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Unified Latin America Challenges Failed US/Canada Policies on Drug War, Cuba, and Finance April 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Cuba, Drugs, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: I love the photo that accompanies this article.  Obama and Clinton, do they not appear to be dinosaurian?  They think they are huge and powerful and indestructible, at the same time as they are on their way to extinction.  The two great leaders of the Democratic Party, staunch defenders of the Monroe Doctrine in the twenty-first century, custodians of the collapsing American Empire.  Our only hope is that they don’t bring the rest of the world down with them.

Published on Monday, April 16, 2012 by Inter Press Service

‘Last Summit of the Americas without Cuba’ sees alternative rise to challenge hegemony of US policy

  by Constanza Vieira

CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia – “What matters at this summit is not what is on the official agenda,” said Uruguayan analyst Laura Gil, echoing the conventional wisdom in this Colombian port city, where the Sixth Summit of the Americas ended Sunday without a final declaration.

Latin American nations say there may not be another summit unless the US overcomes its objections to Cuba. (AFP)

The Fifth Summit, held in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009, had a similar outcome.

At the Sixth Summit, which opened Saturday Apr. 14, the foreign ministers failed to reach prior agreement on a consensus document.

Key points of discord were the continued U.S. embargo against Cuba and Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, a British overseas territory in the South Atlantic.

Gil, an expert on international relations who lives in Colombia, told IPS that “a consensus on drugs seems to be forming among the countries of Latin America.”

“These three issues are precisely the ones that are dividing the hemisphere in two, or confronting the countries of Latin America with the United States and Canada,” she said.

“The Summit of the Americas process is in crisis. What the Sixth Summit clearly shows is that certain issues cannot be put off any longer, particularly that of Cuba,” excluded from the Americas summits due to pressure from the United States, she added.

In Gil’s opinion, “there will not be another summit without Cuba. Either Cuba is included, or there will not be a summit at all. The absence of (Ecuadorean President Rafael) Correa is a red alert,” she said, referring to the Ecuadorean president’s promise not to attend any further hemispheric meetings to which Cuba is not invited.

According to the expert, “Colombia positioned itself as a bridge, able to facilitate relations between contrary ideological blocs. But from this position, Colombia cannot work miracles.

“This summit reminds us that ideologies are still a force to be reckoned with. The limitations are plain to be seen,” she said.

The Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Roy Chaderton – a former Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia and the U.S. – told the Colombian radio station RCN Radio: “This is a rebellion by Latin American democracies against U.S. and Canadian hegemony.”Canada and the United States were left in isolation in a vote on a resolution to put an end to Cuba’s exclusion, which was split 32 against two, at a meeting of foreign ministers that was to approve documents to be signed by the presidents.

Canada and the United States were left in isolation in a vote on a resolution to put an end to Cuba’s exclusion, which was split 32 against two, at a meeting of foreign ministers that was to approve documents to be signed by the presidents.

In addition to Correa, Haitian President Michel Martelly and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega were also absent, having sent last-minute cancellations. Ortega led a rally in Managua in solidarity with Cuba Saturday Apr. 14.

On Saturday morning it was announced that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez would not be attending the summit, due to the treatment for his cancer.

At the end of the first day’s meetings, the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) released a declaration in Cartagena stating that they would not attend any further summits without the participation of Cuba.

ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

The host’s speech

At the opening ceremony of the Sixth Summit, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos did not mince words. He exhorted delegates “not to be indifferent” to the changes occurring in Cuba, which he said were ever more widely recognized and should be encouraged.

“It is time to overcome the paralysis that results from ideological obstinacy and seek a basic consensus so that this process of change has a positive outcome, for the good of the Cuban people,” he said.

“The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective,” Santos said.

As for Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, Santos recommended supporting the agenda of the Haitian government, instead of pushing “our own agendas.”

He also said that “Central America is not alone.” Organized crime must be combated, but anti-drug policy should be focused on “the victims,” including “the millions” locked up in prisons, Santos said.

This summit will not find an answer to Latin America’s calls for facing up to the failure of the war on drugs, “of this I am completely certain,” he said.

Militarization marches on

U.S. President Barack Obama let it be understood that his country would tolerate flexibilization of Latin American anti-drug policies, saying “I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.””I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens – all our citizens – the United States will not be going in this direction,” Obama said on Saturday.

But he flatly rejected legalization.

“I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens – all our citizens – the United States will not be going in this direction,” Obama said on Saturday.

He also announced that the U.S. government would increase its aid to the war on drugs led by “our Central American friends” and pledged “more than 130 million dollars this year.”

Colombian expert Ricardo Vargas of Acción Andina, a local think tank, summed up the U.S. position: “‘You may decriminalize drugs, but that will not eliminate the mafias. And we will be there’,” with a military presence as soon as drug shipments cross the borders, he told IPS.

The People’s Summit

From another part of the city of Cartagena, Enrique Daza, the coordinator of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, a movement of social organizations that organized the Fifth People’s Summit, held in parallel to the Summit of the Americas, announced their “satisfaction” at the same time as President Santos received a standing ovation in the auditorium where the heads of state were gathered.

“They were not able to keep our demands hidden,” Daza said at the close of the counter-summit.

On the positive side, the People’s Summit proposed independent integration within the region, and knowledge and respect for the contributions of indigenous people and peasant farmers to the art of “good living” and a culture of peace.

The alternative summit rejected the United States’ “imposition of its agenda” at the Summits of the Americas, and demanded an end to militarization based on the pretext of the war on drugs, which in fact ends up criminalizing social protest, he said.

In its final declaration, the People’s Summit castigated the United States and Canada for insisting on the promotion of free trade treaties with other countries of the continent.

Canada came in for heavy criticism for fomenting a “predatory model” for the operations of its mining companies in Latin America. “The rights of investors cannot take precedence over the rights of people and of nature,” the final declaration says.

The gathering of social movements, left-wing groups and human rights, indigenous, environmental and women’s organizations also launched a veiled attack on socialist governments in Latin America.

While recognizing the efforts of bodies such as ALBA and the fledgling Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the declaration expressed that “progressive and left-wing” governments in the Americas should take steps against the extraction of natural resources and the concentration of land ownership.

On the positive side, the People’s Summit proposed independent integration within the region, and knowledge and respect for the contributions of indigenous people and peasant farmers to the art of “good living” and a culture of peace.

© 2012 IPS North America

 

Out of the Backyard: New Latin American and Caribbean Bloc Defies Washington December 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Foreign Policy.
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Published on Friday, December 9, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by  Benjamin Dangl

Rain clouds ringed the lush hillsides and poor neighborhoods cradling Caracas, Venezuela as dozens of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state trickled out of the airport and into motorcades and hotel rooms. They were gathering for the foundational summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a new regional bloc aimed at self-determination outside the scope of Washington’s power.

Notably absent were the presidents of the US and Canada – they were not invited to participate. “It’s the death sentence for the Monroe Doctrine,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said of the creation of the CELAC, referring to a US policy developed in 1823 that has served as a pretext for Washington’s interventions in the region. Indeed, the CELAC has been put forth by many participating presidents as an organization to replace the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), empower Latin American and Caribbean unity, and create a more equal and just society on the region’s own terms.

The CELAC meeting comes a time when Washington’s presence in the region is waning. Following the nightmarish decades of the Cold War, in which Washington propped up dictators and waged wars on Latin American nations, a new era has opened up; in the past decade a wave of leftist presidents have taken office on socialist and anti-imperialist platforms.

The creation of the CELAC reflected this new reality, and is one of various recent developments aimed at unifying Latin America and the Caribbean as a progressive alternative to US domination. Other such regional blocs include the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) which has successfully resolved diplomatic crises without pressure from Washington, the Bank of the South, which is aimed at providing alternatives to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and the Bolivarian Alliance of Latin America (ALBA), which was created as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a deal which would have expanded the North American Free Trade Agreement throughout Latin America, but failed due to regional opposition.

The global economic crisis was on many of the leaders’ minds during the CELAC conference. “It seems it’s a terminal, structural crisis of capitalism,” Bolivian President Evo Morales said in a speech at the gathering. “I feel we’re meeting at a good moment to debate … the great unity of the countries of America, without the United States.”

The 33 nations comprising the CELAC make up some 600 million people, and together are the number one food exporter on the planet. The combined GDP of the bloc is around $6 trillion, and in a time of global economic woes, the region now has its lowest poverty rate in 20 years; the growth rate in 2010 was over 6% – more than twice that of the US. These numbers reflect the success of the region’s social programs and anti-poverty initiatives.

In an interview with Telesur, Evo Morales said the space opened by the CELAC provides a great opportunity to expand the commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean in a way that does not depend on the precarious markets of the US and Europe. In this respect he saw a central goal of the CELAC being to “implement politics of solidarity, with complementary instead of competitive commerce to resolve social problems…”

While the US is the leading trading partner for most Latin American and Caribbean countries, China is making enormous inroads as well, becoming the main trade ally of the economic powerhouses of Brazil and Chile. This shift was underlined by the fact that Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a letter of congratulations to the leaders forming the CELAC. The letter, which Chávez read out loud to the summit participants, congratulated the heads of state on creating the CELAC, and promised that Hu would work toward expanding relations with the region’s new organization.

The US, for its part, did not send a word of congratulations. Indeed, Washington’s official take on the CELAC meeting downplayed the new group’s significance and reinforced US commitment to the OAS. Commenting on the CELAC, US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said, “There [are] many sub-regional organizations in the hemisphere, some of which we belong to. Others, such as this, we don’t. We continue, obviously, to work through the OAS as the preeminent multilateral organization speaking for the hemisphere.”

Many heads of state actually saw the CELAC meeting as the beginning of the end for the OAS in the region. This position, held most passionately by leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, was best articulated by Venezuelan President, and host of the CELAC meeting, Hugo Chávez. “As the years pass, CELAC will leave behind the old OAS,” Chávez said at the summit. “OAS is far from the spirit of our peoples and integration in Latin America. CELAC is born with a new spirit; it is a platform for people’s economic, political and social development, which is very different from OAS.” He later told reporters, “There have been many coup d’états with total support from the OAS, and it won’t be this way with the CELAC.”

However, the presidents involved in the CELAC vary widely in political ideology and foreign policy, and there were differing opinions in regards to relations with the OAS. Some saw the CELAC as something that could work alongside the OAS. As Mexican chancellor Patricia Espinosa said, the OAS and the CELAC are “complementary forces of cooperation and dialogue.”

A test of the CELAC will be how it overcomes such differences and makes concrete steps toward developing regional integration, combating poverty, upholding human rights, protecting the environment and building peace, among other goals. The final agreements of the two day meeting touched upon expanding south to south business and trade deals, combating climate change and building better social programs across the region to impact marginalized communities. In addition, the CELAC participants backed the legalization of coca leaves (widely used as a medicine and for cultural purposes in the Andes), condemned the criminalization of immigrants and migrants, and criticized the US for its embargo against Cuba.

Various presidents at the CELAC spoke of how to approach these dominant issues. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said the CELAC should “monitor and rate” the US anti-drug efforts. As long as the US continues its consumption of drugs, Ortega said, “All the money, regardless of by how much it’s multiplied, and all the blood, no matter how much is spilled” won’t end the drug trade.

Yet there are plenty of contradictions within the CELAC organization itself. The group is for democracy but includes the participation of Porfirio Lobo from Honduras, the president who replaced Manuel Zelaya in unfair elections following a 2009 military coup. The CELAC is for environmental protection, yet its largest participant, Brazil, is promoting an ecologically disastrous agricultural model of soy plantations, GMO crops and poisonous pesticides that are ruining the countryside and displacing small farmers. The group is for fairer trade networks and peace, yet various participating nations have already signed devastating trade deals with the US, and corrupt politicians at high levels of government across the region are deeply tied to the violence and profits of the transnational drug trade.

These are some of the serious challenges posed to Latin American and Caribbean unity and progress, but they do not cancel out the new bloc’s historical and political significance. The creation of the CELAC will likely prove to be a significant step toward the deepening of a struggle for independence and unity in the region, a struggle initiated nearly 200 years ago and largely led by Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar, whose legacy was regularly invoked at the CELAC conference.

In 1829, a year before his death, Bolívar famously said, “The United States appears destined by Providence to plague America with miseries in the name of Freedom.” Yet with the foundation of the CELAC under the clouds of Caracas, the march toward self-determination is still on.

Benjamin Dangl attended the CELAC conference.

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Benjamin Dangl

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America and is the author of the new book, Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). For more information, visit DancingwithDynamite.com. Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com

 

Why Washington Is Worried About Peru June 2, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Peru, Foreign Policy.
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Published on Thursday, June 2, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

If its preferred candidate Keiko Fujimori loses to Ollanta Humala, the US will be isolated against South America’s left governments

In just a few days, on Sunday 5 June, an election will take place that will have a significant influence on the western hemisphere. At the moment, it is too close to call. Most of official Washington has been relatively quiet, but there is no doubt that the Obama administration has a big stake in the outcome of this poll.

The election is in Peru, where left populist and former military officer Ollanta Humala is facing off against Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s former authoritarian ruler Alberto Fujimori, who was president from 1990-2000. Alberto Fujimori is in jail, serving a 25-year sentence for multiple political murders, kidnapping and corruption. Keiko has made it clear that she represents him and his administration, and has been surrounded by his associates and former officials of his government.

Fujimori was found to have had “individual criminal responsibility” for the murders and kidnappings. But his government was responsible for many more widespread murders and human rights abuses, including the forced sterilisation of tens of thousands of women, mostly indigenous.

Between the two candidates, whom do you think Washington would prefer?

If you guessed Keiko Fujimori, you guessed right. I spoke Monday night with Gustavo Gorriti in Lima, an award-winning Peruvian investigative journalist who was one of the people that Alberto Fujimori was convicted of kidnapping. “The US embassy strongly opposes Humala’s candidacy,” he said. Harvard professor of government Steven Levitsky, who has written extensively on Peru and is currently visiting professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), came to the same conclusion: “It’s clear that the US embassy here sees Keiko as the least bad option,” he told me from Lima on Tuesday.

Humala’s opponents argue that Peru’s democracy would be imperilled if he were elected, pointing to a military revolt that he led against Fujimori’s authoritarian government. (He was later pardoned by the Peruvian Congress.) But his record is hardly comparable to the actual, proven crimes of Alberto Fujimori.

Humala is also accused of being an ally of Venezuela‘s President Hugo Chávez. He has distanced himself from Chávez, unlike in his 2006 campaign for the presidency. But all of this is just a rightwing media stunt. Chávez has been demonised throughout the hemispheric media, and so rightwing media monopolies have used him as a bogeyman in numerous elections for years, with varying degrees of success. Of course, Venezuela is also irrelevant to the Peruvian election because almost all governments in South America are “allies of Chávez”. This is especially true of Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay, for example, all of whom have very close and collaborative relations with Venezuela.

As in many other elections in Latin America, rightwing domination of the media is key to successful scare tactics. “The majority of TV stations and newspapers have been actively working for Fujimori in this election,” said Levitsky.

The thought of another Fujimori government is so frightening that a number of prominent conservative Peruvian politicians have decided to endorse Humala. Among these is the Nobel prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who hates the Latin American left as much as anyone. Humala has also been endorsed by Alejandro Toledo, the former Peruvian president and contender in the first round of this election.

So why would Washington want Fujimori? The answer is quite simple: it’s about Washington’s waning influence and power in its former “backyard” of Latin America. In South America, there are now left-of-centre governments in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay. These governments have a common position on most hemispheric issues (and sometimes, other international issues, such as the Middle East), and it often differs from that of Washington.

For example, when the Honduran military overthrew the country’s elected left-of-centre president, Manuel Zelaya, in 2009, and the Obama administration sought to legitimise the coup government through elections that other governments would not recognise, it was Washington’s few rightwing allies that first broke ranks with the rest of South America.

Prior to last August, the only governments in South America that Washington could count as allies were Chile, Peru and Colombia. But Colombia under President Manuel Santos is no longer a reliable ally, and currently has very good co-operative relations with Venezuela. If Humala wins, there is little doubt that he will join the rest of South America on most issues of concern to Washington. The same cannot be said of Keiko Fujimori.

And that is why Washington is worried about this election.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Mark Weisbrot

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC. He is also co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis. E-mail Mark: weisbrot@cepr.net

What Now for a Post-Coup Honduras? May 19, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: this appears to me to be a well balanced analysis of the political situation with respect to Honduras.  My personal opinion is that at the end of the day, the US will not allow any settlement that in any way could lead to the restoration of any semblance of democracy or improvement in the human rights situation in Honduras.  I hope that I am wrong.
 
Published on Thursday, May 19, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
 
Will the Cartagena mediation process help resolve the crisis in Honduras?
 

by Alexander Main

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.

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Alexander Main is a policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (www.cepr.net).

Voices From The Other Side: An Oral History Of Terrorism Against Cuba April 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Imperialism, Latin America, War on Terror.
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Posted on Apr 8, 2011

By Karen Lee Wald

I first learned of Keith Bolender’s book “Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba” when the author reached out to me after reading an article I’d written on Luis Posada Carriles in The Rag blog. The article, “The Puppies That Got Away,” was based on an interview with a woman who almost became a victim, along with three children she was caring for, in one of the hotels Posada’s thugs bombed in 1997. The title came from the coded message used by one of Posada’s hired killers in an earlier bombing that destroyed a passenger plane in flight, killing all aboard. The telephone message was “A bus with 73 dogs went over a cliff and all perished.”

Bolender thought I might be interested in his book, an oral history, like mine, taken from many of the survivors of the 50-plus years of terrorism against Cuba waged by the United States and Cuba’s former ruling class.

I was.

I thought it would be helpful if people who are always hearing and reading about the “repression of dissidents” in Cuba and jump to their defense could also hear the other side: what happened to the thousands of people whose lives were affected by the actions of terrorists from inside and outside the country. I thought it would put a human face on the statistics regarding the material and human damage caused by counterrevolutionaries and mercenaries who are euphemistically called “dissidents” or “anti-Castro militants.”

“Voices From the Other Side” does this. But it also does a great deal more.

As expected, the first chapter gives an overview of the multiple forms of terrorism carried out against Cuba in what Bolender calls “the unknown war.”

 He talks about “the bombs have that destroyed department stores, hotel lobbies, theatres, famous restaurants and bars—people’s lives.” He talks about the first airline bombing in the history of the Western Hemisphere, and also reminds readers of “the explosion aboard a ship in Havana Harbor, killing and injuring hundreds.” He tells readers about the 1960s attacks on defenseless rural villages and homes, of “teenagers tortured and murdered for teaching farmers to read and write.” He reminds us of the biological terrorism (the dengue fever epidemic) “that caused the deaths of more than 100 children.” And he adds new elements for those of us used to thinking of terrorism solely as shooting and bombing by referring to the “psychological horror that drove thousands of parents to willingly send their children to an unknown fate in a foreign country” (Operation Peter Pan).

This kind of overview has been done before by authors such as Jane Franklin. What Bolender adds here is the lifelong effect terrorist activities have had on the survivors—those left with hearing loss, stitched-up wounds and such, but, even worse, lifelong emotional scars. Survivors who tell of being nervous and jumpy 20, 30 or more years after being in a room where a bomb went off. And the other kinds of “survivors”: mothers and fathers who for decades mourn the needless deaths of their children; siblings and children of those who were cut up, castrated and lynched by “anti-Castro militants,” or went screaming to their fiery deaths in an airplane that was already in pieces before it crashed into the sea.

I want these stories to be in the hands of those well-meaning people who ask, “Why does the Castro government repress dissidents?” I want these people to understand what terrorists have done that makes Cubans today so unable to give them the free rein they demand to carry out their actions.

Bolender explains in the very beginning:

Since the earliest days of the revolution, Cuba has been fighting its own war on terrorism. The victims have been overwhelmingly innocent civilians. The accused have been primarily Cuban-American counter-revolutionaries—many allegedly trained, financed and supported by various American government agencies.

And he explains that throughout the island of Cuba “it is hard not to find someone who doesn’t have a story to tell of a relative or friend who has been a victim of terrorism. The personal toll has been calculated at 3,478 dead and 2,099 injured.” This, of course, is something few on the outside realize, and he talks about why we don’t hear or read about it, about the political/ideological justification for so much cruelty. But he also talks about the real reasons—acknowledged by numerous U.S. administrations—for U.S.-backed and -financed terrorist acts against the island, information that is every bit as important as the humanization of the victims.

Preceded by a well-researched and evocative introduction by Noam Chomsky dealing with the history of and reasons for U.S. policy toward this upstart island nation that would dare to remain outside the grasp of U.S. hegemony, Bolender goes on to give readers a better understanding of Washington’s Machiavellian policies toward Cuba.
He starts off simply, with the well-known fact that “[s]ince the earliest days of Fidel’s victory, America has obsessed over this relatively insignificant third-world country, determined to eliminate the radically different social-economic order” that Castro’s revolution brought about. He describes the various excuses Washington has used since the earliest days of the Republic to justify its attempts to maintain dominance over the island nation.

“America at various times has portrayed Cuba as a helpless woman, a defenceless baby, a child in need of direction, an incompetent freedom fighter, an ignorant farmer, an ignoble ingrate, an ill-bred revolutionary, a viral communist” during the two centuries of the Monroe Doctrine. This history in and of itself is useful for those not already familiar with it.

Where the history gets more interesting is when this researcher uses quotes from U.S. leaders to show both why and how Washington attempted to get rid of Fidel’s revolution:

Richard Nixon, who, Bolender notes, “was one of the first to promote the theme of preventing the revolution from infecting others,” commented in 1962 on the need to “eradicate this cancer in our own hemisphere.” Nixon’s comment reminded me of an explanation offered years ago by a Cuban-American friend of mine, Tony Llanso: “The Cuban Revolution is like crab grass growing in your back yard. You have to pick crab grass because it spreads.”

But it was one particular “how” that I found intriguing. Bolender shows the vicious cycle of increasing repressive measures by the U.S. as Cuba increased its reforms on behalf of the poor majority of its citizens. This quickly—and intentionally—escalated to terrorism on the part of the United States against its tiny but audacious neighbor. And here Bolender is worth quoting at length:

As the rhetoric increased, terrorist acts were formulated and carried out. In partial response to the terror and other hostilities, the revolution became increasingly radicalized.

From the start, policy makers knew terrorism would put a strain politically and economically on the nascent Cuban government, forcing it to use precious resources to protect itself and its citizens. It was to be part of the overarching strategy of making things so bad that the Cubans might rise up and overthrow their government. Terrorism was the dirty piece of the scheme, along with the economic embargo, international isolation and unrelenting approbation.

American officials estimated millions would be spent to develop internal security systems, and State Department officials expected the Cuban government to increase internal surveillance in an attempt to prevent further acts of terrorism. These systems, which restricted civil rights, became easy targets for critics.

And as most of us have seen, this has been a very successful tactic. Bolender goes on:

CIA officials admitted early on in the war of terrorism that the goal was not the military defeat of Fidel Castro, but to force the regime into applying increased amount of civil restrictions, with the resultant pressures on the Cuban public. This was outlined in a May 1961 agency report stating the objective was to “plan, implement and sustain a program of covert actions designed to exploit the economic, political and psychological vulnerabilities of the Castro regime. It is neither expected nor argued that the successful execution of this covert program will in itself result in the overthrow of the Castro regime,” only to accelerate the “moral and physical disintegration of the Castro government.” The CIA acknowledged that in response to the terrorist acts the government would be “stepping up internal security controls and defense capabilities.” It was not projected the acts of terror would directly result in Castro’s downfall, (although that was a policy aim) but only to promote the sense of vulnerability among the [populace] and compel the government into increasingly radical steps in order to ensure national security.

 

book cover

Voices From The Other Side: An Oral History Of Terrorism Against Cuba

 

By Keith Bolender

Pluto Press, 224 pages

Bolender’s book constantly uses direct U.S. sources for his analysis that the terrorism and other aggressive measures against Cuba were designed, at least in part, to force the Cuban government into a “state of siege mentality” that would simultaneously alienate part of the Cuban population, weaken liberal support abroad and serve as an easy target for most U.S. attempts to demonize the Cuban government.

“Former [CIA] Director Richard Helms,” Bolender tells us, “confirmed American strategy when he testified before the United States Senate in 1978; ‘We had task forces that were striking at Cuba constantly. We were attempting to blow up power plants. We were attempting to ruin sugar mills. We were attempting to do all kinds of things in this period. This was a matter of American government policy.’ ”

Most of us who’ve followed Cuba closely have long known the U.S. government did those things. What is more interesting is the “why.”

American experts were hoping the terrorist war would drive the Cuban government to increasingly restrictive security measures; implicit in this was to prove how incapable the regime leaders were. These terrorist acts would not be publicized, recognized nor acknowledged outside of Cuba, so national security policies were portrayed as paranoia, totalitarian and evidence of the repressiveness of Fidel’s regime. To this day the unknown war remains that way. …

Here Bolender delves into the psychological warfare aspect of U.S. policy—and its effects:

c“In the early years Cuban officials faced the problem where they couldn’t tell which citizens supported the revolution, and which were inclined to assist the terrorist organizations or to commit terrorist acts. Everyone was treated as a potential threat. The consequence, besides the enormous amount of economic resources diverted to combat this war […] is a society that in the majority has accepted certain civil restrictions in order to ensure domestic security. It is the way the Cuban government has tried to identify the terrorists and to keep its citizens protected. It is the way the government has fought its war on terror.”

Bolender reiterates that while the focus of his book is on the victims and their stories, he also wants to show “how these acts of terror changed the psyche of the young revolutionary government, struggling to maintain itself in the face of the destructive actions of its former citizens, directed and financed by the most powerful nation in the world. Traumatized by these acts, this small island nation took drastic steps in the face of constant acts of violence. Those reactions to the terrorists, and the measures taken to protect the Cuban people, continue to influence national government policies to this day, and have greatly shaped how Cuba is perceived to the outside world. It is the price that has been paid by a society under siege for almost 50 years. A siege in part the result of the hundreds of acts of terrorism.”

His analysis goes on to explain that “[t]he key element of Cuban policy against terrorism has been the need of unity for the sake of security, manifesting in a demand for social and political conformity. The consequence has been extensive surveillance systems, arrests for political crimes, a low tolerance for organized criticism or public displays of opposition, suppression of dissidents seen to have accepted material or financial aid from the United States, cases of institutionalized pettiness, travel restrictions, a state controlled press and the rejection of a more pluralistic society.”

And we’ve all seen the effectiveness of the tactic that forced Cuba into this position—it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. The tight control the Cuban government has adopted as a means of survival, Bolender tells us, does in fact destroy much of its liberal support abroad.

The Canadian author still has hope, however. “The termination of American hostility, including the absolute guarantee of the end to any further terrorist attacks from counter-revolutionary exile organizations,” he believes, could “offer the Cuban government the chance to breathe, to manoeuvre without a knife at its throat, as Fidel Castro once remarked, and to attempt to develop Cuban society that was hoped for.” 

Put in this context, Bolender’s book achieves far more than the important goal of putting a human face on the victims of terrorist acts and an understanding of why so many of the Cuban people hate the traitors within their midst who work hand in glove with those from Washington, Miami and New Jersey who fund and carry out these actions. It gives us a new understanding of the psychological warfare the U.S. has been carrying out parallel to its economic and military war.

This is a book that should be in every library and on every progressive bookshelf. I urge people to buy it, read it, pass it on to others.

Why Washington Cares About Countries Like Haiti and Honduras February 3, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Haiti, Honduras.
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Published on Wednesday, February 3, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

US interference in the politics of Haiti and Honduras is only the latest example of its long-term manipulations in Latin America

by Mark Weisbrot

When I write about US foreign policy in places such as Haiti or Honduras, I often get responses from people who find it difficult to believe that the US government would care enough about these countries to try and control or topple their governments. These are small, poor countries with little in the way of resources or markets. Why should Washington policymakers care who runs them?Unfortunately they do care. A lot. They care enough about Haiti to have overthrown the elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide not once, but twice. The first time, in 1991, it was done covertly. We only found out after the fact that the people who led the coup were paid by the US Central Intelligence Agency. And then Emmanuel Constant, the leader of the most notorious death squad there – which killed thousands of Aristide’s supporters after the coup – told CBS News that he, too, was funded by the CIA.

In 2004, the US involvement in the coup was much more open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all international aid for four years, making the government’s collapse inevitable. As the New York Times reported, while the US state department was telling Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the political opposition (funded with millions of US taxpayers’ dollars), the International Republican Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.

In Honduras last summer and autumn, the US government did everything it could to prevent the rest of the hemisphere from mounting an effective political opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For example, they blocked the Organisation of American States from taking the position that it would not recognise elections that took place under the dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama administration publicly pretended that it was against the coup.

This was only partly successful, from a public relations point of view. Most of the US public thinks that the Obama administration was against the Honduran coup, although by November of last year there were numerous press reports and even editorial criticisms that Obama had caved to Republican pressure and not done enough. But this was a misreading of what actually happened: the Republican pressure in support of the Honduran coup changed the administration’s public relations strategy, but not its political strategy. Those who followed events closely from the beginning could see that the political strategy was to blunt and delay any efforts to restore the elected president, while pretending that a return to democracy was actually the goal.

Among those who understood this were the governments of Latin America, including such heavyweights as Brazil. This is important because it shows that the State Department was willing to pay a significant political cost in order to help the right in Honduras. It convinced the vast majority of Latin American governments that it was no different from the Bush administration in its goals for the hemisphere, which is not a pleasant outcome from a diplomatic point of view.

Why do they care so much about who runs these poor countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter. The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the game can often make a difference between a win or a loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement with maximising US power in the world, they like. Those who have other goals – not necessarily antagonistic to the United States – they don’t like.

Not surprisingly, the Obama administration’s closest allies in the hemisphere are rightwing governments such as those of Colombia or Panama, even though Obama himself is not a rightwing politician. This highlights the continuity of the politics of control. The victory of the right in Chile, the first time that it has won an election in half a century, was a significant victory for the US government. If Lula de Silva’s Workers’ party were to lose the presidential election in Brazil this autumn, that would be another win for the state department. While US officials under both Bush and Obama have maintained a friendly posture toward Brazil, it is obvious that they deeply resent the changes in Brazilian foreign policy that have allied it with other social democratic governments in the hemisphere, and its independent foreign policy stances with regard to the Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere.

The US actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organising a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the US government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington. There are many other interventions taking place throughout the hemisphere that we do not know about. The United States has been heavily involved in Chilean politics since the 1960s, long before they organised the overthrow of Chilean democracy in 1973.

In October 1970, President Richard Nixon was cursing in the Oval Office about the Social Democratic president of Chile, Salvador Allende. “That son of a bitch!” said Richard Nixon on 15 October. “That son of a bitch Allende – we’re going to smash him.” A few weeks later he explained why:

The main concern in Chile is that [Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success … If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble.

That is another reason that pawns matter, and Nixon’s nightmare did in fact come true a quarter-century later, as one country after another elected independent left governments that Washington did not want. The United States ended up “losing” most of the region. But they are trying to get it back, one country at a time. The smaller, poorer countries that are closer to the United States are the most at risk. Honduras and Haiti will have democratic elections some day, but only when Washington’s influence over their politics is further reduced.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.

Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side the United States Government Is on With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras December 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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(Roger’s Note: this photo tells it all.  It shows Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, shaking hands with Pepe Lobo to congratulate him on his election victory in Honduras in an illegitimate election that was held under a regime installed by a military coup and in an atmosphere of violent repression; an election that has be soundly condemned and rejected by governments and international bodies around the world [with the exception of a handfull of US puppet governments such as that of Uribe in Colombia].  The can be absolutely no doubt that from Day One the US government under Mr. Obama was in support of the right-wing military coup that deposed Honduras’ democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.  So much for democracy.  This is the same United States of America whose governments past and present have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan in the name of democracy.)

Published on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

by Mark Weisbrot

At dawn on June 28, the Honduran military abducted President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint and flew him out of the country. Conflicting and ambiguous statements from the Obama administration left many confused about whether it opposed this coup or was really trying to help it succeed.  Here are the top ten indicators (with apologies to David Letterman):

  1. The White House statement on the day of the coup did not condemn it, merely calling on “all political and social actors in Honduras” to respect democracy.  Since U.S. officials have acknowledged that they were talking to the Honduran military right up to the day of the coup – allegedly to try and prevent it – they had time to think about what their immediate response would be if it happened.
  1. The Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations General Assembly, and other international bodies responded by calling for the “immediate and unconditional” return of President Zelaya. In the ensuing five months, no U.S. official would use either of those two words.
  1. At a press conference the day after the coup, Secretary of State Clinton was asked if “restoring the constitutional order” in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself. She would not say yes.
  1. On July 24th, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced President Zelaya’s attempt to return to his own country that week as “reckless,” adding that “We have consistently urged all parties to avoid any provocative action that could lead to violence.”
  1. Most U.S. aid to Honduras comes from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency. The vast majority of this aid was never suspended. By contrast, on August 6, 2008, there was a military coup in Mauritania; MCC aid was suspended the next day. In Madagascar, the MCC announced the suspension of aid just three days after the military coup of March 17, 2009.
  1. On September 28, State Department officials representing the United States blocked the OAS from adopting a resolution on Honduras that would have refused to recognize Honduran elections carried out under the dictatorship.
  1. The United States government refused to officially determine that there was a “military coup,” in Honduras – in contrast to the view of rest of the hemisphere and the world.
  1. The Obama administration defied the rest of the hemisphere and the world by supporting undemocratic elections in Honduras.
    On October 30th, U.S. government representatives including Thomas Shannon, the top U.S. State Department official for Latin America, brokered an accord between President Zelaya and the coup regime. The agreement was seen throughout the region as providing for Zelaya’s restitution, and – according to diplomats close to the negotiations – both Shannon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave assurances that this was true.
    Yet just four days later, Mr. Shannon stated in a TV interview that the United States would recognize the November 29 elections, regardless of whether or not Zelaya were restored to the presidency. This put the United States against all of Latin America, which issued a 23-nation statement two days later saying that Zelaya’s restitution was an “indispensable prerequisite” for recognizing the elections. The Obama administration has since been able to recruit the right-wing governments of Canada, Panama, and Colombia, and also Peru, to recognize the elections. But its support for these undemocratic elections – to which the OAS, European Union, and the Carter Center all refused to send observers – has left the Obama administration as isolated as its predecessor in the hemisphere.
  1. President Zelaya visited Washington six times after he was overthrown. Yet President Obama has never once met with him. Is it possible that President Obama did not have even five minutes in all of those days just to shake his hand and say, “I’m trying to help?”
  1. The Obama administration has never condemned the massive human rights violations committed by the coup regime. These have been denounced and documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), as well as Honduran, European, and other human rights organizations. There have been thousands of illegal arrests, beatings and torture by police and military, the closing down of independent radio and TV stations, and even some killings of peaceful demonstrators and opposition activists.
    The United States government’s silence through more than five months of these human rights crimes has been the most damning and persistent evidence that it has always been more concerned about protecting the dictatorship, rather than restoring democracy in Honduras.

The majority of American voters elected President Obama on a promise that our foreign policy would change. For this hemisphere, at least, that promise has been broken.

The headline from the latest Time Magazine report on Honduras summed it up: “Obama’s Latin America Policy Looks Like Bush’s.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black December 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Hillary Clinton, Bolivia, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
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Hillary Clinton with Pepe Lobo, the newly “elected” president of Honduras, who has recently come to power in an election rejected and considered illegitimate and fraudulent by virtually every government around the world that is not a virtual puppet of the US.  This photo by itself is capable of generating resentment towards the United States throughout the entire Latin American world, not to mention the vast Latino population in the States.


Roger Hollander, December 12, 2009

It is no big news to note that Americans tend to be ethnocentric.  The United States is the benevolent sun around which the rest of the world revolves.  Many Americans criticize their government — this was especially true during the Bush era — but few are either willing or able to step outside the apparent inborn prejudice and jingoism to look at the US as others do around the world.  Internal critics of any particular US government castigate the incumbent regime for making “mistakes,” for being in error.  Few are willing to admit that their government is criminal, a danger to world peace and security.

Living outside the United States helps one to see things in perspective. Today I read an article that appeared in the Associated Press in Spanish that I could not find on Google in English (too harsh criticism of the US for American readers?).  It reported that Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, had rejected threats made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Bolivia’s relationship with Iran.  I suppose a typical American might respond to this by thinking: Iran bad, Iran president anti-Semetic, Iran nuclear threat, Hillary right to come down on Bolivia.

Morales’ response was to the effect that what right does the pot have to call the kettle black.  He noted that the US itself exports terrorism abroad, that it sends troops to invade countries half-way around the world, that it has military bases all over the world.  He could have mentioned that the US has a long history of allying itself with tyrants and dictators (currently the newly elected pseudo-president of Honduras, the product of a military coup), and he could have mentioned that as a nuclear threat, no one can begin to match the United States with a nuclear arsenal that could blow the globe to pieces a thousand times.  Rather, Morales noted that Bolivia was interested in dialogue and relationship with all nations of the world.

With the super-hawk Hillary Clinton at the point, the Obama administration has its ambassador to the world that could fit into the most right-wing Republican administration.  Her name will go down in history alongside of the likes of John Foster Dulles (who advocated the nuclear bombing of Vietnam), Henry Kissinger (responsible for the criminal bombing of Cambodia), Nixon’s Al Haig, George Schultz, Colin Powell (who lied to the world for Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq), and the Bush marionette, Condoleezza Rice.

Clinton’s and therefore Obama’s agressive (to the point of threats) policy toward Latin America, toward the progressive and popular governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador (not to mention Cuba), are in the tradition of the Monroe Doctrine and cold war geopolitics.  More “plus ca change …” we can believe in.

I would add that I do not particularly enjoy seen Morales and Venezuela’s Chávez siding up with the likes of Iran’s notorious dictatorial and anti-Semitic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; but that is what nations do, they engage in diplomatic and trade agreements with other nations.  Imagine how it appears to non-Americans to see Clinton and Obama appearing alonside Iraq’s illegitimate President Talabani, Afghanistan’s Karzai, Israel’s ultra-right Netanyahu,  and now the puppet of the Honduran military, Pepe Lobo.

Honduran Dictatorship Is A Threat to Democracy In the Hemisphere November 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Friday, November 20, 2009 by The Sacramento Beeby Mark Weisbrot

A small group of rich people who own most of Honduras and its politicians enlist the military to kidnap the elected president at gunpoint and take him into exile. They then arrest thousands of people opposed to the coup, shut down and intimidate independent media, shoot and kill some demonstrators, torture and beat many others. This goes on for more than four months, including more than two of the three months legally designated for electoral campaigning. Then the dictatorship holds an “election.”

Should other countries recognize the results of such an election, to be held on November 29th? Latin America says absolutely not; the United States is saying, well, “yes we can”- if we can get away with it.

“There has been a sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators and intimidation of human rights defenders,” since President Zelaya slipped back into Honduras and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy, wrote Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and human rights groups worldwide have also condemned the violence and repression perpetrated by the Honduran dictatorship.

On November 5, the 25 nations of the Rio Group, which includes virtually all of Latin America, declared that they would not recognize the results of the November 29th elections in Honduras if the elected President Manuel Zelaya were not first restored.

Why is it that Latin American governments can recognize this threat to democracy but Washington cannot? One reason is that many of the governments are run by people who have lived under dictatorships. President Lula da Silva of Brazil was imprisoned by the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1980s. President Michele Bachelet of Chile was tortured in prison under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship that was installed with the help of the Nixon administration. The presidents of Bolivia, Argentina, Guatemala, and others have all lived through the repression of right-wing dictatorships.

Nor is this threat merely a thing of the past. Just two weeks ago the President of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, had to fire most of the military leadership because of credible evidence that they were conspiring with the political opposition. This is one of the consequences of not reversing the Honduran military coup of June 28th.

Here in the United States we have been subjected to a relentless campaign of lies and distortions intended to justify the coup, which have been taken up by Republican supporters of the dictatorship, as well as by hired guns like Lanny Davis, a close associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Perhaps the biggest lie, repeated thousands of times in the news reporting and op-eds of the major media, was that Zelaya was overthrown because he was trying to extend his term of office. In fact, the non-binding referendum that Zelaya proposed had nothing to do with term limits. And even if this poll of the electorate had led eventually to a new constitution, any legal changes would have been far too late for Zelaya to stay in office beyond January 29.

Another surreal part of the whole political discussion has been the attempt to portray Zelaya, who was merely delivering on his campaign promises to the Honduran electorate, as a pawn of some foreign power – conveniently chosen to be the much-demonized Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The anti-communist hysteria of 1950s McCarthyism is still the model for these uncreative political hacks.

What a disgrace it will be to our country if the Obama team follows through on its current strategy and recognizes these “elections!”  It’s hard to imagine a stronger statement than that human rights and democracy in this hemisphere count for zero in the political calculations of this administration.

© 2009 McClatchy Newspapers

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.

Posted in honduras

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karlof1 November 20th, 2009 2:49 pm

Weisbrot asks: “Why is it that Latin American governments can recognize this threat to democracy but Washington cannot? The biggest threat to any amount of People Power–real participatory democracy–is centered in Depravity Central, Metropole of the US Empire, because real participatory democracy will reduce the oligarchy of Fat Cats that holds power in the US Empire and its allies in placess like Honduras, Paraguay, Venezuela, etc., while allowing the masses to better their livelihoods.

Cee Miracles November 20th, 2009 6:15 pm

karlof1: “Weisbrot asks: “Why is it that Latin American governments can recognize this threat to democracy but Washington cannot?”

… and to your answers to that question, karlof1, I add … because we have been so brainwashed for so many years that we haven’t understood that this government is only a PRETEND DEMOCRACY. We are really a Fascistic Corporatocracy now, and for quite some time, and all the rules and regs for our total suppression were put in place during the GWBush administration after the very well-planned Inside Job of 9-11 with the neo-cons and our partner Israel.

Obama is obviously trying to finish the job in his mild-mannered way. He’s a phony, a well-behaved puppet, and a shill for Mega-money/Mega-power.

Support genuine democracy in Honduras and help restore the elected president brought down by a military coup? R U kidding? The Honduran president was doing what Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales and others are doing, starting to really help The People to even up land ownership and a share of the wealth of the countries they live in.

Obviously, the U.S. wouldn’t be setting up seven more military bases in Colombia [our sock puppet "friend" who gets military supplies & money from us] to be ready to strike any South American or Latin American country AGAIN if the rich corporatists don’t get their way, retrieve all their assets, and retain their power.

United Fruit Cakes have been calling the shots for more than an hundred years. And sock-puppet Obama is right there to help them, and Hillary too.

The problem for the folks of the U.S. is that as more and more and more rottenness and corruption is exposed, only a small percentage go past the TV babble, open their minds to possibilities other than what they are being told, and read sites like this.

[personal musings]

I have a lovely daughter and son, both 50-ish, good parents and family people and solid middle-class. We don’t live near each other, and my life is very different from theirs. Obviously I became a maverick in my thinking, in what I did, what I risked, quite a long time ago now, and my lifestyle is no longer the mainstream one it once was by any stretch of the imagination.

As I have evolved and the blinders came off, what I think or have to say to my family or even local people, is not really welcome. There is no way to interest them or rouse them to the seriousness of what’s happening in this country or in this world, and that includes mates and in-laws and step-siblings and cousins. They are all busy with their lives and children and the usual demands of family life and home ownership, and they cannot stretch beyond that.

They are not unusual.

Our president is of their generation, and I keep getting astounded because I know he doesn’t get it; he doesn’t feel it; he lacks all passion.

The malaise for recent generations seems to be an apathy of the soul. The buzz words of the ’60′s, the Civil Rights movement, the era of Vietnam protests were about Soul, including Soul Food, Soulfulness, Singing from the Soul … and PASSION for JUSTICE and the RIGHT. Dangerous stuff that was programmed away … deliberately. Much easier to have a nation of apathetic souls with passions made tepid and minds that are educated to think small and not deal with complexities and complex questions and issues.

I am unusual for my generation. I know that too. It’s been a most unusual journey, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Even though it is frustrating as hell at times, it is better to be able to see and hear and cut through the crap to understand the bamboozlement that is passed off as TRUTH by those who lead us or provide us with information.

What goes around comes around. It continues to be an interesting ride.

… and I do appreciate so the thoughtful, knowledgeable and intelligent comments many of you make. And I delight when I hear the passion in some of you.

The essays and headline information gathered by the folks who run this site are frequently outstanding, some of them a little so-so, and a few not so good, but the “audience”/you commenters set it right immediately by what you say.

I’m in that childlike feeling of long ago, right now, of deeply wishing that we on this earth could all just get along and help each other and respect each other as fellow human-beings. It seems such an easy solution, but I guess you have to see and feel it that way.

peace, cm

Paul Revere November 20th, 2009 12:41 pm

When Chavez accused Obama of being a prisoner of the military, he was exactly right.He has been told to back the coup d’etat in Honduras by the people that really run our foreign policy, namely the MIC, but he is very good at hiding what he has been ordered to do.

nativetongueredux November 20th, 2009 1:25 pm

I guess he hides it wherever he hides his smoking habit?

This is just one of hundreds of gringo-planned and gringo-executed, then gringo-justified savage suppressions of democracy–aka the will of the people–in this hemisphere.

The MIC has pulled off so pretty good coups in Gringotowm, too–they were so successful that the bovine “voters” did not even realize they were coups.

The situation in Honduras, coupled with the installation of the gringo military throughout Colombia is nothing more and nothing less than a rapid-fire cancer developed to destroy the dignity and human rights of the folks in Latin America, and rip off all their resources.

Stone November 20th, 2009 12:27 pm

Obama supposts the American oligarchs that feel threatened by South America’s many country’s peoples who have reestablished people control over their governments at the expense of corporations. Obama wants to undo this before it spreads to America. So, he supports the coop in Honduras and the establishment of an enormously powerful American military base in Columbia. In my opinion, Obama is a dangerous man who opposes democracy and supports the corptocracy.

mtdon November 20th, 2009 12:27 pm

Let’s not discount Hillary Clinton’s involvement in this attack against democracy…..up to her neck in corruption and knee deep in blood…….

nice legacy!

Cygnus-X1-isaHole November 20th, 2009 11:24 am

Now that Chiquita is in the driver’s seat can we accurately call the Honduran government a Banana Republic?

AD November 20th, 2009 11:04 am

This article is pretty much right on the mark. The USA could take action which would bring a half to the coup gangsters running the Honduran government.

AD

Vern November 20th, 2009 10:40 am

Obama’s inaction on every front is breathtaking in it’s scope.

mujeriego November 20th, 2009 10:32 am

Obama is all about political expediency….witness the reform-less health reform, the justice-less terrorist show trials, the solution-less climate change policy, the dumb, deaf and blind “looking forward” past Bush criminal activities.

His main goal seems to be getting through his first term without giving the GOP any ammunition to use against him. Unfortunately this means he will neither be giving his supporters any reason to continue supporting him.

All in all. Obama is a dud.

Vern November 20th, 2009 10:43 am

Expediency has a short shelf life and the GOP will attack him even if he serves their agenda exclusively. A dud he is.

corvo November 20th, 2009 10:02 am

The Obama Administration has no problem with the coup regime.

Humbaba November 20th, 2009 9:57 am

A small group of rich people who own most of Honduras and its politicians — like Chiquita and Dole….and a few Republicans.

phasor November 20th, 2009 11:18 am

Exactly! Now that is the point!

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US Drops Call to Restore Ousted Honduran Leader August 7, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far
(Roger’s note: This article documents another clear and unmistakeable proof that the Obama administration’s foreign policy with respect to Latin America is fundamentally no different than that of his predecessors, including George W. Bush.  It is simply this: the U.S. government policy has and will  continue to support economically, politically and militarily those regimes which are allied with United States business interests and represent blood-sucking neo-liberalism.  This comes into focus when such regimes are challenged by even the mildest of reformers who wish to introduce measures that would begin to alleviate some of the suffering and injustice associated with the enormous degrees of poverty.  Distortions and outright lies are employed to justify the violation of fundamental international law.  In the case of Honduras, Zelaya’s non-binding popular consultation is transformed into an attempt to ignore constitutional term limits and therefore a scab government put into power by a military coup is O.K.  Under Obama, U.S. imperialism and the Monroe Doctrine are alive and well).
 
Published on Friday, August 7, 2009 by McClatchy Newspapers

by Tyler Bridges

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The Obama administration has backed away from its call to restore ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power and instead put the onus on him for taking “provocative actions” that polarized his country and led to his overthrow on June 28.

 

[US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a question at a press conference in Phuket, Thailand on July 23, 2009. Clinton said last month that Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was "reckless" to try to return home to his country a month after being ousted. The Obama administration has backed away from its call to restore ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power and instead put the onus on him for taking "provocative actions" that polarized his country and led to his overthrow on June 28.  (AFP/File/Romeo Gacad)]US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a question at a press conference in Phuket, Thailand on July 23, 2009. Clinton said last month that Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was “reckless” to try to return home to his country a month after being ousted. The Obama administration has backed away from its call to restore ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power and instead put the onus on him for taking “provocative actions” that polarized his country and led to his overthrow on June 28. (AFP/File/Romeo Gacad)

The new position was contained in a letter this week to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., that also rejected calls by some of Zelaya’s backers to impose harsh economic sanctions against Honduras. 

While condemning the coup, the letter pointedly failed to call for Zelaya’s return. “Our policy and strategy for engagement is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual,” said the letter to Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The new U.S. position is likely to undercut diplomatic efforts to bring about Zelaya’s return, analysts said.

It may in time help the administration win confirmation for three top State Department officials President Barack Obama has appointed to deal with the region. Senate Republicans have put their nominations on hold to protest U.S. policy in Honduras.

Some 1,000 pro-Zelaya demonstrators protested outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, Thursday after the State Department letter was made public in the Honduran media.

While condemning the overthrow of Zelaya and his pre-dawn expulsion, the Aug. 4 letter said that Zelaya, who’s allied with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, was largely to blame for his plight.

“We also recognize that President Zelaya’s insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal,” said the letter, signed by Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Richard Verma.

“I think this could open the door for an alternative option as president,” said Jorge Yllesca, a political consultant based in Honduras, meaning that interim President Roberto Micheletti might try to end the political crisis by stepping aside, not for Zelaya but for the president of the Congress or the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The crisis began when Zelaya insisted on staging a June 28 referendum on a constitutional change to allow him to seek re-election. Zelaya had only six more months in office before a non-Chavez ally was likely to take over as Honduras’ next president.

Chavez and two of his South American allies, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, have won public approval for new constitutions that are allowing them to extend their terms in office.

The Honduran Congress, the attorney general’s office and the state prosecutor all advised Zelaya that Honduras’ constitution didn’t permit the referendum.

He went ahead anyway and was ousted.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a conservative Republican congresswoman from Miami, applauded the State Department letter.

“It seems that the U.S. is stepping a bit away from its unabashed support for Zelaya,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a telephone interview.

She’d prefer that the Obama administration break ranks with the rest of Latin America and Europe and drop its support for Zelaya.

“To reinstate Zelaya to power would be the wrong message to send,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It would say you can violate the law, go against the Congress and get away with it, and the U.S. will stand with you.”

Republican senators angered by the administration’s Honduras policy put a hold on Obama’s nomination of Arturo Valenzuela to be assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, along with two key ambassadorial nominees.

Lugar, in a July 30 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said he hoped that her explanation could “improve the prospects” of confirming Valenzuela this week.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said Wednesday that he was “glad to see the State Department is finally beginning to walk back its support for Manuel Zelaya,” but an aide said that DeMint hadn’t lifted his hold on Valenzuela’s nomination because despite the policy shift, Obama still supports Zelaya’s return to power.

The Obama administration has taken a series of low-level steps to show its dissatisfaction with the Micheletti government.

The U.S. has revoked diplomatic visas for five Hondurans associated with the Micheletti government. It’s suspended anti-drug operations from the U.S. military base in Honduras, withheld $16 million in defense aid and warned that it might not disburse the final 10 percent of money for Honduras under a $250 million aid program.

The U.S. also has strongly supported the mediation efforts of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who’s proposed a compromise plan to reinstate Zelaya with limited powers. Micheletti has rejected the plan, while Zelaya has accepted it.

The letter to Lugar said that U.S. officials wouldn’t go much further.

“We have rejected calls for crippling economic sanctions,” it said.

The letter comes at a time when Zelaya is expressing his unhappiness with the Obama administration.

“The United States only needs to tighten its fist, and the coup will last five seconds,” Zelaya said Tuesday in Mexico, adding that 70 percent of Honduras’ economy depends on trade and remittances from the United States.

Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said the Obama administration could seize the U.S. bank accounts of Hondurans associated with the coup and withdraw their tourist and diplomatic visas to the U.S.

“These are steps that are very easy to take and would have an impact,” Weisbrodt said.

Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador who now teaches at Pennsylvania State University, said the Obama administration has followed a middle course because it has competing goals.

“On one hand, our interests are saved if this guy is not in power or allowed to violated the constitution and perpetuate himself in power,” Jett said. “But we do have the obligation to be supportive of democracy.”

(James Rosen in Washington contributed to this article.)

On the Web

Read the State Department letters

© 2009 McClatchy Newspapers

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