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Latin America Experts Call on Clinton to Oppose Early Elections Option in Honduras:

July 2009


 Anything Less Than the Urgent Restoration of Zelaya to Office “Would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people” They State in Open Letter


Santa Cruz, CA – Over 35 scholars and experts on Latin America sent an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today urging against the idea of early elections in Honduras as a possible resolution of the current crisis resulting from the June 28 military coup d’etat. Stating that “Anything less than the urgent restoration of President Manuel Zelaya to office would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people,” the signers urged Clinton to enact forceful sanctions on the coup regime to ensure Zelaya’s prompt reinstatement. The signers include Harvard emeritus professor John Womack; scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker Saul Landau; Central America expert Hector Perla, and authors and Central America experts Greg Grandin and Dana Frank, among others.

“It’s supremely important that we not make any concessions to those who have perpetrated military coups. By doing so, we establish a dangerous precedent,” said Dana Frank, Honduras expert and professor of history at U.C. Santa Cruz.
The letter also notes that the coup regime has suspended civil liberties, thus eliminating conditions under which free and fair elections could take place in the near future. The signers also debunk the pretext for the coup – Zelaya’s supposed plans for reelection – by pointing out that it would be almost impossible for Zelaya to be reelected before his successor assumes office next year, and that Zelaya stated before June 28 that he did not seek reelection.

The full text of the letter follows:

July 9, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We, the undersigned, are concerned by proposals by some in Washington’s foreign policy circles to push for early elections as a solution to the crisis instigated by the illegal and anti-democratic coup d’etat in Honduras. Anything less than the urgent restoration of President Manuel Zelaya to office would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people. Following resolutions by the United Nations General Assembly and the Organization of American States calling for Zelaya’s immediate and unconditional return to office, the U.S. must ensure his prompt restoration by enacting forceful economic sanctions against the regime.

Each day that the illegal coup regime remains in office further jeopardizes the capacity for Honduras to enjoy free and fair elections in November, let alone in an earlier time frame. Elections currently would take place under a coup regime that has suspended civil liberties, and where the conditions for free elections do not exist. Such an election would not have international legitimacy. Democracy has to be restored before a legitimate election can take place. It is also important to avoid making concessions of any kind to the coup government, as it would create a terrible precedent, showing other anti-democratically minded and power hungry individuals that it can be worthwhile to carry out a military coup in order to advance their political agendas.

Since illegally seizing office by abducting the president at gunpoint and putting him on a plane to Costa Rica, the coup regime has suspended civil liberties and treated the Honduran people as the enemy. They have revoked freedom of the press by imposing a media blackout, assaulted and detained journalists, clamped down on protests, detained hundreds of supporters of President Zelaya, and killed at least two people by firing on demonstrators.

The regime claims it acted in order to prevent an unconstitutional move by President Zelaya to extend his term. Yet an examination of the facts reveals this to be a dubious excuse for an assault on democratic institutions and the rule of law. President Zelaya’s proposed survey would have been a non-binding poll of public support for an additional ballot – on whether a constitutional assembly should be created- in the November elections. The actual question read: “Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?”

Zelaya was not running for reelection in November, nor would he have been able to. Therefore, Zelaya’s successor was always slated to be elected in November, to be inaugurated in January. Zelaya had also stated before June 28 that he did not desire reelection.  Possible reelection was not the reason the military carried out the coup. They opposed Zelaya’s policies, and they have at times been honest about their true motives: “It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government,” Honduran army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza explained following the coup. “That’s impossible.”

There is one legal, just, and democratic solution to Honduras’ current crisis: the swift restoration of President Zelaya and the imposition of economic sanctions-trade as well as aid, on the illegal regime. We call on the U.S. to take the lead in ensuring this outcome.


Marc Becker
Associate Professor of Latin American History
Truman State University*

Blase Bonpane
Office of the Americas

Michael Brun, PhD
Dept. Economics
Illinois State University

Ron Chilcote
Professor Economics
University of California Riverside

Aviva Chomsky
Professor of History and Coordinator, Latin American Studies
Salem State College

Noam Chomsky
Professor of Linguistics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jaime Concha
Professor of Latin American Literature
University of California, San Diego
Luis Duno Gottberg
Associate Professor, Hispanic Languages and Literature
Rice University, Houston, TX

Steve Ellner
Professor Political Science
University of Oriente, Venezuela

Professor Raul Fernandez
Social Sciences
University of California, Irvine

Dana Frank
Professor of History
University of California, Santa Cruz

James Goldfarb Devine
Professor of Economics
Loyola Marymount University

Greg Grandin
Professor of History
Director of Graduate Studies
New York University

Mark Healey
Assistant Professor of History
University of California, Berkeley

Daniel Hellinger
Professor of Political Science
Webster University

Forrest Hylton
Assistant Professor of Political Science/Int’l. Relations
Universidad de los Andes (Colombia)

Misha Kokotovic
Associate Professor
Department of Literature
UC San Diego

Saul Landau
Professor Emeritus
California State University, Pomona

Jorge Mariscal
Director, Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies
University of California, San Diego

Luis Martín-Cabrera
Assistant Professor of Literature
University of California, San Diego

Gilda L. Ochoa
Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicana/o – Latina/o Studies
Pomona College

Tanalis Padilla
Associate Professor of History
Dartmouth College

Diana Paton
Reader in Caribbean History
Newcastle University, UK

Hector Perla
Assistant Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz

Deborah Poole
Professor, Anthropology
Johns Hopkins University

Suyapa G. Portillo Villeda
CFD Fellow, History Department
Pomona College

Gerardo Renique
Associate Professor, Department of History
City College of the City University of New York

William I. Robinson
Professor of Sociology and
Global and International Studies
University of California-Santa Barbara

Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez
Professor, Department of Chicano and Latino Studies
California State University, Long Beach
Dr. T.M. Scruggs
School of Music
University of Iowa

Victor Silverman
Department of History
Pomona College

Steve Striffler
Doris Zemurray Stone Chair in Latin American Studies
Professor of Anthropology
University of New Orleans

Christy Thornton
Director and Publisher
North American Congress on Latin America

Miguel Tinker Salas
Professor of History
Pomona College

Mark Weisbrot
Center for Economic and Policy Research

John Womack, Jr.
Professor of History, Emeritus
Harvard University

Stephen Zunes
University of San Francisco

*Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

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