An Israeli political party is calling for the government to cancel the invitation for Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez to take part in the country’s Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl.
Tamar Zandberg, chairperson of the Meretz Party, in a letter to the Israeli culture minister, Miri Regev, asked the government to uninvite President Juan Orlando Hernandez to light a torch at Israel’s 70th-anniversary celebration.
"Honduras is one of the most corrupt and dangerous countries in the world for its citizens," Zandberg wrote to the minister.
The Meretz leader punctuated: "Honduras has one of the world’s most corrupt and dangerous police forces. According to reports, civil and military police and the army itself have been involved in serious violations of human rights in the past few years, including torture, threats and extra-judicial killings" of reporters, environmentalists, farmers, the LGBT community and indigenous people, she punctuated.
"I believe it is correct to ask you to cancel this decision to have the president participate in the torch ceremony," Zandberg wrote.
The United Nations reported in March that national security forces under Hernandez were responsible for killing at least 16 people since he was controversially reelected on Nov. 26, 2017 and sworn in on Jan. 27 of this year. Honduran human rights organizations say Hernandez has had more than 1,000 demonstrators arrested for protesting what they say was a fraudulent poll, and the Organization of American States (OAS) says the November election was so "irregular" it was deemed "inconclusive."
Zanberg said having Hernandez light a torch at Israeli independence was a "scandalous decision that legitimizes a president responsible for gross violations of human rights in his country."
This is the first time a reigning president will take part in the anniversary celebration taking place on April 18. Zandberg claims that Hernandez was handed this privilege solely because it obligates and enables Benjamin Netanyahu to attend, who, as prime minister is mandated to be present at the ceremony when another head of state is in attendance. Israeli parliament speaker Yuli Edelstein has said he’ll boycott the ceremony if Netanyahu attends as the speaker is generally the highest ranking official at the anniversary.
"The word ‘And to the glory of the State of Israel,’ uttered before each torch is lit, will pale in the face of this unwanted guest and the circumstances surrounding his invitation," Zandberg says in her letter.
Regev claims Zandberg’s criticism of Hernandez is "empty accusations with no basis.” She also said: "It would be best for all of the shouters from the Left, and primarily Miss Zandberg, maintain stately behavior instead of looking for headlines."
Hernandez began his career as part of an Israeli Foreign Ministry Mashav (Agency for International Development Cooperation) in 1992 and sided with U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem, to which Palestinian officials partly lay claim.