s post-coup regime has been promoted internationally as a government of ‘Unity and National Reconciliation’, it includes none of the key actors who were forcibly removed from power during the 2009 coup. The Canadian and United States government as well as the European Union have stood behind the false projection of reconciliation and unity projected by the Honduran government (3).
Lobo’s term in office has been marked by unprecedented levels of violence; Honduras today has one of the highest homicide rates in the world coupled with a high impunity rate (4). The Lobo government’s efforts to persuade the international community that the government is taking effective action against the country’s rampant violence - as the Honduran Vice President María Antonieta Guillén attempted to do at the UN Assembly on September 27, 2013 (5), - has been followed by continued massacres and killings in Honduran streets and the on-going systematic targeting of political opponents and social activists (6).
Since the 2009 coup, international human rights organizations including the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Commission, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have noted gross human rights abuses particularly targeting certain sectors of Honduran society – lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders, and opponents of the current post-coup military regime (7).
The 2013 General Elections will occur in a historical and on-going context of gross human rights abuses committed by the current government and the 5-month de facto government of Roberto Micheletti that preceded it, since June 2009. A lot weighs on the results of the General Elections whether it’s the US Government and OAS hoping for a seemingly clean, democratic and reliable election or the sympathizers of the LIBRE party, hoping for a transformation of Honduran society as per the promises and principles of the FNRP.
The coup and its repercussions over the last four years have polarized Honduran society. At odds are those hoping to change the status quo and reject the interests behind the 2009 coup – largely the FNRP and the political party that grew from that movement, the LIBRE party -and those that perpetrated and/or supported the coup and hope to maintain the status quo - largely business elites, the two traditional political parties (the National and Liberal Parties) and its allies.
Limitations of the List
This list is undoubtedly incomplete. It relies almost entirely upon reports from the Honduran media that generally underreport human rights abuses and are likely to under-report politically motivated violence. The list lacks background and circumstantial details regarding each case and does not include reports of politically motivated attacks in the form of death threats, attempted kidnappings, persecution, criminalization and attacks often classified by the Honduran state and Honduran National Police as “common crime”. It also does not include individuals that are not candidates or regional party leadership, but may have been deeply involved in the campaigning. It does include killings of and attacks on family members and campaign activists, which are a less visible manifestation of political violence.
Without a doubt many other cases are not documented because the victims and their family members, for fear of persecution, have not come forward to publically denounce the attacks. Bertha Oliva, a prominent Honduran human rights defender at the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared (COFADEH) has noted that there has been significant underreporting of politically –motivated attacks and murders of LIBRE activists due to fear of further persecution (8).
Uncertainty of Motives
The Honduran judicial authorities’ failure to carry out investigations of these cases, which appears to stem in part from a lack of political will, makes it impossible for family members, the victims and human rights organizations generating the type of list below, to understand the reasons and roots of the armed attacks and killings. Without a proper investigation it is difficult to determine which attacks had political motives. However, the failure of authorities to investigate, accompanied by the targeting of political opponents as major international human rights organizations have noted of the Honduran state (9).
Some of the victims who appear on this list have been deeply involved in social movements, such as Antonio Trejo, lawyer for the land rights movement MARCA and candidate for FAPER, Eric Martinez, LGBTI activist and candidate congressional pre-candidate for LIBRE, and Joni Rivas, Congressional candidate for LIBRE and leader of the United Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MUCA). The attacks against these individuals may also be related to their involvement in human rights and social justice causes. In these cases the relationship between social issues they championed and their electoral participation are inextricably related, though it adds another degree of complexity to the attacks.
An additional complex subject of debate is the role that drug-related crime may play in some of these attacks. These accusations have surfaced for example in relation to the assassination attempts reported against the current mayor and candidate for re-election, National Party in Jutiapa, Atlantida, Noe Guardado Rivera (10). Attempts against Guardado reportedly began many months before the electoral campaign was launched, with a total of 5 reported attacks (11). Guardado claims he has charged police officials with slander for statements associating the attacks with trafficking (12).
Similarly complex is the situation in San Esteban, Olancho where current Liberal Party congressman Fredy Najera was charged in the October 11, 2012 murder of National party activist Claudio Mendez Acosta (13). In August 2013, Najera was absolved in court, arguing that he was incapable of carrying out the attack as he had been injured in an attack that killed fellow Liberal party candidate Gerson Orlando Benítez on October 6, 2012 (14). Just a few days prior, Liberal party vice-mayor candidate in San Esteban, Carlos Padilla Guillen was murdered.
The intent of the incomplete list that follows is to encourage a discussion of the circumstances in which the Honduran elections will occur. Almost a month remains until Hondurans will cast their votes in the 2013 General elections. To date and since the May 2012 Primary Elections, there have been a disproportionate number of killings and attempted killings targeting LIBRE candidates. A thorough investigation of each case is a difficult if not impossible task before November 24. But our hope is that this incomplete list raises significant questions about how democratic and fair voting and election campaigning can be held in a context of on-going terror, violence and impunity affecting candidates and their families throughout the country.
(1) “Trabajar por elecciones, limpias, creíbles y confiables” recomienda Kubiske”. August 10, 2013.
(2) Papeleta Presidencial. http://www.tse.hn/web/elecciones_2013/Papeletas_2013/papeletas/Presidencial.jpg
(3) For more information on how Canada, the US and the European Union have supported the Pepe Lobo government: D. Frank. “In Honduras: a Mess Helped by the U.S.” New York Times, January 26, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/opinion/in-honduras-a-mess-helped-by-the-us.html?_r=0; “Honduran Election Important for Reconciliation, U.S. says” http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2009/11/20091123125743esnamfuak0.660412.html#axzz2gzyuLz4g; T. Gordon & J. Webber. “Canada backs profits, not human rights” The Toronto Star; August 16, 2011. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2011/08/16/canada_backs_profits_not_human_rights_in_honduras.html“Canada Pleased with the Release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report” http://www.international.gc.ca/media/state-etat/news-communiques/2011/190.aspx?lang=eng; “Honduras – Promoting democratic governance and reconciliation” http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2009_2014/documents/dcam/dv/dcam_29sept10_infonote_en_ite/dcam_29sept10_infonote_en_item4.pdf
(4) In 2011, according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, Honduras had a homicide rate of 91.6 per 100,000 inhabitants according to data collected by the Honduran National Police. http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=UNODC&f=tableCode%3A1; a 97% impunity rate of assassinations of journalists and lawyers according to the Honduran Human Rights Commissioner, http://www.laprensa.hn/mundo/americalatina/38840998/conadeh-en-impunidad-97-de-casos-de-asesinatos-de-periodistas-y-abogados; and in general, an 80% impunity rate of cases that are formally denounced to the Honduran state, http://www.latribuna.hn/2013/04/11/fiscal-rubi-expone-alarmante-impunidad/
(5) Honduras: H.E. Mrs. María Antonieta de Bográn, Vice President. Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, September 27, 2013. http://gadebate.un.org/countries/honduras
(6) “Casi 100 masacres en nueve meses” El Heraldo. October 8, 2013. http://www.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Pais/Honduras-Casi-100-masacres-en-nueve-meses
(7) “Honduras: UN official urges action to tackle chronic insecurity for lawyers, journalists” UN News Centre. September 26, 2012. http://gadebate.un.org/countries/honduras; IACHR Condemns Murder of Human Rights Defenders in Honduras. IACHR. September 28, 2012. https://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2012/121.asp; “Honduras” Committee to Protect Journalists. http://cpj.org/americas/honduras/
(8) “Honduras Accompaniment Project: Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras, July, August & September 2013” PROAH. September 5, 2013. http://www.friendshipamericas.org/sites/default/files/130110%20Tri-monthly%20Final.pdf
(9) See several reports generated from human rights testimonies taken by the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) at www.defensoresenlinea.com, and “Informe de la Comisión de Verdad”, October 2012. Available at: http://www.comisiondeverdadhonduras.org/?q=node/74
and also (7)
(10) “Atentan por cuarta vez contra alcalde de Jutiapa” El Heraldo. August 30, 2012. http://www.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Sucesos/Atentan-por-cuarta-vez-contra-alcalde-de-Jutiapa
(11) “Quinto atentado contra alcalde hondureño. El Heraldo. March 19, 2013. http://www.elheraldo.hn/Secciones-Principales/Sucesos/Quinto-atentado-contra-alcalde-hondureno
(12) See source on chart
(13) “El lunes dictarán sentencia a diputado Fredy Nájera”. La Prensa. August 15, 2013. http://www.laprensa.hn/sucesos/380146 97/el-lunes-dictarán-sentencia-a-diputado-fredy-nájera
(14) “Absuelven a diputado Fredy Najera Montoya”. El Tiempo. August 19, 2013. http://www.tiempo.hn/portada/noticias/absuelven-a-diputado-fredy-najera-montoya