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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.

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

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Imperialism, Latin America, LGBT.
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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.

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martyrs
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

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.

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Exclusive Interview with Manuel Zelaya on the U.S. Role in Honduran Coup, WikiLeaks and Why He Was Ousted May 31, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Roger’s note: I have posted below only the DemocracyNow! interview with Maneul Zelaya.  For related stories on DemocracyNow! you can go to the following links:

Also, on the DemocracyNow! web site (www.democracynow.org) you will find a blog with Amy Goodman accompanying the Zelaya return flight, with fascinating photos and interviews.

DemocracyNow! May 31, 2011

Shortly after Manuel Zelaya returned to his home this weekend for the first time since the 2009 military coup d’état, he sat down with Democracy Now! for an exclusive interview. He talks about why he believes the United States was behind the coup, and what exactly happened on June 28, 2009, when hooded Honduran soldiers kidnapped him at gunpoint and put him on a plane to Costa Rica, stopping to refuel at Palmerola, the U.S. military base in Honduras. “This coup d’état was made by the right wing of the United States,” Zelaya says. “The U.S. State Department has always denied, and they continue to deny, any ties with the coup d’état. Nevertheless, all of the proof incriminates the U.S. government. And all of the actions that were taken by the de facto regime, or the golpista regime, which are those who carried out the coup, favor the industrial policies and the military policies and the financial policies of the United States in Honduras.”

 

AMY GOODMAN: Manuel Zelaya, the former president of Honduras, returned home on Saturday after 23 months in exile. At a news conference Sunday in his living room, Zelaya said the coup was the work of an international conspiracy that should be investigated. It was the first coup in Central America in a quarter of a century. The military kidnapped Zelaya from his home at gunpoint, put him on a plane to Costa Rica, stopping to refuel at Palmerola, the U.S. military base in Honduras—this after he tried to organize a non-binding referendum asking voters if they wanted to rewrite the constitution. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos brokered the agreement between ousted President Zelaya and the current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. It was called the Cartagena Accord, paving the way for Zelaya’s return.

Democracy Now! flew with President Zelaya from Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, to Honduras. On Sunday, we sat down with him at his home in Tegucigalpa. I asked President Zelaya to talk about what happened the day of the coup, June 28th, 2009.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] A president who was elected by the people was taken out of his home at gunpoint in the early, early morning wee hours in his pajamas and taken and abandoned in Costa Rica, in the airport of Costa Rica.

AMY GOODMAN: But first, can you tell me what exactly happened here? What time was it? What did you hear? How did you wake up?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] I arrived to my home at 3:30 in the morning. The next day, we were going to have a referendum, public referendum, throughout the whole nation. It was only an opinion poll, basically, and it was not legally binding—14,000 polls placed all over the country. And there was an international conspiracy in order to say that communism was entering into this country and that the Caracas plan was going to enter in to destroy the United States and that we are destroying the U.S. empire, if they would let that opinion poll take place. Many who were business leaders and others, high society folks, they fell into that trap. This coup d’état was made by the right wing of the United States.

Those early morning hours, in the wee hours of that morning, they started to pressure the honor guard. They came here at 5:15 in the morning. There were isolated shots that were fired in the neighborhood, some in this street over here and others in the back part of the house. You can see that this is a small house, middle class. It’s easy to assault this house. I was woken by the gunshots. I went downstairs in my pajamas to the first floor, on the patio on the outside. At that very moment, the gunshots were impacting on the door in the back. My first reaction was to hit the floor and to cover myself from the gunshots. That is the moment in which the military entered into the patio in the back.

They threatened me with their rifles, M-16 machine guns. They said that it was a military order. And they were shouting at me, and they were ordering me to give my cell phone, because I was talking on my phone. There were more than 10 military, who were hooded, who entered into the house, actually. But outside there were 200 to 300. The only thing you could see were their eyes. Everything else was covered. And they surrounded me. They threatened me, that they were going to shoot. And I said to them, “If you have orders to shoot, then shoot me. But know that you are shooting the president of the republic, and you are a subalternate, you are an underling.” And so, they did not shoot at me.

And so, they forced me to go to their vehicles outside with my pajamas on. We landed in the U.S. military base of Palmerola. There, they refueled. There were some movements that happened outside. I don’t know what conversations took place. About 15, 20 minutes, we waited there in the airport of Palmerola. And then to Costa Rica, and everything else is public after that.

AMY GOODMAN: Why were you brought to the U.S. military base? It is not that far to fly from Tegucigalpa airport to Costa Rica. Why would you be brought to the U.S. military base? And they must have had the U.S. military’s permission.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The U.S. State Department has always denied, and they continue to deny, any ties with the coup d’état. Nevertheless, all of the proof incriminates the U.S. government. And all of the actions that were taken by the de facto regime, or the golpista regime, which are those who carried out the coup, and it is to make favor of the industrial policies and the military policies and the financial policies of the United States in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: Was your daughter Pichu in the house?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] In my house, there were three people. The woman who cleans the house and who works here, and she has 10 years working with us, she is a woman of great trust. And she continues to work here. Her name is Suyapa. She was taken out, and they dragged her by pulling out her hair, because the military, after they captured me, they entered into each one of the rooms, and they broke into the rooms through using their rifle butts, looking for my wife and for my daughter. My daughter is very thin, and so she went underneath the bed. Suyapa, the cleaning lady, she’s a little overweight, and so she could not hide. So they grabbed her by her hair, and they took her away. Pichu, whose real name is Xiomara Hortensia, she hid under the bed, and they didn’t find her.

AMY GOODMAN: The M-16s, where were they made, that the hooded Honduran soldiers used?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] All of the arms that the Honduran military uses are U.S. weapons. And the high command of the military of Honduras is trained at the School of the Americas.

AMY GOODMAN: After the coup, did the U.S. stop the weapons flow to Honduras?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] This week, there were 85 members of Congress of the United States, they sent a letter to the State Department, Hillary Clinton, and this letter speaks to the necessity of controlling the support, and they speak of paralyzing, which is given to the armed forces of Honduras. And so, they point to the high rates of violations of human rights that take place in Honduras. In other words, after the coup d’état in this country, the U.S. has increased its military support to Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you support the call of the Congress members?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] All who defend human rights and who are against the armaments and war making, they have my support.

AMY GOODMAN: You say that the coup was a conspiracy. And you talked about the right wing in the United States. Explain exactly what you understand. Who fomented this coup against you?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The conspiracy began when I started to join what is ALBA, the Latin American nations with Bolivarian Alternative. So, a dirty war at the psychological level was carried out against me. Otto Reich started this. The ex-Under Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Robert Carmona, and the Arcadia Foundation, created by the CIA, they associated themselves with the right wing, with military groups, and they formed a conspiracy. They argued that I was a communist and that I was attacking the security of the hemisphere, because I’m a friend of Fidel, I’m a friend of Chávez, and I had declared my government as a government which is progressive.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, WikiLeaks released that trove of U.S. government cables, and in it was a cable from then-U.S. ambassador—the then-U.S. ambassador to Honduras to the State Department, saying that—I think it was titled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” and it was saying it was illegal, it was unconstitutional. It was written by U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Hugo Llorens cooperated in order to avoid the coup d’état. He knew everything that was happening in Honduras. And I am a witness to the effort that he made to stop the coup. But when he perceived that he could no longer stop it, then he withdrew. I don’t know if he had orders to withdraw, but he allowed everything to happen. He did help my family a great deal after the coup. And I am grateful to him now. He showed me that he is someone who believes in democracy and not in the coups d’état. But a great part of the Pentagon does not believe this, nor does the Southern Command.

AMY GOODMAN: What does the Southern Command have to do with this?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] The link that Ambassador Ford, who was the ambassador from the United States before Llorens, he said that I could not have a friendship with Hugo Chávez. He wanted me to give political [asylum] to Posada Carriles. He wanted to name who my ministers of my cabinet of my government should be. He wanted his recommendations to become ministers of my government.

AMY GOODMAN: Posada Carriles, he wanted him to be able to take refuge in Honduras, the man who was alleged to be the mastermind behind the Cubana bombing that killed scores of people?

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] After eight days of my becoming president of the country, the ambassador, Charles Ford, asked me if I could give political asylum to Posada Carriles in Honduras. And of course, I sent him to outside. He spoke to my foreign minister, my secretary of state, about that—the same ambassador who prohibited me from becoming a member of the ALBA. And this ambassador, who just left Honduras, who left the country with a political profile of myself, the ambassador, Ford, left this letter as a profile of the president, and when you read it, you can tell that it is the precursor of the coup itself. WikiLeaks published this document. They published the profile that Ambassador Ford made of me to give to Hugo Llorens, saying that the United States needs to make decisions about what it will do the following year in order to detain me, because I am tied to narcotrafficking and to terrorism and to many, many other things. So, he prepared the ambiance, situation. And he was transferred from the embassy to the Southern Command. And that is the tie. And if you ask today, where is this Ambassador Ford? He is in the Southern Command. And so, he left here in order to prepare the coup d’état.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the coup d’état took place under President Obama, not before.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] We’re talking about the United States, so it’s an empire. The United States is an empire, and so Obama is the president of the United States, but he is not the chief of the empire. Even though Obama would be against the coup, the process toward the coup was already moving forward. The most that they tell a president like President Obama, that there’s a political crisis going on. But they do not talk about the details that they were involved in in terms of the conspiracy.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama early on called it a coup. But then the administration seemed to back off, both he and Hillary Clinton.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] They gave themselves up before the coup itself. That is the proof, in fact, that the coup came from the north, from the U.S. So they are even able to bend the arm of the President of the United States, President Obama, and the State Department, and they impeded my restitution as president of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Ousted President Manuel Zelaya, sitting in his home in his living room in Tegucigalpa for the first time in 23 months, kidnapped at gunpoint by Honduran soldiers as his daughter Pichu hid under her bed upstairs. He was then flown to Palmerola, the U.S. military base in Honduras, supposedly to refuel, and then on to Costa Rica. It was the first military coup in Latin America in more than a quarter of a century.

We leave you today with Zelaya’s address to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Hondurans upon his arrival home on Saturday.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] Your presence here this afternoon shows the support of the international community, that the blood was not shed in vain, because we’re still standing, keeping our position valid. Peaceful resistance. Fellows, resistance is today the cry of victory, of the return to Honduras of all the rights and guarantees of the Honduran democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Tomorrow, in part two of our interview, President Zelaya will talk about his plans for the future. We’ll also speak with his wife, former First Lady of Honduras Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. We ask her if she plans to run for president next. Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Hany Massoud for his remarkable camera work and Andrés Tomas Conteris for translating, and to both for making this broadcast possible. Also thanks to Channel 11 in Tegucigalpa.

Triumphal return of Honduran ex-leader Zelaya May 28, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America.
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According to reports, he was greeted by enthusiastic thousands at the Tegucigalpa airport.  The single US journalist who accompanied his return was DemocracyNow!’s Amy Goodman.

Honduran former President Manuel Zelaya speaks before he boards his plane to return to Honduras at the international airport in Managua May 28, 2011. REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas<br/>

Supporters of Manuel Zelaya (C,R, with hat) surround him upon his arrival
(AFP, Rodrigo Arangua)

Manuel Zelaya speaks upon his arrival in Tegucigalpa (AFP, Rodrigo
Arangua)

A supporter holds a statue of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a crowd gathered to wait for his arrival in Tegucigalpa, Saturday May 28, 2011.  The return of the former president from exile Saturday brings Honduras’ nearly two-year political crisis to an end. Zelaya’s comeback will also pave the way for Honduras to re-enter the international community, which near-unanimously rejected the June 2009 military-backed coup that forced him from office. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

 

upporters wait for the arrival of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya at the airport in Tegucigalpa, Saturday May 28, 2011.  The return of the former president from exile Saturday brings Honduras’ nearly two-year political crisis to an end. Zelaya’s comeback will also pave the way for Honduras to re-enter the international community, which near-unanimously rejected the June 2009 military-backed coup that forced him from office. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

 

 

 

By Francisco Jara (AFP) – 3 hours
ago

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iO7ougk8kBWWafVmRKI4Bb86v3Rw?docId=CNG.86cef52d30e13b28b2d80598a38bfa1d.d21

TEGUCIGALPA — Former president Manuel Zelaya made a triumphal return to
Honduras Saturday as tens of thousands of people cheered and waved banners to
welcome him home nearly two years after his ouster from power in a coup.

Zelaya, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, landed in Tegucigalpa with
his wife and aides aboard a Venezuelan plane on a flight from Managua, and
immediately went to a nearby plaza to rally his supporters.

“We arrive full of optimism and hope to search for an exit to this crisis. At
one moment we had almost lost it all, but they never defeated us,” he told his
supporters.

Zelaya, 58, thanked his supporters and paid homage to those “who spilled
their blood in this plaza,” including an 18 year-old shot dead during a protest
a week after the coup.

“Their blood was not spilled in vain because we are here still engaged in the
struggle,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Several people fainted in the heat waiting for the former president, who was
several hours behind schedule.

The end of the former cattle rancher’s 16-month exile was part of a deal
brokered by several Latin American governments that will end Honduras diplomatic
isolation and give the government of President Porfirio Lobo access to foreign
investment and aid.

The ousted former president is returning to lead the National Popular
Resistance Front (FNRP), a movement formed after the June 2009 coup to challenge
a two party system that has dominated Honduran politics since the early 20th
century.

“He was the only president that remembered us, the poor,” said Maria Elisa
Ferrufino, a 75 year-old farmer who got up at dawn Friday to catch a bus to
Tegucigalpa for the rally.

Zelaya “helped the poor people — no president had done that before,” said
Arnulfo Mendez, 62, who traveled from a town 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of
the capital for the rally. “There is hope that with his leadership we can do
something with the Resistance Front.”

Zelaya’s return will allow Honduras to rejoin the Organization of American
States (OAS) and gain access to international aid, vital in a country where 70
percent of a population of nearly eight million live on four dollars or less a
day.

The deal included a promise that all legal action against Zelaya would be
dropped.

The ex-president arrived in the Nicaraguan capital on Friday from the
Dominican Republic, where he had spent most of his time in exile.

Lobo and Zelaya signed a reconciliation agreement in Colombia last week, and
the two will meet at the presidential palace along with the head of the OAS,
Jose Miguel Insulza, and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.

Zelaya was a conservative rancher when he was elected in January 2006, but
took a political turn to the left once in office.

He was ousted in a military coup sanctioned by the Honduran legislature and
the supreme court after calling for a referendum to rewrite the constitution.
His opponents feared he would use it to extend his term in office as his ally
Hugo Chavez had done in Venezuela.

Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras before the de facto regime could hold
elections, holing up at the Brazilian embassy surrounded by regime police in an
impasse that lasted four months.

Meanwhile, the interim regime that ousted Zelaya held elections and Lobo took
office in January 2010.

Despite his broad popular support Zelaya cannot run in the 2013 presidential
elections because the constitution limits presidents to a single term in office.
Supporters want his wife to run instead.

In an interview just before departing Managua broadcast on Telesur television
network, Zelaya said his return from exile was “the result of an effort of all
the countries of Latin America.”

“Today we begin the true reconciliation in Honduras,” Zelaya’s wife Xiomara
Castro said, adding that they were committed “to continue the struggle to
transform” the country.

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

<!–

–>

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

Zelaya Returns! May 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Human Rights, Latin America.
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Tomorrow, on Saturday, May 28, almost two years after having been ousted as
president in an SOA graduate-led military coup and flown out of the country in
his pajamas, Manuel Zelaya will return to Honduras.

SOA Watch has been
invited to join President Zelaya on his plane flight back into his home
country.
Father Roy Bourgeois and I will join other human rights advocates
and political leaders in accompanying Manuel Zelaya on his flight back to
Honduras. We are deeply humbled and grateful for the invitation to represent the
SOA Watch movement at this historic moment in this struggle for
justice.

The Honduran National Resistance Front against the Coup (FNRP)
is planning a massive mobilization to celebrate Manuel Zelaya’s return and will
meet our plane at the international airport of Toncontin in Tegucigalpa. After
the landing, we will converge on the Plaza Isy Obed Murillo, south of the
airport, where we will honor the martyrs who fell after the military coup.
Zelaya’s return was made possible after the governments of Venezuela and
Colombia brokered an agreement
between Porfirio Lobo, the head of the current regime in Honduras and President
Manuel Zelaya.

It is a privilege to accompany the people of Honduras in
this moment. Their brave commitment to return their nation to democracy has come
at a terribly high price: that of dozens of lives lost. The return of President
Zelaya is an enormous first step, but we are mindful that much remains to be
done to guarantee the protection of human rights for the people of Honduras. SOA
Watch supports the tireless work of Honduran human rights defenders such as
those of COFADEH, the Committee of Families of Detained and Disappeared of
Honduras.

We join in the joy of the people of Honduras and reaffirm our
commitment to continue to support and accompany
the Honduran social movements
in their struggle for justice.

Un
abrazo,

Lisa
Sullivan
Latin America Coordinator
SOA
Watch

On Presidents and Precedents: Implications of the Honduran Coup December 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Written by Joseph Shansky   
Thursday, 10 December 2009, www.upaidedownworld.org
Image

 

President Obama was elected partly because of his promise to a large Hispanic constituency to give both new attention and new respect to Latin America. Judging from the US role in the military coup in Honduras, he must think that one of the two is enough.

A REGIONAL DIVIDE

Throughout the coup, Zelaya had overwhelming verbal support from the majority of his counterparts in the region.

Upon his bold return to Honduras in late September, Brazil’s President Lula opened the doors of his Tegucigalpa embassy to shelter the president, journalists, and supporters as his “guests”. That was the moment that things might have turned around for those fighting for his restoration. The populace had grown weary of struggling since late June demanding Zelaya’s reinstatement and protesting peacefully against the violations of so many basic rights. Zelaya’s homecoming was a move which energized them once again. But thanks to endless delay tactics on the part of US officials, his position in the embassy soon grew to resemble less that of a president than a prisoner.

Additionally, the US position may have drawn a line in the sand among other Latin American governments.

Over the past 5 months, of all Latin American countries, only Columbia, Peru and Panama (all strong US allies and economic dependents) rejected Zelaya’s status as the rightful leader of Honduras. But since the elections, others seem to be falling into line behind the US. El Salvador’s newly-elected FMLN President Funes agreed with the US line, stating that the elections will “end the crisis and lead to a unity government, the restoration of constitutional order and reconciliation in the brother country”. Now even Brazil appears to be adjusting its stance.

“There is a new situation,” Brazil’s Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff said recently. “There was an election. That process will be taken into account. We cannot turn a blind eye to the coup, but we can also not turn a blind eye to the election.”

At a Special Meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) on December 4, conflicting views were clear. US Ambassador Carmen Lomellin confirmed the US position to recognize the election results regardless: “The TSE and the Honduran people conducted remarkably free, fair and transparent elections.”

Costa Rican Ambassador Jose Enrique Castillo Barientes concurred: “Any position against the elections means crushing the solution.”

However, Bolivian Ambassador Jose Pinelo vehemently disagreed: “Under no circumstances will my government accept this objective. Recognizing a government formed like this means recognizing coup plotters.”

ELECTION DAY- VIOLENCE AND ABSTENTION

The Nov. 29 election passed with predictable results. For most Hondurans, Election Day in Honduras was never seen as a turning point. Rather, it followed a familiar rhetoric that democracy can be always gained, or restored, in the ballot box. That this simple action could clean up the violent elimination of democratic order is a profound lie.

On the contrary, it provided opportunity for an escalation of abuse under the guise of protection. This is nothing new for Honduran citizens. Armed forces dispersed throughout the country to ensure a climate of fear and intimidation leading up to and especially on Election Day. As of  Nov. 29, not only were national independent media banned from the airwaves, but as Laura Carlsen, the director of the Americas Program, recently reported, even international journalists became subject to vicious harassment and threatening to the point of fearing for their lives.

Most of the violence was kept out outside of the capital on election day, but the repression was intense in smaller towns and especially in the second largest city, San Pedro Sula. Micheletti’s claim that an additional 30,000 armed forces for this particular week was for the citizens’ “protection” is absurd. Reports of all kinds of abuses by police and military poured in from human rights delegations and journalists stationed all around Honduras that day. A Real News video clearly shows police officers deliberately smashing windows of cars, beating protesters with batons in the street, and hitting journalists who dared to do their job. Again, these tactics were for the most part not unique to that day. They were consistent with the regime’s behavior throughout the coup and represented the usual degree of violence against its own citizens.

Amnesty International has now called for an independent investigation into all human rights violations since the coup, including “killings following excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests of demonstrators by police and military, indiscriminate and unnecessary use of tear gas, ill treatment of detainees in custody, violence against women, and harassment of activists, journalists, lawyers and judges.”

Lobo has announced that he wants political amnesty for all parties involved in the coup, effectively requesting that all of the above violations, still unacknowledged, now also go unpunished by their perpetrators. If this was to happen, it would represent the final elimination of almost all legal processes in Honduras since Zelaya’s ousting.

While the coup government claims to have seen the highest electoral turnout in Honduran history, the National Front against the Coup (or Frente) claims the lowest. They cite an enormous victory in their much-promoted nonparticipation, claiming that 65-70 percent stayed away from the polls.

On the other hand, the coup government claimed a 62 percent turnout. However, a new investigation by Jesse Freeston of the Real News has revealed that this figure, which was distributed and repeated by almost every major media outlet in the world, appears to have been an arbitrary creation by one of the heads of the Supreme Tribunal Electoral (TSE). According to TSE’s own numbers, in reality less than half of the country voted that day.

Both the regime and the Resistance know the importance of keeping their supporters energized beyond the elections. Some of the international community (led by CNN headlines that evening boasting “high turnout” and saying the day was “calm and without incident”) are inclined to accept the idea that the elections are a healthy step forward. To believe that they are a clean break from the recent troubles is a convenient but dangerous assertion.

A NEW PRECEDENT

By most accounts, the coup was a surprising success for its leaders and backers. It now sets an alarming example that military coups can be sustained with backing of the world’s leading power. But many Latin American leaders are warning of a dangerous model.

“What is at stake is whether we validate or not a new methodology of coups d’etat,” said Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana at the recent Ibero-American Summit. His Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, agreed: “To recognize the spurious government emerging from these illegitimate elections will betray principles of peace, democracy and justice.”

Fidel Castro wrote in a recent editorial: “I hold the view that before Obama completes his term, there will be from six to eight right-wing governments in Latin America that will be allies of the empire.”

It’s not an outrageous prediction. Threatening signs are appearing all over the region. In Columbia, the United States just signed an agreement to expand its military presence by building new bases, igniting a feud between the US ally and Venezuela. In Paraguay, coup rumors were stirred when leftist president Fernando Lugo fired top military officials last month. In Guatemala, Obama’s fellow Nobel Peace laureate, indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchu, warned of plans amongst the Bolivian oligarchy against President Evo Morales.

However, on the same day of the fraudulent Honduran elections, Uruguayans selected José Mujica, a leftist and former guerilla, as president. And in Bolivia, Evo Morales just won another term in a landslide victory. The tide has not yet turned.

Most disturbing is that even amongst US officials there is now no dispute that what happened in Honduras was a military coup d’état. When I met with US Ambassador Hugo Llorens in Tegucigalpa in August, he was able to reluctantly confirm this when pressed. In his first State Department briefing on the day after the elections, Arturo Valenzuela, the new Assistant Secretary for the US Bureau of Hemispheric Affairs, described what took place as a “military coup” twice, marking the first time US officials have officially admitted this.


THE CONSTITUYENTE AND THE FUTURE

Those who’ve been fighting against the regime and against the elections have done so primarily for the return of legal order to Honduras. The Honduran Resistance, which formed in response to Zelaya’s expulsion, became a social movement no one could have predicted. In many ways, the level of repression by the regime throughout the coup was a direct response to the surprising force of the Resistance movement. It is also a testament to the movement’s strength.

While some right-wing forces are doubtlessly watching to see how far Micheletti and his cohorts can get, others are taking notes from the Resistance in preparation for what comes next. The demands of the people are not limited to the restitution of President Zelaya. They want to ensure all Hondurans that the systemic injustices they’ve lived under for so long will be one day turned around. Their ultimate goal is a new Constitution for Honduras.

The project they seek to implement is a large one, and is designed to follow a successful model already in place in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. It will not be easy. The constituyente (constituent assembly) is an effort to rewrite the outdated Honduran constitution with new cultural, economic, and social reforms. After Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proved it was possible to gain mass support for the idea in 1999, Bolivia adopted a new constitution in 2007. The following year, the people of Ecuador approved a draft constitution which guaranteed among other radical ideas, “free education through university and social security benefits for stay-at-home mothers” and “inalienable rights to nature”.

Likewise, Manuel Zelaya proposed reforms for Honduras which focused on land re-distribution, an increase in the minimum wage, and new rights for women and the poor. It was partly because these ideas were so popular with economically-disadvantaged Hondurans that he was overthrown. But his supporters are moving on with an eye to the future.

Now Resistance leaders have called for the people of Honduras to “close that chapter” of their struggle. They are turning their focus to the constituyente and to the 2013 elections.

It’s uncertain what form their action will take. But they are still riding the momentum of their struggle. Emboldened by almost unanimous international support, Hondurans are now re-awakened to just how fragile a democracy can be.

For those who closely followed the coup and its aftermath, a tiny fear sat in the back of our minds. Eventually it was confirmed. As the State Department position shifted from condemning to condoning the illegal government, the outline of a bigger picture became clear. If this violent takeover were really to be approved by the US, it would mark a frightening new focus on the region.

In late June, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and forced out of the country. For the next five months, an illegitimate government, headed by Congressional leader Roberto Micheletti, suppressed the outrage of many Honduran citizens against this regime through a number of violent means including murder, torture, and detention of citizens.

Throughout this time, the US response to these allegations was silence.

Even though it was impossible for a free or fair election to take place under these circumstances, the US endorsed what is internationally recognized as a fraud. After months of stumbling through embarrassing press conferences dominated by contradictory statements, doublespeak, and back-pedaling, the US appeared firmly committed to helping overthrow democratic order by blessing the Honduran elections as the way out. It has deliberately chosen sides in the battle between the popular struggle for social justice in Latin America and the assured continuation of its own economic interests with the election of coup-supporting conservatives like Porfirio Lobo.

Honduran Coup Regime Erects Superficial Reality Around Elections December 11, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Written by Belén Fernández   
Thursday, 10 December 2009www.upsidedownworld.org

 

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Porfirio Lobo

A few days prior to the November 29 elections in Honduras, Francisco Varela—the homeless man regularly stationed outside the drive-through of one of the ubiquitous Espresso Americano establishments in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa—acquired a campaign T-shirt for National Party presidential candidate and soon-to-be victor Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo. The shirt boasted a slogan associating Lobo with immediate change; prospects for such things in Honduras were however called into doubt by the fact that the recent attempt by Honduran President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya to hold a nonbinding public opinion survey in order to gauge popular desire to rewrite the Constitution had been met with a coup d’état.

 

 Presumably in order to avoid having to discuss why popular consultations could not be reconciled with the interests of the Honduran elite, the golpista regime transformed the survey issue into a bid by Zelaya to install himself as eternal president of Honduras in violation of Constitutional articles prohibiting leaders from serving more than one 4-year term. These articles had appeared less important in 1985 when current coup president Roberto Micheletti, then a member of Congress, attempted to prolong the presidency of Roberto Suazo Córdova; other neglected articles included Article 102 prohibiting the expatriation of any Honduran—which did not prevent the armed forces from depositing the elected Honduran president in Costa Rica on the morning of June 28—and Article 2 establishing the Honduran people as the true rulers of Honduras, an honor which still did not enable public opinion surveys.

Additional holes in golpista rhetoric consisted of Zelaya’s ineligibility to run in the November 29 elections whether or not the public opinion survey had been carried out and my failure over the past 4 months to encounter a single member of the Honduran anti-coup Resistance who has been more concerned with the fate of Zelaya than with the fate of the constituyente (National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution).

Outside the Espresso Americano drive-through, Varela insisted that Lobo would bring about change by eliminating gang culture in Honduras—either via the death penalty or by imprisoning gang members for a sufficient number of decades so that they were unable to reproduce, he said—but did not explain how such agendas were more beneficial to his person than, for example, the acquisition of shoes. Subsequent evidence of efforts by political elites to graft their own concerns onto the citizenry surfaced at the December 2 session of Congress, convened to reject the restitution of Zelaya, during which a prohibition of the terms “the Honduran people,” “the poor,” “democracy,” “god,” and “Hugo Chávez” would have reduced golpista discourse to a bare minimum.

Professed Congressional concern for a “reconciliation of the Honduran family” did not meanwhile appear to take into account potential obstacles to familial reconciliation processes based on elections in which the majority of the family had abstained from voting. As for repeated proclamations by pro-coup Congress members that “this country does not belong to Chávez,” this was seconded by anti-coup Congressman César Ham of the Democratic Unification party, who wagered that 10 percent of the Honduran population controlled 90 percent of the wealth.

The alleged expansionism of Venezuelan socialism was invoked by Lobo supporter Oscar Izaguirre on election morning in Colonia Estados Unidos, a district by the name of The United States on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, which was characterized by mangled dirt roads and limited infrastructure. Izaguirre went beyond typical golpista warnings of the dangers posed by the Chávez-backed Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA)—an initiative guaranteeing more affordable fuel and medicines, among other items, for Honduran citizens—and reminded me of the necessity of intervention in Vietnam by his colonia’s namesake. The decreased necessity of the US in present times was, however, implied by Honduran Army Commander Miguel Angel García’s announcement in August that the Honduran armed forces had prevented the arrival of socialism to “the heart of the United States,” and Izaguirre’s announcement that he wished to rename his colonia as punishment for current “US intervention in Honduran affairs”—the golpista codename for the post-coup US policy of nominally admonishing the Honduran coup regime while nonetheless permitting its consolidation of power.

Izaguirre’s abrupt transition from his analysis of Vietnam to an analysis of the “war between the Tutsis and the other negros” was not accompanied by an analysis of the transition itself, and it was not clear whether he was proposing that Chávez intended to ignite a civil war in Honduras or that the name of the colonia be changed to “Rwanda” in order to discourage US interference. Also not clear was why prominent golpistas had not classified US use of Honduras as a launch pad for the contra war against Nicaragua in the 1980s as “intervention”; Izaguirre meanwhile progressed to an analysis of internal Honduran meddling, and declared that the Liberal Party—traditional rival of the National Party—”has screwed us and wants to continue screwing us,” despite the fact that the two parties were largely indistinguishable in substance.

According to a handful of Nacionalistas that gathered outside the school where voting was taking place, the Liberales employed at the polling station were deliberately altering the voting table numbers assigned to opposing party members. An election observer belonging to the Liberal Party assured me that “this sort of thing happens in all countries of the world” and asked if I worked for The Miami Herald, although he failed to specify whether this was an example of other places in the world where manipulation of data regularly occurred.

As for complications in the transmission of electoral results that evening, the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced a technical failure somewhere in the midst of the 20,000 cellular phones that had been purchased for nearly half a million dollars such that electoral tables across Honduras could phone their results in to the TSE’s main computing center. How the TSE had determined that oral reporting of election results was pragmatic in a country in which the phrase “cell phone reception” bordered on oxymoronic was never established, nor was how the TSE had calculated a voter participation rate of over 60 percent despite the technical failure and despite calculations of 30-35 percent participation by organizations that had not reported such failure.

US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens had appeared in a November 29 La Tribuna article suggesting that Hondurans who did not want to vote should be respected anyway and that, although the present elections were characterized by “a lot of legitimacy,” the US would wait to issue a final judgment on whether or not they would be recognized. The wait did not prevent US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela from congratulating Lobo on his victory; Llorens was meanwhile categorized on Honduran Radio America as the “sometimes controversial” figure who had nonetheless been the recipient of applause at the Tegucigalpa voting center where he had accompanied a member of his security team to vote.

Other examples of inverse security relationships consisted of the fact that the Honduran military and police had been tasked with keeping the peace on election day, which they did by repressing a peaceful Resistance march in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. Violence was however averted in the city of El Progreso, home of coup president Roberto Micheletti, despite a November 25 article in La Prensa containing a subsection entitled “They want to kill him,” in which Micheletti claimed that the police had revealed a plot to assassinate him when he went to vote. Proof of the plot consisted of the reported discovery in El Progreso of an arsenal of items such as assault rifle bullets; according to La Prensa, “Micheletti also spoke of night-vision equipment,” the utility of which was questionable based on the fact that voting only took place in daylight hours.

The coup president’s worries thus appeared to have multiplied since August—when he had assured La Prensa that no coup-related regrets were keeping him up at night—and now in addition to being the potential target of night-vision goggles he had also recently been to the mall to view the film 2012, which he admitted to the golpista television program Frente a Frente had scared him. Micheletti expressed his hopes that reality did not follow the movie script, failing to recognize that an apocalyptic scenario would resolve once and for all the problem of presidents allegedly wishing to remain in power indefinitely; he meanwhile demonstrated his own lack of such aspirations by taking a vacation from the presidency for a week around election time—which did not alter the fact that he had decreed in September that only an invasion by the US might succeed in removing him from power.

Micheletti had thus far refrained from proposing a name change for Colonia Estados Unidos or Colonia Kennedy, a main district of the capital which I visited on the afternoon of election day. Seated on a bench across the way from the voting center at the John F. Kennedy School was a small group of middle-aged Resistance members, who had begun to chant “Dignity, dignity” after being challenged by onlookers disapproving of their comments to an Univisión television camera regarding the illegitimacy of elections. The exchange resulted in two pickup trucks full of police being called in to monitor the Resistance members, who resumed sitting on the bench.

The Honduran coup regime, which has focused on presenting elections as a panacea for political, social, and economic injustice in the country, has been aided in its construction of a superficial reality by a number of factors. These range from the onset of the Christmas season to US willingness to support a “Honduran solution to the Honduran problem”—which happens to coincide with US interests in the region—to Honduran media obsequiousness, not least observable in tunes lauding the Honduran electoral process played on national radio and accompanied by such thoughtful commentary by radio personalities as: “What a nice song.”

The untenable nature of such a reality was recently summed up by Resistance member Jeremías López, a primary school teacher in the Honduran department of Olancho, who credited the coup with having provided the impetus for an unprecedented level of spontaneous and large-scale social organization in the country. The fact that slogans like “NO TO ELECTIONS” still abounded on the façades of voting centers on election day suggests that a regime that is not capable of erasing graffiti will be even less adept at erasing a collective experience of resistance.

Belen Fernandez has been reporting from Honduras since July. Her book Coffee with Hezbollah, a political travelogue based on a hitchhiking trip through Lebanon conducted in the aftermath of the 2006 war, is due for publication shortly. She can be reached at belengarciabernal@gmail.com.

Image
Porfirio Lobo

A few days prior to the November 29 elections in Honduras, Francisco Varela—the homeless man regularly stationed outside the drive-through of one of the ubiquitous Espresso Americano establishments in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa—acquired a campaign T-shirt for National Party presidential candidate and soon-to-be victor Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo. The shirt boasted a slogan associating Lobo with immediate change; prospects for such things in Honduras were however called into doubt by the fact that the recent attempt by Honduran President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya to hold a nonbinding public opinion survey in order to gauge popular desire to rewrite the Constitution had been met with a coup d’état.

Honduran Elections a Parody of Democracy December 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by Foreign Policy in Focusby Laura Carlsen

The production Honduran Elections, staged at a small, rundown theater in Central America on November 29, left the audience unconvinced, and failed to resolve a confused and conflict-ridden plotline.

Written and directed by the Honduran elite and the Honduran armed forces, with the help of the U.S. State Department, the play opens on the empty streets of Tegucigalpa in what is announced as the most participatory elections in the history of the nation.

This is just the first of the inexplicable contradictions between the narrative and reality that run through the play.

Honduran Elections tells the story of a poor nation rocked by a military coup d’état and occupied by its own armed forces. The contrived plot then attempts to convince the audience that the same forces that carried out the coup —kidnapping the elected president and launching a wave of bloody repression — are now carrying out “free and fair elections” to restore democracy. The play follows these characters throughout election day, in a series of charades that leaves the viewer with the unsavory sensation of having been played as a pawn in a theater of the absurd.

For example, during the entire multi-million-dollar production, the elected president of this nation remains offstage. It is never explained in the play why this key figure was not given a role. The audience is expected to accept the fact that his absence is insignificant to the plot. Since the supposed message of the drama is that democracy has been restored to a country held under an illegitimate regime, the missing president makes no dramatic sense.

The major characters in the drama are a large group of miscast national and international observers, who remember their lines but frequently fall out of their roles as impartial observers; a mostly invisible Supreme Electoral Tribunal that issues undecipherable and contradictory statistics; and candidates who attempt to lend credibility to the plot but are so self-serving and devoted to the anti-democratic forces that their actions mock the very cause they claim to support.

This reviewer can only hope that the disastrous Honduran Elections will never be produced on another stage again. The writers, directors, and actors of the debacle have insulted the intelligence of viewers throughout the world and degraded the noble theme of democracy that purports to lie at the center of this deceptive drama.

Witness to a Sham

The mock theater review above is how it felt to witness the Honduran elections from my seat in Tegucigalpa last week. I arrived on November 27 to monitor human rights violations, and observe the context and accompanying conditions of an electoral process that could under no circumstances be validated, due to the fatal flaws in its origin.

The news is not that Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the National Party beat Elwin Santos of the Liberal Party. Since the military ousted the elected president Manuel Zelaya on June 28, the bipartisan system gave way to a far deeper duality — for and against the coup d’etat. Both Lobo and Santos favored the military takeover of the Honduran democracy and supported the illegal regime of Roberto Micheletti. Both sought to gain power by laundering the coup through these elections and to lock in a transition that guaranteed the continued power of the Honduran economic elite.

In fact, the November 29 national elections for president and congress shouldn’t have taken place. The voting was organized and overseen by an illegal coup regime. This regime officially suspended basic civil liberties, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. It closed down independent media, or repeatedly blocked transmissions.

In Honduras, normal electoral activities were redefined as criminal behavior, including holding rallies and proclaiming the right to abstain. Reports of coercion in factories and among public employees came in from individuals who suffered the threats firsthand. The army enforced the dictatorial decrees in the street.

Some 100 registered candidates, ranging from presidential candidates to local mayors, withdrew from the elections in protest of the continued coup and the internal exile of the elected president. The popular resistance called a boycott and a “popular curfew,” urging people to stay at home on election day. This was in part to avoid confrontations with the over 30,000 security forces called out to “protect order,” in a nation where these same forces are responsible for massive human rights violations and scores of murders of members of the resistance.

The Honduran elections should never have taken place because Honduras, under the coup regime, failed to meet the basic criteria of “free and fair elections” set out in documents like the one issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Council in 1994. The Honduran state didn’t even come close to meeting the basic criteria of free elections by assuring freedom of movement, assembly, association, and expression. The security forces responsible for human rights violations before, during, and after voting have been granted complete immunity from justice. In San Pedro Sula, the police violently repressed a nonviolent march supporting the boycott, beating and arresting various people.

From Polls to Percentage Points

But the elections did take place. On November 29, some Hondurans, particularly in the wealthiest neighborhoods, came out to vote while most of the poor stayed home. Those of us who drove from poll to poll to check for participation, militarization, and incidents confirm this phenomenon.

Concerned that the eyewitness accounts of sparse participation could undermine the U.S. message of “mission accomplished” in Honduras, Ambassador Hugo Llorens appeared at the polls to make the pre-emptive declaration that the “elections are a technical issue and the statistical results will tell the real story.” We were all told not to believe our own eyes, as all eyes then turned to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

On the night of November 29, the Electoral Tribunal (TSE by its Spanish initials) triumphantly announced that 61% of registered voters had turned out to vote. This was a bald-faced lie. Their own statistics showed that only 49.2% of Hondurans had voted — a considerable decrease from past elections. Real News reports that an elections official, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of his life, claimed that Saul Escobar, the head of the Tribunal, invented the statistic.

The elections observation organization, Hagamos Democracia (Let`s Make Democracy) contracted by the TSE to deliver early results, reported a 47.6% turnout. In an exclusive interview with journalist Dick Emanuelsson, Rolando Bu of Hagamos Democracia attempted to explain the discrepancy, “We are working on the basis of the voter registration list we received of 4.6 million. I haven’t spoken with the magistrates (of the Tribunal) yet, but it is likely that they are subtracting aspects such as migration and deaths.” Needless to say, it is not acceptable practice to alter the voter registration list during the counting process.

Hagamos Democracia is financed by the National Democratic Institute, an arm of the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy. The NDI issued an elections report, sidestepping the critical issue of turnout and noting only that a discrepancy existed. It stated that it could not send a formal observation mission because there was no pre-electoral observation, which is a critical part of the process. Yet the NDI’s 22 members wore “elections observers” vests during their work.

The NDI report also noted the compromised impartiality of many of the international observers. “Regrettably, the TSE offered funding for transportation, lodging, and meals, and a number of observers accepted this offer. The Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation states that international election observers “should not accept funding or logistical support from the government whose elections are being observed, as it may raise a significant conflict of interest.”

This conflict of interest soon became painfully obvious. Interviewed on international television about the elections, I noted that the elections would not solve the political crisis in Honduras due to the lack of legitimacy of coup-run elections and the climate of violation of human rights, and because many nations would not recognize the results. A crowd of “observers” gathered around the interview in the hall in front of the Electoral Tribunal and verbally attacked me, shouting “liar” and ordering that I be thrown out of the country. I tried to engage in debate but the attacks continued and, fearing for my safety, I was escorted out of the area by a Tribunal security guard.

The Crisis Deepens

The United States played out the script written since mid-October. The newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela immediately called the elections “a significant step in Honduras’s return to the democratic and constitutional order after the 28 June coup.” He went on to emphasize that it was just a first step, and that the nation must establish a government of national unity within the framework of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

But on December 2, the Honduran congress closed the circle on the consolidation of a military takeover in the country by voting against the reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya. “We’re disappointed by this decision since the United States had hoped the Congress would have approved his return,” Valenzuela said in a statement. “And our policy since June 28 has been consistently principled, and we’ve condemned the coup d’état and have continued to accept President Zelaya as the democratically elected and legitimate leader of Honduras throughout this political crisis. However, the decision taken by Congress, which it carried out in an open and transparent manner, was in accordance with its mandate in Article 5 of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Both President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti agreed to this accord on October 30th.”

The loophole in the Tegucigalpa Accord that allowed the coup-controlled congress to first delay the vote until after the elections and then vote against reinstating the president allowed for the violation of the main point of the San Jose Accords, mediated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. The U.S government played a major role in inserting this loophole. State Department official Thomas Shannon negotiated with Republican Senator Jim DeMint over recognition of the elections without reinstatement of Zelaya in return for Senate confirmations of Valenzuela and Shannon’s own confirmation as ambassador to Brazil.

Now the State Department has launched a concerted campaign, along with the coup regime, to get foreign nations to recognize the Honduran elections. Regional countries that have or hope for free trade agreements with the U.S. have agreed to play along. So far the countries that have announced they will recognize the elections include Panama, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica.

Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and several European countries have announced they will not recognize the elections. President Lula da Silva reiterated Brazil’s position from the Summit of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal, stating that his government would not recognize the Honduran elections or enter into dialogue with Pepe Lobo. “It’s not possible to recognize a coup supporter. Period,” he said in reference to Lobo. Lula added, “This is a matter of common sense, a question of principles, we cannot make agreements with the forces of political vandalism in Latin America.”

International media such as CNN, along with the State Department and the Honduran coup leaders, are heading up the charge to call the elections “clean and fair”, as The New York Times put it, and use the false voter turn-out rate as the sole indicator of the election’s legitimacy. Some allies appear to be weakening their stance against recognition.

Opposition Regroups

President Zelaya, who remains holed up in the heavily barricaded Brazilian embassy, told the BBC that the elections were fraudulent and would only intensify the crisis. The National Front Against the Coup has decided to cease the daily demonstrations in the street and move on to building a broad movement for a constitutional assembly. Juan Barahona, a leader of the Front, announced that the focus on reinstating Zelaya has ended. Zelaya has announced that he would not return to government until the end of his term on January 27 because it would be validating a coup-managed transfer of power.

Human rights groups have stated that the violations committed under the coup will not be forgotten. Honduras suffered a wave of human rights violations including assassinations, rapes, beatings and arbitrary detentions of resistance members. An Amnesty International delegation, after 10 days in the country, noted in a press statement that the “crisis in Honduras does not end with the election results, the authorities cannot return to business as usual without ensuring human rights safeguards…There are dozens of people in Honduras still suffering the effects of the abuses carried out in the past five months. Failure to punish those responsible and to fix the malfunctioning system would open the door for more abuses in the future.”

Roberto Micheletti has now returned to power after a “leave of absence” in a new stage of the political and legal limbo that has characterized this nation since June 28. Some wonder how long any president can remain in office now that a military coup has been deemed successful. “Many Hondurans fear that the coup’s success represents a threat to the future stability of a democratic state,” writes Robert White of the Center for International Policy, who then poses the following rhetorical question. “If the few dozen men who hold the strings of power and wealth can escalate one of the nation’s recurring political brawls into the overthrow of an elected president, how can future democratic leaders dare to challenge the culture of wealth and impunity that has made Honduras one of the most corrupt, crime-ridden, and unjust nations in the world?”

The spectacle mounted to justify the coup leaders’ retention of power has now played out. In the sequel, the excluded character — the people of Honduras who joined together to reject the hijacking of their democracy — will play a key role. Throughout the country, farmers, feminists, union members and citizens are more organized than ever before. The demand for the constitutional assembly to change one of the world’s most obsolete constitutions is at the center of this new phase.

In the end, the Honduran political crisis cannot be resolved without a legal means to channel dissent and eliminate the gross injustices of Honduran society. A broad swathe of the population that rejects the “elections panacea” scenario is determined to fight for just that, and nothing less. They deserve the support of the U.S. government and the rest of the international community.

Copyright © 2009, Institute for Policy Studies

Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen (at) ciponline (dot) org) is director of the Americas Program (www.americaspolicy.org) for the Center for International Policy in Mexico City.

 

Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by Agence France-Presse

Mercosur Leaders, Venezuela Reject Honduras election

MONTEVIDEO – Leaders of five key South American countries vowed Tuesday not to recognize last month’s presidential election results in Honduras, which they condemned as “illegal.”

[The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc -- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay -- as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras' first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (AFP)]
The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras’ first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. (AFP)

The presidents of the four permanent members of the Mercosur trade bloc — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — as well as the leader of Venezuela, condemned Honduras’ first, post-coup elections last month, because balloting took place without the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. 

In a statement released after a summit here, the leaders said that because Zelaya “had not been reinstated to the duties to which he was democratically elected… (we) completely reject the November 29 elections.”

Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup last June, remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa under threat of arrest, after Congress last week voted against bringing him back to the presidency. His term in office was to have ended on January 27.

The joint statement, read out by Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and signed by the five heads of state, underscored their “strongest condemnation of the coup in Honduras” and rejected the “unacceptable, serious violations against the human rights and freedoms of the Honduran people.”

The declaration added that the Honduras elections had been conducted “in an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal” manner, and were a blow to the region’s democratic values.

The United States and the European Union have hailed the elections as a first step forward out of the five-month crisis. Costa Rica, Panama and Peru also have backed the polls.

Honduras’s military ousted the left-leaning Zelaya on June 28 with the backing of the courts, Congress and business leaders, because of his plans to alter the constitution, which was viewed as a bid to extend his term in office.

Meanwhile, the winner of the November 29 election, president-elect Porfirio Lobo, told a news conference Monday that he hoped foreign countries would “open up a little” to Honduras, which had suffered widespread international condemnation and aid freezes after the coup.

Lobo was set to meet in Santo Domingo Thursday with Dominican President Leonel Fernandez. Lobo was expected to ask Fernandez to help mediate in the lingering Honduran political crisis, Dominican media reoprted.

Lobo will arrive in the Dominican capital from San Jose, where he was to meet first with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on a tour to rally support for his bid to lead Honduras.

© 2009 Agence France-Press