U.S. Group That Supported Overthrows of Democratically Elected Governments in Haiti and Venezuela Will Observe Elections in Honduras

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November 23, 2009

International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute Plan to Observe Elections Controlled by Honduran Military and Police.

For Immediate Release: November 23, 2009
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

Washington, D.C.- The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), organizations that receive funding from the U.S. State Department, are planning on sending delegations to observe the November 29 elections in Honduras, according to a statement issued by Republican Senator Richard Lugar. The IRI is a group that has supported the ouster of democratically elected presidents in Haiti and Venezuela in recent years. Both groups are apparently planning to assist with observation of the elections, despite the fact that the electoral process will be effectively controlled by thousands of military troops and police officers - the same forces who have committed innumerable human rights violations, including killings, rapes, beatings and thousands of detentions, since the June 28 coup d'etat.

"I am surprised to see NDI joining the International Republican Institute in its efforts to legitimize another coup," Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. "NDI has generally been less willing to support coups and anti-democratic regimes than has its Republican counterpart."

Weisbrot noted that NDI steered clear of IRI's involvement in the ouster of democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, which became the subject of controversy following a major 2006 investigative report in the New York Times. When IRI publicly applauded the 2002 coup d'etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in a press release, the NDI remained silent. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) - the primary funder of both IRI and NDI - expressed its disagreement with IRI for voicing its support for an "unconstitutional" action.

NDI's plans to observe the elections have been surprising because Democratic leaders in Congress, including Senator John Kerry and Representative Howard Berman, have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the coup, and other congressional Democrats have urged President Obama not to recognize elections held under the coup regime.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, has written that ongoing human rights abuses under the coup regime, including continued repression of trade unionists, makes it impossible to hold free and fair elections. Trumka called on the U.S. government to oppose national elections in Honduras unless President Zelaya is reinstated, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this month.

An editorial in a leading Honduran newspaper, El Tiempo, on Friday noted the electoral process will be controlled by the coup regime: "2,000 troops, 14,000 police and 5,000 reservists are fully in direct control of the polling," it notes, opining that free and fair elections are impossible due to the current, ongoing human rights abuses. "Until now, the atmosphere is totally contrary to a democratic electoral process, and what prevails is a climate of political oppression," the editorial states.

"The IRI has become notorious throughout Latin America for its sometimes rogue actions that have threatened to seriously damage U.S.-Latin American relations," Weisbrot said. "NDI would do well to exercise caution in following IRI's lead on Honduras."

Weisbrot noted that in addition to its support for the coups in Haiti and Venezuela, IRI organized a conference in Brazil in 2005 to promote political reforms that would undermine the Workers' Party - the political party of President Lula da Silva.

When the creation of the NED, IRI, and NDI was first being publicly discussed, in 1983, the Washington Post reported: "The CIA used to fund covertly much of what the endowment plan envisions, such as the publication of books and articles 'consistent' with democratic ideals. But many of these were halted in 1967 following public disclosure of the CIA's activities."