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Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter Submit Letter to OAS on Honduras


Contact: Deanna Congileo, 404-420-5108

The following letter was distributed today from The Carter Center and The Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to the Permanent Representatives of the OAS prior to their planned discussion on Honduras:

As the OAS analyzes the Honduras situation in the wake of the national elections celebrated on November 29 and the suspension of Honduras from the OAS on July 5, The Carter Center and the Friends of the Inter-American Democratic Charter [i] urge member states to consider the principles at stake in this discussion, which at times appear to represent competing values. These principles include:

  1. Collective Defense of Democracy. The collective hemispheric defense of democracy and human rights has been tested. The coup represents a return to the past for Latin America and clearly violated the rights of President Zelaya in forcibly exiling him - a fact which must continue to be repudiated by the community of democracies.
  2. Respect for the Citizens' Expression through the Vote. National elections were held in a surprisingly peaceful and orderly manner on November 29. The electoral process was carried out under authorities named before the coup, according to laws and procedures in place before the coup, and with candidates chosen before the coup. Nevertheless, they took place in an irregular situation with a de facto government in place, a state of siege during a portion of the official campaign, restrictions on the media, and the resignation of more than 100 candidates in protest.

    Reported and rumored human rights abuses, intimidating collections of names of resistance members, and fears of violence had a not-yet verifiable impact on participation in the elections by voters. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has not yet published official results of the presidential race, but the national observer organization Hagamos Democracia projected (based on an extensive nation-wide parallel vote tabulation) that 47.6% of the 4.6 million registered voters cast votes. That would be roughly 2.19 million votes, the same number of votes reported by the TSE for 2005; with the smaller voter's list in 2005 (3.97 million), however, that number represented a participation rate of 55%. It appears that Hondurans continued the trend of a general decline in voting turn-out (73% in 1997; 66% in 2001; 55% in 2005 and 48% in 2009). Thus, the November 29 vote was neither an extraordinary representation of citizen voting participation, nor did the boycott succeed. [ii]
  3. Welfare of the People. The Honduran economy and people, with the second highest rates of inequality and poverty in the hemisphere, are suffering as a result of the irregular situation since June 28, with interruptions in trade, foreign aid and foreign loans. Likewise, Central American neighbors are negatively affected.

We recognize the need for Honduras to move forward, and for international cooperation to be restored to meet the serious needs of the Honduran people. The elections of November 29 offer a partial path out of the prolonged, damaging and destabilizing crisis in Honduras of the past five months. However, the elections do not in themselves resolve the constitutional breach represented by the coup.

To address the various principles at stake, we propose that:

  • The international community endorse the call by President-elect Lobo to form a government of national unity.
  • A government of national unity be installed immediately and in advance of the January 27 inauguration. This government should include cabinet level officers designated by President Zelaya (should he agree to do so), and should be led by one of those ministers, with the current acting president resigning. This government should embark upon the process of national reconciliation and repeal all decrees restricting individual liberties and freedom of speech and press.
  • A Truth Commission should be established, with technical assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or the International Center for Transitional Justice to investigate not only the political antecedents to the coup, but also the serious human rights violations occurring after.
  • Honduras should be reinstated to the OAS and international cooperation be resumed once these steps, provided for in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, have been taken.
  • President-elect Lobo's proposal for a National Dialogue should be supported by the OAS and UN to allow for Honduran society to begin to reconcile the divisions that have grown in recent months and devise mechanisms to ensure that human rights are adequately protected in the future, mechanisms for political participation are clarified, and demands for greater social inclusion are met.

In addition, we urge the OAS to commission a full report and evaluation of this case and the inter-American community's response to it. Beyond the Honduran case, however, we call on the OAS to undertake a full analysis of all the threats to democracy in the Americas and propose new ways in which the Inter-American Democratic Charter could be utilized to protect the democratic process, extend good governance, and devise new mechanisms to allow the OAS and other international actors to provide proactive assistance as well as more effective responses to democratic breakdown. The goal should be to promote respect for the rule of law and help prevent conflicts between branches of government from becoming constitutional crises.

[i] The Friends of the Democratic Charter is an unofficial group of jurists and former leaders and government officials from the Western Hemisphere who seek to increase the visibility of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and to prevent democratic tensions from erupting into crises, with secretariat at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Friends visit countries to assess democratic tensions, encourage citizens and governments to make use of international resources to defend their democracies, and recommend ways for the OAS to apply the Charter in a constructive and preventative manner.

The Carter Center and the Friends have been following the Honduran crisis closely and organized three fact-finding missions: a visit to Costa Rica to meet with President Oscar Arias in September 2009 to discuss the status of the San Jose Accord; a visit to Honduras October 22-24, 2009; and the presence of three experts (on human rights, political analysis, and electoral processes) during the two weeks preceding the November 29 elections, through December 1.

[ii] The TSE notes that the voter's registry has not been purged of the perhaps one million Hondurans living overseas. Thus, we cannot know real participation rates. However, we can compare trends of absolute numbers based on the official statistics, noting that the voter's registry has grown steadily each year since 1993, as has the absolute number of votes cast. Nevertheless the percentage of voters has been declining steadily, most likely representing both a growing apathy among voters and an urgent need to purge the voter's registry of emigrants and deaths.

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