There has been very little attention in the U.S. press to repression in Honduras under the coup regime. Hopefully, that will now change: Amnesty International issued a report yesterday documenting “serious ill-treatment by police and military of peaceful protesters” in Honduras, warning that “beatings and mass arrests are being used as a way of punishing people for voicing their opposition” to the coup.
An Amnesty International delegation interviewed people who were detained after police and military broke up a peaceful demonstration July 30. Most detainees had injuries as a consequence of police beatings.
Esther Major, Central America researcher at Amnesty International, said:
“Detention and ill treatment of protestors are being employed as forms of punishment for those openly opposing the de facto government, and also as a deterrent for those contemplating taking to the streets to peacefully show their discontent with the political turmoil the country is experiencing.”
U.S. media often rely heavily on international human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to report on human rights abuses. So it will be interesting to see how much U.S. press coverage the Amnesty report gets.
If the repression under the coup regime were more widely known, it would be much more difficult for representatives of that regime to peddle their story in Washington that their government is “democratic” and “respects the rule of law.” How is the coup’s hired gun Lanny Davis going to spin Amnesty’s report on police repression of peaceful dissent against the coup?
Amnesty urgently calls for the “international community” to seek a resolution to the political crisis. But not all members of the “international community” have equal say. Last week, the President of Brazil called on the United States to use more political influence to help solve the crisis. Brazil’s Foreign Minister said President Zelaya’s return would depend largely on the position of the United States.
No one is calling on the U.S. to send the Fourth Fleet to Honduras. The Obama Administration has modest policy levers it has not employed. Rep. Grijalva and 15 other Members of the House have written to President Obama, urging him to speak out about the repression in Honduras and to cancel U.S. travel visas and freeze U.S. bank accounts of leaders of the coup regime to pressure it to accept a compromise for President Zelaya’s return.
The coup regime “must be disbused” of the notion that it can “run out the clock” until a November presidential election, wrote the New York Times in a recent editorial. The U.S. must be prepared to exert more pressure on the coup regime if it refuses to accept a compromise for President Zelaya’s return, the Times said.
Check your favorite newspaper: have they mentioned Amnesty’s report in their coverage of Honduras? If not, send that newspaper a note. You can write to the Miami Herald and McClatchy News here.
Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy. Naiman also edits the daily Just Foreign Policy news summary and blogs at the Web site of Just Foreign Policy, where this article first appeared. Click here to contribute for Just Foreign Policy.