Business Interests Splitting Over Honduras Coup?


7-28-09, 4:54 pm

A group of apparel makers with business interests in Honduras, in a July 27th letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, endorsed the administration's call for restoration of democracy and basic civil rights and liberties in that country. The letter's signatories included officials from Nike, The Gap, The Adidas Group and Knights Apparel, according to the letter posted at Nike's website.

The letter indicated that the four multinational corporations 'do not and will not support or endorse the position of any party in this internal dispute.' It further described the crisis in Honduras as one based on 'serious disagreements' that 'exist between the elected President, Congress and the Supreme Court' of that country.

Resolution of those disagreements should come through 'peaceful, democratic dialogue,' the letter asserted plainly, 'rather than through military action.'

The major apparel makers also endorsed the actions and statements of 'the President of the United States, the governments of countries throughout the Americas, the Organization of American States, the UN General Assembly and the European Union in calling for the restoration of democracy in Honduras.'

Violence and the restrictions on civil liberties, emerging since the coup, pose a serious concern, the letter continued. 'We urge for an immediate resolution to the crisis and that civil liberties, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association be fully respected.'

On July 1st, the coup authorities adopted and emergency order restricting freedom of movement, assembly, speech and media access to events in Honduras. Human rights groups have also revealed that social movement leaders have been attacked, arbitrarily arrested and even killed by pro-coup forces.

While the letter from the four major corporations refused to offer advice as to the next steps by international institutions or the US government to help bring the coup to an end, the letter did express continued hope that mediation talks could help resolve the crisis swiftly.

In a statement on its website, the Canadian-based workers' rights group Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), welcomed the statement, but chastised other multinational corporations with similar interests for supporting the coup.

'Until now, businesses and business associations – including those in the textile and apparel industries, which account for the majority of Honduras' exports – have publicly supported the coup, lobbied against trade sanctions or remained silent and carried on business as usual under the military-imposed regime,' said Lynda Yanz, executive director of MSN.

She added, 'Unless companies doing business in Honduras speak out in favor of democracy, we can only assume that they agree with the position of the business associations to which they belong that have either supported the coup or called for business as usual.'

The July 27th letter from four leading garment makers countered a July 11th letter to President Obama supporting the military coup signed by the American Apparel and Footwear Association, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel and the US Chamber of Commerce.

The pro-coup letter from leading corporate associations was denounced in a statement earlier this month by the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation. That union's General Secretary Neil Kearney accused the pro-coup garment-making corporations of overlooking 'democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law' in the hopes that the coup regime might scale back the minimum wage raise instituted by President Zelaya just six months ago.

Human rights groups, which have increasingly supported once-conservative President Zelaya recently, also accuse coup supporters of instituting the military action against the constitutional government of Honduras because Zelaya favored serious investigations into war crimes committed during the country's civil war. Some believe those investigations would have uncovered ties between top pro-coup leaders and war crimes.