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[en] MISF – Fear and Loathing in Honduras: Elections Under Repression

Fear and Loathing in Honduras: Elections Under Repression

May I Speak Freely Media
November 20, 2009

As Honduras’ Nov. 29 election day quickly approaches, the broader picture of whether the vote can truly be free and fair has so far escaped the attention of the U.S. government and much of the world’s mainstream press. While focusing on the terms of the Tegucigalpa-San José Accords, their compliance or lack thereof, and the seemingly two-dimensional Manuel Zelaya/Roberto Micheletti dispute over the country’s presidency, government and media observers alike have paid scant notice to the ongoing suppression of civil, constitutional and political rights of the dissenters, which seriously undermines any hope for an end to the political crisis, let alone an unfettered electoral process. As Bertha Oliva, director of the Committee for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, testified in a Nov. 5 U.S. Congressional briefing, “Dialogue under repression isn’t dialogue … nor is dialogue that doesn’t recognize human rights.”
Free and fair?

International standards of free and fair elections, set out by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1994 and subsequently adopted by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 2000 and the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001, call for basic rights of political expression, movement within the country and an equal basis for campaigning of all parties. In an essay on the topic, Eric Bjornlund of Democracy International wrote, “The political environment should be free of intimidation.” On its face, these conditions don’t seem to be met in Honduras’ current political climate.

Honduran and international human rights groups, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have expressed concerns over political repression and recognition of election results. Much of Latin America, including Brazil and Argentina, have announced they will not recognize the election results.

MISF has previously reported widespread media repression since the June 28 coup, including the September closure and seizure of assets of Radio Globo and Canal 36, two of the last independent opposition voices on air. The two stations have since resumed broadcasting, albeit with limited transmission capacity. Just today Reuters reported that Canal 36 news programming was interfered and prempted by cowboy movies.

MISF Associate Producer Oscar Estrada said that the stations are severely self-censoring, fearing a repeat of military reprisals. One Radio Globo journalist, Luis Galdámez, has persisted in criticizing the de facto government on his daily program “Behind the Truth,” and, according to Amnesty International, has been receiving death threats. On Nov. 19 it was reported that Canal 36’s broadcast signal was being interfered with and news programming replaced with cowboy movies.

The Honduran government on Oct. 5 issued a decree authorizing the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) to shut down any medium that calls for abstaining from the elections or that “incites hatred,” which, according to Estrada, is widely taken as code for speaking against the state. While Conatel hasn’t yet enforced the decree, Reina Rivera, director of the Honduran NGO Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (Ciprodeh), said she expected it will in the immediate run-up to election day.

Privation of civil liberties has also been reported by MISF. A Sept. 27 emergency decree restricting free speech, assembly and movement—all critical aspects of a free electoral cycle—which de facto president Micheletti had promised to annul, wasn’t repealed until Oct. 25, a few days before the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord was reached. That the decree has largely been replaced by more focused decrees issued by individual ministries much to the same effect.

In addition to the Conatel decree, the national police have issued a resolution, a demonstrably illegal act, that any march or protest requires 24 hours’ notice and permission from the police. In practice, however, this policy has only applied to leftist and independent candidates, for whose events the police are the first—and, as a consequence, last—to show up.

Another decree, issued by the Security Ministry, classifies as terrorism any takeover of public space by the resistance and the use of loudspeakers. To date, several leftist political rallies, which by necessity use sound systems, have been charged in this manner.

The dissolution of any agreement on the return to power of the deposed Zelaya—a precondition to election participation given by the Resistance Front Against the Coup and the popular independent candidate, union leader Carlos H. Reyes—has resulted in the effective disenfranchisement of the opposition in the elections. Reyes has officially withdrawn from the race and the Front, as have 102 of the 128 Innovation and Unity Party congressional and mayoral candidates, as well as a faction of Zelaya’s (and Micheletti’s) majority Liberal Party.

Many leftist organizations and Zelaya himself consider the election hopelessly unfair, have called for its boycott and have begun a process to legally contest and postpone voting.

On Nov. 17, Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubí announced that the 530 prosecutors of the Public Ministry will be actively seeking out and cracking down on anyone who commits “electoral crimes,” such as impeding the voting process, urging people to not participate, or destroying political propaganda, all of which will be punishable with a four-year prison sentence. The practical effect of these strictures is to further stifle opposition voices by stripping them of the one recourse they had left.

The international justice organization CEJIL reported to the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Nov. 10 about persecution and retaliation against judges and public defenders who have expressed opposition to the coup. “The acts against these officials are an illegal restriction of their rights and an intimidation tactic to silence their voices and those of the thousands of people who oppose the regime,” said Viviana Krsticevic, executive director of CEJIL.

Honduras rights advocate and former independent slate candidate Berta Cáceres, speaking with the Chilean publication El Clarín, noted that the Electoral Tribunal has engaged the military—the same body that has been illegally arresting, beating up and even killing members of the coup opposition—to supervise the balloting. She said whoever is elected on Nov. 29 will represent a “golpista” government.

Explaining an increasingly widely held view within the country, MISF’s Estrada said, “All the parties have begun to sound like one because [the military,] under its doctrine of national security, runs the country, and will continue to run the next government.”

Ciprodeh’s Rivera said reports are already coming in of heavy militarization in certain remote areas known for being armed, and she fears armed conflict. Ulises Sarmiento, a Liberal Party candidate for deputy in Olancho province and a strong resistance advocate, was attacked Nov. 18 by at least eight men armed with heavy weaponry and grenades. Two of his security detail, Delis Noé Hernández, 27, and José Manuel Beltrán, 35, were killed in the attack.

According to both Estrada and Rivera, the election has stoked fears among Hondurans on both the right, who fear unrest in the streets and the implementation of Hugo Chavez-style populism, and the left, who fear massive, possibly armed repression, and the legitimization of the coup through the voting process.
U.S. recognition

The United States has not only not made any acknowledgement of such apparently unjust and illiberal electoral conditions, but is indicating support for the election and recognition of its outcome.

As a primary broker in the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, the U.S. State Department initially seemed to be riding to the rescue in a last-ditch effort to reinstate Zelaya to power preceding the elections. However, when it became evident that Honduras’ Congress was not going to make a timely decision on Zelaya’s restitution and when Micheletti unilaterally formed the unity government, the United States insisted that the accord was still in force, indicating at a press conference on Nov. 6—a day after the deadline to reinstate Zelaya—that it would likely still recognize the election.

While this statement seemed to confuse many, it is clearly the official State Department position, since Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, echoed them a couple days earlier on CNN en Español, where he stated, “The future of Honduran democracy is in Hondurans’ [Congressional] hands,” answering affirmatively a question about recognizing the elections, no matter what transpires.

An end to the crisis?

Both Honduras and the United States want to see an end to the crisis, which is unlikely to come with the election. According to Estrada, “This will end one of three ways: by means of a patent campaign of terror that decapitates all the populist organizations; by way of an accord that brings about genuine constitutional reform; or, the third option, war.”

According to Estrada and Rivera, the election has stoked fears among Hondurans on both the right, who fear unrest in the streets and the implementation of Hugo Chavez-style populism, and the left, who fear massive, possibly armed repression, and the legitimization of the coup through the voting process.

For more information

Berta Oliva (COFADEH) Gives Testimony at Congressional Briefing sponsored by Rep. Grijalva D-AZ.” Quixote Center, November 12, 2009.

Bjornlund, Eric. “Free and Fair Elections.” Democracy International.

Casasús, Mario. “Bertha Cáceres: ‘El pueblo busca estrategias para el desconocimiento de las elecciones en Honduras.‘” El Clarin, November 11, 2009.

Con 530 fiscales perseguirán los delitos electorales: Rubi.” El Tiempo, November 17, 2009.

Entrevista Thomas Shannon en CNN 04-Nov.” YouTube.

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal.” Reuters, November 20, 2009.

Honduras: Honduran radio journalist fears for his life: Luis Galdámez.” Amnesty International, Novermber 16, 2009.

IACHR concludes its 137th period of seessions.” Organization of American States, November 13, 2009.

Parks, James. “Trumka: Free Elections Not Possible Now in Honduras.” AFL-CIO Now Blog, November 16, 2009.

Poder Judicial persigue a jueces opuestos al golpe.” VosElSoberano, November 14, 2009.

U.S. Department of State. “Daily Press Briefing.” November 6, 2009.

U.S. Department of State. “Daily Press Briefing.” November 18, 2009.

Zelaya Rosales, Manuel. “Carta Presidente Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales al Presidente Obama.” November 14, 2009.

Zelaya to legally contest Honduras elections.” Agence France Presse, November 18, 2009.

Honduran channel says de facto govt blocks signal.” Reuters, November 20, 2009.

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About: Founded in 2001, May I Speak Freely Media (MISF) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting social change through media. Twenty-five years after the Honduran military, with support from the United States, committed brutal human rights abuses against its citizens, MISF Media is working with human rights advocates, international NGOs and grassroots organizations to document rights abuses and justice efforts in Honduras, help victims tell their stories, raise public awareness, and prevent the repetition of past U.S. foreign policy mistakes. Offering journalism, historical records, and other educational material, www.mayispeakfreely.org serves as a resource for policy makers, rights advocates, academics, journalists, activists and the general public. MISF Media is a fiscally sponsored nonprofit project of Media Island International, Olympia, Wash.

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[es] Giorgio Trucchi: Firmado acuerdo para la restitucion del presidente Zelaya

Presidente Manuel Zelaya Rosales. El Ocotal, Nicaragua, 26 julio 2009. Foto: Sandra Cuffe

Firmado acuerdo para la restitución del presidente Zelaya
Asoma solución a la crisis. Y ahora la última palabra pasa al Congreso

por Giorgio Trucchi – Rel-UITA

Las presiones de los últimos días de parte de la comunidad internacional y la presencia en Honduras del subsecretario de Estado norteamericano para el Hemisferio Occidental, Thomas Shannon, y de una nueva delegación de la OEA, parecen haber forzado el presidente de facto, Roberto Micheletti, a aceptar firmar el punto número 6 del Acuerdo de San José, que prevé pedir al Congreso Nacional retrotraer la situación de los poderes del Estado a su estado previo al 28 de junio.

La noticia, que llegó un día después de haberse cumplido cuatro meses del golpe de Estado y a un mes de las elecciones nacionales, desencadenó la euforia de centenares de miles de hondureños que salieron a la calle formando largas caravanas de vehículos, enseñando sus banderas y mantas de la Resistencia en todo el país.

En Tegucigalpa, la gente se dirigió en altas horas de la noche hacia Radio Globo en el céntrico Boulevard Morazán, bloqueando el tráfico y coreando consignas de victoria.

Pese a la evidente satisfacción, el presidente Manuel Zelaya llamó el pueblo hondureño a la calma, explicando que por el momento se trata de un primer importante paso hacia la restitución del orden democrático en el país.

“Llamo al pueblo hondureño a que tenga calma, sin hacer escarnio de nadie. Las comisiones firmaron hoy el punto más difícil y mañana, 30 de octubre, vamos a firmar todo el documento que consta de ocho puntos. Se trata ahora de hacer un plan de trabajo para la ejecución de todos los puntos, incluyendo la restauración del sistema democrático.

Siento satisfacción y soy optimista –continuó Zelaya–, y agradezco a toda la comunidad internacional por haber sostenido esta solución. Restituir a un gobierno con todo lo que ha ocurrido es un hecho histórico para nuestra sociedad y para toda la comunidad latinoamericana. Estamos haciendo escuela, siendo ejemplo de paz y democracia para el mundo.

Sin embargo, se trata de un proceso, de un plan que debe ejecutarse. Primero se va a construir un calendario, después hay que llevarlo al Congreso Nacional y los diputados tomarán las determinaciones que competen en su carácter de independencia de poderes, y finalmente estaremos participando en todo el proceso de la reconstrucción de la democracia a través de la inminente restitución al cargo de Presidente por el cual me eligió el pueblo hasta el 27 de enero de 2010”, explicó el Presidente legítimo de Honduras.

Faltando pocos minutos para finalizar el día 29 de octubre, la comisión negociadora del presidente Manuel Zelaya Rosales brindó una conferencia de prensa para dar a conocer el contenido del acuerdo firmado con la comisión del presidente de facto, Roberto Micheletti.

Víctor Meza, miembro de la comisión negociadora del presidente Zelaya, dio lectura al texto del acuerdo en el que se expresa que “para lograr la reconciliación y fortalecer la democracia, ambas comisiones negociadoras hemos decidido, respetuosamente, solicitar que el Congreso Nacional, como una expresión institucional de la soberanía popular, en uso de su facultades en consulta con las instancias que considere pertinentes, como la Corte Suprema de Justicia y conforme a ley, resuelva en lo procedente a retrotraer la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo a su estado previo al 28 de junio de 2009, hasta la conclusión del actual periodo gubernamental el 27 de enero de 2010.

La decisión que adopte el Congreso Nacional deberá sentar las bases para alcanzar la paz social, la tranquilidad política y la gobernabilidad democrática que la sociedad demanda y el país necesita”.

Meza explicó también que ninguno de los ochos puntos que conforman el acuerdo, por sí solo, tiene valor individual, sino que están relacionados entre sí y forman parte de un todo integral que se llama Acuerdo de San José, con el sólo objetivo de restaurar el orden constitucional en el país.

Último Momento

por Giorgio Trucchi

El día de hoy, 30 de octubre, las dos comisiones negociadoras firmaron el documento de ocho puntos y fuerona entregarlo a la Secretaría del Congreso Nacional, tal como prevé el punto que trata el tema de la restitución del presidente Manuel Zelaya.

Según el presidente del Congreso Nacional de Honduras, Alfredo Saavedra, obligadamente habrá que consultar a la Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) para decidir si se restituye o no al presidente Manuel Zelaya, como acordaron ayer las comisiones de diálogo en la crisis del país.

“Tenemos que escuchar la opinión de la honorable CSJ previo a emitir un dictamen favorable o desfavorable, porque las normas parlamentarias nos obligan a seguir un procedimiento, y este acuerdo tiene realmente relación directa con otros poderes del Estado, que hay que escuchar su opinión porque así lo ordena en este tipo de materia la misma Constitució”, dijo Saavedra.

El presidente del Congreso agregó que en este momento no es posible poner plazos para la resolución y que de inmediato iba a convocar a la junta directiva y a los jefes de bancadas para conocer el contenido del documento y “continuar con lo que procede”

En las próximas horas se sabrá si se trata de una verdadera salida a la crisis o una nueva maniobra dilatoria de los poderes fácticos de Honduras.

Mientras tanto el Frente Nacional Contra el Golpe de Estado dio a conocer su posición ante la firma del Acuerdo de Tegucigalpa-San José:

El Frente Nacional de Resistencia contra el Golpe de Estado, ante la inminente firma del acuerdo negociado entre la comisión representante del presidente legítimo Manuel Zelaya Rosales y los representantes del régimen de facto, comunica a la población hondureña y la comunidad internacional:

1.      Celebramos como una victoria popular sobre los intereses mezquinos de la oligarquía golpista, la próxima restitución del presidente Manuel Zelaya Rosales. Esta victoria se ha obtenido con más de 4 meses de lucha y sacrificio del pueblo, que a pesar de la salvaje represión desatada por los cuerpos represivos del estado en manos de la clase dominante, ha sabido resistir y crecer en conciencia y organización hasta convertirse en una fuerza social incontenible.

2.      La firma por parte de la Dictadura del documento donde se establece “retrotraer la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo a su estado previo al 28 de junio”, representa la aceptación explícita de que en Honduras hubo un golpe de estado que debe ser desmontado para volver al orden institucional y garantizar un marco democrático en el que el pueblo pueda hacer valer su derecho de transformar la sociedad.

3.      Exigimos que a los acuerdos que se firmen en la mesa de negociación se les de trámite expedito en el Congreso Nacional. En ese sentido, alertamos a todos nuestros compañeros y compañeras a nivel nacional para que se sumen a las acciones de presión para que se cumpla inmediatamente lo consignado en el documento final que se elabore en la mesa de negociación.

4.      Reiteramos que la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente es una aspiración irrenunciable del pueblo hondureño y un derecho innegociable por el cual seguiremos luchando en las calles, hasta lograr la refundación de la sociedad para convertirla en justa, igualitaria y verdaderamente democrática.

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[en] Tom Loudon – Honduras: A Time of No Time

Detail from a painting in the COFADEH office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

HONDURAS: A TIME OF NO TIME

By Tom Loudon*

October 19, 2009

For the last week and a half, negotiations between President Zelaya and the coup government have dominated the news in Honduras. Last week, it appeared that a negotiated solution might emerge.  However President Zelaya’s ‘absolute deadline’ of midnight October 15th came and went and absolutely nothing changed.

The ‘negotiations’ have the entire country suspended in a sort of time warp.  Everyone waits for an outcome from the talks, which never emerges. Zelaya’s first extension, which was to have ended on Friday the 16th, has now been extended to today.  However, coup leader Micheletti is now refusing to recognize what had previously been accepted and continues his stalling game.  It is hard to know what could change between now and Monday which would lead to a resolution.

It is beginning to appear as if, in fact, there never has been any interest on the part of the de facto regime in a real resolution.  Rather, negotiations have served to consume time, running the clock in the hope of using the November 29th elections to claim that a legitimate government has been elected.

This weekend, an unidentified person in the State Department is quoted promoting the notion that perhaps the U.S. would recognize the outcome of the elections even if Constitutional order is not restored, provided they are verified free of fraud by international observers.  Although a certain number of countries may eventually go along with this approach, large sectors of people inside Honduras and most Latin American governments will not.  Given the impasse on negotiations and failure to restore Constitutional order, the 13 ALBA countries have announced that they will not recognize the November elections and have resolved to promote that position among other countries.

The broad based national coalition against the coup [‘National Front Against the Coup’] in Honduras has issued a call for citizens to disrupt the elections.  This weekend, Independent Presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes began holding popular assemblies proposing to his supporters that they affirm his decision to withdraw from the race.  Today, the left wing UD party also announced that if there was not a restitution of Manuel Zelaya to the Presidency, they would also withdraw from the elections.

Meanwhile, the repression has been ramped up, posing serious new challenges for the resistance movement.  The first response to the resistance on the part of the coup regime was to launch uncontrolled violence and blanket repression against protesters, and anyone else in the vicinity.   More recent tactics expose the highly sophisticated apparatus which is behind this coup and capitalize on the collective memory of torture, disappearance and terror that were practiced here not very long ago.

POLICE STATE AND THE SUSPENSION OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS

Executive Decree PCM-M-016-2009 eliminates freedom of speech and association, and allows police to enter private houses at will, without a warrant.   In addition to giving police blanket authorization to attack and arrest anyone without cause, many of those arrested have been charged with sedition.   Although Micheletti claimed to have lifted the decree prior to the negotiations, in actuality, it has remained in effect.  Today there was an announcement that it had been revoked.  Perhaps this time it may actually be more than a promise.

Three snapshots from culled from notes during a recent visit to Honduras, from the offices of COFADEH – Committee of Families of the Disappeared of Honduras – illustrate life under the current police state:

Agustina Caceres, a school teacher from La Esperanza , arrived at COFADEH after 21 days in prison.  Agustina received the “Teacher of the Year” Award last year for excellence in teaching and is known for her community service with youth gangs.  She was sitting on a curb, waiting for transport back to her hometown after the celebration in Tegucigalpa to celebrate Zelaya’s return, when police started beating her.  They continued to beat her face after she was handcuffed.  She was released from prison, after her teachers union posted over $5000 in bail, and is charged with sedition.

Four people arrived who had been arrested on August 12, the day of a large protests and heavy repression. Two had never been involved in political activity and had not attended the protest.  One had attended the protest earlier that day and was then arbitrarily pulled off a bus with his sister and another person while on their way home much later.  The fourth voiced protest from a distance about a young boy who was being beaten by the police which provoked her arrest.  All were arrested and beaten with long night-sticks or metal poles.  They were held in a room laying face down on the floor with arms cuffed behind their backs.  Police came by and deliberately stepped on their exposed toes. They were held for nine days.  All have been charged with sedition though no evidence has been presented. They are awaiting trial.

A woman from a Tegucigalpa barrio arrived with a small son who had been shot in the stomach.  She went to file a police report and was told that the shooting was her own fault because of the state of siege she should not have let him out of the house.

In addition to generalized police repression against the entire population, there is an increase in selective intimidation, threats and assassination.

This week, union leader Jairo Sánchez, president of the SITRAINFOP union, finally died after having been shot in the face on September 24th.  It is said that he was first thrown to the ground, and then fired on a point blank range.  Early this morning (October 19), Elisio Hernandez, director of a rural school in Macuelizo and anti-coup activist, was also murdered.

Because of the increased incidence of violence and intimidation many people who have been involved in the resistance are leaving the country or going into hiding internally.

“OPERATION SILENCE”

The forced and violent closure of independent national radio and TV stations (Radio Globo and Channel 36) has successfully cut off access to accurate information about what is really happening in Honduras.  Three radio shows, which played once a week on a station owned by Ricardo Maduro (known to be sympathetic to the coup), were also suspended this past week.

Indirectly, these news outlets also served a coordination function for the resistance movement; assisting in the effort to conduct simultaneous actions in different parts of the country and notify people where and when repressive actions were being carried out.

In a country with large percentage of rural inhabitants and scarce access to internet, “Operation Silence” has dealt an effective blow to the resistance movement.

Today, the day when a new human rights mission sent by the UN began its work, Radio Globo was allowed to re-open, but with a gag order.  It was also thought that Channel 36 would re-open.

SUDDEN ANNOUNCEMENT OF AN EARLY END TO THE SCHOOL YEAR

Social unrest and strikes since the coup have already resulted in major interruptions for public school students.  This week, the government suddenly announced that the school calendar would be cut by one month.   With less than one week of prior notice, classes were required to end on Friday October 16th and all school activities to end by October 30th – a full month before the school year normally ends.

This measure is understood as a move to demobilize teachers – an important sector of the resistance movement with a long history of struggle.  Ending the school year early interrupts efforts which might emerge on the part of teachers to disrupt elections, as many of the polls are located inside of the schools.  It also gives the army sufficient time to occupy the schools.

Previously the government has threatened reprisals against teachers who were participating in resistance activities.  Teachers who are insisting on continuing the school year past the government cutoff are now being threatened for wanting to teach.

Although the regime may be enjoying short term success in suppressing the demand for restoration of Constitutional order, in the long term police state repression will not contain the huge numbers of people who will continue to struggle for economic and political justice.

Media hype to the contrary, the growing number of left wing governments being elected in Latin America is not the result of anything Hugo Chavez is doing, rather the efforts of people who are tired of poverty and social movement demanding change.

This week, for example, despite Micheletti’s iron clad crack down, the resistance scored a major goal.  The Honduran Soccer team qualified for the World Cup.  Soccer in Honduras is like baseball and football combined in the U.S.

Micheletti, anxious to take full advantage of this event, declared a national holiday and held a ceremony to honor the winning players with special medals.  However, the captain of the team, Amado Guevara, refused to accept a medal from the illegitimate government and had his jersey smuggled inside the Brazilian Embassy to President Zelaya.  Despite the media blackout, news of this open defiance of the dictator spread throughout the country.  Later Amado Guevara denied that he had been involved in sending his jersey to the Embassy.  Certainly the coup government found an effective way to threaten him, because his family is known to be vehemently anti-coup.

It is hard to predict where things are headed in Honduras.  Unfortunately, the second deadline extension given by President Zelaya had not produced a negotiated settlement, rather another long weekend of suspended animation.

By late tonight, there was still no news of any agreement, just references by the coup government of the need to avoid placing a deadline on the negotiations.  If Constitutional order is not restored quickly, a massive boycott of the elections is likely. Any candidate who chooses to remain in the race will be judged as illegitimate, leading to a further breakdown of order.

In this time of no time – the clock is running out.

* Tom Loudon is currently in Honduras, working with the Quixote Center, www.quixote.org, toml@quixote.org

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[es] Entrevista a Dionisia Diaz, la abuela de la Resistencia

Dionisia Diaz, abuela de la Resistencia. Foto: Sandra Cuffe

Entrevista a Dionisia Díaz, con 75 años se ha convertido en la abuela de la Resistencia
“En Honduras se acostumbra que al Presidente lo elige el pueblo”
El Clarín de Chile

Doña Dionisia Díaz (1934), se ha convertido en la abuela de Honduras, durante 115 días no ha dejado de caminar con la Resistencia, no claudica al corear las consignas con su viejo citófono y comparte su experiencia en la lucha desde la Huelga de 1954 con las nuevas generaciones. Accedió conversar con Clarín.cl durante el reinicio de las marchas, una vez que se derogó el Decreto de Suspensión de Garantías Individuales de la dictadura de Micheletti.

MC.- Querida abuela, ¿cómo está?, ¿entre qué emociones vive después de 115 días en Resistencia?

DD.- Siento alegría, tristeza, todo lo tenemos revuelto porque este goriletti es un fascista, juega con nosotros, da plazos y da plazos , y a nosotros eso no nos cae bien y él no es quién para ordenar. Aquí en Honduras se acostumbra que al Presidente lo elige el pueblo, nosotros nunca hemos llevado al poder a ese goriletti, lo hemos rechazado cuando se ha lanzado en las elecciones porque es una persona enferma un sicópata.

MC.- ¿Había visto semejante número de manifestantes en Resistencia a un golpe de Estado?

DD.- El pueblo después de 1980 estaba dormido, pero usted sabe que los pueblos cambian y nosotros aquí en esta Resistencia no andamos sólo por el Presidente Mel Zelaya, sino por la Asamblea Constituyente; Mel iba a consultarnos para saber si nosotros queríamos una Constituyente, en la consulta iba un Sí o un No, la derecha iban a decir que No, nosotros que Sí; pero hicieron el golpe de Estado basándose en que La Cuarta Urna era prohibida, lo que es una mentira aquí y en China, eso fue algo de lo que se agarraron para dar el golpe de Estado porque la consulta no puede ser prohibida. Necesitamos cambiar esos artículos pétreos que tiene la Constitución de Honduras y que no sirven para nada, los golpistas han violado la Constitución las veces que han querido, todos los países cambian, antes fuimos esclavos y ahora ya no lo somos, pues esos artículos pétreos nos hacen mucho daño, queremos una Constitución que tome en cuenta al pueblo; no es que vamos a correr a los golpistas, no es que vamos a dañar a la Constitución, vamos a guardar la vieja Constitución en una cajita, empaquetada por inútil. Necesitamos la restitución de nuestro Presidente Mel Zelaya para ir a la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente.

MC.- ¿Qué ha sido lo peor de estos 115 días?

DD.- Tenemos 24 compañeros asesinados por los golpistas, los gases lacrimógenos que nos tiran los militares, tienen a este pueblo tan reprimido que no podíamos salir a las calles por el Decreto de Suspensión de Garantías Individuales, es un artículo desgraciado.

MC.- ¿Escucha el doble discurso electoral de los golpistas?

DD.- Micheletti dice que entrega la presidencia hasta el 27 de enero, pero el Presidente es Manuel Zelaya y tienen que restituirlo les guste o no; de lo contrario no habría elecciones, en primer lugar: internacionalmente no se las van a reconocer y en segundo lugar el pueblo hondureño no vamos a dejar que vayan a elecciones con un régimen de facto, goriletti dice que somos “4 gatos”, pero no se da cuenta que no tiene ni a medio millón de hondureños apoyándolo ; todos estamos en la Resistencia, algunos no pueden andar en la calle porque trabajan, tienen niños pequeños o carencias económicas, pero están en Resistencia, toda esa gente no iría a elecciones, y si los golpistas llenan las urnas sería un fraude. Micheletti no es hondureño, creció aquí, pero su sangre italiana es de fascista sanguinario.

MC.- ¿Cabe la comparación entre la Huelga de 1954 y la Resistencia al golpe de Estado?

DD.- Nosotros participamos en la Huelga de 1954 muy tranquilos, cantando, comiendo, durmiendo, esperando que transcurriera el tiempo para que se aprobara lo que pedíamos, y conseguimos los derechos laborales porque en ese tiempo valía más una mula que un obrero, si moría una mula se la descontaban del sueldo a los trabajadores, pero si usted se caía nadie lo levantaba; entonces el pueblo abrió los ojos y dijo: vamos a pedir esto y aquello, pues lo mismo ahora, los artículos pétreos no los necesitamos en la Constitución, y aquí está la Resistencia para lograr la Asamblea Constituyente.

MC.- Usted acompañó al profesor Jairo Sánchez en el último adiós, ¿lo conoció durante los días de la Resistencia?

DD.- Aquí lo conocimos, junto a sus familiares; al profesor Jairo Sánchez le pegaron un tiro en la cabeza, la bala se alojó en su cerebro y no pudo recuperarse. Y Micheletti dice que aquí no está pasando nada, insiste en que las elecciones son el remedio para recuperar la paz y la democracia (sic). Será un fraude de parte de los golpistas y un boicot de parte de la Resistencia; la única paz que podemos conseguir es restituyendo a Mel Zelaya.

MC.- En la Argentina son varias las Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo, usted es la abuelita de todos los hondureños en Resistencia , ¿le causa orgullo?

DD.- Me siento muy feliz, bien acompañada, no puedo vivir sin la resistencia, un día no puedo estar en la casa, tengo que venir a la Resistencia para sentirme tranquila, son un montón de nietos los que tengo, da felicidad, todo mundo me quiere, me abraza, me dan besos y si no me miran preguntan: “¿y la abuela?”, por muy triste que ande por dentro por los compañeros que han muerto, y al ver a goriletti que está ahí asaltando me da asco. A nosotros no nos detiene nadie, ¿quién le debe respeto a Micheletti?.

MC.- En la Constitución de Honduras dice que “Nadie debe obediencia a un gobierno usurpador”, ¿usted sigue al pie de la letra ese artículo?

DD.- Sabemos lo que andamos haciendo, sabemos que no le debemos respeto ni obediencia a goriletti, no lo tomamos en cuenta porque es una persona enferma y abusiva, es un fascista, un asesino, un pegoste; mire todos los muertos, mire los toques de queda, el pueblo no tiene comida ni medicinas.

MC.- Los jóvenes hondureños se comunican a través de Internet, ¿cómo se informaba usted con la salida del aire de Radio Globo y Canal 36?

DD.- Yo tengo un vecino que tiene Internet y cuando quiero leer las noticias voy a visitarlo, y en mi radio escucho Radio Gualcho y ahora a Radio Globo, pero eso no es suficiente, nosotros nos informamos aquí entre los compañeros, el coordinador nos da los informes de lo que pasa en el Frente Nacional de Resistencia Contra el Golpe de Estado.

MC.- Finalmente, ¿usted avala la postura del Presidente Zelaya en el sentido de que sea el Congreso el responsable de dirimir su restitución y no la Corte Suprema?

DD.- No puede ser en la Corte Suprema porque este es un asunto político, la Corte Suprema es de los golpistas, nosotros no confiamos en ellos; si Mel Zelaya dice que vamos a discutirlo en el Congreso Nacional debe tener razón, pero yo no confiaría ni en los diputados (risas).

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

National Resistance Movement in Honduras. Photo: Sandra Cuffe

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

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

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

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

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

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

“GOD, LAW AND ORDER”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A GIANT HAS AWOKEN

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

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

NATIONAL FRONT AGAINST THE COUP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinion Necia: La traicion de Washington era un hecho previsible

Manifestante en Tegucigalpa. Julio 2009. Foto: Sandra Cuffe

La traición de Washington era un hecho previsible. La necesidad de Estados Unidos por controlar la región no podía verse obstaculizada por un presidente que, deseando el progreso de su pueblo y ejerciendo los derechos de la soberanía, pasara por alto los principales intereses del imperialismo en la región.

¿Pero qué es el imperialismo sino la expresión de los intereses de la economía transnacional? Es así que la acciones que desde el 28 de junio ocurren en el país, estuvieron promovidas, financiadas y respaldadas por empresas transnacionales muy poderosas, que se vieron afectadas en sus ganancias por las medidas que adoptara el Presidente Constitucional Manuel Zelaya, en aras del beneficio de su pueblo. Entre ellas podemos destacar a EXXON, quien fuera la primera de las afectadas con la fórmula de los combustibles y el histórico cambio de proveedor que rompió con el monopolio comercial.

Pero no fue ese el único encontronazo del presidente con el imperio del norte. Supo del control directo de la Embajada Norteamérica de fiscales y jueces que protegen inversiones norteamericanas en todo el país, legales o ilegales. Así también descubrió el control por parte de la CIA de todas las agencias nacionales de inteligencia en el país; Inteligencia Militar del Ejército de Honduras, Inteligencia de la Policía, Inteligencia de las agencia de seguridad privada, Inteligencia de la Dirección General de Investigación Criminal, entre otros grupos de sistematización de información económica, política y social que existen en Honduras. A la vez, que como en todos los países de nuestro hemisferio, también actúan directamente  agentes de la CIA asignados a Honduras.

¿Qué protegen? ¿Por qué un control tan férreo por parte de los Estados Unidos?

La primera potencia militar del mundo, la más grande en la historia de la humanidad, mantiene un aparato de control que  existe con el propósito de defender los intereses imperialistas y también funciona para saber como imponerlos en el resto del mundo. La fuerza es el principal argumento de Estados Unidos en su política internacional; su brutalidad es tal que hace más de 50 años permanece en guerras en todo el planeta y ha generado con ellas el establecimiento de la dependencia de su nación a la industria bélica, lo que se le llama el Complejo Militar.

El monstruo imperialista que ha criterio del Presidente Zelaya, y como claramente lo expresara en reuniones abiertas de gabinete presidencial y movimiento popular, utiliza las empresas transnacionales para desarrollar el Neocolonialismo en todos los lugares del planeta en los que exista un mercado del que extraer riquezas naturales y fuerza de trabajo.

No obstante, el imperialismo encuentra con frecuencia que pueblos con dignidad se oponen a sus planes expansionistas, a su lógica de guerra y muerte, a su necesidad mezquina para mantener un estilo de vida que perjudica seriamente el medio ambiente y que somete al hambre, la desnutrición, la dependencia y el subdesarrollo al miles de millones de seres humanos. Es cuando el método pasa del Neo al colonialismo clásico; invasor, militar, fascista e inhumano.

El golpe de estado en Honduras tiene el sello de la Agencia Central de Inteligencia, CIA, tiene el interés evidente de la ultraderecha norteamericana, tiene la venganza de las transnacionales que han promovido siempre a los políticos convenientes a sus intereses y que por un error de cálculo permitieron un hombre en la más alta magistratura del Estado Hondureño, un hombre que en su discurso inaugural declaraba tres cristianos y sencillos principios con los que gobernaría el país: No mentir, no robar y no matar, principios por demás incompatibles con el sistema capitalista y mucho más aún con las prácticas de la  oligarquía hondureña.

Es por eso que muchas transnacionales como Exxon, Entre Mares y Chiquita Banana son protagonistas del golpe de estado militar. Mientras que Roberto Micheletti, un empresario de poca monta, y Romeo Vásquez Velázquez, un ladrón de vehículos, no son más que un par de peleles en este asunto. El pueblo lo sabe y no les teme, por eso lucha contra ellos por una patria liberada y contra las transnacionales por un mundo sin guerras ni injusticias.

¡Venceremos!

¡Necedad!

OPLN

[Organizacion Politica Los Necios: ]

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Dr. Juan Almendares: The Biggest Embrace in History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[en] Jennifer Moore: ‘What is Minister Kent Waiting for?’

Honduran First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya argues with Honduran army Coronel Ayala at the Arenal military-police blockade. El Paraiso, July 24, 2009. Photo: Sandra CuffeHonduran First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya argues with Honduran army Coronel Ayala at the Arenal military-police road blockade the night of July 24th, 2009. Hundreds of Hondurans were detained for days at various blockades along the highway to the Las Manos border crossing with Nicaragua, where elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales attempted to re-enter the country for a second time since the June 28th military coup. Photo: Sandra Cuffe, http://flickr.com/photos/lavagabunda

**********************************************************

‘What Is Minister Kent Waiting for?’

As beatings and killings mount in Honduras, President Zelaya’s wife joins critics of Canada’s approach.

By Jennifer Moore

http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/08/21/KentWaiting/

Minister of State of Foreign Affairs Peter Kent has repeatedly urged
“restraint” until a negotiated solution can be achieved regarding the
return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya to Honduras. He has said that
Zelaya was subject to an illegal coup, but suggests that if he were to
return too soon there would be an outbreak in violence. But more than
seven weeks since the coup, human rights violations are mounting in
the democratically-elected leader’s absence.

First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, during an interview with The Tyee
last week, showed the back door of her Tegucigalpa home that was shot
at sixty times on the morning of June 28 when military officers hauled
President Zelaya away in his pyjamas to Costa Rica. She also spoke
with dismay about repression against protesters and the lack of
medicine in hospitals for people who have been beaten or shot by
police.

Human rights violations mount

Most recently, last week, police and military brutally repressed
demonstrations calling for the return of Zelaya. On Wednesday, August
12, armed forces cracked down on a protest in front of the National
Congress building where legislators were debating if they would
reinstate obligatory military service or not. International observers
and press watched as police chased protesters and beat men, women and
youth. Various testimonies indicate that they attacked people who had
not even been participating. Police were also photographed hitting a
reporter who had been filming the protest.

Dozens were detained and sent to various police dispatches across the
capital city. Most notably, a group of people, many bleeding or
otherwise injured, were taken to a post belonging to the Special
Police Forces, called COBRAs. In the 1980s, their headquarters were
associated with numerous cases of disappearances and torture.

Later the same day, hundreds of soldiers and police locked down the
Pedagogical University, which became a virtual holding cell for dozens
of people who were forced to give declarations as a result of Molotov
cocktails that had been found on location. Strangely, the lock-down
occurred after those inside had already reported the presence of
home-made explosives to a public attorney.

Other organizations also came under attack. The offices of a farmer’s
organization and a union hall belonging to groups integrally involved
in the opposition to the coup were shot at during the night. In one
case, the shooting took place after curfew, at which time only police
and military are permitted to be in the streets.

In this context, and in response to Kent’s position to keep urging
patience on the part of Hondurans, the First Lady exclaims, “How can
this not be the moment to restore constitutional order and respect of
this people? How can it not be the moment to restore democracy to my
country?”

Negotiations drag on

But Kent has remained hopeful in ongoing negotiations led by Costa
Rican President Oscar Arias.

Negotiations began in early July, despite that fact that they help
legitimate the de facto government and go against the spirit of a July
5th OAS Declaration which demands Zelaya’s return “so that he may
fulfill the mandate for which he was democratically elected.”
President Arias presented the current proposal, called the San José
Accord on July 22. Zelaya has accepted the agreement even though it
strips him of power and provides amnesty for political crimes taking
place before and after his ouster. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti
Bain, however, has so far refused.

Since August 5, Hondurans have been anticipating the visit of an OAS
Commission in which Kent is expected to participate and which is meant
to pressure Micheletti to concede to Arias’ proposal. But the high
level visit has yet to happen.

Meanwhile, violence and human rights violations have been racking up
and Kent has failed to take his own advice.

In a July 19 statement, the Minister said, “We call on all parties to
condemn any and all incitement to violence in this ongoing crisis and
to respect the right of Hondurans to peace, order and good
governance.”

To date, around 10 assassinations have been registered in relation to
the coup. There have also been various attacks on the press, thousands
of arbitrary arrests, about 150 documented cases of mistreatment or
abuse, and at least one young man who is the son of a long-time social
activist has been missing for more than a month. Human rights
organizations in Honduras are also questioning who is responsible for
roughly 100 assassinations that have taken place during curfew.

Kent has not issued another official statement since July 24, and has
not condemned these incidents. Nor has he suggested, considering
Micheletti’s intransigence, that Canada could take further measures to
pressure the de facto leader to accept any negotiated agreement.

Back to the ’80s

Independent Presidential Candidate Carlos H. Reyes, whose hand is
severely fractured after being struck by police and falling from a
five-meter high wall during a march two weeks ago, thinks that Kent
has things backwards when the Minister suggests that Zelaya’s return
will lead to violence. “Those using repression and violence are not
the protesters,” he states.

“Your minister of foreign relations is poorly informed,” says Reyes,
also president of the Bottling Workers Union (STIBYS, by its initials
in Spanish). “The disinformation is so great at the moment that even
our cardinal of the Catholic Church in Honduras has said that if
Zelaya returns that there would be blood spilled. But whose blood?
Those who are governing? We are not armed.”

The repression and violence have been so intense that activists and
human rights advocates are seeing links with the past to a time when
government-supported death squads disappeared, tortured and murdered
hundreds of suspected leftists. Not only do they say that the degree
of repression is comparable, but they recognize many of the same
actors.

Micheletti’s security advisor is Billy Fernando Joya Améndola. Billy
Joya is recognized as a former operative of Batallion 3-16, a group of
military officers who received training at the School of the Americas,
and which is associated with hundreds of cases of kidnapping, torture
and murder. Joya himself has numerous unresolved charges, most notably
for the illegal detention and torture of six university students in
1982. He recently told the New York Times that, “The policy [in the
80s] was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist,’ and ‘I
supported the policy.'”

However, the de facto government and most coverage by corporate media
presents Zelaya and opposition to the coup as representing the threat.
“They say that they’re investigating,” notes Reyes, “whether I or
another leader in the resistance is receiving money from
narco-trafficking, Chávez or the FARC.” The labour activist raises his
right arm to help stop the swelling in this hand, revealing bruising
all along the soft tissue of his upper arm. “The idea of a ‘red scare’
has not changed since the ’80s,” he says, when leftist activists were
supposedly receiving funding from Moscow.
He suggests that Kent’s position is off-base, and offers that he would
be happy to meet with him to clarify anything that the Minister might
like to know.

‘Waiting for another coup?’

“One makes the conditions, one doesn’t wait for them,” says Bertha
Oliva, Director of the Committee for the Families of the Detained and
Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH). “Positions like this do not help at
all.”

Not only has the delay in Zelaya’s return led to a rise in human
rights violations, the de facto government has also had time to
install its supporters throughout the state. Notably, she points out,
they are seeing a growing military or retired military presence in
public institutions.

She is also critical of negotiations with a coup government that the
international community has presumably not recognized. Beyond
conditions in the San José Accord that would leave Zelaya as a
decorative leader for the brief remainder of his term, she is
concerned about the possibility of an amnesty. For Oliva, who has been
working since the 1980s to ensure that those who were disappeared are
not forgotten and that their cases are not dropped, she says,
“Impunity is non-negotiable.”

Other critics of the delay in restoring Zelaya to the presidency raise
questions about why Minister Kent has not taken a tougher position.
They note that Canadian companies such as Gildan Activewear and
GoldCorp have important interests in the country, and it could be that
they were not pleased with the recent hike in the minimum wage or with
growing pressure for mining law reforms. If not, why has Canada not
withdrawn support for its Military Training Assistance Program or been
considering other economic sanctions that could help advance the
negotiation process? And why, some ask, has Canada not vigourously
condemned human rights violations taking place given Honduras’s
important position as the second largest recipient of Canadian aid
money in the Americas after Haiti?

First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya has questions of her own for
Minister Kent: “Is he waiting for another country to suffer a coup? Or
until they kill who knows how many people? He says it is not the right
moment. But this is not about President Zelaya. The President
represents the restoration of rights to the people.” His return, she
says, “is a mechanism to find peace and tranquility.”

# # #
Jennifer Moore is a free-lance journalist covering Latin America. She has
previous reported for The Tyee on Ecuador and Canadian mining interests.

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[en] New York Times: A Cold War Ghost Reappears in Honduras

“It was never my responsibility to detain people, to torture people or to disappear people. But if those had been my orders, I am sure I would have obeyed them, because I was trained to obey orders… The policy at that time was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist.’ I supported the policy.” – Billy Joya Amendola, former member of Battalion 3-16

[Photo: Edgard Garrido for The New York Times]

Published: August 7, 2009

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras

THE coup here has brought back a lot of Central America’s cold war ghosts, but few as polarizing as Billy Joya, a former police captain accused of being the former leader of a death squad.

He didn’t sneak quietly back into national politics. He made his reappearance on a popular evening talk show just hours after troops had rousted President Manuel Zelaya out of bed and loaded him onto a plane leaving the country.

Mr. Joya’s purpose, he said, was to defend the ouster and help calm a public that freed itself from military rule less than three decades ago. Instead, he set off alarms among human rights activists around the world who worried that the worst elements of the Honduran military were taking control.

“The name Billy Joya reverberated much more than Micheletti,” Mr. Joya protested, perhaps a little too strenuously, referring to the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, installed by the military. “Instantly, my image was everywhere.”

Mr. Joya’s conflicting images — a vilified figure who portrays himself as a victim — are as hard to reconcile as his life story. Human rights groups consider him one of the most ruthless former operatives of an American-backed military unit, known as Battalion 316, responsible for kidnapping, torturing and murdering hundreds of people suspected of being leftists during the 1980s.

Today, Mr. Joya, a 52-year-old husband and father of four, has become a political consultant to some of the most powerful people in the country, including Mr. Micheletti during his failed campaign to become president last year. Now that Mr. Micheletti has effectively secured that post, Mr. Joya has resurfaced again as a liaison of sorts between Mr. Micheletti and the international media.

Mr. Joya looks straight out of central casting, though not for the role of a thug. He has more of the smooth, elegant bearing of a leading man. And in the 14 years since he was first brought to trial on charges of illegally detaining and torturing six university students, he has undertaken a solitary quest — one that can at times border on obsession — aimed not only at defending himself, but also at vindicating the government’s past fight against Communism.

In 1995, he released a 779-page volume of newspaper clippings, government records and human rights reports meant to substantiate the military’s narrative of the cold war, which essentially accuses its opponents of having blood on their hands as well. And in 1998, after living for a couple of years in exile in Spain, Mr. Joya said he was the first and only military officer to surrender himself for trial.

“Not once in 14 years has there been a single legitimate piece of evidence linking me to these crimes,” he said. Referring to human rights organizations, he said, “What they have done is to condemn me in the media, because they know if they proceed with these cases in court, they are going to lose.”

The odds would appear to be on Mr. Joya’s side. In 1989, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights determined that the Honduran military was responsible for systematic abuses against government opponents. Still, in the 27 years since this country returned to civilian rule, authorities say, Honduran courts have held only two military officials — Col. Juan Blas Salazar Mesa and Lt. Marco Tulio Regalado — accountable for human rights violations.

ONLY about a dozen other officers ever faced formal charges. And most of those cases, like Mr. Joya’s, remain unresolved by a judicial system that remains crippled by corruption.

Meanwhile, Mr. Joya has not suffered silently in legal limbo. In some ways, he has hardly suffered at all. His business as a security consultant and political adviser to some of the most powerful elected officials and businessmen in the country has been lucrative.

“He is like one of those guys who went to Vietnam,” said Antonio Tavel, president of Xerox in Honduras. “He had an ugly job to do once upon a time, and now he’s a regular family guy.”

Mr. Joya is the son of a businessman who helped start several successful companies in Honduras but gambled away more money than he made. Mr. Joya, one of four children, said he enrolled in the military academy at 14, mostly as a way to gain early independence.

He was expelled from the academy, he said, when a teacher caught him cheating on an exam. But instead of giving up his dream to be a soldier, he enlisted as a private and within two years had risen to become the youngest sergeant in the army.

Mr. Joya joined the military police, and in 1981 — as the Reagan administration spent tens of millions of dollars to turn this impoverished country into the principal staging area for a covert war against the region’s left-wing guerrilla groups — Mr. Joya said that he and 12 other Honduran soldiers received six weeks of training in the United States.

He acknowledged that he went on to become a member of Battalion 316. But that’s where his version of events diverges from those of his accusers. He has been charged with 27 crimes, including illegal detention, torture and murder.

The most noteworthy case involved the illegal detention and torture of the six university students in April 1982. The students said they were held in a series of secret jails for eight days. During that time, the students testified, they were kept blindfolded and naked, denied food and water, and subjected to beatings and psychological torture.

Among those detained was Milton Jiménez, who later became a lawyer and a member of Mr. Zelaya’s cabinet. In 1995, Mr. Jiménez told The Baltimore Sun that officers from the battalion stood him before a firing squad and threatened to shoot him.

“They said they were finishing my grave,” he said at the time. “I was convinced I was going to die.”

Edmundo Orellana, the former Honduran attorney general who was the first to try to prosecute human rights crimes, said it was “absurd” that Mr. Joya remained free.

“Billy Joya is proof that civilian rule has been a cruel hoax on the Honduran people,” Mr. Orellana said. “He shows that ignorance and complicity still reign inside our courts, especially when it comes to the armed forces.”

Absurd, Mr. Joya countered, are the charges against him. After his television appearance, he said he received so many threats that he took his wife and youngest daughter to the United States. Now he returns to Honduras only intermittently to meet with clients.

PORING over dozens of newspaper clippings and court dockets during an interview, he argued that Battalion 316 was not established until two years after Mr. Jiménez’s detention, and that it was a technical unit specializing in arms interdiction, not counterinsurgency.

He also argued that the former students’ testimony against him is rife with contradictions. He said Mr. Jiménez, for example, later recanted his charge that Mr. Joya was involved in his interrogations.

“It was never my responsibility to detain people, to torture people or to disappear people,” Mr. Joya said. “But if those had been my orders, I am sure I would have obeyed them, because I was trained to obey orders.

“The policy at that time was, ‘The only good Communist is a dead Communist,’ ” he continued. “I supported the policy.”

**********

Published online. A version of this article appeared in print on August 8, 2009, on page A5 of the New York edition.

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