Honduras has intransigent leadership. Porfirio Lobo is intransigent; Oscar Alvarez is intransigent. Intransigence will not resolve the strike or the human rights problem it reveals; it's an unwillingness to resolve; it is a child's tantrum. Porfirio Lobo Sosa said, "I won't talk to them until they go back to work" and then ordered the police to shut down the protests. That's not good government, that's a tantrum.
Today's La Tribuna carries a story of a split in the Tuesday cabinet meeting allegedly between those who support the teachers and those who support the security services. That sounds like a mischaracterization from the rest of the story. It sounds like the split is between those who believe the security forces are violating the protester's human rights, and those who believe the police can do no wrong.
On the side of the police is Oscar Alvarez, who asserts that he leads a force that is among the most professional police forces in the world. Really? Hands up anybody who believes that.
Alvarez says all the police actions were carried out under the constitution, citing Articles 78 and 58. He says Article 78 guarantees the right of free assembly, but also the right to freely walk around, for everyone. He then cites (according to the article in La Tribuna) Article 58 as allowing all people free transit (the right to walk around) anywhere in the country and that the Police have the obligation to support that right.
Article 78 does in fact allow for freedom of assembly and association provided it does not contravene the public order. Article 58 however, says that ordinary courts, regardless of privilege, will know all electoral crimes and misdemeanors. Oh my. Perhaps he meant Article 81, which does say that everyone has the right to circulate freely.
So Alvarez isn't so good at his constitution. Furthermore he ignores the rights of the teachers to assemble and protest peacefully. He ignores good police procedure, which is to negotiate with protesters to guarantee everyone's rights are observed. He needs a remedial police work course on crowd control, and his police force needs one as well.
On the other side of the argument is Ana Pineda, says La Tribuna. She apparently pointed out the negative effects of the death of Ilse Ivania Velásquez for the efforts of the government to establish a good human rights record. After all, they'd just finished earlier in the week whitewashing Honduras's human rights record before the UN (see our previous post where the government admits to only investigating 3.8 percent of crimes).
"With these events, (Mr.) President, our country is exposed, not only nationally and internationally, but it weakens our level of credibility which we had obtained in front of the members of the UN and other forums of human rights."Oops. She said the Police and Armed Forces need an operational norm that regulates their operation so that they respect the human rights established in the constitution, international treaties, and Honduran law. She said that the indiscriminate use of explosives, guns, and other things in protests, which have been seen in the videos and still photos available, can wound and even kill. She said that before resorting to force, the security forces need to exhaust all possibility of dialogue with the protesters. She noted that the Channel 36 reporter had been attacked without justification. In short, she acknowledged that the security forces are violating human rights, something the international press already knows.
Pineda is right; there's a training issue which Alvarez refuses to recognize. The police aren't trained to respect the human rights of anyone; they're trained to use force to solve any problem. Training police cadets to sing "...we will bathe in a swimming pool full of blood..." is not a sign that they know to protect human rights. It glorifies the bloodshed they cause. Until Alvarez can recognize, and address this problem, Honduras will be deficient in human rights protection.
At the end of the discussion, Porfirio Lobo Sosa said:
"I maintain my position: street taken; I will dislodge them."