Attorneys Urge Court to Hear Lawsuit Against Honduran Coup Leader November 7, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: honduran military, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras justice, honduras repression, Latin America, micheletti, porforio lobo, roger hollander, san jose agreement
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Honduras: Wealthy Landowners Attempt to Quash Farming Collectives September 16, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Agriculture, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
Tags: andrew kennis, cartagena accords, farming collectives, fnrp, Honduras, honduras assassination, honduras collectives, honduras corruption, honduras coup, honduras land, honduras land grab, honduras paramilitaries, honduras repression, honduras violence, human rights, land disribution, Latin America, oas, porfirio lobo, roger hollander, zelaya
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The Bajo Aguán region of Honduras is a rich, fertile valley that comprises land that is worth nothing less than millions upon millions of dollars. It was not even two months ago that Secundino Ruiz, 44, proudly boasted to Truthout: “this valley is numero uno for agriculture in Central America; there’s corn here, beans, rice, fantastic African palms and everything that a human being would need.”
Hospitable and friendly, Ruiz extended a personal invitation to Truthout: “I’m going to propose you something, I would like for your colegas and you to all come to Bajo Aguán to see for yourselves just how beautiful it is here.”
Several masked men prevented Ruiz’s offer from ever being realized, as they shot him to death on August 20, and also seriously injured Eliseo Pavon, who suffered head wounds. Ruiz’s killers approached the taxi that he and Pavon occupied shortly after they had exited a bank with $10,260 of organizational funds in their possession.
The government and authorities have painted the event as nothing more than a robbery, but local farmers, researchers and activists do not agree with that perspective. Given Ruiz’s position as the vice president of the Authentic Peasant Protest Movement of Aguán (MARCA) and Pavon’s role as its treasurer, they argue that the killing was just one of many politically motivated killings that have been occurring on a regular basis in the region throughout the year.
Marcelino Lopez, a fellow MARCA activist and friend of Ruiz’s, described the loss: “He was a very accessible and dedicated activist filled with solidarity, who was a fantastic representative of the movement, who is going to be a tremendous loss to the movement.”
While 2011 has been a year filled with killings of activist farmers in the conflict-ridden region, August was an exceptionally violent month during what has been an exceptionally violent year.
Just one day following Ruiz’s murder, Pedro Salgado of the Unified Movement of Campesinos of Aguán (MUCA) and his wife were both shot and killed in their own home. Teenagers have been among the August victims as well: 17-year-old Javier Melgar was killed in the Rigores community on August 15, while 15- year-old Roldin Marel Villeda and 18-year-old Sergio Magdiel Amaya were slain just three days later in the municipality of Trujillo. Marel’s and Magdiel’s deaths occurred in the same incident that brought an end to the life of Victor Manuel Mata Oliva, aged 40. All were part of the Campesino Corporation of San Esteban, one of the two dozen cooperatives that form the base of MUCA. Examples of more teenager victimization included 17-year-old Lenikin Lemos Martinez and 18-year-old Denis Israel Castro, who were beaten by police, arrested and charged with murder (which residents claim were trumped-up charges). The beating occurred in the community Guadalupe Carney, which is home to the Campesino Movement of the Aguán and located near the eviction-riddled Rigores community (earlier this past summer, police evicted Rigores farmers by burning down well over 100 homes, as reported by Honduras-based journalist, Jesse Freeston and confirmed by international human rights observers).
Why is this violence occurring? What is the root of the conflict? Is the depiction of the situation in Aguán given by the Honduran government – only recently recognized internationally by the Organization of American States – an accurate reflection of what is going on? Bajo Aguán campesinos, as well as researchers and activists who have been visiting the region for decades worth of collective time, provided Truthout first-hand testimony in an effort to shed light on an otherwise largely overlooked, underreported and ongoing human and land rights catastrophe.
Plantation-Like State of Affairs Long Existent in Bajo Aguán
Annie Bird has been visiting Honduras for the last dozen years and is the co-director of Rights Action, a nonprofit and non-governmental organization, which funds community efforts in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador. Bird explained to Truthout that the campesinos first started organizing farming collectives and cooperatives back in the 1960s and ’70s. Those same groupings form the bedrock of most of the organized collectives in the region today.
By the 1990s, however, a temporary change to a previous law preventing land purchases of over 300 hectares devastated the farming cooperatives of the region. Among those that pounced on the opportunity to take advantage of the law was one of the wealthiest businessmen of Honduras, Miguel Farcusse, owner of Exportadores del Atlantico (Atlantic Exporters).
The 1990s land grab was shrouded in corruption and violence, according to Bird: “literally through kidnappings, at gunpoint and through corrupt methods and practices, much of the land was ‘sold’ to wealthy individuals.”
Those wealthy individuals were at the heart of an initiative by former President Zelaya. His administration had forged ahead with a decree announced on June 12, 2009, which contained the intention to return much of land to the campesino groups via a commission formed to do so. The process of investigating land titles to determine authenticity and validity had just begun when the coup which overthrew Zelaya occurred, completely interrupting the process.
As a result, the plantation-like land distribution and labor arrangements continued. The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief found that some one-third of the most desirable agricultural lands in Honduras are owned by just 1 percent of its populace.
MUCA first started issuing demands for a return to its land and eventually resorted to occupying lands (from December 2009 to February 2010).
Many of the landowners hired armed security guards, with Farcusse being the most prominent among them. The impunity enjoyed by the armed guards is what is chiefly responsible for the continuing violence in the region, Bird has argued, as no less than four dozen farmers have been killed by the guards since the latter’s training first began in January 2010.
While the government has accused the farmer collectives of using foreign firepower, there is little evidence to support such allegations – which have been roundly denied by the groups themselves. Further, some reports have indicated that it was Farcusse himself who had resorted to hiring 150 Colombian paramilitaries as the basis for his private army.
“We can assume that the recent violence is a means of terrorizing the farmers. After all, the people who have died are important farmer activists and not just random people; clearly, they have been targeted,” explained Gilberto Ríos, the director of the Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) Honduras, an organization that has been following the situation closely.
Negotiations Continue to Flounder, Related Frustrations Lead to Increased Violence
The violence in the region has been a continuing source of embarrassment and concern to state authorities, who finally managed to broker a deal in April 2010. In the agreement, some 11,000 hectares of land would have been returned and distributed to the MUCA and MARCA farming collectives. Further, the arrangement included provisions for additional social services, such as additional education and health care facilities, as FIAN’s Claudia Pinera pointed out to Truthout.
The agreement’s implementation, however, was marred by violence, evictions, arrests and a general lack of follow-through. When Farcusse and other wealthy landowners got in on the act and negotiated their own arrangement with select MUCA representatives, the resulting June 2011 agreement had reduced the land to be distributed down to 4,000 hectares, not even half the total included in the April accords.
The farming representatives who negotiated the more recent agreement, however, were limited to farmers hailing from the northern bank. According to Bird, Farcusse and his landowner colleagues took on a divide-and-conquer strategy: “Since most of the leadership is comprised by northern bank representatives, the perception is that the landowners have been deliberately dividing the movement by favoring them in negotiations.”
Of the 28 most important farming collectives in the region, some 24 belong to MUCA, with about four associated with MARCA. Of those two dozen MUCA collectives, around two-thirds belong to the southern bank region of Aguán. None of their representatives, however, were present during the talks which led up to the June accord.
At the end of July, the southern bank representatives of MUCA re-emphasized its opposition to these arrangements.
Marcelino Lopez of MARCA revealed to Truthout that some breakaway farming collectives were retaking land above and beyond the June agreements, out of frustration from their exclusion and in opposition to the trajectory of the talks: “there are some unaffiliated farmers who are starting to recover lands that are outside of the scope of the agreements, as they are completely opposed to the way matters have developed.”
Lopez speculated that these breakaway groupings and their respective attempts to recover and reclaim land may have provoked the additional violence from the landowners’ security guards in August.
Nevertheless, Lopez expressed hope about forthcoming unity: “There is a little division in the MUCA, because of misunderstandings, but there are some indications that there is growing unity between the two wings [the northern and southern banks] and talks between them are ongoing.”
In the meantime, the armed guards employed by Farcusse and other landowners, continue to operate at will, a situation which has only worsened with the passage of time.
“There have been paramilitaries and death squads operating since January 2010 and the army started moving in around March 2011,” remarked Bird.
Organization of American States Recognition Pointed to as Exacerbating Factor, as Campesinos Continue to be Killed in September
Back in June, the lead Amnesty International researcher on Honduras, Esther Major, expressed some hope and cautious optimism to Truthout about the Organization of American States’ (OAS) decision – long lobbied for and supported by the US – to finally officially recognize Honduras: “We were hoping that Honduras would have made more progress before its admittance, but hope that they seize this opportunity to improve matters and likewise, that the OAS tracks matters so that this can be accomplished.”
Gerrardo Torres, who is the international representative of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), offered a contradicting prediction to Truthout: “The Honduran regime has gained a legitimacy that it does not deserve and from our perspective, this will likely raise – not decrease – the level of violence present both in Aguán and beyond.”
As the month of September begins after a bloody August, the prediction by Torres is largely being borne out, as yet another killing was announced by MUCA and relayed by FIAN on Friday, September 2: “Olvin David González Godoy, a young 24-year man – married and with an eight-month-old baby girl – was assassinated today in the early morning hours. He was a member of the July 21st Cooperative, affiliated with MUCA … the organizers of the cooperative don’t have any doubt that his death was related to the agrarian conflict that continues without a solution.”
The cooperative also expressed its opposition to a continually escalating military and police presence in the region, as 600 more soldiers and 400 more police were dispatched to Aguán in the wake of August’s violence.
Adrienne Pine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University who specializes in research on Honduras, and has regularly visited the country since 1997, criticized the OAS and US policy on Honduras, linking the stances taken to the continuing abuses:
The State Department’s lobbying efforts to bring Honduras back into the fold and recognized in the international community were successful. But the Cartagena Accords, which re-inserted Honduras into the global community as a legitimate state, means that there’s less pressure from international institutions such as the OAS. The implicit and explicit agreement was that the State would be recognizing human rights. But any of us who was following this with a critical eye, didn’t believe a word of it. Now, we’re seeing the results of that.
Elaborating on US support for the regime and non-action on internal abuses, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy told Truthout that the March 2010 restoration of military aid by the US to Honduras prompted “widespread criticism.” Alexander Main of the Center for Economic Policy and Research echoed such sentiments, pointing out that “full throttle support for the regime” dated back all the way to November 2009, with the decision to support the election which elected the Lobos regime, an election that was not recognized by most of Latin America.
Will impunity for hired “security” agents of wealthy landowners against the long-running struggle of Aguán’s farming collectives continue to reign? Whatever the outcome, Aguán will certainly continue to be a central part of crafting the future of a country still reeling from the effects of the July 2009 coup and the subsequent coup-supported Lobos regime. For the time being and as Torres told Truthout, “the police and the military continue to terrorize the population with impunity.”
Exclusive Interview with Manuel Zelaya on the U.S. Role in Honduran Coup, WikiLeaks and Why He Was Ousted May 31, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
Tags: alba, amy goodman, cia, democracynow, honduran military, Honduras, honduras coup, human rights, manuel zelaya, porfirio lobo, posada carriles, roger hollander, southern command, zelaya return
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Roger’s note: I have posted below only the DemocracyNow! interview with Maneul Zelaya. For related stories on DemocracyNow! you can go to the following links:
- Zelaya’s Son Héctor: The Honduran Resistance Helped Pave the Way for Our Return
- Out of Exile: Exclusive Report on Ousted Honduran President Zelaya’s Return Home 23 Months After U.S.-Backed Coup
- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Speaks from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa
- EXCLUSIVE: Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Speaks from Nicaraguan Border on Who’s Behind the Coup, His Attempts to Return Home, the Role of the United States and More
- Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s Comments on Bradley Manning Mark “Amazing Amount of Improper Influence” in WikiLeaks Case
Also, on the DemocracyNow! web site (www.democracynow.org) you will find a blog with Amy Goodman accompanying the Zelaya return flight, with fascinating photos and interviews.
DemocracyNow! May 31, 2011
Shortly after Manuel Zelaya returned to his home this weekend for the first time since the 2009 military coup d’état, he sat down with Democracy Now! for an exclusive interview. He talks about why he believes the United States was behind the coup, and what exactly happened on June 28, 2009, when hooded Honduran soldiers kidnapped him at gunpoint and put him on a plane to Costa Rica, stopping to refuel at Palmerola, the U.S. military base in Honduras. “This coup d’état was made by the right wing of the United States,” Zelaya says. “The U.S. State Department has always denied, and they continue to deny, any ties with the coup d’état. Nevertheless, all of the proof incriminates the U.S. government. And all of the actions that were taken by the de facto regime, or the golpista regime, which are those who carried out the coup, favor the industrial policies and the military policies and the financial policies of the United States in Honduras.”
AMY GOODMAN: Manuel Zelaya, the former president of Honduras, returned home on Saturday after 23 months in exile. At a news conference Sunday in his living room, Zelaya said the coup was the work of an international conspiracy that should be investigated. It was the first coup in Central America in a quarter of a century. The military kidnapped Zelaya from his home at gunpoint, put him on a plane to Costa Rica, stopping to refuel at Palmerola, the U.S. military base in Honduras—this after he tried to organize a non-binding referendum asking voters if they wanted to rewrite the constitution. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos brokered the agreement between ousted President Zelaya and the current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. It was called the Cartagena Accord, paving the way for Zelaya’s return.
Democracy Now! flew with President Zelaya from Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, to Honduras. On Sunday, we sat down with him at his home in Tegucigalpa. I asked President Zelaya to talk about what happened the day of the coup, June 28th, 2009.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] A president who was elected by the people was taken out of his home at gunpoint in the early, early morning wee hours in his pajamas and taken and abandoned in Costa Rica, in the airport of Costa Rica.
AMY GOODMAN: But first, can you tell me what exactly happened here? What time was it? What did you hear? How did you wake up?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I arrived to my home at 3:30 in the morning. The next day, we were going to have a referendum, public referendum, throughout the whole nation. It was only an opinion poll, basically, and it was not legally binding—14,000 polls placed all over the country. And there was an international conspiracy in order to say that communism was entering into this country and that the Caracas plan was going to enter in to destroy the United States and that we are destroying the U.S. empire, if they would let that opinion poll take place. Many who were business leaders and others, high society folks, they fell into that trap. This coup d’état was made by the right wing of the United States.
Those early morning hours, in the wee hours of that morning, they started to pressure the honor guard. They came here at 5:15 in the morning. There were isolated shots that were fired in the neighborhood, some in this street over here and others in the back part of the house. You can see that this is a small house, middle class. It’s easy to assault this house. I was woken by the gunshots. I went downstairs in my pajamas to the first floor, on the patio on the outside. At that very moment, the gunshots were impacting on the door in the back. My first reaction was to hit the floor and to cover myself from the gunshots. That is the moment in which the military entered into the patio in the back.
They threatened me with their rifles, M-16 machine guns. They said that it was a military order. And they were shouting at me, and they were ordering me to give my cell phone, because I was talking on my phone. There were more than 10 military, who were hooded, who entered into the house, actually. But outside there were 200 to 300. The only thing you could see were their eyes. Everything else was covered. And they surrounded me. They threatened me, that they were going to shoot. And I said to them, “If you have orders to shoot, then shoot me. But know that you are shooting the president of the republic, and you are a subalternate, you are an underling.” And so, they did not shoot at me.
And so, they forced me to go to their vehicles outside with my pajamas on. We landed in the U.S. military base of Palmerola. There, they refueled. There were some movements that happened outside. I don’t know what conversations took place. About 15, 20 minutes, we waited there in the airport of Palmerola. And then to Costa Rica, and everything else is public after that.
AMY GOODMAN: Why were you brought to the U.S. military base? It is not that far to fly from Tegucigalpa airport to Costa Rica. Why would you be brought to the U.S. military base? And they must have had the U.S. military’s permission.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The U.S. State Department has always denied, and they continue to deny, any ties with the coup d’état. Nevertheless, all of the proof incriminates the U.S. government. And all of the actions that were taken by the de facto regime, or the golpista regime, which are those who carried out the coup, and it is to make favor of the industrial policies and the military policies and the financial policies of the United States in Honduras.
AMY GOODMAN: Was your daughter Pichu in the house?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] In my house, there were three people. The woman who cleans the house and who works here, and she has 10 years working with us, she is a woman of great trust. And she continues to work here. Her name is Suyapa. She was taken out, and they dragged her by pulling out her hair, because the military, after they captured me, they entered into each one of the rooms, and they broke into the rooms through using their rifle butts, looking for my wife and for my daughter. My daughter is very thin, and so she went underneath the bed. Suyapa, the cleaning lady, she’s a little overweight, and so she could not hide. So they grabbed her by her hair, and they took her away. Pichu, whose real name is Xiomara Hortensia, she hid under the bed, and they didn’t find her.
AMY GOODMAN: The M-16s, where were they made, that the hooded Honduran soldiers used?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] All of the arms that the Honduran military uses are U.S. weapons. And the high command of the military of Honduras is trained at the School of the Americas.
AMY GOODMAN: After the coup, did the U.S. stop the weapons flow to Honduras?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] This week, there were 85 members of Congress of the United States, they sent a letter to the State Department, Hillary Clinton, and this letter speaks to the necessity of controlling the support, and they speak of paralyzing, which is given to the armed forces of Honduras. And so, they point to the high rates of violations of human rights that take place in Honduras. In other words, after the coup d’état in this country, the U.S. has increased its military support to Honduras.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you support the call of the Congress members?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] All who defend human rights and who are against the armaments and war making, they have my support.
AMY GOODMAN: You say that the coup was a conspiracy. And you talked about the right wing in the United States. Explain exactly what you understand. Who fomented this coup against you?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The conspiracy began when I started to join what is ALBA, the Latin American nations with Bolivarian Alternative. So, a dirty war at the psychological level was carried out against me. Otto Reich started this. The ex-Under Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Robert Carmona, and the Arcadia Foundation, created by the CIA, they associated themselves with the right wing, with military groups, and they formed a conspiracy. They argued that I was a communist and that I was attacking the security of the hemisphere, because I’m a friend of Fidel, I’m a friend of Chávez, and I had declared my government as a government which is progressive.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, WikiLeaks released that trove of U.S. government cables, and in it was a cable from then-U.S. ambassador—the then-U.S. ambassador to Honduras to the State Department, saying that—I think it was titled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” and it was saying it was illegal, it was unconstitutional. It was written by U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Hugo Llorens cooperated in order to avoid the coup d’état. He knew everything that was happening in Honduras. And I am a witness to the effort that he made to stop the coup. But when he perceived that he could no longer stop it, then he withdrew. I don’t know if he had orders to withdraw, but he allowed everything to happen. He did help my family a great deal after the coup. And I am grateful to him now. He showed me that he is someone who believes in democracy and not in the coups d’état. But a great part of the Pentagon does not believe this, nor does the Southern Command.
AMY GOODMAN: What does the Southern Command have to do with this?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The link that Ambassador Ford, who was the ambassador from the United States before Llorens, he said that I could not have a friendship with Hugo Chávez. He wanted me to give political [asylum] to Posada Carriles. He wanted to name who my ministers of my cabinet of my government should be. He wanted his recommendations to become ministers of my government.
AMY GOODMAN: Posada Carriles, he wanted him to be able to take refuge in Honduras, the man who was alleged to be the mastermind behind the Cubana bombing that killed scores of people?
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] After eight days of my becoming president of the country, the ambassador, Charles Ford, asked me if I could give political asylum to Posada Carriles in Honduras. And of course, I sent him to outside. He spoke to my foreign minister, my secretary of state, about that—the same ambassador who prohibited me from becoming a member of the ALBA. And this ambassador, who just left Honduras, who left the country with a political profile of myself, the ambassador, Ford, left this letter as a profile of the president, and when you read it, you can tell that it is the precursor of the coup itself. WikiLeaks published this document. They published the profile that Ambassador Ford made of me to give to Hugo Llorens, saying that the United States needs to make decisions about what it will do the following year in order to detain me, because I am tied to narcotrafficking and to terrorism and to many, many other things. So, he prepared the ambiance, situation. And he was transferred from the embassy to the Southern Command. And that is the tie. And if you ask today, where is this Ambassador Ford? He is in the Southern Command. And so, he left here in order to prepare the coup d’état.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the coup d’état took place under President Obama, not before.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] We’re talking about the United States, so it’s an empire. The United States is an empire, and so Obama is the president of the United States, but he is not the chief of the empire. Even though Obama would be against the coup, the process toward the coup was already moving forward. The most that they tell a president like President Obama, that there’s a political crisis going on. But they do not talk about the details that they were involved in in terms of the conspiracy.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama early on called it a coup. But then the administration seemed to back off, both he and Hillary Clinton.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] They gave themselves up before the coup itself. That is the proof, in fact, that the coup came from the north, from the U.S. So they are even able to bend the arm of the President of the United States, President Obama, and the State Department, and they impeded my restitution as president of the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Ousted President Manuel Zelaya, sitting in his home in his living room in Tegucigalpa for the first time in 23 months, kidnapped at gunpoint by Honduran soldiers as his daughter Pichu hid under her bed upstairs. He was then flown to Palmerola, the U.S. military base in Honduras, supposedly to refuel, and then on to Costa Rica. It was the first military coup in Latin America in more than a quarter of a century.
We leave you today with Zelaya’s address to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Hondurans upon his arrival home on Saturday.
MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Your presence here this afternoon shows the support of the international community, that the blood was not shed in vain, because we’re still standing, keeping our position valid. Peaceful resistance. Fellows, resistance is today the cry of victory, of the return to Honduras of all the rights and guarantees of the Honduran democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Tomorrow, in part two of our interview, President Zelaya will talk about his plans for the future. We’ll also speak with his wife, former First Lady of Honduras Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. We ask her if she plans to run for president next. Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Hany Massoud for his remarkable camera work and Andrés Tomas Conteris for translating, and to both for making this broadcast possible. Also thanks to Channel 11 in Tegucigalpa.
Triumphal return of Honduran ex-leader Zelaya May 28, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: fnrp, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras resistance, Latin America, manuel zelaya, porfirio lobo, roger hollander, zelaya returns
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According to reports, he was greeted by enthusiastic thousands at the Tegucigalpa airport. The single US journalist who accompanied his return was DemocracyNow!’s Amy Goodman.
Honduran former President Manuel Zelaya speaks before he boards his plane to return to Honduras at the international airport in Managua May 28, 2011. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas<br/>
Supporters of Manuel Zelaya (C,R, with hat) surround him upon his arrival
(AFP, Rodrigo Arangua)
Manuel Zelaya speaks upon his arrival in Tegucigalpa (AFP, Rodrigo
A supporter holds a statue of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a crowd gathered to wait for his arrival in Tegucigalpa, Saturday May 28, 2011. The return of the former president from exile Saturday brings Honduras’ nearly two-year political crisis to an end. Zelaya’s comeback will also pave the way for Honduras to re-enter the international community, which near-unanimously rejected the June 2009 military-backed coup that forced him from office. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
upporters wait for the arrival of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Saturday May 28, 2011. The return of the former president from exile Saturday brings Honduras’ nearly two-year political crisis to an end. Zelaya’s comeback will also pave the way for Honduras to re-enter the international community, which near-unanimously rejected the June 2009 military-backed coup that forced him from office. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
By Francisco Jara (AFP) – 3 hours
TEGUCIGALPA — Former president Manuel Zelaya made a triumphal return to
Honduras Saturday as tens of thousands of people cheered and waved banners to
welcome him home nearly two years after his ouster from power in a coup.
Zelaya, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, landed in Tegucigalpa with
his wife and aides aboard a Venezuelan plane on a flight from Managua, and
immediately went to a nearby plaza to rally his supporters.
“We arrive full of optimism and hope to search for an exit to this crisis. At
one moment we had almost lost it all, but they never defeated us,” he told his
Zelaya, 58, thanked his supporters and paid homage to those “who spilled
their blood in this plaza,” including an 18 year-old shot dead during a protest
a week after the coup.
“Their blood was not spilled in vain because we are here still engaged in the
struggle,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.
Several people fainted in the heat waiting for the former president, who was
several hours behind schedule.
The end of the former cattle rancher’s 16-month exile was part of a deal
brokered by several Latin American governments that will end Honduras diplomatic
isolation and give the government of President Porfirio Lobo access to foreign
investment and aid.
The ousted former president is returning to lead the National Popular
Resistance Front (FNRP), a movement formed after the June 2009 coup to challenge
a two party system that has dominated Honduran politics since the early 20th
“He was the only president that remembered us, the poor,” said Maria Elisa
Ferrufino, a 75 year-old farmer who got up at dawn Friday to catch a bus to
Tegucigalpa for the rally.
Zelaya “helped the poor people — no president had done that before,” said
Arnulfo Mendez, 62, who traveled from a town 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of
the capital for the rally. “There is hope that with his leadership we can do
something with the Resistance Front.”
Zelaya’s return will allow Honduras to rejoin the Organization of American
States (OAS) and gain access to international aid, vital in a country where 70
percent of a population of nearly eight million live on four dollars or less a
The deal included a promise that all legal action against Zelaya would be
The ex-president arrived in the Nicaraguan capital on Friday from the
Dominican Republic, where he had spent most of his time in exile.
Lobo and Zelaya signed a reconciliation agreement in Colombia last week, and
the two will meet at the presidential palace along with the head of the OAS,
Jose Miguel Insulza, and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.
Zelaya was a conservative rancher when he was elected in January 2006, but
took a political turn to the left once in office.
He was ousted in a military coup sanctioned by the Honduran legislature and
the supreme court after calling for a referendum to rewrite the constitution.
His opponents feared he would use it to extend his term in office as his ally
Hugo Chavez had done in Venezuela.
Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras before the de facto regime could hold
elections, holing up at the Brazilian embassy surrounded by regime police in an
impasse that lasted four months.
Meanwhile, the interim regime that ousted Zelaya held elections and Lobo took
office in January 2010.
Despite his broad popular support Zelaya cannot run in the 2013 presidential
elections because the constitution limits presidents to a single term in office.
Supporters want his wife to run instead.
In an interview just before departing Managua broadcast on Telesur television
network, Zelaya said his return from exile was “the result of an effort of all
the countries of Latin America.”
“Today we begin the true reconciliation in Honduras,” Zelaya’s wife Xiomara
Castro said, adding that they were committed “to continue the struggle to
transform” the country.
Tags: dana frank, hillary clinton, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras killing, honduras military, honduras oppression, honduras paramilitary, honduras resistance, human rights, Latin America, manuel zelaya, oas, porfirio lobo, School of the Americas, soa, soa watch
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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.
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
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
The present agreement, finalized in Cartagena, Colombia, also bears the
This agreement opens the door to significant changes in the Central American
An earlier article, “Freedom for Joaquín Pérez Becerra!” discussed the context that
The Resistance welcomes the agreement
The FNRP also expressed “thanks for the process of international mediation”
Terms of the accord
By the terms of the
U.S. disruption attempt
Notably absent from discussions leading to the Cartagena Agreement was the
Alexander Main, an analyst for the Center for Economic and Policy Research,
“For good measure,” Main says, “the [U.S.] statement noted that ‘since his
In fact, according to the Committee of Family Members of Disappeared
Showdown at the OAS
The U.S. canvassed energetically among Central and South American countries
In Main’s opinion, “the U.S. is not prepared to accept a political mediation
The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, called a meeting of the OAS
The failure of this U.S.-inspired maneuver opened the road for the signing of
The Cartagena agreement, and the process that facilitated it, marks an
The Cartagena accord’s impact in Central America was immediate and far
In a joint
Need for continued solidarity
Whether the Honduran government will fully carry out the Cartagena agreement
The establishment of the Colombia-Venezuela monitoring commission will be
Toni Solo, “Varieties of
Ida Garberi, “El
Zelaya Returns! May 27, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
Tags: Honduras, honduras coup, honduras democracy, honduras disappeared, honduras resistance, human rights, lisa sullivan, manuel zelaya, porfirio lobo, roger hollander, roy borgeois, soa, soa watch, zelaya
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Tomorrow, on Saturday, May 28, almost two years after having been ousted as
president in an SOA graduate-led military coup and flown out of the country in
his pajamas, Manuel Zelaya will return to Honduras.
SOA Watch has been
invited to join President Zelaya on his plane flight back into his home
country. Father Roy Bourgeois and I will join other human rights advocates
and political leaders in accompanying Manuel Zelaya on his flight back to
Honduras. We are deeply humbled and grateful for the invitation to represent the
SOA Watch movement at this historic moment in this struggle for
The Honduran National Resistance Front against the Coup (FNRP)
is planning a massive mobilization to celebrate Manuel Zelaya’s return and will
meet our plane at the international airport of Toncontin in Tegucigalpa. After
the landing, we will converge on the Plaza Isy Obed Murillo, south of the
airport, where we will honor the martyrs who fell after the military coup.
Zelaya’s return was made possible after the governments of Venezuela and
Colombia brokered an agreement
between Porfirio Lobo, the head of the current regime in Honduras and President
It is a privilege to accompany the people of Honduras in
this moment. Their brave commitment to return their nation to democracy has come
at a terribly high price: that of dozens of lives lost. The return of President
Zelaya is an enormous first step, but we are mindful that much remains to be
done to guarantee the protection of human rights for the people of Honduras. SOA
Watch supports the tireless work of Honduran human rights defenders such as
those of COFADEH, the Committee of Families of Detained and Disappeared of
We join in the joy of the people of Honduras and reaffirm our
commitment to continue to support and accompany
the Honduran social movements in their struggle for justice.
Latin America Coordinator
What Now for a Post-Coup Honduras? May 19, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: alexander main, hondruas resistance, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras democracy, Hugo Chavez, human rights, imperialism, insulza, jose manuel santos, Latin America, latin america diplomacy, latin america politics, monroe doctrine, oas, porfirio lobo, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism, Venezuela, zelaya
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Many Latin America watchers were thrown for a loop last month when a bilateral meeting in Cartagena, Colombia between Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia suddenly metamorphosed into a trilateral encounter that included Porfirio Lobo, the controversial president of Honduras. It was hard enough grappling with the image of Chavez and Santos, considered to be arch-enemies only a year ago, slapping one another on the back and heralding warm relations between their countries. Now it appeared that Chavez had also warmed up to Lobo, the leader of a government that Venezuela and many other South American countries had refused to recognize since the coup of June 28, 2009 that toppled democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya.
Various media outlets were quick to suggest that, as a result of the friendly meeting, Chavez was prepared to back the return of Honduras to the Organization of American States (OAS). Since Venezuela had been the most outspoken critic of Honduras’ post-coup governments, it seemed conceivable that in no time the country would recover the seat that it had lost by unanimous decision of the OAS’ thirty-three members following the 2009 coup.
But soon more details emerged from the meeting that suggested that there were still significant hurdles ahead for Lobo. Chávez had not in fact agreed to support Honduras’ immediate return to the OAS. Instead the three leaders had drawn up a road map for Honduras’ possible return with the direct input of exiled former president Mel Zelaya, who was reached by phone during the meeting. As had occurred in previous negotiations, a series of conditions were put forward with the understanding that their fulfillment would open the door to OAS re-entry.
According to the Venezuelan government, four basic conditions, formulated primarily by Zelaya, were discussed during the closed-door meeting: the secure return of Zelaya and other officials exiled during and after the 2009 coup; an end to the persecution of members of the anti-coup National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP, by its Spanish initials); human rights guarantees and the investigation of human rights violations since the coup; guarantees for the holding of a future constituent assembly; and the recognition of the FNRP as a political organization. This set of conditions went further politically than the recommendations made in a July 2010 report by a High-Level OAS Commission in which Venezuela was notably absent and the U.S. and a number of right-wing Latin American countries played a dominant role. The report’s recommendations were meant to pave the way for Honduras’ return to the OAS, but appeared to be unacceptable to both Zelaya and the Lobo regime (see “Will new report pave the way for Honduras’ reincorporation into the OAS”.)
Though the trilateral meeting caused surprise and consternation – indeed, some groups in the FNRP expressed deep suspicions regarding the negotiations – it seems that it had been in the works for weeks and that President Zelaya had been consulted early on by representatives of the Colombian government. The fact that the sponsors of this new round of negotiations were the pro-Lobo government of Colombia and pro-Zelaya government of Venezuela generated optimism throughout the region. On April 27th, the foreign ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean, convened in Caracas for a preparatory meeting of the new CELAC regional group, issued a statement of support for the Cartagena mediation process.
No such statement was made by the U.S., however. Although the Obama administration has been heavily invested in a regional lobbying effort to try to secure Honduras’ return to the OAS before the organization’s June 5th General Assembly in El Salvador, it has refrained from showing any public support for the Cartagena process.
Soon after Lobo’s return from Cartagena the media began reporting on his efforts to have various criminal charges against Zelaya lifted by the Honduran judiciary. Charges of corruption had been filed against Zelaya and other exiled government officials following the coup and were considered by many to be politically motivated and designed to keep the former president and his closest allies out of the nation’s politics and out of the country period.
On May 2nd, Honduran officals triumphantly announced that an appeals court had dismissed all of the remaining criminal charges against Zelaya. Honduran law experts, however, including the widely respected former Attorney General Edmundo Orellana, were quick to point out that, as Zelaya had not been exonerated of the crimes for which he stood accused, nothing prevented the charges from being reintroduced at a later date. Zelaya himself made the same point and was subsequently accused of being a victim of “mental persecution” by Lobo.
These legal nuances failed to dampen the enthusiasm of either the U.S. administration or OAS Secretary General Jozasé Miulguel Insulza. In fact, on the very day that the charges were dropped, Insulza announced that the “principal condition for Honduras’ return to the OAS has been met” and that he would proceed with consultations of member states to see whether to hold an extraordinary session of the OAS General Assembly in which to deliberate on the issue of Honduras’ return. Though none of the four conditions outlined in Cartagena had actually been met by the Honduran government, the Secretary General seemed confident that the situation was ripe for Honduras’ re-entry.
The State Department concurred with an exuberant statement issued the following day: “the United States believes the suspension of Honduras should be immediately lifted and supports OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza’s intention to initiate consultations with member states on this issue.” For good measure, the 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.” Human rights groups and the FNRP have argued that, on the contrary, Lobo has made little concrete effort to advance these objectives and that the human rights situation remains as bad as ever. As Santa Cruz professor Dana Frank points out in the Nation: “to this day no one has been prosecuted or convicted for any of the politically-motivated killings of 34 members of the opposition and 10 journalists since Lobo took office, let alone for the over 300 killings by state security forces since the coup, according to COFADEH (Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras), the leading independent human rights group.”
While Insulza, the U.S. administration and some Central American countries like Panama and El Salvador have insisted that there are no more obstacles to Honduras’ OAS reincorporation, the tone has been much more cautious in South America. Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolás Maduro has continued to declare that “there are four points” that are at the center of the negociation, and that “more work is needed on each of these points.” His Brazilian colleague, Antonio Patriota echoed the Venezuelan position, stating that “there should be no rush” and that it was important “to take the necessary time to reach a firm agreement.”
It is clear that regional divisions that have emerged around the Honduras question remain deep. On the one hand, the U.S., right-wing Latin American governments and smaller countries more dependent on the U.S. are strongly backing Honduras’ immediate return to the OAS. Meanwhile, most governments of South America – a continent that has grown much more politically independent over the past decade – continue to consider that more needs to be done to restore democracy and protect the rights of opposition activists.
In mid-May these divisions came to a head when a diplomatic tussle took place at the OAS. Early on May 13th, the media reported that Insulza had convened a private meeting of the OAS Permanent Council (where representatives of all member countries participate) in which Honduras would be discussed. El Salvador, with backing from the U.S. and Central American countries, intended to use the meeting to press for the holding of an extraordinary session of the General Assembly which would vote on lifting Honduras’ OAS suspension. Within hours, however, the media announced that the meeting convened by Insulza had been unexpectedly canceled.
According to a reliable source at the OAS, several Latin American countries had asked for the Permanent Council meeting to be called off on the grounds that it was “premature.” These countries – which apparently included Colombia – felt that it was necessary to give more time to the mediation effort being led by Colombia and Venezuela.
As this diplomatic wrangling was unfolding, Zelaya issued a communiqué that appeared to echo the sentiment of many South American nations. The United States, he said, had made “diplomatic statements that undermined the possibilities of success of the [Cartagena] process…” He called on the U.S. to revise its position and acknowledge and support the mediation process, in order “to achieve a real and viable solution to the Honduran political situation.”
Indeed, why has the U.S. administration refused to back or even acknowledge the Santos-Chavez mediation process? And why does it seem to be intent on bypassing the process altogether in favor of deliberations carried out strictly within the framework of the OAS, a venue that has so far shown itself incapable of resolving Honduras’ political crisis?
One of the primary reasons, no doubt, is the fact that the Chavez government has a starring role in the mediation effort. Ever since George W. Bush’s administration, one of the U.S. government’s key priorities in the region has been to try to isolate and undermine Venezuela’s international influence at every opportunity. This re-baked containment strategy has backfired and, if anything, generated solidarity for Venezuela in the region; yet, there is no sign that the administration is prepared to reassess its policy.
Perhaps more than anything, 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, a country once dubbed the USS Honduras because of the important US military presence there and because the tiny nation served as a springboard for U.S intervention in other Central American countries. As the recent bilateral agreements to expand the U.S. military presence in Honduras show, the country continues to be of great strategic importance to the U.S.
It’s interesting to note that, back in July of 2009, it was the Obama administration which took the key discussions on Honduras out of the OAS by initiating its own mediation process together with then Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. The outcome of the process – known as the San Jose-Tegucigalpa agreement – satisfied the U.S. despite the fact that it failed to restore democracy in Honduras. It didn’t, however, satisfy the majority of the hemisphere’s governments, who refused to recognize the elections which brought Lobo to power; and it failed to satisfy Zelaya and the FNRP, who remained politically marginalized and were confronted with constant intimidation and attacks.
This is not to suggest that the Colombia/Venezuela mediation is necessarily destined to bring a just, peaceful solution to Honduras’ political and social crisis. There are fears that if Zelaya does return soon to Honduras, as has been announced, the other prerequisites involving human rights and a possible revision of the country’s profoundly conservative and non-inclusive political system will be swept aside.
As a response to these fears, a joint Colombian/Venezuelan verification commission has been proposed as a mechanism of enforcement to ensure that the Lobo government would follow through on the conditions outlined in Cartagena. But given the short shrift that popular demands have received in Honduras in the past, there is understandable skepticism regarding the likelihood of real follow-up from Lobo once Honduras is back in the OAS.
Both human rights groups and Honduran social movements argue that once the suspension of Honduras’ OAS membership is lifted, there will be little to no incentive for the Lobo government – already under enormous pressure from ultra rightwing sectors – to address the grave human rights situation or work to bring the country back on the path of democracy and the rule of law. Unfortunately, though dozens of members of Congress and international human rights organizations have sought to bring this issue to the attention of the Obama administration, the U.S. and an increasing number of other governments in the region continue to disregard the dire situation in Honduras and push for the country’s immediate reincorporation into the OAS.
Tags: extrajudicial executions, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras government, honduras military, honduras repression, human rights, porfirio lobo, roger hollander, School of the Americas, soa, soa watch, violent repression
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This photo says it all. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledging US taxpayer dollars and support for the illegal and repressive regime of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras. The American taxpayer is financing the repression you will read about below. SHAME
A delegation of ten SOA Watch activists, accompanied by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, has just returned from Honduras, a country devastated by a 2009 coup led by SOA graduates. Over nine days the delegation met with with a broad spectrum of society in the capital, as well as in towns and farms on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
From start to finish the days were marked by testimonies of extrajudicial executions, violent repression, death threat and harassment aimed at individuals and sectors of society opposing the coup and current illegal regime of Porfirio Lobo.
From our first morning – when a body was dumped at the headquarters of the striking teacher´s union – to just hours before our departure flight, when we learned of a campesino deaths in a community we visited, the days unfolded with a litany of tragedy. There were, quite simply, not enough hours in the day to meet with the numbers of people and organizations that wanted to share with us their concerns and fears.
As we prepare to leave, we find ourselves profoundly concerned by this increase in human rights violations, the involvement of government security forces, and the total impunity that reigns in the country. The severity and extent of repression of the Lobo regime in recent months exceeds that of the first weeks under the initial coup regime of Micheletti.
We are especially concerned about the clear complicity between government security forces and the private security guards that protect large landowners and corporations. The country´s wealthiest citizens are literally locked in a battle with the poorest ones, using Honduran security forces to do their dirty work. All this is made possible because of guns, tear gas, tanks and ammunition purchased with US aid to the country´s military and police.
Finally, we return in awe of the extraordinarily brave and profoundly committed community of human rights activists in Honduras. We feel a renewed commitment as an SOA Watch movement to accompany the Honduran people in their struggle for dignity and for life.
Please read more about the delegation in Lisa Sullivan’s report , “Honduras is Open for Business Plunder”
For more information about upcoming delegations to Costa Rica, Colombia and Haiti, email Lisa Sullivan at LSullivan@soaw.org
Urge your Representative to also pressure President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) by executive order and to also sign on to the Congressional sign-on letter to Secretary of State Clinton regarding the situation in Honduras.
Tags: community media, community radio, emma volonte, honduran government, honduran resistance, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras repression, honduras resistance, Media, roger hollander
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|Written by Emma Volonté, Translation by Alex Cachinero-Gorman|
|Monday, 02 May 2011 14:12|
|Controlling the media is a fundamental part of reproducing and holding on to power. Known as the “manufacture of consent”, it has been a crucial principle upon which the Nazi/fascist dictatorships of the past century were based—not unlike the current Honduran government, which by consolidating control over the media into its own hands has turned democracy into a farce. All of this is not lost on grassroots broadcasters, who have managed to create independent spaces for democracy and discussion, even in countries where such things have all but been extinguished.
In Honduras, where sensationalizing and manipulating the truth is a common practice among journalists, community radio stations have emerged as a critical part of the anti-coup movement: they can project and expand the many voices of resistance while at the same time they are able to reach and educate listeners who may not have been in the streets in the days following the coup.
Community radio is not just a social and political commitment to ‘give voice to the voiceless’—rather it is the shared property of a community, which articulates itself as a whole through the mics. And while there might be a coordinator or supervisor of some kind, all decisions are made collectively by volunteers. Brendaly Rivas, of Radio Durugubuty, San Juan Tela, explains that “as soon as you introduce money into the equation, you start to have problems: everyone wants to stick their hand in it, while on the other hand, when there’s no money involved, everyone works in a more relaxed environment.” Community radio is not-for-profit, supported only by solidarity efforts, profits from broadcasting advertisements from sister organizations, or from community-wide raffles.
In a country like Honduras, where the ruling oligarchy is constantly trying to stamp out indigenous and Afro-Latino culture, community radio becomes an indispensable instrument in anti-assimilationist cultural resistance: announcers are free to talk in the language of their people and denounce the pillaging of their ancestral lands. According to Salvador Zuñig of COPINH (the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations in Honduras), “community radio programs have managed to become a thorn in the side of the oligarchy.”
Consequently—to prevent themselves from being ‘pricked’ too sharply—the Honduran oligarchy does its best to eliminate them in every way possible.
In January 2010, Radio Faluma Bimetu (Triunfo de la Cruz), which for 14 years has been denouncing the construction of mega-tourist attractions on the beautiful Caribbean coastline of Honduras, was burned down and their equipment was robbed.
On the pacific coast, where ADEPZA (Association for the Development of the Zacate Grande Peninsula) is fighting an ongoing battle against Miguel Facussé’s personal oligarchy—which is trying to appropriate over 5,000 acres of land from peasants—the situation is equally tense.
“A colleague and I came up with the idea of having a radio program to inform people about what was happening each day in Zacate Grande and other places when we went to the Hemispheric Forum Against the Militarization in La Esperanza [a municipality in western Honduras]. This way, we could let people know about our struggle, and open their eyes to what Miguel Facussé is doing,” Elba Yolibeth Rubio, a correspondent with La Voz de Zacate Grande, told me.
Elba and other youth from Zacate Grande, all around the same age as her, participated in COMMPA’s Popular Communication School: they learned how to write up news items, use equipment, and become confident as announcers. “At any rate, before creating radio personalities we created a kind of consciousness: you cannot communicate the people’s struggle if you haven’t been formed politically,” one of the youth from Zacate Grande told me.
On April 13, 2010, the night before the program’s inaugural broadcast, a hail of warning bullets thundered over the community. Rubio recounts that “the following day, after the inauguration was over, Miguel Facussé ordered one of his men to beat one of our colleagues. But we were ready for anything by then, and so we spread our denunciation of the attack across community radios and on the Internet. A month passed, and then suddenly over 300 police arrived (in a place with a population of about 50, mind you), placing cautionary tape around the station that said “crime scene, do not cross”—as if someone had been assassinated—and they told us that if we kept broadcasting, those of our colleagues with warrants already out for their arrest would be the ones who would have to answer for the rest of us. We remained steadfast and stayed on air, though. But now, our kids are traumatized; when they see a policeman they come running and crying, because they’re afraid of what they might do.”
On December 15, 2010, while they were working on coverage of a community being evicted, two correspondents from La Voz de Zacate Grande were detained and assaulted. On March 13, the President of La Voz de Zacate Grande’s Administrative Board was threatened and later beaten with a gun, injuring one of his legs. After the attack, the police called the desk asking to “not make a scandal” out of it.
COPINH, as well, has been the victim of intimidation tactics. Tomás Gómez Lembreño, a correspondent for Radio Guarajambala, alleges that “they have been systematically sending electrical shocks to our transmitters to damage our equipment. This is in addition to the fact that on January 5th, one of Arturo Corrales Álvarez’s companies, SEMEH [Electrical Surveying Service of Honduras], sent people from Tegucigalpa to cut off our lighting without the requisite eight days warning. They cut it off just like that, and then they threatened us saying that they never wanted to hear anything from us again, or they’d come back to cut the lights again, or take away our radio equipment. They said that we were instigators and ‘misinforming’ people.” Before leaving, Álvarez’s coup-sympathizing men tried to rough up some COPINH members that they came across outside of the building.
“In the face of increasingly repressive tactics meant to silence our voices, our alliance of radio stations and other media outlets has strengthened, coming out with unequivocal responses to these violations of our right to free expression,” reads the statement written by Honduran community radio stations following the birth of the Honduran Community Radio Network. On February 6, 2010, one month after the fire, Radio Faluma Bimetu went on air once more with even greater energy. Its re-opening was also used as an opportunity to host a forum called “The right to broadcast our voices”, in which various community radio stations came together and formed the network. Some of the common needs that led to the creation of the Honduran Community Radio Network included strategizing reactions to repressive measures (more and more frequent due to the coup), the possibility of sharing material and training, and the need to forge common legislative proposals addressing media laws.
The regime’s attacks on community radio stations has been taken up on this legislative front as well, which if anything demonstrates the significant role community stations have played in the struggle. With the excuse that the radio industry is overly saturated with operators, the National Commission of Telecommunications (CONATEL) is threatening to suspend the granting of permits and licenses for frequencies for low-power stations. In other words—community radio stations. In this respect, Tomas Gómez Lembreño comments, “This is a clear threat to free expression and the people’s media, alterantive media. They are trying to find a way to shut us down and restrict free expression, even though ILO’s Convention 169 guarantees the right for community radios to exist wherever vital information and news about our communities is being ignored, and the right to defend our natural resources. We believe that this measure is tantamount to annihilating media in our country, because it will affect not only Radio Guarajambala or La Voz Lenca, but all community radio stations. It is also a threat to indigenous movements—they are trying stop them from building a better Honduras.”
SOA Watch in Honduras May 3, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
Tags: Honduras, honduras coup, honduras military, honduras repression, human rights, Latin America, lisa sullivan, roger hollander, roy bourgeois, School of the Americas, soa, soa watch, zelaya
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An SOA Watch delegation, including SOA Watch Latin America Coordinator Lisa Sullivan and SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois, is currently in Honduras to see firsthand the numerous and serious human rights abuses carried out against the people of Honduras. The human rights activists are meeting with members of the resistance, human rights groups, teachers, union leaders, religious leaders, and members of the administration of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.
They are currently visiting the Bajo Aguán where horrendous human rights violations have been occurring since the School of the Americas graduate-led coup d’état in June of 2009. Less than a month ago, the bodies of two campesino leaders were found decapitated in Bajo Aguán. The delegation will also visit the U.S military base in Palmerola, involved in the military coup.
The two men orchestrating the military coup in Honduras in June of 2009, the former Chief of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, and the Chief of the Air Force, General Luis Prince Suazo are both graduates of the School of the Americas.
The violence and human rights violations that are currently happening in Honduras are being funded with Honduran money as well US tax dollars. Including US aid to Honduras are gas bombs priced from $160 to $220 used by Honduran security personnel to terrorize and even kill people. Teacher and co-founder of a leading human rights organization, Ilse Ivania Velásquez was killed after a tear gas canister fired at her head. A two-month old is in critical condition after Honduran security personnel fired a gas bomb inside a family’s home, informed Bertha Oliva, a leading Honduran activist. Live bullets and toxic chemicals are also being used against unarmed demonstrator.
Visit www.SOAW.org to stay tuned for updates from the SOA Watch Honduras delegation and take action now: Ask your representative to join Reps. McGovern, Schakowsky and Farr and sign on to the Congressional sign-on letter to Secretary Clinton calling for the U.S. to pressure the Honduran government “to end abuses by official security forces by suspending, investigating and prosecuting those implicated in human rights violations.” The letter also calls for a suspension of all military and police aid among other proposals.
Urge your Representative to also pressure President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) by executive order.