Uncertainty in Honduras

Three months have passed since my colleague, Rev. Kathleen McTigue, answered this call from Padre Melo, joining an emergency delegation in a show of solidarity for Hondurans whose peaceful attempts at assembly following the November 2017 elections have been met with violence.

As an advocate for the dignity of all people and a supporter of UUSC’s human rights work in Central America, we wanted to share with you the conditions in Honduras. In short, the crisis triggered by the recent elections continues, and the circumstances around this humanitarian issue are important to understanding the United States’ responsibility.

Honduran security forces, many of which receive U.S. aid, are directly implicated in recent human rights violations stemming from the election. Events prior to the election led many Hondurans to question the integrity of the political process, including the Honduran Supreme Court’s abolition of constitutional term limits in 2015, enabling current president Juan Orlando Hernández to run for reelection.

An international emergency delegation marches in solidarity with Honduran citizens, February 2018.

When the election results were confirmed in December, protests continued around the country. The Honduran government has responded with a far-reaching crackdown on the rights to assembly and expression, declaring a state of emergency and imposing a public curfew. At least 1,351 people have been arrested as a result.

Since the election, Honduran security forces have committed severe human rights violations, including beatings, imprisonment, and the unjustified use of deadly force against protestors. Kathleen recounted her first-hand witnessing of such activities. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), at least 16 people have been killed by security forces, including two women and two children. Sixty people have been injured. OHCHR has documented Honduran military and police units shooting people fleeing and discharging live ammunition on bystanders.

This ongoing crisis is occurring amid existing political instability and human rights abuses in Honduras – problems in which the United States has long played a role. The United States has continued to provide significant military and security funding to the government of Honduras, despite its failure to end persistent human rights abuses, which included the assassination and intimidation of activists, journalists — including UUSC partner, Radio Progreso — indigenous and Afro-Honduran leaders, and human rights defenders.

These abuses have swelled a refugee crisis that has forced thousands of Hondurans to leave their homes, many of whom joined the migrant caravan that was stranded at the U.S.-Mexico border this week. This Sunday, May 6, the U.S. government is scheduled to reach a decision on extending the Temporary Protected Status program for Hondurans, which currently shields nearly 60,000 Honduran U.S. residents from deportation. If the Trump administration ends this program, even more people may be exposed to violence and danger in Honduras.

In the coming weeks, representatives from Radio Progreso will be speaking in Boston and across the United States to draw attention to this grave situation. Also, UUSC will join a Day of Prayer for Honduras in Washington, D.C., on May 18. Afterward, our staff will accompany Radio Progreso’s team as they return to Honduras to help ensure their safety. We’ll be sharing details about these events on Facebook and Twitter and hope you can participate in an event near you.

Thank you for joining us in solidarity with the people of Honduras.

Answering the Call for Solidarity and Action in Honduras

In early January I received an email that began with these words:

We are writing you on behalf of Padre Melo, the Jesuit priest who has accompanied the Honduran people for more than 20 years. He is appealing to the international community for an emergency delegation: “We need you to organize people who will accompany us, witness what is happening here, and share it with the world”.

The Honduras presidential election last November has widely been condemned as fraudulent. Since then, people throughout the country have poured into the streets in peaceful protests that the state has often responded to with lethal violence.

The hope of sending an international delegation to Honduras is that our presence will shine a spotlight on the struggle and amplify the voices of those who are being ignored and silenced. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee has long been a champion of Honduran human rights groups, supporting our grassroots partners financially and working to lift up the stories and urgency behind their struggles. This brief journey of accompaniment is another way for our organization to show the Honduran people that they are not alone.

I decided almost immediately that I would answer Padre Melo’s call and join the emergency delegation, which departs Wednesday, January 24. While I have never been there before, I have heard of Padre Melo and the courageous work he and many other Hondurans are engaged in to advance fundamental human rights. I also know about the decades of financial and military support our own country has sent to the Honduran government, despite their many human rights violations. And, I believe that under the Trump administration, the thousands of people who try to flee the violence in Honduras are even less likely than before to find asylum here in the United States.

My desire to join the delegation is fueled by multiple interests. I’m driven by my commitment to human rights, as well as my sense of moral compromise as a U.S. citizen—knowing my own country has helped create the violence from which it refuses to shelter those who flee. But I am also compelled by my faith: by the core values of Unitarian Universalism that remind me, we are never really separate from one another. Our interdependent web links us to struggles for human rights and dignity, wherever they occur, and pulls us compellingly, relentlessly, to act as we are able to mitigate harm.

I believe in the power of prayer as a way to ground ourselves and to center our awareness on those who live daily in harm’s way. So, I ask you to pray for the people of Honduras, holding them in mind and heart, and also to act on your prayers and concern by speaking out for the rights of those most at risk.

I will have more to tell you on my return January 30, but for now, I hope you will join me on this journey in spirit, by learning more about what is happening and answering the call to support this critical human rights struggle yourself.

Take Action

Follow the instructions below to contact your Members of Congress and support the people of Honduras today.

  1. Call (202) 224-3121. This number will direct you to the Capitol switchboard.
  2. Ask to be connected to your senator or representative. The operator will direct your call to their office. Note that you will need to make three calls to reach all your legislators. Not sure who your senators or representatives are? Look them up here.
  3. A legislative assistant or answering machine will answer the phone. Give them this message, filling in your details:

“Hello, my name is ____ ____. I’m a constituent of [State and zip code]. I don’t need a response. I am calling to urge Senator/Representative [last name of member] to support credible, independent investigations into any and all claims of state-involvement in electoral fraud and violence during and since the November 26, 2017 elections. I also urge you to support all efforts to suspend U.S. police and military aid to Honduras immediately and ensure that any future aid meets human rights conditions under U.S. law. Thank you.

  1. Call again to connect with your other legislators, repeating steps 1-3.
  2. Invite your friends, family, and colleagues to join you in this action!

Thank you! 

Learn More

Read more about Kathleen’s experience in Honduras here.

Economic Justice under a Trump Administration

In this 2017 inauguration series, UUSC will reflect on how the incoming administration’s actions will likely impact our focus areas: economic justice, rights at risk, and climate change. The first of this series will take a look at the role of the economy in justifying Trump’s rhetoric and campaign promises.

white house

The famous quip “It’s the economy, stupid,” coined by former President Bill Clinton advisor James Carville, can be just as helpful in understanding Trump’s rhetoric, as it was in understanding Clinton’s win in 1992. Many of the Trump campaign’s promises, proposed policies, and much of its inflammatory rhetoric drew upon a particular view of the economy. In fact, it seems that Donald Trump’s claims about the economy were instrumental in both propelling him to victory as well as providing the justification for his more hateful campaign promises and rhetoric.

One need look no further than Trump’s stance on immigration to find a clear example of relationship between his promises and his view of the economy. From day one of his campaign, Trump made it clear that a hostile stance towards immigration, including ramping up deportations, would become a core tenet of his platform.

Trump’s vision for immigration, as laid out on his campaign website, is comprised of three points, all of which relate to the economy. And, although much of his 10-point plan for immigration revolves around national security, two points in the 10-point plan relate to the link between immigrant workers and a lack of jobs for American citizens. Of course, all of this completely neglects the anticipated damage that his deportation plans would do to the U.S. economy, and the fact that the evidence suggests that immigrants not only contribute to the economy, but also aren’t really taking jobs from Americans. While some of his views on immigration are couched in terms of national security, there is no denying the links Trump draws between immigration and the state of the economy

However, the impact of Trump’s economic view are not limited to immigration. For example when it comes to climate change, undoubtedly the most pressing issue facing the world today, Trump’s position is heavy in its emphasis on jobs. As he promised in state after state on the campaign trail, he wants to bring back jobs in the coal industry; repeal environmental regulations on oil, natural gas, and fracking; and as a result, he will “unleash America’s energy potential.” Conspicuous in its absence on the issue is any reference to the climate change at all. Once again referring to his campaign website, Trump has a policy position on the issue of “Energy” (read, repealing regulations) but does not have a policy position on climate change.

What does all of this mean? Well, as many have pointed out, Trump has framed himself as a friend of the blue-collar worker, those who are out of work, and those who feel forgotten all while providing a convenient scapegoat: immigrants and regulations. With this in mind, his cabinet choices are troubling.

Secretary of State nominee and former CEO of Exxon Mobile, Rex Tillerson, for example, headed a company that sought to deny the impacts of climate change, even while its own research showed the dangers. Andrew Puzder, the former CEO of CKE Restaurants which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, and Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, mused on the benefits of automating labor in his restaurants. In his own words: “[machines are] always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”

Worker-led movements and organizing will undoubtedly be critical in challenging Trump’s distorted and divisive views of the economy.

Given Trump’s views of the economy, it is as important now as ever to stand with workers around the country to ensure that their human rights are respected and that Trump’s views of the economy do not become the justification for the harassment of immigrants and low-income workers, or the degradation of the environment. Worker-led movements and organizing will undoubtedly be critical in challenging Trump’s distorted and divisive views of the economy.

So, as Trump assembles not only the wealthiest cabinet in modern history, but also the whitest and most male cabinet since Ronald Reagan, it is time to come together and find our moral courage to stand up for the human rights of all Americans, and to remember that, while Trump frames his economic narrative in terms of “us vs. them”, the only way we can truly achieve a more inclusive and just economy is by coming together under a shared vision of human rights.

 


In response to concerns about how the Trump administration is likely to proceed, UUSC has joined with the Unitarian Universalist Association on an unprecedented course of action to align ourselves together, united in purpose to protect the values of our democracy and those vulnerable populations among us.

As a first step, we have prepared a Declaration of Conscience stating in the strongest possible terms our commitment in these troubling times. By signing the declaration, you join us in affirming our core values and declaring our willingness to put them into action. We encourage you to read the full declaration here, and add your name.