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Hillary Clinton sold out Honduras: Lanny Davis, corporate cash, and the real story about the death of a Latin American democracy June 11, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Haiti, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: this entry partners with another (http://wp.me/pjfja-3cN) that describes the Clintons’ destructive if not genocidal presence in Haiti.  Hillary Clinton on foreign policy and military intervention is a super hawk, further to the right than some right-wing Republicans.  She supported the Iraq invasion and every other illegal and counterproductive US military adventure.  The notion of supporting her as the lesser of evil with respect to the Republican nominee I will not dignify with a response.  I learned a lesson in 1964 when I worked to elect the “peace candidate” Lyndon Johnson, who proceeded to escalate the Vietnam War resulting in millions of deaths.  Electing Democrats to the presidency has the ironic effect of destroying the peace movement.  We see this in spades with Barack Obama.

Monday, Jun 8, 2015 11:58 AM -0500

Want to know why Clinton’s State Dept. failed to help an elected leader? Follow the money and stench of Lanny Davis
Matthew Pulver

Riot police hit a truck after its occupants ran away as they protested the June coup against President Manuel Zalaya and today's general elections in San Pedro Sula, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009.  With President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup last June, still holed up in the Brazilian embassy, voters will choose a new president Sunday from the political establishment that has dominated Honduras for decades.  (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

Riot police hit a truck after its occupants ran away as they protested the June coup against President Manuel Zalaya and today’s general elections in San Pedro Sula, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009. With President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup last June, still holed up in the Brazilian embassy, voters will choose a new president Sunday from the political establishment that has dominated Honduras for decades. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

In this handout picture released by the Guatemalan Presidency, Hondura's President Porfirio Lobo talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Guatemala City, Friday, March 5, 2010. Clinton is on a one-day official visit to Guatemala. (AP Photo/Guatemala Presidency/Handout)

Hilllary hanging with the Honduran oligarch suits, including the illegally elected president: In this handout picture released by the Guatemalan Presidency, Hondura’s President Porfirio Lobo talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Guatemala City, Friday, March 5, 2010. Clinton is on a one-day official visit to Guatemala. (AP Photo/Guatemala Presidency/Handout)

Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, considered by some to be the only real threat to Hillary Clinton, has joined Sen. Bernie Sanders to be the only two challengers to the former secretary of state. Republicans, whose seemingly limitless field seems poised for a “Hunger Games”-esque cage match, worry that a Clinton cakewalk through the primaries will leave her relatively unscathed in the general election against a beaten and beleaguered GOP nominee whose every foible will have been exposed.

And yet for some reason, GOP candidates lob tired Benghazi charges at the presumptive Democratic nominee during the short breaks in infighting. The issue only really excites the GOP base, and it’s highly unlikely that after almost three years of pounding the issue the tactic will work. Plus, House Republicans’ own two-year investigation into the attack absolved Clinton’s State Department of the worst GOP allegations, giving her something of her own “please proceed, Governor” arrow in the quiver if she is attacked from that angle.

It’s the SCUD missile of political attacks when there are laser-guided Tomahawks in the arsenal.

Republicans really hit on something when they started making noise about the Clintons’ relationship with foreign governments, CEOs and corporations, following the lead set by Peter Schweizer’s bestselling “Clinton Cash.” Cross-ideological ears perked up to rumored quid pro quos arranged while Hillary was atop State and Bill was out glad-handing global elites. Even liberals and progressives paid attention when the discussion turned to the Clintons and international elites making backroom, under-the-table deals at what Schweizer calls “the ‘wild west’ fringe of the global economy.”

Though it’s less sexy than Benghazi, the crisis following a coup in Honduras in 2009 has Hillary Clinton’s fingerprints all over it, and her alleged cooperation with oligarchic elites during the affair does much to expose Clinton’s newfound, campaign-season progressive rhetoric as hollow. Moreover, the Honduran coup is something of a radioactive issue with fallout that touches many on Team Clinton, including husband Bill, once put into a full context.

In the 5 a.m. darkness of June 28, 2009, more than two hundred armed, masked soldiers stormed the house of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. Within minutes Zelaya, still in his pajamas, was thrown into a van and taken to a military base used by the U.S., where he was flown out of the country.

It was a military coup, said the UN General Assembly and the Organization of American States (OAS). The entire EU recalled its countries’ ambassadors, as did Latin American nations. The United States did not, making it virtually the only nation of note to maintain diplomatic relations with the coup government. Though the White House and the Clinton State Department denounced only the second such coup in the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War, Washington hedged in a way that other governments did not. It began to feel like lip service being paid, not real concern.

Washington was dragging its feet, but even within the Obama administration a distinction was seen very early seen between the White House and Secretary Clinton’s State Department. Obama called Zelaya’s removal an illegal “coup” the next day, while Secretary Clinton’s response was described as “holding off on formally branding it a coup.” President Obama carefully avoided calling it a military coup, despite that being the international consensus, because the “military” modifier would have abruptly suspended US military aid to Honduras, an integral site for the US Southern Command, but Obama called for the reinstatementof the elected president of Honduras removed from his country by the military.

Clinton was far more circumspect, suspiciously so. In an evasive press corps appearance, Secretary Clinton responded with tortured answers on the situation in Honduras and said that State was “withholding any formal legal determination.” She did offer that the situation had “evolved into a coup,” as if an elected president removed in his pajamas at gunpoint and exiled to another country was not the subject of a coup at the moment armed soldiers enter his home.

It’s hard to see those early evasions by Clinton, though, as a Benghazi-like confusion in the fog of the moment. Nearly a month later, Secretary Clinton would call President Zelaya’s defiance of the coup government and return to Honduras “reckless” and damaging to “the broader effort to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis.” Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know from a cable from the Honduran embassy sent just the day prior how certain the State Department was that Zelaya’s removal was a cut-and-dried military coup: “The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch,” wrote Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reporting from on the ground in Tegucigalpa.

And even months later, with the increasingly violent and basic rights-denying coup government still in place, State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley would incredulously maintain, “We aren’t taking sides against the de facto regime versus Zelaya.”

It was becoming widely believed that the Clinton State Department, along with the right-wing in Washington, was working behind the scenes to make sure that President Zelaya would not return to office. This U.S. cabal was coordinating with those behind the coup, it was being rumored, to bring new elections to Honduras, conducted by an illegal coup government, which would effectively terminate the term of Zelaya, who was illegally deposed in the final year of his constitutionally mandated single term. All this as Honduras was “descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss,” as the coup government was seen to be actually committing crimes worthy of removal from power. Professor Dana Frank, an expert in recent Honduran history at UC Santa Cruz, would charge in the New York Times that the resulting “abyss” in Honduras was “in good part the State Department’s making.”

Though the case has been made, it’s impossible to accuse Clinton of foreknowledge of the coup. Likewise, no smoking gun exists to definitively conclude that Clinton and her associates actively and willfully acted to maintain the coup government in league with the elite and corporate interests, but an abundance of evidence, combined with what we know about Clintonite ideals in foreign policy and global trade, makes a case deserving of a response from one of two or three people expected to become the most powerful person on earth.

Clinton herself even gets dangerously close to confessing a role in keeping Zelaya out of office in her book “Hard Choices,” in which she discussed the hard choice to ignore the most basic tenets of democracy and international norms:

“In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere…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.”

One of those strategic partners appears to have been Clinton family legal pitbull, Lanny Davis, deployed as an auxiliary weapon against the rightful, legal, democratically elected president of Honduras. Davis famously defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings, and he’s been on Team Clinton for decades, most recently serving as a booster for Hillary’s campaign in its early days.

Davis, along with another close Clinton associate Bennett Ratcliff, launched a Washington lobbying offensive in support of the coup government and its oligarchic backers, penning a Wall Street Journal op-ed, testifying before a Congressional committee, and undoubtedly knocking on office doors on Capitol Hill, where he enjoys bipartisan connections, which valuable asset he demonstrated during his committee hearing.

“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is, you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis,” said Robert White, former ambassador to El Salvador, just a month after the coup. Speaking to Roberto Lovato for the American Prospect, Davis revealed who that was: “My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America.” In other words, the oligarchs who preside over a country with a 65 percent poverty rate. The emerging understanding, that the powerful oligarchs were behind the coup, began to solidify, and the Clinton clique’s allegiances were becoming pretty clear. If you can believe it, Clinton’s team sided with the wealthy elite.

NYU history professor Greg Grandin, author of a number of books about Central and South America, boiled the coup down to a simple economic calculation by the Honduran elite: “Zelaya was overthrown because the business community didn’t like that he increased the minimum wage. We’re talking about an elite that treats Honduras as if it was its own private plantation.”

Grandin was echoed by a Honduran Catholic bishop, Luis Santos Villeda of Santa Rosa de Copan, who told the Catholic News Service, “Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That’s what they understand.”

One doesn’t have to believe professors and bishops, though; one of the central members of the oligarchic elite, Adolfo Facussé, admitted to Al Jazeera’s Avi Lewis two months after the coup that Zelaya’s reforms for the poor had angered the ruling economic cabal: “Zelaya wanted to do some changes, and to do that, instead of convincing us that what he was trying to do was good, he tried to force us to accept his changes.”

Facussé was, of course, describing democracy. The so-called “Diez Familias” of Honduras, the country’s 1 percent, were unhappy that the Honduran people—the families’ subjects, essentially—backed a leader who worked on behalf of the vast majority of Hondurans. Also known as, how representative democracy works.

Facussé’s family is one of, if not the, most powerful families in Honduras, with the family patriarch Miguel Facussé being described in a Wikileaked State Department cable as “the wealthiest, most powerful businessman in the country.” The elder Facussé was even vice president of the infamous Association for the Progress of Honduras (APROH) in the early 1980s, a time during which the right-wing, pro-Washington, ultra-capitalist business group had strong ties with the infamous US-trained death squads of Battalion 3-16.

The School of the Americas-trained death squads no longer terrorize Honduras and Central America at the behest of business interests, but the legacy and power remains in a more refined, technocratic, you might say “Clintonite,” means of effecting a good climate for the oligarchs and corporations who remain in control in the region. The coup leader, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, is a two-time graduate of the Pentagon’s School of the Americas (SOA, now called WHINSEC), and he was able to enact a coup without the widespread ’80s-era bloodshed brought by the death squads.

Another SOA-trained Honduran military lawyer, Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, confessed to the Miami Herald just days after the coup that the Honduran military broke the law in kidnapping and exiling the president. But Inestroza still bore the ideological training he’d received under President Reagan’s pro-capitalist crusades in the region: “It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible.”

The coup was cleaner, replacing Reagan-era death squads with high-priced PR and attorneys from Clinton’s world, but it still accomplished what the other, bloodier conflicts had aimed for in earlier decades: keeping Central America free of leftist leadership—or even progressive leadership, in Zelaya’s case—and keeping the region business-friendly. A post-coup government a couple years later would announce that Honduras is “open for business,” if not open for human rights and democracy. Foreign policy Clintonism may be more technocratic than the Republican model, but its goals are effectively the same. Clintonite mercenaries wear Brooks Brothers suits, not military fatigues.

Lanny Davis’ role as PR guerrilla is reminiscent of fellow Clinton team member James Carville, who worked in the 2002 campaign of multimillionaire Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (“Goni”) in Bolivia, another pro-globalization, pro-Washington, hyper-capitalist candidate running against socialist Evo Morales.

Detailed in the documentary “Our Brand is Crisis,” Carville’s role in Bolivia, along with other Clintonite luminaries, was much the same as the coup defenders nearly a decade later in Honduras, in that the expertise of Clinton team members were put in service of business elites. In 2002, Bolivia was convulsing after hyper-capitalist, neoliberal reforms had sold off the country’s state-owned resources at the order of international financial institutions. Goni had been a central figure in the neoliberal reforms during his first term as president. Losing office after his first term, Goni was trying to grab the reins again four years later.

The effects of his privatization plan—called “capitalization” in Bolivia—had come to be felt in the intervening years, especially in Bolivia’s third-largest city, Cochabamba, where even water service was sold off to multinational corporations, principally San Francisco-based Bechtel. The country’s majority indigenous population, mostly poor (Goni, called “El Gringo,” is rich, fairer-skinned and grew up in the U.S.), began to revolt as water prices suddenly rose by 50 percent after the corporation took control. Due to the giveaway Goni had initiated, residents even had to obtain a permit to collect rainwater. “Even rainwater was privatized,” said one of the principal activists. “Water sources were converted into property that could be bought and sold by international corporations.” Campesinos began to charge that the dystopian Bechtel, one of the largest contractors in the world, was “leasing the rain.”

Moreover, Bolivia’s long-suffering and indigenous poor majority was calling for constitutional reform, the same sort of measure Zelaya was floating in Honduras. The insurgent indigenous candidate Evo Morales, a lowly coca farmer, nearly defeated the Washington-backed and -assisted Goni on a platform that demanded constitutional reform. Throughout the past few decades as Latin American governments have begun to shed the vestiges of colonialism and Monroe Doctrine-based U.S. control, countries have democratically written new constitutions to replace former national doctrines in which racism, sexism, and radical inequity were constitutionally permitted in many cases.

Finally, Clinton’s State Department’s role in attempting to block a minimum wage increase in Haiti allows us to triangulate (so to speak) and speculate with some confidence on Clinton’s wishes vis-à-vis poor nations under the rule of oligarchs and corporate elites. State Department cables exposed by Wikileaks reveal that, according to The Nation, “[c]ontractors for Fruit of the Loom, Hanes and Levi’s worked in close concert with the US Embassy when they aggressively moved to block a minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest-paid in the hemisphere.”

(The Haitian assembly zones are free trade enclaves of the sort the Clintons advocate, where corporations are permitted to take advantage of the hemisphere’s cheapest labor without paying high tariffs—tiny versions of President Clinton’s NAFTA.)

Just weeks before the coup in Honduras, the State Department acted on behalf of a “tiny assembly zone elite” and intervened in the Haitian government’s plan to raise the wage. This was after President Clinton had already ravaged the island nation and enriched U.S. agricultural companies with a devastating trade deal that led to Haitians eating dirt cakes to survive.

This sort of engineering of regional politics in the service of the economic elite appears to be something of a hallmark of the Clinton camp. A case is being built that it’s the family business to cater to the global elite, despite the Clinton campaign’s salt-of-the-earth optics in Iowa and New Hampshire, which appears disingenuous in light of virtually everything else we know about Clinton. And with a growing list of Clinton associates being complicit, concerns about a President Clinton’s criteria for cabinet and agency appointments grow, as well.

Keeping wages down in places like Honduras and Haiti virtually ensure that those formerly decently paying, often unionized, jobs will never return to the U.S. Going to bat by proxy for Bechtel, a conglomerate with close ties to the GOP and the military industrial complex, doesn’t seem like the best use of the political talent of members of the Clintons’ braintrust. It becomes fair to ask, “Who do the Clintons work for?”
More Matthew Pulver.

Hard choices: Hillary Clinton admits role in Honduran coup aftermath October 9, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Foreign Policy, History, Honduras, Guatemala, Imperialism, Hillary Clinton.
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Roger’s note: With respect to U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America, there is virtually no distinction between Democratic and Republican presidencies.  Hillary Clinton as Obama’s Secretary of State, for example, was no less hawkish in is asserting the interests of U.S. corporations and military than John Foster Dulles or Henry Kissinger.  The role of Lanny Davis in serving the perpetrators of the military coup against President Zelaya, Clinton family friend and legal counsel is striking.  I follow up the Clinton article with a fascinating study of the manipulation of public opinion (what Noam Chomsky refers to as “manufacturing consent) in the overthrowing of democratically elected governments in Latin America, with, in the case of Guatemala in 1954, the direct participation of the infamous “father of public relations,” Edward Bernays.


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

September 29, 2014 6:00AM ET
Clinton’s embrace of far-right narrative on Latin America is part of electoral strategy
In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a review of Henry Kissinger’s latest book, “World Order,” to lay out her vision for “sustaining America’s leadership in the world.” In the midst of numerous global crises, she called for return to a foreign policy with purpose, strategy and pragmatism. She also highlighted some of these policy choices in her memoir “Hard Choices” and how they contributed to the challenges that Barack Obama’s administration now faces.

The chapter on Latin America, particularly the section on Honduras, a major source of the child migrants currently pouring into the United States, has gone largely unnoticed. In letters to Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, more than 100 members of Congress have repeatedly warned about the deteriorating security situation in Honduras, especially since the 2009 military coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. As Honduran scholar Dana Frank points out in Foreign Affairs, the U.S.-backed post-coup government “rewarded coup loyalists with top ministries,” opening the door for further “violence and anarchy.”

The homicide rate in Honduras, already the highest in the world, increased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2011; political repression, the murder of opposition political candidates, peasant organizers and LGBT activists increased and continue to this day. Femicides skyrocketed. The violence and insecurity were exacerbated by a generalized institutional collapse. Drug-related violence has worsened amid allegations of rampant corruption in Honduras’ police and government. While the gangs are responsible for much of the violence, Honduran security forces have engaged in a wave of killings and other human rights crimes with impunity.

Despite this, however, both under Clinton and Kerry, the State Department’s response to the violence and military and police impunity has largely been silence, along with continued U.S. aid to Honduran security forces. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton describes her role in the aftermath of the coup that brought about this dire situation. Her firsthand account is significant both for the confession of an important truth and for a crucial false testimony.

First, the confession: Clinton admits that she used the power of her office to make sure that Zelaya would not return to office. “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico,” Clinton writes. “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.”

This may not come as a surprise to those who followed the post-coup drama closely. (See my commentary from 2009 on Washington’s role in helping the coup succeed here, here and here.) But the official storyline, which was dutifully accepted by most in the media, was that the Obama administration actually opposed the coup and wanted Zelaya to return to office.

Clinton’s position on Latin America in her bid for the presidency is another example of how the far right exerts disproportionate influence on US foreign policy in the hemisphere.

The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assembly and other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Clinton’s defiant and anti-democratic stance spurred a downward slide in U.S. relations with several Latin American countries, which has continued. It eroded the warm welcome and benefit of the doubt that even the leftist governments in region offered to the newly installed Obama administration a few months earlier.

Clinton’s false testimony is even more revealing. She reports that Zelaya was arrested amid “fears that he was preparing to circumvent the constitution and extend his term in office.” This is simply not true. As Clinton must know, when Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country in his pajamas on June 28, 2009, he was trying to put a consultative, nonbinding poll on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted to have a real referendum on reforming the constitution during the scheduled election in November. It is important to note that Zelaya was not eligible to run in that election. Even if he had gotten everything he wanted, it was impossible for Zelaya to extend his term in office. But this did not stop the extreme right in Honduras and the United States from using false charges of tampering with the constitution to justify the coup.

In addition to her bold confession and Clinton’s embrace of the far-right narrative in the Honduran episode, the Latin America chapter is considerably to the right of even her own record on the region as secretary of state. This appears to be a political calculation. There is little risk of losing votes for admitting her role in making most of the hemisphere’s governments disgusted with the United States. On the other side of the equation, there are influential interest groups and significant campaign money to be raised from the right-wing Latin American lobby, including Floridian Cuban-Americans and their political fundraisers.

Like the 54-year-old failed embargo against Cuba, Clinton’s position on Latin America in her bid for the presidency is another example of how the far right exerts disproportionate influence on U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere.

Mark Weisbrot is a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is also the president of Just Foreign Policy.


By Brendan Fischer on December 27, 2010

(Part two of a two-part series)

bananasIn the first part of this series, the Center for Media and Democracy reported how the 2009 coup d’etat that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was successfully maintained not through the use of force, but through the power of lobbying and spin. That tale, whose details were revealed through Wikileaks‘ publication of diplomatic cables and research into lobbying activities, had some echoes of the role PR played in an earlier “regime change” in the region. Here is the story of how the Chiquita banana company successfully used PR spin to help topple Guatemala’s left-leaning government in 1954, and how they may have done it again in Honduras, 2009.

The term “banana republic” was coined at the turn of the 20th Century in reference to the economic and political domination of weak or corrupt governments in Central America by the United Fruit Company, the corporation now known as Chiquita. (This article will refer to the company formerly known as United Fruit as “Chiquita”). Throughout much of its modern history, Honduras has been the quintessential “banana republic,” a poor country ruled by a small group of wealthy elites, with national politics controlled by multinational business interests, particularly Chiquita. In fact, Chiquita has historically been known as “El Pulpo” (“The Octopus”) in Honduras, as the company’s tentacles had such a firm grip on Honduran national politics.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chiquita maintained its grasp on Central American politics with a range of illegitimate tools, including the use of mercenary force and bribes. Since the birth of modern public relations in the mid-20th century, though, Chiquita has successfully fought many of its battles for political control with the power of spin. Recent revelations suggest they have done the same in the case of Honduras in 2009.

Edward L. Bernays, Chiquita, and the CIA-backed Guatemalan Coup

Chiquita’s most famous act of interference with Central American politics is its role in toppling Guatemala’s left-leaning government in 1954. For the first half of the 20th century, Chiquita poured investment capital into Guatemala, buying the country’s productive land and controlling shares in its railroad, electric utility, and telegraph industries; as a result, the Guatemalan government was subservient to Chiquita’s interests, exempting the company from internal taxation and guaranteeing workers earned no more than fifty cents per day. At the time of the 1944 Guatemalan revolution, Chiquita was the country’s number one landowner, employer, and exporter.

In 1950, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected with 65% of the vote, and Chiquita perceived his agrarian land reforms as a threat to their corporate interests. Chiquita, with the help of the father of modern public relations, Edward L. Bernays, waged a propaganda war and managed to convince the American public and politicians that Arbenz was secretly a dangerous communist who could not be allowed to remain in power. With McCarthy-era hysteria in full swing, President Eisenhower secretly ordered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to overthrow the democratically elected Arbenz in a 1954 covert operation. The CIA armed and trained an ad-hoc “Liberation Army” under the command of an exiled Guatemalan army officer, and used them in conjunction with a diplomatic, economic, and propaganda campaign. At the time, the American public was told that Guatemala was undergoing a “revolution;” the CIA’s involvement was long suspected and fully revealed when the agency released thousands of documents in 1997. The overthrow precipitated a 40-year civil war that killed over 200,000 people, and “disappeared” another 100,000.

Edward Bernays

Edward Bernays

In the Bernays biography The Father of Spin, Larry Tye writes that Bernays began working as Chiquita’s public relations counsel in the early 1940s, peddling bananas by claiming they cured celiac disease and were “good for the national defense” (the company had lent its ships to the U.S. military in WWII). As the Guatemalan government became concerned with the needs of its impoverished majority, Bernays began a PR blitz to spin the left-leaning government as covertly Communist. He urged Chiquita to find a top Latin American politician to condemn Guatemala’s actions, and hire a top attorney to outline the reasons for outlawing the land reforms. Bernays planted stories in major newspapers and magazines on the “growing influence of Guatemala’s Communists,” prodded the New York Times to assign reporters who were sympathetic to his cause, and even managed to obtain coverage in liberal journals like The Nation. In 1952, Bernays brought a group of journalists to the region at Chiquita’s expense to “gather information,” but with everything the press saw and heard carefully staged and regulated by their host. When articles supportive of Chiquita’s claims were printed, Bernays would offer to help distribute reprints of the article to top government officials and other writers, and to help get a Congressperson to reprint the article in the Congressional record. Bernays also set up a network of “intelligence agents” to “undertake a private intelligence survey” of the “political and ideological situation” in Guatemala, and fed reports from these phony agents to the press as warnings from an “authoritative source” or an “unnamed intelligence official.” Throughout the conflict, Bernays remained a key source of information for the press. As the invasion began, he gave major U.S. news outlets the first reports on the situation.One of Bernays’ fellow PR men quoted in The Father of Spin notes that Chiquita’s executives were initially unsupportive of Bernays’ PR efforts, but not because they were uncomfortable with media manipulation; instead, “they wanted to do business the old way, to foment a revolution and get Arbenz the hell out of there.” Bernays managed to convince Chiquita executives to take his more subtle and clever approach.

In addition to Bernays’ carefully planned PR campaign, many indicators suggest Chiquita played a more direct role in convincing the U.S. to overthrow Arbenz. The company had very close ties to the CIA– former Chiquita executive General Walter Bedell Smith, who was later named to the board of directors, was a former Director of Central Intelligence, and the Dulles brothers (Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and then-current Director of Central Intelligence Allen Welsh Dulles) had provided legal services to the company through their association with the New York-based law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. Notorious spymaster E. Howard Hunt, who headed the CIA’s Guatemalan operation (and was later jailed for his role in the Watergate break-in) insisted in later years that lobbying by Chiquita persuaded the Eisenhower Administration to get involved in Guatemala.

Bernays’ carefully planned campaign successfully created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in the U.S. about the Guatemalan government, compelling a U.S. intervention that advanced Chiquita’s interests and was internationally condemned. In turn, the overthrow fueled an atmosphere of fear and suspicion in Latin America about U.S. intentions in the region, and Che Guevara’s wife Hilda Gadea later wrote “it was Guatemala which finally convinced [Guevara] of the necessity for armed struggle and for taking the initiative against imperialism.” The U.S.-led regime change precipitated four decades of military rule and hundreds of thousands of deaths in Guatemala.

Chiquita’s Role in Honduras, 2009?

Manuel Zelaya (Source: Wikipedia)

Manuel Zelaya (Source: Wikipedia)

When the Honduran military deposed President Manual Zelaya on June 28, 2009, many took it as an unfriendly reminder of the banana republic era. Chiquita remains a major presence in Honduras, and at the time, some questioned whether the fruit company played a role in backing the 2009 coup, as it did in 1954 in neighboring Guatemala. As the coup crisis progressed, though, Chiquita’s name was hardly mentioned.Elite business interests, including Chiquita as well as the Honduran manufacturing sector, were disturbed by Zelaya raising the minimum wage by sixty percent, so nobody was surprised that the country’s business council CEAL (the Honduran equivalent to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) wanted to spin the coup as constitutional, and to paint Zelaya as a Hugo Chavez-aligned would-be-dictator.

To push this message, CEAL hired Lanny Davis (and his associate, Eileen M. O’Connor) from the lobbying firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP. Their efforts were aided by the Honduran government hiring Bennett Ratcliff and the lobbying firm Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter and Associates. Davis was a longtime political insider described by the infamous G. Gordon Liddy as one who “can defend the indefensible.” (Davis has most recently been in the headlines for serving as spinmeister for Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to relinquish power after losing elections in November and has since been committing what the United Nations calls “massive violations” of human rights.) According to Robert White, former U.S. ambassador and current president of the DC-based Center for International Policy, “If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is, you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis.”

While Chiquita was a member of CEAL, its role in supporting the post-coup PR blitz was never analyzed or discussed. The coup that ousted Zelaya clearly helped Chiquita’s interests, but considering the company’s history of interference in Latin American politics, it understandably kept a low profile during the crisis. Through its membership in CEAL, Chiquita’s name never came up, and powerful lobbyists successfully attracted attention elsewhere.

The PR Machine At Work

The 2009 PR blitz was right out of Bernays’ 1954 playbook. Davis worked with a former Honduran foreign minister and Supreme Court Justice Guillermo Pérez-Cadalso to prep him for testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Davis also testified personally.

Right-wing Honduran legal “experts” made creative legal arguments about the legality of Zelaya’s removal, which were then cited by an official government report. Honduras’ lobbying firm appeared to help organize trips to the country for sympathetic legislators, briefed reporters on their interpretation of events, and placed op-eds in newspapers and magazines; Davis appeared personally on talk shows and drafted his own op-eds alleging the coup’s constitutionality.

It is unclear how much money Chiquita provided to the Honduran equivalent of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, CEAL, during the PR offensive supporting the coup. The company understandably wanted to maintain a public distance from the events in Honduras. While Lanny Davis carried out his PR blitz on behalf of CEAL and the coup, Chiquita also maintained its own lobbyists from McDermott, Will & Emory, paying the firm $140,000 in 2009. Chiquita has had a long relationship with McDermott, working with the lobbying firm since at least 1999. Because Chiquita is incorporated in the U.S., lobbying activities directly on its behalf are not reported. Throughout the course of the coup crisis, Chiquita and CEAL maintained separate lobbying firms and the banana company successfully managed to avoid accusations of meddling in Honduran politics.

By the fall of 2009, though, the Honduran coup had slipped from American headlines. So few noticed when Davis and O’Connor left Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to join Chiquita’s firm, McDermott, Will & Emory; CEAL also brought their business to McDermott.

With American news media focusing attention elsewhere, perhaps Chiquita no longer felt it necessary to maintain the appearance of separation from the coup supporters. The coup regime and its backers had successfully spun America into believing the coup was a constitutional response to an illegal power grab by a pro-Chavez president. Most who were following the story, including policymakers, had accepted Zelaya’s removal as legal, and the “banana republic” allegations had faded from the limelight. However, with increasing political violence, oppression, and human rights violations at the hands of the right-wing post-coup government, and Chiquita’s apparent connection to the coup supporters, perhaps Honduras really has become a banana republic once again.


Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer is CMD’s General Counsel. He graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

– See more at: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2010/12/9834/banana-republic-once-again#sthash.YDLc9p4f.dpufThe views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Human Rights, Foreign Policy, Honduras.
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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.  

Solidarity actions as Hondurans resist 5 years of coup government July 23, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Latin America, Foreign Policy, LGBT, Honduras, Imperialism.
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Roger’s note: there are similarities between what happened in Honduras and what is happening today in the Ukraine.  In both cases, democratically elected governments were overthrown with either active or tacit support of the CIA and other U.S. agents; and then the United States government, that great defender of democracy, proceeded to recognize and support pro-American repressive regimes.  This under the leadership of “change you can believe in Obama” (I guess he must have meant pro US regime change) and progressive Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.  For five years we have seen the disastrous consequences for the people of Honduras as today we see the configuration the United States government has inspired in the Ukraine.

Posted on
Assassinated for their resistance to repression in Honduras

June 28th marked 5 years since an illegal coup overthrew the democratically-elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.  Since the coup, politically-motivated assassinations, attacks on poor campesinos, violence against LGBT people, and an overall decline in the security situation have increased dramatically.  Recently, the U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiskie, congratulated the government of Honduras for fair and democratic elections, despite widespread evidence of fraud and voter intimidation.  The U.S. continues to generously fund the Honduran security forces, who have been implicated in serious human rights violations.

The new President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has vowed to combat violence with an “iron fist” and has already made steps to further militarize Honduran society, outlaw civil society groups, among other anti-democratic acts.  For more information, read Dana Frank’s article, “Who’s Responsible for the Flight of Honduran Children?”.

It is crucial that international solidarity organizations keep up the pressure on our own governments to cut off military spending to Honduras.  We also need to continue to publicize the grave human rights situation in Honduras.  There are many brave individuals and groups who continue to mount political resistance to the current repression, despite enormous risks.

In Chicago, social justice group La Voz de los de Abajo led a solidarity march.  Other participating organizations included the Chicago Religious Leadership Network andRadios Populares.  Photos by Miguel Vazquez of La Voz de los de Abajo:

Honduras, coup, resistance, human rights, solidarity

Honduras, coup, human rights, solidarity

Honduras, coup, solidarity, human rights

Honduras, coup, solidarity

The following day, La Voz de los de Abajo and CRLN marched with the Gay Liberation Network in the Chicago Pride Parade.

LBGT rights, Honduras, immigrants, human rights

GLN’s contingent focused on LGBTQ immigrant and refugee rights.  Many Honduran LGBTQ people have fled to the U.S. and other countries as violence against their community has increased.  Gay activist Nelson Arambu of the Movimiento de Diversidad en Resistencia spoke at a GLN event about the harrowing environment in which gay and resistance activists must work in Honduras.  Read more here.

School of Americas Watch has posted an online petition calling for U.S. Congress to cut off military aid.  Please click here to sign the petition.

Tomas Garcia, Honduras, coup, human rights

U.S. Deports Honduran Children In First Flight Since Obama’s Pledge July 15, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Human Rights, Immigration, Latin America, Racism.
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Roger’s note: what the mainstream media in its news and analyses universally fail to note is that the root cause of the migration from Central America lies in the actions and policies of the U.S. government over the years that have supported repressive business oriented governments controlled by oligarchic elites.  In particular the Obama/Hillary Clinton policies in support of the military coup in Honduras have resulted in Honduras being perhaps the most violent country on the face of the globe.  The lucrative drug trade and the attendant violence is a symptom of US directed imperial military supported corporatism,  and not the fundamental cause of the massive migration.  As for the costs of implementing a humanitarian policy of dealing with children refugees, a fraction of the dollars spent on the illegal wars in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan would be sufficient.  That the U.S. government at the direction of a president who is both heartless and gutless, is sending Honduran mothers and their children back to the most violent city in the world, that while in custody these mothers and children are treated like animals,  is beyond disgusting.  That the commonly held perceived solution is increased border security and  deportation is not only an example of tunnel vision, but a head in the sand approach to a problem that the US government has created, and along with corporate media and both political parties, refuses to acknowledge.  Imperialism and xenophobia go hand in hand.

Immigration Overload Hot Spot

Posted: 07/14/2014 9:09 pm EDT 

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras, July 14 (Reuters) – The United States deported a group of Honduran children as young as 1-1/2 years old on Monday in the first flight since President Barack Obama pledged to speed up the process of sending back undocumented immigrant minors from Central America.

Fleeing violence and poverty, record numbers of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have crossed into the United States over the past year, testing U.S. border facilities and sparking intense debate about how to solve the problem.

Monday’s charter flight from New Mexico to San Pedro Sula, the city with the highest murder rate in the world, returned 17 Honduran women, as well as 12 girls and nine boys, aged between 18 months and 15 years, the Honduran government said.

Looking happy, the deported children exited the airport on an overcast and sweltering afternoon. One by one, they filed into a bus, playing with balloons they had been given.

Nubia, a 6-year-old girl among the deportees, said she left Honduras a month ago for a journey that ended when she and her mother were caught on the Mexico-Texas border two weeks later.

“Horrible, cold and tiring,” was how Nubia remembered the trip that was meant to unite the pair with her three uncles already living in the United States.

Instead, her mother Dalia paid $7,000 in vain to a coyote, or guide, to smuggle them both across the border.

Once caught, U.S. officials treated them like “animals”, holding them in rooms with as many as 50 people, where some mothers had to sleep standing up holding children, Dalia said.

During the eight months ended June 15, some 52,000 children were detained at the U.S. border with Mexico, most of them from Central America. That was double the previous year’s tally and tens of thousands more are believed to have slipped through.

So chaotic are the circumstances of the exodus that some of the children are not even correctly reunited with their parents, said Valdette Willeman, director of the Center for Attention for Returned Migrants in Honduras.

“Many of the mothers are sometimes not even the real mothers of the children,” she said.


Monday’s flight departed as Obama faces increasing pressure to address the surge of unaccompanied minors.

Immigrant advocates urge him to address the humanitarian needs of the migrants. At the same time, Republicans in Congress have blamed the crisis on Obama’s immigration policies and have called on him to secure the border.

Obama’s administration has stressed that Central American children who cross the border illegally will be sent home, and last week said it would speed up the deportation process.

Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have suffered from gang violence and incursions from Mexican drug cartels using the region as a staging post for their trafficking operations.

Honduran President Juan Hernandez, in an interview published on Monday, blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence and ramping up migration to the United States. His wife urged the United States to do more to help.

“The countries consuming drugs need to support (us) and take joint responsibility because if there wasn’t demand, there wouldn’t be production and we wouldn’t be living like we are,” Ana Garcia de Hernandez said as she awaited the children.

Obama’s administration has projected that without government action, more than 150,000 unaccompanied children under the age of 18 could flee the three Central American nations next year.

The proposed actions will test Obama’s ability to negotiate effectively with Republican lawmakers who have blocked much of his agenda ahead of a November election when they hope to capture the U.S. Senate from his Democratic Party. (Additional reporting by Gustavo Palencia in San Pedro Sula and Julia Edwards in Washington; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)

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/

Honduras: Where the Blood Flows and the Rivers are Dammed August 6, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in First Nations, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Human Rights, Imperialism, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: As a life-long Latin Americanist I have taken a deep interest in the Honduras coup and have posted several analyses.  What is particularly of interest and concern to me has been the role of (former) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and likely Democratic Party standard bearer in 2016).  Her foreign policy stance towards Bolivia, Ecuador and especially Venezuela represents a continuation of the Bush Administration’s and the United States’ historic hegemonic relationship with Latin America, dating from the days of the Monroe Doctrine.  But the role she played in legitimizing the military coup against the democratically elected Zelaya government, takes us back to the days of gun boat diplomacy, albeit using surrogate gun boats (and one is reminded of the white washing of the coup that has just happened in Egypt).  The allies of the Clinton family and the Democratic party have had a direct role in supporting the illegitimate Honduran regime.  Here is one link: http://prospect.org/article/our-man-honduras.



Dams funded by foreign investors are threatening the cultural heritage and livelihood of Honduras indigenous peoples.


On July 3, Hondurans demonstrate demanding a halt to crime and violence. (Photo: EPA)

It is all too easy for one’s eyes to glaze over at the headlines of yet another murder in Honduras, the country that earned the dubious moniker of the world’s murder capital. Forty-nine year-old Tomas Garcia was shot dead on July 15, just one of thousands of victims. Violence marches on unabated as observers become desensitised to the mounting human toll, comforted by the illusion that the carnage is associated with, and perhaps even justified by anti-social behaviour, a convenient misconception that provides a buffer between us and the grief for the fallen.

Yet Garcia’s murder is not the result of unrestrained gang or narcotrafficking violence, corruption or random crime, and its inclusion as a statistic obscures his murder’s political motivation and the tragedy it leaves in its wake. The unarmed Lenca indigenous community leader was shot at close range in front of a crowd of witnesses. Garcia’s 17-year-old son Allan was seriously injured. The act was not random but was instead part of a pattern of systematic and calculated repression by Honduran authorities.

Garcia was killed because he stood at the front of a peaceful protest against the Agua Zarca hydro-electric dam, which is largely financed by foreign investors and threatens the cultural heritage and livelihood of his community.  Well aware of the danger he faced but unable to turn away from his community’s struggle, Garcia’s courageous stand leaves his widow to care for their seven children.

His assassination was preceded by escalating intimidation – threats and harassment, and menacing security personnel. Garcia’s community is resisting the hydro-electric project that was enticed by Honduras’s “open for business” slogan engineered in the wake of the coup that deposed democratically-elected president Mel Zelaya.

Indigenous communities have been objecting to the illegal sale of their territory to transnational companies who seek to extract profits by harnessing and privatising communally-owned water.  Yet in September 2010, the Honduran National Congress awarded 41 hydroelectric dam concessions, during a time when the government of Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s legitimacy was still questioned by the majority of Latin American governments.

A month later, a coalition of indigenous groups, including members of the Tulupanes, Pech, Miskito, Maya-Chortis, Lenca and Garifuna peoples, convened a meeting to organise in resistance to the illegal concessions, many of which were granted on indigenous territory without proper consultation and consent of the groups.

These omissions violate International Labor Organization Convention 169, which requires that “Consultation with indigenous peoples should be undertaken through appropriate procedures, in good faith, and through the representative institutions of these peoples” and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous groups have also noted that various international mechanisms designed to address climate change have contributed to the exploitation and degradation of the land for which they have served as rightful and responsible stewards for generations. These include the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism and the Program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). The rights of indigenous communities to prior informed consultation and consent are being bulldozed, just like their ancestral land.

The Agua Zarca Dam project in Garcia’s community is one of the disputed concessions, part of four interconnected dams along the Gualcarque River. The project is coordinated by a partnership between the Honduran company Desarrollos Energeticos S.A. (DESA), which owns the concession, and the Sinohydro Corporation of China, which seeks to develop the hydro-electric power. The web of investor friendly legislation and support from the Lobo administration empowers the companies to violate human rights with impunity.  According to Berta Caceres, General Coordinator of the indigenous coalition COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations) that seeks to defend indigenous territories, the companies are supported and protected by the Honduran security forces.

Lenca residents of Rio Blanco claim that the dam threatens to degrade the surrounding environment, deplete the local water supply, diminish their livelihood and destroy the spiritual connection to the land that is foundational to the community’s history and survival.  The Lenca communities are engaging in peaceful resistance to the construction by blocking the access road, action that has drawn a swift and brutal response from the government, along with a campaign to vilify the protestors.

The conflict escalated on May 23, when police ended 50 days of peaceful community resistance by forcibly removing protestors. A day later, the repression took an ominous turn when Caceres was arrested on the spurious charge of illegally possessing a weapon, shortly after she criticised the police eviction action. Although the charge was provisionally dropped following an international outcry, the local prosecutor is appealing the dismissal, and the case is far from over.

Business friendly, taken to an extreme

The Lobo administration signaled its embrace of a neoliberal development model when it convened an economic conference in May 2011, entitled “Honduras is Open for Business”. The government sought to reassure investors that risks would be minimised and profits maximised, promising unprecedented access to the country’s exploitable resources, many of which are located within indigenous territory that is subject to the protection of various international protection schemes. The intervening years have witnessed an ambitious and far-reaching legislative agenda that gives primacy to corporate rights.

Human rights observers fear that the recently passed “Law for the Promotion of Development and Reconversion of the Public Debt” will only intensify the exploitation of resources for the benefit of foreign investors and the country’s own economic elites and exacerbate the illegal dispossession of indigenous and campesino communities. The law authorises the Lobo administration to employ the nation’s natural territory and the “idle” resources it contains as collateral to investors who can then exploit concessions for future profits.

Critics of the law note that it was pushed through with little debate and even less transparency, as the details of implementation remain shrouded in secrecy. Observers contextualise the rush to pass the law in advance of November’s national presidential election as a bold effort to entrench protections for business interests, fearing that Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed president Mel Zelaya, and head of the newly formed Libre party will implement democratic reforms.  President Lobo has tacitly acknowledged as much in recent days, opining that a Libre party victory would be a disaster that would not be well received by the business community.

The Rio Blano conflict is emblematic of broader struggle

Similar struggles are percolating across Honduras as the dispossessed seek to protect their livelihoods and their lands from the agro – and business oligarchs who partner with the military and police in meting out repression for acts of resistance to their absolute power. In the Bajo Aguan, over a hundred campesinos have been killed resisting eviction by agro-oligarchs led by Dinant Corporation’s Miguel Facusse.

The Afro-Indigenous Garifuna people along the Caribbean coast are struggling to protect their land from ecotourism and “model cities” that will strip local control and displace ancestral communities.  Human rights defenders are criminalised throughout a country with a notoriously corrupt judicial system that consistently fails to vindicate their rights.

This repression reinforces centuries of historical exploitation and suffering, but occurs in the context of a surprisingly vibrant and resilient popular movement struggling for a more inclusive, participatory and egalitarian future for Honduras. As with the rest of Latin America, foreign influence is ubiquitous, and should be held to account.

International financial institutions, including multilateral development banks, provide development aid and impose structural adjustment policies that advance the neoliberal agenda. Governments provide aid to military and police who have supported the economic and political status quo and have been complicit in the repression. Counter-narcotics efforts are increasingly militarised, and private foreign investors demand obscenely favourable conditions and returns, irrespective of the human costs.

Hondurans deserve a brighter future, free from unfettered repression, intractable corruption, stark inequality and pervasive poverty. The international community must stand in solidarity with the Honduran popular movement and its courageous leaders and demand that the country’s future be determined by the free, democratic and fair election of a government that advances the interests and rights of all Hondurans, not just its economic and political elites.

Lauren Carasik is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic and the Legal Services Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.

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!


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!

Obama and the Militarization of the “Drug War” in Mexico and Central America May 10, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Costa Rica, Criminal Justice, Drugs, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America, Mexico.
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Honduran soldiers exercised at Forward Operating Base Mocoron, one of three military outposts the United States is building in Honduras to help take the fight in Central America’s vicious drug war into remote, ungoverned areas that have been safe havens for narcotics traffickers. (Photo: Tomas Munita for The New York Times)

During his trip last week to Mexico and Costa Rica, President Obama sought to down play the U.S.’s security agenda in the region, emphasizing trade relations, energy cooperation and other more benign themes.  In a May 3rd joint press conference with his Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla, Obama stated that it was necessary “to recognize that problems like narco-trafficking arise in part when a country is vulnerable because of poverty, because of institutions that are not working for the people, because young people don’t see a brighter future ahead.”  Asked by a journalist about the potential use of U.S. warships to counter drug-trafficking, Obama said “I’m not interested in militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking.”

Human rights organizations from North America and Central America have a very different impression of the administration’s regional security policy.  In a letter sent to Obama and the other region’s presidents on April 30th, over 145 civil society organizations [PDF] from the U.S., Mexico and the countries of Central America called out U.S. policies that “promote militarization to address organized crime.”   These policies, the letter states, have only resulted in a “dramatic surge in violent crime, often reportedly perpetrated by security forces themselves.”  The letter presents a scathing indictment of the U.S.-backed so-called “war on drugs” throughout the region:

Human rights abuses against our families and communities are, in many cases, directly attributable to failed and counterproductive security policies that have militarized our societies in the name of the “war on drugs.”  The deployment of our countries’ armed forces  to combat organized crime and drug-trafficking, and the increasing militarization of police units, endanger already weak civilian institutions and leads to increased human rights violations.

In Mexico, the letter says, “drug-related violence and the militarized response has killed an estimated 80,000 men, women, and children in the past six years. More than 26,000 have been disappeared, and countless numbers have been wounded and traumatized.”  The letter also discusses the situation in Guatemala, where violence is “reaching levels only seen during the internal armed conflict” and “controversial ‘security’ policies have placed the military back onto the streets.  And, in Honduras:

Since the coup d’état that forced the elected president into exile in 2009, the rule of law has disintegrated while violence and impunity have soared. We are witnessing a resurgence of death squad tactics with targeted killings of land rights advocates, journalists, LGBT activists, lawyers, women’s rights advocates, political activists and the Garifuna’s community. Both military and police are allegedly involved in abuses and killings but are almost never brought to justice.

Though Obama claims that he has sought to avoid “militarizing the struggle against drug trafficking”, the opposite trend has been observed throughout his administration.  As the “Just the Facts” database of U.S. military spending in the Western Hemisphere shows, military assistance to Central American countries has significantly increased under Obama, from $51.8 million in 2009, to $76.5 million in 2013 and an anticipated $90 million in 2014.

The U.S. sale of arms and military equipment to the region has also soared.  According to a recent Associated Press investigation by Martha Mendoza , “the U.S. authorized the sale of a record $2.8 billion worth of guns, satellites, radar equipment and tear gas to Western Hemisphere nations in 2011, four times the authorized sales 10 years ago, according to the latest State Department reports.”

The presence of the U.S military in the region, and the U.S. promotion of military tactics in law enforcement, has also increased under Obama.  A New York Times investigative report from May 5, 2012 described how the U.S. military had recently established forward operating bases in the remote Moskitia region of Honduras and was providing support to drug interdiction efforts.  A heavily armed DEA Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) previously deployed in Afghanistan was conducting operations with a U.S.-trained and vetted Honduran Tactical Response Team.  Six days after the article was published, FAST and TRT killed four indigenous Miskitu villagers during an early morning operation.  As we showed in a report published last month jointly with Rights Action, the victims’ families continue to wait for some form of justice and compensation for the killings.

Alexander Main

Alexander Main is Senior Associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

US Special Operations Command Trained Military Unit Accused of Death Squad Killings in Honduras March 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Photo: democracyinaction.org

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OpEdNews Op Eds 3/1/2013 at 20:13:41

This article is based entirely on the report “Human Rights Violations Attributed to Military Forces in the Bajo Aguan Valley in Honduras” published on February 20, 2013. To see the full report with citations:


Since January 2010, there has been a constant stream of killings of members of land rights, campesino movements in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras. At least 88 campesino movement members and supporters have been killed, along with five bystanders apparently mistaken for campesinos. Most recently, on Feb. 16 two campesinos were killed–Santos Jacobo Cartagena was gunned down while waiting for a bus, and Jose Trejo, an outspoken advocate for the investigation of his brother’s Sept. 22, 2012 murder, was shot while driving.

While the 2010 and 2011 State Department human rights reports described deaths of campesinos in the Aguan as the result of “confrontations” between palm oil corporation’s security forces and campesino farmers who claim the land was stolen by the agri-businessmen, only six of the killings have occurred on disputed land during land occupations or evictions. In contrast, 78 were targeted assassinations, 8 of those preceded by abductions, their tortured bodies found later; another 3 victims remain disappeared.  Fifty-three people were shot while driving, riding their bicycles or walking along public roads. Another 13 were assassinated in their homes or while working on farms not in dispute.

All of this points to one explanation: a death squad is operating in the Aguan.  This is not news to anyone who lives there, where it is considered common knowledge and it is widely understood that police and military participate in the killings.  Dozens of acts of violence and intimidation have been carried out by the Honduran military against campesino communities over the same time period and geographical area where the death-squad killings have targeted campesinos, lending greater credibility to the charge.

While masked gunmen have been killing campesinos, the Honduran military’s 15th Battalion special forces unit and units or joint taskforces associated with it, have been receiving training from the U.S. armed forces Special Operations Command South, SOCSOUTH, which is also funding construction on the 15th Battalion’s base in Rio Claro, Trujillo.

Local residents and national press have reported the presence of U.S. Army Rangers in the area since at least 2008, and public records of the U.S. government confirm their presence. In 2008, SOCSOUTH conducted two trainings with 135 soldiers each, all from the 1st Special Forces Battalion. The Honduran press has reported that the 1st Battalion and 15th Battalion, both special-forces units, operate as one command, sharing the installations in the Rio Claro military base for training. SOCSOUTH and the U.S.Southern Command, SOUTHCOM, have also funded improvements and expansion of the Rio Claro base since September 2011.

One disturbing observation that resulted from our investigation is that conditions surrounding many of the killings involved techniques included in U.S. training.  According to Honduran press, U.S. special forces train the Honduran Special Operations Forces of the 1st and 15th Battalion in insertion, parachuting, explosives, long-distance sharpshooting, intelligence, advanced marksmanship, urban operations, close combat, martial arts and offensive driving. Dozens of campesinos have died after high-speed pursuit in vehicles, either after crashing or being shot, in incidents that can only be described as offensive driving.

Campesinos have reported surviving long-distance sharpshooting assassination attempts, and many have been killed from shots fired from a significant distance. One man was found dead from unexplained internal injuries while it was rumored that the unit was being trained in mortal hand-to-hand combat, raising suspicions. At least one man was killed in a stealth raid assisted by a helicopter, in which an armed group wearing black uniforms with masks quickly and surreptitiously entered a farm in the night, assassinated a campesino, and left–an operation known in military terms as “insertion”.

The improvements to the Rio Claro military base began just weeks after Xatruch II, a military–police joint task force, arrived in the Aguan. Honduras sent a Xatruch II unit to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, and at least two of the commanding officers of the Xatruch II deployment in the Aguan participated in Iraq. There is significant evidence that the Xatruch II operation in the Aguan is the same unit that served in Iraq.

From Iraq to Aguan

But Xatruch II is not all that is moving from the Middle East to the Aguan–so is the war on terrorism. The conflict in the Aguan is an 18 year-old land dispute. Campesinos explain that agri-businessmen used violence and fraud to illegally separate them from the palm oil plantations they had labored to create and equip. In 1998 they initiated lawsuits demanding annulment of the title transfers, but ever since they have struggled to maintain legal representation as their lawyers were threatened or bribed into abandoning the cases. On September 22, 2012 they lost the only lawyer who had stuck it out when he was shot to death outside a church. Just three months before, he had won the annulment of 3 of the 28 disputed title transfers.

Honduran military, even the commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Security, have consistently distorted the nature of the conflict, claiming there is a guerrilla group operating in the area, connected to drug traffickers. On Sept. 6, 2012, The Times of Israel ran a story citing only Israeli radio, claiming the Hezbollah had established a training camp in Nicaragua on the border with Honduras, a story that was then repeated in Latin American press. The Times of Israel then reported further on the story citing the Latin American press reports it had generated itself. The dangerous, unsubstantiated and opportunistic accusations of narco-terrorism levied against the campesino movement in the Aguan by the military fit neatly into the U.S. objective of expanding its military reach in the region.

Security forces in the Aguan explain that the mission of Xatruch II is to defend the land of the businessmen from the “criminal’ campesinos. However, broad evidence indicates that some of the businessmen in conflict with the campesinos are involved in drug trafficking in the region. Local residents have reported that the 15th Battalion and the Tocoa police have provided protection to the traffickers. The police define their mission as defending the property of Miguel Facusse, whose principal residence in the region was implicated in drug trafficking,according to a State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks.

The conflict in the Aguan is a longstanding land conflict, and it must be treated as such. The conflict can be resolved by duly addressing the land-rights claims. Militarization, supported by the U.S. government, will not resolve the underlying conflict and it clearly increases, rather than decreases, the bloodshed.

Only the courts can resolve the conflict, but the courts don’t function and have further collapsed since the June 2009 military coup.

There is a solution to the violence in the Aguan–the courts, not the military.

Crossposted at cipamericas.org

Annie Bird, a Central America & Latin America human rights activist. She is co-director for rightsaction.org & a writer for cipamericas.org’s Americas Program.


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