rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement will deepen conflict

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Civil society organizations from Canada and Quebec are concerned that the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being debated in the House of Commons will further undermine human rights and democracy in Honduras.  The debate began days after the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernandez following highly contested presidential elections.The elections were fraught with irregularities as well as violence, and deemed fraudulent by most independent international observers. The proposed legislation sends the message that Canada rewards illegitimate governments as long as they serve Canadian economic interests.      

 The bilateral trade deal was signed on November 5th, 2013, in the lead up to the presidential election, despite wide-spread opposition and mounting evidence to suggest that the deal will exacerbate the social and human rights crisis. Since the 2009 military coup against democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, violence and repression have reached an all-time high. Human rights defenders, women’s rights activists, members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, trans and queer) community, the Garifuna, Indigenous people, union leaders, farmers and journalists are being systematically threatened or killed.

Police corruption and militarization of the state

Police corruption is rampant with high ranking members implicated in criminal activity, contributing to widespread impunity as well as a judicial and law-enforcement system that perpetuates the problem. Just recently, Constantino Zavala the police chief in the western province of Lempira was suspended for allegedly being involved in drug trafficking.

The return of the military security state has been a major focus of President Hernandez who spearheaded the legislative effort that created the Law of Public Order Military Police (PMOP). To fund this new military police, the government was able to draw 24.5 million lempiras ($1.2 million), from a new "security tax" paid for by large corporations. These new units will take over neighbourhoods, residential developments, or public spaces in order to crack down on supposed illegal activities. Human rights defenders in Honduras have testified that they are witnessing the reactivation of the death squads of the 80s with a pattern of assassinations of women, youth and political opponents.

During presidential elections on November 24, 2013, many Hondurans were hopeful that a new political landscape would ensure a break from traditional two party politics in Honduras and lead to improved conditions. However, the situation has taken a turn for the worst with Hernandez’ questionable election. International and local human rights observers reported wide-spread vote buying, irregularities in the voter registry, selling of electoral credentials, militarization, intimidation and even assassinations. Nonetheless, Hernandez was declared the winner and the country has been driven further into crisis.

Canada contributes to social conflict

Although the FTA has not yet been implemented, Canadian investments are already contributing to social conflict in Honduras, particularly in the mining, export manufacturing and tourism sectors. 

The Canadian government provided technical assistance and support for the General Mining and Hydrocarbons Law, passed in January 2013. Notably, the new mining law lifts a seven-year moratorium on new mining projects and earmarks 2% of the royalties paid by extractive companies for a Security Tax to help fund Honduran state security. The law paves the way for new mining projects which have given rise to increased conflict and militarization of affected communities where mining projects operate. According to the Honduras Documentation Centre, 52% of all conflict in Honduras is rooted in natural resource management. The most notorious case is that of Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s which operated the San Martin gold and silver mine in Valle de Siria. The projects legacy is one of water contamination, dried up streams, and reports of serious public health problems in surrounding communities which have yet to be fully addressed.

In the garment and textile export sector, the factories of Montreal-based Gildan Activewear in northwestern Honduras are noted for the debilitating work-related injuries suffered by workers due to excessively long work shifts and high production targets and for firing workers for attempting to unionize. Finally, in the tourism sector, Canadian investments are displacing Indigenous and Afro-Honduran peoples from their territories with no respect whatsoever for their cultural and land rights.

It is misleading to argue that the FTA will improve the situation in Honduras. FTAs severely weaken the ability of government to legislate for the public good and undermine community, human, labour and environmental rights. Meanwhile, investor rights provisions are substantive, allowing corporations to sue governments if they make decisions companies disagree with. The environmental and labour side agreements are mere window dressing devoid of any enforcement mechanisms. As such, the FTA favours narrow economic interests, and is bound to lead to greater conflict as well as further violence in Honduras.

We call on Canadian parliament to refrain from passing legislation to implement the Canada-Honduras FTA and for the Conservative government to reconsider its priorities around Honduras, putting priority on the well-being of communities, human and labour rights.

Alternatives

Americas Policy Group (APG)

Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network (ARSN)

Breaking The Silence (BTS)

British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF)

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC)

Climate Justice Saskatoon

Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)

Common Frontiers

Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)

Council of Canadians

Council of Canadians - Saskatoon Chapter

Council of Canadians - London Chapter

CUPE Ontario International Solidarity Committee

Latin American-Canadian Solidarity Association (LACASA)

Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network (LACSN)

Les AmiEs de la Terre de Québec

Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)

MiningWatch Canada

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)

Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie (PASC)

Rights Action

SalvAide

The National Farmers Union

Unifor

United Steelworkers (USW)

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.