Friday, May 14, 2010

This Week in Honduras: Money or Human Rights?

The most significant news leads in Honduran papers this weekend concern the impending visit of a delegation from the IMF this coming week.

William Chong Wong, Minister of Finances, is quoted as saying that Honduras does not intend to cover up the real grim financial news simply to give a good impression. Reportedly, Honduras stands to receive $300 million if the visit by the IMF goes well.

The business community, represented by the head of the Asociación Nacional de Industriales (ANDI), Adolfo Facussé, and Aline Flores, director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tegucigalpa (CCIT), is reported to be behind the government's efforts to convince the IMF to release funding to Honduras.

FOSDEH, the Foro Social de la Deuda Externa de Honduras (Social Forum on the External Debt of Honduras), publicly called for the government not to cover up the real numbers. Mauricio Díaz Burdeth, coordinator of the forum, is quoted as saying "All the macroeconomic indicators are in the red and it will be very difficult to find a favorable one, owing to the grave financial situation."

Díaz Burdeth added that the visit by IMF, the second this year, is without doubt an important point in the economic agenda of the country.

But that is not, we would argue, the most important visit Honduras is hosting this week.

Instead, we draw attention to the unsigned lead editorial in El Tiempo on Saturday May 15, headlined "The CIDH in Honduras".

The editorial comments on the reported return to Honduras this coming week of a delegation from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, "due to the grave and continued violations since the 28th of June 2009 based upon the coup d'Etat." It is a reminder that there is a consciousness in Honduras of the real continuing urgency of confronting the social, legal, and human rights effects of the coup d'Etat:
To prepare its report on Honduras the CIDH made an exhaustive investigation on the ground, which was introduced at its opportunity to the de facto government and the international community.

Nonetheless, this work, of high legal quality in its specialty, did not have, it appears, influence to restrain the abuses and violations of public power against the opposition to the coup d'Etat and their tremendous collateral consequences, as evidenced by the series of assassinations of journalists under the current regime.

Thanks to this lamentable situation, the CIDH included Honduras in the ominous "black list" of the countries in which human rights are disrespected in an aggressive manner, an odious position that never before had stained the history of our country.

To have an idea of the importance of the presence of the CIDH at this time, it is enough to take into account the composition of this delegation, headed by its president Felipe González, in which participates his vice president Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the general secretary Santiago Cantón, and the special secretary for liberty of expression, Catalina Botero.

The investigation by the CIDH about the situation of human rights in Honduras is key in relation to the work assigned to the Truth Commission, a consequence, at the time, of the diplomatic process orchestrated by the Organization of American States to create an exit from the political crisis derived from the coup d'Etat.

In the same way, this investigation is part of the process for the reinsertion of Honduras in the continental and world community, since to succeed in such a purpose it is indispensable to establish the responsibilities for the offences committed through violation of human rights and political rights, something that, apparently, does not figure in the intentions of the Truth Commission.

Because of the way that political events in Honduras have been developing, in the framework of the political crisis that still remains insoluble, the reticence of the international community to normalize relations with the actual regime, ignoring the breaking of constitutional order, will not disappear nor will it be mediated, except on the part of a few governments inclined-- for their own convenience-- to excuse coups at the hands of oligarchs.

The return of the CIDH to our country in the present circumstances also has the virtue of refreshing the spirit for the defense of human rights, and, very particularly, for the validity of liberty of expression, that needs constant international support in societies, like ours, where the anti-culture of forced silence and of self-censorship is an everyday practice.

Human rights, or international monetary support. Which is, in the end, more important for Honduras at this juncture?


Pete said...

Is that the same CIDH whose President is Luz Patricia Mejía Guerrero?

Guerrero of course comes from Venezuela, a country which is so upstanding in its observation of Human Rights that it believes that it does not need any CIDH visits.

What wonderful credibility the CIDH has!

RAJ said...

This comment tells us less about the CIDH than it tells us about the poisoned atmosphere of Honduran media.

First of all, Ms. Mejía Guerrero is one of the seven Commissioners of the IAHCR (CIDH in Spanish). The CDIH website currently lists Felipe González as Chair, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro as First Vice Chair, and Dinah Shelton as Second Vice Chair.

Mejía Guerrero is a lawyer, and her special charges include women's rights, monitoring Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador, and the Working Group on the Protocol of San Salvador on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Between 1995 and 2000, she was engaged in a variety of Venezuelan NGOs related to women's rights and human rights. From 2000-2001, she taught administrative law. Starting in 2000, she carried out posts in the judicial branch of the Venezuelan government.

The US representative to the OAS, in remarks critical of the Venezuelan record on human rights, specifically commended Mejía and the other IAHCR commissioners for their critique of Venezuela's record under Hugo Chavez in its most recent report, issued in December 2009, that "identifies a series of issues that restrict the full enjoyment of human rights."

So, what does Pete mean in his comment here? Surely, he cannot be implying that merely being Venezuelan makes a person with this record of proven dedication to human rights work, including criticism of the Venezuelan government, suspect? That would be xenophobia. But in fact, that is precisely what has become acceptable in Honduran discourse. To be Venezuelan, or Nicaraguan, or Salvadoran, is enough to impeach a person's character.

In this case, Pete's slur can be traced directly to Honduras' pro-coup human rights commissioner, Ramón Custodio, whose failure to act on numerous human rights complaints has shamed Honduras in the international Human Rights community. In an article in the pro-coup newspaper La Tribuna on April 17, Custodio, labeled the CIDH as "chavista" (like Pete, ignoring its actual record of criticism of Venezuela's government) and singled out Mejía without naming her:

"It is presided over by a Venezuelan professional of recognized political militancy"

Repeating a slur does not make it true. Pete's comment reflects the failure of the Honduran press to make available objective information about the actual record of the IAHCR, and the entrenchment of an elite that supported the coup d'Etat and will not accept responsibility for their failures in their legal responsibilities. With the failure of Honduran institutions to carry out their duty and investigate human rights violations, international organizations have become the most critical advocates for those suffering continuing repression in the wake of the extrajudicial coup and unconstitutional government that followed.