*****May be triggering due to discussion of extreme violence**************
In the last four weeks the bodies of five transgender women in Honduras have been found. The murder of women, especially transgender women, has been on the rise following the June 28, 2009 coup. According to the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, prior to the most recent murders, there have been 31 deaths of LGBTI people in Honduras in the last year and a half.
In the most recent incidents, the media is reporting that these women showed signs of physical and sexual assault. According to Planet Transgender :
On December 22, 2010 in Comayagüela, 23-year-old Lorenza Alexis Alvarado Hernández was found dead, her body visibly beaten and burned. There were also signs of rape and she was beaten so badly, perhaps even stoned, that it was difficult to recognize her.
The same day, Lady Oscar Martinez Salgado, age 45, was found burned to death in her home in Barrio El Rincón of Tegucigalpa. Her body showed multiple stab wounds.
Less than two weeks later, on January 2, 2011, a young transgender woman known only as Cheo was found murdered on the main street of Colonia Alameda in Tegucigalpa. Her body was left without legal documentation. She appears to have died from a severe stab wound to her chest.
The mainstream media, the United States government, and even some commenters here want to paint Mexico as the biggest danger to the United States since hmmm communism/the Russians/ Cubans…ay you get the point. Some stats tell a different story though.
There is no analysis as to why, although many will point to the drug war and gangs which really are crimes based in poverty. Much of the poverty in Latin America can be linked to inequity which can be linked in part to United States intervention ( a la NAFTA and more direct military interventions).
While the focus of the latest round of WikiLeaks release of secret cables has focused on the impact of U.S. national security, WikiLeaks also clarifies what happened in Honduras last year. In what now has been spun as “not a coup” as President Porfirio Lobo is set to mark his one year anniversary as President, a released cable from the U.S. Embassy shows that when Manual Zelaya was ousted it was indeed considered an illegal act.
From the cable :
..The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch…
…There is equally no doubt from our perspective that Roberto Micheletti’s assumption of power was illegitimate…
The cable also called the resignation letter that Zelaya presented as a “fabrication”.
The swearing in of new President Porfirio Lobo hasn’t brought the peace that the people of Honduras are seeking. Unfinished business post the ousting of Manuel Zelaya is particularly impacting local labor organizers, especially women.
The body of 29-year-old Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, still dressed in her nurse’s scrubs and killed by a bullet, turned up in the Loarque neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on February 4. Zepeda had young children and was a leader of the SITRAIHSS labor union (Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute). She had been abducted that afternoon while leaving a union meeting.
The fact that Zepeda’s death is being dismissed as an act of “common criminality” is disturbing enough, as if the murder of a mujer should be somewhat acceptable. Since Lobo’s inauguration there have been 10 to 15 assassinations of resistance members and leaders according to activists. Were those also acts of common criminals or the work of the common criminals of government?
The following is a fairly good breakdown of what is going on in Honduras at the moment and what the implications of the upheaval have been on the recent election results.
Honduran coup regime’s claims about 60% turnout at free and fair elections is revealed as fraud. Also implicated in the video are the wide array of media outlets and governments that have unquestioningly accepted the electoral data of a regime that overthrew the last elected president.
Produced by Jesse Freeston, on location in Honduras.
After a 10 hour session, the Honduran Congress voted yesterday not to reinstate ousted president Manuel Zelaya, 111-14. The vote followed the guidelines set in The Tegucigalpa-San Jose agreement signed on Oct. 30, sponsored by the United States. Zelaya, regardless, wasn’t pleased with the decision and made statements saying that the congress was acting illegally since no actions were taken before last Sunday’s elections in which conservative Pepe Lopo won.
Mr Zelaya, who was removed from office in June, told the BBC the decision “ratifies the coup” and meant Hondurans were “living in illegality”.
Brazil, in whose embassy, Zelaya has taken refuge, has refused to accept the election results and has vowed not to normalize relations with Honduras until Zelaya is returned to power.
Roberto Micheletti, who led the summer coup against Zelaya, will return to the presidency until Lobo starts his term on January 27th.
The concerns that are raised for me include, the status of the numerous human rights violations that have happened and that will likely continue to happen under Micheletti. Also there is something about a coup being legitimized by a congressional vote that doesn’t sit right with me.
The Honduran presidential elections took place this past Sunday and despite there being a winner, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo with 55.9% of the vote, the political crisis in the Central American country is far from resolved.
Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela:
…while the election is a significant step in Honduras’ return to a democratic and constitutional order after the 28th June coup, it’s just that. It’s only a step, and it’s not the last step….
A government of national unity needs to be formed. The congress has to take a vote on the return of President Zelaya to office…
The issue is not who is going to be the next president. The Honduran people decided that. The issue is whether the legitimate president of Honduras, who was overthrown in a coup d’état, will be returned to office by the congress on December 2nd, as per the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord.
Today the Honduran Congress is set to vote on if Manuel Zelaya will be reinstated to serve the rest of his term, that is until January 27, when Lobo will assume the presidency.
This is such an important victory, one that I have been a part of. This organizing has been going on for years and years, it’s satisfying as a former organizer to see it come to something important, and it’s tremendous as a human being to know that fellow human beings have the dignity of a safe job and union protection.
The often raucous student movement announced on Tuesday that it had achieved its biggest victory by far. Its pressure tactics persuaded one of the nation’s leading sportswear companies, Russell Athletic, to agree to rehire 1,200 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when Russell closed their factory soon after the workers had unionized.
From the time Russell shut the factory last January, the anti-sweatshop coalition orchestrated a nationwide campaign against the company. Most important, the coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops, persuaded the administrations of Boston College, Columbia, Harvard, New York University, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina and 89 other colleges and universities to sever or suspend their licensing agreements with Russell. The agreements — some yielding more than $1 million in sales — allowed Russell to put university logos on T-shirts, sweatshirts and fleeces.
Going beyond their campuses, student activists picketed the N.B.A. finals in Orlando and Los Angeles this year to protest the league’s licensing agreement with Russell. They distributed fliers inside Sports Authority sporting goods stores and sent Twitter messages to customers of Dick’s Sporting Goods to urge them to boycott Russell products.
The students even sent activists to knock on Warren Buffett’s door in Omaha because his company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns Fruit of the Loom, Russell’s parent company.
“It’s a very important breakthrough,” said Mel Tenen, who oversees licensing agreements for the University of Miami, the first school to sever ties with Russell. “It’s not often that a major licensee will take such a necessary and drastic step to correct the injustices that affected its workers. This paves the way for us to seriously consider reopening our agreement with Russell.”
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the political drama continuing to unfold in Honduras. Ousted President Zelaya remains inside the Brasilian Embassy, accusing the military of using sound weapons against those inside. Coup leader Micheletti has suspended constitutional civil rights while trying to say (like some comments left here) that the ousting of the democratically elected president was constitutional as if he can have it both ways. Meanwhile supporters of Zelaya continue to hit the streets in defiance of the suspension of the right to assembly. I found the report below, via The Mex Files, to offer a really interesting analysis of the situation, including how the coup is impacting some of the most marginalized inside Honduras, the Garifuna, and how this coup could be setting the stage for future coups in Latin America.
I continue to be amazed at how anyone could say that a country under curfew, with airports closed, is anything but a dictatorship, especially given that the self-proclaimed president in power took it via force. According to my dictionary, it fits the definition of a country after a coup. Comparing Honduras to what I know about other moments in Latin American history, it sure looks like a country under siege from within.
On Monday, democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras after being ousted in a coup. However, Zelaya is far from a free man. He is currently inside the Brazilian embassy. As soon as word came through that Zelaya was in the country, the first thing the government of Roberto Micheletti did was deny that fact as a way to maintain control or pretend to anyway. Once it was reveled where Zelaya was, and stil is, his supporters poured into the streets. At the same time Micheletti declared a curfew, which many Zelaya supporters ignored. Power to the Brazilian embassy was cut. Military forces surrounded the area and used tear gas against pro-Zelaya protesters. People were being pulled off the street.