Honduras - Trade and Investment at the Expense of Human Rights

November 21, 2013
by 
Mary Durran, Latin America Programs Officer

In the run up to general elections in Honduras on November 24, Development and Peace has challenged the government of Canada for signing the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Accord (FTA). Development and Peace is a member of the Americas Policy Group of the Canadian Council on International Cooperation (CCIC), which published an open letter on the situation in Honduras, the country where the term banana republic was first coined for the control of US fruit companies over the government, and which has more recently been called the murder capital of the world.

Since the coup d’etat of 2009, partners and human rights organizations have reported a deteriorating human rights situation, where opposition activists, journalists, trade unionists, and peasant and indigenous leaders have become targets of police repression and of shadowy paramilitary death squads. In the spring of 2012, Pedro Landa of Development and Peace partner organization CEHPRODEC testified before a Canadian federal parliamentary committee that the human rights situation in his country was not a suitable backdrop for investment, and that the mining projects promoted by the FTA could actually harm human rights by allowing potentially damaging mining projects with an inadequate regulatory framework in place.

The main contenders in Sunday’s general election are Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party, and Xiomara Zelaya, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya, deposed in the June 2009 coup d’etat. Zelaya is the candidate of the new party Libre, that grew out of resistance to the coup d’etat.

Here is an excerpt from the open letter:

As Canadian-based civil society organizations working for social and environmental justice as well as human and labour rights, we strongly oppose the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement. The lack of democratic and legal guarantees in Honduras is highly troubling – as are the levels of repression and impunity. In such a context, Hondurans can neither question the impact of trade and investment on their lands and livelihoods, nor reap the benefits of any potential economic growth. As a result, this FTA will put corporate rights ahead of community, human and labour rights.

[...]

Canada can, and should, play a more constructive role in Honduras. Instead of amplifying trade and investment in a context in which there are no legal or democratic guarantees for those who may be adversely affected by them, Canada should be using its leverage to create positive change in Honduras.  It should call on Honduran authorities to take immediate measures to halt the intimidation, arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, torture and killings of individuals and groups; and to fully restore freedom of expression so that journalists, opposition parties and critics can safely express dissenting opinions.

“We have long maintained that under the right conditions, trade can generate growth and support the realization of human rights.  These conditions simply do not exist in Honduras. Canada should refrain from signing the FTA with Honduras until there is a verifiable improvement in the country’s democratic governance and human rights situation. Until these things are achieved, the Canada-Honduras FTA will do more harm than good”, says Stacey Gomez, coordinator of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s Americas Policy Group.

Read the complete open letter condemning the Canada-Honduras FTA:
Honduras - Trade and Investment at the Expense of Human Rights