TEGUCIGALPA, Dec. 3 /CNW/ - A delegation of Canadians who witnessed the recent elections in Honduras disputes the account of events in the recent media statement by the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs (Americas).
Minister Peter Kent said in the Canadian government's December 1 Statement that "we are encouraged by reports from civil society organizations that there was a strong turnout for the elections, that they appear to have been run freely and fairly, and that there was no major violence."
A group of five Canadians, including representatives from the British Columbia Teachers' Federation, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, and the Atlantic Region Solidarity Network were part of a 20-person bi-national Human Rights Observation Delegation co-organized by US based Quixote Centre and Common Frontiers-Canada, from November 25 - December 2. The delegation team observed a low turnout at the polling stations that they visited in the departments of Colon, Tegucigalpa and Santa Rosa de Copan, and witnessed violence and oppression against civilians in the city of San Pedro Sula. "We witnessed tear gas used on peaceful protesters, citizens being chased through the streets by police in riot gear," reported Irene Lanzinger, President of the BC Teachers' Federation. Delegates photographed protestors who had been beaten by police. "While standing peacefully outside of our hotel (in San Pedro Sula) we were also tear-gassed by the police," said Lanzinger.
The delegation also witnessed strong military and police presence inside of polling stations, unmarked cars patrolling the streets in the days leading up to the elections, and several raids and detentions. "These events contributed to a climate of fear in which citizens did not feel free to participate in the elections, contrary to Mr. Kent's report," said Jackie McVicar, member of the Atlantic Region Solidarity Network.
Members of the Canadian delegation met with Canada's Ambassador to Honduras, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, Neil Reeder, prior to the November 29 elections. The delegation subsequently relayed an account of events they witnessed on Election Day to the Canadian Embassy, all in advance of Minister Kent's December 1st statement. Unfortunately, Minister Kent appears to have ignored these eyewitness accounts from Canadian human rights observers.
The delegates are surprised as well as disappointed by Mr. Kent's December 1st Statement and would ask the Minister to set the record straight by clarifying which were the 'civil society organizations' he consulted that he says reported peaceful and fair elections.
TO VIEW REPORTS AND PHOTOS FROM CANADIAN EYEWITNESSES IN HONDURAS - please go to www.commonfrontiers.ca
SOURCE CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS DELEGATION TO HONDURAS
For further information: For further information: MEDIA CONTACTS: Canadian Human Rights Delegation to Honduras - delegate contacts: Irene Lanzinger, President of the British Columbia Teachers Union (BCTF), in Vancouver (604) 871-1881; Scott Marshall, Executive Officer of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), in Toronto (416) 751-8300; Jackie McVicar, Member of Atlantic Region Solidarity Network (ARSN), currently in Guatemala (502) 407-47677; Canadian networks behind the Nov. 25 - Dec 2, 2009 Delegation to Honduras - contacts: Rick Arnold, Coordinator of Common Frontiers-Canada, (905) 352-2430; Caitlin Power Hancey, Member of ARSN, (902) 495-7497