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Berta Cáceres court papers show murder suspects’ links to US-trained elite troops March 3, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: “Violence against social activists has surged since a military backed coup d’état ousted populist president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Since then at least 124 land and environmental campaigners have been killed.”  This violence along with government repression of civil dissent is a direct result of that coup, which was welcomed by the United States government in the person of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  President Zelaya had proposed moderate reforms, which were viewed as a threat by Honduran ruling classes; who with U.S. tacit support carried out the coup for the purpose of promoting and protecting U.S. investments in the country.  The major military leaders who carried out the coup and instituted a new puppet government were ultra right evangelical christian conservatives.  I character the dis-stabilisation of Honduras under the category “your tax dollars at work.”

Today an email from Amnesty International contained the following:

“A year ago, beloved water defender and Goldman Environmental Prize winner Berta Cáceres was gunned down in Honduras, causing shock waves around the world. The message from Berta’s killers and those who gave the orders was clear: no one was safe if their defense of human rights and the environment challenged powerful economic interests.

Over the past year, more courageous women and men, raising their voices for human rights, for the rights of Indigenous peoples, for defense of land and the environment, have been shot to death in Honduras.

Since bravely assuming leadership of Berta’s organization, COPINH,Tomás Gómez Membreño has suffered multiple attempts on his life.
He and other activists are in grave danger for work that should be commended for its integrity and service to the human rights of the most vulnerable. 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/28/berta-caceres-honduras-military-intelligence-us-trained-special-forces

The Honduran environmental activist’s killing a year ago bears the hallmarks of a ‘well-planned operation designed by military intelligence’ says legal source

Indigenous Hondurans and peasants march to demand justice for the murder of Berta Cáceres on 17 August 2016 in Tegucigalpa.
Hondurans demand justice for Berta Cáceres on 17 August 2016 in Tegucigalpa. Officials have denied a state role in the killing despite the arrest of one serving and two ex-soldiers. Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Leaked court documents raise concerns that the murder of the Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres was an extrajudicial killing planned by military intelligence specialists linked to the country’s US–trained special forces, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

Cáceres was shot dead a year ago while supposedly under state protection after receiving death threats over her opposition to a hydroelectric dam.

The murder of Cáceres, winner of the prestigious Goldman environmental prize in 2015, prompted international outcry and calls for the US to revoke military aid to Honduras, a key ally in its war on drugs.

Eight men have been arrested in connection with the murder, including one serving and two retired military officers.

Officials have denied state involvement in the activist’s murder, and downplayed the arrest of the serving officer Maj Mariano Díaz, who was hurriedly discharged from the army.

But the detainees’ military records and court documents seen by the Guardian reveal that:

  • Díaz, a decorated special forces veteran, was appointed chief of army intelligence in 2015, and at the time of the murder was on track for promotion to lieutenant colonel.
  • Another suspect, Lt Douglas Giovanny Bustillo joined the military on the same day as Díaz; they served together and prosecutors say they remained in contact after Bustillo retired in 2008.
  • Díaz and Bustillo both received military training in the US.
  • A third suspect, Sgt Henry Javier Hernández, was a former special forces sniper, who had worked under the direct command of Díaz. Prosecutors believe he may also have worked as an informant for military intelligence after leaving the army in 2013.

Court documents also include the records of mobile phone messages which prosecutors believe contain coded references to the murder.

Bustillo and Hernández visited the town of La Esperanza, where Cáceres lived, several times in the weeks before her death, according to phone records and Hernández’s testimony.

A legal source close to the investigation told the Guardian: “The murder of Berta Cáceres has all the characteristics of a well-planned operation designed by military intelligence, where it is absolutely normal to contract civilians as assassins.

“It’s inconceivable that someone with her high profile, whose campaign had made her a problem for the state, could be murdered without at least implicit authorisation of military high command.”

The Honduran defence ministry ignored repeated requests from the Guardian for comment, but the head of the armed forces recently denied that military deaths squads were operating in the country.

Five civilians with no known military record have also been arrested. They include Sergio Rodríguez, a manager for the internationally funded Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam which Cáceres had opposed.

The project is being led by Desarrollos Energéticos SA, (Desa), which has extensive military and government links. The company’s president, Roberto David Castillo Mejía, is a former military intelligence officer, and its secretary, Roberto Pacheco Reyes, is a former justice minister. Desa employed former lieutenant Bustillo as head of security between 2013 and 2015.

Cáceres had reported 33 death threats linked to her campaign against the dam, including several from Desa employees. Desa denies any involvement in the murder.

Cáceres was killed at about 11.30pm on 2 March, when at least four assassins entered the gated community to which she had recently moved on the outskirts of La Esperanza.

Berta Cáceres speaks to people near the Gualcarque river in 2015 where residents were fighting a dam project.
Berta Cáceres speaks to people near the Gualcarque river in 2015 where residents were fighting a dam project. Photograph: Tim Russo/AP

A checkpoint at the entrance to the town – normally manned by police officers or soldiers – was left unattended on the night she was killed, witnesses have told the Guardian.

Initially, investigators suggested the murderer was a former lover or disgruntled co-worker. But amid mounting international condemnation, Díaz, Bustillo and two others were arrested in May 2016.

Hernández, who was eventually arrested in Mexico, is the only suspect to have given detailed testimony in court. He has admitted his involvement, but says he acted under duress.

All eight have been charged with murder and attempted murder. The other seven suspects have either denied involvement or not given testimony in court.

Prosecutors say that phone records submitted to court show extensive communication between the three military men, including a text message which was a coded discussion of payment for a contract killing.

American experts have been involved in the investigation from the start, according to the US embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate foreign relations committee, said US support should not be unconditional: “It is essential that we not only strengthen our commitment to improving the rule of law in Honduras, but we must also demand greater accountability for human rights violations and attacks against civil society.”

Last year, the Guardian reported that a former Honduran soldier said he had seen Cáceres’s name on a hitlist that was passed to US-trained units.

1Sgt Rodrigo Cruz said that two elite units were given lists featuring the names and photographs of activists – and ordered to eliminate each target.

Cruz’s unit commander deserted rather than comply with the order. The rest of the unit were then sent on leave.

In a follow-up interview with the Guardian, Cruz said the hit list was given by the Honduran military joint chiefs of staff to the commander of the Xatruch multi-agency taskforce, to which his unit belonged.

Cruz – who asked to be referred to by a pseudonym for fear of retribution – deserted after Cáceres’s murder and remains in hiding. The whereabouts of his former colleagues is unknown.

Following the Guardian’s report, James Nealon, the US ambassador to Honduras, pledged to investigate the allegations, and in an interview last week, said that no stone had been left unturned.

“I’ve spoken to everyone I can think of to speak to, as have members of my team, and no one can produce such a hitlist,” said Nealon.

But the embassy did not speak to the Xatruch commander, Nealon said. Activists, including those with information about the alleged hit list, have told the Guardian they have not been interviewed by US or Honduran officials.

Lauren Carasik, clinical professor of law at Western New England University, said America’s unwavering support for Honduras suggests it tolerates impunity for intellectual authors of high-profile targeted killings.

“Washington cannot, in good conscience, continue to ignore mounting evidence that the Honduran military was complicit in the extrajudicial assassination of Cáceres.”

Extrajudicial killings by the security forces and widespread impunity are among the most serious human rights violations in Honduras, according to the US state department.

Nevertheless, the US is the main provider of military and police support to Honduras, and last year approved $18m of aid.

The Gualcarque river, sacred to local indigenous communities and the site of the controversial Agua Zarca dam.
The Gualcarque river, sacred to local indigenous communities and the site of the controversial Agua Zarca dam. Photograph: Giles Clarke/Global Witness

In recent years, US support has focused on Honduras’s special forces units, originally created as a counterinsurgency force during the 1980s “dirty war”.

The elite units ostensibly target terrorism, organised crime and gangs, but campaigners say the Honduran intelligence apparatus is used to target troublesome community leaders.

Violence against social activists has surged since a military backed coup d’état ousted populist president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Since then at least 124 land and environmental campaigners have been killed.

A recent investigation by corruption watchdog Global Witness described extensive involvement of political, business and military elites in environmentally destructive mega projects which have flourished since the coup.

One of the most troubled parts of the country has been northern Bajo Aguán region, where a land conflict between palm oil companies and peasant farmers has claimed more than 130 lives over the past six years.

The Bajo Aguán is also home to the 15th battalion – one of two special forces units in the Honduran army – and the special forces training centre.

Two of the suspects, Díaz and Hernández, served in the 15th battalion together; Cruz’s elite unit was also stationed in the Bajo Aguán.

Ambassador Nealon said that there was no record of Díaz, Hernández or Bustillo attending any US training courses in Honduras.

“Our training programmes for police or for military are not designed to instruct people in how to commit human rights violations or to create an atmosphere in which they believe that they are empowered to commit human rights violations, in fact, just the opposite,” said Nealon.

Honduran military records show that Díaz attended several counterinsurgency courses at special forces bases in Tegucigalpa and in the Bajo Aguán.

He also attended cadet leadership courses at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1997, and a counter-terrorism course at the Inter American air force academy in 2005.

The court documents also reveal that at the time of his arrest, Díaz, 44, was under investigation for drug trafficking and kidnapping, while also studying for promotion.

Military records show that in 1997, Bustillo attended logistics and artillery courses at the School of the Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia, which trained hundreds of Latin American officers who later committed human rights abuses.

Four arrested for murder of Berta Cáceres in Honduras May 5, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Honduras, a third world poverty and corruption ridden country of less than ten million,  stands as a prototype of United States government foreign policy, one that is characterized by the primacy of corporate interests and their lapdog lackeys in government, in this case Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  This is documented in the article that follows immediately after this account of the US backed, state sponsored assassination of human rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres.

On Monday morning, the Honduran authorities arrested 4 men in relation to the murder of internationally renowned activist Berta Cáceres — 2 are retired or active members of the Honduran Armed Forces and 2 have ties to DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that Berta was campaigning against. With even the Honduran government investigators now admitting the assassins have ties to the Honduran Armed Forces, it is time once and for all for the United States to end financing and training of the Honduran security forces. Berta’s family and COPINH continue to call for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate the case. It is hard to believe that the Honduran government has the political will to investigate the higher-ups who may have helped plan or known about Berta’s murder; as Berta’s daughter Laura Zuniga Cáceres told The Guardian, “The Honduran state is too closely linked to the murder of my mother to carry out an independent investigation.”

Early on, there were clear signs that the Honduran authorities were manipulating the investigation and interrogating COPINH members. Even with an international outcry demanding investigation into the years of threats and persecution Berta suffered for her defense of the Gualcarque River, it took 11 days for the investigators to go to DESA’s installations. Even then, the investigation was declared secret and the lawyers for the family excluded. Berta’s daughters and COPINH members took the demand for justice internationally, speaking out in the US and Europe, calling for an end to US and European security aid to Honduras given Berta’s assassination and the ongoing persecution of social movements. Last week, the European Investment Bank canceled a $40 million loan to Honduras, citing Berta’s murder as the reason. Shortly thereafter, the Honduran government apprehend 4 men with ties to the military and DESA, admitting for the first time that Berta was assassinated for her activism.

Those arrested include Sergio Rodriguez, Environmental and Social Manager for DESA, who Berta denounced was threatening COPINH during a protest against the Agua Zarca project on February 20, as well as Geovanny Douglas Bustillo, retired Honduran leuitenent, who previously served as head of security for the Agua Zarca project. The other two arrested include Mariano Díaz Chávez, reported to be an active Major in the Honduran military, and Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, reported as a retired captain in the Honduran Military. It seems doubtful they would have acted solely on their own.

Berta took on extremely powerful interests in Honduras and the persecution of her while she was alive was done with the knowledge of very powerful people, with the Public Ministry prosecuting Berta in 2013 and the Secretary of Security, trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Psychological Operations, failing to ensure her protection. Now we are asked to trust the same Public Ministry with the investigation into her death. Without transparency in the investigation and the Honduran government’s refusal to accept the offer of the IAHCR independent commission, one must ask if higher ups in the Honduran Armed Forces and government have been investigated in relation to Berta’s murder? Has David Castillo, head of DESA with a background in military intelligence for the Honduran Armed Forces, been investigated? Have the directors of DESA, including those who belong to the powerful Atala family, one of the families many believe was behind the 2009 military coup in Honduras, been investigated? Has Julian Pacheco, Secretary of Security, been investigated? Did the US Embassy or US military officials know of the plans to murder Berta?

Those may be very dangerous questions to ask. Honduran opposition journalist Felix Molina, well-known throughout the country for his resistance radio show that was one of the clearest voices against the military coup in Honduras for years, posted very similar questions on Monday after the arrests. Hours later there was an attempt to attack him but he got away, only to be shot four times in the legs Monday night. Luckily the bullets missed arteries and veins, and Felix is still alive, though in the hospital. Felix is renowned for his journalism and radio programs critical of the powers at be.

Whether or not all the intellectual authors of Berta’s murder are ever brought to justice, one thing is clear: the United States must stop financing and training the Honduran Armed Forces and other security forces. The US-trained and supported TIGRES, with the stated goal of addressing drug trafficking, have spent significant time stationed at DESA’s installations, guarding the Agua Zarca Project. Were any of the Honduran military (current or former) involved in Berta’s murder trained by the US? Has the United States ensured it does not fund the First Battalion of Engineers, which was stationed at DESA’s installations and murdered Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia in 2013? When will US funding, training, and equipping of the Honduran security forces end? How many more people have to die?

The United States is not the only one with responsibility for what is occurring in Honduras; earlier this month I accompanied Berta’s daughter Bertha Zuniga Cáceres, COPINH leader Asencion Martinez, and Rosalina Dominguez and Francisco Sanchez of the Rio Blanco Indigenous Council to call on the Dutch Development Bank FMO and the Finn Fund, both majority owned by the Dutch and Finnish governments respectively, to definitively cancel their financing of the Agua Zarca Project. FMO had seemingly ignored Berta’s first attempt to inform them of the violence and human rights violations surrounding the Agua Zarca Project before they finalized the loan. Now, these banks share responsibility for the violence in the zone.

Francisco and other COPINH members in Rio Blanco have also been threatened for their opposition to the Agua Zarca Project. As Rosalina stated, “we do not want any more deaths.” Yet, despite Monday’s arrests, the project continues forward and the banks have yet to definitively withdraw. The US keeps financing and training the Honduran security forces, all too many of whom are deployed in the zone. Even worse, the US increased the number of Honduran military trained at the SOA-WHINSEC this past year and is giving an extra $750 million to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, for the ill-named “Alliance for Prosperity,” known also as the Plan Colombia for Central America. This money only serves to further embolen the repressive Honduran regime.

How many more people have to die before the financing of repression is halted?

End US Military Training and Aid to Honduras

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THE BLOG

Hillary Clinton’s Link to a Nasty Piece of Work in Honduras

03/15/2016 12:37 pm ET | Updated Mar 15, 2016

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A critical difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is their position on whether children who fled violence in Central American countries, particularly Honduras, two years ago should be allowed to stay in the United States or be returned.

Sanders states unequivocally that they should be able to remain in the U.S.

Clinton disagrees. She would guarantee them “due process,” but nothing more.

In 2014, Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, “It may be safer [for the children to remain in the U.S.],” but “they should be sent back.”

 

By supporting the June 28, 2009 coup d’état in Honduras when she was secretary of state, Clinton helped create the dire conditions that caused many of these children to flee. And the assassination of legendary Honduran human rights leader Berta Cáceres earlier this month can be traced indirectly to Clinton’s policies.

 

During the Feb. 11 Democratic debate in Milwaukee, Clinton said that sending the children back would “send a message.” In answer to a question by debate moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS, she said, “Those children needed to be processed appropriately, but we also had to send a message to families and communities in Central America not to send their children on this dangerous journey in the hands of smugglers.”

 

Who are you sending a message to? These are children who are leaving countries and neighborhoods where their lives are at stake. That was the fact. I don’t think we use them to send a message. I think we welcome them into this country and do the best we can to help them get their lives together.

In the March 9 debate in Miami between the two Democratic candidates, Sanders accurately told moderator Jorge Ramos of Univision, “Honduras and that region of the world may be the most violent region in our hemisphere. Gang lords, vicious people torturing people, doing horrible things to families.” He added, “Children fled that part of the world to try, try, try, try, maybe, to meet up with their family members in this country, taking a route that was horrific, trying to start a new life.”

 

The violence in Honduras can be traced to a history of U.S. economic and political meddling, including Clinton’s support of the coup, according to American University professor Adrienne Pine, author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.

 

Pine, who has worked for many years in Honduras, told Dennis Bernstein of KPFA radio in 2014 that the military forces that carried out the coup were trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the U.S. Army School of the Americas) in Fort Benning, Ga. Although the coup was supported by the United States, it was opposed by the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS). The U.N. and the OAS labeled President Manuel Zelaya’s ouster a military coup.

 

“Hillary Clinton was probably the most important actor in supporting the coup [against the democratically elected Zelaya] in Honduras,” Pine noted. It took the United States two months to even admit that Honduras had suffered a coup, and it never did admit it was a military coup. That is, most likely, because the Foreign Assistance Act prohibits the U.S. from aiding a country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

 

Although the U.S. government eventually cut nonhumanitarian aid to Honduras, the State Department under Clinton took pains to clarify that this was not an admission that a military coup had occurred.

 

“Hillary Clinton played a huge role in propping up the coup administration,” Pine said. “The State Department ensured the coup administration would remain in place through negotiations that they imposed, against the OAS’ wish, and through continuing to provide aid and continuing to recognize the coup administration.”

 

“And so if it weren’t for Hillary Clinton,” Pine added, “basically there wouldn’t be this refugee crisis from Honduras at the level that it is today. And Hondurans would be living a very different reality from the tragic one they are living right now.”

 

In her book Hard Choices, Clinton admitted she helped ensure that Zelaya would not be returned to the presidency. She wrote,

In the subsequent days [following the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.

When he was deposed, Zelaya was attempting to get a nonbinding resolution on the ballot asking voters whether they wished to reform the constitution. He supported a 60 percent hike in the minimum wage, “and this infuriated two U.S. companies, Chiquita Brands International (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Company,” said John Perkins, author of “The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” in an interview with the website Truthout. The big corporations feared that a rise in Honduras’ minimum wage could spread to other countries in Latin America.

 

Zelaya put in place several liberal policies, including free education and meals for children, subsidies to small farmers, lower interest rates and free electricity. “These policies paid off,” Perkins said. “Honduras enjoyed a nearly 10 percent decline in the poverty level. But these same policies were seen as a dire threat to the hegemony and bottom lines of global corporations and as a precedent that would alter policies throughout Latin America and much of the rest of the world. Corporate leaders demanded that the CIA take out this democratically elected president. It did.”

 

Less than a month after the coup, Hugo Llorens, former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, sent a cable to Clinton and other top U.S. officials. The subject line read: “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup.“ The cable said, “There is no doubt” that the coup was “illegal and unconstitutional.” Nevertheless, as noted above, Clinton’s objective was to “render the question of Zelaya moot.”

 

After the coup, there was a fraudulent election financed by the National Endowment for Democracy — notorious for meddling in Latin America — and the State Department. The election ushered in a repressive, militarized regime. Conditions deteriorated, leading to the exodus of thousands of Honduran children.

 

Since the coup, the Honduran government has carried out systematic repression against most sectors of society, including teachers, farmers, union leaders, gay people, peasant organizers, journalists and anyone who opposed the coup. Many were assassinated. Honduras’ homicide rate was already the highest in the world at the time of coup, and it soared between then and 2011. There is rampant corruption and drug-related gang violence.

Amid all this, the United States has added two military bases in Honduras — bringing the total to 14 — and increased its financing of the Honduran police and military.

 

Before the coup, Cáceres, a prize-winning activist, worked with indigenous groups on human rights and education issues with Zelaya’s support. In a 2014 interview, she cited Clinton’s role in the coup, saying, “The same Hillary Clinton, in her book Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the bad legacy of North American influence in our country.”

 

Cáceres added, “The return of Mel Zelaya to the presidency (that is, to his constitutionally elected position) was turned into a secondary concern. There were going to be elections. … We warned that this would be very dangerous. … The elections took place under intense militarism, and enormous fraud.”

 

Cáceres criticized the coup government for passing terrorist and intelligence laws that criminalized protest, labeling the actions “counterinsurgency” conducted in the interests of “international capital.”

 

Cáceres was killed March 3 by armed men who broke into her home. Her friend and compatriot, journalist Gustavo Castro Soto, wounded in the assault, is being held incommunicado by the government.

 

On Thursday, more than 200 human rights, faith-based, indigenous rights, environmental, labor and nongovernmental groups sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing “shock and deep sorrow regarding the murder of Honduran human rights and environmental defender Berta Cáceres … winner of the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.” The groups urged Kerry to support an independent international investigation into her murder led by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They also urged the State Department “to suspend all assistance and training to Honduran security forces, with the exception of investigatory and forensic assistance to the police, so long as the murders of Berta Cáceres and scores of other Honduran activists remain in impunity.”

 

This article first appeared on Truthdig.

Your Tax Dollars at Work … to Oppress and Kill Our Neighbors to the South September 16, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: Here is a letter from SOA Watch, the courageous that works day and night to shut down the infamous and murderous School of the Americas (renamed WHINSEC) now at Fort Benning,  Georgia that for decades has indoctrinated and trained military personnel to do the dirty work of oppression and assassination for Latin American dictators and alleged democracies.  The focus of this letter are the atrocities that are taking place on a daily basis perpetrated by the U.S. supported puppet government in Honduras under the leadership of SOA graduates.  Honduras, since the US supported military coup against the elected Zelaya government, has become one of the most violent nations on the face of the earth; and this has created the exodus that is putting so much pressure on the U.S. border.

 

September 13, 2014

My name is Brigitte Gynther and I am the new SOAW Latin America Liaison.  I look forward to getting to know many of you and working together to close the SOA/WHINSEC and demand justice for the murders, repression, disappearances, and so many other crimes carried out by SOA/WHINSEC graduates — both in the past and today.  My first experience with the SOAW movement was traveling down to the gates of Ft. Benning as a student twelve years ago.  Later, I moved to the Florida farmworker town of Immokalee and spent 8 years organizing with religious communities and others to advance the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Campaign for Fair Food.  We frequently attended the SOAW Vigil, but little did I imagine that I would later end up spending two years as an SOAW activante in Honduras, documenting the tremendous human rights abuses unleashed upon the country as the result of the 2009 SOA-graduate led coup. 

In fact, I just came back from part of a delegation to Honduras in which SOA graduate Col. German Alfaro — notorious for criminalizing human rights defenders and social movement leaders — attacked the delegation in the media as part of a strategy aimed at silencing those who speak out.  The delegation had traveled to the Lower Aguan Valley to learn about the very real assassinations and human rights violations suffered by the campesino communities.  When the delegation visited the community of La Panama and took testimonies from victims about a violent eviction by the Honduran military involving tear gas, live bullets, one death, two serious injuries, and the beatings of several people, Col. Alfaro lashed out in the press, accusing the delegation of “encouraging campesinos to launch attacks” and said they were investigating the group for “being in a practically restricted area of the country.”  This follows similiar accusations made by Col. Alfaro against Annie Bird of Rights Action – who has extensively documented extrajudicial killings and abuses in the Aguan Valley – and accusations against local human rights defenders and small farmers.  It is part of a dangerous strategy aimed at hiding the reality in the Aguan by intimidating, discrediting, and defaming human rights workers who expose what is going on. Click here to call on the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa to condemn the attacks on national and international human rights observers and journalists who document murders and human rights violations in the Bajo Aguan.  

Just two weeks after the delegation visited the Aguan, the Human Rights Observatory there reported that military forces under the command of another SOA graduate, Col. Rene Jovel Martinez, purposefully destroyed 52 acres of corn that campesinos had cultivated, some of which was almost ready to harvest. This leaves those families without the corn harvest they need to eat for the coming year.  

The delegation finished in Honduras’ capital, where — after telling us about massacre after massacre and murder after murder —  one of the people we met with asked us simply, “Who would want to stay in this country?”  It is a telling question.  Indeed, day after day, people flee the violence in Honduras, heading north to the US.  This exodus is the direct result of the military coup and repression by the US-trained and funded military to impose policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy and multinational corporations at the expense of the majority of the population, corrupting the judicial system to ensure impunity for murders. Governed by the rule of the powerful instead of the rule of law, murders and violence have spiraled out of control.  The US continues funding and training the corrupt Honduran regime, creating more migration. This is why, on November 22nd, the Saturday of the SOAW Vigil Weekend, we will be gathering outside the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.  Many of those fleeing the violence, repression, and economic devastation of Honduras are now incarcerated at the Stewart Detention Center by the largest private prison corporation in the US.

We will gather at the Stewart Detention Center to protest not only the mistreatment, jailing, and deportations, but also the US policies and military funding that cause so many people to have to leave their homes and migrate to the US in the first place.  We will call on the US to respond to increasing migration not by increasing military aid and funding to corrupt and repressive governments, but by changing US polices — such as free trade agreements — that cause migration.  We will demand the US to stop training so many Latin American military officers at WHINSEC to protect US corporate interests over human rights, resulting in military officers who go on to murder, threaten, and burn corn harvests of poor campesinos.

I hope to meet you at the gates of Ft. Benning and the Stewart Detention Center this November 21-23We will be joined at the Vigil this year by some of the amazing participants from SOAW’s Youth Encuentro this summer, where young leaders on the front lines of struggles across the hemisphere came together to build the SOAW movement.  Together we will remember those who have been massacred, murdered, and disappeared at the hands of SOA graduates and those who are suffering that reality right now.  We will also speak out for the thousands of innocent civilians, children and adults, who flee the reality imposed by SOA graduates and find themselves jailed in the U.S., with our taxpayer money, for extended periods of time for no other crime than doing what many of us would probably do if we found ourselves in their shoes.  

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/

Justice for Honduras – End U.S. Military Aid and Training June 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Justice for Ebed Yanes!

http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=+htAWLsIBU5A4KMGSAD1bQd89Bm7QiOS

One year ago this week, 15-year old Ebed Yanes was returning home in Tegucigalpa by motorcycle when he was murdered by the Honduran military. Soldiers pursued him in a Ford 350 truck donated by the US government to a checkpoint staffed by the US-trained, vetted, and equipped special forces. http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=ZrIg8dhiTI6XJll2uchG7wd89Bm7QiOSSecond Lt. Josue Antonio Sierra, a 2011 graduate of WHINSEC/SOA, and member of the unit specially vetted by the US, gave the order to start shooting at the unarmed 15-year old. Ebed died immediately, his life forever cut short. Click here to call for justice for Ebed Yanes and an end to US military aid to Honduras.

Tomorrow, 6 military officials – 4 of whom are SOA graduates – will appear in court where they are being charged for covering up Ebed’s murder. The cover-up runs deep and includes several high ranking officials, some of whom have since been promoted despite their role in hiding the murder of an innocent young person. Three-time SOA “Distinguished Graduate” Col. Jesus A. Marmol Yanes, the Commander of “Operation Lightning” and the checkpoint, is said to have lied to investigators. SOA graduate Lt. Col. Juan Rubén Girón told the soldiers involved to return to the scene of the crime and remove evidence of the murder while SOA graduate Lt. Col. Mariano Mendoza suggested to the soldiers who were to be questioned the testimony they should tell the investigators.

Ebed is just one of the hundreds of Hondurans murdered by military or police since the 2009 SOA-graduate led coup, often with funding or training from the United States. In spite of links to numerous human rights abuses including extrajudicial executions, many of these U.S.-trained soldiers have been vetted by the US for human rights compliance. Such is the case of Col. Funes Ponce, the previous Commander of Honduras’ 15th Battalion, who turned over the wrong weapons to investigators so that ballistics testing wouldn’t trace the soldiers to Ebed’s murder. The 15th Battalion, with SOA graduate Selman Arriaga in command of its special forces, is also funded and trained by the US and has been implicated in repression against campesinos in the Lower Aguan Valley, where almost 100 campesinos have been assassinated since the 2009 military coup.

This week in the Lower Aguan Valley, members of the Honduran military’s Xatruch III joint task force, commanded by SOA graduate Col. German Alfaro, together with private security guards of Honduras’ most powerful landowner, have been inside the Paso Aguan Plantation http://org.salsalabs.com/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=Gsc0lAU821r+xFXZqlqAzQd89Bm7QiOSfiring automatic weapons to intimidate the campesinos of the neighboring La Panama community. The bodies of two campesinos who disappeared in the past year have been discovered on the Paso Aguan Plantation and it is widely believed that there may be additional clandestine graves of other missing campesinos there. In addition to his forces terrorizing the La Panama community in conjunction with paramilitary security guards, Col. Alfaro has also been waging a media campaign aimed at discrediting the campesino movements struggling for their land in order to publicly justify the mounting number of murders.

Despite widespread human rights abuses by the Honduran military and police, the US continues to pour millions into military and police aid in Honduras. US-vetting and certification unfortunately do not seem to mean much. In 2012, the State Department certified that Honduras was making sufficient progress on human rights to be able to receive the 20% of aid that Congress had specified should be withheld pending human rights certification. This starkly contradicts the reality on the ground, where repression, murders, and impunity still reign. Click here to contact your Senators, representatives, the State Department, and White House to demand an end to US military and police aid in Honduras.

With the Honduran presidential elections just six months away and the new LIBRE party — which grew out of the resistance to the military coup — leading in the polls, the repression is only expected to increase between now and November. Click here to receive updates and action alerts from the SOA Watch activantes on the ground in Honduras and add your voice to that of thousands of Hondurans calling for justice and self-determination.

Year after year, Honduras continues sending more and more soldiers to be trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. As the ongoing repression by Honduran military forces against the Honduran people show, it is more important than ever to close the SOA and demand a change in US foreign policy. Stay tuned for an update on organizing for this November’s Vigil at the gates of the SOA in Ft. Benning!

Message to Washington, DC: Let Honduras Live! December 8, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights.
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http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=4IRzDKV2NjB/HTzDE58uKdJKPBE2/8+5 Hundreds of Hondurans have been assassinated by Honduran security forces, many of whom are trained, equipped and vetted by the U.S. Tell Washington: No more money for Honduran military and police! Click here to send a message to Congress and the White House.
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=k68QtixAdg+djkGQz4XGgNJKPBE2/8+5 SOA-WHINSEC graduates are once again stealing the lives of innocent Hondurans, this time with the aid of equipment, funds and vetting by the U.S.military. Honduran soldier Josue Sierra, a 2011 graduate of WHINSEC has been charged with killing and covering up the May murder of fifteen year old Ebed Yanes. Further cover up was ordered by Lt. Col. Reynel Funes, also a graduate of the SOA.
Three years after SOA graduates toppled democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, Tegucigalpa has become the murder capital of the world. Honduran police and military have made significant contributions, not to the prevention, but to the perpetration of such murders. Over the past 23 months, the deaths of 149 youth have been linked to Honduran security forces that are trained, vetted and equipped by the US military. U.S. agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency have also been connected to recent murders.
After 94 members of Congress signed a letter calling on the U.S. to stop military aid to Honduras, the Obama administration temporarily halted $50 million of military aid in August. This is a concrete victory because people like you took the time to ask. But the halt is temporary.
Please take one more minute of your time to send a letter to White House, to your Senators and to your Representatives, asking them to stop all training and funding of Honduran security forces, and to ask President Obama to close the School of the Americas by Executive order. We are also working with our partner groups to send an organizational sign-on letter to White House aide Denis McDonough, to educate him about the reality in Honduras.
HONDURAS ON THE HEART: REPORT BACK FROM SOA WATCH VISIT TO 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF COFADEH (Committee of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras)
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=aCbovGPPW0zfKxWkHIqBI9JKPBE2/8+5 Backyards are such convenient places. That’s where I keep my compost pile, hang out my clothes, start plants in old sardine cans and step out in my old sweats to do my morning exercises. I can’t imagine adorning my front yard with a similar display of drying underwear, rusted cans, rotting tomatoes and sagging hips.
Honduras is our back yard, so it seems. It’s where we dump things and do things there that we never would with front-yard friends. We dump tax-evading fast food joints and cheap-labor-seeking maquilas there. We sprew the land with military bases, and DEA agents, offer rest stops to military commanders overthrowing democratically elected presidents. We vet soldiers and give them trucks to hunt down and shoot young teens who sneak out for dates.
Wait, that last part must be made up, right? Actually, no. A few days ago I found myself sitting in the Yanes family living room in Tegucigalpa, sipping coffee, and looking at family photos. Mostly of their teenaged son Ebed. A good kid who rarely ventured out alone from his gated community. But, being fifteen and in love, one night he snuck out on his motorcycle to see his girlfriend.
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=U1ATaly0sG1mPBi5dkId8dJKPBE2/8+5Upon return he encountered a road block where men with ski masks and automatic weapons stood by an imposing truck. Like most teens in this situation, he skirted the scary scene, dashing for home. Truck and soldiers took off after him and within minutes he was dead.
That tale wouldn’t probably have gotten much mileage in a country that holds the world record for murders. One more dead delinquent. Except that his dad, Wilfredo, knew this wasn’t the case, and became a driven man in his pursuit of truth. Risking his own life, he found witnesses who described soldiers shooting from the truck, collected the bullet shells, and secretly photographed the truck and soldiers in the same place his son had come across.
Pressing on, he discovered that the Ford 350 truck was one of dozens provided by the US military and that the bullets had come from guns given to troops that had been vetted by the US for respecting human rights. Specifically, the first bullets shot came from the gun of Honduran soldier Josue Sierra, a recent 2011 graduate of WHINSEC, the new name for the School of the Americas. The cover up was ordered by Lt. Col Reynel Funes, also a graduate of the SOA.
Ebed was just one of hundreds of young people have been killed since the 2009 coup against President Manuel Zelaya. In the past 23 months, 149 of them were killed at the hands of Honduran police themselves. Add to the mix the assassinations of over a hundred who have dared to resist the post-coup government: farmers, lawyers, journalists, LGBT activists, teachers and students The murder of four people returning to their remote village of Ahuas by boat might have been ignored had not villagers seen DEA agents firing.
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=MWxDTLG4LMhSHmg4W/LZQdJKPBE2/8+5 One of those powerful bullets blasted through the hand of another young teen, Wilmer Morgan Lucas Walter. I had lunch with Wilmer and second mom, Mery Agurcia,one of the devoted staff of COFADEH, whose 30th year anniversary drew us to Honduras. When a fellow COFADEH staffer traveled to the village to investigate last May, she not only brought back notebooks of testimony, but Wilmer himself. He needed medical attention to save his hand, only available in the capital.
While we were having lunch with Wilmer, President Obama’s aide Denis McDonough was in town, sharing snacks with President Porfirio Lobo. Although McDonough did make a reference to the problems of human rights in the country, he said in the same breath that the US and Honduras have never had more robust relations.
McDonough did not meet with Wilfredo or Wilmer or any family members of victims of government repression, or more importantly, with victims linked to US complicity. He did, however, recently meet with a group of SOA Watch activists at the White House to hear their concerns about the School of the Americas. According to McDonough, the SOA was not a current day problem.
So, let’s remind McDonough what life looks like in a country where SOA graduates have helped to change the hopeful dreams of a new society for that of murder capital of the world. Remind him of the pain in the living room of the Yanes family, or in Wilmer’s hand. He will probably actually listen. Already the Obama administration is temporarily suspended $50 million in military aid to Honduras, thanks in great part to folks like yourself who pressured your member of congress to stop military funding to Honduras. Over 94 signed on. Now, please help make sure that not one more young life be taken, and ask that the US immediately stop ALL training and funding of Honduran security forces.
Last night I told my kids that this year we should decorate the front yard with Christmas lights. Maybe I’ll change my mind. I think I’ll decorate the backyard, with lights of justice. Join me.

.

Honduras in Flames February 16, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Thursday, February 16, 2012 by The Nation

  by  Dana Frank

Tuesday night, February 14, at least 357 prisoners died in a fire at La Granja penitentiary in Comayagua, Honduras, in one of the worst prison fires in the past century. The fire, though, is only the latest deadly outcome of the larger politically-driven firestorm that is Honduras today. The Comayagua fire must be understood in the context of the near-total breakdown of the Honduran state since the June 28, 2009 military coup that overthrew democratically-elected President José Manuel Zelaya.

Relatives of inmates stand outside the prison in Comayagua, Honduras, Wednesday Feb. 15, 2012.  A fire late Tuesday tore through the jail killing 382 inmates. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Honduran authorities were quick to insist that the dead were hardened criminals and blame the fire on a crazy inmate who set his own mattress on fire. But human rights advocates, prison experts, and the opposition media have been quick to underscore that the biggest criminals in this story are the police and the Honduran state.

Daniel Orellana, director of prisons until he was suspended in the fire’s aftermath, was the mastermind managing the Honduras police during and after the military coup, according to the July 2011 report of the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation convened by the coup government of President Porfirio Lobo. Héctor Ivan Mejía, currently the police spokesperson reporting to the public about the Comayagua fire, was previously fired as Chief of Police of the nation’s second largest city, San Pedro Sula, in part because he issued the notorious order to tear gas a peaceful opposition demonstration on September 15, 2010, including a high school marching band.   When the fire broke out just before 11:00 pm, the prisoners were locked into spectacularly overcrowded cells, in some cases sixty to a room. Their guards, ordinary police, in many cases didn’t have keys or refused to use them and fled, abandoning the screaming prisoners. Rubén García, a survivor, has testified that guards shot at the prisoners before fleeing. Outside, police held back firefighters for thirty minutes before allowing them to enter.

Although some of the inmates were, indeed, gang members and drug traffickers, as the media has reported, the Comayagua penitentiary is a second-tier prison, housing ordinary criminals from the area; the most dangerous are housed in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Many of them had never been convicted and were awaiting court dates that would never arrive, in a country widely acknowledged to have no functioning judicial system.

When the fire broke out, their family members rushed to the prison, only to be met by bullets and tear gas. All the following day the Jesuits’ opposition radio station, Radio Progreso, read out the names of the dead, and the incantation of their classic Honduran names underscored the magnitude of the blow to the Honduran people.

This is the country’s third major prison fire in recent years. In 2003, police deliberately set a fire killing 69 gang members in El Porvenir. In 2004, 104 inmates died in San Pedro Sula, unable to escape. In both cases the government called for dramatic reform; yet conditions worsened.

Over 300 people have been killed by state security forces since President Lobo came to power in a November 2009 election boycotted by most of the opposition and almost all international observers. At least forty-three campesino activists have been killed by police, members of the military, and private security guards.

This past fall the country was further rocked by a massive scandal when authorities revealed that on October 22 police officers had allegedly killed the son of the university rector, Julietta Castellanos, and a friend of his, and then the culprits were allowed to go free. Throughout the fall former government officials and others came forward to denounce widespread involvement of the police at in drug trafficking and assassinations, at the highest levels. The most prominent of the critics, former Congressman and Police Commissioner Alfredo Landaverde, was himself assassinated on December 6.

Who, then, is to blame for the Comayagua maelstrom? Former police commissioner María Luisa Borjas, herself a target of ongoing death threats because she has criticized police corruption, charged the next morning that the fire was a “criminal act” by the Honduran government. Attorney Joaquin Mejía called it the “institutionalized violence of the state.”

They know that the Lobo administration is still riddled from top to bottom with coup perpetrators, drug traffickers, and those responsible for the repression of the opposition. The danger, now, is that the Honduran police and military will take advantage of the prison fire to further justify a rapidly increasing militarization of Honduran society, as Oscar Estrada, who has studied the Honduran prison system, warns. Indeed, the government already passed a controversial law in November 2011 allowing the military to take over ordinary police functions.

This militarization is being fueled by the US State Department, which continues to throw its financial and diplomatic support behind the corrupt and illegitimate Lobo regime. Obama in his 2013 budget proposed to double the funding for Honduras, despite growing Congressional pressure to suspend all police and military aid to Honduras. US military funding has increased every year since the coup, and the United States is currently pouring $50 million into expanding its strategically important Soto Cano Air Force Base in Honduras, using the fight against drug trafficking as a pretext to expand both its military presence and its direct control of the Honduran police.

The Honduran human rights community and opposition are clear, though: they want the United States to cut the aid—”stop feeding the beast,” as the university rector has famously asked—and they want to clean up the state security forces themselves. They do not want the United States, whether itself or through its puppets, to take over their country further through an alleged cleanup operation in service to the very coup regime into which it continues to pour millions of dollars.

© 2012 The Nation

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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.

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

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

SOA Watch in Honduras May 3, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
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An SOA Watch delegation, including SOA Watch Latin America Coordinator Lisa Sullivan and SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois, is currently in Honduras to see firsthand the numerous and serious human rights abuses carried out against the people of Honduras. The human rights activists are meeting with members of the resistance, human rights groups, teachers, union leaders, religious leaders, and members of the administration of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.

They are currently visiting the Bajo Aguán where horrendous human rights violations have been occurring since the School of the Americas graduate-led coup d’état in June of 2009. Less than a month ago, the bodies of two campesino leaders were found decapitated in Bajo Aguán. The delegation will also visit the U.S military base in Palmerola, involved in the military coup.

The two men orchestrating the military coup in Honduras in June of 2009, the former Chief of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, and the Chief of the Air Force, General Luis Prince Suazo are both graduates of the School of the Americas.

The violence and human rights violations that are currently happening in Honduras are being funded with Honduran money as well US tax dollars. Including US aid to Honduras are gas bombs priced from $160 to $220 used by Honduran security personnel to terrorize and even kill people. Teacher and co-founder of a leading human rights organization, Ilse Ivania Velásquez was killed after a tear gas canister fired at her head. A two-month old is in critical condition after Honduran security personnel fired a gas bomb inside a family’s home, informed Bertha Oliva, a leading Honduran activist. Live bullets and toxic chemicals are also being used against unarmed demonstrator.

Visit www.SOAW.org to stay tuned for updates from the SOA Watch Honduras delegation and take action now: Ask your representative to join Reps. McGovern, Schakowsky and Farr and sign on to the Congressional sign-on letter to Secretary Clinton calling for the U.S. to pressure the Honduran government “to end abuses by official security forces by suspending, investigating and prosecuting those implicated in human rights violations.” The letter also calls for a suspension of all military and police aid among other proposals.
Urge your Representative to also pressure President Obama to shut down the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC) by executive order.

Click Here to Send a Message to Your Representative