Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the last month in Honduras, protesting the government’s efforts to privatize health care and education. They are calling for President Juan Orlando Hernandez to step down, given the corruption of his government, the electoral fraud that elected him, drug trafficking allegations against him, and now the push for privatization. The protests have been met with tear gas and lethal force; journalists and human rights defenders have been particularly targeted for attack.
On June 1st, Amnesty International denounced the widespread repression by state security forces, joining a chorus of Honduran human rights organizations speaking out against the brutality. On June 6th, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference also issued a strong statement denouncing the violence, corruption, impunity and grave deficiencies in the health and education systems of the country.
Violence is being blamed on the protestors for several incidents. Tires were suspiciously set on fire at the front door of the U.S. Embassy, while evidence points to the police themselves doing it. While the U.S. Embassy denounced the tire-burning incident at its doors, the same statement stressed that “the U.S. Government values our strong relationship with the government of Honduras” and that “we will continue to collaborate on security, economic development, strengthening institutions and corruption.” No comment was made about the state violence that is actually killing people.
International Solidarity Urgently Needed
While Honduras is engulfed in these intensifying protests, organized communities and social movement activists remain extremely vulnerable to being attacked by government security forces, including activists with UUSC partner Radio Progreso. When the international community makes it clear that we are watching, it can offer a layer of protection for those within the country who are standing up for human rights. An even stronger message is heard when we demand that US military and police aid be cut until human rights are respected.
Here’s what you can do:
- If you are represented by a Congressional office of a Senator or Representative sympathetic to human rights concerns in Honduras, call their D.C. office (via the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121), and ask to speak to their foreign policy aide and ask if the Member of Congress will:
- Immediately call the State Department and urge that the U.S. Embassy in Honduras speak out against the repression of protestors by state security forces
- Tweet their concerns about state violence in Honduras, especially military occupation of the communities Pajuiles, Guapinol, and Guadalupe Carney, in order to make their concern as public as possible.
If you live in one of these districts we especially need you: Schakowsky (IL), Omar (MN), Kaptur (OH), Jayapal (WA), McGovern (MA), Johnson (GA), Merkley (OR), Markey (MA), Cardin (MD).
- If your Member in the House of Representatives has not yet co-sponsored the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (see the list of sponsors list here), please ask them to do so. The Act calls for suspension of all U.S. security aid to Honduras. Regardless of whether the bill passes in Congress, an increasing number of co-sponsors will be reported in the Honduran media and will register a strong message. The bill has been introduced in two previous sessions of Congress, and this year (2019), its number is HR 1945. Congressional Switchboard is (202) 224-3121.
When you call your Representative’s office, ask to speak to the foreign policy aide. Use the script below in speaking with the aide.
Script: “My name is _____. I am a constituent from (your town/city) and have been to Honduras. I am calling to ask Rep. _____ to co-sponsor H.R. 1945, The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act calling for a suspension of U.S. security aid to Honduras until human rights violations committed by the Honduran security forces cease. Has Rep. _______ seen this bill? Can I count on him/her to sign on? Please call me this week at (your phone number) to let me know if Rep. _____ will sign it.”
To co-sponsor the bill (or if the staffer wishes an official copy of the bill), the staffer must contact Chelsea Grey (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Rep. Johnson’s (GA) office.
- Tweet the US Embassy in Honduras Charge d’ Affairs Heidi Fulton: @USAmbHonduras. Plead for respect for human rights, freedom of expression and right to nonviolence resistance; call for restraint of state violence direct against the protests.
Thank you for your solidarity. Please know how much it matters!
This action is in collaboration with Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.
As part of our ongoing commitment to our Honduran partners and their struggle for fundamental human rights – including the right to stay safely in the place they call home – we are amplifying their voices here, translating the demands issued on June 5 by those leading the current protests.
The activists behind this statement identify their emerging group as the “Platform for the Defense of Heath Care and Education.” They demand:
- The immediate withdrawal of military troops and special police forces in the communities of Pajuiles, Guapinol, and Guadalupe Carney, communities that have been repressed for their participation in the defense of the right to healthcare and education.
- That there be no retaliation of any kind for the people who in one form or another have been involved in the protest movement.
- That the dialogue to build a comprehensive plan to strengthen the healthcare system and education system include the participation of all of the organizations represented in the platform for the defense of healthcare and education.
- An objective ruling, in accordance with the law, for our colleague Rommel Valdemar Herrera Portillo.*
- That the dialogue process be broadcast live through various modes of communication.
- An objective and impartial investigation to determine who is responsible for deaths, injuries, and harm against the protesters caused by the state security’s repression.
- Naming of an international mediator with experience in public policy and human rights who is independent, impartial, and without conflicts of interest, to facilitate the dialogue process.
- Before its immediate dissolution, we demand that the reform board of the National Health System and the National Education System present a report detailing everything that has been done since its appointment until the date of repeal of the PCM (executive orders), including contracts signed under the conditions of the state of emergency
- In light of the repeal of the PCMs (Executive Orders), which caused the unjustified dismissal of teachers, we demand their immediate reinstatement to their work positions with the subsequent remuneration in accordance with their rights.
* Rommel Valdemar Herrera Portillo is accused of starting a fire at the U.S. Embassy entrance.
Photo Credit: Radio Progreso