Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Friday, October 2, 2009

More Tax Dollars At Work

The National Endowment for Democracy is a private, non-profit, organization founded in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions. It receives grants of funding from Congress, and gives the money to pro-democracy groups world-wide. Its charter says:

"Democracy involves the right of the people freely to determine their own destiny."

"The exercise of this right requires a system that guarantees freedom of expression, belief and association, free and competitive elections, respect for the inalienable rights of individuals and minorities, free communications media, and the rule of law."

Grant highlights for 2008, the latest information available on the NED website, indicate a grant of $550,000 to the International Republican Institute to promote and enhance think tanks in Mexico and Honduras as "pressure groups" to force the political parties to develop concrete positions on key issues. "IRI will place special emphasis on Honduras...." In addition the IRI received a $400,000 grant to provide elected officials with management skills in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala , and Honduras.

Finally, the Trust for the Americas received a $95,338 grant to strengthen the capacity of member organizations to promote Freedom of Expression and access to information, and to encourage the implementation of information acces laws in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragaua, and Panama. Trust for the Americas is a non profit associated with the OAS.

The IRI lists a program on municipal good government as its sole project in Honduras this year. It uses polls and focus groups conducted by the IRI to identify gaps in services and where citizens are asking for greater transparency and accountability. The program partners with the Fundación para el Desarrollo Municipal. This program is funded at levels above $1 million.

In addition, the US AID supplies about $49 million this year to Honduras, about $9.6 million is directly targeted at the category "Governing Justly and Democratically". A lot of this money was supposed to be spent on the Election Tribunal, focused on the 2009 elections, and implementing the new Civil Procedural Code (postponed for 2 more years by the Supreme Court after the coup).

Recipients of funding in Honduras include include COHEP, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Paz y Democracia, and Generación X Cambio, all of which either participated in or are sympathetic to the coup. On the other hand, US AID also funded several organizations clearly not involved in the coup or split between supporters and anti-coup people, including the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH), and the Association of Private Media.

None of these foundations publishes on its website, current information about who is being funded. Everything is in terms of generalities. One organization I didn't mention is the Interamerican Foundation (, because I couldn't. The most recent information they had on their website about funding was 2007, and about individual grants was 1999. All their funding comes from Congress. Deliberate obfuscation or just laziness? I sent them an email asking for more recent information. If they respond, I'll let you know.

So its a very strange set of affairs when organizations funded by USAID and the IRI appear in public to support PCM-M-016-2009, the decree by the de facto government that suspends the constitutional rights of all Hondurans; their rights to free assembly, free movement, and free speech among other rights curtailed. This same decree has been rejected by the National Congress, the Human Rights ombudsman, the Election Tribunal, The College of Journalists, and the Association of Private Media, but to the Union Civica Democratica and private business organizations including COHEP and ANDI, and the Chambers of Commerce of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, they like it and support it.

At a press conference representatives of COHEP, the Union Civica Democratica, ANDI, and the Federacion Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Honduras (FENAGH) all announced their support for the controversial presidential decree.

The president of FENAGH said that things are roughly normal except for a few people who are promoting licentiousness and delinquent acts through some media. He supports it because it maintains public order.

The Vice President of COHEP, Alejandro Alvarez, on the other hand, urged that Hondurans defend the constitution and laws of the Republic so that the world knows that on June 28, Honduras ceased to be a banana republic.

The President of ANDI, Adolfo Facussé said that the decree was born from the abuse of some journalists who had overextended the rights of free speech and thought. "The decree isn't bad, its brought results, but we don't want it to be maintained longer than necessary. The decree has brought us tranquility."

Faccusé did add that he didn't think Radio Globo should be closed, nor Channel 36 but only that its journalists should be prosecuted.

Luz Ernestina Mejia represented the UCD. She said she understands the right of free expression, but "never the criminal acts that under its rubric were committed." She noted that the decree permitted them to put an end to the offensive of the supporters of Zelaya.

We started this post with a quote from the NED Charter that noted that democracy required a system that guaranteed a variety of freedoms. So why does it fund organizations that want to restrict those freedoms in Honduras?

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