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Not Forgotten: Street Art to Remember the Victims of the School of the Americas May 31, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: If you watch the short video at the end of this posting, you will see a group of young people breaking the law by affixing posters on private property.  Someone obviously called the cops, and you will see them being arrested and taken away.  I don’t know how things turned out, but I suspect they were processed by the criminal justice system and will pay a price, perhaps even a large one, for their “crime.”  The object of their action, their protest, their civil disobedience, i.e., the U.S. government School of the Americas, is responsible for wholesale murder throughout Latin America.  They (the American politicians and military and the Latin American soldiers they train) will not be brought to justice for their deeds, they will literally get away with murder.  This is the world we live in, supported by our tax dollars.

 

by Nick Alexandrov

Víctor Jara was an internationally-acclaimed Chilean singer-songwriter, a theater director and activist. When General Augusto Pinochet took power on “the other 9/11” in 1973, his troops forced Jara and thousands of other political prisoners into Santiago’s Chile Stadium. After a group of soldiers recognized the artist, they tortured him in the arena basement, and then—before the crowd of detainees—cut off his fingers, mocking him as they demanded he perform something, perhaps a composition in the “New Song” genre he’d helped pioneer, and which Pinochet had banned. Witnesses recall that Jara sang “Venceremos”—“We Will Win”—before the guards dragged him away. He was shot 44 times.

Jara is one of the people School of the Americas Watch’s (SOAW) current poster campaign, developed with street artist César Maxit, commemorates. Others include El Salvador’s Archbishop Óscar Romero, who was celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel when assassins gunned him down in March 1980; Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi, one of the main figures behind the crucial human rights report Guatemala: Nunca Más!, whose killers pummeled his face with a concrete slab, mutilating it beyond recognition; and Natalia Tuberquia Muñoz, who was only six in 2005 when massacred—along with three men, two women and another child—in the Colombian village of San José de Apartadó. What the musician, the bishops and the child have in common is that they are just four of the thousands of Latin Americans murdered by School of the Americas (SOA) graduates.

The SOA, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, 70,000 of whom have studied counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare there since the institution’s 1946 founding. Training manuals the school used for at least a decade recommended extortion, torture and execution as effective means of dealing with the state’s enemies. And the SOAW posters also feature eight of its alumni, including Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, who died last year in jail, incarceration his punishment for committing crimes against humanity, including disappearances, torture, and the killing of 15,000-30,000 dissidents; Guatemalan military dictator Ríos Montt, whom a Guatemalan court last year found guilty of genocide against his country’s Ixil Maya; and Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, a key official spearheading the country’s 2009 coup, which even the military lawyer—himself an SOA alum—charged with giving the affair a veneer of legitimacy admittedwas “a crime.”

SOA complicity in the recent Honduran coup reveals the institution’s continuing relevance. Its 2001 name-change—it’s known now as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)—was merely cosmetic, and “there are no substantive changes besides the name,” one of its former instructors testified shortly after the rebranding. The school’s consistent aim, in the past and today, has been to facilitate Latin American militaries’ wars of repression against their own people. Describing Washington’s support for dictators like Videla and Montt as stemming from its “anti-Communism,” or as related to the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, misses the point. The term “Communist,” for example, was always incredibly elastic, used to refer to illiterate peasant farmers, church officials, university instructors, women in areas considered guerrilla territory—the label could be affixed to whoever was slated for execution. “The army is not killing guerrillas, despite what is reported,” a U.S. mercenary in 1980s El Salvador explained. “It is murdering the civilians who side with them. By terrorizing civilians the army is crushing the rebellion without the need to directly confront the guerrillas. Attacking civilians is the game plan.” The SOAW posters remembering some of the victims—bishops, young girls, a musician—help capture this reality, still very much a part of Washington’s Latin America policy, as ongoing U.S. support for the repressive Mexican, Colombianand Hondurangovernments makes clear.

To help draw attention to the beneficiaries and victims of U.S. training and aid, nearly a dozen activists gathered on May 14 in Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, where they pasted up a mural composed, in part, of the SOAW posters. “Though the activists were peaceful in their actions,” SOAW reports, “D.C. police decided that political art was unacceptable in the district.  After the artwork was completed, four of the activists”—Dominique Diaddigo-Cash, Gail Taylor, Maria Luisa Rosal, and Nico Udu-gama—“were handcuffed, arrested and held for 6 hours before being charged with ‘defacing public or private property.’ The charge carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine,” and those detained “will be arraigned in the D.C. Superior Court on June 5, 2014.”

But the police intervention in the Adams Morgan art action hasn’t had a deterrent effect: in the last few weeks, SOAW activists have taken posters to other District neighborhoods, as well as the streets of Los Angeles and the UC Riverside campus. “The best way to stand in solidarity with the targeted activists, and to push back against the criminalization of dissent,” SOAW reminds us, “is to keep up the resistance!”

This video, by Beth Geglia, shows footage of the May 14 action, as well as the subsequent arrest of four SOAW activists:

And go here for more information on the SOAW poster campaign. You’ll find the full series of downloadable posters on the website, as well as step-by-step wheat-pasting instructions.

Urge Your Members of Congress to Call on State Department to Denounce Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders December 20, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=Mjhd6VdCQAq++QxWxWp8CdgKpt6q9vfW Last week, School of the Americas (SOA) graduate and Honduran military Colonel German Alfaro made outrageous accusations against a leading U.S. human rights defender, Annie Bird, Co-Director of Rights Action, which is based in Washington, DC. Alfaro declared that the military is investigating Annie for alleged subversive activities with campesinos, including filing false reports about military abuses of human rights. One of the Honduran newspapers, La Tribuna, picked up the story and even ran a picture of Annie, putting her at further risk.* The allegations are completely trumped-up and dangerous given the pattern of violence in Honduras, of which Alfaro himself is a propagator. Please email your Members of Congress and the State Department to demand that they forcefully denounce this attack on Annie Bird and other human rights defenders.

Honduras is in crisis right now, as rampant fraud in their recent elections has allowed the current regime to continue the violence and intimidation against Honduran and U.S. human rights defenders. The Aguan Valley is an area where well over 100 campesino activists have been murdered by the military, police, paramilitary, and private security guards. These attacks on Annie are part of a growing strategy of intimidating and trying to silence international human rights advocates whom report on the state sanctioned violence. It is especially vital that the State Department speak out given that this attack on a U.S. citizen was carried out by a leading member of the US-funded and trained Honduran military, who himself received training at the School of the Americas. Ask your Congressperson and Senator to contact the State Department and U.S. Embassy now.

Information on the recent attack on the SOA Watch election observation delegation can be found here.

*La Tribuna, “Estamos investigando denuncia que una norteamericana desestabiliza en el Aguán”: http://www.latribuna.hn/2013/12/12/estamos-investigando-denuncia-que-una-norteamericana-desestabiliza-en-el-aguan/

US Complicity in Guatemalan Genocide May 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Foreign Policy, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: these are excerpts from the SOA (School of the Americas) Watch newsletter:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards Justice.

SOA Watch celebrates the guilty verdict against the former Guatemalan dictator and School of the Americas Graduate Efraín Ríos Montt, who was sentenced to 80 years in prison. http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=WtixO3VvgNzQyPeZce9Vk9GeeaI19pig We celebrate and stand in solidarity with the Ixil Mayans, the survivors of the genocide and crimes against humanity committed under his dictatorship (1982-1983).

 

 

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SOA Watch renews the demand that justice also visit those who trained, equipped, and facilitated his genocidal regime. School of the Americas graduates formed the backbone of the presidential cabinets under the dictatorships of both Montt and his predecessor, Romeo Lucas García. They were also deeply involved in the Guatemalan Intelligence Agency (D-2), in the formation of the notorious civil defense patrols, and in planning and executing “Operation Sofia”. This military maneuver wiped out some 600 Mayan villages, part of a broader campaign “of genocide against groups of Mayan people,” as concluded by the 1999 UN-backed truth commission. Montt is the first ex-president to be found guilty of genocide by a Latin American court—it indicates that the tide is turning against impunity in the region, however, we must also hold those in the United States accountable, who trained and equipped the right-wing military dictatorships and made the genocide possible.

After a meeting with Ríos Montt in Honduras during the US-backed Dirty Wars in Central America, then-president Ronald Reagan stated that Ríos Montt was “a man of great personal integrity . . . totally dedicated to democracy”. The next day, December 6, 1982, the Kaibiles, the Guatemalan special forces which have extensive ties to the SOA, entered the village of Las Dos Erres, systematically raped the women, and killed 162 inhabitants, 67 of them children. Current President of Guatemala Otto Peréz Molina, also a graduate of the SOA, spent much of his time in military service as a member of the Kaibiles. This military unit was developed by the Guatemalan government in 1974, and its initial leader was a fellow SOA graduate by the name Pablo Nuila Hub. Also during the military career of Molina, he served as Montt’s Ixil field commander, under the alias Major Tito Arias. For a more detailed SOA Watch report about the Kaibiles, click here.It was the current administration of Peréz Molina who, fearing Molina’s complicity in much of the evidence brought forth in the trial against Montt, who stood to benefit from the temporary suspension of the trial. Thankfully justice prevailed and the trial resumed.

The Genocide Trial of General Efrain Rios Montt Has Just Been Suspended: A firsthand behind-the-scenes account of how Guatemala’s current President and threats of violence killed the case. April 19, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Genocide, Guatemala, Human Rights.
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Roger’s note: yesterday I posted an article on the trial of Guatemala’s Rios Montt for the genocide committed during his presidency.  Today we see that the School of the Americas trained president of the country  has stepped in to prevent justice.

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SOA Graduate and former Guatemalan military dictator Rios Montt

 

 

By Allan Nairn
Guatemala City
April 18, 2013
 
 
For a while it looked like Guatemala was about to deliver justice.
 
But the genocide case against General Efrain Rios Montt has just been suspended, hours before a criminal court was poised to deliver a verdict.
 
The last-second decision to kill the case was technically taken by an appeals court.  
 
But behind the decision stands secret intervention by Guatemala’s current president and death threats delivered to judges and prosecutors by associates of Guatemala’s army.
 
Many dozens of Mayan massacre survivors risked their lives to testify.  But now the court record they bravely created has been erased from above.
 
The following account of some of my personal knowledge of the case was written several days ago.  I was asked to keep it private until a trial verdict had been reached:
 
 
“It would be mistaken to think that this case redounds to the credit of Guatemala’s rulers.
 
It was forced upon them from below.  The last thing they want is justice.  
 
But they agreed to swallow a partial dose because political forces were such that they had to, and because they thought that they could get away with sacrificing Rios Montt to save their own skins.
 
I was called to testify in the Rios Montt case, was listed by the court as a ‘qualified witness,’ and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday, April 15.  But at the last minute I was kept off the stand ‘in order to avoid a confrontation with the [Guatemalan] executive.’
 
What that meant, I was given to understand, was that Gen. Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala’s president, would shut down the case if I took the stand because my testimony could implicate him.
 
Beyond that, there was fear, concretely stated, that my taking the stand could lead to violence since given my past statements and writings I would implicate the ‘institutional army.’
 
The bargain under which Perez Molina and the country’s elite had let the case go forward was that it would only touch Rios Montt and his codefendant, Gen. Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez.   The rest of the army would be spared, and likewise Perez Molina.  
 
On that basis, Perez Molina, it was understood, would refrain from killing the Rios Montt trial case, and still more importantly would keep the old officer corps from killing prosecutors and witnesses, as well as hold off any hit squads that might be mounted by the the oligarchs of CACIF (the Chambers of Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Finance).  (Perez Molina has de facto power to kill the case via secret intervention with the Constitutional and other courts.)
 
This understanding was seen as vital to the survival of both the case and those involved in it.   Army associates had already threatened the family of one of the lead prosecutors, and halfway through the trial a death threat had been delivered to one of the three presiding judges. 
 
In the case of one of those threatened a man had offered him a bribe of one million US dollars as well as technical assistance with offshore accounts and laundering the funds.  All the lawyer had to do was to agree to stop the Rios Montt case.
 
When that didn’t work, the angle changed: the man put a pistol on the table and stated that he knew where to find the lawyer’s children.
 
But so far no trial people had actually been killed.  Though things were tense, the bargain was holding. 
 
But to the shock of many and to world headlines in a press that had long under- and mis- reported Guatemala’s terror, everything changed on April 5 when Hugo Ramiro Leonardo Reyes, a former army mechanic, testified by video from hiding that Perez Molina had ordered atrocities.
 
Testifying with his face half-covered by a baseball cap he recounted murders by Rios Montt’s army and then unexpectedly added that one of the main perpetrators has been Perez Molina who he said had ordered executions and the destruction of villages.
 
This had occurred, he testified, during the massacres around Nebaj when Perez Molina was serving there as Rios Montt’s field commander in 1982-83.
 
As it happened, I had also been there at that time and had encountered Perez Molina who was then living under the code name Major Tito Arias.
 
I had interviewed him on film several times.  On one occasion we stood over the bodies of four captured guerrillas he had interrogated.  Out of his earshot, Perez Molina’s subordinates told me how, acting under orders, they routinely captured, tortured, and staged multiple executions of civilians.
 
The trial witness’s broaching of Perez Molina’s past evidently angered the President.  He publicly denounced the witness and had him investigated
 
He then summoned the Attorney General.  The word went forth that if the trial case mentioned Perez Molina again, all previous understandings would be suspended.  Canceling the Rios Montt case would be the least of their worries: there would be hell to pay.
 
The case went forward as originally agreed with Perez Molina.  My testimony was cancelled, and the court record was kept clear of any additional evidence that could have further implicated the President.
 
Under Guatemalan law, a sitting President cannot be indicted.  Perez Molina’s term ends in 2016. 
 
This is one small but revealing aspect of the case.  The massacre story is not yet over.”
 
 
After the above private account was written, Guatemala’s army and oligarchy rallied.  They started to feel that they had no political need to sacrifice Rios Montt.  As Perez Molina heard from the elite, his and Rios Montt’s interests converged.
 
On April 16 Perez Molina said publicly that the case was a threat to peace. On April 18, today, the Rios Montt genocide case was suspended.
 
 
 
(Regarding Background Sources: For some of my filmed inteviews with Perez Molina see the documentary Skoop! directed by Mikael Wahlforss.  EPIDEM, Scandinavian television, 1983.  Long excerpts from it, under the title Titulares de Hoy, are available on the website of Jean-Marie Simon who was my colleague on the film.  Also see her photographs and narrative in her book Guatemala: Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny, W.W. Norton, 1988.  
 
For a detailed contemporaneous report of the Rios Montt massacres see my piece in the April 11, 1983 The New Republic, “The Guns of Guatemala: The merciless mission of Rios Montt’s army.”  The piece quotes some of Perez Molina’s army subordinates and briefly mentions him as “Major Tito.”  At the time I wrote it and worked on the film I did not know his real name.  
 
YouTube excerpts from the film went viral in Guatemala during Perez Molina’s 2011 presidential campaign.  During the campaign Perez Molina was evasive about whether he really was “Major Tito,” though it later surfaced that he had admitted it years before but had then attempted to obscure that admission.
 
Also see my piece in the April 17, 1995 The Nation, “C.I.A. Death Squad: Americans have been directly involved in Guatemalan Army killings.”  The piece reports on US sponsorship of the G-2, the Guatemalan military intelligence unit which picked targets for assassination and disappearance and often did its own killings and torture.   The piece names Perez Molina as one of “three of the recent G-2 chiefs [who] have been paid by the C.I.A., according to U.S. and Guatemalan intelligence sources.”  
 
The piece adds that then-Colonel “Perez Molina, who now runs the Presidential General Staff and oversees the Archivo, was in charge in 1994, when according to the Archbishop’s human rights office, there was evidence of General Staff involvement in the assassination of Judge Edgar Ramiro Elias Ogaldez.”   
 
Likewise, at the time of The Nation article I still did not know that Perez Molina was Tito.

For one aspect of the US role in supporting Rios Montt see my Washington Post piece: “Despite Ban, U.S. Captain Trains Guatemalan Military,” October 21, 1982, page 1.

After the 1983 New Republic piece the Guatemalan army sent an emissary who invited me to lunch at a fancy hotel and politely told me that I would be killed unless I retracted the article.  The army murdered Guatemalans all the time, but for a US journalist the threat rang hollow.  The man who delivered the threat later became an excellent source of information.) 
YouTube excerpts from the film went viral in Guatemala during Perez Molina’s 2011 presidential campaign.  During the campaign Perez Molina was evasive about whether he really was “Major Tito,” though it later surfaced that he had admitted it years before but had then attempted to obscure that admission.
 
Also see my piece in the April 17, 1995 The Nation, “C.I.A. Death Squad: Americans have been directly involved in Guatemalan Army killings.”  The piece reports on US sponsorship of the G-2, the Guatemalan military intelligence unit which picked targets for assassination and disappearance and often did its own killings and torture.   The piece names Perez Molina as one of “three of the recent G-2 chiefs [who] have been paid by the C.I.A., according to U.S. and Guatemalan intelligence sources.”  
 
The piece adds that then-Colonel “Perez Molina, who now runs the Presidential General Staff and oversees the Archivo, was in charge in 1994, when according to the Archbishop’s human rights office, there was evidence of General Staff involvement in the assassination of Judge Edgar Ramiro Elias Ogaldez.”   
 
Likewise, at the time of The Nation article I still did not know that Perez Molina was Tito.

For one aspect of the US role in supporting Rios Montt see my Washington Post piece: “Despite Ban, U.S. Captain Trains Guatemalan Military,” October 21, 1982, page 1.

Remembering Guatemala January 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Guatemala, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: Your tax dollars at work (to promote, support and facilitate misery and death in Latin America).  And don’t believe that things have changed that much since the massacres in Guatemala, El Salvador, etc.  Today’s US sponsored slaughter is taking place mainly in Honduras.  We continue training Latin American military oppressors at the School of the Americas, whose name change hasn’t changed the reality.

Published on Saturday, January 5, 2013 by Waging Nonviolence

  by  Frida Berrigan

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In 1995, I was on a bus in Guatemala. It was crowded. Not rush-hour-A-train-in-NYC crowded. No, this was inhaling-the-air-the-person-next-to-you-just-exhaled crowded. Whole-families-to-a-seat crowded. Crushed together so close, you could count the ribs of the person in front of you. School-bus-meant-for-50-children-carrying-200-people crowded.

The family in the next seat up had a little girl. She was five or six months old, very serious and very beautiful. She wore a red-polka-dotted kerchief and a cotton dress. Pinned to her smock was a large live beetle. I asked why and was told the beetle attracted any bad spirits in the area, consuming them to protect the little girl.

The country was full of wandering spirits. At that time, Guatemala was just beginning to emerge from more than three decades of armed conflict. Human rights organizations estimated that 200,000 people had been killed and another 50,000 disappeared. These were conservative figures. The vast majority of the killings were carried out by the military and paramilitary groups — which enjoyed political, economic and military support and training from the United States. The war had ended and the United Nations had begun a peace and reintegration process, bringing combatants from both sides back into civil society.

I was there as part of a delegation visiting the sites of military and paramilitary massacres. The mass graves that scarred the country were being exhumed, survivor testimonies were being recorded and funerals were being held. I was working with the Ecumenical Program on Central America and the Caribbean (EPICA), and we had raised money to fund exhumations and the construction of monuments bearing the names of those killed in massacres.

It was a tough trip. We listened to story after story after story. We wept endlessly. We were reminded again and again of the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic, military and political support doled out by Washington over the decades to repressive oligarchs in Guatemala City. We heard about human rights violations and crimes carried out by Guatemalan soldiers trained at the U.S. School of the Americas. We visited modest monuments inscribed with the names of men, women and children slaughtered by government-backed death squads. Some of these concrete and rebar structures had to be rebuilt again and again. As soon as they were erected, soldiers came with dynamite or bulldozers or sledgehammers and knocked them down. Despite enjoying almost complete impunity, the military was threatened and destabilized by these simple truth tellers. We saw one monument that was as big as a tank, built up with stones and concrete, fortified with rebar dug deep into the hillside, surrounded by rutted trenches. The villages boasted that the military had not been able to get rid of it yet.

The Guatemalan Catholic Church was supporting a massive truth and reconciliation process, interviewing survivors and telling the harrowing stories of violence experienced mostly by indigenous and poor people during the war. The interviews were conducted in more than two dozen languages and testimony collected from thousands of people. They were planning to produce a detailed and unimpeachable report that would “name names” so that crimes could be prosecuted at some point when political will and courage asserted themselves. Two days after that report — Guatemala: Nunca Más — was released in 1998, Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi, the man who spearheaded the effort, was beaten to death.

It was hot. We traveled by bus, plane, pickup truck and foot. I got sick and for months afterwards, I could not eat eggs or chicken. I had a recurrent dream that I was digging up bones, out of dirt, out of concrete, out of carpet and wood floor. I made high and teetering piles of bones, but there were still more and more and I could not stop digging.

It has been years since I thought about my brief time in Guatemala or the people I met there. But since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, I keep thinking about the beautiful baby girl on the bus deep in the Guatemalan countryside and her creeping beetle protector. School has resumed for the boys and girls targeted by Adam Lanza’s arsenal in December. How do we protect them? How do we protect our children? How do we protect all children? With beetles, maybe… but also with truth and memory and justice and disarmament.

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Frida Berrigan

Frida Berrigan, a columnist for WagingNonviolence.org, serves on the board of the War Resisters League and organizes with Witness Against Torture.

Our Struggle Continues! Venceremos! November 28, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Latin America.
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From November 16-18, over two thousand students, prison abolitionists, teachers, nuns, immigrants, musicians, farmers, activists and workers from across the Americas mobilized to the gates of Fort Benning, to once more express our humanity and solidarity against the school of death and destruction. This year, we were fortunate to have so many activists from Latin America and the Caribbean who shared their stories with us and walked with us. It was a true manifestation of the saying: “Somos Una América! We are One America!”
On Sunday, November 18, we called out the names of our martyrs, including Ebed Yanes, 15, who was assassinated by SOA-trained troops in May, 2012, in Honduras. From left: Fr Ismael Moreno Coto of Honduras, Fr Roy Bourgeois, Adriana Portillo-Bartow, Dr. Martin Almada of Paraguay.
Thousands came together, including many for the very first time. This year, the names of people who died crossing the US/Mexico border were read along with those of SOA victims.
Expressing a vision of the world through puppetry is an integral part of the SOA Watch movement. On Saturday, the puppetistas brought out the USS Empire, representing the 520 years of oppression… which was later overwhelmed by our collective resistance!
Nashua Chantal, 60 years old, from Americus, Georgia, as he climbs the ladder over the fence at Fort Benning, to carry our protest onto the base. He faces 6 months in prison. Nashua will be in federal court in Columbus on January 9, 2013 to put the SOA/ WHINSEC on trial.
Fort Benning military police arrest Nashua for crossing the line.
Hundreds watch as Nashua is taken away. Our resistance transcends borders and fences, and we will not stop until they do!


Click here to see more photos from Tom Bottolene. If you have any pictures you took and would like to share them, you can upload them to the SOA Watch Flickr page.

 
Special thanks to the Mobile Broadcast Network who livestreamed the Vigil. Check out a clip of Rebel Díaz and Fr Roy here, and of the Puppetista pageant and interviews in Spanish here.

 
Also, check a report back from Father Melo about his experience at the gates. Nina spoke of her first trip to Fort Benning, as did Dominique, who rode on the Veterans for Peace bus from Minnesota. From Ft Benning to Cairo, Eva reports on her views of militarism. Also, Rebel Diaz rapper Rodstarz wrote of his encounter with undercover police. Check the reports out!

 
We marched to the Stewart Detention center to protest unjust immigration laws; we connected our issues during caucuses and workshops; we remembered the names of the victims; and one of us took our collective message over the fence. We left with the renewed knowledge that our struggle did not begin or end at Fort Benning, but that we will continue to build a just and peaceful world in our communities every single day of the year!

 
Thank you to all of you who participated in the Vigil weekend and we invite you to stay connected and continue to spread the word through talks in your communities, video-showings, house-meetings, dances, theater, and legislative work (see you in DC April 8-10, 2013!). Take a rest, and get ready for a rebellious and transformative 2013!

 
In struggle,
SOA Watch

 
PS: In the coming weeks, we will be delivering a letter to Congress urging them to include SOA/WHINSEC in their mandatory budget cuts. If you haven’t done so, please ask your local, regional or national organization to sign on to the SOA Watch Congressional letter.

SOA Watch Meets with White House Deputy National Security Adviser: Lessons Learned November 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Written by Bill Quigley

(Roger’s note: SOA Watch is one of the most dedicated movements for social justice and human rights I know.  Unfortunately, I have little hope or expectation that the Obama Administration has the guts to stand up to the military.  The notion of human rights training at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia is a cruel joke.)

 

(Bill teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans, serves as Associate Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and is a longtime member of the SOAW legal collective. You can reach Bill at
quigley77@gmail.com)
Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Adviser to President Obama, met with a delegation from the SOA Watch movement in Washington DC on November 13, 2012.

 

SOA Watch worked hard to meet with McDonough because he is a critical aide to the President and he has a deep Catholic justice background. A grad of College of St. Benedict and Georgetown, Denis comes from a big Catholic family which includes two priests.

Participating for SOA Watch were Congress Representative James McGovern, Father Roy Bourgeois, Adrianna Portillo-Bartow, Sister Marie Lucey, Father Charles Currie and Bill Quigley.

McDonough admitted he has in the past been a supporter of SOA-WHINSEC but wanted to hear more from the movement. Family members and even former teachers have talked to him about closing the school.

Representative McGovern told him the US underestimates how much of a bad symbol the school is in Latin America. On a recent visit to rural Colombia, grassroots people challenged the US commitment to human rights because of the continued operation of the school. The school is a symbol of all that is wrong with US policy in Latin America.

McDonough did not know and was concerned when McGovern told him the Department of Defense was stonewalling and not releasing the names of the students attending SOA-WHINSEC for the last several years.

Adrianna Portillo-Barrow told McDonough how troops in Guatemala, directed by SOA graduates, executed six members of her family including her 9 and 10 year old daughters. Hundreds of thousands disappeared at the direction of SOA grads. In Latin America, she said, the SOA-WHINSEC is a symbol of horror, pain and suffering and there is deep resentment that it remains open and unaccountable.

Father Roy, Sister Lucey, Father Currie and Bill Quigley highlighted for McDonough: A powerful letter from the UAW calling for the school to be closed; A multi-page list of religious, labor and human rights organizations supporting the movement; That 6 countries have pulled their soldiers out of the school; That 140 catholic bishops in Latin America and even more in the US call for its closure; 69 members of Congress have asked the President to close SOA-WHINSEC; and Four of the generals responsible for the 2009 coup in Honduras were SOA grads.

“SOA-WHINSEC admits they have a few bad apples,” noted Quigley. “But this is not just a few bad apples, this is a bad orchard that needs to be dug up by its roots.”

Father Roy told how the movement to close the SOA-WHINSEC started 22 years ago after the massacre of 14-year old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador. “Closing it would send such a wonderful message to our sisters and brothers in Latin America and to the hundreds of thousands seeking its closure in the US.”
President Obama was quite moved when he visited the cathedral in San Salvador where Bishop Romero was assassinated, said McDonough. The justice legacy of Bishop Romero has great personal significance for the President.

McDonough said he has looked hard at this issue but does not support closing the school. He cannot refute the fact that the school historically has been a symbol of human rights violations but he still supports keeping it open. He will read the materials submitted by the delegation and brief President Obama. He said he thought the militaries in Latin America are institutions like the church, flawed but important for those societies. The US has to find ways to work with and influence them to keep them under civilian control and WHINSEC helps that.

Near the end of the meeting, McDonough admitted that he has just recently met with the Chair of the Board of Advisors of SOA-WHINSEC and was impressed by reports of human rights trainings. At present he supports WHINSEC in concept, its reforms and its oversight.

McDonough promised to look into disclosing the names of the students at SOA-WHINSEC and possibly make changes to that policy. He thanked the group for the visit and respected the passion and intentions of the opponents but said he wanted to be candid about his lack of agreement.

As McDonough started to leave, Adrianna Portillo-Bartow made a powerful last plea. Her voice cracking and choking back tears, she asked him why so many hundreds of thousands have had to die and why so many more will have to die. Closing the school is an act of justice, she stated. It is time, she said, now nearly crying, for the US to stand with the people of Latin America, the oppressed, the poor and the persecuted. Moved and respectful, McDonough excused himself.

Our meeting with the White House Deputy National Security Advisor surfaces at least three lessons for our movement.

First, Denis McDonough has not yet joined our movement. This was our first face to face advocacy with him. He was respectful because this is a movement of hundreds of thousands. His refusal to announce the closing of WHINSEC is instructive to all who hoped the re-election of President Obama would automatically open previously closed doors for justice and human rights. Those doors are going to be opened only because WE are pushing them open. So we will.

Second, the fact that he did listen to the movement is important. He is a very busy and important person. He now knows we can educate him with facts about the school that he did not know previously. He is a smart man. I wonder what he thinks about the WHINSEC people not disclosing to him and the White House that they are not even disclosing the names of their students?

Third, it is up to us to continue to educate and agitate the powerful about the reality of US foreign policy. Adrianna’s pure voice of the victims of US policy teaches us again the power of the individual witness and the power of listening to the organized voices of the people most impacted. In a few days we will gather at Ft. Benning to commemorate the martyrs and celebrate the resistance. We will write, lobby, educate, organize and protest. If the Obama administration keeps the school open, we will be back and converge on DC in April. The school will close. Accountability will come. Human rights will prevail.

Speakers and Musicians at the Gates of Fort Benning, Georgia November 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Latin America, Torture.
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From November 16-18, 2012, thousands of human rights activists, torture survivors, anti-war veterans, students, families, union workers, nuns, artists, and others will converge at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, to call on the Obama administration to end the U.S. militarization of the Americas, and to close the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC)! Fore more information visit SOAW.org
Here’s a list of some of the featured speakers and musicians:

Father Melo Father Melo, a Jesuit priest and radio host, condemned the SOA graduate-led military coup against the democratically elected Honduran government in 2009 from the start. As a result, his radio station was occupied by the military following the coup and he began receiving death threats. The killing in Honduras continues. Just last Sunday, three rural laborers were killed amid an ongoing conflict over land in the Bajo Aguán region on Honduras’ Caribbean coast.

Adriana Portillo-Bartow Adriana is a life-long advocate for human rights and a survivor of the war in Guatemala. After Guatemalan security forces killed one of her brothers and disappeared six members of her family, among them her father, her 10 and 9 year old daughters, and her 18-month old sister, Adriana and her two surviving daughters fled their native country and arrived in the US in 1985.

Father Roy Bourgeois, M.M.Father Roy has been a priest for 38 years. He founded SOA Watch in 1990 after witnessing the killings of thousands in Central America in the 1980’s. Father Roy’s conscious awakening and calling to priesthood happened immediately after his experience serving in Vietnam. He has spent four years in prison for nonviolent protests against the SOA.Theresa Cusimano and Ed Kinane, former SOA Watch Prisoners of Conscience 300 SOA Watch activists have been sentenced to prison and probation for nonviolent resistance actions to expose the horrors of the SOA and to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Latin America.

Joe Jencks Joe Jencks is an international touring performer, songwriter, entertainer, and educator, based in Chicago, Illinois. From venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, to coffee houses, festivals, spiritual communities, and schools, Joe Jencks has spent the last 12 years touring full time.

Colonel Ann Wright Ann Wright is a former United States Army colonel and retired official of the U.S. State Department, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

U.S. military veterans are on the forefront of the struggle to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Veterans have fasted, organized, marched, hung uniforms and other military items on the fence, crossed the line to carry the protest onto the Fort Benning military base, and served jail time.

Maria Victoria Batista Maria will address the situation of U.S. militarization in the Dominican Republic, especially in regards to the Saona Island, where the U.S. Southern Command is planning to build a naval base.

Omari Fox, New Danger Collective – the New Danger Movement is a play on the historical identification of the perceived “threat” that artists, thinkers, and change agents pose to the system.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a community-based worker organization whose members are largely Latino, Haitian, and Mayan Indian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout Florida.

Charlie King Charlie is a musical storyteller and political satirist, who sings and writes about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.

Medea Benjamin Medea Benjamin is a cofounder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. She has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years. Benjamin is the author of the book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to get lethal drones out of the hands of the CIA. Predator drones from the war in Afghanistan are being transferred to the control of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) for use in its operations in Latin America. As Fort Benning is scheduled to become a drone base, organizing against drones is picking up around the country.

Brother Domingo Solis is a Franciscan friar and currently the director of the Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) in El Salvador. JPIC is an organization of Franciscans whose mission is to care for the poor and marginalized, advocate for human rights, be peacemakers and respect and care for all of creation. In El Salvador, JPIC is an active member of the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa) and has supported the struggle for a complete ban on all metallic mining in the country. As part of the Mesa, Brother Domingo has helped organize protests of thousands of people demanding stricter domestic environmental regulations, has educated parishes and communities around the dangers of mining, and has demanded the respect for the human rights of environmental activists.

Sarab Shada Sarab Shada is a student from Iraq, who is currently studying at Loyola University Chicago through the Iraqi Student Project.

SOA Watch Legislative Working Group Representative McGovern (D-MA), our champion in Congress, is going to introduce legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to suspend operations at the SOA/ WHINSEC and to investigate the links between U.S. foreign military training and human rights abuses in Latin America.
Yolanda Oquelí Yolanda Oquelí is an anti-mining activist, community leader, and human rights defender in Guatemala. She has been at the forefront of a nonviolent resistance to mining operations in the farming communities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc. On June 30th she survived an assassination attempt, and to this day carries a bullet lodged near her spine.

SOA Watch Labor Caucus- Union organizers are among the primary targets of SOA violence in Latin America. SOA graduates have been directly responsible for the slaying of striking workers and the killing of union organizers. The SOA torture manuals identified union organizers as potential subversives and targets. Union solidarity means for the labor caucus that we need to speak up and stop the killing.Jon Fromer and Francisco Herrera Francisco’s songs capture the vitality of the immigrant experience, stories of faith, love and struggle. Jon Fromer is an award-winning singer/songwriter whose music is a special blend of folk, blues and country.

Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MEChA) MEChA is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.

Francia Marquez Francia Marquez is a leader from the Afro-Colombian gold-mining community of La Toma in southwestern Colombia. Home to 1,052 families, La Toma was founded by runaway slaves in 1636, and since then the community has struggled against political, economic and armed forces looking to control their lands and resources. Francia makes up part of this struggle. Through her work as a community leader and as part of Procesos de Comunidades Negras (PCN), she has striven to protect La Toma’s ancestral lands from plunder, violence and dispossession, despite being identified as military target by paramilitary groups and receiving death threats that seek to drive her off this land.

Son del Centro Son del Centro is a group of companeros and camaradas who are students, musicians, activists, dancers, friends and organizers from various parts of Santa Ana, California. The group was formed to create a space for youth to explore their traditions, creativity and consciousness, through son jarocho music.

Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP passed a national resolution in 1998, calling for the closure of the SOA.

emma’s revolution emma’s revolution is the duo of award-winning activist musicians, Pat Humphries & Sandy O. Called “Inspiring, gusty and rockin’”, the duo is celebrating the release of their third cd, “Revolutions Per Minute”, an electrifying soundscape of “rousing and soulful” songs of social conscience, in settings from intimate acoustic to full-on funk.

Luis Roberto Zamora Bolaños is a young Costa Rican attorney who has brought a law suit to the Costa Rican government, challenging the decision of President Arias of authorizing military training for Costa Rican civilian police to study at the School of the Americas (WHINSEC); the case is pending at the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Previously, he challenged president Pacheco’s decision of supporting the US-UK led aggression on Iraq.

Son Altepee Son Altepee is a traditional string band from Veracruz, Mexico. Son Altepee make their own instruments, repair instruments, teach string music, contribute to traditional community celebrations, build community with elders and youth in several communities throughout southern Veracruz, and they support several struggles for liberation and self-determination in Veracruz and throughout Mexico.

Martin Almada Martin Almada is a Paraguayan educator who was imprisoned under the regime of Alfredo Stroessner. His wife died of a heart attack after being forced to hear through a telephone her husband’s cries as he was tortured. After a campaign by Amnesty International, Almada was released. He later uncovered the Terror Archives, a set of file describing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured, and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, under Operation Condor.

Mario Venegas Mario represents the Illinois Coalition Against Torture (ICAT). He is a torture survivor from Chile, tortured by two officers from the Chilean Army, who were trained at the SOA.

Rebel Diaz Rebel Diaz is a political hip hop duo out of the Bronx, New York and Chicago, IL consisting of the Chilean brothers Rodrigo Venegas (known as RodStarz) and Gonzalo Venegas (known as G1). Rebel Diaz uses their music as an organizing tool and to spread knowledge about injustice.

Aly Wane and Jonathan Perez Undocumented activist from New York and California. In the past two years, undocumented students and their allies have organized some of the largest mass gatherings in the country. There has been a preponderance of undocumented students “coming out,” announcing that they are “undocumented and unafraid.” Some have taken an even greater risk by engaging in acts of civil resistance.

Belen AscenciónBelen was the youngest of 55 family members of victims of Mexico’s drug war on the Mexican Caravan for Peace and Justice. The caravan brought these courageous voices to over 30 US cities this summer, sharing the tragic consequences of a drug war that starts in the US, and that must also be stopped from the US. Belen’s brother disappeared while driving from Mexico to the border, while conversing on his cell phone with his mother in Los Angeles. On the last visit of the Caravan to Washington, Belen shared: “Fear is the oldest weapon that has been used by government to control you, but when someone is taken from you who you didn’t realize meant so much to you, your consciousness is elevated. …We don’t want you to feel sorry for us, …You, who are looking from the other side, I was once there. I hope that you join us.”Juan Carlos Trujillo Herrera and Rafael Trujillo Herrera Juan Carlos and Rafael are survivors of the U.S. sponsored and SOA fueled “Drug War” in Mexico.

Colleen Kattau and Elise Witt Elise is a singer who was born in Switzerland, raised in North Carolina and since 1977 has made her home in Atlanta, Georgia. Colleen performs progressive folk rock colored w/ south of the border beats and socio-enviro-fem conscious compositions.

Pageant with the Puppetistas Artists are a tremendously important part of the movement to close the School of the Americas. The creatively minded inspire the campaign. Art and activism is an effective combination that is able to reach people on a different level and moves them to take action.
Xochitl Espinosa
, National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) The National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) seeks to improve the quality of life for Latinos and Latino immigrants in their communities both in the United States and in countries of origin. NALACC seeks to build transnational leadership capacity and increase immigrant civic participation, so that immigrants can advocate effectively for public policies that address the root causes of migration, as well as addressing the challenges faced by immigrants in the United States. NALACC aspires to become an entity recognized for its ability to articulate the challenges faced by transnational immigrant communities, as well as viable solutions to those challenges.

Nuns at the Gates Every hour of each day, Catholic Sisters stand in solidarity with all who face repression and violence, and we confront injustice and systems that cause suffering.

Silvia Brandon Pérez Silvia is a singer and a member of the SOA Watch Bilingual Space Working Group

Poem by Langston Hughes, the American poet and social activist, who was one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form jazz poetry. The poem will be read by Pedro-Jesus Romero-Menendez

Mike Stout Mike is a socially conscious singer song-writer and community leader. He leads crusades against local and global economic injustice, rallying people with his music to take action. His sound and lyrics are influenced by his musical heroes Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Bruce Cockburn.

Dan Dale Dan is currently a minister at Wellington Avenue UCC in Chicago. During the 1980´s, Rev. Dale and his family served as missionaries in El Salvador during that country´s civil war. Working with the Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America, Rev. Dale played a central role in creating the National Sanctuary Movement for refugees fleeing the U.S.-sponsored wars against the poor in Central America.

 


For more information about hotels, the rideboard and directions, workshops and concerts, the schedule of events, and more, visit SOAW.org
To make a donation to support the mobilization efforts for the November Vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, visit SOAW.org/donate


We appreciate your interest! You are subscribed to the SOA Watch list as rogerholla@aol.com. We believe that emails are a vital way for SOA Watch to stay in direct contact with supporters. Click here if you’d like to unsubscribe from these messages, or change your email address. The movement to close the SOA is a community, and all ideas are welcome. We appreciate any feedback you might have — positive or negative. Click here to contact SOA Watch with any questions or concerns. SOA Watch, PO Box 4566, Washington, DC 20017

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Theresa Cusimano Sentenced to Six Months in Federal Prison for Crossing the Line to Speak out against the School of the Americas January 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
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“There is but one law for all: the law of humanity and justice” – Jimmy Carter.


Those words adorn the wall inside the courtroom of Judge Stephen Hyles at the Columbus courthouse. And there they remain, strong words that ring hollow in face of injustice, merely adornments. http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=6IFWaPWtGcR2p6UO9EtZpUFQQv4DyJmrFor her act of peacefully crossing the line at Fort Benning, Georgia – a misdemeanor offense – a 6-month sentence was imposed on Theresa Cusimano. Those who train men with guns at the SOA/WHINSEC, those who created those torture manuals, have never had to defend their actions, yet Theresa is being sentenced to six months in prison for nonviolently calling attention to the US military’s role in the violence carried out against her sisters and brothers in the Americas.

Theresa Cusimano wrote the following statement to Judge Stephen Hyles before her sentencing, telling him that his complicity goes on record today as obstructing international justice and U.S. Rule of Law, and that she wished that he had the courage of Father Roy and the honor of being a subversive.:

“22 years ago, Father Roy Bourgeois played a recording of Bishop Romero’s final homily from the day before he was assassinated by School of the America graduates. Romero was labeled a subversive for identifying with the poor. Roy was so sure that once Romero’s community heard this homily, their hearts would be changed. So he climbed a tree with his friends, replaying Romero’s words to Salvadoran soldiers who were being trained at the School of the Americas to kill their brothers and sisters. Roy wore a Navy uniform representative of his military service in Viet Nam. Because of this action, Roy and his friends joined this circle of “subversives” by shining light on the truth of how the U.S. was spending our tax dollars on its gambling game known as U.S. foreign policy. In this dirty war business “subversives” become fair game for U.S. trained and financed militias while the U.S. continues to profit, sitting back and watching the body count grow, with mass graves filled with hundreds of thousands of mutilated children, raped women and countless, faceless corpses of unknowing communities. Who are we?

Columbus is a proud community that does not deserve the stain that the Schools of the Americas brings. The Fort’s barbed wire fence was not built to aid and abet the U.S. from international accountability for the human rights crimes facilitated by the SOA, violating U.S. statutes requiring transparency, not to mention military ethics. Yet you handcuff, videotape and fingerprint me as a criminal.

It seems we are in a bit of a stalemate. Our prisons are over filled, and our courts underfunded. Yet, you, Stephen Hyles, allow this expensive stalemate to continue. You pretend we are here for trespass, wasting precious resources, ignoring talent and idealism that could be put to better use. Because the Columbus magistrates do not recuse themselves despite their conflicts of interest, because you continue to deny defenses that would allow this debate to come to light. Since international law experts are not granted admission to this hearing, you and I are here today on Friday the 13th… you forced to listen and me sentenced to your prison, as a peaceful protestor. Nowhere else but in Georgia can such extreme sentencing be found to protect a base with a tagline, Maneuvers in Excellence. Is this what you call excellence? I want my tax dollars back. I suppose I should be grateful to make use of my tax dollars in another boondoggle economy that lacks accountability, the U.S. prison system.

I beg your pardon while you make a mockery of justice and we pay the price. General Eisenhower warned us of this stalemate as he left the White House. He warned that the military complex would suck all of the resources our country needed for its people, our schools, our hospitals to fuel its addiction to war. Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu begs Americans to, “Stop exporting U.S. warfare.” My witness today Judge Hyles, is to hold you accountable, for the schools that will close this year, the veteran benefits that will be too expensive to make good on, the national service programs like AmeriCorps that will be threatened because you sat silent as precious resources fund the renamed School of the Americas in its latest Honduran coup. You may not hold a machete, or ask children to detonate the landmines used in U.S. financed coups with the protections of a soldier trained here, but your complicity goes on record today as obstructing international justice and U.S. Rule of Law. You have other choices. I only wish you had the courage of Father Roy and the honor of being a subversive.

With employment at an all-time low, who are we to challenge Georgia’s largest employer? We are 300 prisoners of our conscience who have served more than 100 years in prison, collectively. We are supported by hundreds of thousands of protestors. Our legislative campaign with no real funding comes within ten votes of inviting accountability. Today you could choose justice, Judge Hyles… it’s well within your reach.”

Theresa Cusimano, SOA Watch Prisoner of Conscience, January 13, 2012


Before carrying her protest onto the base in November 2011, Theresa addressed thousands of human rights activists at the gates of Fort Benning with a request:
“…Our message is not being heard in Congress, our lawmakers have been purchased by other priorities, so youth and students in the movement ask for you to help us in the Court of Public Opinion and go online to the Daily Show’s Facebook page, register in for their Forum. Request that Father Roy be invited onto the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report. Don’t stop until we get Roy’s voice into the media mainstream, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and the Sunday morning circuit. Don’t let my civil action go to waste.”

To read her full speech from the stage and for contact information for some of the media outlets that Theresa mentioned, click here. To send a message to the media through the SOA Watch webpage, click here.

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

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

  by  Dana Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2011 The Progressive

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Dana Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Resistance welcomes the agreement

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

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

Terms of the accord

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

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

U.S. disruption attempt

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

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

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

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

Showdown at the OAS

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

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

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

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

Regional sovereignty

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

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

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

Need for continued solidarity

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

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

Further reading:

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

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

Bienvenidos

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