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Ousted President’s Return to Honduras Doesn’t Mean Repression is Over May 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Published on Friday, May 27, 2011 by The Progressive

  by  Dana Frank

The return of deposed President Manuel Zelaya to Honduras doesn’t mean democracy, civil liberties and the basic rule of law are returning to that country any time soon. Far from it.

The very same oligarchs who launched the coup remain in power, and in the past two months the government’s repression has accelerated. That’s why more than 70 members of Congress are calling for a suspension of U.S. military and police aid to Honduras.

On May 22, Zelaya and the current president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, signed a pact permitting Zelaya to return free of the trumped-up charges the coup makers leveled against him when the Honduran military packed him onto a plane to Costa Rica on June 28, 2009. Lobo also promised to allow plebiscites and to recognize the National Front of Popular Resistance, the broad coalition uniting labor, women’s groups, peasant organizations, gay alliances and Afro-indigenous movements.

But both of these “concessions” are already legally on the books, and grant nothing concrete to the opposition.

Zelaya’s return itself does have enormous popular significance. For hundreds of thousands of Hondurans, including those who are quite critical of him, he is the grand symbol of resistance to the ongoing military coup. He represents constitutional order, the rule of law and a hope for a different Honduran future based on social justice.

But neither Zelaya’s return nor the pact address the horrific human rights situation in the country. Lobo appointed the same officers who ran the coup to control the armed forces, the state-owned telephone company, the airports and the immigration service. And the government’s authoritarianism in the past two months now exceeds the period right after the coup.

Police and the military now routinely shoot tear gas canisters directly at peaceful demonstrators at close range. Paramilitary gangs have killed more than 40 peasant activists since Lobo took office, including four in the last three weeks. Since Lobo came to power in the coup, more than 300 opposition members have been killed, according to human rights groups. Impunity reigns. You can drive by and shoot a teacher, an indigenous activist or a trade unionist, and nothing – nothing — will happen to you.

Lobo, in the accord, promised to create a new ministry overseeing human rights. But his promise means nothing. Indeed, three days after the accord, his police launched live bullets and tear gas against a group of high school students protesting the suspension of their math teachers.

Despite growing congressional recognition of the crisis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeps insisting that “democracy has been restored” and that Honduras should be readmitted to the Organization of American States at its June 5-7 meeting.

Rather than join Clinton in whitewashing a repressive regime, we should unite with members of Congress in demanding an immediate suspension of U.S. military aid to Honduras — and an end to support for the ongoing coup government of Porfirio Lobo.

© 2011 The Progressive

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Dana Frank

Dana Frank is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of “Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America,” which focuses on Honduras, and Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism. She is currently writing a book about the AFL-CIO’s Cold War intervention in the Honduran labor movement.

Agreement signed for democratic rights in Honduras
Written by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John
Riddell   SOA Watch
On May 22, Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former president José
Manuel
Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement ‘For National Reconciliation and
the Consolidation of the Democratic System in the Republic of Honduras.’

Lobo was elected in November 2009 in a rigged vote organized by the regime
installed through the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew Zelaya. The
majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations refused to recognize the
legitimacy of the Lobo government, despite the strong support it received from
the United States and Canada.

The present agreement, finalized in Cartagena, Colombia, also bears the
signatures of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan Foreign
Minister Nicolás Maduro (on behalf of President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías) as
witnesses.

This agreement opens the door to significant changes in the Central American
political landscape and to the re-entry of Honduras into the Organization of
American States (OAS) and SICA (Central American Integration System).

An earlier article, “Freedom for Joaquín Pérez Becerra!” discussed the context that
led Colombia and Venezuelan presidents to join in sponsoring this
initiative.

The Resistance welcomes the agreement

In
a May 23 statement
, the Political Committee of the National Front for
People’s Resistance (FNRP), the main organization coordinating popular
resistance to the coup inside Honduras, noted that “this agreement for
international mediation enables us to put an end to our exile [and] reinforce
our process for the refoundation of Honduras.” It issued a “call to all members
of the resistance inside and outside Honduras to unite in a great mobilization
to greet and welcome our leader and the General Coordinator of the FNRP, José
Manuel Zelaya Rosales, at 11 a.m., May 28, 2011, at the International Airport.”
The statement noted that the agreement complied with the four conditions set by
the FNRP.

The FNRP also expressed “thanks for the process of international mediation”
carried out by the Venezuelan and Colombian presidents.

Terms of the accord

By the terms of the
Cartagena agreement
, the signatories commit themselves to:

  • Guarantee the return to Honduras in security and liberty of Zelaya and all
    others exiled as a result of the crisis. (Over 200 other exiled leaders of the
    resistance are also now able to return under the terms of the agreement.)
  • Assure conditions in which the FNRP can gain recognition as a legal
    political party.
  • Reaffirm the constitutional right to initiate plebiscites, particularly with
    respect to the FNRP project of convening a National Constituent Assembly. (It
    was President Zelaya’s move to hold a non-binding plebiscite on calling a
    Constituent Assembly that the organizers of the 2009 coup cited to justify their
    action.)
  • Create a Secretariat of Justice and Human Rights to secure human rights in
    Honduras and invite the UN Human Rights Commission to establish an office in
    Honduras.
  • Constitute a Monitoring (Verification) Commission, consisting initially of
    the Colombian and Venezuelan presidencies, to help assure the successful
    implementation of the agreement.

U.S. disruption attempt

Notably absent from discussions leading to the Cartagena Agreement was the
United States, which has long been the arbiter of Honduran politics. Washington
kept silent on the Cartagena mediation process, while in fact attempting to
torpedo it.

Alexander Main, an analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research,
noted on May 19 that when, as part of the mediation process, Honduran courts
dropped charges against Zelaya, the U.S. State Department issued an “exuberant
statement” the following day calling for the suspension of Honduras from the
Organization of American States (OAS) to be “immediately lifted” – a move that
would have cut short the Cartagena mediation process. This suspension, enacted
in protest against the coup, was one of the factors driving the illegitimate
Honduran regime to seek mediation. (See “What Now for a Post-Coup
Honduras
“)

“For good measure,” Main says, “the [U.S.] statement noted that ‘since his
inauguration, President Lobo has moved swiftly to pursue national
reconciliation, strengthen governance, stabilize the economy, and improve human
rights conditions.’”

In fact, according to the Committee of Family Members of Disappeared
Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), politically motivated killings have taken the
lives of 34 members of the resistance and 10 journalists since Lobo took office.
No killers have been prosecuted either for these crimes or for the 300 killings
by state security forces since the coup.

Showdown at the OAS

The U.S. canvassed energetically among Central and South American countries
subject to its influence for support for immediate reinstatement of Honduras –
prior to the conclusion of the mediation process. “In mid-May these divisions
came to a head when a diplomatic tussle took place at the OAS,” Main
reports.

In Main’s opinion, “the U.S. is not prepared to accept a political mediation
in Honduras in which it doesn’t play a leading role. The U.S. has traditionally
been deeply involved in the internal affairs of Honduras,” and “the country
continues to be of great strategic importance to the U.S.”

The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, called a meeting of the OAS
Permanent Council that was to consider readmitting the de facto Honduran regime.
According to a reliable source at the OAS, Main reports, several Latin American
countries, apparently including Colombia, demanded cancellation of the meeting
on the grounds that it was “premature.” Within hours, the meeting was
cancelled.

The failure of this U.S.-inspired maneuver opened the road for the signing of
the Cartagena agreement nine days later.

Regional sovereignty

The Cartagena agreement, and the process that facilitated it, marks an
important victory for the Honduran resistance. More broadly, it reinforces the
process of Indo-Latin American and Caribbean efforts to shape their own national
and regional policies free from imperialist domination. (See “Honduras
se reintegra al CA-4
.”) It developed outside the OAS framework, and will
help to strengthen and consolidate the new Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States (CELAC) that will meet this coming July in Caracas, Venezuela,
under the joint chairmanship of that country and Chile.

The Cartagena accord’s impact in Central America was immediate and far
reaching. Lobo and Zelaya flew from Cartagena to Managua the same day of the
signing ceremony for a special meeting of the SICA (Central American Integration
System) at which Honduras was welcomed back by three other Central American
presidents – Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Mauricio Funes (El Salvador), and Alvaro
Colom (Guatemala). At the meeting Ortega announced the re-establishment of
diplomatic relations between Nicaragua and Honduras.

In a joint
statement
, the four presidents called on the OAS to re-admit Honduras, and
new agreements were also announced regarding a Customs Union of the four
countries. These measures mark a defeat for those forces in Central America
inimical to the regional integration process, including the Costa Rican
government and its hostile campaign to isolate Sandinista Nicaragua
diplomatically and economically.

Need for continued solidarity

Whether the Honduran government will fully carry out the Cartagena agreement
remains to be seen. In particular, the coup has produced an entrenched pattern
of systematic repression and unrestrained operation of death squads in Honduras.
Experiences in other countries, including Colombia, show that such right-wing
repression can run rampant, with under-the-table support from security forces,
despite formal statements of government disapproval.

The establishment of the Colombia-Venezuela monitoring commission will be
vital to keeping the pressure on the Lobo government. Friends of Honduran
democracy in North America will need to do some monitoring as well, as an
expression of continued solidarity with the Honduran people.

Further reading:

Toni Solo, “Varieties of
Imperial Decline: Another Setback for the U.S. in Latin America
,” May 23,
2011

Ida Garberi, “El
regreso de Mel Zelaya es un deber, el retorno de Honduras en la OEA es
indigno
,” May 24, 2011

Bienvenidos

Grading Obama on Honduran Coup: D January 21, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far
(Roger’s note: The author of the article posted below is splitting hairs when he argues that Obama deserves a D and not an F because the response of the Bush Administration would have been worse.  What he ignores is the high degree of probability that the US was a silent partner to the “military coup” from the beginning.  The Honduran military is no more than a branch office of the US military, its officers trained at the infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.  It is not believable that the Hondurn military would have initiated their illegal coup without at least the tacit approval of the US government.  Perhaps, or rather likely that Obama was not aware of this until after the fact if at all, but that does not nevertheless excuse his administration’s subsequent recognition of the illegal government’s sham election and its failure to condemn the oppression.  The result of the Obama administration’s foreign policy with respect to Honduras reflects not a scintilla of difference from what have been expected of the Bush gang of criminals.)
Published on Thursday, January 21, 2010 by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF)by Mark Engler

The June 28 coup in Honduras against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya presented a crisis that would color the Obama administration’s foreign policy outlook for all of the Americas — and would ultimately become one of the administration’s most disappointing foreign policy failures of its first year.

Early on, the White House was earning about a B- for its response to the coup. It generally did the right thing, but it seemed to do so reluctantly and without conviction. One day after Zelaya’s ouster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that Zelaya’s removal “should be condemned by all.” The following day, Barack Obama declared, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras.”

In spite of these statements, the administration avoided formally categorizing Zelaya’s removal as a “military coup,” a classification which would have required the U.S. government to follow diplomatic protocols mandating swift aid cuts and other forms of censure. Eventually, in September, the United States did revoke the visas for the Honduran coup president, its foreign minister, and 14 of its Supreme Court judges, and it suspended $30 million in aid. However, this represented only a fraction of total U.S. aid to Honduras. Larger streams of money continued to flow through channels, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation, ostensibly on the grounds that such aid served an important humanitarian function.

For much of the early period after the coup, Obama expressed the view that the United States should take a light hand if possible in internal Latin American affairs, and that the situation in Honduras should be primarily resolved through diplomatic efforts within the region. This nod toward non-interventionism would ordinarily have considerable merit. But amid the White House’s other half-hearted measures — and with Republican lawmakers such as South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint praising coup leaders and arguing that Honduran government institutions performed “as our own Founding Fathers would have hoped” in “cleansing [itself] of usurpers” — the coup government was allowed to interpret the lack of a stronger official response as a sign of tacit sympathy from Washington.

All this was problematic but not disastrous. The Obama administration’s true failure was that it bombed the final exam: the scheduled November 29 presidential elections. Shortly after brokering a deal designed to pressure the Honduran Congress to reinstate Zelaya and allow him to serve the end of his term, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon reversed himself and declared that the United States would recognize the elections even if Zelaya remained out of office. And that is exactly what happened.

We’re now left with a new government tarnished by the legacy of the coup and elected amid massive protest and popular abstention. Pro-coup forces continue to perpetuate frightening human rights abuses, including the repression of critical journalists and the abduction of prominent pro-democracy activists. Yet the Obama administration has articulated no plan for exerting its considerable leverage to promote the return of legitimate democracy.

So why not give Obama an F? Some progressives, disgusted by the White House response, may be tempted to contend that it reflects a Latin American foreign policy that is even worse than that of President George W. Bush’s. This would be an error. The stances of Bush appointees such as former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Otto Reich — who lauded the coup as a necessary measure against the “expansion of Chavist authoritarianism” — shows that the position of the last administration would likely have been far worse than that of the present one. But the prospect that things could be even grimmer than they are now doesn’t mean that the White House deserves passing marks for its efforts.

© 2010 Foreign Policy in Focus

Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, 2008). He can be reached on http://www.DemocracyUprising.com. Research assistance provided by Arthur Phillips.
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