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Rights Action: Protests Challenging to IDB-Funded ‘Shock’ Program Met with Massive Violent Repression

Honduras Regime Impunity Watch

Rights Action – April 12, 2011

 

PROTESTERS ACROSS HONDURAS CHALLENGE IDB-FUNDED ‘SHOCK’ PROGRAM TO PRIVATIZE EDUCATION IN HONDURAS, AND ARE MET WITH MASSIVE VIOLENT REPRESSION

By Karen Spring & Annie Bird, April 12, 2011

 

March 2011 was marked by the worst repression seen against the people of Honduras since the June 2009 military coup.  The repression came in response to massive protests against an all-out final push by the Pepe Lobo regime to essentially privatize Honduras’ public education system while destroying teacher’s independence, politicizing schools, slashing salaries in half and ransacking retirement funds.

 

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(Photo: Karen Spring, Honduras, April 2011)

 

On April 1, 2011 teachers stopped the protests, a gesture to demonstrate a willingness to dialogue.  Pepe Lobo’s response was to publish the names of 300 teachers being summarily fired.  This forced parents and teachers back into the streets, and on Monday, April 11, protests began again.  A national strike will take place on Tuesday April 12, challenging the shock changes to the nation’s education system.  Violent repression of the protests is feared.

 

Strong national and international interests lie behind the plans for the Honduran education system.  Business interests and national political party power structures are teaming up with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank (WB), to capitalize on education in Honduras while neutralizing teachers as an important voice in Honduran public policy.

 

MILITARY COUP USHERS IN SHOCK SOCIO-ECONOMIC POLICY MEASURES

 

On March 17, thousands of teachers began protesting as the de facto Honduran Congress examined a new law that fundamentally restructures the Honduran education system on a scale not seen since 1895 enacting what Honduran teachers call the privatization of the national education system.

 

This comes on the coattails of the June 2009 military coup and is just one of a series of ‘shock’ measures being undertaken to profoundly change the way Honduras administers everything from education to water to land rights to electricity to national sovereignty to retirement funds.  It also comes very shortly following the February 1, 2011 approval of a $100,000 technical loan from the IDB, Project Number HO-T1149, for a project called “Support of a comprehensive educational model.”

 

Over the past 16 months of the Pepe Lobo administration, a whirlwind of laws have rushed through congress to facilitate these shock measures, many facilitated by WB and IDB funding, and they are generating massive protests that build on the already widespread rejection of the legitimacy of the Pepe Lobo regime.  Lobo assumed office in January 2010 following illegitimate elections which were carried out by the post-military coup regime, under extreme repression and were not recognized by most of the nations in the Americas.

 

As the population of Honduras witnessed the extreme repression unleashed against protesting teachers and grasped the gravity of the changes to be enacted in the educational system, Hondurans joined the teachers in protest.

 

Since March 30th, parents from communities throughout Honduras occupied schools and blocked roads.  The Lobo regime’s response was to order teachers back to school and send in the military.

 

VIOLENCE TO SILENCE PROTESTS & DESTROY FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

Tear gas, live ammunition, tanks spraying a mix of water and pepper gas, illegal detentions, trumped up charges, violent beatings, disappearance attempts and murder are some of the tactics that the post-coup regime is deploying against the pro-democracy people’s movement and public school teacher’s movement that have taken to the streets to protest government education policies changes since July 2010.

 

Honduran teacher’s professional associations have not only been targeted for destruction by the IDB, as is clearly described in a March 2010 IDB study of the educational labor market in Honduras, but also by the Lobo regime, as teachers have also been a pillar of support for the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP, acronym in Spanish) that formed in opposition to the June 28th, 2009 military coup.  Strategically, destroying the teachers professional societies would mean a directly attack on the FNRP.

 

Since the coup, over 65 members of the pro-democracy people’s movement have been killed, disappeared and directly targeted for their role in the movement, 14 of them being public school teachers.  In addition, human rights organizations have identified over 300 “suspicious” killings, with indications of political motives and/or participation of state security forces.

 

On March 18, a 59-year-old teacher, Ilse Velasquez Rodriguez was shot in the head with a tear gas canister, fell to the ground and was run over by a news vehicle.  Tear gas launchers are considered a lethal weapon if fired directly on targets, an increasingly common practice by Honduran police.  Police and military also shot many tear gas canisters inside the central offices of teacher’s associations, COLPROSUMAH and COPEMH after protests had ended for the day, while teachers were meeting and resting. Dozens were arrested and charged with crimes including sedition, and dozens were injured.

 

The collective power of the teachers, both in the pro-democracy people’s movement and in the struggle against privatizing education, impedes both national interests of the post-coup regime and international interests of the WB and IDB.

 

In an IDB document from March 2010 with recommendations and conclusions regarding ‘needed’ Honduran educational reform, the IDB wrote, “That [The National Teacher’s Work Code] gives the teacher’s union an enormous coercive power over the government.”

 

PRIVATIZATION OF EDUCATION OR “DECENTRALIZATION”

 

Throughout Latin America a series of educational ‘reform’ or ‘decentralization’ programs have been enacted over the past decade, programs promoted by the WB and IDB.  In the case of Honduras the program is called the Honduran Program for Community Education, PROHECO.

 

In this model, the responsibility for administering schools and their funding is given over to non-governmental organizations, and in some countries businesses, that administer schools in theory, though often not in practice, in collaboration with local communities.

 

The PROHECO program was created in Honduras during the presidency of Ricardo Maduro from the National Party.  Administration of PROHECO schools was then charged to a Honduran NGO, the Ricardo Ernesto Maduro Andreu Foundation for Education, FEREMA.

 

The new education law passed on March 31, 2011 amidst massive repression of protests, follows the same model as PROHECO, but rather than just being a handful of schools in each municipality, the new law shifts all public schools from elementary to high school, over to the “decentralized” model.

 

The March 31 education law creates Municipal Educational Development Councils (COMDE) in each municipality, which coordinates administration of schools.  Though not explicit in the language of the law, Honduras’ experience with PROHECO and other experiences in the region make it clear to teachers that the COMDE schools would be administered in coordination with an NGO that administers the schools budgets.

 

WB and IDB technical grants, like the February 1, 2011 IDB grant, are usually extended to help governments prepare the groundwork to receive the multimillion dollar loans to promote new programs.  Teachers expect the IDB to provide a $50 million loan to support the shift to the COMDE model in the near future, and they are also expect that FEREMA would also assume management of COMDE schools.

 

POLITICAL PARTY INFLUENCE IN ALL THE NATION’S SCHOOL

 

FEREMA, created by former National Party president Ricardo Maduro, is closely tied in to National Party structures. The potential for political manipulation through the nation’s schools when managed by a private foundation closely tied to political party structures is tremendous.

 

Political manipulation has already occurred in some PROHECO schools, such as occurred in Santa Rositas, San Francisco de Lempira, where a conflict between National Party municipal and school authorities and the families of the students of the school culminated in the burning of the school in early March.

 

The on-going two year dispute in Santa Rosita centered around municipal and school authorities attempts to fire and replace teachers that were not loyal to the National Party. Local authorities and PROHECO administrators, along with the police and military, entered the school to attempt to physically remove the teachers despite strong resistance from the parents.

 

Many of the PROHECO and municipal officials involved in the attempted illegal firings also have outstanding legal complaints for other abuses, particularly the school director, accused of raping young students and making death threats against the parents denouncing the abuses.

 

In early March the Special Prosecutor for Indigenous Peoples Rights conducted an investigation of the charges and was herself threatened.  When charges were formalized, according to the Civic Council of Indigenous and Popular Organization of Honduras), COPINH, the abusive authorities responded by burning the school.  COPINH was blamed publicly by the media and authorities for the burning while an investigation has still not been carried out.

 

DESTROYING TEACHERS PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS

 

In Honduras, it is considered that certain professions like public prosecutors and teachers, should have a certain guarantees to ensure their ability to carry out their profession with independence. Destroying the professional associations not only destroys labor conditions but destroys their ability to act with independence.

 

Teachers’ professional associations have played a key role in the structure of the Honduran educational system for over on hundred years. Teachers associations are more than unions, though they fulfill some of the important functions of unions, such as collective bargaining on teachers working conditions and administration of important benefits like retirement pensions.  But professional associations also accredit teachers, have an important voice in educational policy, and protect the teachers from arbitrary firing / hiring.

 

The creation of the PROHECO program for the first time allowed the government to hire teachers to practice without belonging to professional associations.  PROHECO starting teachers earn salaries of approximately L4500 per month, less than the minimum wage, and are only paid the 10 months of the year classes are in session. The Secretary of Education teachers affiliated with the professional associations earn salaries of about L9800 over the 12 month calendar year, with two additional bonus salaries per year.

 

PROHECO teachers are hired on ten month contracts, which must be renewed yearly.  Since they are hired year to year they have no right to unemployment compensation or retirement benefits.  It also makes their job security contingent on absolute compliance with whatever the school’s administrating NGO demands of them.

 

In short, the experience of PROHECO has confirmed to teachers that the measures being undertaken to dismantle the professional associations and “decentralize” education open up the possibility of politically motivated firing of teachers, while ravaging teachers working conditions.

 

ROB THE TEACHER’S PENSION FUNDS; BUY TEAR GAS & AMMUNITION

 

Ilse Velasquez, the teacher killed in protests on March 18, had hoped to retire this year, but had been told she could not since the teachers’ pension funds were gone.  The de facto Roberto Micheletti regime that took power for 5 months after the military coup until the ‘election’ of Pepe Lobo, illegally took four billion lempiras ($40 million USD) from IMPREMA, the institution that manages pension funds for 68,000 teachers.

 

The stolen funds are believed to have been used by the de facto government to fund the military machine run by the oligarchy, illegal “President” Micheletti and head of the armed forces, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez to repress and terrorize the pro-democracy movement critical of the coup and it’s perpetrators.

 

The Lobo regime has not complied with an agreement reached with teachers in August 2010 to return a portion of the stolen funds to IMPREMA. Instead, the government and Congress have been attacking IMPREMA; attempting to create the impression of corruption and mis-management to convince the population of needed reform.

 

Teachers claim the de facto government, backed by the IDB, intends to consolidate IMPREMA into the IPM (military retirement fund) and that the age for retirement will be raised from 60 to 70.

 

PEOPLE RESIST

 

Attempts to consolidate the privatization process that began under the Maduro administration were largely unsuccessful in the privatization effort during the  overthrown President Zelaya’s term in office from 2006-2009, the IDB and WB seem to be successfully pushing this agenda with the Pepe Lobo’s regime comprised of Honduran oligarchy and business elite, who have many reasons to follow suit.

 

Strong and growing national resistance against the new education law continues. Including departmental assemblies and protests organized by the teacher’s movement and pro-democracy people’s movement. This is despite Lobo’s threat that all teachers that do not present themselves to work will be suspended for one year without pay. Taking democracy into their own hands, municipal consultations are also now occurring throughout the country in an effort to reject the Congress’s recent decision and the new education law.

 

In a last final effort to defend public education to avoid the system to be handed over to the same people that planned and supported the military coup, the teachers, the National Front of Popular Resistance, students, indigenous organizations, churches and parents of public school students continue to resist by occupying schools, holding assemblies, consultations and protesting in the street.

 

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WHAT TO DO – MAKE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS

for HONDURAS’ PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT

 

To make a tax-deductible donation for community based organizations in Honduras’ pro-democracy movement working to defend human rights and the environment and to eradicate poverty and re-found their nation-state, make check payable to “Rights Action” and mail to:

 

UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887

CANADA:  552 – 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8

 

CREDIT-CARD DONATIONS: http://rightsaction.org/contributions.htm; or go to: http://www.rightsaction.org.  (Credit card donations can be done anonymously)

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QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, MORE INFORMATION???

Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org

Karen Spring, in Tegucigalpa, spring.kj@gmail.com, 011 [504] 9507-3835

Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org

 

Thank-you.

 

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Banging the Drums of Resistance to the Repression, by Karen Spring

BANGING THE DRUMS OF RESISTANCE TO THE REPRESSION

(by Karen Spring, spring.kj@gmail.com)

 

On March 28th, Miriam was shot by police in the stomach with tear gas canisters, illegally detained and threatened, during a peaceful road occupation to reject the privatization of public education being carried out by the military-backed Honduran regime.

 

Three days after her release, and still recuperating, Miriam was present in Tegucigalpa marching with the Garifuna people.

 

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(Miriam Miranda, Tegucigalpa, April 1, 2011. All photos: Karen Spring)

 

(From a speech by Miriam Miranda, Coordinator of OFRANEH (Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras), on the streets of Tegucigalpa, April 1, 2011)

 

“Today we are here, present in the capital, not just so people can watch us dance. We do not want to maintain this idea that Garifuna are only useful to dance. As well, we will not be used to help legitimize a government that carried out a coup d’etat.

 

“We are here as Garifuna so we can make visible the problems of the Garifuna people. So that people will realize, on a national and international level, that the Garifuna people are here to reclaim their historical rights.

 

“We are here on the 1st of April, inaugurating the International Year of the Afro-descendents named by the United Nations.

 

“Today we can say that we are facing the second expulsion of our territories, that is why we’re here.

 

“The Garifuna people have inhabited Honduras and resisted for more than 214 years. It is not true that we are just able to dance. That is why we are here. We are here with our identity, our spirituality, our culture, because we have a culture of resistance. Even before a system that wants to eliminate all of the value of our culture. All the value that we are as Garifuna people. We are proud to be Garifuna. The Garifuna culture is a culture of milleniums. The Garifuna people just like the Lenca people, Pech, Mosquito, and Tolipan, all the indigenous and black peoples, we have been resisting against a monoculture, one culture that they are trying to create and say that we are.

 

“We are here to say that we are not interested in speaking with [President] Pepe Lobo because he is not in charge. We want to tell the world that yes, we are present. We do not want them to receive us in the Presidential House … when he [Pepe Lobo} will not dialogue with the teachers. When he is repressing the people. Because of this we are here to say we are present!”

 

THE MARCH OF THE DRUMS; 214 YEARS OF ANCESTRAL RESISTANCE; 2011 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF AFRO-DESCENDENTS

 

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“The sounds of our drums are symbols of resistance.” (Garifuna doctor, Luther Castillo)

 

In Honduras, April is a month of celebration for the Garifuna people. To inaugurate the African Heritage Month during the International Year of Afro-Descendents and 214 years since the Garifuna people arrived in Honduras (forcibly brought here by [British] imperialists carrying out an ethnic cleansing on the island now known as San Vincent), roughly 2000 Garifuna people and 214 drums were brought from various communities on the north coast and Bay Islands of Honduras to Tegucigalpa last Friday, April 1st.

 

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From the National Teaching University to the Central Park, the Garifuna community – joined by Lenca indigenous members of COPINH (Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras) – marched with 214 drums, many maracas while singing and dancing in the streets of the capital city.

 

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But as Garifuna doctor, Luther Castillo said to the crowd, “We commemorate [the African heritage month] but we have nothing to celebrate.” With many colourful written banners carried on the streets of Tegucigalpa, the Garifuna demonstrated the various threats to their culture and survival. All reasons why it’s difficult for the Garifuna to celebrate as they are facing “a second expulsion from their territory.”

 

Banners read:

 

* The Plundering of Garifuna land and Territory is racism

* In the International Year of Afro-descendents, the Robbery of African and Latin American Lands has Intensified

* The Hydroelectric Dam Decrees are Unconstitutional: We Demand the Right to Consultation

* We Demand Integral Agrarian Reform: No to Facusse-landia

* The Municipalization of Education, Water & Indigenous Land is Privatization

 

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Source:

Honduras Military-backed Regime & Impunity Watch

Rights Action – April 6, 2011

 

 

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, ENGLISH & ESPANOL

Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org

Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org

Karen Spring, in Tegucigalpa, spring.kj@gmail.com, 011 [504] 9507-3835

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[en] Dr. Juan Almendares – The Honduran Resistance: A New Hope is Born

National Resistance Movement in Honduras. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

THE HONDURAN RESISTANCE: A NEW HOPE IS BORN
By Dr. Juan Almendares, October 2009

The military coup in Honduras of 28 June, 2009, has been stripped of its democratic facade. The watchwords of the ‘de facto regime’, that have emerged from the violence, are: “God, Law and Order”.

The regime has openly adopted the methods of Stroessner, the late dictator of Paraguay, on declaring a State of Emergency – in reality a State of Siege – that aims to suppress all resistance and silence all opposition. It has closed down Radio Globo and CHOLUSAT SUR, two principal media houses that have continuously and valiantly provided news on the real situation in Honduras.

The legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, together with his family and associates, have been subjected to physical and psychological torture; and for all practical purposes deprived of their liberty in the embassy of Brazil, in violation of international treaties.

International pressure has forced the de facto regime to dialogue with President Zelaya. But this is a solipsistic dialogue that is being prolonged cynically and endlessly, with the aim of legitimising the forthcoming [November 29th] `presidential elections´ being conducted by the illegal regime under their `democracy´.

The country is divided between the coup forces and the anti-coup forces. The two sides have completely different and antagonistic philosophies, discourses, practices and methods.

“GOD, LAW AND ORDER”

The golpista (coup) philosophy assumes that it is the owner of reality, by right, and by inheritance. This ‘reality’ is fixed and immutable.  It is established and sanctified by the god of the powerful and the theology of armed and violent oppression; a reality in which the gilded world of the rich is in confrontation with the oppressive world of the poor and with those who have no right to justice and to love.

The golpistas´ conception of the world is based on an a-historical, ontological vision; one in which the social being has no place and the people do not exist.

It is this frame of reference which justified the military coup that aborted the holding of a non-binding poll – the “Fourth Ballot” – in which the people were to be asked their opinion on the installation of a National Constituent Assembly.

The golpista ideology holds that the “Constitution is God.” It’s advisors and practitioners are disciples of the Pentagon’s ‘School of the Americas’ and of the extreme right in the United States and Latin America.

The epistemology underlying the vision of the golpistas is one that totally ignores the potential of the people as subjects, capable of understanding and changing social reality.

Knowledge and education are a function of the market and of capital accumulation. The regime´s assumptions of its own validity and political legitimacy go along with a kind of legal formalism in which the law is completely separate from social life.

This view is not only perverse but false, for it flagrantly distorts the truth. It denies that a military coup took place, falsifies records and ignores the systematic violations of human rights and corruption.

The method of the golpistas is to promote a “syndrome of attrition and of physical, mental and political exhaustion”. The strategy seeks to defeat the opposition by means of irregular warfare; media, religious and military terrorism; detentions, beatings and torture. It includes assassinations of leaders, teachers, artists, youth and women – femicide has increased by 60 percent.

The economic cost of the military coup, in the first three months, has been over $800 million, implying a loss of nearly $30 million a day.

A GIANT HAS AWOKEN

But in the face of all this pain and suffering a giant has awoken; a new hope has been born. The Honduran people has rediscovered itself. Moved by its dreams of freedom, it acts in defiance of those who have hitherto sought to shut it out from the making of history.

The myths of media power have been shattered. The powerful, with their technology of manipulation, have failed to deceive the people. The walls of silence have collapsed. Charcoal burners, the colours of the earth, have served as tools for the working people and artists in the making of their own history: in writing, painting, dancing, acting, singing the poetry of freedom; confronting tanks, shrapnel, toxic gases and treacherous daggers with shouts of pain and anger: “!Golpistas! Golpistas!”.

NATIONAL FRONT AGAINST THE COUP

A people have been born, a new hope, in the form of the National Front Against the Military Coup. Its objectives are organized mobilization to struggle against injustice, to build political power through genuine participation of the citizenry in the National Constituent Assembly and to profoundly transform the Constitution of the Republic.

Its principles are based on “Non-Violence”. It has sustained over one hundred days of heroic marches under the sun and the rain of bullets, beatings, stabbings and the terror of noxious gases.

However, in a country still under military occupation by the United States, where the cowardly Honduran armed forces and police spend huge amounts of money at the expense of hunger and disease of children and environmental destruction by multinational corporations; they will never extinguish the courage and the voices of nonviolence shouting in every corner of Honduras: ‘Long Live the Resistance!’

The martyrdom and heroism of the Honduran Resistance is a call to all peoples of the world for no more military coups and no more military bases in Latin America.

It is a call for human and world peace; for respect for the dignity of our peoples and for their history; for social and environmental justice in the heart of Mother Earth.

The path of hope and liberation, in the face of crimes against humanity, is through full consolidation of the Resistance as a nonviolent political, cultural and spiritual force that builds and leads the taking of power.

No change that is genuinely democratic can occur if it excludes the National Front Against the Coup as the largest and most significant political force in Honduras. It is the most indisputable historical fact of our present and of the future; a force with which the people dream and are constructing the dawn of a new day for our country.

Juan Almendares, Tegucigalpa, October, 2009
juan.almendares@gmail.com
http://www.movimientomadretierra.org/
www.dignidaddelospueblos.hazblog.com
http://dignidaddelospueblos.wordpress.com/
Landline: 504-237-5700; Cell-phone 504-9985-4150
(Google translation revised by Norman Girvan)

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[en] Yves Engler, rabble.ca: Canadian media silent on Honduras coup

| August 17, 2009

The dominant Canadian media’s coverage of the coup in Honduras has been atrocious.

Even a close observer of the Canadian press would know almost nothing about the ongoing demonstrations, blockades and work stoppages calling for the return of elected President Manuel Zelaya.

Since Zelaya was overthrown by the military on June 28 the majority of teachers in Honduras have been on strike. Recently, health workers, air traffic controllers and taxi drivers have also taken job action against the coup.  In response the military sent troops to oversee airports and hospitals across the country.

For more than a week protesters from all corners of the country walked 20 km a day and on Tuesday tens of thousands of demonstrators converged on the country’s two biggest cities, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. These demonstrations prompted the de facto regime to re-impose a curfew in the capital, which had been in effect in the weeks after the coup.

This resistance — taking place under the threat of military repression — has gone almost entirely unreported by leading Canadian media.  So has Canada’s tacit support for the coup.

Last Tuesday the ousted Honduran Foreign Affairs Minister told TeleSur that Canada and the U.S. were providing “oxygen” to the military government. Picked up by numerous Spanish language newspapers, Patricia Rodas called on Canada and the U.S. to suspend aid to the de facto regime.

During an official visit to Mexico with Zelaya last week, Rodas asked Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who was about to meet Harper and Obama, to lobby Ottawa and Washington on their behalf. “We are asking [Calderon] to be an intermediary for our people with the powerful countries of the world, for example, the U.S. and at this moment Canada, which have lines of military and economic support with Honduras.”

To my knowledge, no Canadian media reported Rodas’ comments. Nor did any Canadian media mention that Canada’s ambassador to Costa Rica, Neil Reeder, met coup officials in Tegucigalpa last week. The Canadian media has also ignored the fact that Canada is the only major donor to Honduras yet to sever any aid to the military government.

Latin American (and to a lesser extent U.S.) media have covered Ottawa’s tacit support for the coup more closely than the Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen and most of the rest of the Canadian media. When Zelaya tried to fly into Tegucigalpa a week after the coup Canada’s minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, told the Organization of American the “time is not right” for a return. The New York Times ran two different articles that mentioned Canada’s anti-Zelaya position while Bloomberg published another.  Many Latin American news agencies also printed stories about the Conservative government’s position; however, the Canadian media was uninterested.

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A few weeks later Zelaya attempted to cross into Honduras by land from Nicaragua.  Kent once again criticized this move. “Canada’s Kent Says Zelaya Should Wait Before Return to Honduras,” read a July 20 Bloomberg headline.

A July 25 right-wing Honduran newspaper blared: “Canadá pide a Zelaya no entrar al país hasta llegar a un acuerdo” (Canada asks Zelaya not to enter the country until there’s a negotiated solution).

After publishing a number of articles about Ottawa’s position in the hours and days after the coup, Mexican news agency Notimex did a piece that summarized something this author wrote for rabble.ca.

Then on July 26 Notimex wrote about the Canadian Council for International Cooperation’s demand that Ottawa take a more firm position against the coup.

Both of these articles were published (at least online) by a number of major Spanish-language newspapers.

Finally, a month after the coup there was a small breakthrough into Canada’s dominant media. CBC radio’s The Current provided space for Graham Russell from Rights Action, a Canadian group with a long history in Honduras, to criticize Ottawa’s handling of the coup.  Unfortunately, Russell’s succinct comments were followed by the CBC interviewer’s kid gloves treatment of Minister Peter Kent. Still, the next day the Canadian Press revealed that Ottawa refused to exclude Honduras from its Military Training Assistance Program, a program rabble.ca reported on days after the coup.

Uninterested in the Conservative government’s machinations, the Canadian media is even less concerned with the corporations that may be influencing Ottawa’s policy towards Honduras.  Rights Action has uncovered highly credible information that Vancouver-based Goldcorp provided buses to the capital, Tegucigalpa, and cash to former employees who rallied in support of the coup.

As far as I can tell, the Halifax Chronicle Herald is the only major Canadian media outlet that has mentioned this connection between the world’s second biggest gold producer and the coup.

Under pressure from the Maquila Solidarity Network, two weeks ago Nike, Gap and two other U.S.-based apparel company operating in Honduras released a statement calling for the restoration of democracy.

With half of its operations in the country Montréal-based Gildan activewear, the world’s largest blank T-shirt maker, refused to sign this statement. According to company spokesperson Genevieve Gosselin, Gildan employs more than 11,000 people in Honduras. Without a high-profile brand name Gildan is particularly dependent on producing T-shirts and socks at the lowest cost possible and presumably the company opposed Zelaya’s move to increase the minimum wage by 60 per cent at the start of the year.  Has Gildan actively supported the coup like Goldcorp? It is hard to know since there has yet to be any serious investigation of the company’s recent activities in the country.

The Canadian media’s coverage of the coup demonstrates the importance of independent media. We need to support news outlets willing to challenge the powerful.

Yves Engler is the author of the recently released The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy and other books. The book is available at blackbook.foreignpolicy.ca. If you are interested in helping to organize an event as part of the second leg of a book tour in late September please contact: yvesengler[at]hotmail[dot]com.

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article published by http://rabble.ca

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[en] “The Only Crime”: Testimony of Marcial Hernandez, beaten, detained & hospitalized

Marcial Hernandez: beaten, detained & hospitalized. Cortes, August 14th, 2009. Photo: Sandra Cuffe(Marcial Hernandez: beaten, detained & hospitalized. Photo: Sandra Cuffe)

Text, translation and photos by Sandra Cuffe

San Pedro Sula, Honduras, August 15th, 2009.

Repression against the national movement against the military coup in Honduras has become a daily occurrence. All over the country, police and the army are using tactics of terror and violence to disperse protests and illegally detain demonstrators.

Nevertheless, the resistance actions coordinated by the National Front of Resistance to the Military Coup in Honduras (FNRCGE, for its acronym in Spanish) continue to grow across the nation.

On August 14th, organizations and citizens in resistance from the northwestern region of the country mobilized in Choloma, blocking vehicle traffic along the highway between San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortés. It was a very strategic choice of location, along the main highway leading to the country’s main port. Puerto Cortés has a great volume of exports, principally to the United States, of textile goods from the maquila factories in the northwestern region, as well as the fruits of the Tela Railroad Company, subsidiary of the transnational banana company Chiquita.

Soon after the highway blockade began, there was a negotiation between resistance leaders and police officials, supposedly in order to avoid yet another violent eviction. According to witnesses, a verbal agreement was made between the two parties to allow the protest to continue for another hour and peacefully disperse.

However, approximately twenty minutes after the agreement was reached, a large police presence gathered, along with some elements of the army, and police proceeded to violently disperse the protest, using tear gas and a water cannon. The demonstration dispersed, but police ran after resistance participants running towards downtown Choloma, using brutal violence during their arrest of protestors and others and during their transfer to the nearby police station in Choloma.

Twenty-seven people were detained. Among them were minors, elderly people, women, and journalists. The majority of the 27 detained were violently beaten.

Due to the severity of their injuries, five men were transferred in police custody to the Catarino Rivas public hospital in San Pedro Sula. All received treatment in the emergency ward for wounds documented as having been “caused by impact with a hard object.” Two men were released, but three protestors were still hospitalized late that same afternoon and were being held for observation and further treatment in the emergency room for an undefined period of time.

Julio Espinoza Carías, from Tela, Atlántida, has an exposed fracture of his right femur caused by the impact of a bullet, along with other wounds on his face and body.

Rogelio Mejía Espinoza, of the Aguán Farmers’ Movement (MCA) in the community of Guadalupe Carney in the Silín sector, Colón, has a fractured left maxillary sinus, with blood in the sinus, along with other injuries to his face and head, including a head wound that required several stitches.

Marcial Hernández, a member of the Coordination of Popular Organizations of the Aguán (COPA), from Tocoa, Colón, has a fractured left hand, a wound on the top of his head that required several stitches, and other injuries on his body. Immediately after the following interview, he was taken for a second time to get further X-rays done.

The following testimony was recorded in the Catarino Rivas hospital in San Pedro Sula in the late afternoon of August 14th. It was then transcribed word for word and translated into English.

TESTIMONY OF MARCIAL HERNANDEZ:

“After the police arrived throwing [tear gas], we ran towards the central plaza. We ran well past the plaza, and they kept following us. And when we came back to regroup in the plaza, well, they let us make it to the plaza – some of us.

Those who were further away, dispersed, were being pursued. The police were grabbing them, beating them with their batons, hitting them, and taking them away to be detained.

We stayed there. Later, they surrounded the plaza. So once again we ran, this time towards the bridge. And when we were running there, the police came out in front of us, so we turned back.

There were some women from the Medicine, Hospital and Similar Workers’ Union (SITRAMEDHYS). And they were running, and we all went into some disgusting bathrooms that were there. We opened the gate and ran in. And the very same people closed the gate behind us. But when we went in, the women who had children with them entered the bathrooms and there was no more room for me, but anyways, we had to save the kids. So I sat down in a chair. The police passed us and about two minutes went by.

When they came back, they came to where I was. They opened the gate and came in running. And as though I were the enemy they grabbed me. They didn’t ask me for any kind of declaration. Someone simply pointed me out and then they came, but all at once, with their batons, hitting me on my back, on my head.

And someone grabbed me. One of them grabbed me by the shirt and shoved me. And when I walked forward, another one kicked me with his feet, his shoes, and knocked me over. And then I didn’t have any other choice but to curl up on the ground. And they really went at it there until they felt like stopping.

From there, they dragged me out. Then I stood up, and while I was getting up, they took advantage of it because I was exposing my back, so they took the chance to hit me as much as they wanted. And when we went out into the street, they put me back into the truck.

At that point, I was losing a lot of blood from my head.

Marcial Hernandez. Hospitalized in San Pedro Sula, August 14th. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

(Marcial Hernandez: head wound from police brutality. Photo: Sandra Cuffe)

They grabbed another compañero, and they were taking him on foot, beating him with the baton, and the police took us. And when we were arriving at the police station, they pushed me so hard that I fell down. They kept kicking me there, and then they dragged me into the police station.

The police official called them animals, he said something to them anyways. I could see that he said something about why they were doing that. But I couldn’t get up.

And the compañera that was here – she was the only one who helped me at that moment in the police station. When they wouldn’t respond to anything anyone said, someone yelled ‘stop hitting that man, don’t beat him, he’s defenseless.’

And that’s what happened. That’s what happened today.

The only… What’s it called? The only crime, absolutely the only one, was that we were going to a protest against this de facto government.”

# # #

Sandra Cuffe – sandra.m.cuffe@gmail.com – is a freelance journalist and photographer from Canada. In Honduras since July 3rd, she is currently a correspondent for the DominionPaper.ca (Canada), UpsideDownWorld.org (United States), DefensoresEnLinea.com (Honduras), and several community radio stations.

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[en] AlterNet: “People Are in the Streets Every Day”

WOMEN IN RESISTANCE! Tegucigalpa, July 3, 2009. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

By Jessica Pupovac, AlterNet. Posted August 7, 2009.

A national march against the coup in Honduras kicked off Wednesday, with demonstrators leaving from every corner of the country and marching up to 15 hours a day to demonstrate their support for the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Organizers with the National Front Against the Coup say participants, including Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and popular Catholic priest Andrés Tamayo, plan to march 15 hours per day, through hills, rain and military checkpoints, converging early next week in either San Pedro Sula or Tegucigalpa, the country’s two main cities.

The march was planned following a vigil, held Monday, for two teachers and active coup resisters, both of whom died over the weekend. The first, Abraham Vallejo Soriano, 38, who was shot on July 30 during a march in support of the return of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. Then, on Saturday, while leaving Vallejo Soriano’s wake, teacher Martin Florencio Rivera Barrientos, 45, was stabbed more than 25 times.

Their deaths bring the total number of people killed for their participation in the resistance to the coup in Honduras to nine, according to an August 3 press release from the International Solidarity, Observation and Accompaniment Mission in Honduras, a delegation comprised of various Latin American and European human rights experts, academics and others.

Among the dead are also two union leaders, an LGBT movement leader, a radio journalist, and several young demonstrators, including Pedro Magdiel Muñoz Salvador, 22, whose body was discovered close to the Nicaragua-Honduras border two days after being taken into police custody, according to a statement released by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an arm of the Organization of American States. The release says his body was found with “signs of torture,” which other sources say included at least 40 stab wounds. [Warning: graphic images]

“The Commission calls for an investigation into the killings and punish those responsible,” the IACHR statement reads. “The IACHR also calls for the de facto regime to take all measures to ensure the right to life, integrity and security of all inhabitants of Honduras.”

The International Mission’s July 23 report also cited 1,275 curfew and demonstration-related arrests as of that date. A massive crackdown during a national strike on July 30 is believed to have risen that number by at least a few hundred more.

The report from the International Solidarity, Observation and Accompaniment Mission in Honduras says the legal basis for the arrests comes from Executive Order No. 011-2009, requested by interim President Roberto Micheletti, which temporarily suspended constitutional rights while a curfew was in place. It was never renewed, according to the Mission, making its ongoing enforcement illegal.

In addition, the report says, constitutional rights, according to Honduran law, can only be suspended in the case of a foreign invasion or natural disaster — neither of which is currently the case. Nonetheless, its enforcement continues, leading to widespread militarization, repression and thousands of arbitrary arrests.

According to Abencio Fernández Pineda, former attorney for the non-government organization the Committee of the Relatives of Disappeared Detainees of Honduras, the crackdown on dissent harkens back to the 1980s, a time when the Honduran army, with U.S. support, waged a covert campaign against leftist leaders. According to the National Security Archive, a documentation project of George Washington University that stores information from declassified U.S. government documents, at least 184 people were disappeared during that era. Most are believed to have been kidnapped and executed by secret police units such as the notorious Battalion 316, which was trained and equipped by the CIA to advance U.S. foreign policy in the region.

The current regime enlisted a key figure from Battalion 316 — Billy Fernando Joya Amendola — to serve as Micheletti’s special security adviser.
“We’ve seen at least ten political, extra judicial assassinations of people participating in the marches, threats against political activists and journalists, at least three disappearances, a number of drive-by shootings; the streets are militarized. People are clearly concerned that we are going back to that time,” Fernández Pineda told AlterNet. “And then Billy Joya starts appearing on the television, and in the coup leadership. What are we supposed to think?”

Fernández Pineda is not the only one who is concerned. Human rights groups and the international Mission have also denounced the formation of what they are calling “paramilitary groups,” which they link to narco-traffickers and the business elite, often working in tandem with local police.

The sudden violence isn’t the only similarity to a darker era in Honduran history. Much like the U.S.-backed removal of Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán in 1954, the removal of Manuel Zelaya followed a series of moves by his administration that the international business community worried might signal a shift towards a more populist economic platform. In August 2008, for example, Zelaya publicly joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of America (or ALBA, its acronym in Spanish), a regional economic development and equitable trade coalition. Although it has no bearing on the legally binding, U.S.-led Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (commonly referred to as CAFTA), Zelaya’s association with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who started the Alliance in 2004, raised more than a few eyebrows. Then, in December 2008, Zelaya raised the minimum wage in Honduras, one of the poorest nations in the hemisphere, from $157 to $289 dollars a month, except in free trade zones.

Lynda Yanz, Executive Director of the Maquila Solidarity Network, said in a July 28 release that “businesses and business associations — including those in the textile and apparel industries, which account for the majority of Honduras’ exports — have publicly supported the coup, lobbied against trade sanctions, or remained silent and carried on business as usual under the military-imposed regime.”

While there are reports of multinational corporations forcing their workers to attend pro-coup demonstrations, in an official July 27 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gap, Nike and Addidas, all of whom have extensive operations in Honduras, claimed that the companies do not “support or endorse the position of any party in this internal dispute.”

Yanz applauded that letter, saying it “breaks that silence and calls unequivocally for the restoration of democracy in Honduras.”

“The question that remains is: Where are the other companies that are doing business in Honduras, including the three largest foreign investors in the country’s apparel sector — Fruit of the Loom/Russell Corporation, Hanesbrands and Gildan?”

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has itself been criticized for not taking a firmer stance against the coup regime.

Although in recent weeks the U.S. has reportedly cut off $18.5 million in military aid to Honduras and suspended the visas of select coup leaders, Washington has fallen short of calling the forcible removal of Zelaya a “coup,” thereby leaving untouched a reported $180 million in foreign aid flowing into the coffers of Honduras’ current administration, in violation of the Foreign Appropriations Act, which requires that the U.S. suspend all aid to any country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

“There are legal issues there that we have chosen not to exercise at this point,” said U.S. State Department Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley at an Aug. 3 press briefing. “But clearly, in every way possible, we have said that what happened in Honduras is a violation of the OAS Charter, which is why we took action against Honduras. It’s a violation of the Inter-American Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And we continue to work intensively to try to resolve the situation.”
But the resistance movements in Honduras, and their supporters in the U.S., are calling upon the U.S. government to take a stronger stance against the de facto regime, and make a clear distinction between U.S. foreign policy in the 80s and 2009.

Acts of defiance against the coup regime are growing daily. Just this week, students and faculty at the Autonomous University of Honduras closed down the roads around the university in an act of protest, setting off violent clashes with police. After about 20 demonstrators were injured, including the dean of the university, Julieta Castellanos, who later threatened to sue the police.

Meanwhile, community members have been keeping 24-hour watch over Radio Globo, a progressive radio station providing one of the only sources of reporting on the repression in Honduras. The de facto government has taken multiple steps, including a judge’s order, military force and public threats, to attempt to shut down the station, but have been blocked by throngs of demonstrators that have risen to the station’s defense. According to Dr. Luther Castillo, press secretary for the National Front against the Coup in Honduras, as many as 50 volunteers occupying the station in shifts, to provide security for Radio Globo staff.

Castillo told AlterNet that human rights violations, including threats and violence against the media, drive-by shootings to intimidate movement leaders and the illegal detention of hundreds, are escalating in Honduras daily — but only adding strength and legitimacy to the movement to return Honduras to the rule of law.

“Fear is not really increasing,” said Canadian blogger and activist Sandra Cuffe, who has spent much of the past six years working with popular movements in Honduras and who has been reporting from the ground every day since the coup took place.

“Outrage and indignation and determination and courage are … [But] people are still out on the streets every day.”

Jessica Pupovac is an adult educator and independent journalist living in Chicago.

[http://www.alternet.org/world/141837/honduras:_%22people_are_in_the_streets_every_day%22/?page=entire%5D

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[en] The REAL News: Honduras – Where Does Washington Stand?

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