Friday, July 31, 2009

Honduras Coup

War Times on the coup in Honduras and the Obama Administration
But the battle of ideas is not fought only "in general." It pivots around specific policies and issues. And these, besides shaping and reshaping opinion, have outcomes which are crucial in and of themselves.

Right now, three such pivotal battles stand out.

The first concerns the coup in Honduras. Much is at stake not just for that country, but for all Latin America. The entire region is moving leftward, it is the center of gravity of the most diverse and dynamic grassroots-driven radical efforts in the world today. Right wingers and oligarchs - and their backers in Washington - have been on the defensive and trying to figure out a way to reverse the tide. Economic levers for many do not seem to be enough; they want to return to the days of naked military force. The stakes in Honduras thus go even beyond the fate of the Honduran people. If the coup stands, the reactionaries will be emboldened and - as movements and governments throughout Latin America are saying - the question will be where military coup-makers strike next. If on the other hand the coup is reversed, popular movements will be strengthened and the progressive wave will gain even more momentum.

As of this writing the outcome is in doubt. A great deal depends on what pressures can be mounted here in the U.S. So far the Obama administration has played a mixed but principally negative role, and there are signs of division in the highest echelons of D.C. Evidence is overwhelming that the golpistas had the blessing of U.S. operatives carried over from the Bush years (for example, Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, who was Bush's top Venezuela advisor at the time of the failed 2002 coup). Obama at first denounced the coup, but since then Washington has orchestrated talks in a way that treats the coup-makers as legitimate leaders and supports anti-democratic conditions on any prospective return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Washington has refused to cut off military aid to the generals or take other steps that would make it all but impossible for the coup to stand. The right (aided by power-brokers close to Hillary Clinton) have been engaged in an all-out media campaign to legitimize the coup. Counter-pressure from our side is an urgent priority with so much at stake for Honduras, for Latin America, and for the coming years' posture of the Obama administration.
War Tiems

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gates response to the meeting at the White House

'An Accident of Time and Place'
"...I thank God that I live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day, and, more than ever, I’ve come to understand and appreciate their daily sacrifices on our behalf."
By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. | Posted: July 30, 2009 at 8:20 PM
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AP Photo/Alex Brandon
henry louis gates jr.
president obama
Sgt. James Crowley
white house
I would like to applaud President Obama for bringing Sergeant Crowley, me and our families together. I would also like to thank the President for welcoming my father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr., who for most of his life has been a Republican! My dad turned 96 this past June, and the fact that he worked two jobs every day is the reason that my brother, Dr. Paul Gates, and I were able to receive such splendid educations. I am honored that he chose to join me at the White House, along with my fiancée, my daughters, and my brother.

SGT. CROWLEY: "We Agreed to Move Forward."

Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters – as metaphors, really – in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control. Narratives about race are as old as the founding of this great Republic itself, but these new ones have unfolded precisely when Americans signaled to the world our country’s great progress by overcoming centuries of habit and fear, and electing an African American as President. It is incumbent upon Sergeant Crowley and me to utilize the great opportunity that fate has given us to foster greater sympathy among the American public for the daily perils of policing on the one hand, and for the genuine fears of racial profiling on the other hand.

Let me say that I thank God that I live in a country in which police officers put their lives at risk to protect us every day, and, more than ever, I’ve come to understand and appreciate their daily sacrifices on our behalf. I’m also grateful that we live in a country where freedom of speech is a sacrosanct value and I hope that one day we can get to know each other better, as we began to do at the White House this afternoon over beers with President Obama.

Thank God we live in a country where speech is protected, a country which guarantees and defends my right to speak out when I believe my rights have been violated; a country that protects us from arrest when we do express our views, no matter how unpopular.

And thank God that we have a President who can rise above the fray, bridge age-old differences and transform events such as this into a moment in the evolution of our society’s attitudes about race and difference. President Obama is a man who understands tolerance and forgiveness, and our country is blessed to have such a leader.

The national conversation over the past week about my arrest has been rowdy, not to say tumultuous and unruly. But we’ve learned that we can have our differences without demonizing one another. There’s reason to hope that many people have emerged with greater sympathy for the daily perils of policing, on the one hand, and for the genuine fears about racial profiling, on the other hand.

Having spent my academic career trying to bridge differences and promote understanding among Americans, I can report that it is far more comfortable being the commentator than being commented upon. At this point, I am hopeful that we can all move on, and that this experience will prove an occasion for education, not recrimination. I know that Sergeant Crowley shares this goal. Both of us are eager to go back to work tomorrow. And it turns out that the President just might have a few other things on his plate as well.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is Editor in Chief of The Root.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Honduras, School for Coups

By Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M., and Margaret Knapke
July 22, 2009
Foreign Policy in Focus

The day after Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was
deposed, President Barack Obama cautioned against
repeating Latin America's "dark past," decades when
military coups regularly overrode the results of
democratic elections. Obama went on to acknowledge, in
his understated way, "The United States has not always
stood as it should with some of these fledgling

In fact, the U.S. government has often stood with - or
at least behind - the coup-makers. Examples include
Guatemala in 1954, Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973, and
Venezuela in 2002 (this last coup attempt, against
President Hugo Chávez, was reversed). Also, throughout
most of the 1980s, the Reagan administration subsidized
and helped direct the "contra" (meaning counter-
revolutionary) war against the Nicaraguan government
and people.

Notably, the June 28 coup against Zelaya and the
Honduran electorate traces back to the U.S. Army School
of the Americas (SOA). Originally established in Panama
in 1946, the school was the U.S. Army's premier site
for training Latin American officers and soldiers in
military intelligence and combat operations, supposedly
within the letter of the law.

Within 20 years, however, it was known in Latin
American military circles as "la Escuela de Golpes" -
the School of Coups. And in the early 1980s, Panamanian
President Jorge Illueca declared the SOA "the biggest
base for destabilization in Latin America." The "School
of Coups" moved to Ft. Benning, Georgia, in 1984.

School rosters obtained through the Freedom of
Information Act show that General Romeo Vásquez Velá
squez, leader of the recent Honduran coup, trained
there in 1976 and 1984. He was assisted in deposing
President Zelaya by General Luis Javier Prince Suazo,
head of the Honduran Air Force, who in 1996 rather
presciently took an SOA course in Joint Operations.


But the school's fingerprints have long been evident in
Honduras. A death squad known as Battalion 3-16 was
organized in the 1980s and operated clandestinely for
years - kidnapping, forcibly disappearing, and
torturing political opponents, and killing at least 184
of them. Nineteen members of Battalion 3-16 are known
to have graduated from the School of the Americas,
including three generals who directed battalion

School officials have long insisted that its graduates
who flaunt the rule of law do so despite their
training. They are, according to that argument, just
inevitable "bad apples."

But, to the contrary, documentary evidence indicates
these students have learned their lessons well. In
1996, for example, President Bill Clinton's Defense
Department revealed that training materials used from
1982-1991 at the School had instructed Latin American
military officers and soldiers to target civilian
populations and use torture, intimidation, false
arrest, extrajudicial execution, blackmail, and more
inhumane tactics.

So, while SOA training has emboldened golpistas (coup-
makers) to act against legitimately elected heads of
state, it also has provoked crimes against citizens
challenging illegitimate or antidemocratic powers. As
Berta Oliva - who coordinates the Committee of
Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) -
said of soldiers repressing anti-coup protests: "They
view those who demand their rights as if they were

Oliva will never forget the Battalion 3-16 years. She
founded the COFADEH after her husband was kidnapped and
disappeared in 1982. About the recent military coup in
her country, she observed: "They've made a return to
the 1980s.... Friendly governments who hold democratic
ideals simply cannot allow this to happen here.

Shine the Light

Arguably the only way for Latin America to avoid
repeating its "dark past" is to shine a bright light
into it, for all to see. At the fifth Summit of the
Americas last April, Obama noted the importance of
learning from history. And he declared, "The United
States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where
those errors have been made."

With H.R. 2567, the Latin America Military Training
Review Act, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and 57 co-
sponsors are offering us a light to shine. This
legislation would suspend operations at the Western
Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)
- the "successor institution" to the School of the
Americas, which is still located at Ft. Benning. Then a
bipartisan congressional taskforce would investigate
decades of its activities and teaching materials.

Certainly "errors have been made." Some at this moment
are threatening to override the will of the Honduran

It's time. It's past time. Shine the light on the
School of Coups.

Shine the light.

Father Roy Bourgeois is a Catholic priest, a former
missionary, and founder of SOA Watch. Margaret Knapke
is a longtime Latin America human-rights activist. Both
have served federal prison terms for nonviolent civil
disobedience aimed at closing the School of the
Americas and are Foreign Policy In Focus contributors.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Honduras Coup : Robert White

Why the Coup in Honduras Won't—and Shouldn't—Succeed

Robert E. White | July 14, 2009

Available in translation: No Hay Vuelta Atrás: Porqué el golpe de estado en Honduras no triunfará. Porqué no puede hacerlo.

Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
Honduras has suffered a coup d'état at the hands of congressional leaders and the commanding officers of the armed forces. Provided that the United States stands firmly with its partners in Latin America, this revolt against the constitutional order will certainly fall apart. To fail to restore President Manuel Zelaya to power in Honduras would risk reviving in Central America that dark era when the rights of free speech and assembly were curtailed and civilians could govern only within limits set by military leaders.

Robert E. White, president
of the Center for International
Honduras is notorious for its economic inequality. The very rich hold the reins of power and are literally above the law. Very few members of the country's military and economic elites have been brought to justice for destroying the environment, stealing land and resources from the poor, using the state for personal gain, or silencing journalists who try to expose their crimes.

In fulfillment of his campaign pledge, President Zelaya quickly pushed through major legislation designed to protect the forests of Honduras from the powerful logging industry, which had enjoyed the protection of previous governments. For help with the rest of his moderate reform program, Zelaya consulted the U.S. ambassador and sought assistance from traditional Washington sources such as the Agency for International Development and the Inter-American Development Bank. His cooperation with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did not begin until later.

Prior to Zelaya's election, I had helped found a Honduran nongovernmental organization called Democracy Without Borders, which was dedicated to making government more accountable and more responsive to the 60% of Hondurans who live below the poverty line. Decades before, I had served as chief of the political section in our embassy in Tegucigalpa. After Zelaya became president, I met often with him and his key advisers. Although foreign policy issues were discussed and sometimes hotly debated, there was never any mention of Venezuela or President Chavez.

Of the many crises that the Zelaya administration had to confront, it was the skyrocketing price of oil that pushed the Honduran economy toward the breaking point. Every week, bus lines and trucking companies demanded action, called work stoppages, and threatened strikes. President Zelaya decided he had to act. He took temporary control of foreign-owned storage terminals as part of a policy to check profiteering and lower gasoline prices. This initiative won Zelaya broad popular approval, but it brought down on him the collective wrath of the international oil companies.

While this drama was unfolding, a worried cabinet member asked me how President Zelaya should handle a surprise offer from President Hugo Chavez to supply oil to Honduras at subsidized prices. After learning all the details, I advised the minister to discuss the Venezuelan initiative with the U.S. ambassador. He should explain to him that the Zelaya administration had to act in the best interests of Honduras and ask him what Washington could do to help the government insure a dependable supply of oil at rational prices. Alas, the Bush administration offered Zelaya nothing—other than assurances that the right course was to trust in the long-term benefits of free-market capitalism.

The crisis in Honduras should remind the Obama administration that it has inherited an inadequate policy toward Central America. While President Chavez supplies cheap oil to favored regional allies, the United States supplies funding for the war on drugs and military assistance. Civilian leaders are understandably skeptical of a drug war that only seems to have increased corruption and violence in their countries. Elected presidents also worry that Washington's counter-narcotics program gives the militaries of Central America a license to intervene in the internal affairs of their nations—a role expressly forbidden by the constitutions of all countries in the region. Recent events in Honduras confirm that these fears are well founded.

The Honduran civilian and military officials who set this coup in motion have committed a collective act of political suicide. They have demonstrated that they are unfit to hold public office in a constitutional government. The future of democracy in Honduras will be brighter once they are gone.

Robert E. White, a former United States ambassador to El Salvador and Paraguay, is president of the Center for International Policy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Repression in Honduras: Coup

Why Is Our Government So Quiet About Repression and Media Censorship in Honduras?
Mark Weisbrot
National Journal Online, July 13, 2009

The media coverage of Honduras has drawn a sharp contrast between the Obama administration’s response to the coup in Honduras and that of his predecessor to the military coup in Venezuela in 2002. But in reality there are much more similarities than differences. When the Venezuelan military overthrew Chavez in April of 2002, the Bush administration initially supported the coup. But within a day, Latin American heads of state meeting in a Rio Summit made it clear that no one would recognize the coup government; the Bush Administration quickly switched its position and opposed the coup government.

Similarly, the Obama administration’s first response to the coup differed from all other governmental responses in the world in that it did not criticize the coup. Rather, it said called upon “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

For those who know anything about diplomatic language, this really makes it clear that the Obama administration is not on the same page as the rest of the world, when it comes to this coup. The coup leaders only need to run the clock for the few months remaining in Zelaya’s term, and everything that this administration has done so far is consistent with this goal – including the arrangement of a mediation effort with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, which was doomed to fail from the beginning.

Looking forward, Washington will still play an important role. Zelaya will likely return to Honduras, setting up the political confrontation that the coup leaders hoped to avoid by taking him out of the country. The only way they can win this political battle will be through repression. As reported in the Miami Herald, the coup government has used widespread media censorship and repression to control information. It has shot and killed demonstrators, and yesterday there was a report that a trade union leader was murdered. The Obama administration has been almost completely silent in the face of this repression. Will they remain silent as it intensifies if Zelaya returns?

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy .

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ortega in Nicaragua

This is a one year old story which I just came across.
It is, however, still relevant.

Ortega's last straw in Nicaragua
The Sandinista president has gone too far in prosecuting 83-year-old poet Ernesto Cardenal.
By Stephen Kinzer 
September 03, 2008
A bitter political-cultural confrontation that exploded in Nicaragua in late August could mark the final end of the passionate romance between the world's leftist intellectuals and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Ortega, you may recall, was the leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front when it seized power after overthrowing the 40-year Somoza family dynasty. A dashing young revolutionary who electrified liberals and leftists around the world, Ortega served as Nicaragua's president for most of the 1980s. He lost power in 1990, but after 16 years in opposition, he was elected president again in

For years -- in and out of government -- the Sandinista Front has been Ortega's private fiefdom. Most of the other Sandinistas who riveted the world's attention in the 1980s have broken with him, but he emerged with control over the party machinery, and he wields power like an old-fashioned Latin American caudillo.
Despite Ortega's recent slide into authoritarian rule, and despite his glaring failure to address the urgent needs of an impoverished nation, the Sandinista cachet continues to give him an air of celebrity in some circles. His denunciations of American imperialism (issued even as he deals easily with the U.S. military and the International Monetary Fund) still warm the cockles of many hearts.
That has changed in recent days. On Aug. 22, in a crude act of political revenge, a Sandinista judge dredged up an old case that had been dismissed three years ago against Ernesto Cardenal, the 83-year-old poet who is one of Nicaragua's most beloved figures. Intellectuals from around the world, including many with pro-Sandinista pedigree, have angrily protested what they see as a transparent effort by Ortega and the Sandinistas to humiliate and punish Cardenal.
During the wild days of revolutionary rule and Contra war in the 1980s, Cardenal -- a priest and liberation theologian as well as a poet -- served as Ortega's minister of culture, and he did much to spread the Sandinista mystique around the world. The sin for which he is now being punished is that during a visit to Paraguay last month, he had the temerity to call Ortega a "thief" who runs "a monarchy made
Cardenal was in Paraguay to attend the inauguration of that country's new left-leaning president, Fernando Lugo. He was given a warm official welcome. Ortega, in contrast, was forced to cancel his visit after Paraguayan feminists said they would dog him with protests over unresolved charges that he had sexually abused his stepdaughter.
Last week, more than 60 Latin American writers and other cultural figures issued a protest calling the judge's move against Cardenal "totally illegal." It called him "the most recent victim of systematic persecution that is being directed against all who raise their voices to protest the lack of transparency, the authoritarian style, the unscrupulous behavior and the lack of ethics that Daniel Ortega has shown since his return to power."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Coup in Honduras continues

Fracasa diálogo sobre Honduras; Arias pide tiempo y estudia caso

La delegación golpista se muestra intransigente; los representantes de Zelaya dan por finalizada negociación, y el mediador advierte riesgo de guerra civil.

Notimex, Dpa y Afp
Publicado: 19/07/2009 12:02
San José. La segunda ronda de diálogo bajo la mediación de Oscar Arias culminó hoy en un rotundo fracaso, luego de que la delegación del gobierno de facto de Roberto Micheletti calificó de "inaceptable" el plan de acción presentado el sábado por el Premio Nobel de la Paz para superar la crisis en Honduras.

Tras la ruptura de las conversaciones, el presidente costarricense advirtió sobre el inminente peligro de una guerra civil en Honduras, y dejó abierto un plazo de 72 horas para estudiar una salida al conflicto.

Las conversaciones, realizadas en la casa del mandatario, culminaron en forma abrupta, luego de que el canciller del gobierno de Micheletti, Carlos López, dijera que la propuesta del mediador era considerada por su delegación como una "intromisión en los asuntos internos de Honduras".

"Lo siento mucho, pero las propuestas en las que usted ha insistido resultan inaceptables para el gobierno constitucional de Honduras que yo represento, en particular su propuesta número uno (que pide el retorno del depuesto presidente Manuel Zelaya)", apuntó López en una declaración a la prensa.

"La mediación no ha sabido comprender que la pretensión de imponer como presidente al señor José Manuel Rosales Zelaya en contra del derecho interno de la República, e infringiendo el principio de la igualdad soberana de los Estados, es absolutamente inaceptable, constituye una abierta intromisión en los asuntos internos de Honduras y una lamentable desnaturalización de la mediación", declaró López.

Añadió que el "estamento jurídico hondureño" que destituyó a Zelaya de sus funciones "no puede asumir el papel de cómplice si algunos gobiernos de América quisieran constituirse en avales de la impunidad".

Por su parte, Rixi Moncada, representante de la delegación de Zelaya, subrayó que la "intransigencia" del sector de Micheletti llevó al fracaso de las conversaciones realizadas el sábado y domingo en la capital costarricense, y dio por finalizado el diálogo con el régimen de facto.

Moncada afirmó que su delegación acepta el plan propuesto por el Nobel de la Paz y estará pendiente de las acciones futuras que adopte el mediador. Un resultado similar arrojó la primera ronda efectuada también en San José el 9 y 10 de julio.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No Justification for the Coup: Honduras

No Justification for Coup

By Bertha Oliva
Miami Herald
July 15, 2009

As a Honduran human-rights activist, it has been
disturbing to hear the drumbeat of voices in the U.S.
media justifying what is taking place in my country.
While the Organization of American States, the United
Nations and heads of state from countries across the
political spectrum worldwide have condemned the coup,
commentators in The New York Times, Washington Post and
The Wall Street Journal have called it a ''democratic''
coup, while others have blamed exiled President Manuel
Zelaya for it happening in the first place.

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fl., has joined the chorus as
well, introducing a resolution in support of the de
facto regime in the name of ''the Honduran people,''
just days after the coup leaders murdered peaceful
citizens on the streets of Tegucigalpa.

The events that have unfolded in Honduras are a
forceful and illegal overthrow of a democratically
elected government. To justify this act by adding the
adjective ''democratic'' to the coup is not only an
oxymoron, but a blatant inaccuracy.

Many in the United States have declared that the
proposal by President Zelaya to hold a national
consultation on constitutional issues was so dangerous
that he somehow brought the coup on himself. To set the
record straight, what was scheduled to take place on
Sunday, June 28 was not a vote on Zelaya's ability to
continue in office, but a nonbinding survey on the
possibility of holding a constitutional assembly.

To purposefully misconstrue this as an aggressive,
''anti-democratic'' act is to stretch the truth to its
breaking point, in the service of a pre-determined
position against the Zelaya government's policies or

When our fragile democracy and millions of lives are at
stake, what is truly dangerous is for influential
opinion leaders in the United States to imply that
certain kinds of democratically elected governments
''deserve'' overthrow. In a society based on Rule of
Law, there are various mechanisms available for an
opposition to make claims against a sitting
administration. Kidnapping a president at gunpoint and
spiriting him over the border is not one of them and
declaring marital law is not one of them. Even the top
legal military advisors to the de facto regime in
Honduras admitted that their actions were -- and are --

My experience as the director of a human-rights
organization that has represented the families of
Hondurans ''disappeared'' for more than 20 years inform
my fears of a return to the horrors we lived in the
last century. Unfortunately, these fears have proven

The last few days have been an uncanny repeat of
atrocities that we thought were left behind in the
1980s: forced detentions, murder and violent repression
of peaceful protesters, media censorship and suspension
of constitutional rights. The situation has garnered
swift reproach from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International and other prominent watchdog groups, but
the stifling of dissent has only intensified inside the

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton have spoken up for democracy and human rights
in condemning the actions of the coup leaders. Now the
United States must put its money where its mouth is by
formally recognizing what happened as a coup d'etat and
suspending all aid to and trade with Honduras until the
legitimate president is restored to power.

Honduras is deeply dependent on the United States,
which is the market for roughly 70 percent of its
exports. U.S. trade and aid are the backbone of our
economy. If the U.S. does not cut ties with Honduras,
it is sending a clear signal of tacit support for those
who took power illegally as well as the abuses of power
we have seen in the week the regime has been in place.

Actions speak louder than words. The U.S. government is
uniquely positioned to play the deciding role in
whether or not Honduras is returned to democracy or
plunged into dictatorship. Along with my fellow
citizens, I pray that this is a moral and political
responsibility that the Obama administration will not

Bertha Oliva is director of the Honduran Committee of
Family of the Disappeared Detainees (Comite de
Familiares de Detenidos Desparecidos en Honduras --
COFADEH) in Tegucigalpa.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Barack Obama on responsibility and schools

Immigration bill -action request


Background: During the week of July 6-10, the U.S. Senate considered amendments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill. During the debate, the Senate considered and adopted several immigration enforcement amendments which continue the enforcement-only approach to immigration reform. An amendment offered by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) enhancing the U.S.-Mexico border fence was particularly disturbing.

DeMint Amendment #1399: This amendment would require the completion of at least 700 miles of double fencing along the Southwest border by December 31, 2010, as well as require double barriers along portions of the fence.

USCCB Position: The USCCB has opposed the construction of a border fence, arguing that it will not stem, overall, illegal immigration, and could lead migrants to undertake more dangerous journeys into the United States. It also would force them to rely on expensive and dangerous human smuggling operations.
The Senate also adopted an amendment to extend the employment verification program, offered by Senator Sessions, and two other immigration enforcement amendments by voice vote (not roll call).
Notwithstanding the substance of the amendments, a vote in favor demonstrates that enforcement-only approaches to immigration reform are still supported by the majority of the Senate. Using the border fence vote as an example, we must communicate to our Senators that enforcement-only legislation is wrongheaded and ineffective and that only comprehensive immigration reform will help repair a badly broken immigration system.

Action and Targets: Clicking on the Take Action button (above) will bring you to two separate letters, one which thanks your Senator for voting in opposition to the DeMint amendment and one expressing disappointment for their vote on the DeMint Amendment. Below, please find the roll call vote for the DeMint Amendment, with a "Yea" voting for the fence and a "Nay" voting against the fence.
Please send the appropriate letters to your Senator. It is just as important to thank your Senator for the right vote as it is expressing disappointment for a wrong vote. You can also use the letters as talking points if you wish to contact them via phone at 202-224-3121.

Specific Targets: While it is important that all Senators receive letters or calls, there are specific target Senators important to the comprehensive immigration reform debate (and who should support CIR) who should hear from us:
Target Senators who voted the wrong way on the DeMint amendment: Democrats: Baucus, Bayh, Boxer, Feinstein, Klobuchar, Landreiu, Lincoln, McCaskill, Merkley, Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Pryor, Rockefeller, Schumer, Specter, Stabenow, Tester, Webb, and Wyden. Republicans: Bennett, Brownback, Hatch, Graham, Gregg, McCain, Snowe.

For more information, please contact: Antonio Cube at or Chris West at

note: usccb is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Puerto Rico and the end of colonialism


The Hostosian National Independence Movement of Puerto Rico (MINH by its Spanish name) became an observer member of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) in the 1964 Second Cairo Head of State Summit. The Declaration adopted at the Cairo Summit called upon the United Nation’s Decolonization Committee to study the Question of Puerto Rico in light of Resolution 1514(XV).
The 1964 Cairo Declaration served as the basis for the Cuban government’s request to the Decolonization Committee to include the Question of Puerto Rico in tis agenda. Since then the Decolonization Committee has adopted 28 resolutions on the Question of Puerto Rico. The 2009 Committee’s resolutions notes that in the Fourteenth Summit of the NAM, and at other meetings of the Movement, the right of the people of Puerto Rico to self determination and independence is reaffirmed on the basis of General Assembly Resolution 1514(XV), the recognition of the people of Puerto Rico as a Latinamerican and Cartibbean nation; and the General Assembly is urged to actively consider the question of Puerto Rico in all its aspects.
The Puerto Rican delegation at this year’s summit is headed by Dr. Julio Muriente, Co-President of the MINH; Norma Perez Muňiz, Esq., member of the MINH Executive Committee; Wilma E. Reverón Collazo, Esq., President of the Commitee of Puerto Rico at the United Nations (CORPONU by its Spanish name); and Alberto Rodríguez, President of the Federation of University Students For Independence (FUPI by its Spanish name).
The delegation supports the language included in the draft declaration reaffirming the Movement’s support to the right of self-determination and independence in light of resolution 1514(XV) and urging the General Assembly to actively consider the question of Puerto Rico.
The delegation calls upon the members of the Movement to recognize that colonialism is still a Human Rights violation that has to be urgently attended to, that is still an unsolved problem and that in light of the approaching end of the Second Decade to Eradicate colonialism from the face of the earth, as proclaimed by the United Nations, Puerto Rico with a population of 4 million people in its national territory and 4 million migrants settled in the United States, is the most dramatic colonialism problem yet to be solved.
The Puerto Rican delegation salutes this XV Summit and expresses its hope that that the Movement continues its unwavering support for the end of colonialism in all its manifestations.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

U.S continues to train Honduran military

U.S. continues to train Honduran soldiers
Written by James Hodge and Linda Cooper, National Catholic Reporter
Military coup that ousted president, didn't stop U.S. engagement in Honduras

A controversial facility at Ft. Benning, Ga. -- formerly known as the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas -- is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it cut military ties to Honduras after its president was overthrown June 28, NCR has learned.

A day after an SOA-trained army general ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, President Barack Obama stated that "the coup was not legal" and that Zelaya remained "the democratically elected president."
From: School of the Americas Watch.

The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup, and the Obama administration has indicated those steps have been taken.

However, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the successor of SOA, confirmed Monday that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school.
"Yes, they're in class now." Rials said

Asked about the Obama administration's suspension of aid and training to Honduras, Rials said, "Well, all I know is they're here, and they're in class."

The decision to continue training the Hondurans is "purely government policy," he said, adding that it's possible that other U.S. military schools are training them too. "We're not the only place."

Rials did not know exactly how many Hondurans were currently enrolled, but he said at least two officers are currently in the school's Command and General Staff course, its premier year-long program.

"I don't know the exact number because we've had some classes just completed and some more starting," he said. "There's no more plans for anybody to come. Everything that was in place already is still in place. Nobody's directed that they go home or that anything cease."

The school trained 431 Honduran officers from 2001 to 2008, and some 88 were projected for this year, said Rials, who couldn't provide their names.

Since 2005, the Department of Defense has barred the release of their names after it was revealed that the school had enrolled well-known human rights abusers.

The general who overthrew Zelaya -- Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez -- is a two-time graduate of SOA, which critics have nicknamed the "School of Coups" because it trained so many coup leaders, including two other Honduran graduates, General Juan Melgar Castro and General Policarpo Paz Garcia.

Vasquez is not the only SOA graduate linked to the current coup or employed by the de facto government. Others are:

Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, the head of the Honduran air force, who arranged to have Zelaya flown into exile in Costa Rica;
Gen. Nelson Willy Mejia Mejia, the newly appointed director of immigration, who is not only an SOA graduate, but a former SOA instructor. One year after he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal, he faced charges in connection with the infamous death squad, Battalion 3-16, for which he was an intelligence officer.
Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza Membreño, the Honduran army's top lawyer who admitted that flying Zelaya into exile was a crime, telling the Miama Herald that ''In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime," but it will be justified.
Lt. Col. Ramiro Archaga Paz,the army's director of public relations, who has denied harassment of protesters and maintained that the army is not involved in internal security.
Col. Jorge Rodas Gamero, a two-time SOA graduate, who is the minister of security, a post he also held in Zelaya's government.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The story of the coup in Honduras

Showdown in 'Tegucigolpe'
Stephen Zunes
Foreign Policy in Focus
July 10, 2009

One of the hemisphere's most critical struggles for
democracy in 20 years is now unfolding in the Honduran
capital of Tegucigalpa (nicknamed "Tegucigolpe" for its
long history of military coup d'états, which are called
golpes de estado, in Spanish). Despite censorship and
repression, popular anger over the June 28 military
overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel
Zelaya is growing. International condemnation has been
near-unanimous, and the Organization of American States
has suspended Honduras, the first time the hemisphere-
wide body has taken so drastic an action since 1962.

In a reversal of many decades of U.S. support for right-
wing golpistas in Latin America, the Obama
administration has denounced the coup. However,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, rather than backing
the largely nonviolent popular uprising for Zelaya's
unconditional return to power, has instead been pushing
for the country's legitimate ruler to compromise with
the very forces which illegally exiled him from the
country and have been violently suppressing his

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

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

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

What the Obama administration apparently fears is that
if it allows the burgeoning pro-democracy movement to
take its course, it may end up with a similar outcome to
what transpired in Venezuela in 2002 - following a
similar coup against that country's left-leaning
president, Hugo Chávez. Within days, a popular movement
had forced right-wing elements of the military and their
wealthy civilian allies to step down. Chávez returned to
govern and emboldened by such a popular outpouring of
support, he moved the country further to the left.

The United States could help such a movement succeed if
it wanted to. If the Obama administration chose, the
United States could impose strict economic sanctions on
Honduras that would, combined with ongoing strikes and
other disruptions, grind the economy to a halt and force
the illegitimate junta in Tegucigalpa to step down.

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

Zelaya's Significance

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

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

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

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

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

The United States and Honduras

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

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

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

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

The Legacy Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, July 12, 2009

HIstory of the coup in Honduras

Honduras had a new kind of coup
The upheaval epitomizes a new kind of Latin American struggle, in
which elected leftist leaders defy the status quo and test the limits
of democracy.

By Tracy Wilkinson
July 12, 2009

Reporting from Tegucigalpa, Honduras — On Saturday, June 27, the order
came down: Arrest the president.

That night, Honduran military officers stopped taking calls from U.S. officials.

At sunrise Sunday, army commanders firing warning shots into the air
marched through the back door of the president's home, rousted him
from bed and took him away, still in his pajamas.

It was over in 15 minutes. But the coup that toppled President Manuel
Zelaya was a slow boil, over many months, of an increasingly arbitrary
and provocative leader, the often-exaggerated fears of a hidebound
elite and a military with divided loyalties.

That simmering crisis exploded into one of the most serious challenges
facing Latin America in a decade. In some ways, it was a throwback to
the old Latin America, when coups and men in uniform more often than
not decided who ruled. But it was also emblematic of a struggle
underway today on the continent, where a crop of leftist leaders with
authoritarian tendencies have risen to power through elections, defied
the status quo and tested the bounds of democracy.

The following account is based on interviews with numerous Hondurans
and foreigners involved in the coup or the events that led to it. Some
details are still in dispute.


When he won the presidential election in 2005 by a narrow margin,
Zelaya was something of an outsider -- gruff, not fully part of the
elite that had always governed. Even Hondurans who admire him,
however, say he became enamored of the power he thought he had.

His ticket, he soon decided, was to align himself with the emerging
bloc in the region headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an
erratic, charismatic populist who evokes passionate extremes of
admiration and hatred. Zelaya adopted Chavez's socialist rhetoric, his
bluster, even the gimmicky dress. (He started wearing a white cowboy
hat as his symbol.)

Zelaya managed to push through legislation that helped the poor and
ruffled the elite, including a huge raise in the minimum wage, in a
country where 40% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day.
But power was more important to him than solid ideology.

"For him, it was all about becoming a big figure," said Juan Ramon
Martinez, a historian and political analyst who had many dealings with
Zelaya. "If he had to dance the cha-cha-cha, he'd do it. If he had to
spout Marxist rhetoric, he'd do it."

Ideology might not have been important to Zelaya, but it was to his
inner circle, whose members traced their roots to Honduras' small
radical left that emerged in the 1970s. They had gone to university
together, fought against the brutal military dictatorships of the day,
suffered persecution. Eventually they went into human rights or became
lawyers, but didn't abandon their goals.

They helped coax Zelaya to the left, and last year he stepped firmly
into the Chavez camp by joining a group of Latin America's leftist
presidents formed five years ago by the Venezuelan leader and Cuba's
Fidel Castro.

With the old left gaining power, the old right leapt into action, with
businessmen and the news media at their service, hitting back at
Zelaya relentlessly.

Then came an old trauma. Zelaya began speaking of changing the
constitution, and his enemies decided he was making a move to end term
limits and so he could stay in office -- much as Chavez had done in

The Honduran Constitution bars presidential reelection, a provision
born of a history replete with rulers who overstayed their welcome.
Most famously, Tiburcio Carias, a military man with close ties to the
foreign-owned fruit companies that made Honduras the original banana
republic, rewrote the constitution to stay in office from 1933 to

In March, Zelaya called for a vote June 28 to weigh support for
changing the constitution. Initially, the wording of the convocation
was innocuous enough, and momentum built behind the "consulta
popular," as it was being called. It had a lot of support among a
disaffected majority for whom Honduras' 27-year experiment in
democracy had failed to improve daily life.

On May 12, the attorney general's office ruled against holding the
vote. Zelaya ignored the order and pressed ahead with his campaign.

Congress, led by Roberto Micheletti, a transportation magnate from
Zelaya's Liberal Party, also opposed the vote. Honduras' tiny rich
class is notoriously loath to share its wealth, and members saw
Zelaya's move to tinker with the constitution as the last straw. They
organized street protests and a media blitz against the referendum.

"Never had a ruler so frightened the instruments of political and
economic power," historian Martinez said.

Pressure mounts

In mid-June, events started to veer precipitously toward disaster.

On June 12, the military high command met secretly, pointedly leaving
Zelaya out of the loop. Coup rumors that had ricocheted around the
capital for weeks grew stronger. Five days later, Zelaya's defense
minister quit, though this development would not be revealed for a

Ignoring an appeals court ruling that again declared the June 28 vote
illegal, Zelaya announced that the army would help with the election
by distributing and collecting ballot boxes.

This threw the army command into turmoil: It was being tasked to carry
out an operation that had been judged illegal.

On Thursday, June 25, troops deployed throughout the capital as
Congress met to depose Zelaya. Politicians, including Micheletti,
worked to put together the legal and constitutional cover to remove a
president who was breaking the law.

The next day, La Gaceta, the government's official register of laws,
published the decree convoking the following Sunday's vote. Zelaya's
enemies contend that the wording of the final decree had been changed
in a way that would allow hasty revision of the constitution through a
constituent assembly. Non-Honduran analysts say a series of
legislative steps would still have been required.

But logic really didn't matter at this point; the die was cast.

U.S. officials apparently underestimated how serious and how advanced
the crisis was. In the final weekend before the coup, they were
frantically telephoning Honduran contacts in an attempt to avert it.
They spoke on several occasions to commanders of the Honduran army,
with which the United States has had a long relationship.

But in the hours before the coup, U.S. officials found they could no
longer reach the officers.

A defining move

Juan Ramon Martinez likes to get up early on Sundays. Quiet time to
write and think. About dawn on June 28, he was sitting at his computer
in his home a block or two from one of President Zelaya's residences.

Suddenly he heard gunfire. He stepped gingerly out the front door to
ask the young watchman what was happening. "Golpe de estado!" the man
answered in a loud whisper. A coup. Martinez turned to see a huge
soldier in battle dress standing in the street a few feet away. "Get
back in your house!" the soldier barked.

Fifteen minutes later, it was over. An army team, under the command of
a general and two colonels, had seized Zelaya.

Up to this point, the coup plotters might have been able to justify
their actions to the international community by arguing that the
military was fulfilling a legitimate court order to arrest the
president. What happened next, however, deprived them of that luxury.

The military bundled Zelaya away to a military aircraft. Still in his
pajamas, the president was flown to Costa Rica.

Even among some who supported the removal of Zelaya, the decision to
expel him went beyond the pale, and the army's chief juridical advisor
now acknowledges that the expulsion was illegal.

"It has made Honduras look bad for an action being taken to benefit a
democratic system," said Jorge Canhuate Larash, one of the country's
most powerful businessmen.

The military has assumed responsibility for what it says was a
last-minute decision to remove Zelaya from the country, arguing that
to leave him in a prison in Honduras would have invited mobs to
attempt to break him free. But many here don't think they made the
decision alone.

It is not clear what kind of role the Roman Catholic Church, another
pillar of power and influence here, played before to the coup;
Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga was at the Vatican that
week. But within days he lent fervent support to the action.

Nine days after the coup and two days after Zelaya attempted
unsuccessfully to land at the airport, the cardinal was overheard on
his cellphone to the attorney general, urging him to produce drug
trafficking evidence against Zelaya. "My son," he said, "we need that
proof. It's the only thing that will help us now."

Two days later, one of Latin America's veteran negotiators, Costa
Rican President Oscar Arias, invited Zelaya and Micheletti to his home
for talks. But the ousted leader and the man who deposed him refused
to sit in the same room.

More talks were vaguely planned, Micheletti flew back to Honduras, and
Zelaya bounced around from capital to capital, in any country that
would have him.
From the Los Angeles Times

Special correspondent Alex Renderos contributed to this report.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Honduran Coup

Hondurans Resist Coup, Will Need Help From Other Countries

By Mark Weisbrot

This column was published by The Guardian Unlimited on July 8, 2009. If anyone wants to reprint it, please include a link to the original.

The military coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras took a new turn when Zelaya attempted to return home on Sunday. The military closed the airport and blocked runways to prevent his plane from landing. They also shot several protesters, killing at least one and injuring others.

The violence and the enormous crowd - estimated in the tens of thousands and reported as the largest since the coup on June 28 - put additional pressure on the Obama administration to seek a resolution to the crisis. On Tuesday Secretary of State Clinton met with President Zelaya for the first time.

In many ways this is similar to the coup in Venezuela in 2002, which was supported by the United States. After it became clear that no government other than the United States would recognize the coup government there, and hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans poured into the streets to demand the return of their elected president, the military switched sides and brought Chávez back to the presidential palace.

In Honduras we have the entire world refusing to recognize the coup government, and equally large demonstrations (in a country of only seven million people, and with the military preventing movement for many of them) demanding Zelaya's return. The problem in Honduras is that their military - unlike the Venezuelan military - has more experience in organized repression, including selective assassinations carried out during the 1980s, when the country was known as a military base for U.S. operations in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The Honduran military is also much closer to the U.S. military and State Department, more closely allied with the country's oligarchy, and more ideologically committed to the cause of keeping the elected president out of power. Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, a Honduran army lawyer who admitted that the military broke the law when they kidnapped President Zelaya, told the Miami Herald, "It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible." Mr. Inestroza, like the coup leader and army chief General Romeo Vasquez, was trained at Washington's infamous School of the Americas (now renamed as WHINSEC).

This puts a heavy burden on the people of Honduras, who have been risking their lives, confronting the army's bullets, beatings, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. The U.S. media has reported on this repression but only minimally, with the major print media sometimes failing to even to mention the censorship there. But the Honduran pro-democracy movement, through their courage, has in the last few days managed to change the course of events. It is likely that Clinton's decision to finally meet with Zelaya was the result of the large and growing protests, and Washington's fear that such resistance could reach the point where it would topple the coup government.

The Obama administration's behavior over the last eight days provides strong evidence that if not for this threat from below, the administration would have been content to let the coup government stall out the rest of Zelaya's term.

This was made clear again on Monday, at a press briefing held by State Department Spokesperson Ian Kelly. Under prodding from a reporter, Mr. Kelly became the first on-the-record spokesperson for the U.S. State Department to say officially that the U.S. government supported the return of President Zelaya. This was eight days after the coup, and after the United Nations General Assembly, the Organization of American States, the Rio Group, and many individual governments had all called for the "immediate and unconditional" return of Zelaya - something which Washington still does not talk about.

Meanwhile, on the far right, there has been a pushback against the worldwide support for Zelaya and an attempt to paint him has the aggressor in Honduras, or at least equally bad as the people who carried out the coup. Unfortunately much of the major media's reporting has aided this effort by reporting such statements as "Critics feared he intended to extend his rule past January, when he would have been required to step down."

In fact, there was no way for Zelaya to "extend his rule" even if the referendum had been held and passed, and even if he had then gone on to win a binding referendum on the November ballot. The June 28 referendum was nothing more than a non-binding poll of the electorate, asking whether the voters wanted to place a binding referendum on the November ballot to approve a redrafting of the country's constitution. If it had passed, and if the November referendum had been held (which was not very likely) and also passed, the same ballot would have elected a new president and Zelaya would have stepped down in January. So, the belief that Zelaya was fighting to extend his term in office has no factual basis - although most people who follow this story in the press seem to believe it. The most that could be said is that if a new constitution were eventually approved, Zelaya might have been able to run for a second term at some future date.

Another major right-wing theme that has spilled over into the media and public perception of the Honduran situation is that this is a battle against President Chávez of Venezuela (and some collection of "anti-U.S." leftist allies, e.g. Nicaragua, Cuba - take your pick). This is a common subterfuge that has surfaced in most of the Latin American elections of the last few years. In Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, for example, the conservative candidates all pretended as if they were running against Chávez - the first two with success, and the second pair losing.

It is true that under Zelaya Honduras joined the ALBA, a grouping of countries that was started by Venezuela as an alternative to "free trade" agreements with the United States. But Zelaya is nowhere near as close to Chávez as any number of other Latin American presidents, including those of Brazil and Argentina. So it is not clear why this is relevant, unless the argument is that only bigger countries or those located further south have the right to have a co-operative relationship with Venezuela.

As this article goes to press, Clinton has announced that she arranged for Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to serve as a mediator between the coup government and President Zelaya. According to Clinton, both parties have accepted this arrangement.

This is a good move for the U.S. State Department, as it will make it easier for them to maintain a more "neutral" position so long as mediation is taking place - as opposed to the rest of the hemisphere, which has taken the side of the deposed president and the Honduran pro-democracy movement. "I don't want to prejudge what the parties themselves will agree to," said Clinton in response to a question as to whether President Zelaya should be restored to his position.

It is difficult to see how this mediation will succeed, so long as the coup government knows that they can stall out the rest of Zelaya's term. The only thing that can remove them from office, in conjunction with massive protests, is real economic sanctions of the kind that Honduras's neighbors (Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala) imposed for 48 hours after the coup. These countries account for about a third of Honduras's trade, but they would need economic aid from other countries to carry the burden of a trade cutoff for a longer time. It would be a great thing if other countries would step forward to support such sanctions and to cut off their own trade and capital flows with Honduras as well.

So it is up to the rest of the world to help Honduras; it is clear that Hondurans won't be getting any help from the United States. The rest of the world will have to scream bloody murder about the violence and repression there, too, because Washington will not be making much of an issue about it.
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis, and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Honduran coup continues

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (CNN) -- Deposed Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya said he was denied permission to land at Tegucigalpa's airport Sunday evening amid a tense standoff between Zelaya's supporters and government troops.

Zelaya told the Venezuela-based news network Telesur that he was denied permission to land the jet in Tegucigalpa, where military vehicles were arrayed on the runway.

Soldiers lined barricades surrounding the airport in expectation of clashes between Zelaya's supporters and the provisional government that has vowed to keep him from coming back from a weeklong exile.

Before Zelaya's landing attempt, police fired warning shots and tear gas at several thousand protesters who ringed the airport and had vowed to protect the ousted president with a human cordon. Organizers said several people were wounded in the clashes.

The small jet was transporting Zelaya and United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto from Washington. The U.N. General Assembly condemned the June 28 military-led coup last week and demanded that Zelaya be reinstated.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Brazil's Lula Scolds Rich Nations on Migration

Brazil's Lula Scolds Rich Nations on Migration
AFP July 3, 2009


Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issued a
law giving tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants
legal status and criticized rich nations for taking a
tough stance against illegal migrants.

He also once again blamed the global economic crisis on
"men with blue eyes," a controversial accusation that
he first leveled during a meeting in March with British
Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

His advisors have said the expression was a "metaphor."

"Blame for the crisis that was provoked by men with
blue eyes must not fall on the blacks, the Indians, and
the poor of the world," Lula said during a speech in
Brasilia on Thursday.

He also accused European countries, without naming any
in particular, of toughening immigration rules, which
he deemed "unjust."

"In our eyes, repression, discrimination and
intolerance do not address the root of the problem," he

"Illegal immigration is a humanitarian question that
should not be confused with criminality," added the
Brazilian leader, who was wearing the traditional
clothes of Bolivia and Paraguay, the home countries of
many of Brazil's immigrants.

The law issued by Lula allows all undocumented
foreigners who entered Brazil before last February to
obtain two-year provisional residency permits that can
be made permanent.

All recipients will be entitled to work and receive
public education and healthcare.

Brazil's Justice Department says there are around
60,000 undocumented foreigners in the country, but non-
governmental groups believe the number could be as high
as 200,000 illegal immigrants, with most coming from
Latin America and China.

Copyright c 2009 AFP.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Justice for Nativo

Recent allegations by the California Secretary of State have resulted in criminal charges against Nativo Lopez, President of the Mexican American Political Association and National Director of Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.
To the community that he has helped, this is a direct attack on what we stand for: justice and freedom for all. An attack on one is an attack on all. To the larger community this is a political ploy to discredit a respected and honored leader of our community who has never shied away from demanding justice for workers, students, and immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, and for the Raza.

Please support him this Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 by attending a strategy meeting to discuss the next steps in defense of Nativo from the trumped up allegations of election fraud that have resulted in felony charges.

Should you have further questions please don't hesitate to contact Nathalie Contreras, JUSTICE FOR NATIVO COMMITTEE convener, at or directly at (310) 890-5566.

Thank you for your support.

URGENT: Please send a letter by fax and call District Attorney Steve Cooley today urgently before July 8, 2009, the arraignment date for Nativo Lopez. The court is the Los Angeles Superior Court located at 210 W. Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Dept. 30; and the time of the arraignment will be 8:30 a.m. Please take the time to attend to show your support - and demand JUSTICE FOR NATIVO.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Resist the coup in Honduras

Take Action: NO to the Military Coup
Stand in Solidarity with the People of Honduras
send a message about the military coup to the State Department

The School of the Americas graduate-led military overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Zelaya is in its fifth day and the resistance by the Honduran social movements continues to stand strong despite the increasing repression. Yesterday, the Honduran Congress announced a suspension of citizens' rights in Honduras for 24 hours. Citizens may not organize or otherwise congregate for any reason, and homes may be entered by government forces without permit. The curfew that has been in place since Sunday has been extended for 6 more days.

SOA Watch is in constant contact with our friends in Honduras, who are courageously defending their democracy against the coup. The social movements are resisting the military takeover through protests, occupations and strikes. Thousands are again taking to the streets right now for a march from the Obelisk to the center of the city and to the Congress building. Repression is expected to occur. The Honduran democracy protesters are calling on the international community to speak up in defense of real and direct democracy, for life, justice, liberty, dignity and peace.

SOA Watch activists are among the organizers of solidarity actions against the military coup throughout the Americas and some have traveled to Honduras in the past few days to stand with the Honduran people. The national SOA Watch staff is in close communication with activists in Honduras. We are engaged in media outreach around the coup and we are networking with partner organizations to defend democracy in Honduras. The Washington, DC staff took part in protests at the White House, the Honduran embassy, the Organization of American States and the State Department.

Witnessing the determination of our friends in Honduras, we believe that the coup can still be reversed and that President Zelaya will return to Honduras as the rightful president. However, for that to happen, we also have to step up the pressure on decision makers here in the United States. Click here to download a flier to mobilize your community.

Call the office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ask that Secretary Clinton takes action for the unconditional reinstatement of Honduran President Zelaya. Call 202-647-5548. Click here to send a message online.

The Pentagon claim -- that the School of the Americas / Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation instills respect for democracy and civilian leadership while teaching combat skills to Latin American soldiers -- has once again been disproved by the actions of the institute's graduates. The SOA/ WHINSEC needs to be shut down without delay. Despite the decision by the U.S. Southern Command to suspend interactions between the U.S. and the Honduran militaries, Honduran soldiers have not been withdrawn from the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). SOA/ WHINSEC trained militaries continue to violate human rights - not only in Honduras but in Colombia and other parts of Latin America.

Video: Father Roy Bourgeois on Democracy Now!
Generals Who Led Honduras Military Coup Trained at the School of the Americas

Romeo Vasquez, a general who led the military coup in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, received training at the US School of the Americas. The SOA has trained more than 60,000 soldiers, many of whom have returned home and committed human rights abuses, torture, extrajudicial execution and massacres. General Vasquez attended the SOA in 1976 and 1984. The head of the Air Force, General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, also studied there in 1996. Watch the interview with Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of the SOA Watch.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

AFL-CIO on Honduras

AFL-CIO: Honduras Coup Is ‘Unconscionable’

Posted By James Parks On June 30, 2009
The AFL-CIO today called on the U.S. government and the international community, particularly the Organization of American States and the United Nations, to “make every effort” to restore constitutional order in Honduras and reinstate democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup Sunday.

In a statement, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the coup “an unconscionable attack on the fundamental rights and liberties of the Honduran people.” He urged governments to condemn the coup and withhold recognition of the current government. Zelaya was ousted after pushing for a referendum on proposed changes that would allow the president to run for re-election and create new procedures for amending the constitution.
The recent internal conflict relating to the proposed constitutional referendum cannot in any way justify the extra-constitutional measures undertaken by the armed forces. These measures are a flagrant violation of the most basic democratic principles and of the rule of law.
Sweeney said eyewitness reports are coming in that thousands of people, including trade union members, were tear-gassed by the military simply for assembling to demand the return to democratic order and the reinstating of Zelaya.
We call on the United States government to also take all measures within its diplomatic powers to ensure that all Honduran civilians, and particularly trade unionists and social activists denouncing the coup, are safe and secure and will not be victimized by violence and repression.
Sweeney said the federation stands in solidarity with our sister organizations of Honduras, the national trade union centrals—the Unitary Central of Honduran Workers (CUTH), the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH) and the General Workers Central (CGT)—as well as with the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), representing more than 45 million workers of this hemisphere, in condemning the coup.

Meanwhile, three major public-sector unions in Honduras announced plans for a general strike today in support of Zelaya, according to CNN. “It will be an indefinite strike,” Oscar Garcia, vice president of the Honduran water workers union told CNN.
We don’t recognize this new government imposed by the oligarchy and we will mount our campaign of resistance until President Manuel Zelaya is restored to power.
Garcia estimated that 30, 000 public-sector workers, as well as some private-sector workers and peasant farmers, might join the strike.

Finally, a group of five U.S. union members led by Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento (Calif.) Labor Council, who were visiting Honduras and got caught up in the turmoil of the coup, were able to leave the country yesterday and return home.
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