That step? abolishing his opponents-- more than 10,000 NGOs.
Friday La Gaceta published a decree revoking the legal status of 5429 NGOs. The Unidad de Registro y Seguimiento de Asociaciones Civiles (URSAC), a part of the Interior Ministry, issued the decree that revokes the permission of these NGOs to operate.
This comes slightly more than a month after Madrid revoked the legal status of another 4800 NGOs in mid January.
Honduras reportedly had about 16,000 NGOs at the start of 2013. So altogether, these two decrees succeeded in abolishing more than half of the NGOs in the country.
That makes it a little harder to figure out who this campaign was really targeting and why.
We would remind readers that back in 2010, the Honduran Congress passed a law to define the characteristics of an evangelical Christian church, declared unconstitutional in 2012, that advanced Madrid's agenda to abolish evangelical churches he felt were "fringe" groups.
According to the decree published this week, the named institutions failed to comply in some way with a previous decree 770-A-2003 regulating NGOs, which gave a 30 day window for every NGO to supply an annual activities report, a financial report, indicate its officers, and so on.
What does the abolishment of these NGOs translate to, in practice?
They can no longer sign contracts or hold bank accounts.
They are ordered to liquidate any property and goods held, and donate the proceeds of that liquidation to a still extant NGO with a similar goal.
All Honduran banks and government agencies were notified of the loss of rights of these 5,429 NGOs. In 30 days, their bank accounts will be frozen by the government, and any remaining assets seized.
This is not just a matter of eliminating a few small and inconsequential groups that were struggling.
Among the NGOs cancelled was the Asociación Comite por Libre Expresión (C-Libre), the most visible group monitoring press freedom in Honduras, composed of of journalists and others.
Hector Longino Becerra, president of the organization, said that the action against C-Libre was part of an attack on organizations that are critical of the government. Becerra said that all of C-Libre's paperwork with URSAC was complete and up to date, and he possessed the receipts to show the filing was done on time.
In the wake of the Friday publication of La Gaceta, Jorge Montes, head of URSAC, claimed Saturday that the NGOs still had 30 days to make things right and avoid cancellation.
That claim is hard to understand since the published law reportedly cancels the legal right to exist of the named NGOs. Montes claims that each NGO's legal representative will be notified in 30 days of the cancellation if, prior to that, their paperwork is not brought up to date.
He emphasized three kinds of reports that need to be filed: a report on activities; a financial report that indicates what money the group holds, where it came from, and where and how it will be spent, and where the NGO's assets are; and an up-to-date list of officers.
The Civil Society Group that advises the government is disturbed by all this and has requested a meeting with Rigoberto Chang Castillo, current Interior Minister, and thus the head of URSAC.
It is the responsibility of the state to create an enabling environment for the functioning of civil society organizations and to keep watch over the unfettered right to free association.
Their point: the Honduran government isn't doing that when 62% of the country's legally established NGOs are disestablished by the government.
We couldn't agree more.