Blog Entry

Take Action: Canada "Engaging" to Death in Honduras

Jen Moore

Latin America Program Coordinator / Coordinadora del programa para América Latina, 2010-2018.

Your support is needed in response to the dire situation facing Hondurans in the aftermath of national elections in late November that have been widely-denounced given evidence of electoral fraud and a campaign of state violence against hundreds of protests across the country since. Activist Edwin Espinal is one of over twenty political prisoners being held in a maximum security prison where he could spend years before ever seeing a judge.

Please take action here, to write to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and your own MP calling for diplomatic action, urging that Edwin and others be freed.

Not even the usually pliant Organization of American States was willing to accept the Honduras election results; nonetheless, on December 22nd, the Canadian government expressed its support when the electoral tribunal named incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández as President. Weakly, Canada also urged Hernández’ regime “to protect human rights and ensure that those responsible for violations are held accountable,” while failing to acknowledge that it is the Hernández regime that has been perpetuating the violence. 

Canadian journalist Sandra Cuffe reports that, since the November 26 elections, “More than 35 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces and other unknown perpetrators, hundreds injured, and more than 1,000 detained. At least 22 people remain in jail in different parts of the country on charges related to protests.” She has also noted that this is far worse than the state repression that followed the June 2009 military backed coup in Honduras, since which time the ultra-right National party in Honduras increasingly centralized power. 

“This is state-led terrorism in Honduras, and the Canadian government is supporting it,” comments Jackie McVicar, coordinator of United for Mining Justice who participated in a faith-based delegation to Honduras in the lead up to Hernández’s inauguration on January 27th. Not only did Canada come out in support of the recent election results; since 2009 the Canadian government has taken advantage of an increasingly authoritarian and violent context in Honduras to lobby for a new mining law that favours translational mining investments and to conclude a free trade agreement

Honduras Solidarity Network coordinator Karen Spring notes that Canadian authorities have argued that Canada must “engage” with Honduras in order to influence the human rights situation. But she and others close to the ground, who accompany communities affected by Canadian-owned mines and tourism projects, and who have been reporting on intensifying criminalization and violence against social movement organizations since 2009, say continued engagement instead serves to empower the elite in Honduras and favour Canadian economic interests. 

In other words, the support that Canada, the US and others lend to the Honduran government creates an enabling environment for Honduran officials to jail political opponents in maximum security prisons, execute protesters in the streets, and terrorize the population, while corruption festers and crimes such as the murder of Berta Cáceres in 2016 fail to be fully investigated, because there are few consequences to doing otherwise. 

In an excellent two-part documentary series, Canadian filmmaker Jesse Freeston observes that while not a single country flew in a minister or head of state for Hernández’s highly militarized inauguration on January 27th, eleven countries - among them Canada - and several international financial institutions continue to send funds and weapons to the Honduras government. 

Please respond by showing your solidarity with Honduran political prisoners, including Edwin Espinal and at least 20 others jailed on charges related to protests against election fraud in Honduras. Espinal has suffered state harassment since the 2009 coup d’etat and was detained on January 19th after a national strike. Family members and human rights organizations are being denied entry to visit him. Immediate action is required to push for Edwin’s release and to ensure his safety.

Visit this site to write to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and your MP urging they press Honduran authorities for Edwin's freedom.