In the chaos following national elections in Honduras on November 26, Canadian authorities must take a strong public stand and forcibly denounce evidence of electoral fraud and violent repression of public protests. Across Honduras, tens of thousands of people have been demonstrating their discontent over evidence of electoral fraud by the government-controlled electoral tribunal. As widely reported, while early trends in the vote count indicated that opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla was on track to win, delays, irregularities and evidence of vote-rigging since then favour the incumbent National Party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH).
Even prior to the November 26 vote, Hernández’ attempt at reelection in the face of Honduras’ single-term limit had been challenged as unconstitutional. When former President Mel Zelaya was ousted in a military-backed coup in June 2009 he was accused of trying to seek reelection. Since that time Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the hemisphere to fight for protections of land, environment and just about every individual or collective human right.
The Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) has reported that at least 14 people have been killed as a result of violent state repression against protests, most by Military Police. As well, there have been 51 wounded, 7 seriously, and 844 detained in the first five days while the Honduran government suspended constitutional guarantees across the country starting December 1.
In this context, it is vital that Canada take steps to halt its support, political and economic, to the Hernández regime.
The ongoing debacle of the investigation into the murder of world-renowned Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, in which representatives of a hydroelectric company, soldiers, and other state actors are implicated, has shown that Honduran authorities derive considerable sense of legitimacy from the international community, including the U.S., the EU, and Canada. When an Al Jazeera documentary maker questioned the Honduran Attorney General’s Office about why it refused to agree to a truly independent investigation into Berta’s murder, the official replied:
Many governments do trust the work that we’re doing. The EU trusts us, the U.S. trusts us, Canada trusts us. They’re supporting us in the technical parts of the investigation and with funds. So we believe that if all these governments and agencies believe in us, it’s because we’re doing things well.
This is undoubtedly also related to the importance of Canada’s bilateral relationship with Honduras, as one of the key international players that has helped to legitimize and prop up corrupt and repressive National Party-led regimes in the country since the military-backed coup of June 2009. Between 2009-2013, the Canadian government lobbied for and helped to finance technical support for a new mining law that favours foreign investment in the sector, as well as signing the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement.
Canadian mining companies are very active in Honduras and enjoy extensive support from the Canadian government.
As such, it is notable then that in her December 2 and 10 statements, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland did not attribute “escalating tension and violence” or “deaths and injuries” to the Honduran state forces.
While the tension and violence persists, Reuters reports that the U.S. has certified Honduras for making progress in the areas of corruption and human rights in order to ensure that millions of U.S. dollars will continue flowing to this country. It is important that Canada not follow suit, but take an aggressive stand against corruption and human rights violations.
Canada should suspend its political support to the Honduran government, as the NDP has already called for, as well as any funding that it is providing to security forces and the related apparatus in the country until the Honduran government can verifiably demonstrate that constitutional and human rights of the Honduran people are respected.
While the state of emergency has been lifted across most of the country, it is also urgent that the Canadian government publicly and vociferously call for a full restitution of constitutional rights and clearly denounce police and military repression and criminalization of anti-electoral fraud protesters and all citizens, as well as efforts to silence the press. Finally, it is vital that Canada make clear that it will refuse to recognize any regime that is imposed on the Honduran people against their will, and call for a full and impartial investigation into the manipulation of the electoral process and related violence.
Jennifer Moore is Latin America Program Coordinator for Mining Watch Canada. She works to support communities, organizations, and networks in the region struggling with mining conflicts.
This article originally appeared on MiningWatch.ca.