At the Trinidad Summit of the Americas in April of 2009, U.S. President Obama said that his administration would “condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in the hemisphere.” He spoke majestically of a “new chapter” in U.S.-Latin American relations. The one instance of a “violent overthrow of a democratically-elected government that has occurred during his administration has been in Honduras. There, far from condemnation, U.S policy has been initially tacit, then unwavering support, a policy consistent with the very worst of old chapters of intervention and support for repressive governments in Latin America.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently received lavish praise from corporate media’s “U.S. News and World Report”. In the March 8 online edition Paul Bedard writes, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is winning kudos for quietly rebuilding the U.S brand around the world.” Bedard offers no evidence or examples of how Clinton is marketing the “U.S. brand”, and makes no mention of Honduras and Latin America, where Clinton is finding sales difficult.
On her recent trip to Argentina to meet with South American leaders, Clinton said, “The Honduran crisis has been managed to a successful conclusion. It was done without violence.” Previous to making that statement, Clinton had received correspondence on three occasions (August 7 and September 25,2009 and March 5, 2010) from Democratic members of the House of Representatives about the horrendous and escalating level of repression, murder, incarcerations, and disappearances at the hands of “security forces” in Honduras. The congressional representatives received no reply to their first two letters from Clinton until January 28. In their third letter, dated March 5, they wrote:
“Since President Lobo’s inauguration, (on January 27) several prominent opponents of the coup have been attacked. On February 3, Vanessa Zepeda, a nurse and union organizer who had previously received death threats linked to her activism in the resistance movement, was strangled and her body dumped from a vehicle in Tegucigalpa. On February 15, Julio Funes Benitez, a member of the SITRASANAA trade union and an active member of the national resistance movement, was shot and killed by unknown gunmen on a motorcycle outside his home. Most recently, Claudia Brizuela, an opposition activist, was murdered in her home on February 24th. Unfortunately, these are only three of the numerous attacks against activists and their families…”
Hillary Clinton said that there had been no violence in Honduras after members of her own party had repeatedly written to her about the ongoing political murders and persecution in Honduras. In the narrative advanced by Clinton, the political crisis was resolved peacefully (“without violence”) and now the Lobo government is restoring democracy. In Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” Humpty Dumpty states,
“When I use a word…it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.”
“The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master--that’s all.”
A generation ago, President Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz stated about elections occurring in Central America, “The important thing is that if there is to be an electoral process, it be observed not only at the moment when people vote, but in all the preliminary aspects that make an election meaningful. Rival political groups must be allowed to form themselves and have access to people, to have the right of assembly, to have access to the media.” In the weeks prior to the Honduran “elections” the coup’s decrees severely restricted freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of movement, practically holding the nation in a state of siege. More than 40 registered candidates resigned in protest. Members of the resistance movement were harassed, beaten, and detained. In San Pedro Sula an election-day march was brutally suppressed. Opposition presidential candidate Carlos Reyes suffered a fractured wrist in a beating by police. To avoid more bloody confrontations, the United Front Against the Coup D’etat urged its members to remain home during the elections to uphold a nationwide boycott of the elections. The day of the election, a new “state of emergency” was declared, further curtailing free expression.
Although it was censored or ignored by the corporate media, the results possessed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) demonstrated only 49.2% turnout. A majority of Hondurans abstained in the “elections” that the National Front Against the Coup d’etat had called unfair, unfree, and had boycotted. None of the major international elections monitors: the U.N, The O.A.S, the E.U. or the Carter Center would lend their offices to to the Honduran “elections.”
“Though State Department officials insist that the Honduras election process was transparent, in fact, no international observers were present to confirm the tally because-as announced by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on September 23, 2009, the conditions for a free and fair election were not present. A 147-page report released Wednesday, January 20th , by the Inter American Human Rights Commission cites well-documented human rights abuses, including many political assassinations committed prior to and following the elections. The report describes a militarized environment in which dissident or critical opinions have been officially prohibited in an `egregious, arbitrary, unnecessary and disproportionate restriction, in violation of international law, of the right of every human being to express himself or herself freely, and to receive information from a plurality and diversity of sources’.” (Inter American
Human Rights Commission 1/20/10)
The Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced a 61% voting percentage the night of the elections. But the figure did not tally with its own vote count, which showed a 49.2% turnout- a considerable decline from past elections. An official Honduran elections observer, who asked to remain anonymous because he feared for his life, (“Do you want me to get shot?”) told the independent video producer Real News that Saul Escobar, the head of the tribunal, had made up the statistic. Resistance leaders noted that the high number of blank and nullified ballots included the votes of many people who were coerced into voting and who purposely destroyed their ballots; subtracting those, the effective turnout hovers around 42%. (Laura Carlsen, “The Sham Elections in Honduras” 12/11/09)
On December 8, the South American trade organization MERCOSUR announced its “total rejection” of the Honduran elections, stating that they were “carried out in an atmosphere of unconstitutionality, illegitimacy, and illegality, dealing a blow to the democratic values of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Secretary of State Clinton recognized that most of the governments of the world have not recognized the Honduran regime. In Buenos Aires she said, “I don’t know what they’re waiting for.” For purposes of window dressing, the coup regime postured “elections” in which the state terror apparatus would brook no opposition. It responded to peaceful demonstrations with lethal force, carried out planned assassinations, arbitrary and illegal detentions, leading nearly all anti-coup politicians to abstain from the process in order to avoid being killed and not lend credence to the procedure. So, in answer to Hillary’s question, since they, unlike her, were not supporters of a military coup, state terror, and electoral farce, they are waiting for a legally constituted regime to appear in Honduras.
Paramilitary style violence against the resistance has escalated since Lobo’s inauguration on January 27. “On March 14, two vehicles fired 47 bullets into the car of Nahum Ely Palacios Orteaga, news director of Canal 5 in the Aguan Valley, killing him instantly. Both men had opposed the coup government. More than 3,000 Honduran citizens have been “detained and beaten”, hundreds more wounded in clashes with the police, and at least 28 members of the nonviolent resistance movement have been murdered. Media outlets and journalists critical of the regime and its tactics have been frequent targets of abuse. As recently as January 7, opposition radio station “Coco Dulce” was incinerated in an arson attack. Journalist Joseph Shansky writes, “The bodies of slain activists are piling up in Honduras. While it’s being kept quiet in most Honduran and international media, the rage is building among a dedicated network of friends spreading the word quickly with the tragic announcement of each compañero/a. On Sunday, December 7, a group of 6 people were gunned down while walking the streets in the Villanueva neighborhood of Teguicigalpa. According to sources, a white van with no license plates stopped in front of this group. Four masked men jumped out of the van and forced the group to get on the ground, where they were shot. The massacre, unreported in America’s corporate media, was part of a string of Resistance-related murders during the past few weeks alone. On December 3, Walter Trochez, 25, a well-known activist in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, was snatched off the street and thrown into a van, again by four masked men, in downtown Tegucigalpa. In the report that he later filed to local and national authorities, Walter said he was interrogated for hours for information on Resistance members and activities, and was beaten in the face with a pistol for refusing to speak. He was told that he would be killed regardless, and he eventually escaped by throwing open the van door, falling into the street, and running away. On December 5, Santos Garcia Corrales, and active member of the National Resistance Front, was detained by security forces in New Colony Capital, south of Tegucigalpa. He was then tortured for information on a local merchant who was providing food and supplies to the Resistance. After reporting the incident to local authorities, Santos’s body was found five days later, on December 10, decapitated.” (Upside Down World 12/23/09)
Shortly before the November 2009 “election” Bertha Olivia declared, “I believe we are experiencing a dictatorship without precedents, even worse than in the 80’s. Back then, while we lived under the military boot, paramilitary groups and death squads would assassinate and disappear people in a clandestine manner, so it was difficult to point them out as the criminals. Today, they do it in broad daylight, openly challenging all national and international structures of human rights and governance.”
Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, wrote a letter on March 3 to the Attorney General of Honduras in which he said, “I am writing to express my concern regarding recent attacks on members of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), including killings, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault. The fact that these attacks targeted members of this political group, which opposed the 2009 coup and advocated for the reinstatement of ousted president Manuel Zelaya- as well as previous threats received by victims or comments allegedly made by the assailants- raise the possibility that these abuses may have been politically motivated .” The letter continued, “Without a thorough investigation to identify who committed the crime, to establish motive, and to hold those responsible to account, these events could generate a chilling effect that would limit the exercise of basic political rights in Honduras, including the rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression.”
The Obama administration quickly recognized the Lobo regime and now pretends that the situation has returned to normal, ignoring the violence as it restores aid to an unstable government with little claim to legitimacy.
Why does the Obama administration support the coup regime? According to Honduran Researcher Robinson Solzar Perez: “The coup d’etat in Honduras clearly marks a turning point in a future path of Latin American politics. Three issues in particular have been clearly signaled and appear to be a target of right-wing hardliners: Avoid any economic alternative (i.e. the ALBA) that may block the markets of multinational corporations, detain the progressive advance of the nationalist governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, and sow the seeds of fear among Latin American leaders, by reminding them that extra-national interests are well above legitimate internal governance, even if this latter one is backed up by votes.”
The principle of complementarity in the ALBA community means that Venezuela accepts payment in kind-agricultural produce equivalent to the price of its oil. This has meant stability to member countries. When the United States accuses Venezuela of destabilizing the region, it means that Venezuela destabilizes American domination of the region, normally sustained by aid, debt, and unfavorable terms of trade.
Solzar Perez concludes, ”It was Zelaya’s efforts, supported by the social movements, to initiate constitutional reform presented by the elite and regurgitated by the North American mainstream press as a power grab that constituted the last straw.”
Hillary Clinton has no problem supporting a pseudo-government rejected by the majority of its people that is the product of a coup d’etat and a prolonged campaign of state terror and has no OAS or UN recognition. Nor does she object to widespread political murder of pro-democracy activists by death squads if it is done for the “strategic interests” of the empire. In fact she serves as cheerleader and propagandist. Inspired by Humpty Dumpty, she said in Buenos Aires, “We support the work President Lobo is doing to promote national unity and strengthen democracy.” Honduran victims of political assassination at the hands of a U.S. client state are not worthy of mention by the administration or corporate media. They are mere untermenschen in the empire’s quest to reassert neoliberal domination of the hemisphere. The U.S. is now revealed to be a major participant in the Honduran coup. What a shameful message for those throughout the world who had hope at the beginning of the 21st Century for change we could believe in.
According to Latin American scholar Laura Carlsen, (The Nation,12-14-09) “Honduras now faces a deeper political crisis than it did before the elections. The resistance has vowed not to recognize the Lobo government and has announced that it is moving on to create a broad national front to demand a return to the rule of law, the punishment of human rights violators, and constitutional reforms.” There is a movement for democracy in Honduras. The U.S. stands foursquarely opposed to it, and underwrites the Honduran army and “security forces” using murder and violence to suppress it.
According to Honduran journalist and filmmaker Oscar Estrada, “With the entrance on the scene of Porfirio Lobo, there begins a new phase in the project of domination begun by the June 28 coup d’etat. Lobo is nothing more than an attempt to whitewash the coup and demobilize the popular resistance.” (Adrienne Pine, “Lobo: Another Disaster for Central American Democracy,” 1/26/10)
Adds activist Rafael Alegria, “The power of the people is going to result in a massive transformation in this country. We are demanding a Constituent Assembly that is going to transform this country into a participatory democracy. It will be a new Honduras- a country with social justice, with equality, with a new model of development in which everyone is included.” Alegria contrasts this with “the current situation in which there is a privileged oligarchy that owns and controls everything, while on the other hand there is an immense mass of impoverished people. This can’t continue.”
Committed Hondurans risk their lives in a peaceful struggle for a democratic society through a constitutional convention against a murderous U.S.-backed regime that doesn’t hesistate to use violence against those who oppose it. For observers in Latin America, where significant progress has been made in overcoming the legacy of political violence and military dictatorship while empowering the popular sectors, it is abundantly clear that the Obama administration is committed to the same old practices in Latin America.
“So rah-rah-rah democracyThanks for reading the crap that, Jeff, typed. Thanks, Jeff.
Lets all be grateful as hell
And bury the statue of liberty
(because it begins to smell)."