The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460

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

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


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 Chavez 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: "12,000 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."

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.

(202) 293-5380