Freedom House Condemns Honduran Coup, Urges Return to Democratic Norms

Washington

Freedom House condemns the coup in Honduras and calls for the immediate return of President Manuel Zelaya to office. Under the supervision of the Organization of American States, all actors involved should begin talks to resolve the crisis peacefully, restore the democratic process and ensure respect for the rule of law and human rights.

 “Latin America suffered for years from military interventions that dashed democratic institutions and caused massive human rights violations," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "The coup d’état in Honduras is an unacceptable anachronism in Latin America, a region that has learned from its painful history and has committed itself to respect democracy and the rule of law."

Troops seized Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica early Sunday, as polls prepared to open for a non-binding referendum that Zelaya hoped would pave the way for lifting a ban on presidential reelection. Honduran presidents have only been allowed one term in office since the restoration of elected government three decades ago.  Congress, the Supreme Court and the military opposed the referendum as illegal.

“Honduran leaders should have resolved these questions about the legality of the referendum through political, not military channels," said Windsor. "This coup in Honduras represents a critical test for democratic norms throughout the hemisphere."

The democratic model of separation of powers has come under increasing threat in Latin America. Presidents wield substantial governing power throughout the hemisphere, but recent years have seen further strengthening of the executive—at the expense of congress and the judiciary—in several countries. President Zelaya’s refusal to comply with decisions by the other branches contributed to the polarized atmosphere that preceded the coup.

Regional leaders were quick to condemn the coup and call for the return of democratic order in Honduras. Freedom House commends U.S. President Barack Obama for his administration's reported efforts to avert the crisis and his statement urging Honduran leaders to engage in peaceful dialogue free from any outside interference. Freedom House also welcomes the strong, clear statement by the Organization of American States condemning the coup as a violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Honduras is ranked Partly Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.

To learn more about Honduras, read:

Freedom in the World 2009: Honduras
Freedom of the Press 2008: Honduras

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Honduras since 1972.

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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