PROVINCIAL STATEMENT OF THE DOMINICANS
IN CENTRAL AMERICA
ON THE COUP D’ÉTAT IN HONDURAS
To all the communities of the Dominican Province of Saint Vincent Ferrer in Central America, to the Dominican Family in Central America, to the parish and pastoral communities which we accompany with our work and to all men and women who work for justice and peace in the world.
EVENTS OF CONCERN
1. The arrest of the president of the Republic of Honduras on June 28 by the Armed Forces of that county, the violation of his home, his expulsion from the national territory, and the way this was carried out have presented themselves as the culmination of a series of conflicts which were happening in our brother country and to the outburst of a serious human and institutional crisis and a crisis of civilized living together which threatens the peace of the whole region.
2. The events which preceded such a serious breakdown of the social and political order are not limited, as has been presented in some news sources, only to the proposal of the president to conduct a consultation with which he was trying to obtain backing for [his proposal] to set up in the coming general elections in November a fourth ballot box in which the citizens would have to vote if they wanted to change the political Constitution. A series of conflicts had been building up between president Zelaya and various economic sectors during the last few months. The restructuring of the profit formulas for the international oil companies, the importation of generic drugs from Cuba at cheaper costs than those offered by the national and international pharmaceutical companies, the decision to raise the minimum wage – one of the lowest of the Isthmus – from $182 to $291 [a month], measures that favored the environment, vis-à-vis the mining companies, were some of the governmental measures which caused deep discontent among various private business groups who perceived these events as opposed to their interests and who were putting together a front against those who were governing.
3. From the moment of the removal of President Zelaya, not the least of the serious conflicts generated is the discussion on how to interpret the events as well as the polarization around such interpretations. While international leaders and organisms, such the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights and other organizations, categorically speak of a coup d’état [golpe de estado, in Spanish] and condemned it, the defenders of the same [event] consider it to be a “legitimate succession” in power in conformity with the internal laws of Honduras. All this has created confusion in sectors of the Central American population in [regard to] news reports.
4. This has produced the International isolation of Honduras, the suspension of financial aid, the withdrawal of ambassadors of various nations – all of which raises the fear that, as is customary, this injures, to a great extent, the poorest and weakest, because the more powerful groups always have ways and resources to protect themselves from every type of crisis. The confrontation between the defenders of the institutional order and those who accept the de facto regime has reached the shedding of blood with the shooting by the military on the demonstrators who were in favor of the return of the President.
5. While those who broke up the institutional order consider that the increasing and dangerous influence of the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other members of ALBA was being brought to bear in Honduras, other sectors of the people and various analysts point to possible plotting, at least an ambiguous attitude, to put it moderately, by the US government in the face of the coup.
ETHICAL CRITERIA FROM CHURCH SOCIAL TEACHING
The call of history [History knocks]
6. As Dominicans we see in our Latin America the living testimony of the martyrs who have taken seriously their vocation to be witnesses of the truth. They summon us, as the Order of Preachers, above all, to take on the vocation of announcing and denouncing. This call is much stronger when human life and social living together are at stake.
7. But we are clear that the obligation to express our opinion, an obligation we share with the Church, ought to be founded in the ethical-religious level, not in the scientific-technical order. In these very days Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, citing earlier church teaching, that “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer and does not claim ‘to interfere in any way in the politics of States.’ She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation.” (Caritas in veritate, n. 9). Therefore our judgment in this moment cannot be either in the field of juridical-legal analysis or in the field of social-scientific analysis, neither of which belongs to us as Church.
8. Therefore, convinced that they are based on principles drawn from the Church’s Social Teaching, we present the considerations which we offer below in dialogue with other sectors of Church and society, looking to bring light to the action which is required in the face of the crisis in Honduras.
9. In the first place, it is necessary to remember that in this conflict which originated in Honduras one finds groups with diverse ideologies, political partisanship, and social and economics interests and that, therefore, one must respect and start from the existence of this plurality. Nevertheless, one must insist very emphatically that one cannot accept the vision, as some have said, that there exist “two groups [bands],” “two parts,” in reference to the democratic institutional order, while the international consensus endorses the [political order] in terms of the conception of democracy and the defense of human rights. In terms of justice, institutions, and defense of human rights, it is not fitting to accept [the notion of] two “groups [bands]” nor some sort of negotiation under the penalty of destroying the premises needed for living together amidst the diversity of persons.
10. The Church has been forceful, in this respect, defending the identification and the proclamation of the rights of humans as one of the forces most relevant in responding effectively to the essential demands of human dignity (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 76). Likewise [it has been forceful] in affirming that the ultimate source of human rights is not found in the mere will of human beings, in the reality of the State, or in public powers, but in the very human person and in God their Creator (cf. Pacem in Terris). Therefore, it is completely unacceptable – as has been done in the “dismissal” of president Zelaya – to have recourse to or to apply any national legislation that does not conform to or is not subordinate to these rights. It is even much less acceptable to shield oneself in “states of exception” to commit actions which fail to respect human dignity. It is clear that Christians appreciate the democratic system to the extent that it assures the participation of all its citizens, gives them the possibility to elect their leaders and hold them accountable, and to replace them in a peaceful manner (cf. Centesimus annus, 46).
11. It is clear in the Catholic social teaching tradition that resort to resistance to a ruler, by means of armed forces, is only legitimate when there have evident been certain, serious and prolonged violation of fundamental rights – not when they have [only] been foreseen or supposed as possible; when all other recourses have been exhausted; without provoking worse disorders; when there is a firm chance of success and if it is impossible to foresee better reasonable solutions. None of this seems to have been considered by the authors of the coup d’état in Honduras. Let us quote the following paragraph in the encyclical “The Progress of Peoples” (31). In that text [Pope] Paul VI recalls the enormous dangers of insurrection against legitimate governments because “– except in the case of evident and prolonged tyranny which seriously attacks the fundamental rights of the person and dangerously harms the common good of a nation – [insurrection] engenders new injustices, introduces new imbalances, and provokes new destruction. A real evil cannot be combated at the cost of a greater evil.” The unanimous international condemnation of the coup in Honduras reveals the widespread perception that the change of the institutional order in Honduras creates threats, no only for peaceful and just living together within the country, but also for the fragile democratic system in the region. This, without a single doubt, is a greater evil which could be avoiding and which in every case remains subject to proof with due process.
12. Furthermore, one cannot separate the ethical-religious judgment of the coup from what one must formulate about the general widespread situation of Honduras and the solution of which ought to be made a first priority, not only for Catholics but also for all men and women of good will in the country, in particular those who govern. Let it be enough to recall certain facts: Honduras is one of the countries in this continent with the majority of the population suffering poverty and its effects, with high indices of inequality in the distribution of income per capita and in the concentration of per capita income per household. Only 38.2% of the households appear in the statistics as “non-poor” because they can cover their basic nutritional and other needs. The level of infant mortality averages 23 per 1000, but it is four times the national average in some rural departments [provinces/states]. For this country, the indicator of hope in life lies in even worse state in that education indicators, which, no matter how the scores are obtained, are among the lowest in the region. It is one of the countries of the isthmus which shows the greatest proportion of undernourished children, where low birth weight is one of the factors which precipitates malnutrition at later ages – the result, fundamentally, of prenatal malnutrition – and where relevant advances in the reduction of this indicator are not registered. The effects of malnutrition suffered in the preschool population is seen clearly in the accumulated deficit of stature in school children which exceeds 40%. And it is clear that one of the principal factor which impacts the deteriorated health situation is inadequate access to sanitation and water. Furthermore, a third of those who suffer from HIV-AIDS in all of Central America live in Honduras.
13. Will we Christians – and in particular we Friars Preachers [Domninicans] – be able to say that in Honduras we are announcing the God of life, Jesus who came “that we may have life and life in abundance”? Will Honduran political parties and leaders [be able to say] that they have made the defense of life their principal priority? Will the coup d’état have any relation with this social and economic situation which is so conflictive and unacceptable?
14. Whatever may be the response to these questions, we are convinced that the commitment to accompany the people of Honduras is not limited to this regrettable juncture of the break up of democratic institutions, but is extended to the journey toward overcoming these structural problems. A strengthening of political democracy – so dramatically wounded with the recent coup – will only be realized with the robust construction of an economic and social democracy.
15. But, in this journey, to define what has to be done – as [Pope] Paul VI taught clairvoyantly – this is not our privileged task, nor is it [the privileged task] of the bishops or the Pope. It is the Christian communities who are entrusted with “analyzing with objectivity the situation of their own country, to illuminate it with the light of the unchangeable Word of the Gospel, to deduce principles of reflections, norms of judgment and directives for action according to the social teachings of the Church as it has been elaborated throughout history … It belongs [to them], with the help of the Holy Spirit, in communion with their responsible bishops, in dialogue with all other Christians and all people of good will, to discern the choices and the commitments which are suitable to assume in order to make real the social, political mad economic transformations which are considered to be urgently needed in each case ( Octagesima adveniens, 4).
GUIDELINES FOR ACTION
16. We call all religious and members of the Dominican Family in Central America to reject categorically, based on the principles stated here, the coup inflicted on the Honduran democratic institution and call for national and international support for the restoration of the same [the democratic institution] as soon as possible.
17. Likewise, we are called to effectively express our solidarity with those most in need, the poorest and the most excluded of the people of Honduras, who are also those who have been most affected -- sometimes even manipulated -- by critical situations like the present one.
18. We consider it very important to resume dialogue within the church in order to determine the common points which bring us to an act of commitment for peace, justice, and solidarity with the poorest. We agree with the Honduran bishops in regard to the need to “initiate a true dialogue among all the sectors of society so that we can arrive at constructive solutions.”
19. We also agree with the bishops that it is “necessary to globalize solidarity as a path that can help us overcome injustice and inequality.” We particularly ask the help of the Promoters of Justice and Peace in the continent so that we do not allow any of our countries to repeat again the alterations of democratic institutions which pull our societies back to the lamentable stages of our past history.
20. We ought to collaborate with the effort of civil society and politicians of good will so that the army of Honduras will avoid falling again into the acts which happened in the last few days.
21. As the Dominican family of Central America we can commit ourselves to create spaces for dialogue, reflection, and prayer, along the lines of justice and peace, to strengthen the identification and construction of common interests by means of justice, excluding all forms of violence.
22. it is urgent that our communities, in their reflection and action keep a watchful Gospel attitude, a culture and an ethic which are translated into actions which help prevent the repetition of these types of situations.
Joined with the Council of the Dominican province of Saint Vincent Ferrer of Central America, and the Centers devoted to Research CEDI (Heredia, Costa Rica), and AkKután (Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala).
Fr. Alexis Páez Ovares, O.P.
Fr. Carlos Flores, O.P.
Justice and Peace Promotor
This is an unofficial translation; the original in Spanish can be found at
This has been a difficult text for me to translate.
Corrections to the translation are eagerly welcomed.