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Honduras is just days away from approving an extremist law that would put teenagers in prison April 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Honduras, Latin America, Women.
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Dear friends,

The Honduran Congress is about to vote on a proposal that would send women to jail if they use the morning-after pill — even for victims of sexual assault. But the President of the Congress can stop this. He’s concerned about his international image and his future in politics, so our massive outcry can shame him and stop this attack on women.

Honduras is just days away from approving an extremist law that would put teenagers in prison for using the morning-after pill, even if they’ve just been raped. But we can stop this law and ensure women have the chance to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Some Congress members agree that this law — which would also jail doctors or anyone who sells the pill — is excessive, but they are bowing to the powerful religious lobby that wrongly claims the morning-after pill constitutes an abortion. Only the head of the Congress, who wants to run for the Presidency and cares about his reputation abroad, can stop this. If we pressure him now we can shelve this reactionary law.

The vote could happen any day — let’s show Honduras that the world won’t stand by as it jails women for preventing pregnancy even after sexual violence. Sign the urgent petition calling on the President of the Honduran Congress to stand up for women’s rights. Avaaz will work with local women’s groups to personally deliver our outcry:
A few countries, including Honduras, have banned the emergency contraceptive pill, which delays ovulation and prevents pregnancy — like ordinary birth control pills. But if this new bill passes, Honduras will be the only state in the world to punish the use or sale of emergency contraception with a jail term. Anyone — teenagers, rape victims, doctors — convicted of selling or using the morning-after pill could end up behind bars, in flagrant contravention of World Health Organisation guidelines.
Latin America already has too many tough laws which restrict women’s reproductive rights. The Honduras Congress first passed this draconian measure in April 2009, but just a month later then-President José Manuel Zelaya bowed to pressure from campaigners and vetoed it. Then Zelaya was removed in a coup, and the new regime has taken a sledgehammer to the country’s judicial processes and forced the bill back to a vote.
Time is short, but we can stop this awful proposal in its tracks. Congress has the final vote on the matter and the government doesn’t want to risk its already fragile global reputation. Let’s tell the President of the Congress not to make Honduras the region’s most repressive country against women. Sign this urgent petition now:
Emergency contraception is vital for women everywhere, but especially where sexual violence against women is rampant, unplanned pregnancy rates are high and access to regular birth control is limited. Let’s stand with the women of Honduras and help them stop this bill.
With hope and determination,
Alex, Laura, Dalia, Alice, Emma, Ricken, Maria Paz, David and the whole Avaaz team
More Information:
Honduras Supreme Court upholds absolute ban on emergency contraception (ReproRights): http://reproductiverights.org/en/press-room/honduras-supreme-court-upholds-absolute-ban-on-emergency-contraception-opens-door-to-crim
Honduras, most sweeping ban on emergency contraception anywhere (RH Reality Check): http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/02/14/honduran-supreme-court-upholds-complete-ban-on-emergency-contraception-0
Women’s rights under attack with Honduran coup (LatinoPolitics): http://latinopoliticsblog.com/2009/11/16/women%E2%80%99s-rights-reproductive-freedoms-under-attack-with-honduran-coup/
The legal status of emergency contraception in Latin America (Hevia M.): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22088410
The prohibition of emergency contraception in Honduras is inadmissible (WLW): http://www.womenslinkworldwide.org/wlw/new.php?modo=detalle_prensa&dc=163&lang=en
Emergency Contraception in theAmericas (Pan American Health Organization): http://www.paho.org/english/ad/ge/emergencycontraception.PDF

Report Back from the SOA Watch Honduras Delegation: Honduras is Open for Plunder May 12, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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This photo says it all.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledging US taxpayer dollars and support for the illegal and  repressive regime of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras.  The American taxpayer is financing the repression you will read about below.  SHAME

Honduras is Open for Business Plunder

A delegation of ten SOA Watch activists, accompanied by Fr. Roy Bourgeois, has just returned from Honduras, a country devastated by a 2009 coup led by SOA graduates. Over nine days the delegation met with with a broad spectrum of society in the capital, as well as in towns and farms on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

From start to finish the days were marked by testimonies of extrajudicial executions, violent repression, death threat and harassment aimed at individuals and sectors of society opposing the coup and current illegal regime of Porfirio Lobo.

From our first morning – when a body was dumped at the headquarters of the striking teacher´s union – to just hours before our departure flight, when we learned of a campesino deaths in a community we visited, the days unfolded with a litany of tragedy. There were, quite simply, not enough hours in the day to meet with the numbers of people and organizations that wanted to share with us their concerns and fears.

As we prepare to leave, we find ourselves profoundly concerned by this increase in human rights violations, the involvement of government security forces, and the total impunity that reigns in the country. The severity and extent of repression of the Lobo regime in recent months exceeds that of the http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=X2hUoxSHIHcLyRpOjCEQvzn0liLQEms7first weeks under the initial coup regime of Micheletti.

We are especially concerned about the clear complicity between government security forces and the private security guards that protect large landowners and corporations. The country´s wealthiest citizens are literally locked in a battle with the poorest ones, using Honduran security forces to do their dirty work. All this is made possible because of guns, tear gas, tanks and ammunition purchased with US aid to the country´s military and police.

Finally, we return in awe of the extraordinarily brave and profoundly committed community of human rights activists in Honduras. We feel a renewed commitment as an SOA Watch movement to accompany the Honduran people in their struggle for dignity and for life.

Please read more about the delegation in Lisa Sullivan’s report , “Honduras is Open for Business Plunder”

For more information about upcoming delegations to Costa Rica, Colombia and Haiti, email Lisa Sullivan at LSullivan@soaw.org

Urge your Representative to also pressure President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) by executive order and to also sign on to the Congressional sign-on letter to Secretary of State Clinton regarding the situation in Honduras.

Click Here to Send a Message to Your Representative

An Inconvenient Truth in Honduras April 11, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Published on Sunday, April 10, 2011 by Foreign Policy in Focus

by Rodolfo Pastor Campos

At the same time that the police and the Honduran army were brutally repressing popular protests of teachers, students, and resistance members for the sixth day in a row, Julissa Reynoso was greeting Honduran President Porfirio Lobo at the presidential palace. According to the press release issued by the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Reynoso was there to recognize President Lobo’s achievements regarding national reconciliation, human rights, and the return to democracy in Honduras.

That same day, in Washington DC, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States held a series of three hearings regarding the ongoing crisis in Honduras. National and international human rights organizations, renowned human rights activists, and the direct victims of the repression and political persecution presented the cases one after the other. Representatives of the Honduran government were also present to receive the reports and answer the accusations.

Documents, pictures, videos, and statistics of the beaten, the arbitrarily detained, the tortured, and the executed were all presented to the commission. The commissioners then listened to the Honduran government’s presentation before reaching their initial conclusions. By the end of each of the three sessions, the commission clearly and severely condemned the government’s violent abuse of human rights activists, peasants, teachers, students, journalists, and other members and supporters of the popular resistance movement.

President Lobo’s representatives provided no credible response or convincing argument backed up by facts for any of the evidence presented to the commissioners. As they scrambled to justify a state policy of repression and persecution, the government representatives ended up contradicting themselves. When the commissioners inquired about the total number of police officers charged with human rights abuses since the coup, the Honduran government representatives could not provide one. When the commission asked about the number of public prosecutors appointed to defend human rights, the government claimed “around 18,” but the commission subsequently determined on a visit to the country that only two had been appointed. The commissioners contrasted the explanations given by the Honduran government’s officials with the results of the commission’s own recent findings while in Honduras, making it obvious that the official presentation was at best deceiving if not outright fictitious.

Furthermore, the commissioners also observed that although one member of the Honduran government delegation was an army officer, no one represented the police. This troubled Commissioner Felipe Gonzalez, as an indication of the nature of the regime and the ensuing militarization of Honduras. The commissioners also noted their concern that the Honduran government increased funding for both the police and the army while significantly decreasing funds for health and education.

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of a number of judges for having publicly criticized and denounced the 2009 coup underscored the serious corruption of the judicial system, its lack of independence, and the resulting absence of the rule of law in Honduras. The Commission encouraged a profound and extensive reform of the justice system and demanded, at the end of the sessions, that the Honduran government immediately halt the repression and political persecution, show restraint in its use of force, and commit to the promotion and respect of human rights.

Repression Continues

Throughout that day and all through Deputy Assistant Secretary Reynoso’s three-day visit, violent repression continued in Honduras. The police and the army once again beat the teachers and the students, as the Autonomous National University came under tear-gas attack with canisters made in the USA along with water cannons, rubber bullets and repeated blows of the batons.

A few days earlier, Ilse Velasquez, a teacher and one of the founders of the Committee of the Families of the Detained and the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), died when a tear gas canister hit her head during a protest. At the hearings, COFADEH representatives documented over 120 murders of members of the Honduran resistance, including union leaders and members of the LGBT community.

And then, just last week, the police burned and beat Miriam Miranda of the National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras before detaining her on charges of sedition for participating in a popular resistance protest in solidarity with the teachers.  

As Marcia Aguiluz from the Center for Justice and International Law in Washington, who has testified before the U.S. Congress and the IHRC about the crisis in Honduras pointed out, “President Lobo and his government have continued a state policy of repression against human rights activists and any kind of political dissent, a policy inherited directly from the de facto regime that came to power through the 2009 coup.” Attorney Anjana Samant from the Center for Constitutional Rights, also said at the hearings that “this crisis is far from over. Many have died and more lives are still at risk given the worsening human rights situation in Honduras. To pretend that all is well and that the country is on the road to reconciliation after controversial elections that were neither free nor fair is to enable the continuation of repressive tactics and human rights violations.”

A Broken System

Impunity still abounds in Honduras, and the perpetrators of the abuse are not only free but also thoroughly empowered to continue their activities. In Honduras human rights and justice are nonexistent. Democracy is no more than a disguise for a regime that, lacking any kind of legitimacy or the minimum consent necessary to govern, has relied on the selective and systematic use of violence to crush popular dissent and resistance to its abuse.

Despite this inconvenient truth of continued repression, the Honduran government and its U.S. backers claim that the “free and fair” election of Lobo reestablished the constitutional order – political repression and censorship during the elections notwithstanding – as they praise him for his “democratic achievements” and advocate for the country’s prompt readmission to the Organization of American States (OAS).

“Honduras has taken important and necessary steps that deserve the recognition and the normalization of relations,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the OAS annual meeting in Peru last June. “We saw the free and fair election of President Lobo, and we have watched President Lobo fulfill his obligations… including forming a government of national reconciliation and a truth commission. This has demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to democratic governance and constitutional order.”

President Obama has been standing up for human rights and democracy in the Middle East and other parts of the world, supporting popular revolutions against tyrants. “Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move,” said President Obama in his recent address to the nation regarding the bombing of Libya, “because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.” Yet, over the same period, the United States has significantly increased the funding of the same police and army that executed the coup d’etat in Honduras in 2009.

The repression will likely continue as long as the United States turns a blind eye to the crisis and keeps funding the regime. President Obama should act promptly and in accordance with the principles he publicly stands for. The U.S. should immediately stop funding the police and the army of Honduras and demand that President Lobo halt the repression. Any genuine reconciliation and normalization in Honduras will demand profound reforms, a full commitment to human rights and an inclusive and transparent process that brings real justice and true democracy to the people. 



Rodolfo Pastor Campos served as chargé d’affaires of the embassy of Honduras in Washington DC during the coup. He is a founding member of Hondurans for Democracy, a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus, and currently a student at the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University.

Honduras Repression Continues September 2, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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The teachers resistance and collective strength was shown over the past month. Due to their grassroots organizing against the oppressive regime of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, on August 31, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported that Honduran teachers have ended their month-long strike on the promise that the government will pay 3.6 billion lempiras, about $189 million, which is only part of what is owed to the educators’ pension fund. It is still unclear though what will occur with the general strike, which is still in its preparatory stages.

Images shows repression and aggression used by police and military against peaceful teacher protests in TEGUCIGALPA, the capital of Honduras.

The illegitimate regime of has proven this August that it has little respect for human rights and democracy. The militarization of the country under this regime has a direct connection to U.S. military training. Gen. Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez, who overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in a military coup on June 28, 2009, was educated at the School of the Americas which promoted a mind set advocating for military solutions and lack of respect of democracy and civilian leadership. “We’re not surprised. Vásquez is one of the key players, an SOA grad who’s keeping alive the school’s nickname, the School of Coup,” says Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of Americas Watch.

The teachers of Honduras have been on strike in opposition to the Lobo military regime – a last resort to get the respect they deserve. According to human rights advocates, violence against the strikers has increased dramatically during the past couple of weeks. In protests on August 26 and 27 outside the presidential residency and the National Pedagogical University Francisco Morazan in Tegucigalpa, police countered the peaceful strikes with tear gas and rubber bullets, detaining some and denying medical access to the wounded.

The Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN) has expressed that “the recent brutal attacks by government forces against non-violent protests show that there has been no reconciliation after last year’s coup d’etat, and the U.S. government’s policy of support for the current government must be changed.” But while the relationship between the people and the government is becoming more conflicting, the masses are joining together in opposition. Members of campesino organizations, trade unions and student groups joined the teachers in solidarity. Although they have different struggles, all are joining together under the umbrella of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) to oppose Lobo’s military regime and his attempts to privatize public sectors, including education.

“Our protests are in opposition to the actions and intention of the dictator to apply laws that favor the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, that abolish social conquests and hand over public goods and natural resources to corrupt business people and transnational corporations.” -FNRP Comminique No. 17

Among the protestors were women and children who were shown no mercy at the hands of the military and police brutality. Some of their demands include:

  • Return of stolen money. National Institute for Teacher Welfare (Inprema) was plundered by the coup masters “of more than four million two hundred thousand lempiras (approximately US $221,965) worth of contributions and pay deductions to teacher loan repayments.” The missing money is suspected to be used to fund the military regime.
  • Prevent passage of General Law of Education. This law has already passed through two revisions in the National Congress and awaits final approval. It will restrict education access for children up to 15 years of age, while providing only privately run high schools. This will further increase the gap between rich and poor while the profits will go directly into the hands of the oligarchy.
  • Demand increases to minimum wage. Currently minimum wage does not come close to a daily living wage.

    The National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) “calls on all people to continue permanent actions of peaceful resistance in order to weaken the regime and require the convocation of a constituent assembly in accordance with the contents and structure defined by the Frente.”

  • Interview: Tortured, Exiled Honduran Journalist Recalls His Experiences February 14, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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    Written by Tamar Sharabi   
    Sunday, 14 February 2010 13:04
    Upside Down World: Before the Honduras Coup Detat of June 28th 2009, tell me a little about your life.

    Cesar Silva: I have always been involved in popular struggles. During university I was elected Secretary of the University Reform Front (FRU) from where we constantly held a line of complaints denouncing corruption and participating in different actions to benefit students. I was also elected president of Journalism Students for two consecutive terms from 1998 to 2002, during which we founded the “Vanguard University Journal” and “Magazine Alert” that circulated once a month across the country’s universities.

    Upon graduating from the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), I worked for six years as a reporter for Channel 9 TV (Vica TV), the last two years of which I was a news director for that company in Tegucigalpa. I also worked for Channel 63 for two years, along with Renato Alvarez who is now director of the news of Televicentro. (Read, ‘Coup Mouthpiece’) I also worked four years at Channel 54, which produced a program called “The protagonists of the News.”

    In 2006 Jorge Arturo Reina Idiáquez (Ambassador of Honduras to the UN) offered me a position with the Ministry of Interior and Justice in the Zelaya Government. My position was Director of Communications where I worked directly with the newspaper and Channel 8, called ‘Citizen Power Information Network’ founded under Zelaya’s government.

    In May 2009 I was called to work with the Presidential Palace to coordinate work for production and coverage of the popular consultation process (‘cuarta urna’) for public Channel 8. I was assigned a mobile unit to report from the northern municipalities of Olancho and Francisco Morazán beside the first lady, Xiomara Castro. That’s how I became involved directly in the events during the coup.

    UDW: What happened to you on June 28th?

    CS: Preparations were intense in the days before the coup and increased when the Armed Forces refused to distribute electoral materials. The ballot boxes were held at the air base Hernan Acosta. President Zelaya along with supporters came to rescue the ballots to distribute them into state cars. From there it was a race of information.

    The night of June 27, I was at the Presidential Palace until midnight and in the early morning I left towards Olancho. When I passed the town of Guaimaca (a town 90 km from Tegucigalpa) the President was being captured. There, police and the army captured me as well. My cameraman, driver, and assistants managed to escape to warn people what had happened.

    People gathered in Guaimaca at the town’s central park and demanded that the police release me. I was finally released by noontime because of the people’s pressure. Still, the police called for reinforcements from another municipality and within a half hour an army truck arrived and began to repress people in the park and the police forces chased me down.

    People took me from house to house, jumping lots and properties until I was in a safe place outside the town. I stayed there until nighttime when presidential house vehicles (that were still under the legitimate government) came to pick me up. We had to travel on back roads to evade the army and police posts to arrive in Tegucigalpa at two in the morning. Since their was a curfew we had no choice but to reach the presidential palace where people remained gathered in protest.

    They seized the entire equipment of the team; cameras and microphones. In Olancho they stole our truck the mobile unit that accompanied the first lady, Xiomara Castro. On the 29th more chaos came and repression continued.

    The 5th of July you helped carry the dead body of Isis Obed. How did it feel to pause from your reporters role to help Isis receive medical attention?

    It is impossible to separate being a journalist and being a human being. As a reporter I was interested in taking pictures, and I took the first ones because I thought that Isis Murillo Obed was dead. Then I approached him and saw that he was breathing and moving in the density of all the tear gas. People were shouting that he was dead, but when I took him in my arms he opened his eyes and tried to say something that molded into a moan of pain.

    There was still army gunfire hitting a small wall near where Isis Obed fell. We could hear the bullets striking the wall, and at that very moment there was an explosion and everyone hit the ground. It turned out to be a motorcycle that had exploded. Consequently, I gave the camera to a friend and shouted that we needed to move Isis. With the help of some other guys we carried him about 300 meters to a car that we found.

    I felt anger, pain and helplessness. I did not know the child’s age, and perhaps had never seen him in my life. I thought he was 10 or 12 years old. He had no weapons, he just looked helpless. It looked so unfair that I just felt like yelling “Gorillas assassinate children.”

    I forgot that I was a reporter and I just thought of the life of that child. I asked for his family but nobody knew anything. I hoped he would be saved in the hospital, but taking the pictures, it seemed impossible for him to live. The shot impacted his skull. On my chest there were remains of his brain and his blood.

    UDW: After this day, did anything change about the way you reported on the situation in the country?

    I will never forget that moment. That event drives me to continue so that Isis’s life and others will not go unpunished. The murderers must pay their crime. Witnessing so many beatings, so much unjustified repression, it was clear that the intentions of the coup were to establish a dictatorship. I decided to continue looking for ways to disseminate what was happening. I started working for the internet blog and the National Resistance Front Against the Coup, and freelanced with Radio Globo, Telesur and the History Channel.

    I changed; I am more insistent, I’m more critical. During the Michelletti regime I collaborated in every way possible to denounce the coup. We went from neighborhood to neighborhood, people to people. I grew more into a neighborhood journalist, I just had to be more creative because they stole or destroyed the equipment we had at every opportunity.

    As a national reporter, how did you feel about the international media reporting on Honduras?

    As always there are many interests. At first it seemed somewhat balanced, but within a few days it was clear who uninformed and those who told the truth. The big chains such as CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others within a few days took off their mask and began calling Michelletti president and considered it a constitutional succession. Other European countries were more objective.

    The independent press were the ones who maintained the reality. They called it like it was. Telesur was objective about the crackdowns and repression, but in fact they were favorable towards Zelaya.

    Talk about the elections that took place under the coup regime.

    I classify the elections on November 29th in two scenarios:

    1 . The Resistance and the conscious people knew that the elections were only to change the face of the coup, but that the situation would stay the same.

    2. The Nationalists interested in winning the elections wanted to secure work with the new government.

    There was a low turnout. Supporters of the National party took advantage of the situation because the Liberal party was split and had called on supporters to boycott the elections. The images speak for themselves. The streets were full of policemen and soldiers, the military in the polling areas, and a permanent anxiety in the population; panic, fear, terror and empty booths.

    UDW: When did you begin to be threatened personally?

    The threats started after July 5 when the police and army did not view me as a journalist anymore. This increased when I traveled to Nicaragua to do reports on Zelaya and after the demonstration on August 12 at the National Congress when Deputy Ramon Velasquez Nassar was kicked. There was brutal repression that day and I was physically assaulted. The military forces took pictures and video of me.

    In every march afterwards the police would see me. Also in the eviction of the peasants from the National Agrarian Institute (INA), the police assaulted me and took pictures. Later, I would constantly receive anonymous threatening phone calls. I changed my number, but I was still being watched and persecuted. I ignored these threats and didn’t take them seriously because everyday nothing would happen.

    Then I received a call from the Intelligence of the Armed Forces who warned me to stop doing my work. I denounced this to Cofadeh and CODEH, two human rights organizations.

    Explain the events on that day you were kidnapped.

    CS: I was kidnapped on Monday December 29th when I was on my way from the south where I went to distribute a documentary about the resistance and met with related colleagues. Arriving in Tegucigalpa, I took a taxi from ‘Loarque’ on the beltway around the city to my house. Having traveled less than one kilometer, a vehicle approached us, a beige van, and individuals drew their weapons from the window ordering the taxi to pull over. We initially tried to run, but another vehicle crossed us on the highway and we could not advance.

    They approached the taxi and held the driver at gunpoint, telling him to stay quiet otherwise they would kill him. They pulled me out of the taxi beating me up and took me into their car to a remote place in the mountains. We traveled about an hour while I was beaten inside the car. First they made me sit with my head between my legs, then they put a hood on me.

    The kidnappers did not cover their faces nor were they wearing military clothes but by their vocabulary and communication by telephone with the ‘Jackal,’ it was clear they were getting orders. We reached an area away from the city where they put me in a dark room.

    I was held from December 29 at 9:00am until the December 30th at noon. During these 27 hours I was interrogated every 45 minutes and punched in areas that leave no trace; my feet soles, testicles, stomach, and back, using their fists. I was naked and they kept wetting my body. In a moment of increased tension they tried to suffocate me with water. They threw water on my face until I was no longer able to breathe. I swallowed as much water as possible, but as I felt like I was drowning, another officer yelled that they would kill me another faster way.

    The interrogations were about weapons; where they were, who were my contacts and how many leaders existed. They also asked where all my photos and videos were stored and what type of profile information we had of military leaders. They continued to threaten that I would not leave there alive and that I’d better trust in God. They offered me drugs to take to ease the pain of dying which I refused to accept.

    On the morning of December 30, one of the officers told me that my life might be saved but that he wasn’t sure. Then I heard the torturers begin to plan my death. One of them suggested a shot in the head but then decided I would not suffer enough that way. Another one said they would let me hang myself from a tree or that they drag me attached to the car along the street. Then one of them said they could open my stomach and slowly pull out my intestines so I could talk as I died.

    Hours later they took me out of there blindfolded with a hood and took me to “throw me out”. They dumped me in Tegucigalpa between the neighborhood ‘Cerro Grande’ and ‘El Chile,’ in a sector that is mountainous and very isolated.

    You are currently living in exile. How much time do you imagine you will need to live outside your country in order to protect yourself?

    CS: Yes I am in exile now. Human rights organizations supported me to leave Honduras and my few remaining friends recommended me to do the same in order to save my life since Renan Fajardo who edited my documentary was murdered in his apartment and Walter Trochez who helped distributed the material was also killed. Without a doubt the next one was me.

    I do not know how long I’ll be out of the country. I am anxious to return to be with my family and to continue to produce reports of the experiences of people in the street, but it is difficult at this point.

    UDW: In what way do you continue working from exile?

    CS: I have been fortunate to find many people who have been supportive and have invited me to do lectures in universities and in grassroots organizations. I’ve given four lectures with audiovisual students about media coverage in risky situations.

    I also do some radio and television to discuss my experiences and do political analysis on the situation in Honduras. I continue to write the chronicles of the coup repression and am working on a book which I think will be called “Repressed Honduras,” which tells the whole story that people really lived.

    UDW: What is the hardest part of being in exile?

    Maybe it’s the hurry of leaving everything abandoned; your home, your family, the stuff you had a hard time sacrificing and working for. In my case, I left my loved ones in tears; my mother, my son.

    The difficulty in arriving in the new place is getting rid of the hatred and to stop thinking of what you left behind. You have to live here as a ‘nobody’ so that know one can find you and you can avoid the risks. The dreams abandon you, the uncertainty eats you.

    UDW: As you analyze the difficulties of the ‘free press’ in Honduras with the new “unity government” of Pepe Lobo?

    CS: Free Press?! That will be difficult. This government is only the continuation of the coup d’etat. They are not interested in telling the truth to the the population. Porfirio Lobo and his people are interested in being well and having their companies and their businesses do well.

    The independent press will remain at war, but the economically suffocating private enterprise will remove them within a short time. Watch Channel 36 and you will realize that the editorial policy has changed. Although it continues to support the resistance, its profile is different; it is more ‘pepista’.

    The program ‘Habla como Habla’ of Channel 66 has also changed, it is not with the resistance anymore, but with the new government. Only Radio Globo stands firm. Independent journalists and foreigners using their own websites are those that will continue telling the truth.

    Tamar Sharabi is an environmental engineer and freelance journalist living in Central America. She is working on media empowerment with human rights organizations and on a documentary about the Honduran coup detat. To support her work visit: www.giveforward.com/tamardocuments.


    Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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    (Roger’s note: few remember the first 9/11.  September 11, 1973.  That was the date of the CIA inspired and financed coup in Chile, led by notorious war criminal Augusto Pinochet, murdered the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende, and instituted a brutal dictatorship.  The US supported Pinochet regime was characterized by disappearance and torture.  But that was in the era of Nixon, one might say; it couldn’t happen again today in the era of Barack Obama.  Wrong.

    The script in Honduras for regime change occurred in a slightly less violent manner, but the results are the same.  The democratically elected Preside Manuel Zelaya, was taken from his bed at gunpoint by Honduran soldiers and flown out of the country.  An interim government led by politicians who had engineered the coup then held a bogus election in which the majority of the country abstained in protest, and a new “president, Porfirio Lobo, naturally one who had supported the military coup, took power.  The same murders, disappearances and other human rights violation as had occurred in Chile are happening today in Honduras.  Right under our noses, so to speak.  They are sanctioned by the United States government, which couldn’t wait to recognize the phony Lobo government while the rest of the world, apart from US client states such as Colombia and Mexico, has rejected the farce that calls itself democratic in Honduras.  Anyone familiar with the long history of US interference in the domestic affairs of Latin American and Caribbean nations knows that the sole foreign policy criterion is support by any means only of governments that are friendly to US geopolitical interests and protective of US corporate giants that plunder the nation’s natural resources and brutally exploits its labor.  President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are no less guilty than were Nixon and Kissinger when it comes to supporting brutal dictatorship in Latin America.)


    Washington, D.C., February 3, 2010 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern with respect to the ambiguity of the Amnesty Decree approved by the National Congress of Honduras on January 26, 2010.

    The Commission has stated repeatedly that the application of amnesty laws that hinder access to justice in cases involving serious human rights violations contravenes the obligation of the States parties to the American Convention to respect the rights and freedoms recognized therein and to guarantee the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms by all persons subject to its jurisdiction, with no discrimination of any kind.

    Likewise, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established a clear doctrine to the effect that an amnesty law may not serve as a justification for failing to comply with the duty to investigate and to ensure access to justice. Specifically, the Court has found that States “may not invoke existing provisions of domestic law, such as the Amnesty Law in this case, to avoid complying with their obligations under international law. In the Court’s judgment, the Amnesty Law…precludes the obligation to investigate and prevents access to justice. For these reasons, [the] argument that [the State] cannot comply with the duty to investigate the facts that gave rise to the present case must be rejected.”


    In practice, the application of amnesty laws has obstructed the clarification of grave human rights violations and the prosecution and punishment of those responsible, leading to impunity. As a consequence, based on the obligations established in the inter-American system, several States in the region have had to review and invalidate the effects of their amnesty laws.

    In that respect, the Commission observes with concern that the Amnesty Decree approved by the Honduran Congress on January 26, 2010, contains concepts that are confusing or ambiguous. The Commission observes, along these lines, the doctrinaire reference made to political crimes, the amnesty for conduct of a terrorist nature, and the inclusion of the concept of abuse of authority with no indication of its scope. Although the text contemplates certain exceptions in terms of human rights violations, the language is ambiguous, and the decree does not establish precise criteria or concrete mechanisms for its application.

    Due to the foregoing, the Commission urges Honduran authorities to review the decree, taking into account the State’s obligations in light of international treaties, especially the obligation to investigate and punish serious human rights violations.

    A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

    Another Unionist Murdered in Honduras February 11, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America.
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    Repression in Honduras Graphic History of the Coup.
    Stand with Honduras
    After the SOA Coup and the Illegitimate Elections
    Another Unionist Murdered in Honduras

    Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda – Presente!

    Tomorrow, the people of Honduras will march in the streets of Tegucigalpa to honor the life of the most recent victim in a spate of selective murders against activists from the resistance movement. Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, a 29- year old nurse, was abducted last Wednesday after leaving a meeting of the SITRAIHSS labor union. She was murdered and her body was dumped in a neighborhood with ties to the Resistance movement. Vanessa leaves behind 3 small children, and a country where fear is a growing commodity.

    Since the “election” of President Porfidio Lobo in late November, in a balloting process boycotted by the majority of Hondurans, over 10 leaders of the resistance movement have been murdered. Those who dare to raise their voices about this situation are also targeted. Last week two cameramen from media programs opposing the government were kidnapped and tortured. After filing reports on these and other situations, members of the COFADEH human rights team received death threats.

    Instead of denouncing this critical situation, the Obama Administration is doing the opposite: attempting to rally international support for an illegitimate regime that almost no other government recognizes. This is part of a complete turnaround by the administration. When SOA graduates orchestrated a coup against President Manuel Zelaya last June, President Obama lent his voice to the chorus of rejection coming from all corners of Latin America. In the following months, however, that position shifted from rejection to complacency to acceptance to promotion. While most Latin American nations view the recent Honduran elections as an illegal effort to whitewash a coup, the U.S. insists that they are legitimate, and the resulting change has been positive. The death of Vanessa and other resistance leaders tells a different story.

    Click here to Contact Congress

    We urge you to send a message to your Member of Congress to share your concerns for the deteriorating human rights situation in Honduras and to insist that the United States stop their efforts to push for international recognition of the Lobo government. In addition, please ask your Member of Congress to call for an end to the training of the Honduran military at the School of the Americas, now referred to as WHINSEC. Indeed, it is distressing that even in the months that the Obama administration was condemning the coup, the training of the Honduran military at the SOA/ WHINSEC continued.

    As the people of Honduras take to the streets tomorrow to risk their lives to honor Vanessa and to insist that her life was not in vain, we ask that you take a few minutes to contact your member of Congress. Our combined efforts are necessary to help bring justice a step closer to the people of Honduras.

    How Obama Betrayed Honduras July 29, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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    Published on Wednesday, July 29, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

    The United States must honour its promises to Central America by refusing to support the coup leaders in Honduras

    by Hugh O’Shaughnessy

    Let’s hope that the United States finally decides that it’s going to do what its president said it would do for Central America. It should be a simple task, that of cutting off its support of the bad guys in Honduras and starting to honour the commitment to democracy that Barack Obama clearly announced when he met the leaders of Latin America at the Summit of the Americas.

    So far the administration’s actions towards the gang of semi-educated ruffians who took over in Tegucigalpa and who feel, for racial reasons, that the US leader is beneath their contempt, has been – to put it kindly – ragged. The almost universal cry of “foul” went up when the legally elected Manuel Zelaya was sent out of the country in his pyjamas by Roberto Micheletti, an obscure politician and businessman, who had seized power.

    US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was first off the starting block when she condemned the impostor’s action. Then Barack came along to say what she had chosen not to say: that the real president should be returned to the office he rightfully exercised.

    Now however the word from every involved agency in Washington is that Zelaya should be allowed back on the strict condition that he does not upset friends of the US, the Republican party and the telecommunication companies in DC with his state-owned corporation Hondutel. This is ridiculous for two reasons. The first is to do with simple justice – Zelaya won a victory in clean elections. The second has to do with the US president’s image in the western hemisphere. The last eight years in the Middle East and the unfolding debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught the US and the British governments that if they attempt the impossible – such as trying to invade and occupy countries on spurious grounds and with recourse to kidnapping and torture – they will get egg all over themselves. And egg stains never look good on presidential or prime ministerial lounge suits – much less on military uniforms, gold braid and medal ribbons.

    Yet Obama is presiding over a group of politicians and civil servants who appear to think that they have it in their power to convince Latin Americans and the world that a Honduran coup d’etat is not a coup d’etat and that a dictatorship which imposes curfews and gags the media as part of a drive to help the interests of foreign businessmen is a democratic government.

    The leaders of all the members of the Organisation of American States have condemned Micheletti, as have the UN and the EU. If Clinton and the survivors of the wilder rightwing fringes of the Bush administration to whom she is bizarrely allied have their way US reaction to the impostor will be ineffectual. 

    Instead of treating the impostor government with all the weapons that the US has used against successive Cuban governments and against the elected government of Venezuela, Micheletti has been asked to play along with president Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. Arias has treated him as an equal, which he isn’t, rather than an aspiring Pinochet, which the deaths and injuries his police and troops on the border have inflicted on Zelaya’s supporters demonstrate that he is.

    And that – as Clinton knows better than anyone – will be very damaging for Obama. The claims made by Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba that nothing much has changed between the Bush era and the Obama era will have been vindicated. As Zelaya is denied his rights, the stronger Chávez and Castro become, along with President Lula of Brazil, the giant of South America. The Brazilian has said that anything short of Zelaya’s restoration to office would be unthinkable.

    Chávez meanwhile has sent his foreign minister Nicolas Maduro to accompany Zelaya to the Nicaraguan-Honduran border, thus clearly identifying himself with the good guy. The shots of Zelaya and Maduro at the sharp end of the conflict will have done much to counteract the careful campaign of slander and denigration of Chávez that the State Department has mounted – not without success in the US and even European media – since the failure of its own coup d’etat against the Venezuelan leader in 2002.

    The longer the State Department continues to favour Micheletti over Honduras’ rightful president, the more people will wonder why Obama needs enemies when he has friends like his secretary of state.

    © 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

    Hugh O’Shaughnessy is a prize-winning journalist who has written on Latin America for over 40 years

    The Day They Arrested President Roosevelt July 18, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, History, Honduras.
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    Published on Saturday, July 18, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Robert Naiman

    What a dark day for American democracy it was – February 5, 1937, the day they arrested President Roosevelt.

    The pretext for this assault on democracy was President Roosevelt’s proposal of the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, which would have allowed President Roosevelt to appoint more members to the Supreme Court, which had blocked New Deal measures President Roosevelt had introduced to try to bring America out of the Great Depression. Supporters of the New Deal were particularly galled by the Supreme Court’s decision the previous year throwing out New York’s minimum wage law.

    But some of President Roosevelt’s opponents in Congress (including many conservative Democrats), the Supreme Court, and the military claimed the proposed bill was an assault on the Constitution – even though the Constitution doesn’t say how many Supreme Court justices there should be, and Congress had changed the number of Supreme Court Justices many times in the past – and that Roosevelt’s move was a dangerous power grab. So dangerous, in fact, that Roosevelt’s proposal could not even be considered in Congress. Roosevelt’s opponents claimed that he had violated the Constitution by even suggesting the idea, and had to be removed from office immediately; that Roosevelt and his supporters were such a threat to the established order that due process had to be dispensed with — if Roosevelt were put in prison, maybe there would be riots.

    Therefore, on the morning of February 5, soldiers under the command of General Smedley Butler arrested President Roosevelt and deported him to Canada, still in his pajamas.

    With President Roosevelt out of the way, the Supreme Court overturned Washington State’s minimum wage law on March 9. On April 12, the Supreme Court threw out the National Labor Relations Act — which sought to guarantee the rights of workers to organize into “unions” so they could bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions. Finally, on May 24, the Supreme Court overturned the law establishing Roosevelt’s proposed “Social Security” system – a public pension scheme to guarantee some income to less privileged workers and their dependents in retirement and to the disabled. The New Deal was crushed.

    Imagine how different America might be today, if President Roosevelt had been allowed to continue his term and the New Deal had been allowed to proceed. Maybe sixty per cent of our fellow Americans wouldn’t live in poverty, as they do today.

    Some of the foregoing things didn’t happen in the United States, but some of them did. The Supreme Court really did overturn New York’s minimum wage law, and many feared that it would overturn Washington’s minimum wage law, the National Labor Relations Act, and Social Security. The Court narrowly upheld them — 5 to 4 — after Roosevelt introduced his proposed judicial reform, when one of the anti-New Deal justices switched sides. Roosevelt’s proposed judicial reform itself was decisively defeated in Congress, with strong Democratic opposition – many did say, including many Democrats, that it was an attack on the Constitution.

    U.S. soldiers never arrested President Roosevelt and deported him to Canada, although General Smedley Butler did testify to Congress that he had been recruited by people claiming to represent corporate interests to lead a coup against President Roosevelt.

    Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deported by Honduran soldiers to Costa Rica on June 28 for the “crime” of proposing that Hondurans be allowed to consider a non-binding, advisory referendum on reforming their constitution.

    US corporate interests — including textile and clothing importers that pay their Honduran workers poverty wages — recently sent a letter to President Obama asking for “business as usual” with the coup regime in Honduras, a letter the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation denounced as ‘disgusting.’

    Today sixty per cent of Hondurans live in poverty. They deserve a better future — a future they may never see if this coup is allowed to stand.

    Democrats in the U.S. Congress are starting to stand up against the coup. Rep. Bill Delahunt and Rep. Jim McGovern have introduced a resolution calling for President Zelaya to be returned to office. Ask your Representative to support this resolution. The Capitol switchboard is 202.224.3121; or you can send an email here.

    The Obama Administration has many levers it can use to pressure the coup regime. The Los Angeles Times has called for the Administration to consider “imposing sanctions on individuals involved with the coup, such as canceling visas and freezing bank accounts.“. The Obama Administration is much more likely to exert more pressure on the coup regime if Members of Congress speak out against the coup – so call or write your Representative now.

    Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst at Just Foreign Policy.

    Showdown in ‘Tegucigolpe’ July 12, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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    Published on Saturday, July 11, 2009 by Foreign Policy in Focus by Stephen Zunes
    One of the hemisphere’s most critical struggles for democracy in 20 years is now unfolding in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa (nicknamed “Tegucigolpe” for its long history of military coup d’états, which are called golpes de estado, in Spanish). Despite censorship and repression, popular anger over the June 28 military overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya is growing. International condemnation has been near-unanimous, and the Organization of American States has suspended Honduras, the first time the hemisphere-wide body has taken so drastic an action since 1962. In a reversal of many decades of U.S. support for right-wing golpistas in Latin America, the Obama administration has denounced the coup. However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, rather than backing the largely nonviolent popular uprising for Zelaya’s unconditional return to power, has instead been pushing for the country’s legitimate ruler to compromise with the very forces which illegally exiled him from the country and have been violently suppressing his supporters.

    The United States is now offering support for mediation efforts to be led by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. The Obama administration tried to discourage the exiled Honduran president from his attempt this past Sunday to return to his country and has apparently succeeded, for the time being, in preventing him from trying again. Clinton pressed this point on Tuesday in pushing for mediation, arguing that it would be a “better route for him to follow than attempt to return in the fact of the intractable opposition of the de facto government.”

    Clinton also said, “Instead of another confrontation…let’s try the dialogue process.” What this ignores is that while the coup plotters have no legitimate standing, the Honduran people have a constitutionally guaranteed right to rebel under such circumstances. According to Article 3 of the Honduran constitution:

    No one owes obedience to a government that has usurped power or to those who assume functions or public posts by the force of arms or using means or procedures that rupture or deny what the Constitution and the laws establish. The verified acts by such authorities are null. The people have the right to recur to insurrection in defense of the constitutional order.

    What the Obama administration apparently fears is that if it allows the burgeoning pro-democracy movement to take its course, it may end up with a similar outcome to what transpired in Venezuela in 2002 — following a similar coup against that country’s left-leaning president, Hugo Chávez. Within days, a popular movement had forced right-wing elements of the military and their wealthy civilian allies to step down. Chávez returned to govern and emboldened by such a popular outpouring of support, he moved the country further to the left.The United States could help such a movement succeed if it wanted to. If the Obama administration chose, the United States could impose strict economic sanctions on Honduras that would, combined with ongoing strikes and other disruptions, grind the economy to a halt and force the illegitimate junta in Tegucigalpa to step down.

    Unfortunately, while there’s no evidence suggesting that the United States was responsible for the coup, there appear to be reasons the Obama administration may not want the coup plotters to suffer a total defeat.

    Zelaya’s Significance

    Despite being a wealthy logger and rancher from the centrist Liberal Party, Zelaya has moved his government well to the left since taking office in 2005. During his tenure, he raised the minimum wage and provided free school lunches, milk for young children, pensions for the elderly, and additional scholarships for students. He built new schools, subsidized public transportation, and even distributed energy-saving light bulbs. He also had Honduras join with Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and three small Caribbean island states in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), an economic alliance challenging the neoliberal orthodoxy that has dominated hemispheric trade in recent decades.

    None of these are particularly radical moves, but it was nevertheless disturbing to the country’s wealthy economic and military elites. More frightening was that Zelaya had sought to organize an assembly to replace the 1982 constitution written during the waning days of the U.S.-backed military dictator Policarpo Paz. A non-binding referendum on whether such a constitutional assembly should take place was scheduled the day of the coup, but was cancelled when the military seized power and named Congressional Speaker Roberto Micheletti as president.

    Calling for such a referendum is perfectly legal under Article 5 of the 2006 Honduran Civil Participation Act, which allows public functionaries to perform such non-binding public consultations regarding policy measures.Despite claims by the rightist junta and its supporters, Zelaya was not trying to extend his term. That question wasn’t even on the ballot. The Constitutional Assembly would not have likely completed its work before his term had expired anyway. 

    Yet the Obama administration is implying that the country’s legitimate democratic president somehow shared responsibility for his illegal overthrow. The initial White House response was rather tepid, initially failing to denounce the coup, simply calling upon “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” Similarly, Clinton insisted the day after the coup that “all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday’s events.” When asked if her call for “restoring the constitutional order” in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself, she didn’t say it necessarily would. Similarly, in a press conference on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly evaded reporters’ questions as to whether the United States supported Zelaya’s return. This places the United States at odds with the Organization of American States, the Rio Group, and the UN General Assembly, all of which called for the “immediate and unconditional return” of Zelaya.

    There are serious questions as to whether Clinton can be trusted to make a clear stance for democracy, given her traditionally pro-interventionist position on Latin America. As a senator, she argued that the Bush administration should have taken a more aggressive stance against the rise of left-leaning governments in the hemisphere, arguing that Bush has neglected such developments “at our peril.” In response to recent efforts by democratically elected Latin American governments to challenge the structural obstacles that have left much of their populations in poverty, she expressed alarm, saying, “We have witnessed the rollback of democratic development and economic openness in parts of Latin America.” Though no doubt aware that U.S. policy toward leftist regimes in Latin American in previous decades had included military interventions, CIA-sponsored coups, military and financial support for opposition groups, and rigged national elections, she argued that “We must return to a policy of vigorous engagement.”

    The United States and Honduras

    The United States certainly has a history of “vigorous engagement” in Honduras, actively supporting a series of military dictatorships from 1963 through the early 1980s. Though military rule formally ended by the end of 1982, the weak civilian presidents who followed in the subsequent decade served only at the pleasure of Honduran generals and the U.S. embassy. John Negroponte, who later served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Iraq and the United Nations, as well as his Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras during this period.

    During the 1980s, thousands of U.S. forces were sent to Honduras to train Honduran security forces as well as train and support the rightist Nicaraguan contras, which were engaged in a series of cross-border terrorist attacks. The CIA organized, trained, and equipped a special military unit known as backed Battalion 316, bringing in Argentine counterinsurgency experts as advisors on surveillance and interrogation. These advisors had been part of the “dirty war” in their country during the 1970s, in which more than 10,000 people were murdered. Honduran armed forces chief Gen. Gustavo Alvarez Martinez personally directed the unit with strong U.S. support, even after acknowledging to Negroponte that he intended “to use the Argentine method of eliminating subversives.”  Though Alvarez’ personal involvement in large-scale human rights abuses were well-known to State Department and other U.S. officials, the Reagan administration awarded him the Legion of Merit for “encouraging the success of democratic processes in Honduras.”

    Former Honduran congressman Efraín Díaz told the Baltimore Sun, in reference to U.S. policy towards human rights abuses in his country, “Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed.” Under Negroponte, CIA officers based in the U.S. Embassy frequently visited a secret prison where captured dissidents were routinely tortured. It was one of a number of facilities to which U.S. officials had regular access that were off-limits to civilian Honduran officials, including judges looking for victims of kidnapping by right-wing paramilitary units.

    Despite this history, including revelations of his role in covering up for such human rights abuses, Negroponte had little trouble on Capitol Hill during the Bush administration. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised Negroponte for having “served bravely and with distinction,” and for bringing “a record of proven leadership and strong management.” Representative Jane Harman (D-CA), then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, praised him as “a seasoned and skilled diplomat, who has served with distinction,” saying he was a “smart choice” to become the first DNI. This enthusiastic support for Negroponte among leading congressional Democrats, despite his well-documented role in human rights abuses while U.S. ambassador to Honduras, is indicative of how little regard the majority party in Congress cares about democracy in Central America. 

    The Legacy Today

    The legacy of U.S. support for repression in Honduras is very much part of recent events.

    The leader of the June 28 coup, Honduran General Romeo Vásquez, is a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training program nicknamed “School of Assassins” for the sizable number of graduates who have engaged in coups, as well as the torture and murder of political opponents. The training of coup plotters at the program, since renamed the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation,” isn’t a bygone feature of the Cold War: General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who played an important role in the coup as head of the Honduran Air Force, graduated as recently as 1996.

    Former members of Battalion 316 were involved in the coup as well.

    Unfortunately, while far more knowledgeable of recent history than most recent presidents, Obama doesn’t seem willing to apologize, much less make amends, for U.S. complicity in supporting repression in Latin America. I am writing this article en route to Chile, where the United States played a major role in the downfall of another democratically elected leftist leader, Salvador Allende, back in September of 1973. Just five days before the coup in Honduras, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet visited President Obama in Washington. When asked by Chilean reporters whether he was willing to apologize for the U.S. role in bloody 1973 coup and its aftermath, Obama brushed off the suggestion by saying, “I’m interested in going forward, not looking backward.”

    Meanwhile, U.S.-armed and trained security forces have violently dispersed largely nonviolent demonstrators protesting across the country, including shooting into a  crowd of demonstrators near the airport on Sunday, killing two. Rather than acknowledge the widespread popular opposition to their illegitimate rule, the Honduran junta, like its authoritarian counterparts in Iran, have instead tried to blame outsiders for the unrest, in this case Cuba and Venezuela. Yet the Honduran people, like the Iranians, don’t need outside agitators or foreign funding in order to resist. This isn’t about geopolitics but about democracy. Unfortunately, backers of the rightist junta in Honduras, like backers of the rightist regime in Iran, are repeating fabricated stories of outside interference to discredit a genuine home-grown pro-democracy movement.

    What may be at work in these U.S. and Costa Rican-led mediation efforts is some kind of deal where Zelaya can return, but under conditions that would preclude a constitutional assembly, any challenges to oligarchic interests, or any further efforts to promote economic justice. Similar kinds of pre-conditions were forced upon the deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, prior to U.S. assistance in his initial return from exile in 1994.

    How much the junta leaders are willing to compromise will depend on what is going on outside the meeting rooms.

    One factor would be the ability of the pro-democracy movement to organize, think strategically, expand their ranks and maintain a nonviolent discipline. Fortunately, the rebellion thus far has been largely nonviolent, which would be far more effective in such circumstances. 

    For various historical reasons, Hondurans don’t have the same kind of history of armed revolution as their neighbors. Even during the dictatorships of the 1970s and 1980s— while the country’s immediate neighbors Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua experienced major armed insurrections — the armed Honduran revolutionary movement was quite small and never had much of an impact.

    By contrast, civil society organizations engaged in strategic nonviolent conflict have grown dramatically in recent years, including peasant organizations, indigenous and Afro-Honduran movements, human rights monitoring groups, environmental groups, women’s groups, an anti-militarization movement, and student groups, as well as three major labor federations. A series of strikes, blockages of major highways, and land seizures occurred over the past year as civil society became increasingly mobilized.

    The second factor which could tip the balance is how firmly the United States comes down in support for democracy. Obama has at times been clear in his support for the legal process, declaring, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there.” Recognizing larger implications of this stance, he added, “It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backward into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections.”

    Still, it was a full week before the United States announced it would slash aid to Honduras, and there have been no imminent signs of tougher sanctions. Unlike most Latin American countries, the United States has not withdrawn its ambassador from Tegucigalpa.

    The United States, which hosts a U.S. Southern Command task force at the Soto Cano Airbase, 50 miles northwest of Tegucigalpa, exerts enormous influence on Honduras. Therefore, the pressure pro-democracy forces in the United States can bring to bear upon our government may prove as crucial as the efforts of brave pro-democracy forces within Honduras.

    Copyright © 2009, Institute for Policy Studies.

    Stephen Zunes is a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and a Foreign Policy In Focus senior analyst.