BY ISN STAFF | January 27, 2018
50 faith leaders and social justice advocates from the United States arrived in Honduras on January 24 for a week-long visit to observe continuing widespread civil unrest and protests in the aftermath of the contested presidential election on November 26, 2017.Delegates join Honduran human rights advocates in calling for an immediate end to the state-sponsored violence, bloodshed and arrests that have been ongoing since the elections; a halt to Honduran military and police attacks on human rights defenders, land activists, journalists and other advocates; suspension of U.S. financial support for the Honduran security forces; and meaningful broad-based dialogue ― with the participation of an international mediator trusted by all involved ― that would lead to a peaceful resolution of the democratic crisis.
The ecumenical delegation includes a number of Catholic delegates representatives from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Franciscan Action Network, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Dominican Sisters of Peace, and Pax Christi International.
The delegation is in response to requests for accompaniment and international presence from prominent Honduran religious partners who have faced recent threats — including Fr. Ismael Moreno, S.J. and his colleagues at Radio Progreso and Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC), two Jesuit-sponsored human rights ministries in Honduras with Jesuit and lay staff.
The delegation will also meet with numerous groups and individuals, including members of the Society of Jesus in Honduras, local faith and community organizations, victims of the recent crackdown, and attorneys. On Friday, the delegates will participate with local parishes in a Vía Crucis (Stations of the Cross) procession in Progreso.
UPDATES FROM HONDURAS:
DELEGATION MEDIA COVERAGE:
18.01.30 – In militarized Honduras, delegation speaks truth to power to US Embassy (National Catholic Reporter)
18.01.26 – Honduran religious leaders, amid fear of violent suppression, protest upcoming inauguration (America)
18.01.26 –Being a witness to election aftermath in Honduras (National Catholic Reporter)
18.01.26 (America Media)
MORE BACKGROUND ON THE SITUATION IN HONDURAS:
On November 26, Honduras held presidential elections. Early results showed the opposition’s candidate, Salvador Nasralla, in the lead. Soon after, though, results suddenly stopped coming in. When the polling system came back up after a 36-hour delay, the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) reported that incumbent Hernández was then in the lead.
The TSE’s long delay, its lack of transparency during that time, and the close alignment of its authorities with the ruling government sparked doubt about the legitimacy of election results. Thousands of Hondurans took to the streets in protest in the days following the election. In response, police and military have tear gassed and shot at protesters, leaving over 30 dead and many more wounded. Radio Progeso, a Jesuit-sponsored human rights ministry, denounced an attack on one of its radio towers as sabotage and a clear threat to freedom of expression.
On December 17, despite clear concerns about the legitimacy of the elections and calls for a full recount or new elections, the TSE declared the incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernandez, the winner of the elections. Since that time, repression of protesters by state security forces has only increased.
Latin American Jesuits made clear their recommendations for a path forward toward democracy and respect for the rights of the Honduran people, including nullifying the November 26 elections and naming a transitional government that convenes a new electoral process with international observation. This concern is reflected in the calls of many civil society organizations as well as the Organization of American States for new elections with international observance. Unfortunately, the U.S. government formally recognized the election results announced by the TSE, rather than being a strong voice for democracy and justice.
More than 30 people, including at least one this week, have been reported killed, with many hundreds more either injured or detained, and the Honduran government had suspended constitutional rights, giving the army and police additional authority to interfere with and disband protests. Since the election, social justice advocates and religious figures have been victims of harassment and death threats, including Fr. Moreno.