On December 19 a group of activists called The Alliance of Latinos Against Dictatorship in Honduras rallied in front of the Los Angeles, Ca. Federal Building. The rally represented a broad coalition of immigrant rights advocates, labor leaders and academics united in solidarity with the Honduran uprising.
They chanted “Fuera JOH,” and demanded that the U.S. government end its complicity with human rights abuses including the promotion of anti-democratic forces in Central America and threats to end the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.
Suyapa Portillo, Assistant Professor at Pitzer College spoke on U.S. foreign policy and said “The current U.S. posture toward Honduras is a continuation of its policy of favoring corrupt elites over the will of the Honduran people, a direct legacy of U.S. failures going back to the 1980s and even before. From the 2009 coup d’etat, to the murder of Berta Caceres, and the inordinate murders of human rights defenders in others, the U.S. has shown that anything goes as long as it favors rich corporate interests and the very wealthy on both sides of our borders.”
Pablo Alvarado, the Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, spoke about the character and will of the Honduran people in struggling against state repression in the streets. He stated “The Honduran people are humble, they include fabric workers, factory workers, agricultural workers and day laborers. Their struggle in the Honduran streets is for human rights and for democracy. They are willing to risk their lives and labor is with them.”
He explained that “70 percent of employers in Honduras have failed to comply with the minimum wage standards” and that union leaders have routinely been disappeared and killed. This, he said, was not just an affront to labor but an affront against human rights.
Jorge Gutiérrez, the Executive Director of the Familia Trans Queer Liberation Movement, said “Transgender youth migration from Central America and particularly from Honduras is at an all-time high often migrating with little money, threats to their life and a discriminatory immigration court system in the U.S. If they are deported they will face certain death in Honduras, particularly under this repressive regime.” He added, “We condemn the military aid to the Honduran military. We condemn the potential cancellation of TPS.”
Honduran immigrant José Luis Hernández detailed the horiffic story of violence that he and hundreds of thousands of other immigrants face each year. After climbling atop the roof of a train known as La Bestia which thousands of immigrants precariously ride north took him from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. he fell off in Chihuahua while trying to switch cars losing his right arm, leg and part of his left hand. He explained that the Honduran people regularly face extreme in many different ways and that this is why despite the deaths of 25 protestors so far some “80 percent of the people are in the streets protesting.”
Joe Berra of the UCLA Human Rights Clinic just returned from a trip to Honduras the previous week where he met with leaders of the popular movement and human rights lawyers. He explained the roots of the current crisis in Honduras lie in the “three coups” the first being the 2009 U.S. supported coup against the democratically elected president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya.
The second he described was a coup against the Judiciary which he explained was carried out by the current president Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) who at the time was the head of the National Congress. Hernández he said, “displaced Supreme Court Justices and put in his own people which pave the way for him to change the constitution.”
The third coup Berra explained is the current subversion of the democratic will of the Honduran people through blatant electoral fraud to re-elect JOH over the peoples favored progressive opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla.
Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos read a statement quoting the determined Honduran protestors stating, “They took away our jobs, our homes and our freedom but they also took away our fear and we will never stop.” Sanchez demanded the US government stop threatening to end TPS and reminded the crowd that there are more than 10,000 young people with TPS in Los Angeles alone and if their status were removed they would be subject to deportation and eventual violence and human trafficking.