The Associated Press recently reported that General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who led the military-backed coup against democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, would himself run for president in this year’s election. The move has been anticipated since late 2011, when Vásquez, along with a number of ex-military officers, formed the new Honduran Patriotic Alliance party.
Putting aside the irony of Vásquez’ candidacy, his announcement serves as a reminder of the political violence and institutional breakdown that has plagued the Central American country for the three-and-a-half years since he executed the coup. In November 2009, 5 months after Zelaya was dispatched, the illegitimate government proceeded with national elections, hoping these would in effect white-wash the coup. The Obama administration did all it could to ensure that this effort was successful, and current president Lobo was elected under a cloud of repression and impunity.
Today, violence against dissidents, journalists, women, union leaders, activists, the LGBT community and others continues unabated. And while the State Department has withheld some aid to the Honduran military and police, it continues to work closely with the government on counternarcotics efforts with little accountability. The U.S. government has still not conducted an investigation into an incident on May 11, 2012, in which the DEA was involved and in which State Department helicopters were used, that left four innocent people dead.
Though political repression still runs rampant, the opposition LIBRE party, led by the former president and his wife Xiomara Castro, continues to organize in advance of upcoming elections. Party leaders have announced that they will escalate their presence through a series of public demonstrations, the first of which is slated for today, January 24. Yet as long as the U.S. government keeps supporting the Honduran armed forces and working directly and without oversight in drug interdiction efforts, those in power in Tegucigalpa may have little incentive to address the dire human rights situation.