Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Adrienne Pine: "U.S. foreign policy backs abusive Honduran state"

An op ed under this title appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle today, following the implications of the Comayagua prison fire which killed 360 people.

Pine sharply cuts through the obfuscation of the real issues that started once US investigators identified the source of the fire as a cigarette. For some, this seemed to relieve pressure for the Lobo Sosa administration to be held accountable for the inferno and the deaths it produced.

But as Pine writes
it was neither accident nor oversight that the Lobo administration did not implement changes ordered by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to prevent more prison deaths.

As she reminds readers, this is not the first time prisoners have died in similar incidents in Honduras:
Police were found to be involved in planning and executing the 2003 and 2004 massacres that killed nearly 200 inmates.

In the Comayagua fire, first hand reports by survivors describe guards shooting at prisoners desperate to escape the overcrowded death trap. The overcrowding, Pine emphasizes, is caused by detention of excessive numbers of people under anti-gang, and more recently, anti-terrorism, laws, without ensuring timely trials. More than half of the prisoners in the Comayagua disaster had not yet been tried.

Pine calls for us to listen to Honduran human rights activists who, in her words
assert that justice requires accountability at the highest levels for the Comayagua fire and all other human rights violations. They demand the implementation of due process for prisoners and a reworking of the penal code by a publicly accountable judiciary.

And they call on the United States to withdraw military and police aid to the Honduran government.

It is long past time for the US to recognize that the Lobo Sosa administration is not advancing reconciliation and peace in Honduras; instead, it has deepened corruption, impunity and privilege of the powerful factions behind the 2009 coup.

And people are dying.

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