Published: 02/10/2009

The potential for massive state violence remains undiminished in Honduras following President Zelaya’s return to the country and the government’s illegal actions against the Brazilian embassy where he has been forced to seek protection. Coup leader Micheletti’s televised pleas for “forgiveness from the Honduran” people and pledge to lift emergency decrees “as quickly as possible” ring hollow against ongoing reports of detentions, “disappearances”, deaths and the general clampdown on basic liberties documented by the Honduran National Front Against the Coup and by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other internationally respected human rights organizations. Critical noises from the Honduran Congress in response to the latest measures testify to the continuing strength of national resistance, in which the trade unions have taken the lead, and not to the working of behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

Even after the expulsion of the mission previously agreed to with the Organization of American States, the United States continues to send what are euphemistically described as “mixed signals”. Sports stadiums converted into detention centers cast a long shadow in Latin America, and the US has a special responsibility. The European Union and its member states, which unlike the United States have suspended diplomatic relations and taken a principled position, also have instruments they can use to press for a democratic resolution of the crisis.

If negotiations are to take place, they can only be held against a background of growing pressure and the clear threat of total political isolation should they fail. The United States and the European Union must unambiguously declare that they will refuse to recognize the result of any election exercise organized by the “de facto government” of Micheletti; reaffirm their support for Manuel Zelaya as the elected President of Honduras; suspend all international assistance and support to the government of Honduras pending a return to constitutional rule; eliminate tariff preferences for Honduras under regional trade agreements and the European Union’s GSP; and actively support all those in Honduras defending human rights. Sanctions must also be implemented against all those illegally occupying positions of power, or who actively participated in the coup.