The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Honduras to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Honduras's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. strategy for promoting human rights and democracy focuses on improving governance, increasing transparency and accountability, and ensuring a credible electoral system. The coup d’etat against former President Jose Manuel "Mel" Zelaya on June 28, 2009 was preceded by an attempt by President Zelaya to hold a poll, determined illegal by a court, to canvass support for a referendum on convening a constituent assembly to reform the constitution. The coup interfered with decades of democratic advances in the country.
The U.S. Government encouraged the country's return to democratic order through its condemnation of the coup and support for a negotiated resolution, the full protection of human rights, and the right of Honduran citizens to elect their future leaders. On November 29, 2009, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo was elected president in free and fair elections. The U.S. Government is encouraging and supporting the work of the government to promote the protection of human rights and improved transparency and accountability by strengthening the management capacity of local governments, increasing citizen involvement in local decision-making, strengthening government and civil society oversight of public funds, and implementing the terms of the Truth Commission agreed to as part of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. The United States is focusing on establishing strong links with civil society and other partners to help improve the capacity of government institutions to respond more effectively to citizens needs.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
In response to the coup d’etat, a broad range of assistance to the government was suspended immediately and later terminated on September 3, 2009. The U.S. Government continued assistance for free and fair electoral processes; the U.S. Government provided technical assistance to a domestic election-monitoring program for the November 2009 general elections. This support contributed substantially to the holding of free and fair elections and the subsequent recognition of the results by the international community. With the assistance maintained in the wake of the June coup, the United States continued targeted assistance to strengthen local government capacity to improve accountability to citizen demands, fostered citizen engagement with government representatives to combat corruption, and provided anticorruption training for public officials and persons from civil society groups. On March 4, 2010, the U.S. Secretary of State announced the resumption of suspended assistance to the country.
U.S. officials will work with NGO coalitions and legal professional associations to further rule of law and anticorruption reforms, such as the civil procedure code. These activities are designed to complement other U.S. programs that will focus on combating gang violence and narcotics trafficking, such as those that will be resumed through the Central American Regional Security Initiative. The U.S. will also support public expenditure auditing projects for government agencies and civil society partners.
The U.S. is reviewing closely its military assistance programs to ensure they support the country's path toward continued national reconciliation and respect for human rights. This engagement strategy with security forces is directed at helping the military focus on combating non-state-centered threats to national security, such as transnational organized crime that threatens the country’s sovereignty, while at the same time ensuring respect for human rights and civilian rule.
The United States actively uses diplomatic outreach to promote its human rights and democracy strategy. Such public diplomacy includes the U.S. Ambassador hosting meetings with members of civil society, the media, and government officials regarding the Department of State 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (HRR). U.S. officials have used these opportunities to urge the Secretariat of State for Security and the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute specific cases included in the HRRs.
Following the June 2009 coup there was a marked deterioration in the protection of human rights. During the coup and in the following period under the de facto regime, U.S. officials were at the forefront in calling for the full investigation of the many reported human rights abuses, including: substantial restrictions on freedom of expression for media outlets, journalists, and other members of civil society, assembly, and movement; arbitrary arrests and disproportionate use of force against demonstrators and others based on political beliefs and activities; and erosion of protection of the human rights of members of vulnerable communities, especially women, ethnic minorities, and gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual persons. U.S. officials have continued to remain in close contact with representatives of these vulnerable groups and other members of civil society and have worked with them to document accurately the erosion relating to respect for their rights following the coup. U.S. pressure substantially contributed to the de facto regime's repeal of decrees and other substantial restrictions on freedom of the press. The U.S. Government works closely with government institutions, NGOs, labor unions, and other civil society organizations to encourage reforms, increase citizen participation, and foster respect for human rights and democracy. The U.S. Government uses diplomatic engagement, public outreach, foreign assistance, and related tools to advance human rights and democracy promotion. U.S. officials are working closely to assist the new presidential advisor for human rights in developing a national human rights plan.
Integral to the United States' support for labor rights is regular outreach to tripartite labor organizations, worker rights advocacy groups, the government, and other important stakeholders. The U.S. Government continues to support important labor rights projects to improve the effectiveness of inspections, resolve worker-management conflicts, strengthen the capacity of worker organizations, conduct occupational health and safety training, and combat worst forms of child labor. The U.S. Government supports trade union capacity building efforts on behalf of the right of workers to form unions. This facilitated the resolution of a controversial labor dispute in 2009. In supporting initiatives to combat trafficking in persons, the United States has provided training and funding for government and NGO capacity building to enable officials to recognize and prevent trafficking, assist trafficking victims, and strengthen prosecutions. An antitrafficking program funded by the U.S. Government is establishing the first ever support network in the country for trafficking victims.