Letter on the Honduras Coup and proposed “Elections”

[The following letter went to the new U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Velenzuela, on Wednesday from a group of 55 Central America scholars.]

Dr. Arturo Valenzuela
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Arturo:

As a group of scholars of Central America we ask that you seek to change the ill advised position taken by Mr. Thomas Shannon that would recognize the results of the Honduran election even though Pres Zelaya is not restored to office. This sets a terrible precedent that undermines the wave of democratization that has swept the region because it in essence legitimizes a coup. It is at odds with the other Latin American nations.

We ask also that the Department of State not fund election observation missions by the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, as announced by Senator Richard Lugar. This would legitimize a patently illegitimate poll. The secretary general of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza, said he would not send observers to monitor the November 29th elections, while many of the OAS’s member countries said they would not recognize the election winner unless Zelaya was reinstated. Will you push for reconsideration of the decision to send U.S. observers?

The issue is not whether technical election procedures are carried out, or if the ballots are counted accurately, but rather the effects on the election of the coup. Several candidates have withdrawn because they do not wish to legitimize an election sponsored by a coup government, including Carlos H. Reyes of the Independent Party and leader of the resistance movement against the coup. It is highly unlikely that the forces behind the coup would have allowed him to take office were he to win. The broad-based national resistance movement has called for a total boycott of the elections and a number of candidates have withdrawn. Press reports note that as many as 110 mayoral and 55 congressional candidates have withdrawn because they do not believe the elections will be free and fair.

We are concerned that there appear to be powerful forces (beyond the individual efforts of Senator Jim DeMint) pushing the United States in the direction of acceptance of efforts to roll back the democratic gains in Latin America because of the election of some or all candidates of the left. Could you tell us if you perceive these rollback efforts as a threat and, if so, what your plans are to minimize them?

Human rights violations continue. The Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) notes, in its second report since the coup, that the de facto government relies on:

“the use of excessive force on the part of military and police, control of the media and closure of media outlets that are not allies of the regime, use of paramilitaries to intimidate, threaten and kidnap those opposed to the coup, and the emission of illegal decrees that suspend the exercise of fundamental rights…. It is clear that a repressive apparatus is being mounted to intimidate and annihilate resistance to the coup. In the 115 days since the coup, thousands of human rights violations have been registered that reflect the evolution of state violence and the rupture of institutionality.”

The United States should forcefully condemn these human rights violations. We ask that it announce that the U.S. will not fund observers to the Nov. 29 elections, and that it not recognize the election results, and that we will work with other members of the Inter-American community to resolve this crisis in a way that reflects democratic processes and respects human rights.


Jack Spence, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Aaron Schneider, Tulane University

David Close, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Marc Zimmerman, University of Houston

Nora Hamilton, University of Southern California

Francisco J. Barbosa, University of Colorado, Boulder

Karen Kampwirth, Knox College

Ellen Moodie, University of Illinois

Gary Prevost, St. John’s University

Thomas W. Walker, Ohio University

Irene B. Hodgson, Xavier University

Julie Stewart, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Marc Edelman, Hunter College, CUNY

Lisa Kowalchuk, University of Guelph, Ontario

Sylvia Tesh, University of Arizona

Eliza Willis, Grinnell College

Lena Mortensen, University of Toronto Scarborough

Abigail E. Adams, Central Connecticut State University

Robin Maria DeLugan, University of California-Merced

Susanne Jonas, University of California, Santa Cruz

Mary Finley-Brook, University of Richmond

Aviva Chomsky, Salem State College

Mayo C. Toruño, California State University, San Bernardino
Miguel Gonzalez, York University

Richard Grossman, Northeastern Illinois University

Carol A. Smith, University of California, Davis

William S. Stewart, California State University, Chico

Katherine Borland, The Ohio State University

Hector Perla, University of California, Santa Cruz

Jefferson Boyer, Appalachian State University

Rose Spalding, De Paul University

Bruce Calder, University of Illinois, Chicago

Sheila R. Tully, San Francisco State University

LaDawn Haglund, Arizona State University

Suyapa Portillo, Pomona College

Arturo Arias, University of Texas

Laura Enriquez, University of California, Berkeley
Chris Chiappari, St. Olaf College

Dana Frank, University of California, Santa Cruz

Katherine Hoyt, Nicaragua Network

Gilbert G. Gonzalez, University of California, Irvine

Celia Simonds, California State University Northridge
Beatriz Cortez, California State University, Northridge

Ana Patricia Rodriguez, University of Maryland, College Park

Justin Wolfe, Tulane Univesrity

Gloria Rudolf, University of Pittsburgh

Elizabeth Dore, University of Southampton, UK

Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University

Leisy Abrego, University of California, Irvine

Craig Auchter, Butler University

Bill Barnes, City College of San Francisco

Linda J. Craft, North Park University, Chicago

Lois Ann Lorentzen, University of San Francisco

Juliana Martinez Franzoni, University of Costa Rica

Breny Mendoza, California State University, Northridge

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