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Annie Bird: 3 Killed; 2 Kidnapped in the Aguan

HONDURAS RE-ADMITTED TO THE OAS

3 KILLED; 2 KIDNAPPED IN THE AGUAN

(By Annie Bird, June 9, 2011)

On Sunday, June 5, Jose Recinos Aguilar, Joel Santamaria and Genaro Cuesta, all members of the Authentic Revindicative Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MARCA), were massacred in a car a few meters from the San Esteban cooperative.  At approximately the same time it is reported that armed forces entered the installations of the National Agrarian Institute and opened fire on families who for several months have taken refuge within the government owned agrarian training center. Doris Pérez Vásquez was shot in the abdomen and is reported to be in critical condition.

Even as the community buried the three men murdered this Sunday, they continued the search for Olvin Gallegos and Segundo Gomez, two members of MARCA.  Eyewitnesses saw private security guards, from the same forces being trained as paramilitaries, kidnap the two men.

MAY 15 – DISAPPEARANCE

The killing and kidnapping of these 5 campesinos follows upon the May 15th forced disappearance of Francisco Pascual López as he tended cattle on his farm close to the property line with the Panama African palm plantation, a farm that maintains heavy presence of paramilitaries.  Nearby farmers with whom he shares the farm heard shots fired, but when they arrived where he had been, he was gone.  Police found bullets and a trail of blood leading into the Panama African palm plantation, but refused to enter the plantation to continue the search.

MAY 18 – KILLING

On May 18, Sixto Ramos was killed along the highway, shot from a passing car.  Additionally, on May 10, Jose Paulino Lemo was shot as he walked on the road to sell fish by a passing motorcycle.  Francisco Pascual Lopez, Sixto Ramos and Jose Paulino Lemo were active members of the Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MCA).

PARAMILITARY TRAINING ON HONDURAN MILITARY BASE

FOREIGN TRAINERS REPORTED

There are reports that approximately 400 private security guards, employed by African palm producers in the region, are being trained in the Rio Claro base in Tocoa, Colon, home of the 15th Army Battalion.  The security guards reportedly are from the Orion security company, employed by the Exportadora del Atlantico, and others are employed directly by the Dinant palm oil and derivatives company.

The trainers wear Honduran military uniforms, and rarely leave the base though they have been reported to participate in forced, illegal evictions.  During these evictions security guards have been reported to change into military uniforms; close collaboration between police, military and security guards has been reported.

Local informants claim the trainer’s accents, stature and coloring lead people in the region to believe they are not Honduran.  Many suspect they are Colombian.  In October 2009, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the use of Mercenaries, Private Security and Paramilitaries reported the Honduran African palm producers were recruiting security forces in Colombia particularly among former AUC members – a right-wing paramilitary group.

There have also been reports of Chinook helicopters flying to and from the Rio Claro base, which leads many to believe US troops maintain a presence on the base.

On January 8, 2011, Juan Chinchilla, a Honduran land rights activist, was kidnapped and tortured.  Able to escape the evening of January 9, while being moved from his illegal detention center, Chinchilla reported that participants in his torture spoke English and another language he was not able to identify.

CRIMINALIZATION OF LAND RIGHTS AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

The rash of killings and forced disappearances is obviously of grave concern; all the more shocking as Honduras was re-admitted to the OAS.

A communiqué by the National Agrarian Institute Workers Union asserts that since the June 2009 military coup, 39 campesinos have been killed by paramilitary forces working for the oil palm planters while 10 more have been disappeared.

As violence by paramilitary forces increases so does criminalization of land rights activists and other human rights defenders.  The limited media reporting of the killings in the Aguan region is coupled with accusations that the land and human rights movements being targeted by the paramilitary actions are armed.

In March 2010, when the military backed Honduran regime was criticized for the extreme militarization of the Aguan, de facto president Lobo responded with unsupported accusations that the campesinos were armed and Venezuelan and Nicaraguans were present in the area.

Following the November 15, 2010 massacre of 5 campesinos by Dinant palm oil security forces (with military and police support), Lobo claimed that campesinos had a stash of over 1,000 high caliber weapons and had received foreign training, which Security Minister Oscar Alvarez claimed took place in Nicaragua.

On this pretext the military took over the National Agrarian Institute (INA) and the INA union reported that the army stole documentation that demonstrated that palm oil planters did not hold legitimate claim over lands being contested by campesinos.

African palm producer Miguel Facusse (one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Honduras and major backer of the June 2009 military coup) is again using Honduras’ corrupted “justice” system to persecute human rights defenders, a practice long employed by Facusse and others.

On May 30, 2011, Facusse’s lawyers announced he was suing Catholic Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos for statements that implicated Facusse in the killing of 14 farmers in the Aguan region. A few days later, June 6, 2011, Facusse presented defamation charges against Andres Pavon, the Director of the Honduran Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH).  Several months prior Pavon had presented legal charges against Facusse related to the killing of the 14 farmers, and just days before being subject to the defamation charges had denounced that the evidence on the killings was disappearing from the Attorney General Offices files.

PALM PLANTERS USE VOLENCE AND FRAUD TO TAKE LAND FROM FARMERS

This State-backed, paramilitary repression occurs in the context of a series of complex, long-term land rights disputes in the region.

The lower Aguan, a fertile agricultural plain that surrounds the Aguan river near Honduras’ Caribean coast, was subject to an agricultural colonization program in the 1960s and 1970s facilitated by an agrarian reform program.  At that time dozens of cooperatives were formed and many began cultivation of a crop pioneered by United Fruit Company, African palm for vegetable oil production.

In the beginning of the 1990s, a “land modernization” law was passed.  Among other measures, the “Land Modernization Law” in Honduras removed restrictions on resale of land obtained through the agrarian reform program.  Dozens of cooperatives established through the agrarian reform program were resold to today’s Honduran palm oil magnates, Miguel Facusse and Rene Morales.  However many of the sales were marred by illegalities, fraud and violence.

By 2000, there were tremendous problems of landlessness, underemployment and terrible working conditions among small farmers in the region.  With the support of the Parish of Tocoa, landless farmers organized the Campesino Movment of the Aguan (MCA).

In 2000, hundreds of small farmers established themselves in an area known as the Center for Regional Military Training (CREM), an extension of land used by the US army in the 1980s to train Central American militaries and to provide support to the Contra armed insurgency that fought the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Between 1989 and 1990, the CREM land had been purchased by the National Agrarian Institute, reportedly from US citizen Temistocles Ramirez, for $17 million to be used exclusively for agrarian reform purposes.  Previously, the land had been used for large scale cattle ranching, and according to some reports drug trafficking, largely by former Honduran military, who naturally quickly came into conflict with the campesinos who established farms in the property in 2000.

However, with support from the catholic church and national land rights organizations, the “cattle ranchers” were compensated through the INA for the “improvements” they had made on the CREM land, so as to take pressure of the campesinos who were now setting up coops and businesses, with the support of INA.

Only a few portions of the land then remained in conflict, particularly an area known as El Tumbador which Miguel Facusse claimed to own, via a questionable land purchase.  The MCA divided the CREM lands between 45 distinct Campesino Businesses.

In 2004, campesinos began organizing to reclaim cooperative lands that had been illegally acquired by the palm oil magnates in the 1990s, forming the Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguan, MUCA.

In February 2006, 7000 campesinos organized in the MUCA blocked the main highway in Tocoa, demanding that the District Attorney in Tocoa, the Attorney General of Honduras and the Supreme Court investigate the irregular purchases of the cooperatives in the 1990s.

By March 2009, after years of investigation, the MUCA proposed a negotiation platform focused on demanding that 29 cooperatives be returned to campesinos.

On May 28, 2009 MUCA occupied the palm oil processing plant owned my Miguel Facusse.

President Zelaya personally went to the Aguan to negotiate with the campesinos.  On June 12, 2009 an agreement was defined between the MUCA and the government, and the processing plant occupation was lifted.  On June 19 President Zelaya signed the agreement, which essentially mandated a technical-legal team with the investigation of the legal history of the cooperatives.

On June 21 the investigation began, but ended with the June 28, 2009 military coup.

In reaction to the suspension of the investigation, on December 9, 2009 the MUCA began occupying the former cooperatives in conflict, and claim to hold documentation to demonstrate that the palm oil magnates do not legally own 29 cooperative farms.

In April 2010, de facto president Porfirio Lobo sent thousands of troops to occupy the Aguan, and forced the MUCA to enter into negotiations, not only threatened private security forces controlled by the palm oil magnates, but also by the Honduran military.

An agreement was signed in which Miguel Facusse agreed to sell an extension of land to the MUCA.  At this time a section of the MUCA split off to form the Authentic and Revindicative Campesino Movement of the Aguan, MARCA.

MARCA campesinos decided to pursue recognition of their land rights through law suits using the documentation they had gathered that showed flawed titling processes by the palm oil magnates rather than signing a negotiated agreement as those in MUCA chose to do.

The terms of the “agreement” signed between the palm oil companies and the MUCA have not been complied with and the “justice” system has not facilitated the advance of the legal remedies sought by MARCA.

Instead, throughout 2010 palm oil planters strengthened their paramilitary presence and the area remained militarized.  Dozens of campesino killings have been documented, and it is understood that others have occurred which have not been documented; please see the list below:

PARTIAL LIST OF KILLINGS, KIDNAPPINGS & DISAPPEARANCES

1. January 4, 2010: Miguel Angel Alonso Oliva, from the Cooperativa Guanchias, Shot in the back

2. January 31, 2010: Juan Ramon Mejia, from the Cooperativa Occidental, Intentionally run over by a car

3. February 4, 2010: Isidro Santos, from the Cooperativa Occidental, Died in car crash while fleeing from armed men shooting at them from another car

4. February 4, 2010: Francisco Montes, from the Cooperativa Buenos Amigos, Died in car crash while fleeing from armed men shooting at them from another car

5. February 14, 2010 – Feliciano Santos from the Cooperativa 21 de Julio – fatally shot while walking to lands in dispute

6. March 17, 2010 – Jose Antonio Cardoza from the Associative Business Brisas de COHDEFOR – fatally shot while walking home from the fields

7. March 17, 2010 – Jose Concepcion Carias from the Associative Business Brisas de COHDEFOR – fatally shot while walking home from the fields

8. April 7, 2010 – Jose Leonel Guerra Alvarez from La Confianza Cooperativa – shot in front of his home by two people who stopped on a motorcycle

9. April 25, 2010 – Esteban Garcia from the Associative Business 9 de Agosto – shot while riding his bicycle from a passing car

10. June 20, 2010 – Oscar Giovanny Ramirez of the La Aurora Coopertiva – killed in the midst of an assault carried out by Cobra police force and Orion security guards

11. August 18, 2010 – Victor Manuel Mata Olica from the La Auroroa Cooperative – shot while traveling home in a car that according to witnesses was fired upon by security guards riding in blue double cabin pick up truck

12. August 18, 2010 – Rodving Omar Villegas from the La Auroroa Cooperative – shot while traveling home in a car that according to witnesses was fired upon by security guards riding in blue double cabin pick up truck

13. August 18, 2010 – Sergio Madiel Amaya from the La Auroroa Cooperative – shot while traveling home in a car that according to witnesses was fired upon by security guards riding in blue double cabin pick up truck

14. September 10, 2010 – Francisco Miranda Ortega of the La Aurora Cooperativa – shot by six people while he rode his bike to Tocoa

15. November 15, 2010 – Raul Castillo of the Cooperative 14 de mayo – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

16. November 15, 2010 – Jose Luis Sauceda of the Cooperative 14 de mayo – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

17. November 15, 2010 – Ciriaco Munoz of the Cooperativa Nueva Esperanza – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

18. November 15, 2010 – Teodoro Acosta de la Cooperativa Nueva Esperanza – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

19. November 15, 2010 – Ignacio Reyes Garcia of the Three United Families Cooperative – shot by Dinant security guards on the Finca El Tumbador

20. Esteban Garcia from the Associative Business 25 de abril was shot while riding his bike by gunmen in a white sedan

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

Annie Bird (annie@rightsaction.org)

Grahame Russell (info@rightsaction.org)

Karen Spring (spring.kj@gmail.com)

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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)

FOR DONATION OF STOCK:  contact info@rightsaction.org.  (Stock donations can be done anonymously – have your stockbroker contact info@rightsaction.org)

 

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.

 

garif - 1

(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

 

garif - 2

 

“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.

 

garif - 3

 

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.

 

garif - 4

 

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

 

 

  • Please re-post and distribute this information, citing author & source
  • To get on/ off Rights Action’s listserv: www.rightsaction.org
  • To support Honduras’ Pro-democracy movement: [contact Rights Action]

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] Annie Bird: Indigenous Communities Defend Their Rivers Against Privatizations

 

HONDURAN COUP AUTHORS POISED TO PILLAGE INDIGENOUS TERRITORY AND NATIONAL ENERGY COMPANY

by Annie Bird, Rights Action co-director, October 13, 2010

Honduran indigenous communities resist illegal concession of rivers for dams while the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) violates its charter and international law in supporting the projects

FORTY ONE DAM CONCESSIONS THREATEN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES

On the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”, indigenous communities across Honduras demanded respect for their fundamental rights, affirming the government’s obligation to obtain their free, prior and informed consent when implementing projects that affect their communities.

Honduran communities and many nations in the Hemisphere do not recognize the legitimacy of the current government, imposed following the June 28, 2009 military coup and then the November 27, 2009 illegitimate election.

Despite the precarious situation of the Honduras regime and state, in international law, on September 2nd and 3rd laws were passed that conceded use Honduran rivers to private corporations for the construction of 41 hydroelectric dams.

Many of these dams would affect indigenous communities.  While none of these communities have been consulted, as international law prescribes, many communities, both indigenous and not, have declared their express opposition to the projects in community assemblies, the maximum traditional indigenous authority, and in municipal referendums.

THE CALL TO THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND BLACKS

The complete disregard for indigenous rights by the military coup authors was demonstrated earlier this year by the Honduran National Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP) in its call on the ‘de facto’ regime to withdraw from the International Labor Organization’s Covenant 169, a key instrument in initially establishing a framework for the recognition of indigenous rights.

Indigenous peoples from across Honduras met on October 3 in Garifuna territory to articulate a response to the assault to which they are being subjected, and convoked a national Constituent Assembly of Indigenous Peoples and Blacks.  Protection of national resources and the full recognition of the territorial rights of indigenous people are issues at the heart of the call to draft a new constitution for Honduras.

Protection of national resources is also what is most feared by transnational corporate interests and what has generated the tremendous and persistent mainstream media distortion of the reasons for the call for a new constitution and the motives behind the coup, focusing on the red herring of changes in term limit restriction.

As recently as October 7, even the Huffington Post ran an article by a Council on Foreign Relations fellow focused on the change in term limits.  The current and sixteenth constitution was adopted in 1982 during a military dictatorship.

IDB VIOLATES LAW; CO-16 FINANCING FOR METHANE GENERATING LARGE DAMS

The Inter-american Development Bank (IDB), in violation of its own Charter, has resumed funding in Honduras despite Honduras’ ongoing suspension from the Organization of American States.  To compound its violation of international law, the IDB has approved funding for a technical assistance grant to undertake initial project feasibility studies for the Gualcarque and Mixure dams, both in Lenca territory and both having been expressly rejected on multiple occasions in both community assemblies and municipal referendums.

The ‘de facto’ regime is planning to make use of funds obtained through financial mechanisms established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for construction of three large dams on the Patuca River despite studies that demonstrate that large dam reservoirs, especially in tropical regions, emit significant methane emissions.

WORLD BANK HELPS COUP AUTHORS PILLAGE THE ENERGY COMPANY

The push for the construction of dams is occurring as the World Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration fund programs oriented toward the privatization of the Honduras National Electrical Energy Company, ENEE.  Though national energy companies across the region had been privatized through similar World Bank promoted programs, Hondurans had strongly defended their national energy company and small consumers received energy for a fraction of the cost as in privatized neighboring countries.

A process of segmenting sectors of ENEE began in 1999.  The meter reading services were contracted out to a Honduran financial services corporation owned by Arturo Corrales, currently the de facto Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.  Corrales was a key actor in the military coup.

Privatization of the national energy and telephone companies seem to be high on the agenda of the coup government.  General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the military officer who carried out the coup, was named head of the national telephone company, and talk of privatization has already begun.  Washington lobbyist and former State Department official Otto Reich, who was a key voice justifying the coup in Honduras, has worked extensively with telephone and energy corporations.

ENEE’s labor union protested on October 6, demanding that the privatization process be stopped and the already privatized sectors of the energy company be nationalized.  In August ENEE’s union denounced in a press conference that the de facto administration was not enforcing payment for electricity and thus not paying thermal generators money owed in an effort to bankrupt the company as a pretext to allow financial corporations to take it over and privatize it.

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya had rigorously enforced payment of massive outstanding debts by large consumers, restoring financial viability to the State corporation and providing sufficient funds to finance subsidies for low income, small consumers.  Though this generated widespread popular support, corporations that consumed large quantities of energy were angered.  It was denounced by the Union that during the coup the ENEE headquarters were occupied and millions of dollars in debt were erased from the system.

* * * * * * *

HOW TO SUPPORT HONDURAS’ PRO-DEMOCRACY, ANTI-MILITARY COUP REGIME MOVEMENT

TO MAKE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS … for community based groups in the pro-democracy / anti-military regime movement, 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

STOCK DONATIONS: Contact info@rightsaction.org

SPEAKERS:  Contact Rights Action to plan educational presentations in your community, school, place of worship, home, about the tireless and courageous Honduras pro-democracy movement.

EDUCATIONAL DELEGATIONS TO CENTRAL AMERICA:  Form your own group and/ or join one of our educational delegation-seminars to learn first hand about community development, human rights and environmental struggles.

JOIN RIGHTS ACTION’s LISTSERV: http://visitor.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?m=1103480765269

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[en] Rights Action: ‘Text-Book’ State Terrorism in Honduras

‘TEXT-BOOK’ STATE TERRORISM IN HONDURAS:
DEATH-SQUADS KILL TEACHER, BROAD DAYLIGHT, IN FRONT OF STUDENTS

On March 23, at the same moment that a group of seven Honduran lawyers were presenting information to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington DC concerning systematic human rights abuses being committed against the pacifist Honduran National Resistance Front (FNRP), a death squad comprised of heavily armed men wearing ski masks and civilian clothes, killed a prominent FNRP member, a teacher, in front of his high school students.

According to a communiqué issued by the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CODEH),

“At 3pm an unknown person was spotted in front of the San Jose del Pedregal High School.  The unusual presence of a stranger caused concerns among students and thirty teachers who make up the staff of teachers who work at the school.  Among the teachers was Professor of Social Science Jose Manuel Flores, who worked as teacher counselor.

“Witnesses on the scene saw two pickups approach the rear of the school premises, apparently 2009 models, one green and white.

“Professor Manuel, as his friends called him, was in the back of the facility overseeing pupils, when the assassins found him.  They passed the perimeter fence and fired their guns at close range.

“The teacher was on a balcony from which he fell, and they fired on him again from above.  As they fled, the ski mask of one of the attackers became entangled in the razor coil over the fence which they had cut open to look for their victim.  The teacher died instantly.”

THIS IS STATE TERRORISM
The killing of a prominent teacher in front of his students and colleagues, in the middle of the day, a man who was active in the FNRP, participating in protests and publishing articles in alternative press, is calculated act of repression designed to terrorize other Honduras and to send a silencing message.

Among many in the FNRP, the timing of the crime – at the same time as the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights hearing held in Washington – is part of that message, reminiscent of the attack on the family lawyer Jari Dixon Herrera immediately following a CNN interview in Washington DC.

While the attackers’ identity is not known, it is important to note that when current Minister of Government Oscar Alvarez served as Minister of Government, under the administration of President Maduro, he instituted a practice in which police dressed in civilian clothes and wearing ski masks (of varying types) participate in raids.  Their appearance makes them indistinguishable from organized crime assassins, who operate with impunity throughout Honduras and the region.

This is the same modus operandi of state terrorism and death squads that operated in U.S. backed regimes in Honduras throughout the 1970s and 1980s, during the so-called ‘cold war’.

During the eight months since the June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, dozens of FNRP activists have been killed, some during illegal detention by police forces, others in death squad type situations like the killing of Professor Manuel.

There is not a credible or functional justice system operating in Honduras.  Proper investigation by Honduran authorities is not possible.

In reaction to the killing, teachers are holding a national strike and there is a national protest scheduled to occur March 25.

Millions of Hondurans, along with the Organization of American States (OAS) and many nations around the world, do not recognize the legitimacy of the current acting president of Honduras, Pep Lobo.

The FNRP continues to struggle for the legitimate goal of convoking a constitutional convention to create a new constitution since the current one, formulated in 1981 amidst widespread repression and militarization, does not adequately protect the rights of citizens.

The massive support the call for a new constitution enjoys among Hondurans resulted in the violent military overthrow of the elected president in June 2009 and the de facto powers are attempting to silence this on-going demand through violence such as the killing of Professor Manuel.

UNITED STATES & CANADA
The US and Canadian governments must be held partially responsible for the on-going State terrorism and repression in Honduras.

  • The US and Canada indirectly legitimized the military-oligarchic regime after the June 28th military coup;
  • they recognized the illegal “elections” on November 28, 2009;
  • they attended the January 27, 2010 “transfer of power”, when the regime of current leader Pepe Lobo took power;
  • they are now promoting the “normalization of relations” with Honduras in the international community;
  • both governments continue to ignore the well-documented State-sponsored killings and repression;
  • both work to invisibilize the massive social movement and the call for a new constitution.

The legitimate struggle of the majority of Hondurans – peaceful and courageous – continues.  They need on-going support.  They also need Canadians and Americans to pressure our own governments – the main supporters of the Honduran regime – to condemn the systemic repression in Honduras; to not turn a blind eye to repression and impunity and casually maintain full political, economic and military relations with the regime.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Annie Bird, annie@rightsaction.org, 1-202-680-3002 & Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org, 1-860-352-2448.  www.rightsaction.org

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[en] Rights Action: Day 132 of Honduras Coup Resistance – Failure of “Guaymuras Accords”

Day 132 of HONDURAS COUP RESISTANCE – FAILURE OF “GUAYMURAS ACCORDS”
(November 6, 2009, Honduras Coup Alert#87)

(131st day of peaceful resistance to the coup regime. Photo, Karen Spring, November 5, 2009, Tegucigalpa)

BELOW:

  • COPINH (Civic council of popular and indigenous organizations of Honduras) analyses the failed “Guaymuras Accords”
  • CPTRT (Center for the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture) summary report on use of torture by oligarchic-military regime

TO DONATE FUNDS – SEE AT BOTTOM

Please continue to financially support the pro-democracy, anti-coup movement in Honduras.  This extraordinary struggle, to defeat the oligarchic-military regime and to remake their constitution and country, will continue well into 2010.

VIEW The Real News

“Nothing resolved in Honduras: Widely-celebrated, US-brokered agreement looks to have strengthened coup instead of reversing it”: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4431

HUMAN RIGHTS DELEGATION TO HONDURAS, November 24–December 1, 2009

Consider joining a Rights Action delegation to Honduras.  For information: Grahame Russell, info@rightsaction.org, 1-860-352-2448

FOR INTERVIEWS & MORE INFORMATION

* * *

COPINH – CIVIC COUNCIL OF POPULAR AND INDIGENOUS ORGANIZATIONS OF HONDURAS
The indigenous-campesino organization COPINH denounces the “Guaymuras Accords”

In the face of the signing of the accords to seek a solution to the crisis generated by the military coup d’etat against the people of Honduras, COPINH emits the following communiqué:

1. We have no trust in the negotiating commission of the coup regime, given that they have never demonstrated a willingness to reinstate the constitutional president of the republic.  Its only purpose is to buy time to consolidate the objectives of the coup d’etat in looting the national treasury and imposing neoliberal projects of privatization of natural resources and state institutions.

2. We denounce the malicious and intentional attitude of the government of the United States of America, that takes ambiguous positions but, behind the scenes, has supported the coup-makers and, if not, how can they explain that in the kidnapping of President Manuel Zelaya Rosales they used the [U.S. military’s Honduran] Palmerola base?  If the yankees had so much political will to contribute to the resolution of this crisis, why so much tolerance, patience and complacency with the coup-makers in lending themselves to a dialogue where they present deceiving agreements as a solution?

3. We call out people not to rest until we achieve the convoking of a popular and democratic national constitutional assembly, which should be made up of the different social sectors of the country such as women, feminists, youth, indigenous and black peoples, workers, the LGTB community, community councils, representatives of marginalized neighborhoods, teachers, artists, peasants, honest business people, intellectuals, professionals, the informal economy sector, alternative media, among others.

4. We urge the National Front of Popular Resistance to raise an initiative of dialogue and negotiation towards more dignified agreements in which the mediation shouldn’t be to the liking and oversight of the yankee government, which has helped drive the coup d’etat against our people, but instead by people like Rigoberta Menchu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, democratic countries that make up the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) and UNASUR, foundations like the Carter Foundation, social movements of the countries of Latin America and the world like the Landless Peoples Movement of Brazil, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo of Argentina, the Scream of the Excluded, Jubilee South, the Convergence of Popular Movements of the Americas, the School of the Americas Watch, the platforms of solidarity with the Honduran people and others.

For this the front should name a negotiating commission that understands that the coup-makers are perverse and that the State Department, the Pentagon and the U.S. government in general are driving the coup d’etat and proposing, as key points, the restitution of the President of the Republic Manuel Zelaya Rosales to govern for the time that the coup-makers robbed of his governing period, the installation of a national constitutional assembly and the dissolution of the coup congress, of the coup supreme court, of the coup public ministry, the reduction and purging of the armed forces, the definitive purging of the national police and the punishment of the people involved in the coup d’etat and the violation of human rights.

5. We urge once again to the candidates of the Democratic Unification Party, the Popular Independent Candidacy, the PINU party and the Liberals, who are in resistance, to be consistent and renounce, once and for all, participation in the electoral farce set up by the coup-makers.  To our people we urge you not to participate in the electoral circus and to boycott that act of the coup-makers.

6. To the international solidarity we invite you to strengthen the support to the Honduran people not just as a principle of solidarity but for reasons of self-defense since if the coup-makers consolidate in Honduras the democratic spring of the peoples of the world and particularly the peoples of our America will end.

With the ancestral force of Lempira, Iselaca, Mota and Etempica we raise our voices filled with life, justice, dignity, freedom and peace.

HERE NOBODY IS GIVING UP / AQUI, NO SE RINDE NADIE

* * *

INTRODUCTION TO CPTRT’S RECENT REPORT DETAILING THE USE OF TORTURE BY THE COUP REGIME

By the CPTRT (Center for the Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and their Families).  Complete report in Spanish:  http://www.cptrt.org/pdf/Tortura_Represion_Sistematica_GolpeEstado.pdf.  Translated by Patricia Adams of the Quixote Center, www.quixote.org)

The political military coup in Honduras, which took place on June 28, 2009, has special characteristics … .

The first component is the participation of the old followers of the National Security Doctrine that have continued practicing torture with impunity since the 80’s and who are the principle military and police advisors of the de facto regime.

The second component is the strategy of low intensity conflict, psychological torture, state terrorism, total suspension of constitutional guarantees, the state of siege and the presence of national and international hired assassins.

The third element is that the coup is taking place in the country where one of the most important US military bases exists [Palmerola, 40 minutes north of Tegucigalpa, the capital city] and where international military trainings and maneuvers occur frequently.

The fourth element is the alliance of economic, media, political, judicial, and religious powers in the country, that openly denies the coup, referring to it as a ‘constitutional succession.’ An alliance which also proclaims and justifies this military coup in the name of the law of God, peace, and democracy, all while keeping silent about murders, torture, and human rights violations.

The fifth component is the condemnation of the coup as a military coup, by almost 100% percent of the world’s countries, with the exception of United States, which condemns it as a coup but does not consider it to have been military in nature.

The sixth component is that the coup is considered as being not only against Zelaya but against the entire people of Honduras, and is a threat to the stability of some Latin American governments.

The seventh component is the existence of the popular response by the National Resistance Front Against the Military Coup, which has been protesting continuously for more than 120 days, despite the massive repression by brutal military and police force, the use of toxic gases, chemical weapons, intense noises, murders, persecution, political imprisonment and massive use of torture.

The eighth component is that the coup has occurred in the context of an electoral process which censors and gags the freedom of expression, in which the de facto government has fierce control of more than 90% of the communications media, and through which a variety of media outlets and journalists were militarized and repressed, including Radio Globo, Cholusat Sur, Diario Tiempo, Canal 11, Radio Progreso and the newspaper El Libertador.

The ninth element in that candidates from the opposition parties for the upcoming presidential, congressional, and mayoral elections have been subjected to torture, to being followed, to violent trauma and to murder. These facts are indicators of the restrictions on freedom and the civil and political rights of an electoral campaign process.

The tenth component is a 60% increase in femicide, the violations of the rights of trans-gender people, as well as the persecution and racism against the indigenous and the Garífunas. In this context, it is especially important to mention that since the sixth of October of 2009, 12 people affiliated with the Lenca indigenous organization COPINH have sought political asylum inside the Guatemala Embassy, that Augustina Flores, sister of COPINH leader Berta Caceres, was tortured by the police forces, and that the Lenca resistance leader Antoio Leiva was murdered.

Additionally, on the 21st of October, Day of the Forces that are Armed against the people, the criminal policies of the de facto regime resounded clearly when the repressive forces of the Direction of Criminal Investigation were ordered to break in, terrorize and silence the language and culture of our brothers and sisters of Radio Flumabimeto and Radio Duruugubuty, radio stations of the Garífuna peoples in the regions of Triunfo de la Cruz and San Juan, in the Bay of Tela, terrorizing 46 communities.

The murder of leaders of the teachers movements has been another characteristic of this military coup: Roger Vallejo, Martín Rivera, Mario Fidel Contreras, and Eliseo Hernández, as well as Jairo Sánchez, the President of the Union of INFOP Workers (SITRAINFOP), who was shot and eventually died from the wounds he sustained.

Lastly, we wish to point out the enormous risk of human rights defense work: our staff has been threatened, followed, and shot at, and their phone lines have been tapped and cut.  We are grateful for the international solidarity and support and for our organization, particularly we are thankful for the Research Centre for Torture (RCT DANIDA).  This report is a product of team work and the vocation to ethical and responsible service of the CPTRT.

We also take this opportunity to publicly recognize all the human rights organization, national and international, who are against the military coup.

Juan Almendares
Executive Director of the CPTRT

RISE IN REPORTS OF TORTURE AND CRUEL, INHUMAN AND DEGRADING TREATMENT

Tegucigalpa November 2, 2009: The CPTRT reports that the number of cases of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading (TCID) treatments has risen at an alarming rate and has become of means of political repression in the wake of the coup d’etat.

Throughout these four months, the CPTRT alone has registered 475 cases of torture and TCID. Nonetheless, it is estimated that the number of total cases in considerably higher given the tendency of under-reporting for fear of reprisal or lack of trust in the judicial system.

Between 2007 and the first half of 2009, CPTRT saw an average of 2.5 cases of torture each month, compared with 118.75 cases per month in the current context.

The majority of victims of torture seen by CPTRT have been protestors that have shown a serious opposition to the coup, although members of Congress, advocates of the 4th ballot box process, and journalists have been targeted as well.

[Translators note: The possible presence of a 4th ballot box was the subject of the non-binding survey President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya tried to carry out on June 28th 2009, the day of the coup d’etat. If the results of the non-binding survey would have been positive, Zelaya could have used them to back his proposal to Congress for the presence of a 4th ballot box in the November general elections. If the Congress approved the presence of the 4th ballot box, the Honduran people would have been able to vote for the creation of a Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting a new Constitution.]

The torture has been physical, psychological, and sexual and has been almost exclusively committed by the police and military. The torture has included both traditional and new methods, such as viscous blows to the body and throat, burns via the application of lit cigarettes to the body and genitals, use of gas, deprivation of water and food, humiliation, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, the threat of death, the threat of disappearance, and the threat of the use of electric shock, among others.

GIVEN THE ABOVE, CPTRT:

Demands that the Honduran state investigate, pursue and penalize those responsible for the crimes of torture and TCID, and demands that attention, reparation, and restitution be provided to the victims.

Offers the reminder that torture is a crime against humanity that is not subject to a statute of limitations and that the passage of time does not make impossible either investigation of the crimes nor penalty of those responsible.

Offers the reminder that the prohibition of torture is an obligation that Honduras assumed on a national level through the Constitution, and through the ratification of international instruments like Convention on Torture, among others.

CPTRT states that the defense of human rights in the country has become a high risk activity for its staff, which has been threatened continuously through intimidation, being fired upon, followed, and threatened. Therefore, CPTRT urges the international community to undergo pertinent actions to protect the life of defenders and also makes a special call to the representatives of the EU to apply the European Guidelines of Human Rights Defenders.

* * *

FUNDS NEEDED to support organizations and people working on human rights issues and with the National Front Against the Coup.  Make your tax-deductible check 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

For foundations and institutional donors, Rights Action can (upon request) provide a full proposal of which organizations and people we are channeling funds to and supporting.

WATCH A 2-PART “FAULT LINES” NEWS REPORT ABOUT HONDURAS:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYY4vj9ROC0&feature=player_embedded
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upMu_oR2YUU&NR=1

FOR INTERVIEWS & MORE INFORMATION:
In Honduras, Karen Spring, 011-504-9507-3835, spring.kj@gmail.com
In USA, Grahame Russell, 860-352-2448, info@rightsaction.org

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[en] Rights Action: Day 50, Honduran Coup Resistance

San Pedro Sula, August 11th. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

Day 50, Honduran Coup Resistance, August 16, 2009
(Alert#48)

BELOW:

  • Eyewitness report:  About orchestrated repression and violence, Wednesday, August 12th
  • Report: Attack Against Via Campesina Organization
  • Report: Coup regime takeover of Garifuna community hospital
  • National Front Against the Coup: the Elections Should Not Be Supported
  • Article: The Revolutionary Priest, Fausto Milla
  • Article: The coup in Honduras, “ALBA”, and the English-speaking Caribbean

AT BOTTOM:

  • to donate tax-deductible, urgently needed funds to pro-democracy movement in Honduras
  • what to do?
  • more information

Please re-distribute this information all around

To get on/ off Rights Action’s email list: http://www.rightsaction.org/lists/?p=subscribe&id=3/

* * *

EYEWITNESS REPORT – TEGUCIGALPA – WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12th BRUTAL REPRESSION & INTIMIDATION

(Translated from a telephone report filed by Alexy Lanza at 9:35 pm Chicago time – translation by La Voz de los de Abajo)

Tear gas was fired directly into the crowds of protesters, rubber bullets and truncheons were used to disperse the thousands of Hondurans who had marched through the city to the National Congress today to protest against the coup and demand restitution of the constitutional government of Mel Zelaya.

There were many injuries and arrests – The soldiers and police, heavily armed and in full combat gear acting against unarmed men and women of all ages. In an unforgettable moment, I watched as a congressional Deputy from the anti-coup leftist party the Democratic Unification (UD), Marvin Ponce, was attacked by at least 12 policemen and brutally beaten. He was seriously injured and was taken to the hospital; witnesses reported that at the hospital the police continued to beat and torment Ponce, interfering with his medical treatment.

As the police increased their violent sweep of the area I joined the rest of the protesters in fleeing the area; trying to avoid arrest or beatings or worse. I made my way to the Francisco Morazan National Autonomous University, which has been held by the students as part of the anti-coup resistance for weeks. The University has also been an organizing center and has provided shelter for people coming in from the rural areas to join in the protest movement.

When I got to the University, people were trickling in from the downtown area. I saw one of the leaders from the Garifuna organization (OFRANEH) who told me almost that a large number of compañeros from their organization were detained in the repression at the Congress.
Suddenly a large number of heavily armed soldiers arrived and attacked with tear gas, and rubber bullets forcing their way into university. They began arresting and beating the students and were able to seize control of at least a large part of the university. As the attack continued, I was forced to run from the troops and got away.

Today’s mobilizations were the second day of massive peaceful marches that began yesterday. Thousands of Hondurans responded to the call for increased mobilization by walking for as many as 5 days from the farthest corners of rural Honduras in order to get to one of the two major cities, Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Zula. Yesterday’s protests were not repressed but today was another story. There have also been increasing attacks of the death-squad type. Today, I spoke with Rafael Alegria from Via Campesina in Honduras who told me that last night (August 11th) after the day of mobilizations, at about 11:30 pm, the Via Campesina center was riddled with bullets fired by men who pulled up in front of the center in a civilian SUV. No one was injured, but the message is clear.

Via Campesina is another organization that has offered its offices as an organizing center and shelter and Alegria has been detained and released and now has another threat of detention against him.

The defacto coup government and its military are increasing the violence again to try and do away with the resistance movement of the Honduran people who are the only real obstacle standing in the way of the oligarchy’s plans.

The National Front for Resistance Against the Coup has called for the mobilizations to continue tomorrow beginning at 8 am.

Everyone from the social organizations to the people in the streets who don’t belong to any organization, are calling for international solidarity to come to their aid in any way possible. They have been in the struggle for more than 40 days and need all of our help to continue.

(Alexy Lanza lives in Chicago and is a member of La Voz de los de Abajo, Casa Morazan and Producciones EN EL OJO-independent media)

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COUP REGIME TAKEOVER OF INDIGENOUS GARIFUNA COMMUNITY HOSPITAL

From: MEDICC Atlanta <admin1@mediccglobal.org>
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 2009 09:08:06 -0400 (EDT)

August 11 – Despite objections by local Garifuna communities, Honduras’ defacto government is moving to take over the first and only Garifuna-managed hospital in the country, ousting its current staff.

The facility – built by Dr. Luther Castillo, other Garifuna doctors, local architects, and the communities themselves – is located in the remote coastal municipality of Iriona.

Last week, says Dr. Castillo, the defacto ministry of health notified hospital staff that the facility was being downgraded to a health center “under new management”. “They told us that the Garifuna staff-both doctors and locally-trained nurses aides-will be fired,” he told MEDICC. “These measures would condemn to death many of our old and seriously ill people, and stop all outreach and prevention services.”

However, he said the staff is staying put, and vows to continue working, even without the small stipend the government had provided in the past and with no guarantee of medicines or vital supplies.

“We will not abandon our people,” said Dr. Castillo. “These are the poorest of the poor, the invisible poor. They are the real victims of the coup,” he told MEDICC.”And they are the reason so many of our young people decided to become doctors in the first place.”

Some 300 representatives of local Garifuna governments gathered last week to support the hospital and its staff, and have declared they will not recognize the defacto government’s takeover move.

The Garifuna hospital officially opened in December 2007, under an agreement with the government of President Manuel Zelaya, and in accordance with an International Labor Organization covenant that supports locally-managed health services for indigenous and tribal peoples.

Since then, according to Dr. Castillo, the ten Garifuna doctors staffing the hospital have treated over 175,000 cases. The physicians – all graduates of the Latin American Medical School in Havana – attend patients at outlying clinics and on regular home visits. The original government agreement permitted this medically underserved region to rely on hospital services, including birthing, surgeries, hospitalization, dental care and laboratory tests.

TAKE ACTION NOW!

MEDICC is joining other U.S. organizations to stand with the staff and over 30,000 patients of the only Garifuna Community Hospital in Honduras.  Here’s what you can do:

1) DONATE to keep the hospital alive. Your donation to Honduras’ First Garifuna Hospital will help pay small stipends to physicians and nurses’ aides, and help stock the hospital with essential medicines and supplies. (Donate Here <https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=18349>)

2) SPEAK UP! Take this message to your city council, labor union, student or professional organization, asking them to pass a resolution in support of the Garifuna Indigenous Hospital in Honduras. Send these resolutions to us, and publicize them in your local media and on the web.

3) GET READY TO GO on a delegation to Honduras as a “Witness for Health” to help guarantee the safety and rights of the Garifuna hospital staff. More information coming soon.

4) Urge the US government to act: Contact the White House, the State Department and your Congressional representatives. Press them to use the US government’s influence to guarantee respect for the lives of Dr. Castillo, his colleagues and all those protesting the coup. State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339. White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414.

Contact your Senators here: www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm <http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102666071232&s=3305&e=001Ba222MrT3bL3qaxf3r9E0Xv2SNrnU66fP82Mje-xb9LBZ4sdWxQqrKb7Q_neY3g5S-BrNQWtQf9ZUUuONGyippX02Z_DGDEiuN0QHO4_wKkYnpBtGHVnNWgOr0093RDeqWFJDkqoMU0XXpt-uACBubCnpNvrsC6ukdyOBcOWWm_9F6aO80tcUg==>

Contact your Congresspeople here: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml <https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml>

5) Keep Honduras in the public eye: Circulate this alert widely. GO ON THE WEB: use your blogs, listservs and networks to get the word out.

MORE BACKGROUND

Since 1999, Luther Castillo has directed the Luaga Hatuadi Waduheñu Foundation (“For the Health of our People” in Garifuna), dedicated to bringing vital health services to isolated indigenous coastal communities. After his 2005 graduation from the Latin American Medical School in Havana, Dr. Castillo returned to the Honduran coast, where he led construction of Honduras’ first Garifuna Rural Hospital, now serving some 30,000 in the surrounding communities. The hospital opened in December 2007, just months after Dr. Castillo was named “Honduran Doctor of the Year” by Rotary International’s Tegucigalpa chapter. “Thank you for inspiring me,” said California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, speaking at the hospital’s opening ceremony.

The hospital and its community health outreach are supported by a number of U.S. and other international organizations, including the Sacramento, California Central Labor Council, Global Links, The Birthing Project, and MEDICC.  Several US medical schools also have cooperative arrangements with the Garifuna hospital, including Johns Hopkins, Emory, Charles Drew and University of California (SF). Eight Cuban physicians and nurses also provide specialized services and academic training at the hospital.

A few weeks before the coup, Dr. Castillo was named director of International Cooperation in the Honduran Foreign Ministry. Since July 3rd, he has been included on a list of persons whose lives and safety were declared “at risk” by the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Dr. Castillo is featured in ¡Salud! (www.saludthefilm.net <http://www.saludthefilm.net/> ), a documentary film that received the Council on Foundations Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film  Digital Media (USA).

MEDICC (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba), www.medicc.org <http://www.medicc.org/> , is a US non-governmental organization working to enhance cooperation among the U.S., Cuban and global health communities aimed at better health outcomes.

* * *

ATTACK AGAINST OFFICES OF VÍA CAMPESINA, August 12th 2009
From: Phil Stuart C [mailto:fcstuartca@yahoo.ca]

Below is an urgent appeal from Via Campesina regarding a steep, brutal escalation of death squad killings and military-police repression against grassroots organizations and leaders, ordered by the coup regime.

This ferocious escalation of the repression can have many intended and unintended consequences, and brings the Honduran crisis to new levels of danger to peace in the region, and to a complete smashing of democratic rights.

The National Resistance Front, and the Zelayist government in exile are now calling on Washington and the OAS not to recognize the legitimacy and outcome of any elections scheduled by the coup regime.

This appears to reflect a growing fear both within Honduras and across Latin America and the Caribbean that the coup regime can and may hold on the power, mainly because Washington fears what would happen in the power vacuum that could ensue if the Arias Plan to return Zelaya to office, but not to power, is executed.

Rights Action will very likely file a report on these highly inflamable events tomorrow. Check their website if you want more information: at http://rightsaction.org/

Stay alert. Felipe Stuart

ATTACK AGAINST OFFICES OF VÍA CAMPESINA, August 12th 2009

Last night at 11:23 pm, during curfew which began at 10pm, unknown individuals driving a cream colour Toyota Turismo with the license plate PCA1981 fired bullets at the office of Vía Campesina, located in the Alameda neighbourhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras which is coordinated by Rafael Alegría.

The act was a clear attack against our social organizations and leaders who are part of the National Front Against the Coup.

In addition to the recent attack on Vía Campesina, a bomb capable of killing 15 people went off in the building of the Beverage Workers Union (STIBYS, by its Spanish initials) on July 26th 2009. Both organizations are part of the National Front Against the Coup.

We condemn this incident given that the activities of Vía Campesina and the National Front Against the Coup are completely peaceful. It is important to mention that during curfew only police are permitted to be in the street.

Vía Campesina of Honduras calls for support from national and international human rights organizations to remain attentive and to continue following attacks taking place not only against these organizations and their leadership, but also against the human rights of the entire Honduran people and all those who have been protesting in the streets against the coup for the last 46 days.

Rafael Alegría comments, “People’s rights are being violated and it’s a truly unfortunate situation at the moment. People have been wounded, jailed and killed.”

According to a preliminary report from lawyers assisting the National Front Against the Coup today, hundreds of people were wounded and more than forty people detained following violence occurring after a peaceful mass mobilization in the capital city on Tuesday. The group of lawyers is seeking the liberation of those arrested through Habeas Corpus. The leadership of the Front insists that the disturbances were carried out by people who were not part of the protest, but rather infiltrators interested in provoking confrontations and disparaging the peaceful protests that the Front has been mobilizing.

The people detained are accused of rebellion, terrorism and treason among other crimes.

Alegría emphasizes that “The National Front Against the Coup is not responsible for these incidents. On principle the front supports peaceful marches, peaceful demands and peaceful mobilization. At no point do we use or call for violent acts. It appears that these incidents are the responsibility of groups interested in ruining the social mobilization and they have taken it upon themselves to provoke this situation for which we categorically deny any responsibility.”

Given what has taken place in the last 24 hours, Vía Campesina of Honduras calls out to the entire Vía Campesina network, social movements, as well as national and international human rights organizations to send messages or delegations in solidarity with the resistance against the coup and for the defence of human rights in Honduras, and to assist in bringing about an end to so much injustice and violence against the Honduran people.

Please send complaints and messages of solidarity to the following addresses:

Coronel Jorge Rodas Gamero
Fax: (504) 237-9070/ 220-55-47
E-mail:
sseg.06@hotmail.com

Lcda. Sandra Ponce, Fiscal Especial de Derechos Humanos
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Fax: (504) 221-3656
E-mail:
ponce10s@yahoo.com.ar

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH)
President Andrés Pavón
E-mail:
andres@codeh.hn, codeh@codeh.hn

The Committee of Relatives of People Detained-Disappeared in Honduras
(COFADEH), Coordinadora Bertha Oliva
E-mail:
mail@cofadeh.org

Vía Campesina of Honduras
E-mail:
laviacampesina@cablecolor.hn

* * *

THE ELECTIONS ARE ILLEGAL

TEGUCIGALPA, August 12.— The National Front Against the Coup d´Etat in Honduras condemned the electoral process now taking place in the country with the support of the de facto government, and said it was illegal, Prensa Latina news agency reported today.

For the social organizations united in the struggle against the regime of Roberto Micheletti, these elections make no sense, after the violent expulsion from the country of Manuel Zelaya, a president who had been elected constitutionally.

The restitution of Zelaya in his post, the people’s movement says, is the only way to validate the results of the elections, with the supervision and acknowledgement of the international community.

The presidential candidate for the Democratic Unification Party, Deputy César Ham, invited the people to unite and take part in the elections, as a way to defeat the coup supporters. He also said he was willing to renounce his candidacy if it were necessary to achieve this objective.

Due to their position regarding the complot that overthrew Zelaya, many Hondurans consider Elvin Santos, candidate of the Liberal Party, and Porfirio Lobo, candidate of the National Party, as coup supporters.

* * *

THE CARDINAL OF THE HONDURAN POOR CLAIMS THE RIGHT TO INSURRECTION

http://iglesiadescalza.blogspot.com/2009/08/cardinal-of-honduran-poor-claims-right.html
Thursday, August 13, 2009

My fellow blogger, Hermano Juancito, has already picked up on this story which I had gathered from Adital about the march and open air Mass celebrated on August 11th in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, by Fr. Fausto Milla.

Daniel Valencia (translation by Rebel Girl)
El Faro Digital, August 12, 2009

In the central park of San Pedro Sula nobody in the crowd could sing “La marcha de la unidad” (“The march of unity”) completely because they did not know the lyrics. So, dissimulating, this Tuesday the 11th they hummed in anticipation of the excitement that would thunder out seconds later in the most famous line of that song. And when it came time to sing, many showed that they were not very able at left-wing paraphernalia and wrongly raised the right fist instead of the left one.

At that rally, on the dais, without raising his fists, but forcefully holding a microphone with both hands, an old man of 81, a Honduran with Spanish roots, tall, white skin tanned by the sun and wearing a white cassock with a pink stole, screamed out the chorus at the top of his lungs without any complex: “The people united will never be defeated!”

Coming from a priest and not real politician, it becomes more important. At least that’s what more than 10,000 demonstrators believed, those who accompanied Father Fausto Milla – “the shepherd of the poor”, as his followers call him here — in taking over the center of the second largest city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula. The gathering took place in the park, opposite the cathedral in that city.

That type of behavior is what his followers appreciate, and they let it be known. “Here is our archbishop, the archbishop of the poor and not the rich. Out with Rodríguez Maradiaga, out with the coup leaders!,” shouted a man from the center of 3rd Avenue, the road that separates the central park from cathedral, which was guarded by about 100 “chepos” (riot police) who trembled at the sight of that wall of people in front of them.

The man contrasted Milla and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, who almost immediately after the coup was branded as a coup backer by supporters of deposed president Manuel Zelaya.

Then, before the inflamed crowd, to calm the situation — the crowd was already receiving the first news of the disturbances in Tegucigalpa, where supporters of the Resistance had set fire to a Popeyes restaurant and a bus on Avenida Juan Pablo Segundo — Milla raised his voice and said: “Brothers, let us make peace and not violence. Repression can only be fought and overcome through peace. Here we do not have to face the oppressive families, we do not have any famous last names. The police are our brothers, they are López, they are Ramos, they are Pérez,” he told them, prior to an outdoor Mass, since the cathedral was closed and guarded by police.

Milla, along with a large group of people appeared marching along 3rd Avenue at 4 pm. The priest had walked from Santa Rosa de Copán, where he is pastor, and along the way he joined the marches that came to the city from the  villages of Yoro, Colón, Atlántida, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Santa Bárbara and Cortez.

Before their arrival, San Pedro residents allied with the Resistance had come to the central plaza of the city, and they waited with a meal, water and food for the demonstrators who also marched from Progreso, Lima and Ceiba.

THE REVOLUTIONARY PRIEST

Fausto Milla has been in hiding, according to some supporters of the Resistance. The priest, however, though he confesses that he has received many threats, has always been where you can find him: in his church, in his territory rich in indigenous, peasant culture.

Since the coup, Milla has been one of the main Catholic religious leaders who has criticized — and condemned — the “abuses” in the interior regions of the country, and who has publicly opposed the position of the highest leader of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga.

And Milla’s position was not born at this juncture. During the seventies and eighties, while defending the rights of indigenous peasants, Milla endured persecution from the Honduran army in his Corquín parish in Santa Rosa de Copán.

In his curriculum vitae prepared by the NGO Comunicación Comunitaria it is written that he was among the first priests to publicly denounce the Río Sumpul Massacre, which occurred in El Salvador on May 14, 1980. According to Milla, both the Honduran and Salvadoran armies participated in that massacre.

As he did then, today Milla insists that the true Church is in the people, not in churches or cathedrals, and so, he says, he defends the people. A people that deserves to have their stolen sovereignty returned to them. “I have been a Honduran for 81 years. And I have lived and seen many things, but never anything comparable to what we are all seeing this day,” said Milla, at the beginning of his message.

“When there is inequality there is no freedom,” he added. “And this people is no longer fighting a civil war between supporters of two political parties. This people is in a fight to achieve this equality, generated by those oppressors who have robbed us now of what we have the most right to: sovereignty. They are criminals, and I am not the one who says it, Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution say it: the people are sovereign, whoever steals that sovereignty is a traitor to the motherland, he is a criminal!”

Then, raising his voice even louder, the priest threw out the message that received ovations from the protesters: “Some of those who participated in the drafting of the Constitution have told me that they now regret having written Article 3, because Article 3 calls for insurrection, brothers, for returning this sovereignty to the people of Honduras from whom it has been stolen!”

The action lasted about 30 minutes more, because a torrential rain fell on the city. And as the city has no drainage, right in the center, around the plaza, the river of people in San Pedro Sula had to face a river of water.

* * *

THE COUP IN HONDURAS, ALBA, AND THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING CARIBBEAN

by Faiz Ahmed, MRZine [http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/ahmed130809.html]

The military coup carried out by masked soldiers in the early hours of June 28 against the democratically elected President of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was a bandit act with differing messages intended for different audiences.

One such audience is the oligarchical groupings throughout the hemisphere, who will be emboldened by Washington’s tacit tolerance of the coup makers. Another audience is the Latin American leftist and popular governments, who are being told that their agendas can be trumped by non-democratic means.

And there is yet another audience: the predominantly English-speaking Caribbean governments who, like Zelaya, are far from ideologically opposed to capitalism, but are aware of their inability to improve the overall quality of life of their societies within capitalism’s current configuration.

As a result, many of these island governments are edging towards regional agreements based on principles antithetical to the capitalist system.

This is perhaps why English-speaking Caribbean nations account for ten of the eighteen countries participating in the Venezuelan-led regional agreement PetroCaribe.  Launched in 2005, PetroCaribe enables Caribbean governments to purchase oil and natural gas on terms that allow for the financing of upwards of 60 percent of the costs over a twenty-five year period at interest rates close to one percent.

Also included in the agreement are mechanisms to finance costs associated with building energy infrastructure projects such as refineries and fuel storage facilities, as well as costs of fertilizer purchases to increase food production.

These Caribbean countries typically have been grappling with debt-to-GDP ratios ranging between 50 percent and 150 percent for the better part of the past two decades.  They are economically dependent on tourism and the export of a very narrow range of agricultural commodities and natural resources.

They remain highly vulnerable to the effects of hurricanes, tropical storms, sea level rises, and climate change.  As a result, this new ability to finance a large portion of their energy requirements creates much needed economic space to pursue domestic agendas which, among other objectives, include: creating national food security; repairing and maintaining physical infrastructure such as roadways and airports; and strengthening social services such as healthcare and education.

Or more simply, building some degree of self-sufficiency, albeit within a program that does not deviate from a capitalist approach to development.

The ability to more freely pursue their domestic agendas is the main reason why, over the past eighteen months, three English-speaking Caribbean states have developed a rather perspicacious outlook and become members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA — an acronym that also means “dawn”).  In their view, the regional bloc is not oriented towards a competitive model that exploits weaknesses but is instead an example of a cooperative model that creates space for states to cultivate some degree of self-sufficiency.

The coup against Zelaya, the utterly illegal removal of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide five and a half years before that, and the short-lived coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez two years before that all show that international capitalism cannot tolerate any domestic agenda which includes an objective of self-sufficiency.  Added to this intolerance is capitalism’s long-standing fear of the threat of a good example.

Located in the Eastern Caribbean, the three English-speaking states of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines form one-third of the nine-member ALBA.  In fact, these islands are also members of three other important regional blocs, namely: the fifteen-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the twelve-member Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), and the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

All of these groupings, composed mainly of English-speaking Caribbean islands, have done much to create a unified relationship among its members.  As such, the experiences of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines within ALBA will undoubtedly be watched by other islands in the region.

Each of these islands has been trying to mitigate the myriad challenges facing them over the past two decades, yet are experiencing very little success, as demonstrated by their weakening economies, degrading environments, and alarmingly, declining social indicators such as mortality.

By one measure, life expectancy in the English-speaking Caribbean has fallen by four years over the past decade.1

ALBA AND THE ROAD TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY

Alongside the commitment to facilitate cooperative development, ALBA’s strength lies in its ability to identify member-states’ weaknesses within capitalism and devise projects to mitigate and overcome their challenges.

This analytical quality has allowed for the emergence of a large number of projects organized under ALBA’s four main institutions: the ALBA Oil Agreement, the Bank of ALBA, the ALBA Peoples’ Trade Agreement, and the ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative.

The sometimes overlapping projects are in various stages of development and implementation and are free to be used or ignored, at will, by any member state.

ALBA Oil Agreement

Modeled on the principles governing PetroCaribe, the ALBA Oil Agreement is a mechanism for member states to finance their oil purchases on a long-term, low-interest basis, of which a portion can be repaid in goods and services.  For countries in the Caribbean, whose annual energy costs represent expenditures between 15 percent and 30 percent of their GDPs, the agreement is quite attractive.

Furthermore, and similar to what exists under PetroCaribe, infrastructure projects designed to facilitate or increase oil delivery, oil storage capacity, and oil refining capabilities have been undertaken, all of which have the explicit goal of reducing the overall cost of each barrel of oil these countries import.

Also within the ALBA Oil Agreement is a project that sees 25 percent of every oil receipt accumulate in what has come to be known as the ALBA fund, which is designed to be loaned to member states to pursue social development projects.

Bank of ALBA

In line with the objectives of the ALBA fund, and probably because of the example set by the fund, the Bank of ALBA was established in 2008 to offer member states access to capital to pursue social development projects.  Although the Bank has a total capitalization of only a small fraction of the value of other regional multilateral lending institutions, it offers a far more egalitarian governance structure, exampled by a rotating directorship among member states, and a decision-making structure where each member has an equally weighted vote.

Established in the shadow of the ongoing global food crisis, the Bank’s first projects have been the establishment of a food-distribution company tasked with creating an efficient distribution network between member states and a regional food-production fund meant to be allocated to member states to assist them with domestic agricultural initiatives.

Both projects have an explicit goal of creating some degree of regional food security.

ALBA Peoples’ Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP)

Devised to coordinate the trading of goods and services within the bloc, ALBA-TCP outlines the specific obligations in the form of actions to be taken by each participating member state.

The actions stipulated in the agreement attempt to locate areas of need within each participating state and then to match these areas with goods and services available in partnering member states. The result is a series of bilateral agreements between participating member state.

To date, only Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela are active in ALBA-TCP.

ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative

The ALBA Cultural and Sport Initiative takes the form of developing localized independent media outlets and cultivating cultural exchange through sport.  The most developed of these initiatives is the ALBA Games project, which has been held on a biannual basis since 2005 and is meant to facilitate competition and training among the hundreds of athletes from around the world who participate.

There are very good reasons to project that, left unmolested, ALBA has the potential to offer Caribbean states a space where self-sufficiency can be striven for.  An appealing quality of ALBA and its sister initiatives such as PetroCaribe is that they do not have political strings attached to them.

Countries are signing on because the regional arrangements primarily offer economic flexibility.  Countries are able to follow development paths of their choosing, which in the Caribbean still seem to be a Keynesian-inspired form of state-capitalism.  For most countries in the region, this means establishing a much greater degree of self-sufficiency, in the form of food security, social development, and economic growth.

In keeping with imperialism’s sordid history, the reactionary forces in Honduras have demonstrated the lengths to which they are prepared to go to obstruct any goal of self-sufficiency that excludes oligarchical domination.  The government of Zelaya was not revolutionary.  However, it was looking to better the lives of the people who elected it and saw that ALBA was one mechanism by which it could fulfill this objective.

This is precisely why the coup against the democratically elected government of Honduras is rightly being seen as a threat against the bloc, and it should also be seen as a threat against like-minded governments throughout the region, who are slowly edging towards ALBA.

Life expectancy estimates for the English-speaking Caribbean were taken from United Nations Human Development Reports.  Taken in the aggregate, life expectancies in the region have fallen by roughly 6 months over the past decade.  However, when the populations of these islands are assigned values based on their proportion to the entire population of the English-speaking Caribbean, we see that life expectancies have fallen by 4 years.

(Faiz Ahmed is a doctoral student in sociology and focuses on the study of islands and the political economy of capitalist-led sustainable development plans.  His master’s thesis titled “An Examination of the Development Path Taken by Small Island Developing States” can be downloaded at <www.islandvulnerability.org/m/ahmedm.pdf>.  A shorter version of this article was recently presented to the Coalición Venezuela Estamos Contigo / Venezuela We Are With You Coalition of Toronto.)

* * *

WHAT TO DO

TO DONATE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE FUNDS TO PRO-DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT IN HONDURAS, MAKE CHECK 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

For foundations and institutional donors, Rights Action can – upon request – provide a full proposal of which organizations and people we are channeling funds to and supporting.

AMERICANS AND CANADIANS SHOULD CONTACT YOUR OWN MEDIA, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, SENATORS & MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT – EVERY DAY, DAY AFTER DAY – TO DEMAND:

  • an end to police, army and para-military repression and respect for safety and human rights of all Hondurans
  • unequivocal denunciation of the military coup
  • no recognition of this military coup and the ‘de facto’ government of Roberto Micheletti
  • no recognition of the November 2009 elections, that candidates are campaigning for, even as the country is militarized and repression is widespread
  • unconditional return of the entire constitutional government of President Zelaya
  • concrete and targeted economic, military and diplomatic sanctions against the coup plotters and perpetrators
  • application of international and national justice against the coup plotters
  • reparations for the illegal actions and rights violations committed during this illegal coup

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Karen Spring (Rights Action) in Honduras: [504]9507-3835, spring.kj@gmail.com
Grahame Russell (Rights Action), in USA: 1-860-352-2448,
info@rightsaction.org
Sandra Cuffe (journalist & activist) in Honduras: [504]9525-6778,
sandra.m.cuffe@gmail.com

See Rights Action’s previous Honduras Coup Alerts: www.rightsaction.org

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