Canadian-based Human Rights & Elections Monitoring Delegation November 2013
Common Frontiers is sending a delegation to Honduras from November 17-27th 2013 as human rights and official elections observers for the Honduran presidential elections on Sunday November 24, 2013. The delegation is composed of representatives from various labour organizations, NGO’s, community groups, academics and a former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nations. The observer mission will travel to various parts of the county to meet with communities and groups impacted by Canadian investment in the areas of resource extraction (mining), maquiladora and the mega tourism sector.
Report summaries from Honduras will be posted on this page as they are received. Click on the links to read the entire report.
Report 11 – Nov 28, 2013
Canada has blood on its hands in Honduras
BY Mark Taliano The fight for freedom in Honduras, where many citizens feel caged and shackled, is an uneven contest between the haves and the have-nots.
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The despotic National party is allied with the usual suspects: military, police, private security, paramilitary police, corporations, rich oligarchies … and paid assassins. The United States, an ally of the transnational corporations that are pillaging this country, has six military bases of occupation, as well as a network of destabilizing influences: a constellation of intersecting trajectories that support the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez, a consequence of the illegal 2009 military coup that overthrew the democratic government of Manuel Zelaya. Canada, too, is enabling repression and persecution by recognizing the Honduran governance and by negotiating the corporate-empowering Canada-Honduras “free trade” agreement with Hernandez’s “Nacional” party. Canadian indigenous leader Bob Lovelace reports that since Canada began negotiating the Canada-Honduras “trade agreement” in 2009, there have been 13 political disappearances and 200 political assassinations in Honduras. A comprehensive list of political assassinations from May 2012 to Oct 19, 2013 is offered by Karen Spring of the Rights Action group. The narratives of current Honduran leaders who are fighting for freedom, and against corruption, offers a window into a murky world of murder and repression that has transformed this exotic setting into the “murder capital of the world.” Jose Luis Baquedano, a political leader in the Libre party, occupies the seemingly unenviable position of Secretary General of the United Workers Confederation (CUTH). He explains that he has already been the victim of assassination attempts, and that his house was burned down . Furthermore, he explains that his current job as Director of the General Council of CUTH is filling a void created by the murder of the previous Director. Impunity for murder is the rule, rather than the exception, in Honduras. Bertha Isabel Caceres Flores, a leader of the Lenca Indigenous people, is General Coordinator of the Civic Council of the Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). A Chinese hydro-electric project is imposing itself on the ancestral lands of the Lenca Indigenous peoples, and her community is fighting for the right to free, prior, informed consent, as guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Flores and her family have already received very credible death threats — her colleague, Thomas Garcia, was killed — and she is at the top of a government “Kill List” which includes her lawyer. More recently, her community suffered another threat. Sources declared that after the (likely fraudulent) Nov. 24 Presidential elections, they will “get them all, dead or alive”. Canada, with its “free trade” deal with Honduras, and its 75 mining concessions, has blood on its hands. The current regime of oppression is being reinforced, and the Honduran peoples’ collective shackling is being entrenched by a repressive regime and an asymmetrical economy. Honduras is quickly becoming a neo-colonial appendage of the increasingly global corporatocracy that is imposing itself on the world behind the subterfuge of secretive “free trade” deals. Colonialism and freedom do not walk “hand in hand”. We are all complicit in these crimes against humanity.

Report 10 – Nov 28, 2013

Open Letter in Solidarity with Social Movements, and Human Rights Defenders in Honduras

As a grassroots organization committed to the self-determination of all peoples and communities, and thus in support of transparency and inclusion in democratic processes, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) expresses its concern for the current developments in the Honduran national elections.

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The Central American nation is notorious as a drug trafficking trade route and for having the highest homicide rate per capita since the 2009 coup against democratically-elected and popular leader Manuel Zelaya. It is now also earmarked for large trade investments from Canada. With this in mind, two MISN organizers – Monica Gutierrez and Raul Burbano – participated in a delegation to Honduras that started on November 18th organized by Common Frontiers. Raul stayed in the country as an international observer to the national elections.

On Sunday evening of November 24th, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) projected Juan Orlando Hernandez in the lead with 34% of the vote. It did so with only approximately 54% of the votes tallied and with no indication of where those numbers came from. By Monday afternoon, a day after national elections took place, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) [1] declared Juan Orlando Hernandez of the conservative National political party as the winner of the presidential election, with 35% of votes still outstanding. National newspapers reported congratulatory calls from presidents of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia and Spain. On Monday evening, the TSE went silent and their website appeared to be down [2]. This arouses great suspicions in the context of grave irregularities witnessed by international observers from various groups. In the days leading up to the elections, there were numerous reports of intimidation by Honduran security forces. Masked men with guns who were presumed to be military police surrounded LIBRE party headquarters on John F Kennedy Boulevard. On the night of November 23, Maria Amparo Pineda Eduarte, a peasant leader of Cooperativa el Carbón, a member of the Central Nacional de Trabajadores del Campo (CNTC), and president of a polling station for the LIBRE party in Cantarranas was assassinated along with Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga after leaving a polling station training [3]. Groups such as the Honduran Solidarity Network, The Observatory of Violations of Human Rights and Women’s Resistance, the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), The National Lawyers Guild, The Citizen’s Platform of Youth of the Center of Studies for Democracy (CESPAD), international observers, independent reporter Jesse Freeston [4], and Berta Caceres, of the Indigenous Council of the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organization of Honduras (COPINH) [5] and Canadian-based delegations all reported incidents of intimidation, bribery, coercion, irregularities, and inadequacies that point to fraud. The Common Frontiers delegation has also reported irregularities and have voiced their concern through a Press Release [6]. When analyzing the current situation, it is puzzling that after auditing Honduras’ electoral system, the Organization of American States (OAS) Electoral Observer Mission reached the conclusion that the system was reliable and that there is little chance of fraud [7]. Lisa Kubiske, the United States ambassador and Ulrike Lunacek, head of the European Union observer mission also vouched for the electoral process stating that the vote and the latest counts were regular [8]. Canadian investment has played a large, mostly unfavourable role in the human rights situation in Honduras. Resource extraction projects such as Goldcorp’s mines in the Siria Valley [9], Gildan’s large-scale maquila industries [10], and mega tourism projects that infringe on Garifuna territories [11] exemplify the lack of respect for sovereignty and virtually inexistent free, prior, and informed consent. This is further encouraged through the recently signed Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Honduras which has been widely criticized as promoting private interests and weakening the sovereignty of Honduran institutions. As Stacey Gomez, Program Officer, Americas Policy Group writes, “Canada can, and should, play a more constructive role in Honduras.” Instead, Canada is currently “amplifying trade and investment in a context in which there are no legal or democratic guarantees for those who may be adversely affected” [12]. In an open letter to the presidential candidates, Amnesty International pleaded for them to prioritize human rights in their political campaigns. In recent years Indigenous leaders, peasant leaders, LGTBQ activists, justice officials and journalists, “have been the target of abuse and human rights violations”. Social organizers and human rights defenders suffer threats, attempts, surveillance, violence and face potential kidnappings or murder [13]. Given the gravity of the current situation, and the importance of these elections after the 2009 coup, we call for solidarity with those who are raising questions concerning the election results. We call on national and international solidarity and human rights organizations to continue close scrutiny of the ongoing count, backstage negotiations and the discrepancies observed by national and international observers. We also demand respect for the democratic process, for intimidations and obstructions of suffrage to be properly documented and investigated, and for human rights to be upheld through this process. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]< [13]

Report 9 – Nov 27, 2013

Movimientos sociales denuncian irregularidades

Written by CSA-TUCA

La CSA, junto con 8 organizaciones y redes internacionales presentes en Honduras, han presentado este martes, 26/11, informes preliminares sobre el proceso electoral y la situación de los derechos humanos en Honduras Martha Flores, de la red de Jubileo Sur/Américas, ha leído la declaración conjunta de los movimientos sociales en la sede del Comité de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos de Honduras (Cofadeh) este martes, 26/11

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Movimientos sociales, redes y organizaciones de la Región se pronuncian ante las elecciones en Honduras

Los movimientos sociales, redes y organizaciones no gubernamentales, presentes en el acompañamiento internacional a las elecciones de Honduras, emiten la siguiente declaración para expresar sus serias preocupaciones ante el anuncio del Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE), del resultado de las elecciones del domingo 24 de noviembre. Desde días antes a realizarse las elecciones generales de Honduras, representantes de nuestras organizaciones se desplegaron por diferentes Departamentos del territorio nacional, pudiendo comprobar las serias dificultades que el pueblo hondureño tendría para ejercer su derecho a elegir sus representantes ante los diferentes cargos de elección popular. A la situación de violencia, persecución y amenazas que viven activistas de DDHH, dirigentes sindicales, campesinos e indígenas, y centenares de otros/as luchadores/as sociales, desde el golpe de Estado de 2009, se sumó un clima de terror y miedo impuesto por los medios de comunicación, partidos tradicionales y otras instituciones con relación a las elecciones generales y la posibilidad de que nuevos actores políticos y sociales irrumpieran en el escenario del poder. No se puede decir que las elecciones se desarrollaron bajo condiciones de normalidad, como lo han planteado las misiones de observación de la UE y la OEA. El día 24 acompañamos la multitudinaria movilización de la ciudadanía para ejercer su derecho al voto. El clima de entusiasmo popular registrado en muchas partes se contradijo las intenciones de influir de manera ilegal sobre la voluntad popular. Durante todo el día observamos diversas formas de manipulación y compra de votos, amenazas y otros actos de violencia contra los testigos y votantes de LIBRE. Las organizaciones participantes recibieron múltiples denuncias, así como la de varias organizaciones internacionales desplegadas aquí para hacer observación de las elecciones. Luego de totalizadas apenas el 60 % de las actas, el TSE, los medios de comunicación y los partidos del estatus quo han pretendido imponer como un resultado definitivo la elección del candidato del partido gobernante, Juan Orlando Hernández, como presidente electo. Sin embargo LIBRE ha rechazado este resultado, señalando que existe una manipulación de los mismos, que el TSE oculta un porcentaje elevado de actas electorales sin escrutar, así como otras graves irregularidades. El partido LIBRE y el Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP), anunciaron que no se dejarán arrebatar la victoria y utilizarán todos los recursos necesarios para hacer respetar la voluntad popular. Las organizaciones que participamos de este acompañamiento solidario al Pueblo de Honduras, advertimos sobre el peligroso momento que vive el país, ante el fraude montado por los mismos personajes e instituciones responsables del Golpe de Estado de 2009. Que el no reconocimiento de la voluntad del pueblo, está creando un clima de tensión y zozobra, lo que profundiza la inestabilidad y falta de institucionalidad en Honduras. Llamamos la atención, en especial sobre las consecuencias que traería para los movimientos sociales y sus representantes, una nueva escalada de represión y persecución por quienes continuarán utilizando su permanencia en el poder, para profundizar el saqueo contra el Pueblo de Honduras. Tegucigalpa, 26 de noviembre 2013 Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores/as de las Américas (CSA) Jubileo Sur / Américas SOAWatch Fronteras Comunes Canadá Movimiento Social Nicaragüense Diálogo 2000 – Jubileo Sur Argentina Red de Ambientalistas Comunitarios de El Salvador RACDES SAMGUA Guatemala ACONAPMG Guatemala

Report 8 – Nov 23, 2013

Interview with Radio Canada International

Raul Burbano sent along a link to an interview he conducted with Radio Canada International.

-Listen to the interview on the RCI website

Report 7 – Nov 23, 2013

Alarming escalation in the intimidation towards International Election Observers and Accompaniers in Honduras

Today around 10:30-11am in Hotel Suites Aurora in Tegucigalpa 5 men and 1 woman armed civilians dressed men with ski masks offered no identification, another 3 were wearing Immigration t-shirts, who went to reception.

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They asked for passports for the people in the lobby who were here, as well as asked for all International Observers to come to the lobby, asked them questions and looked through their passports and took personal records. They took 2 passports from Brazilian international observers without explaining why. When they asked why, they say “because yes we can”.

They explained they were tourists and still they took passports without credible cause. This is an international outrage that this is happening during this election process and we are concern for what this may foretell for the transparency process tomorrow during elections. One observer said that when she asked a soldier who he was, he said he could not identify himself, that he was under the command of Manuel Escobar Mejia. We are extremely concerned for the safety of the International Observers and anyone here to witness the process of the elections. Please stay tuned to what is going in Honduras and please be aware of the intimidation to International Observers.

Report 6 – Nov 23, 2013

HSN – Northern Zone Statement on Immigration Harrassment of Delegation

By Raul Burbano

At approximately 10 am the morning of 22 of November, 4 people identifying themselves as Honduran Immigration agents, arrived at the offices of ERIC-SJ (Equipo de Reflexión Investigación y Comunicación – Honduras) , asking to see members of the HSN/AGJ delegation of international observers in Honduras for national elections this Sunday.

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The delegation, which was not present at the time, is comprised of 166 persons from the United States, Canada, and El Salvador who have been accredited by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Honduras as official election observers. Having failed to find their first target, the demanded to see the identification of all the Hondurans present at the offices of ERIC-SJ.

Later at 7 pm this evening (11/22/2013), the same group of agents disrupted an election observer training of the HSN/AGJ delegation at the La Fragua retreat center in Progreso, Honduras. Without prior warning, the officials intimidated observers by demanding to see everyone’s passports and observer credentials. Election observer credentials are not needed for proof of legal immigration status. The fact that Agent Reynaldo demanded each person’s observer credentials reveals an interest that exceeds the duties of an immigration agent. Ironically only one hour earlier, the delegation completed three hours of formal training in the same room with official representatives of the Supreme Election Tribunal. In total, four persons arrived in a grey crew-cab truck without license plates– but with DGME (official Immigration Department) lettering– and drove onto the private property. Their leader was Juan Reynaldo, badge number 066, and his associates were Cesar Medina, badge 086, Walter Ramos, badge 088, and Diana Avila, badge 052. Originally, Agent Reynaldo said he was responding to complaints from neighbors. Later, he changed his story to say that General Bernardino Cervantes had sent orders from Tegucigalpa to investigate the group. The Honduran Government’s Deputy in charge of immigration in Yoro Province, Magdalena Medina, claimed to know nothing of the incident. Although the Honduran government begrudgingly has permitted international election observers for the tense, high-stakes elections this Sunday, this calculated act of harassment exposes the government’s desire to conduct this election outside the view of the concerned human rights and pro-democracy forces. Delegates consider these actions as a clear and hostile attempt by the Honduran government to intimidate us and to delegitimize the voices of electoral observers who have arrived in good faith to witness Sunday’s historic vote.

Report 5 – Nov 22, 2013 Acompañantes de los Estados Unidos y Canadá Llegan a Honduras

La delegación más grande de acompañantes electorales y observadores de derechos humanos tendrá presencia en 10 departamentos

Conferencia de prensa Viernes 22 de noviembre a las 10am Oficinas de COFADEH, Tegucigalpa

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Ciento sesenta personas de la Red de Solidaridad con Honduras afiliadas con organizaciones de los Estados Unidos y Canadá están sirviendo como acompañantes electorales y observadores de derechos humanos durante las elecciones nacionales. Los participantes vienen de organizaciones, iglesias, sindicatos, pueblos indígenas, representantes de la diversidad sexual y comunidades que vienen desde EE.UU., Canadá, España y El Salvador. La Red de Solidaridad con Honduras es una coalición de más de 20 organizaciones no gubernamentales y es el grupo más grande de “Acompañantes Internacionales” acreditado por el Tribunal Supremo Electoral, con presencia en 10 departamentos del país.

Nuestro objetivo es acompañar al pueblo Hondureño en su proceso electoral y en su búsqueda de democracia y justicia social en su país. Estamos aquí de buena fe como acompañantes. A nuestra llegada nos hemos encontrado con varias situaciones irregulares y denuncias, las cuales estamos investigando. Como misión estamos muy preocupados por un ambiente marcado por la extrema violencia y persecución contra la oposición política, los movimientos sociales, periodistas, defensoras y defensores de los derechos humanos, diversidad sexual, sindicalistas, campesinado y los pueblos indígenas y negros. Las elecciones se llevan a cabo en un clima de intimidación, asesinatos de candidatos (alcaldes, diputaciones y dirigentes) y persecución de defensoras y defensores de derechos humanos. También estamos preocupados con el papel de los EE.UU. y Canadá en el tema de asistencia de seguridad y el impacto de inversiones que puede exacerbar la crisis y aumentar la represión y explotación. Vemos con profunda preocupación las declaraciones por la Embajadora Kubiske. Rechazamos cualquiera intervención por parte de nuestros gobiernos, ya sea en forma de declaraciones o acciones, que puede interferir con la voluntad del voto. Denunciamos la campaña mediática de desprestigio y criminalización en contra de los defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos nacionales e internacionales y los acompañantes del proceso electoral. Nuestro trabajo es visibilizar las violaciones de derechos humanos y denunciar las mismas, para que sean atendidas rápidamente por los organismos nacionales e internacionales pertinentes. Al final, esperamos que esta elección refleje verdaderamente las aspiraciones del pueblo hondureño. Sin embargo, lo que sea el resultado, seguiremos con los ojos puestos en Honduras y seguiremos llamando la atención de todo el mundo a las violaciones de derechos humanos y a las luchas del pueblo hondureño. -view English Translation

Report 4 – Nov 16, 2013 For Immediate Release

International Election Observers Head to Honduras

(Toronto, Ont.) – An international network of human rights organizations will be sending 180 official election observers to Honduras from November 17-27th 2013 to observe the upcoming general election, which will be taking place on November 24th.

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Common Frontiers Canada is coordinating the Canadian based portion of the delegation which will be composed of representatives from various labour organizations, community groups, academics and a former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nations. The mission will travel to various parts of the country to meet with communities and groups impacted by Canadian investment in mining, maquiladoras and the mega tourism sector.

Honduras is widely viewed as the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides in 2012 (source: United Nations). Since 2010, there have been more than 200 politically motivated killings and Honduras is now widely regarded one of the most dangerous places for journalists. According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, Honduras has the regions highest rate of journalists killed per population. The leading Honduran human rights group COFADEH has documented that at least sixteen activists and candidates from the main opposition party LIBRE have been assassinated since June of 2012. The mission takes place on the heels of the Canadian government announcing the signing of the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement. Raul Burbano, delegation leader with Common Frontier’s says, “It’s disconcerting to see the Canadian government focus on increasing its corporate profits via trade and investment amidst a political and human rights crisis in Honduras”. Members of the U.S Senate have expressed serious concerns over the increased repression and general atmosphere of fear in which the presidential elections will take place. Highlighting a “pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers, and LGBT activists”. Instead of addressing the crisis, President, Porfirio Lobo Sosa has responded by militarizing the country and deploying 1,300 troops into the streets under “operation liberty”. Critics argue this has just exacerbated the problem. For more information: Raul Burbano Program Director, Common Frontiers: (416) 522 8615 or or in Honduras 011 504 89014511 Download the media release as a PDF in English    en français    En español

Report 3 – Nov 13, 2013

Why Canada and the U.S. are on the ‘Wrong Side of Democracy’

By Mark Taliano and Raul Burbano

Living conditions in Honduras have gone from bad to worse since the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was ousted by a military coup in 2009. The rupture of democratic governance has set Honduras back decades. A study by the Washington-based “Center For Economic And Policy Research” notes “In the two years after the coup, Honduras has had the most rapid rise in inequality in Latin America, and now stands as the country with the most unequal distribution of income in the region.” From 2010-2012 the extreme poverty rate has increased by 26 per cent.

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Hondurans have experienced increased levels of violence since the coup and unprecedented levels of murder and criminalization of politicians, human rights advocates, labor activists, journalists and indigenous leaders. Bertha Oliva of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACH) that death squads are targeting social leaders and others just months prior to the elections.

Common Frontiers, and the Americas Policy Group, Canadian-based civil society organizations, document in “Honduras: Trade And Investment At The Expense Of Human Rights” some of the shocking statistics of a country in distress: 7,172 murders were committed in 2012 alone (a record high), and an average of 10 massacres per month were recorded in 2013. Not surprisingly, a poll by the Center for Studies for Democracy (CESPAD) revealed widespread dissatisfaction: Only 3.2 per cent of the population felt that the current development path was to the benefit of the majority of the population; 78 per cent of the people polled were dissatisfied with the current governance; and 98 per cent of Hondurans felt that urgent change was needed. Instead of taking measures to help improve living conditions, however, Canada and the U.S. are promoting hyper-neoliberalism in Honduras and offering tacit political and economic support to the regime that is arguably exacerbating these calamities. In this sense, Canada and the U.S. are said to be on the “wrong side of democracy” in this on-going tragedy. Canada, for its part, is currently finalizing a parasitical “Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement”, which promises to further entrench and empower the elites in Honduras, to the detriment of most Hondurans, and the country. The agreement, negotiated in secret, will increase the economic activity in the country, and therefore the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but it will not enrich the majority of Honduras. Instead, it will further exacerbate the divide between the rich and the poor, in this “asymmetrical” society, where the elite minority controls the levers of power and wealth. Mining companies will continue to extract public resources, and continue to contribute to the militarization of Honduras by funding State Security to protect their investments. Additionally, they will be exploiting indigenous labour that is not protected by collective bargaining or other labour “rights”. Once the resources are depleted in this unregulated environment, the companies will leave behind “externalities”, such as serious community health problems and devastated landscapes, as they take their money and run. Such is the example of Vancouver based Goldcorp’s San Martin mine in Siria Valley. The same exploitation of resources and people is endemic in the “Free Trade Zones”, or “maquilas” , home to clothing manufacturers, spinning mills, call centers, and agro-export companies. The (mostly female) workers here are treated as commodities: unions are neutered, while labour and human rights are for the most part ignored. The Honduran Women’s Collective (CODEMUH by their Spanish acronym), has condemned the “free” trade deal and exposed the exploitive work conditions in garment factories operated by Montreal-based Gilden Activewear. Indigenous workers are the new “slaves” in this neo-colonial world where transnational companies, empowered by “trade agreements”, take, without giving back. These secretive corporate empowerment “faux deals” need to be fully disclosed and debated in parliament, before they are signed and ratified. Otherwise, transnational corporations will continue to run roughshod over democracies and freedoms throughout the world. The status quo is toxic to all but the globalized 1 per cent.

Report 2 – Nov 11, 2012

Going to Honduras – the reasons are simple

By Robert Lovelace

You would think that Aboriginal people in Canada have enough to worry about. With a legacy of colonialism, institutional racism and a constant fight to protect the environments that are foundational to our cultures, people of indigenous heritage struggle to have their interests recognized in Canada. It has been that way for a long time and will continue that way for a long time to come. So why is it that some Aboriginal leaders focus their attention on international issues?

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Next week a delegation from Canada will travel to Honduras as international observers for that country’s elections. Among those going will be Aboriginal delegates; and they will not be representing Canada. Their objective will be to provide solidarity with the majority indigenous population and to observe and report on the validity of the election process. Canada and Canadian corporations are heavily invested in the outcome of this election as this nation’s colonial foothold expands in Latin America.

There is a growing interest on the part of Aboriginal people in Canada to link in solidarity with the international decolonization struggle. When Idle No More emerged as a social and political response to legislation negatively affecting the Canadian environment, groups around the world responded with support and recognition. There is a history of Indigenous Nations in Canada seeking their place in the international community. Leaders of Six Nations traveled to the League of Nations in the early 20th century. Aboriginal representatives serve on many United Nations committees protecting the environment and species-at-risk, studying climate change and providing refugee services. Aboriginal people have been the highest per-capita volunteers in wars fought to protect democracy and freedom for Canadians. When Ethiopia faced a devastating famine in1983, Inuit people, per-capita, gave the most generous personal donations of any group in Canada. It is a myth that Aboriginal people in Canada only think of themselves. However, there is still an unspoken rule in political circles that “Indians” should concentrate on fixing their own problems. The narrative that places Canada in the forefront of global human rights and political equity highlights all of the efforts Canada is making to be inclusive of Aboriginal people; but maintaining this image also limits Aboriginal people’s effectiveness as world class leaders. After all, as politicians have said, if Aboriginal people have something to say on the international stage then they had better be good ambassadors and even more so, make sure that they promote Canadian economic development. There is even cash for that, if you want it. The unspoken rule is “if you don’t have something nice to say then you might as well stay home”. (and STFU) Promoting Canada is not the principle objective of Aboriginal people who work internationally. Like many Canadians who work on the real front lines of human rights struggles they are there to work in solidarity with other indigenous people who are being oppressed by shameless corporations that are exploiting labour and disrupting sustainable cultures. Many of them put their lives on the line to bring some attention to gross injustices. The problem for Canada is that when Aboriginal activists take up the cause of international decolonization they confront many of the same injustices that Aboriginal people face at home. Making this connection can open up the closet door on the skeletons many corporate boards and their political protectors don’t like seen. It’s easy to say you are free and democratic. It’s another thing to be confronted by the realities of doing business and living well because others suffer. Honduras is one of the targets of contemporary Canadian colonialism. The Canada/Honduran Free Trade agreement is all but ironed out. The last wrinkle is the election on November 24th. The environmental assessment for the agreement was simple; anything that might have been controversial was considered a state secret and remained confidential. The main commodity that Canada will export to Honduras will be investments putting our country in the enviable position of becoming the laundry for international colonial investment into Latin America. We don’t have to worry about Canadian workers being exploited because they won’t be making anything for Honduran markets. We also don’t have to worry about devastating environmental impacts because they will all be happening in Honduras. This sounds like the very same economic development that has been so helpful to Aboriginal people in Canada over the last 200 years. But I suppose it takes an Indigenous perspective to see it. Robert Lovelace is an Adjunct Lecturer in Global Development Studies at Queen’s University. He is a member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation.

The First Report – Nov 11, 2013

Honduras – Trade and Investment at the Expense of Human Rights

Open Letter condemning the Canada-Honduras FTA

Raul Burbano, Program Director of Common Frontiers Stacey Gomez, Coordinator of the Americas Policy Group As Canadian-based civil society organizations working for social and environmental justice as well as human and labour rights, we strongly oppose the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement. The lack of democratic and legal guarantees in Honduras is highly troubling – as are the levels of repression and impunity. In such a context, Hondurans can neither question the impact of trade and investment on their lands and livelihoods, nor reap the benefits of any potential economic growth. As a result, this FTA will put corporate rights ahead of community, human and labour rights.

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In 2009, democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was ousted through a military coup d’état. The coup was staged by the Honduran army under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that had developed between the Supreme Court and the president. The move was widely condemned around the world, including by all Latin American nations, the European Union, the United States and the UN General Assembly. Canada’s refusal to consider any sanctions against the de facto regime or to condemn systematic abuses against the coup resistance in its aftermath was notorious. In January 2010, Porfirio Lobo Sosa assumed the presidency through what many deemed undemocratic and illegitimate elections. Amnesty International released several reports of voter intimidation and problems during the elections. Most foreign governments and election-monitoring agencies refused to send observers and many countries rejected the results of the election. Since the 2009 coup d’état, violence and repression in the country have reached an all-time high. Honduras is now considered the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides in 2012.[1] In 2013, there have been on average 10 massacres per month.[2] The Attorney General of Honduras was suspended in April of this year because, in the past four years, less than 20 percent of homicide cases have been investigated — let alone prosecuted.[3] These high levels of impunity work to mask political violence. Since 2010, there have been more than 200 politically motivated killings and Honduras is now widely regarded one of the most dangerous places for journalists.[4] There are extensively documented cases of police corruption, with 149 extrajudicial killings by police recorded between January 2011 and November 2012[5], and allegations that the current police chief has been linked to death squads and forced disappearances. Yet there has been little to no progress on cleaning up the police force. Instead, the Honduran government recently launched a new military police unit,[6] a move which has increased levels of militarization in the country and been heavily criticized by human rights defenders and civil society organizations. As the Honduran people have been living in crisis, Canada has moved to expand its trade and commercial interests with the Central American nation. Not only has Canada worked to finalize the FTA with Honduras, but Canada’s merchandise trade with Honduras has grown by 46% since 2007 — reaching $257.2 million in 2012.[7] The Government of Canada provided technical assistance and support in the development of a new mining law, passed by congress this past January amidst widespread opposition from Honduran civil society. This law is a step backward for Hondurans who, on the eve of the coup, had a proposed mining bill that would have banned open-pit mining and given communities a decisive say before mining could take place on their lands. The bill was scheduled to be debated in Congress but died with the coup. The new law does not incorporate their proposals and has lifted a seven-year moratorium on new mining projects. There has been a complete lack of transparency in the negotiation process of this trade agreement. To date, the Government of Canada has failed to make public the text of the agreement, despite repeated demands by civil society in Canada. Further, the government’s token Environmental Impact Assessment of the Canada-Honduras FTA, released in October, omitted any assessment of the impact of Canadian investments in Honduras because these figures are considered confidential.[8] The labour and environmental side agreements are mere window dressing given that they are not accompanied by any real enforcement mechanism to ensure they are adhered to. We also have reason to believe that investor protections will be included in the Canada-Honduras FTA, given the precedents set by NAFTA and by Canada’s FTAs with Peru, Colombia and Panama. Through the investment chapters of such FTAs, corporations can sue governments in international tribunals, hindering governments’ ability to make decisions aimed at protecting the public good. We are concerned that such provisions in the Canada-Honduras FTA would exacerbate the human rights issues in Honduras, placing undue pressure on the government to cede to investor interests over community, human and labour rights. Canada cannot claim that it did not know about the state of disarray in Honduras: This past spring, the Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard disturbing testimony on attacks against human rights defenders, widespread police corruption, soaring levels of impunity, and general crisis in Honduras[9]. Yet, our government seems intent on finalizing the FTA before this month’s presidential election in Honduras, prioritizing its own economic development while turning a blind eye to violence, repression and anti-democratic processes in Honduras. “The signing of the agreement a few weeks before the Presidential election in Honduras is an unfortunate attempt to influence the results in favour of the incumbent and the status quo”, says Raul Burbano, Program Director of Common Frontiers . Canada can, and should, play a more constructive role in Honduras. Instead of amplifying trade and investment in a context in which there are no legal or democratic guarantees for those who may be adversely affected by them, Canada should be using its leverage to create positive change in Honduras. It should call on Honduran authorities to take immediate measures to halt the intimidation, arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, torture and killings of individuals and groups; and to fully restore freedom of expression so that journalists, opposition parties and critics can safely express dissenting opinions. “We have long maintained that under the right conditions, trade can generate growth and support the realization of human rights. These conditions simply do not exist in Honduras. Canada should refrain from signing the FTA with Honduras until there is a verifiable improvement in the country’s democratic governance and human rights situation. Until these things are achieved, the Canada-Honduras FTA will do more harm than good”, says Stacey Gomez, coordinator of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s Americas Policy Group. Our current government has a poor track record in ensuring human rights accountability in trade. The highly controversial Canada-Colombia FTA was passed in 2010 on the condition that both governments report annually on the FTA’s human rights impacts. However, this mechanism has proved to be a public relations exercise, yielding two non-reports of little methodological or substantive value. Ultimately, Canada must revise its current hemispheric trade agreements and must pursue a different trade agenda based on respect for human, labour and environmental rights. Raul Burbano, Program Director of Common Frontiers Stacey Gomez, Coordinator of the Americas Policy Group Common Frontiers is a multi-sectoral working group which confronts, and proposes alternatives to, the social, environmental and economic effects of economic integration in the Americas. The Americas Policy Group is a coalition of Canadian civil society organizations focused on development and social justice issues in the Americas. Together, the groups gather approximately 50 member organizations. [1] [2]Killings with 3 or more victims; [3] [4],45384.html [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]