[A-List] FAIR: Honduras Down the Memory Hole
james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Sat Aug 14 05:33:59 MDT 2010
Honduras Down the Memory Hole
U.S. media ignore the aftermath of dubious elections they praised
By Alyssa Figueroa
A year after a military coup removed democratically elected President Manuel
Zelaya from office, Hondurans are still living under a repressive
government-but the U.S. is pushing Latin American countries to join it in
normalizing relations with the regionally ostracized nation.
Reporting from a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), the
New York Times (6/8/10) dutifully relayed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's
assertion that "we saw the free and fair election of President [Porfirio]
Lobo,'' noting on the other hand that "several foreign ministers inveighed
against Mr. Lobo's government, which they said had violated human rights."
The Times left it up to readers to guess who might have been right. The
Washington Post (6/8/10) reported that this debate is simply an indication
of "how difficult it is to bridge regional divisions."
Such coverage is no surprise, given the media's enthusiastic response to
Lobo's election in January. After the June 28, 2009, coup, the U.S. and many
Latin American countries said they would refuse to recognize the elections
in November if Zelaya wasn't restored to office to finish out his term
(Washington Post, 9/4/09). Given that the elections would be held under the
auspices of a coup regime, the UN, the OAS, the EU and the Carter Center
didn't send observers (Real News Network, 4/08/10).
Before the election was held, however, the U.S. backed off this position-a
reversal cheered in the U.S. press. Washington Post columnist Edward
Schumacher-Matos (11/27/09) declared that Obama was "alone, and right, on
Honduras," because the election "will come off favorably enough." A Post
editorial (11/28/09) agreed, arguing that Hondurans were eager for the
election because they "have little taste for Mr. Zelaya, who embraced the
leftist populism of Hugo Chavez." (See FAIR Action Alert, 9/24/09.) Yet an
August 2009 poll by the Honduran polling company COIMER & OP found that 52
percent supported Zelaya's return to presidency, while 33 percent opposed
it. In the same poll, those who expressed an opinion came out 3-to-1 against
the coup (Narcosphere, 10/7/09).
The election went on, with many publications (e.g., Washington Post, L.A.
Times, both 11/30/09) deeming it "peaceful," while at the same time
reporting that 500 protesters were targeted with tear gas. There was little
coverage of the beatings and arrests leading up to the election, or of the
nearly 5,000 soldiers dispersed throughout the country to enforce a state of
emergency (Guardian, 11/28/09).
The New York Times, which a few weeks before the election (11/7/09) held
that "an election run by the coup plotters won't be credible to
Hondurans-and it shouldn't be to anyone else," afterwards wrote (12/5/09),
"there is wide agreement that last week's presidential election in
Honduras .was clean and fair."
Most outlets declared that voter turnout was near 60 percent, taking the
word of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. The Miami Herald (12/1/09) argued
that this supposed turnout meant that "the interim government, which has the
support of virtually all the major factions of Honduran society.can now
claim that it presided over a fair and credible election." The Wall Street
Journal (11/29/10) called the elections "a win for all people who yearn for
The Tribunal's announcement, however, contradicted its own turnout
data-which at the time hovered at 49.2 percent-as well as those of the only
independent Honduran organization to do exit polling, which put the figure
at 47.6 percent (Real News Network, 12/8/09), 7 percentage points lower than
the last presidential election (Washington Post, 12/1/10). There were also
"an unusually high number of null and blank ballots-about 6 percent"
After helping legitimize Lobo's presidency, U.S. media ignored the
aftermath. Amnesty International (6/28/10) recently "accused the Honduran
authorities of failing to address serious human rights violations that
followed the coup." The Committee of the Families of the Detained and
Disappeared of Honduras (2/28/10) reported 310 human rights violations just
30 days into Lobo's presidency. At least nine journalists have been killed
(AP, 6/15/10), making Honduras the world's most dangerous country for
journalists in the first quarter of 2010 (Reporters Without Borders,
6/16/10). Nobody has been arrested for these murders.
According to the New York Times (6/6/10), the dismissal of four lower-court
judges in May who were critical of the coup was only an illustration of the
"country's political divide"-one that the Times and its media brethren seem
happy to put behind them.
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