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Updated 09/04/2009

Honduras News in Review—August 2009

1. U.S. suspends all nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras, refuses to recognize results of upcoming elections
2. August protests marked by government repression, violence
3. Protesters arraigned, campesinos detained
4. Judge suspended for setting protesters free on bail
5. Police offers reward for identifying "terrorists"
6. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducts investigative mission to Honduras
7. Independent international observer delegations visit Honduras, issue reports
8. Honduran human rights advocates take concerns to Washington
9. More Honduras human rights news in brief
10. Billy Joya addresses allegations of past human rights crimes
11. Congress delays passage of controversial military service bill
12. San José Accord stuck in neutral
13. Other countries respond to Honduran crisis
14. Deposed and de facto governments take counteractions
15. Chile orders 129 arrested for Pinochet-era human rights crimes

1. U.S. suspends all nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras, refuses to recognize results of upcoming elections

The U.S. State Department announced on Sept. 3 that it would stop all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras, totaling $30 million. It also said that "based on conditions as they currently exist"—namely, the de facto regime's failure to accept the San José Accord to end the crisis in Honduras—the United States would not recognize the results of the country's November presidential elections. The suspended aid includes $11 million in Millennium Challenge Account funds for the current fiscal year. The Millennium Challenge Compact has final determination of the disbursal of MCA funds, including $215 million in outlaying years, and will be meeting the week of Sept. 7 to make that decision. The aid, exclusive of the MCA funds, is the same as that which was "paused" previously. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley said that the department was able to make this decision without yet calling the events of June 28 a military coup, and that it reserved the option to make that determination at a later date. With these latest moves, he said, "the de facto regime, they’re now in a box and they will have to sign on to the San José Accord to get out of the box." Deposed Presient Manuel Zelaya expressed his pleasure with the move. "With this decision of the United States, the countries of the Americas have formed a single bloc in condemning the coup." On Aug. 25, the U.S. State Department suspended the issue of new, nonresident visas to Hondurans; Crowley said that more visa suspensions would be made public shortly, including anyone who had taken part in or supported the coup. [La Prensa, 8/26/09; AP 8/29/09; State Department statement, 9/3/09; State Department daily briefing, 9/3/09; BBC 9/3/09]
 
Earlier in the month, leaders of the resistance movement met with U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens. While the agenda of the meeting was not disclosed, anonymous sources said that they had been asking the ambassador to transmit a plea for stronger support to his superiors in the State Department. [El Tiempo, 8/10/09] President Barack Obama also urged the restoration of “constitutional order” in Honduras during an Aug. 10 meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, in a joint statement of North American presidents assembled there. Reiterating U.S. support for Zelaya and that the events of June 28 constituted a coup, he complained that "the same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say we are always intervening and the yanquis need to get out of Latin America." [El Tiempo, 8/10/09; Reuters, 8/10/09] Speaking from Brasilia, Brazil on Aug. 12, deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya called once again for stronger U.S. involvement in restoring order by putting more economic pressure on his country. The United States is Honduras’ largest trade partner, and though it has suspended $18 million in military-related economic aid, much of its aid was still flowing through the MCA, according to Alejandro Álvarez, vice-president of the Honduran Council on Private Enterprise. [AP, 8/12/09; La Tribuna, 8/4/09;]

2. August protests marked by government repression, violence

During the second month of the crisis in Honduras, protests—organized by the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat (FRN)—continued to be largely peaceful, but marked by episodes of violence and heavy police and military repression.

Aug. 5. Following a promise to crack down on protests, heavily armored police forces did just that, beating student protesters back with water canons and tear gas until they took shelter in the National Autonomous University of Honduras on Aug. 5. Héctor Clara Cruz, a photographer for the newspaper El Tiempo, was severely beaten by police forces while taking photos of another police officer beating a protester, and incapacitated for a week. The university, which had thus far kept its neutrality in the conflict, was widely considered a safe haven, as it had for years been off limits to the police. Nevertheless, the Cobra special police force followed the students in, throwing tear-gas canisters as they went. When university president Julieta Castellanos and other officials tried to mediate the situation, they were equally mistreated. Reports describe Castellanos being violently pushed to the ground. According to MISF associate producer Oscar Estrada, who has been reporting on events on the ground, this sequence of events has had the effect of radicalizing the formerly neutral leadership of the national university. [AFP, 8/5/09; Cofadeh, 8/6/09; Oscar Estrada report, 8/5/09; El Tiempo, 8/17/09]

Aug. 11. Largely peaceful demonstrations came together in downtown Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula on Aug. 11. Roughly 20,000 people showed up in Tegucigalpa, including former Zelaya administration ministers and the deposed president's wife, daughter and mother. Additionally, campesinos from all corners of the country joined in the protests, many having traveled, some on foot, hundreds of miles to get there. The official speakers protested the interim government’s delay in reaching a mediated agreement, and said that as they time went on, pressure would intensify. Then, as the formal protest was winding down and many of the participants were heading back to the National Pedagogical University for a strategy meeting, a protester was shot and injured by a police officer. The reported reason for the shooting and accounts of the subsequent chain of events vary drastically, but ultimately vandals set fire to a public-transit bus and a Popeye's fast-food restaurant, a franchise owned by a major coup-funding family. The bus driver and passengers were safely evacuated, and no injuries resulted from either fire. Police arrested three protesters in connection with the crime (see story below), but resistance leaders have alleged that the vandalism was caused not by demonstrators but by provocateurs inserted to discredit the movement. Because of the violence, the interim government decreed a curfew in Tegucigalpa for that evening.  [El Tiempo, 8/12/09; El Tiempo, 8/12/09 La Tribuna, 8/12/09; La Tribuna, 8/12/09]

Aug. 12. The outbreak of vandalism on Aug. 11, which elicited a further surge of police repression, in turn encouraged more people to participate in a protest rally Aug 12. A group of youth identified Congressional Vice President Ramón Velázquez Nazzar, who has been vocally contemptuous of protesters, and started to beat him up, and shortly thereafter were beat up themselves by the military. This incident sparked nationwide repression on behalf of the police and military, including a new overnight curfew. Alba Ochoa, coordinator for the Green Forest Development Foundation, was arrested for filming a police officer beating a young man with a metal tube in the aftermath of the protest. She said she was beaten, denied water, threatened and detained for “seditious acts,” even though she had not taken part in the protest. [Revistazo, 8/15/09; Cofadeh, 8/12/09; Oscar Estrada report, 8/12/09; La Tribuna, 8/12/09]

While beatings continued, a military unit broke into the pedagogical university gardens, which were serving as headquarters for the FRN, and started beating students and professors gathered there to receive the protesters after the march. The army, having learned from its incursion in the national university, didn't access the buildings but rather threw tear gas into the building, arresting all those who streamed out. The Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (COFADEH) reported that Alex Matamoros, member of the Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights, who wore a badge identifying his role as a human rights defender, was forcibly arrested and detained when he tried to intervene in the roundup of José Elcer Sabillón, a student who was in a study session at the time of the raid. Matamoros and nine others were released at 3:45 the following morning, after COFADEH and other human rights organization kept a vigil for these individuals held without charge. [Editor's note: the COFADEH report dates these events on Aug. 11, but they coincide with other reports of Aug. 12.] That same evening, police and military bomb units, acting on a tip, found some 12 to 20 (reports vary) molotov cocktails and other explosives in the buildings of the pedagogical university. Officially, these bombs have been used as evidence of the resistance movement's violent intent, but a report from MISF's Estrada indicates that the FRN leadership had actually confiscated the explosives from the backpack of a suspected police infiltrator. The National Police alleged that the bombs were being manufactured in the Chemistry and Pharmacy Building on the National Autonomous University campus by two radical student groups. University President Castellanos roundly rejected the allegations, saying that only a handful of faculty members had access to the building, which has been closed since an accident there a year ago and protected by private security personnel since that time. [Cofadeh, 8/12/09; Oscar Estrada report, 8/12/09; La Tribuna, 8/12/09; La Tribuna, 8/12/09; La Tribuna, 8/13/09; photos of protest: Cofadeh]

Aug. 14. The FRN orchestrated a takeover of a highway in Puerto Cortés, en route from San Pedro Sula to the nearby town of Choloma, on Aug. 14. Police Capt. Héctor Iván Mejía, in charge of local operations, had cleared the temporary takeover until noon and stated so publicly on Radio Globo. Despite these assurances, the full strength of the 200-member police force came down on the protesters at 11 a.m., tear-gassing them, beating them with batons and arresting 21, including three reporters covering the story: Julio Umaña, videographer for Diario Tiempo; Gustavo Cardoza, reporter for Radio Progreso, who was broadcasting live as he was beaten; and Edwin Castillo, reporter for the online news sites Honduras News and El Escamoso. Umaña and Castillo's video equipment were eventually returned when all 21 were freed later in the day, but the footage had been erased. [El Tiempo, 8/14/09; Honduras Laboral/Comun Noticias, 8/14/09; Honduras Laboral, 8/14/09; Honduras Laboral, 8/14/09; Honduras Laboral, 8/14/09; Honduras Laboral, 8/14/09; Oscar Estrada report, 8/15/09]

Irma Villanueva, who participated in the protest, later gave an account to Radio Progreso of four police officers taking her away from the scene of the protests and taking turns raping her in a police pick-up truck before leaving her unconscious in a field. She recalled the names of three of the officers as Ortiz, López and Chepe Luis. [Huffington Post (includes links to broadcast and transcription), 8/24/09]

3. Protesters arraigned, campesinos detained

Two dozen detained protesters, identified in some press reports as "terrorists," went before judge Esteban Quevedo on Aug. 15 in the upper reaches of the Preliminary Prosecutor's building, an unmarked, closed-door institution that human rights groups have accused of operating in a quasi-clandestine manner. Charges against the detainees included robbery, illegal assembly, damages to property and sedition. The Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared alleged that the proceedings were a premeditated strategy of legal intimidation. Defense lawyers for the detainees reportedly did not have access to their clients and only learned of the charges moments before the hearing took place. Depending on the account, 12 to 14 of the protesters were set free on bail, including Alba Ochoa, coordinator for the Green Forest Development Foundation (see story above). The remaining detainees—campesinos and one Colombian-Venezuelan national—were sent to the National Penitentiary due to lack of arraigos, literally "rooting," "influence" or "real estate," but having a specific legal context in Honduras as proof of good citizenship with stable work and family, which is hard for a field worker to prove. The lawyers for the defense argued, unsuccessfully, that they didn't have time to prepare arraigos. They also said there was physical evidence that the detainees were being cruelly and inhumanely treated. Regina Fonseca of the Women's Rights Center, who was present at the hearing, and said, "This was a political trial, they are the first political prisoners [in this conflict] and political prisoners because they are poor." The resistance movement marched on Aug. 18 to demand that the captives be released. [Revistazo, 8/15/09; El Heraldo, 8/18/09; El Tiempo, 8/19/09; Oscar Estrada report, 8/15/09]

4. Judge suspended for setting protesters free on bail

The presiding Tegucigalpa court judge was suspended by the Supreme Court on Aug. 16 for provisionally freeing three men accused of terrorist acts and aggravated arson. The three men—Dagoberto Andrade, Juan Antonio Guevara Vásquez, and José Antonio Flores Meza—whom Judge Maritza Arita Herrera released on bail on Aug. 13, were arrested after allegedly setting fire to a bus and a Popeye's fast-food restaurant two days earlier. The men had been participating in a demonstration by supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Some 50 people were arrested Aug. 11 and 12 for acts of vandalism in connection with the protests; protestors claimed that police had cracked down hard on the initially peaceful demonstration and alleged the presence of infiltrators who wreaked havoc in an attempt to discredit their movement. Arita Herrera said she had released the men pending an investigation "to ensure the presence of the accused in the process." She has since submitted a claim with the Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, saying she is being subject to political persecution and a campaign to smear her public image. In addition to the court suspension, she has been accused in the media of partiality due to the political stance of her husband, public prosecutor Jari Dixon, who has spoken publicly in support of Zelaya and also was one of the leaders of a 2008 hunger strike protesting corruption in the judiciary (see HNR April '08 edition). A number of death threats against Herrera have been posted in the comments sections of a few newspaper Web sites. Arita Herrera pointed out that although she has been censured and criticized for the judgment she made, that judgment has not been reversed. "Their only recourse has been to publicly denigrate me," she said. [La Tribuna, 8/13/09; La Prensa, 8/14/09; La Tribuna, 8/17/09; Defensores En Linea, 8/17/09]

5. Police offers reward for identifying "terrorists"

Police commissioner Danilo Orellana, coordinator for the National Police's "Peace and Democracy" taskforce, announced on Aug. 17 that the agency was offering a reward for information leading to the identification of anyone involved in "terrorists" acts or vandalism that had occurred in recent weeks. The amount of the reward was not specified. Orellana said the accused would be categorized as authors, co-authors, accomplices or instigators, but all would be treated as members of illegal associations, a charge that carries a 15- to 20-year prison sentence. [La Tribuna, 8/18/09]

6. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducts investigative mission to Honduras

A 13-member delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was in Honduras from Aug. 17 to 21 to collect and verify reports of human rights abuses. IACHR Executive Secretary Santiago Cantón said of the mission, “We didn’t come to verify whether there’s been a coup—the OAS already determined that on July 4—but rather to verify the state of human rights in the context of the coup.” [La Tribuna, 8/16/09] The commission set up investigative panels in various parts of the country, where aggrieved citizens lined up to set forth complaints, telling stories of brutal beatings and providing X-rays of their injuries. [La Tribuna, 8/19/09; El Tiempo, 8/20/09]

During the course of its visit, the commission expanded its watch list to over 100 people to whom the government should offer special protection, including officials in the Zelaya government, resistance leaders and human rights advocates. [La Tribuna, 8/16/09] At the same time, in an apparent effort to show the rule of law existed, the Public Ministry put in motion the first trial of military men accused of human rights violations. The two naval officers were accused of illegally detaining a man in Trujillo, Colón with insufficient motive. [El Tiempo, 8/20/09]

The IACHR released a preliminary report of the delegation's findings on Aug. 21. Among other things, it expressed concern about the active role the Army has had in civilian life, including participation in controlling demonstrations. The report also details specific violations of human rights in its various forms, verifying a great deal of the allegations that have been coming out of the country in the past two months, including multiple deaths, at least five disappearances, widespread media intimidation and censorship, thousands of arbitrary detentions, sexual abuse and at least one rape. De facto government officials have reportedly denied any wrongdoing. [El Tiempo, 8/24/09; El Tiempo, 8/22/09; El Tiempo, 8/22/09; IACHR preliminary report, 8/21/09]

7. Independent international observer delegations visit Honduras, issue reports

Article 19, an NGO that works to defend and promote freedom of expression, issued a report http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/honduras-early-warning-signs-of-impending-crisis-statement.pdf titled “Honduras: Early Warning Signs of an Impending Crisis,” dated July 29 and based on its recent fact-finding mission to the country. Key findings include a high level of media polarization; violence and insecurity concerns for reporters and citizens; censorship and violence against human rights defenders; and concern for freedom of political expression through demonstrations and marches. [ConexiHon, ed. 118]

The Observation Mission on the Human Rights Situation in Honduras, an independent international fact-finding team that conducted a visit to the country in July (see story in HNR July edition), released its final report on Aug. 7. The report establishes that the de facto government violated the human rights of citizens opposed to the coup, and includes a number of recommendations to the international community and the Honduran government. [Revistazo, 8/8/09]

Frank Larue, special U.N. rapporteur on freedom of expression, visited Honduras on Aug. 3 and 4, and subsequently issued a report of his findings. “I can affirm that freedom of expression to comment on daily issues, criticize the de fact government or to condemn the coup does not exist in Honduras,” he said, adding, “The human rights situation is progressively deteriorating.” The report details three “worrying phenomena”: free protest is not being allowed; the police are using excessive force and aren't keeping proper detention records; and videographers and photographers are specific targets of police aggression. The report also noted that the atmosphere in the country makes it hard to document human rights abuses, largely because of the lack of objective media. [ConexiHon, ed. 118]

A delegation organized by the nonprofit Global Exchange, which visited Honduras Aug. 7-15 to witness and accompany daily protests and report on the current human rights situation in the country, found that the country was under a "de facto state of siege." Delegation members personally witnessed police and military repression including "unprovoked tear gassing, arbitrary arrest, beatings, theft of property from demonstrators and their organizations, and possible use of provocateurs." They found that the international corporate media is "largely absent" and reporting is often "inaccurate and cursory," and that "an overwhelming number" of Honduran media are "biased, inflammatory, and favor the coup and its backers." Global Exchange published a full report including lists of findings and recommendations, along with photos and testimonies from injured Honduran demonstrators. [Report of Global Exchange Delegation to Honduras; August 7-15, 2009]

8. Honduran human rights advocates take concerns to Washington

Human rights advocates Reina Rivera, of the Center for the Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH) and Claudia Hermannsdorfer of the Center for Women's Rights (CDM) visited Washignton Aug. 6-9 to speak about rights abuses in Honduras since June 28. The women met with staff at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the State Department, the Honduran Embassy, and the Center for Justice and International Law to testify to the threats, intimidation and censorship of those who oppose the de facto government. Among other things, they expressed concern over the government-imposed curfew; the use of military force to occupy public institutions, communication and energy outlets; the military's staging of "micro-coups" to replace mayors with new representatives in more than 10 municipalities; and the lack of civil supervision, or oversight by the attorney general or human rights ombudsman, of military and police, including prevention of torture or abuse or oversight of prisons. Rivera and Hermannsdorfer, both attorneys who have been working on rights issues in Honduras for two decades, played roles in the investigation and prosecution of human rights crimes committed by Honduran security forces during the 1980s. Hermannsdorfer described the ongoing worry of many Honduran citizens that "not only was the president ousted, but democracy was ousted and all the progress we've made on human rights in the last 20 years has been lost. There are so many issues that haven't been resolved from the '80s and they are having consequences now." [MISF interview with Reina Rivera and Claudia Hermannsdorfer, 8/7/09]

9. More Honduras human rights news in brief

On Aug. 4, the National Telecommunications Commission issued an order to shut down Radio Globo and its 14 transmitter stations throughout the country, citing “sedition.” The radio station, recognized by a recent Global Exchange delegation (see above story) as the only one in the country that opposes the coup, continues to broadcast. [Defensora en Linea, 8/4/09; NarcoNews, 8/4/09]

The Stockholm Declaration Monitoring Group (G-16), which groups all the countries and agencies that make up a great deal of Honduras’ official development help, sent a written request to top law-enforcement officials in the country for an investigation into the reports of human rights abuses that have been coming out since June 28. [El Tiempo, 8/17/09; Revistazo, 8/14/09]

On Aug. 13, Lidiet Díaz, reporter for Radio Globo, was expelled from the Government House and prohibited from covering a swearing-in ceremony that de facto President Michelleti was conducting. Michelleti himself came out to yell at her to leave, an act that an El Tiempo photographer captured but was forced by security personnel to delete from his camera. [Honduras Laboral, 8/14/09]

Amnesty International issued a report on Aug. 19 accusing Honduran security forces of using beatings and mass arrests as punishment for ongoing protests in the country, and expressing concern about the intimidation of human rights defenders. The report is based on interviews and photos taken during and after police, aided by the military, broke up a peaceful protest in Tegucigalpa on July 30. [NY Times, 8/18/09]

Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, best known for ordering the capture of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, arrived in Honduras on Aug. 23 to take part in a conference to ascertain what jurisdiction, if any, international courts have in pursuing human rights violations that have taken place since the June 28 coup. At the conference he said, “If investigation is impeded in one country, if it’s not possible to carry it out, if there is a palpable omission in the judicial bodies of that country, and if there is no protection for victims of the types of crimes that systematically target groups of people, there exists the obligation of helping and responding in the [International Criminal Court.]” [El Tiempo, 8/24/09; Xinhua, 8/26/09; El Tiempo, 8/26/09]

On Aug 23, masked gunmen threatened the lives of personnel at a transmission station of Canal 11, one of the few media outlets to maintain its objectivity since the coup. A human rights prosecutor will be investigating the case. In the same attempt, transmission facilities for Radio Globo, and Canal 36 Cholusat Sur, both openly anti-coup outlets, were damaged. [El Tiempo, 8/24/09; El Tiempo, 8/24/09; Hondudiario, 8/24/09]

Resistance leader and congressional deputy Marvin Ponce was hurt during a protest in the latter part of the month. From his hospital bed, he called it a desperate act from a government that “feels it has lost the battle against a populace that doesn’t accept it.” [El Libertador, 8/26/09]

U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto proposed on Aug. 28 that the Council on Human Rights assign a special rapporteur on human rights to Honduras. [Hondudiario, 8/29/09]

10. Billy Joya addresses allegations of past human rights crimes

In a New York Times interview, Billy Joya, a former Honduran police captain who has assumed a role as security adviser in the Micheletti cabinet, denied participating in human rights crimes during the 1980s but said he would have, if ordered to do so. Joya is accused of the illegal detention, torture and murder of civilians in the 1980s, when he was a commanding officer in the military intelligence Batallion 3-16. “It was never my responsibility to detain people, to torture people or to disappear people,” Joya said. “But if those had been my orders, I am sure I would have obeyed them, because I was trained to obey orders.” In an interview with MISF in 2000, however, Joya did admit to participating in the 1982 detention of six university students, accused of terrorist acts, who were illegally held and tortured. In the 1990s, Joya was charged with crimes in this and other cases of detention, torture and murder—a total of 27 charges—but has been acquitted on technicalities. [NY Times, 8/7/09]

11. Congress delays passage of controversial military service bill

On Aug. 18, congressional deputies called for a suspension of discussions about a proposed change to the military service law because of the tremendous controversy it was stirring during this time of crisis within the country. The bill, which was originally proposed while Manuel Zelaya was still in office, would have required a two-year mandatory service period once a person had signed up; military service would still be voluntary. Detractors of the legislation reportedly feared abuse of conscripts by superiors, since the law doesn't allow them to pull out due to abuse. Additionally, the bill would have inserted a provision for the president to enact a draft in times of crisis. Under the bill, passive "reserves"—meaning anyone of military age who hasn't served—could have been called up on the president's orders, and active reserves—those who had previously served—could have been called up for specific missions. [La Tribuna, 8/17/09; El Tiempo, 8/13/09; El Tiempo, 8/18/09]

12. San José Accord stuck in neutral

The month of August saw a lot of talk but very little movement on the San José Accord, the plan put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The accord seemed to gain ground with a recommendation by a congressional panel that the amnesty proposal—one of the key points of contention—be accepted by the full Congress. [http://www.tiempo.hn/secciones/crisis-politica/1900-comision-legislativa-a-favor-de-aprobar-amnistia El Tiempo] On Aug. 12, a delegation from the Michelleti government traveled to Washington to meet with the Organization of American States to discuss the next steps in the accord negotiations. The delegation consisted of de facto Chancellor Carlos López Contreras, businessman and former presidential candidate Arturo Corrales, lawyer Mauricio Villeda and former Supreme Court President Vilma Morales. They returned optimistic, after having met with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. The meetings paved the way for the OAS mission that arrived later in the month and again after the OAS had left to talk about moving the accord further. [Hondudiario, 8/12/09; Hondudiario, 8/13/09; La Prensa, 8/26/09]

A fairly well organized campaign then ensued to take the momentum away from the accord just as the OAS mission was to arrive. First, the Supreme Court of Honduras issued comments on the accord in a nine-point document issued on Aug. 23, categorically opposing Zelaya's restitution and almost every other point in the accord, and citing and asserting the supremacy of Honduran law in the matter. The same day, Ramon Custodio, national commissioner for human rights, spoke out against Arias' role in the crisis, saying that it was "very negative," and that as a mediator, he should have found reconciliation between the parties. He also said Zelaya's return is unacceptable because a large part of the population is against it. On Aug. 25, Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubí also came out against the amnesty proposal, which he said would "tie the hands" of the Public Ministry. [El Tiempo, 8/24/09; El Tiempo, 8/24/09; El Tiempo, 8/24/09; Hondudiario, 8/25/09]

The OAS mission, initially delayed by a flap over the inclusion of Insulza in the delegation, arrived Aug. 24. Accompanying Insulza were the foreign ministers of Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panamá, and Argentina. Its agenda consisted of meetings with civil society groups, the National Congress, Public Ministry, electoral tribunal, Supreme Court, various religious authorities, and all presidential candidates. Ultimately, the mission ended in deadlock and mixed reactions. The president of the National Association of Industries, Adolfo Facussé, said the OAS delegation arrived with threats of U.S. sanctions if the interim government didn't reinstate Manuel Zelaya as president. On the other hand, Elvin Santos, Liberal Party presidential nominee, said that he was encouraged by his meeting with the delegation. [La Tribuna, 8/9/09; La Tribuna, 8/9/09; La Tribuna, 8/24/09; El Tiempo, 8/24/09; Voice of America News, 8/26/09; Hondudiario, 8/25/09; Hondudiario, 8/25/08]

Both the de facto and deposed presidents offered possible next steps in separate memoranda to Arias and the OAS. Michelleti offered to step down and have the Supreme Court president take over, but Zelaya called that proposal illegal since it wouldn't rectify the unconstitutionality of his ouster in the first place. Michelleti also offered that Zelaya come back in 2010 to face charges against him. Zelaya has allegedly sent Arias some new proposals, but they have not been revealed. [NY Times, 8/27/09; El Tiempo, 8/29/09; El Tiempo, 8/30]

13. Other countries respond to Honduran crisis

Other countries have been taking action against Honduras in the past month. Panama asked to be withdrawn from Central American Parliament on the week of Aug. 10, with Panamanian Chancellor Juan Carlos Varela citing the body’s inaction on the Honduran crisis in Honduras. The institution has come under attack in the past for supposedly harboring politicians who otherwise would be the object of prosecution. [El Tiempo, 8/10/09] On Aug. 17, the parliament of Mercosur—a regional trade agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with associate members Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru— condemned the coup in Honduras, and called for the restitution of the constitutional government of Manuel Zelaya. [El Tiempo, 8/18/09] After Manuel Zelaya dismissed the ambassador to Spain, José Eduardo Martell Mejía, on Aug. 5, Spain decided to pull his accreditation and ask him to leave the country on Aug. 17. Spain said the decision “was consistent with the international community’s agreement to maintain official ties with the constitutional government of Honduras,” meaning the Zelaya government-in-exile. [El Tiempo, 8/21/09] Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández on Aug. 27 suggested that Honduras be temporarily expelled from the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States. “By just adopting this measure, Zelaya would be back in two to three months,” Fernández said. Former Panamanian President Martín Torrijos and others announced their immediate support for the proposal, while CAFTA negotiator for Honduras, Melvin Redondo, dismissed the idea, saying, “The accord doesn’t allow for unilateral suspension.” [El Tiempo, 8/27/09; El Tiempo, 8/27/09; Hondudiario, 8/30/09]

14. Deposed and de facto governments take counteractions

As the conflict lengthens, both the deposed and de facto governments are taking steps to gain standing. The Michelleti government has released arrest warrants for a number of former ministers under the Zelaya government. Zelaya himself is wanted for treason for allegedly trying to change the form of government via a constitutional assembly. Ousted minister of the presidency Enrique Flores Lanza is wanted, along with Zelaya, for abusing authority by signing allegedly illegal emergency decrees authorizing a campaign to support the opinion poll. Former Central Bank president Edwin Araque is accused of misusing his post for allegedly carting out money in wheelbarrows, as is former finance minister Patricia Rebeca Santos in authorizing that withdrawal. Others, including national energy and telecommunications heads, have also been charged with crimes. [La Prensa, 8/17/09] Meanhwile, the Zelaya government-in-exile has taken away diplomatic accreditation from roughly 20 diplomats. The Michelleti government has also withdrawn their support from 20 diplomats, four consuls in the United States and 16 elsewhere in the world. Because the international community only recognizes Zelaya as president, only diplomats accredited by him are recognized in-country. [El Heraldo, 8/17/09]

15. Chile orders 129 arrested for Pinochet-era human rights crimes

On Sept. 1, a Chilean judge issued indictments for 129 individuals accused of human rights crimes during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The individuals, who range from chauffeurs to high-ranking police and military officers, are charged with the kidnapping, torture and assassination of leftist opponents; a reported 3,197 suspected leftists were killed for political reasons under Pinochet and another 30,000 people were tortured. In an interview with NPR, Peter Kornbluh, director of the Chile Documentation Project at the nonprofit National Security Archive in Washington, said, "This is a huge statement in the history of human rights judicial process … a statement that civilized countries don't close the chapter on human rights crimes of the past … and that countries will hold their leaders and their national security agents accountable for the types of crimes that were committed in Chile, in Argentina, for torture, disappearance, illegal detention. Certainly those are issues we're debating in the United States right now, of how to deal with the past." [CNN, 9/1/09; NPR, 9/2/09; Independent, 9/3/09]