The Obama adminstration’s "partnership" with the ongoing coup regime in Honduras is getting harder to defend every day—with every act of brutality against the opposition committed by the corrupt government and its allies.
Two recent atrocities against leading voices of the opposition signal an escalation of the government’s lethal crackdown. One occurred on Saturday night, September 22, as Antonio Trejo Cabrera, a lawyer for the land-rights group MARCA (Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador de Campesinos del Aguán) stepped outside of a church in the capital, Tegucigalpa, where he'd just finished officiating at a wedding, to answer an urgent phone call from a stranger. Two shots hit him in the head, two in the torso, and one in the leg, and he died soon after in the hospital. Two days later, in Choluteca, unknown assailants shot eleven bullets into Eduardo Manuel Díaz Mazariegos, a prosecutor in the government's human rights division, killing him immediately.
On June 29 Trejo had won an unprecedented legal case against Miguel Facussé Barjum, the biofuels magnate and powerful political figure whose security guards have been accused of killing dozens of campesinos (small farmers) struggling for land rights in the Aguán Valley. Trejo's case restored to the campesinos land that Facussé had claimed. In the months afterward Trejo received multiple death threats; campesinos on the land reported that they were shot at, tortured, and menaced by Facussé's guards. In late August Trejo was illegally detained by Honduran authorities along with over two dozen campesinos and their allies after they tried to pursue legal redress at the Supreme Court. The other dead man, Díaz Mazariegos, was one of seven famous government prosecutors who staged a 38-day hunger strike in 2008 in front of the Honduran Congress in protest against the corruption of the prosecutors' office by politicians and elites.
Trejo and Díaz are the most prominent political assassinations of the opposition since Alfredo Landaverde, the former police commissioner who denounced police corruption, was gunned down on December 7, 2011. But they are just two among hundreds of Hondurans killed for speaking up since the June 28, 2009 military coup that deposed democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. Hundreds among the living have received threatening messages or are followed home by strangers in dark cars, and count their futures in days, not years.
The Obama Administration, in the face of growing and serious pressure from Congress and those concerned with human rights, is just beginning to acknowledge that Honduras might have serious problems. In early August, the U.S. announced that it had suspended funds to Honduras' new National Chief of Police Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla and anyone under his jurisdiction, until allegations that he was a death squad leader in the late 1990s and early 2000s are investigated. After the Honduran Air Force shot down two drug planes in July in violation of worldwide protocols, the U.S. suspended radar cooperation tracking drug flights and ensured that the head of the Honduran Air Force was fired.