Friday, October 16, 2009

U.S. Labor, Community & Religious Fact-Finding Delegation Returns From Honduras


**Media Advisory** Contact:
Teresa Gutierrez 917.328.6470
Lucy Pagoada 646.373.2383



Delegation Calls for Immediate Restoration of President Manuel Zelaya and an End to the Repression Sweeping the Country

Delegates Available for Immediate Interviews

WHAT: On Monday, October 12, a 12-member U.S. delegation returned from Honduras after a four-day visit to the country. Delegates conducted a fact-finding investigation that included dozens of interviews, as well as participation in street actions, in order to witness firsthand the repression carried out by the fraudulent and illegal Micheletti government.

The delegates met with human rights leaders, representatives of the National Front of Resistance against the Coup, labor and women’s leaders as well as youth groups. In addition, the delegation delivered a statement to representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras in order to report on their findings.

A summary of the delegates’ findings include:

1) A civil war is brewing in Honduras. The political situation in the country becomes more and more critical with each passing hour. OAS negotiations did not go anywhere as the fraudulent Micheletti government continues to become entrenched, despite international condemnation.

2) The repression is brutal. Human rights leaders and activists report on first-hand repression that includes beatings, tear gas attacks, disappearances and assassinations as well as attempted kidnappings. The delegation learned firsthand that despite Micheletti’s announcement that the ban on civil rights had been lifted, a ban on assembly, etc. was in fact still very much in place.

3) The Honduran people are committed to their demands. Despite heavy repression, the Honduran people continue to not only demand the restoration of President Manuel Zelaya and a Constituent Assembly, but continue to organize for their rights. The level of coordination among the people and their various mass organizations is maturing and the commitment to their demands is clearly unwavering.

4) The Michelet illegal government remains entrenched and therefore more dangerous. It is a dangerous sign that despite international condemnation the Michelet regime remains entrenched. Clearly they are buying time until the proposed elections. The delegation believes no elections should be held unless President Zelaya is returned to office. The Michelet golpistas are becoming more desperate and therefore more dangerous.

5) International solidarity is key. The situation in Honduras becomes every day more serious. International solidarity including material aid is extremely important for the Honduran people and their struggle for justice.

WHO: The U.S. delegation included representatives from the following sectors: religious, veterans, anti-war, labor, professors, youth and women’s groups, as well as several Hondurans residing in the U.S. Delegates are available for interviews. To schedule interviews please call Teresa Gutierrez at 917.328.6470.

WHY: The U.S. government is pivotal in assuring that the violence and repression ends and that the rightful president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, be returned. Solidarity from this country is also pivotal. That is why the Oct. 7 delegation traveled to Honduras and that is also why the delegation participated in street actions in order to witness firsthand the attitude of the Micheletti de-facto government towards the Honduran people.

The first night of the visit, October 7, U.S. delegates went to the Brazilian embassy to interview President Zelaya, who would have gladly met with the delegation. When Honduran troops menacingly amassed with guns, tear gas and masks, the delegation was forced to run with the Honduran people away from the troops, clearly proving the ban was still in place.

For a preliminary report of our findings, please see the attached letter to the U.S. Embassy that was delivered on October 9 by the delegation.

WHEN: The U.S. Labor, Community and Religious Fact-finding Delegation will report back from their trip to Honduras on Tuesday, October 27 at 777 U.N. Plaza at 6:30 pm. A video report from their trip will be premiered at that time. In addition to the delegates, also invited to speak is Honduran Ambassador Jorge A. Reina as well as Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General.

Statement to the U.S. embassy by the U.S. Labor, Community and Religious Fact-finding Delegation to Honduras

About the delegation – The U.S. Labor, Community and Religious Fact-finding Delegation to Honduras consists of 12 representatives of labor, community, peace, veterans and religious organizations in the United States. We have come to Honduras to learn the facts and context behind the military coup d’état and its aftermath, and the current situation.

While in Honduras we have met with over 100 representatives and leaders of labor and peasant organizations and a broad representation of organizations of women, youth, indigenous and Garifuna peoples, including representatives of various barrios and colonias and a large number of members of the clergy.

Our delegation wishes to communicate the following information –

1. The de facto regime’s ban on the free exercise of the Honduran people’s civil and constitutional rights and civil liberties has NOT been lifted, as claimed by the regime. This ban is still in effect, and is still being brutally enforced by the police and by the Army, whose commander was trained at the notorious U.S. School of the Americas.

As an example, our delegation personally observed the police and Army forcibly break up the massive, peaceful and nonviolent demonstration on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 7th at the Brazilian Embassy, where President Zelaya maintains his presence. Our delegation was chased fro two city blocks by police and soldiers armed with weapons and 3- to 4-foot wooden batons, and two members of the delegation were almost hit by batons.

Our delegation personally observed multiple truckloads of police and Army being deployed in an attempt to intimidate a massive peaceful demonstration at the Francisco Morazan pedagogical institute on the morning of Thursday, October 8th, and again when the demonstration re-formed later in front of the Clarion Hotel, where OAS representatives were huddled to discuss the political crisis in Honduras. We observed a water cannon truck, of the kind that has been used to hose down demonstrations, and preparations for use of tear gas on the part of the military authorities. (Earlier delegations had reported the use of US-supplied LRAD weapons to emit ear-splitting screams of sound in the direction of President Zelaya and others in the Brazilian Embassy.)

We must also note that the majority of the demonstrators at the Brazilian Embassy, Francisco Morazán Institute and at the Clarion Hotel were women and children, with a large number of older people also present.

These actions by the de facto government were clear attempts to prevent the exercise of the expression of the popular will of the majority of the Honduran people. A private poll certified by the Honduran government, showed that by a 3 to 1 margin, the majority of the Honduran people oppose the coup and desire the immediate return of Zelaya to the Presidency.

2. As long as the de facto and illegal regime remains in place, with its repressive apparatus preventing the free expression of the popular will, then any attempt to go ahead with the previously scheduled November 29th elections, under these conditions, can only have an undemocratic result and should be abandoned.

3. We call on the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress to immediately discontinue ALL aid to Honduras, including humanitarian aid, as long as the de facto and illegal regime remains in power, and to clearly state that the US will not support any solution to the Honduran political crisis without the unconditional restoration of the elected Zelaya government.

4. We further call on the Obama Administration to continue the visa sanctions on the members of the illegal de facto government, and to freeze the US bank accounts of these individuals until the legal Honduran government of President Zelaya is able to determine where the funds came from.
Teresa Gutierrez
IAC National Co-Director
National IAC Coordinator Immigrant and Latin American Projects
Build May Day 2010
Bail out the People, not the Banks
Si Se Puede!

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