Tag Archives: Negroponte

Dr. Juan Almendares: The Biggest Embrace in History

Dionisia Diaz, the "Grandmother of the Resistance" in Tegucigalpa, September 23, 2009. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

Have you ever been inside an empty stadium? Try it sometime. Stand in the middle of the field and listen. There is nothing emptier than an empty stadium. There is nothing more silent than the stands with nobody in them”. – Eduardo Galeano

For the last five centuries the West and the hegemonic power of multinational colonization have been stealing the essence of life and the aroma of our Honduran lands. They were violent centuries, with massacres of the first peoples. Centuries of immolation and lies, in the name of the cross, “the idea of civilization” and weapons. Centuries antagonistic to the dreams of Lempira, Morazán, Bolívar, Valle and Martí. Centuries of resistance in historic unity by the peoples of Our America.

We were prisoners in the mining and banana enclaves. Wealth at the expense of hunger and misery. The forests were cut down. The mahogany was used to beautify the mansions in Europe, and adorn the doors of the White House in Washington. Agribusiness, agri-combustibles and the loss of alimentary sovereignty increased the treasures of Wall Street, and international financial capital. Honduras was born during the decadence of the old world and the emergence of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny. Invaded by marines and modern pirates, who sang in unison the chorus “In God We Trust” – in God and in the World Bank.

At the beginning of the second half of the 20th century, the 1954 banana workers’ strike took place. The army, guardians of the banana plantations, controlled by the Pentagon and the CIA, put an end to the workers’ movement and participated in the overthrow of the government of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala.

In the 80s there is a military occupation of Honduras. The principal strategist, John Dimitri Negroponte, strengthened the National Security Doctrine. The disciples of the School of the Americas put into practice the torture and physical disappearance of people with the acquiescence of the state judicial apparatus.

Since 1956 until the present century, there have been: seven military coups, signifying seven plagues against national progress. The stigmas: “Banana Republic”, “Country for Rent” have injured the national soul. They are damned names that mask a history of crime, corruption and the negation of a people that have always struggled for liberation.

At the end of the 20th century we were hit by Hurricane Mitch; made worse by transnational financial capital that bribes the powers that be, sells territory to the mining companies, textile sweatshops, banana plantations, energy plants, that increase climatic injustice and social poverty.

Over all these centuries, of coups, blows, paquetazos and trancazos (economic packages and beatings), to the mother and fatherland, they have accumulated and assimilated their own experiences and those of other peoples. Unity is constructed in the honey of practice of the social being and in the hell of the condemned of mother earth.

We learn to reject the lies against the people and governments of Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua and the very government of Honduras presided over by Manuel Zelaya; because there is no bigger truth than the generous testimonies of unconditional solidarity in health, education, economy and transport; that we have received from these sister nations.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) is the most concrete expression of human cooperation and fraternity in the face of the unequal trade agreements with the United States and Europe.

In the first decade of the 21st century, June 28th of 2009; the first political, economic and military coup in Latin America takes place, carried out by an armed, religious, political, ideological and media alliance of local powers in tandem with world imperialist powers.

The de facto regime celebrated its repressive power in the patriotic festivities of September 15th. The festivities reminded us of our infancy when we were forced to march in the parades. As children we were dressed in uniform and transformed into “infantry”. We gathered in the stadiums to be passive, tolerant listeners to the despot of the moment. These were like religious rites, football and military rituals, with their generals, captains, bishops, reverends and chaplains and somehow a bad imitation of the carnivals of New York or California.

The lead soldiers marched, the uniformed robots without their masks of crime, the tanks and the canons burned gun powder and shot false canon balls. The speeches were rusty and cheaply patriotic. They debuted maneuvers in F5 planes, the parachute show of a parachute government.

The aerial noise did not scare the vultures that share the misery of the children living in the garbage, vultures that fly making fun of the war planes. It was a Neronian circus with forced students and teachers, beaten and threatened. The horses and the cavalry greeted with honors their great perfumed chiefs in ties. The popular protest could never be heard in a sports stadium empty of all popular warmth.

The National Resistance Against the Military Coup marched challenging the de facto government; rejecting the electoral farce, demanding the return to constitutional order and of president Zelaya. The popular clamor was for a Constitutional Assembly, The Second Independence, and the re-founding of the State of Honduras.

Recognition was expressed of the solidarity of all the peoples and governments, social movements, parties, ecclesiastical communities, women´s organizations, gay groups, human rights organizations, social communicators, worldwide fast, Vía Campesina, Friends of the Earth of Latin America and International Friends of the Earth.

On September 15th millions of Hondurans marched against the military political coup. The popular joy announced a dawning of justice. The hummingbirds jumped for joy and bathed in the dew of the ALBA and savored the nectar of the dreams of liberation. The march was the Biggest Embrace in History, with which the people, poets of liberty, have become poets for all the people of the world.

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[en] Counterpunch: The Coup and the U.S. Airbase in Honduras

July 4th at the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: Sandra Cuffe[July 4th at Toncontin airport, Tegucigalpa. Photo: Sandra Cuffe]

[http://www.counterpunch.org/kozloff07222009.html]

Zelaya, Negroponte and the Controversy at Soto Cano

The Coup and the U.S. Airbase in Honduras

By NIKOLAS KOZLOFF

The mainstream media has once again dropped the ball on a key aspect of the ongoing story in Honduras: the U.S. airbase at Soto Cano, also known as Palmerola.  Prior to the recent military coup d’etat President Manuel Zelaya declared that he would turn the base into a civilian airport, a move opposed by the former U.S. ambassador.  What’s more Zelaya intended to carry out his project with Venezuelan financing.

For years prior to the coup the Honduran authorities had discussed the possibility of converting Palmerola into a civilian facility.  Officials fretted that Toncontín, Tegucigalpa’s international airport, was too small and incapable of handling large commercial aircraft.  An aging facility dating to 1948, Toncontín has a short runway and primitive navigation equipment.  The facility is surrounded by hills which makes it one of the world’s more dangerous international airports.

Palmerola by contrast has the best runway in the country at 8,850 feet long and 165 feet wide.  The airport was built more recently in the mid-1980s at a reported cost of $30 million and was used by the United States for supplying the Contras during America’s proxy war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua as well as conducting counter-insurgency operations in El Salvador.  At the height of the Contra war the U.S. had more than 5,000 soldiers stationed at Palmerola.  Known as the Contras’ “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” the base housed Green Berets as well as CIA operatives advising the Nicaraguan rebels.

More recently there have been some 500-to-600 U.S. troops on hand at the facility which serves as a Honduran air force base as well as a flight-training center.  With the exit of U.S. bases from Panama in 1999, Palmerola became one of the few usable airfields available to the U.S. on Latin American soil.  The base is located approximately 30 miles north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

In 2006 it looked as if Zelaya and the Bush administration were nearing a deal on Palmerola’s future status.  In June of that year Zelaya flew to Washington to meet President Bush and the Honduran requested that Palmerola be converted into a commercial airport.  Reportedly Bush said the idea was “wholly reasonable” and Zelaya declared that a four-lane highway would be constructed from Tegucigalpa to Palmerola with U.S. funding.

In exchange for the White House’s help on the Palmerola facility Zelaya offered the U.S. access to a new military installation to be located in the Mosquitia area along the Honduran coast near the Nicaraguan border.  Mosquitia reportedly serves as a corridor for drugs moving south to north.  The drug cartels pass through Mosquitia with their cargo en route from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

A remote area only accessible by air, sea, and river Mosquitia is full of swamp and jungle.  The region is ideal for the U.S. since large numbers of troops may be housed in Mosquitia in relative obscurity.  The coastal location was ideally suited for naval and air coverage consistent with the stated U.S. military strategy of confronting organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism.  Romeo Vásquez, head of the Honduran Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked that the armed forces needed to exert a greater presence in Mosquitia because the area was full of “conflict and problems.”

But what kind of access would the U.S. have to Mosquitia?  Honduran Defense Secretary Aristides Mejía said that Mosquitia wouldn’t necessarily be “a classic base with permanent installations, but just when needed. We intend, if President Zelaya approves, to expand joint operations [with the United States].”  That statement however was apparently not to the liking of eventual coup leader and U.S. School of the Americas graduate Vásquez who had already traveled to Washington to discuss future plans for Mosquitia.  Contradicting his own colleague, Vásquez said the idea was “to establish a permanent military base of ours in the zone” which would house aircraft and fuel supply systems.  The United States, Vásquez added, would help to construct air strips on site.

Events on the ground meanwhile would soon force the Hondurans to take a more assertive approach towards air safety.  In May, 2008 a terrible crash occurred at Toncontín airport when a TACA Airbus A320 slid off the runway on its second landing attempt.  After mowing down trees and smashing through a metal fence, the airplane’s fuselage was broken into three parts near the airstrip.  Three people were killed in the crash and 65 were injured.

In the wake of the tragedy Honduran officials were forced at long last to block planes from landing at the notoriously dangerous Toncontín.  All large jets, officials said, would be temporarily transferred to Palmerola.  Touring the U.S. airbase himself Zelaya remarked that the authorities would create a new civilian facility at Palmerola within sixty days.  Bush had already agreed to let Honduras construct a civilian airport at Palmerola, Zelaya said.  “There are witnesses,” the President added.

But constructing a new airport had grown more politically complicated.  Honduran-U.S. relations had deteriorated considerably since Zelaya’s 2006 meeting with Bush and Zelaya had started to cultivate ties to Venezuela while simultaneously criticizing the American-led war on drugs.

Bush’s own U.S. Ambassador Charles Ford said that while he would welcome the traffic at Palmerola past agreements should be honored.  The base was used mostly for drug surveillance planes and Ford remarked that “The president can order the use of Palmerola when he wants, but certain accords and protocols must be followed.”  “It is important to point out that Toncontín is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization,” Ford added, hoping to allay long-time concerns about the airport’s safety.  What’s more, the diplomat declared, there were some airlines that would not see Palmerola as an “attractive” landing destination.  Ford would not elaborate or explain what his remarks were supposed to mean.

Throwing fuel on the fire Assistant Secretary of State John Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, said that Honduras could not transform Palmerola into a civilian airport “from one day to the next.”  In Tegucigalpa, Negroponte met with Zelaya to discuss Palmerola.  Speaking later on Honduran radio the U.S. diplomat said that before Zelaya could embark on his plans for Palmerola the airport would have to receive international certification for new incoming flights.  According to Spanish news agency EFE Negroponte also took advantage of his Tegucigalpa trip to sit down and meet with the President of the Honduran Parliament and future coup leader Roberto Micheletti [the news account however did not state what the two discussed].

Needless to say Negroponte’s visit to Honduras was widely repudiated by progressive and human rights activists who labeled Negroponte “an assassin” and accused him of being responsible for forced disappearances during the diplomat’s tenure as ambassador (1981-1985).  Moreover, Ford and Negroponte’s condescending attitude irked organized labor, indigenous groups and peasants who demanded that Honduras reclaim its national sovereignty over Palmerola.  “It’s necessary to recover Palmerola because it’s unacceptable that the best airstrip in Central America continues to be in the hands of the U.S. military,” said Carlos Reyes, leader of the Popular Bloc which included various politically progressive organizations.  “The Cold War has ended and there are no pretexts to continue with the military presence in the region,” he added.  The activist remarked that the government should not contemplate swapping Mosquitia for Palmerola either as this would be an affront to Honduran pride.

Over the next year Zelaya sought to convert Palmerola into a civilian airport but plans languished when the government was unable to attract international investors.  Finally in 2009 Zelaya announced that the Honduran armed forces would undertake construction.  To pay for the new project the President would rely on funding from ALBA [in English, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas] and Petrocaribe, two reciprocal trading agreements pushed by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez.  Predictably the Honduran right leapt on Zelaya for using Venezuelan funds.  Amílcar Bulnes, President of the Honduran Business Association [known by its Spanish acronym COHEP] said that Petrocaribe funds should not be used for the airport but rather for other, unspecified needs.

A couple weeks after Zelaya announced that the armed forces would proceed with construction at Palmerola the military rebelled.  Led by Romeo Vásquez, the army overthrew Zelaya and deported him out of the country.  In the wake of the coup U.S. peace activists visited Palmerola and were surprised to find that the base was busy and helicopters were flying all around.  When activists asked American officials if anything had changed in terms of the U.S.-Honduran relationship they were told “no, nothing.”

The Honduran elite and the hard right U.S. foreign policy establishment had many reasons to despise Manuel Zelaya as I’ve discussed in previous articles.  The controversy over the Palmerola airbase however certainly gave them more ammunition.

Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008)

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[en] Honduras, Washington and Latin America: Doctor Jekyll and the Good Neighbor

Written by Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein
Wednesday, 08 July 2009

published at: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1978/46/

In the wake of the Honduras coup, speculation about whether or not the U.S. was masterminding the plot is running wild. Brushing off denials of involvement and claims that U.S. officials had tried to dissuade the plotters from plans to overthrow President Manuel Zelaya, progressive writers have almost unanimously accused the Obama administration of complicity in the coup. Respected analysts like Jeremy Scahill, George Ciccariello-Maher and Alexander Cockburn argue that the U.S. must have been involved at some level, with Scahill arguing the U.S. “could have prevented the coup with a simple phone call.”

And in Latin America the bitter riddle still rings true: Why are there no coups in Washington DC? Because it doesn’t have a U.S. embassy! Last week, for instance a friend in Caracas said during an on-line chat that he was convinced Obama himself had given the command to the Generals to overthrow Zelaya. We countered that our Chief Executive may be playing a more wily and sinister strategy than that.

Certainly the past 50-plus years of U.S.-Latin American relations make that statement seem naïve. The Bush Administration’s fingerprints on the Venezuelan coup of 2002 and its involvement in the Haitian coup of 2004 through the IRI (International Republican Institute) would provide enough circumstantial evidence to bring an indictment of the U.S. before any international court of law – if it hadn’t likely already paid off the judges, that is.

However, if we assume that the Obama administration is following all previous recent administrations’ policy of genocide, brute force, terror, authoritarian rule and other forms of inhumane repression, we ignore the evidence that we are in a new, more complex and indeed more dangerous moment for the Bolivarian project of Latin American unity. To understand our moment we need to look back three-fourths of a century, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “Good Neighbor” policy.

FDR came to power in a time remarkably like our own. The Republicans had just tanked the economy and voters looked to a liberal to ease the pain. North Americans of that moment had disinterestedly observed as the U.S. military spent the first third of the century invading and occupying Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti, Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic. After years of battling “insurgents” (or “bandits” as they were often then called), Washington was forced to consider a new course under the new liberal administration.

“In the early 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised that henceforth the United States would be a ‘good neighbor,’ that it would recognize the absolute sovereignty of individual nations, renounce its right to engage in unilateral interventions and make concessions to economic nationalists,” Greg Grandin writes in “Empire’s Workshop.” Grandin goes on to describe what to an anti-imperialist could be called a chilling result: “Rather than weaken U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere, this newfound moderation in fact institutionalized Washington’s authority, drawing Latin American republics tighter into its political, economic and cultural orbit through a series of multilateral treaties and regional organizations.”

From one Roosevelt to the next a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy occurred: The first one (Teddy) used the “Big Stick,” but Franklin traded it for “a goose’s quill” knowing more “great is the hand that holds dominion over/ man by a scribbled name.” FDR’s “Good Neighbor” policy toward Latin America was a frank recognition that dozens of military interventions in the region, in addition to being costly for a country slipping into a depression, had been entirely ineffective.

Roosevelt picked up the idea for the “Good Neighbor” policy from his Republican predecessor and was backed in his efforts by none other than Nelson Rockefeller, who argued that “if the United States is to maintain its security and its political and economic hemispheric position it must take economic measures at once to secure economic prosperity in Central and South America and to establish this prosperity in the frame of hemisphere economic cooperation and dependence.” (Grandin) In other words, opening markets and making trade agreements with Latin America was crucial for the salvation of capitalism in recession and for the maintenance of “dependence.”

Under the “Good Neighbor” policy, Latin America supplied raw materials for the emerging industrial empire to the north which “not only set the U.S. on the road to economic recovery but fortified a block of corporations that provided key support for the New Deal reforms and served as the engine of America’s remarkable postwar boom,” Grandin wrote.

Latin America, on the other hand, was drawn more deeply into a colonial dependence on the United States for the health of its own economies in a relation wherein it provided raw materials but was deprived of the means of development. Most political thinkers, especially in Latin America, saw the “Good Neighbor” policy as “a new strategy of domination” in which “the principal form of imperialist domination on the continent would have, starting at the moment his policy was declared, an essentially economic character.” (“Historia de Nicaragua,” 2002, UNAN, Nicaragua).

Nicaragua put the “Good Neighbor” policy to its first test. A bad economy, international pressure against a brutal occupation, and fierce resistance from the patriotic forces led by A.C. Sandino had forced the U.S. to withdraw its occupation forces. But the departure of the U.S. Marines opened the door for Anastacio Somoza, head of the U.S.-trained Nicaraguan National Guard. On February 20, 1934 Somoza had Sandino murdered and quickly took control of the country.

As is now the case in Honduras, the U.S. role in the murder of Sandino and the coup that instituted the Somoza dictatorship was unclear. Although then-U.S. ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane had lunch with Somoza a few hours before the murder, the Nicaraguan was certainly ruthless and power-hungry enough to have organized the killing and the coup on his own. At the very least, however, the “Good Neighbor” acquiesced and FDR’s reported comment on Somoza said it all: “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

Fast forward to another Democratic president who comes to power in the U.S. to save the Empire from a burst economic bubble, and decides to revamp relations with Latin America. Obama calls his updated “Good Neighbor” policy “A New Partnership for the Americas.” He previewed it while campaigning in Miami’s Cuban-American community last year.

Playing to that audience, Obama lashed out at “demagogues like Hugo Chavez” who, he said, “have stepped into this vacuum” of the Bush “distraction” from Latin America as a result of the Iraq war. Obama went on to flay Chavez for “his predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy that…offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past.” The future U.S. president ended with the recognition that “the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from Bolivia to Nicaragua.”

To repair this alienation, Obama offered programs pegged to FDR’s “Four Freedoms.” He suggested that together the U.S. and its southern neighbors could work towards freedom from fear, as partners in fighting drug trafficking, gangs and terrorism; towards freedom from want, as they addressed poverty, hunger and global warming, and towards political freedom and democracy.

After taking office, Obama announced major relaxations of the bans on travel and remittances to Cuba. At the April 2009 Summit of the Americas, he carried on the appeal to regional unity. He talked of the U.S. intention to foster “engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values.” He shook hands with Chavez, and Venezuela and the U.S. agreed to restore their ambassadors.

As in so many arenas, though, Obama’s message on Latin America gets clouded by mixed signals. The veteran plotters of the 1980s contra wars–John Negroponte, Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and their ilk–have no place in his administration. But Obama’s ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, held the Andean desk at the National Security Council during the failed 2002 coup against Chavez, and Jeffrey Davidow, the president’s advisor for the Summit of the Americas, served as ambassador to Chile during the coup against Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1973.

Though the administration recently announced it would not ask Congress to approve the Free Trade Agreement with Panama until it developed a “new framework,” the president very publicly withdrew his opposition to the trade pact with Colombia during the Summit of the Americas.

In Latin America, Obama faces much more complex and rapidly evolving regional political and economic alliances than did his immediate predecessors. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) took its first stand in defense of Bolivia last September; the Organization of American States has spoken with one voice for Zelaya; MERCOSUR and ALBA are weaving economic ties.

These new political realities also provide an opportunity for the U.S. to regain a measure of control over the region. By contrast with conservatives and neo-cons(ervatives), liberal and neo-liberal imperialists prefer trade treaties to “armed treaties,” that is, military force. While Bush preferred leveling Iraq with bombs, Bill Clinton managed to level Mexico with NAFTA. Franklin Roosevelt, with his fast-track authority, negotiated trade treaties with fifteen Latin American countries between 1934 and 1942. Obama could use trade deals to widen the divisions emerging in the region–perhaps fortifying “the U.S. free-trade partnerships and links to Brazil and Chile, knowingly sacrificing a sphere of influence in the hope of establishing ring-fences around the most radical governments,” as Ivan Briscoe suggested in the “Foro Europa-America Latina.”

Fissures and new poles of power are emerging in opposition to what Professor Napoleon Saltos of the Central University of Quito calls the “Bolivarian Coordinate.” This ideological-political-economic axis is only one possibility. Saltos also points out the possibility of the emergence of a “sub-imperialist” Brazil in competition with the neoliberal U.S.-European imperial axis. (See this article).

Regional divisions and tensions surfaced dramatically during the September 2008 disturbances in Bolivia. On one hand, the fledgling UNASUR’s resolution of the conflict between the regions loyal to President Evo Morales and those of the Media Luna demonstrated South America’s new independence.

But while the world’s attention was focused on Bolivia’s crisis, another struggle was taking place behind the scenes at the UNASUR meeting in Santiago, Chile. Just days before that gathering, Hugo Chavez verbally attacked Bolivian Defense Minister Luis Trigo, accusing him of not doing enough to defend President Morales. Chavez went on to say that “if something happens to Evo… I won’t just sit here with my arms crossed.”

Many Bolivians took umbrage at this statement and viewed it as inappropriate meddling in their country’s internal affairs. As one friend in Bolivia said privately over a cup of coffee, “I guess Chavez doesn’t remember what happened to the last ‘gaucho’ (cowboy) who tried to save Bolivia,” comparing Chavez to Che.

At the UNASUR meeting, Chavez agitated for sharp statements against U.S. interference in Bolivia, while the “pragmatic” group led by Brazil and Chile preferred to address only Bolivia’s immediate, internal issue. The meeting was held in private, but Chilean Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley told Bolivia’s daily La Razon that “he feared a failure of the extraordinary summit of the Union of South American Nations due to the demands of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to condemn the United States in the final declaration.” (La Razon, Sept. 17, 2008) “There are different perspectives… I want to say that we don’t share his position and we believe that the problems of the region have to be solved in the region. I don’t like making others responsible,” Foxley said.

It was no secret who came out on top at the end of the summit: The “pragmatists” won, with Lula da Silva clearly in charge as the representative of the economic powerhouse of the region. This wasn’t the first time Chavez, a brilliant strategist, sabotaged his own efforts with his lack of diplomacy. He left the summit having not only lost a bid to make a statement against U.S. imperialism, but also having alienated many Bolivians by his harsh criticism of their officials.

While the countries of Latin America continue to welcome Venezuela’s generous aid and subsidized energy, in a context of reduced tension where an ignorant, unpopular, proto-fascist North American president turns his throne over to a charismatic, intelligent leader of African descent, Chavez’s attempts to maintain the polarization between empire and its unofficial colonies so as to push the agenda of Latin American unity forward is in danger of losing steam.

None of this could possibly be lost on Obama. He must know that the U.S. has galvanized opposition in Latin America every time it has undertaken the sort of violent undermining of local autonomy now being carried out in Honduras. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain from this coup in Honduras, especially when he can manage to keep any upstart junior president in line by manipulating trade treaties and cutting deals guaranteed to maintain Latin America in subservience, in short, to divide and conquer.

Yes, it’s obvious that the U.S. hopes the coup can neutralize Zelaya. Of course Hillary will mince words and use linguistic tricks to avoid the use of the word “coup” to exploit the situation to the max. It’s also clear that Obama will continue to defend the Empire: A tiger that has withdrawn its claws remains a tiger. But if anti-imperialists continue in the simplistic, black-and-white Manichean thinking of the last 50 years, we’ll miss the specific dangers–and opportunities–of the moment.

Here we recall the words of Bertolt Brecht: “There are many ways to kill. You can stick a knife in a person’s belly, take away her bread, not heal him from a disease, stick her in a bad apartment, work him to death, drive her to suicide, send him off to war, etc. Only a few of these things are forbidden in our country.”

By far, the murder by stabbing–or military coup–attracts more attention. That’s why the brazen golpe in Honduras has raised so much speculation about who was holding the knife. The treaty that will ensure that a nation like Honduras starves or remains on its knees tends to attract far less attention.

While it’s crucial that the coup plotters be brought to justice (even if that includes U.S. citizens) and that Manuel Zelaya return to his rightful place as president of Honduras, activists need to pay even closer attention to the silent murder by economic strangulation and/or free trade agreements. We need to ensure, for instance, that Clinton not be allowed to “cut a deal” to have Zelaya returned under “conditions” (as her husband did with Aristide in 1994). We need to lobby for fair trade agreements and not free trade agreements. We need, finally, to support movements in Latin America working toward unity against empire. Zelaya’s return to Honduras, without conditions, will be only one step in our struggle.

Clifton Ross is the writer/director of “Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out” (www.pmpress.org) and more recently “Translations from Silence” (www.freedomvoices.org). Marcy Rein is a freelance writer and editor and longtime participant/observer in various social movements.

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