Right now, we are witnessing the biggest political crisis to rock Central America in years1, but the U.S. has moved at, what amounts to politically as, a glacial pace.
Two months ago, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from his home at gunpoint by 300 troops. He was forcibly put on a plane and has only managed to step foot in his home country for roughly two hours since.
In the meantime, a de facto government has assumed power, violently punishing all those who courageously speak out -- dealing a powerful blow to democracy and human rights.
Yesterday, President Zelaya arrived in Washington, DC to meet with Organization of American States (OAS) and U.S. State Department officials to discuss plans for resolution. Tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
While the U.S. is finally poised to cut off nearly $150 million in military assistance to Honduras2 and strengthen its restrictions on the country, there is still a major factor that has not yet been addressed.
The people of Honduras voted for a democratic government, but in the most undemocratic fashion possible, they are in danger of losing that right, among many others. The de facto government has used its unchecked power to conduct mass arrests and police and military-sanctioned beatings against any vocal oppositional figures. The U.S. must use President Zelaya's trip to Washington to send a clear message to coup leaders that abuse of human rights and democracy in Honduras will not be tolerated.
Tell Secretary Clinton to push for accountability for the human rights violations that have been committed by the de facto government.
Extreme instability and political unrest have forced the people of Honduras to take to the streets in protest. Amnesty International researchers have been on the ground since the coup took place and have documented widespread police beatings of students, reporters, political leaders and other activists. Women and media workers have been particularly vulnerable to the violence. We can only expect that the excessive use of police and military force will intensify unless order in soon restored.
In this instance where political implications are huge and the human rights impact is tremendous, there is no time to waste. While President Obama's words have added much-needed pressure to the debate -- labeling the overthrow as illegal and recognizing the "terrible precedent" it would set if unchallenged -- they have not been enough to end the ongoing crackdown on human rights.
Right now, the Obama administration must take decisive action in order to seek a negotiated solution and counter the damage that has already been done.
Tell Secretary Clinton that you want to see human rights returned to the people of Honduras.
The coup has already taken over political powers and human rights in Honduras -- if the U.S. hasn't taken bold action to push for urgent negotiations and a peaceful resolution of the crisis by now, then what more will it take?
Daniel, Kate, Zahir and the rest of the Central America Team