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[Editor’s Note: A general election was held in Honduras on November 26th. The results of the election have been called into question by numerous local and international sources, and no official winner has been named. Ismael Moreno, S.J., more commonly known as Padre Melo, is a Honduran Jesuit priest who serves as the Director for a nationally broadcast radio station (Radio Progreso) and its social research organization called “ERIC” (which is an acronym in Spanish for “Reflection, Research, and Communication Team”). The following is a letter casts light on the tumultuous political situation unfolding in Honduras. Padre Melo asks for solidarity, assistance in contacting politicians and financial support.]
Dear friends and colleagues:
In the early hours of Sunday, December 10th – International Human Rights Day – Radio Progreso went off the air abruptly in the central area of its coverage, which covers the capital of the Republic of Honduras and its surrounding areas.
On Friday, December 8th, two men claiming to be technicians from CONATEL (the National Telecommunications Commission), appeared at the Radio Progreso office in Tegucigalpa to request information about an AM frequency that only operates in the Sula Valley region, some two hundred kilometres from the capital; it was a routine inspection in a location that did not broadcast at the frequency requested. However, when they were asked to sign in, the two supposed state employees refused to do this.
In accordance with reports that we have received from our technical team, the interruption in programming was caused by the intentional and deliberate demolition of the transmission tower and antenna located on one of the hills on the outskirts of the capital city. It is being regarded as an act of sabotage aimed at Radio Progreso’s broadcasting, considering the highly polarized and confrontational political context following the general election on November 26th, which has still not produced a President, although it is widely known that the results favored the candidate of the opposition to current President, Juan Orlando Hernández. His candidacy overrides and contravenes the terms of the Constitution of the Republic which prohibits a President from being able to run for a second term under any circumstances.
Radio Progreso has upheld an editorial line against the illegality of the re-election and has questioned the electoral results, just as the Organization of American States (OAS) Mission has done, stating that the electoral process was irregular, with many systemic problems and mistakes. Furthermore, Radio Progreso has broadcast coverage of the various demonstrations and has given voice to those from academic and research circles that are questioning the electoral process they view as fraudulent.
Our fear is that this act of sabotage is the start of a plan aimed at silencing the voice of Radio Progreso, as we have been seeing over the course of this year. We are afraid of other acts of sabotage against other antennas that we have in the country, and we fear for the physical security of the human team members of our radio and of ERIC. We consider this act of sabotage to be part of the growing abuse of human rights and freedom of expression, through the repression of, and use of disproportionate force against, the population demonstrating against electoral fraud and calling for the will of the people expressed at the polls to be respected.
We make an appeal to the international community to look to the future of our country, because we foresee that the coming weeks and months will be very difficult, and the threats to human rights defenders, independent journalists, and social and community leaders will continue to increase. It is necessary to look to our radio since we have the conviction to carry on with our mission to inform, analyse and report what is happening with depth and integrity, and for the ERIC and radio teams to support the search for proposals to lead us out of this crisis.
We ask that you help us through the condemnation of the human rights violations which the government, through the forces of repression, is committing against those people that are protesting against electoral fraud and demanding that the popular will expressed at the polls be respected. It is necessary that letters reach the Embassy of the United States in Honduras which, firstly, endorse the illegal re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernández, and secondly, conceal human rights violations and endorse electoral fraud.
Our proposal, together with other national bodies, is to demand the annulment of the elections on November 26th and invoke the Democratic Charter of the OAS to call a new round of elections. The worst thing that could happen to our country is the continuation of the current government of Juan Orlando Hernández, due to his close relationship with a small number of elites, personal control of various branches of government, the cover-up of links between well-known figures and organized crime, and the stigmatization, discrimination, repression and, eventually, the elimination of those people and organizations who do not comply with his arbitrary decisions. The threats that Radio Progreso and ERIC have received fall within this remit.
We would be profoundly grateful if this vision of solidarity could be realized through economic support, however small it might be, in order to re-establish our teams and continue with our mission in this emergency situation.
Sending my best wishes and prayers.
Rev. Ismael Moreno, S.J.
Reflection, Research and Communication Team, ERIC-SJ