Friday, November 29, 2013

Honduras Election: What Happened? What Responsibility Does the U.S. Bear?

I can still remember exactly where I was standing during the phone call.  I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, finishing up a consulting assignment. I was in the shopping arcade attached to the Pfister Hotel, about to go to dinner and relax.

One of my best friends from my childhood in New Jersey was calling to tell me with pride and also concern that his daughter was going to Central America to do research.  Sarah was about to write her senior thesis, and she had gotten funding to go to Honduras to do interviews. John told me about the experienced people who were helping her make sure her work in Honduras would be productive but also safe. I could feel him vacillating between immense admiration for her priorities and what she was trying to do, and fear that something might happen to her.  And it was complicated by the difficult decisions of a father of a grown child: Do you say everything you are thinking? How do you balance responsibility and respect?

I told John how important I thought Sarah's work was. I told him about my own nephew and his wife, who had both served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua, and about how they were both working now in the health field in Chicago. I reminded him that Sarah had spent a year in Argentina, so this wouldn't be her first time in Latin America. I joked that it was natural that our kids were going to be a lot more adventuresome than we had been, coming out of little ol' Chatham, New Jersey. But I stopped short of saying that I was sure there was nothing to worry about, because I knew that wasn't true.

Recent history:  The Coup of 2009

That conversation was taking place in the wake of a coup that overthrew the democratically-elected president of Honduras. At the time, I was aware that there were "difficulties" in Honduras: the president had had to escape the country, it seemed to be a coup, there were some kind of elections after that, but things still seemed up in the air . . . .  I didn't understand much more than that. (For more background, check out the article on the 2009 Honduras political crisis on Wikipedia.)

The immediate upshot of that telephone call was that everything turned out fine with Sarah's research trip: she successfully completed her thesis and is now in a graduate program in Albuquerque, focusing on Latin American affairs and public health.

Another upshot of that telephone call is that I got a clear message.  "This young woman is showing me what it means to see something important that needs to be done," I thought, "and she's structuring her life so that she can do something about it." What would it mean if I did that?

Accompaniment in Honduras

So now I've been called to action -- in a lot of ways you can learn about by reading this blog. One part of that means learning about Honduras, and the way events there and elsewhere in Latin America have been shaped by the hand of the United States.

A number of friends have participated in accompaniment programs in Honduras. The idea is that people from the U.S. and other countries need to go and witness what is happening there. It is hoped that there presence my do something to inhibit the brazen attacks against ordinary people. (You can support their work there: Donate to Defend Human Rights in Honduras)

One of those friends is Andy Thayer. For instance, in the fall of 2012 he traveled to Honduras on a fact-finding mission with Chicago-based La Voz de los de Abajo. His conclusion? "The government doesn’t respect its own laws, the judges are bought and sold by the few who can afford them, and all this is done to increase the power and wealth of that country’s 1%. And [the Obama] administration makes it worse by supporting this with guns and more guns."(See "An Open Letter to Barack Obama: Mr. President, You Are Abetting Murder in Honduras")

Most recently, Andy has gone to work with others to monitor the elections in Honduras, as part of the Honduran Equality Delegation, the first LGBTI-focused delegation to Honduras. Below are video links he has shared; the photos on the post are his as well. As Andy provides additional information, I will update this post.

(At this writing, the BBC is reporting, "[Juan Orlando] Hernandez, of the conservative National Party, won 36% of the vote, with results from 81.5% of polling stations tallied. The left-wing candidate Xiomara Castro won 29%, but she disputes the outcome." See "Honduras election: Hernandez declared winner".)

UPDATE NOVEMBER 30: From Andy Thayer:
Libre Party press conference going on right now, confirming many of the things our delegation observed and learned from witnesses in the polling places where we observed. Dead people voting, live people being declared dead and yet very much alive, and not being allowed to vote.

From the press conference:

30% of votes were by dead people or those who had emigrated from the country;

Roughly 10% of the election judges from the small parties were bought;

The biggest amount of fraud occurred in the transmission of votes from the voting "precincts" to the center, where the role of the bought judges was critical.

Libre Presidential candidate Xiomara Zelaya has just stepped up to the podium. "We do not recognized the legitimacy of any government which is a result of the fraud. We have evidence of the fraud that occurred on Nov. 24th."

How is it that a candidate who led easily in virtually every poll suddenly "loses" by 7%? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what went on....
Elections in Honduras - The Video Record

Andy Thayer has provided these videos from the election in Honduras:
LGBT in Honduras

Andy Thayer (center) with legendary Honduran
LGBT leaders Pepe Palacios (right) and Erick
Martinez (left). (Tegucigalpa, Honduras)
Election night with Presidential Candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya

Military Intimidation of the Media During Honduran Elections
One thing that Andy Thayer and other activists have helped me do is to understand the connectedness of injustices being experienced by people in diverse places, under diverse pretexts; and to see the way U.S. government actions form a common thread in those injustices.

Photos courtesy Andy Thayer. See full "Honduras: Day after stolen elections" photo album on Facebook.

Related posts

Diverse places, diverse pretexts . . . We will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed in places as disparate as Honduras and Pakistan and the South Side of Chicago when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color . . . .

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )

Is the School of the Americas (SOA) model now being transferred to Afghanistan? The SOA model is to use U.S. money and ideas to enable power holders in another country to persecute and kill ideological enemies, while denying that the U.S. is engaging in violence in that country, much less exposing U.S. combat troops to violence in that country, and making every effort to disavow the consequences of U.S. guidance of the violence (and crimes) being carried out in that country.

(See Is the SOA Coming to Afghanistan?)

Sometimes solidarity means taking to the streets where you are.  (And sometimes doing so reminds you to stick up for your own rights, as well.)

(See Can Chicago Walk Like an Egyptian?)

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