Americans are bombarded with non-stop news on Hong Kong and Moscow rallies, but how come mass protests in Honduras and Brazil aren’t high on the agenda? Lee Camp looks at why the US corporate media are keeping mum on the subject.
Honduras, a Latin American nation of nine million people, has been hit by massive unrest, with people venting anger at pro-US President Orlando Hernandez. The wave of violent demonstrations saw the US diplomatic mission attacked by protesters – but the American mainstream media didn’t say a word about it, Camp pointed out, speaking on Redacted Tonight.
“Protesters are literally burning the US embassy because we installed a f******d [Hernandez] rule over them, how is that non-news?” he wondered.
Hondurans are rightfully furious about “the neoliberal austerity measures supported by our country and the IMF.” It caused massive layoffs, increased costs of basic goods and essentially made their lives suck down there, Camp reminded viewers.
But as long as their government is pillaging the people appropriately, our government is cool with it.
All in all, Honduras isn’t the only unrest-hit country overlooked by the US corporate media. Brazil, “the largest of countries Americans don’t care about,” has been rocked by a massive strike led by trade unions. Over 45 million people there – “can you imagine 45 million Americans agreeing on everything?” – are protesting against the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro and his controversial pension reform.
But this is “not a story your corporate media will cover,” and for obvious reasons, Camp offered. On the one hand, it may not look good for the White House administration, including a particular president. On the other hand…
The American workers might think, ’what if WE have a general strike?’
The 2009 US-backed coup in Honduras caused the migration crisis US President Donald Trump has weaponized, creating a situation where “everybody’s making money except the Honduran people,” writer Max Blumenthal tells RT America.
Honduran President Orlando Hernandez is “hated by every sector of society,” Blumenthal told RT America’s Rick Sanchez, explaining that the leader – who stands accused by a US court of using $1.5 million in narco-trafficking profits to fund his election, even as Washington allows him to travel freely and funds his regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters – has allowed foreign corporations to pillage Honduras while plunging his own people into poverty.
Since the coup that removed Manuel Zelaya from power in 2009, Honduras has become one of the most violent countries on the planet. Poverty has doubled, electricity prices have doubled following the industry’s privatization, and the medical industry is currently being privatized – triggering the massive anti-government protests that the Western media is ignoring completely.
“The root cause of the migration crisis… is what the US did to that country in imposing this coup,” Blumenthal said. “This coup, the migration crisis it caused, and our neoliberal policies in Honduras played a giant role in electing Trump, who weaponized anti-immigrant sentiment and weaponized the migration wave to stir up” his base.
Instead of just placing blame on the weakest people and scapegoating migrants, we look at the national security state that is doing these coups and destabilizing these societies and we listen to the people in the streets in Honduras who are… calling for us to let them elect their own government.
Honduras has been the epicenter of the Central American exodus and northward migration since the U.S.-backed coup 10 years ago and the ultra-violent repression by President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s regime, as well as its ultra-neoliberal policies.
TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Flanked by ministers and military and police leadership, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez — embattled after being slapped with new drug trafficking allegations in the U.S. — held a press conference on the night of Saturday, August 3rd to declare his innocence. The accusations against him include funneling cocaine profits into his re-election campaign and shielding his brother and other drug kingpins from prosecution.
While Hernandez’s presidency is infamous for its categorical illegality under the constitution, his time in office has also seen Honduras turn into the hemisphere’s largest throughway for drugs. Meanwhile, the damage to society done by neoliberal austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and violent repression by police and death squads has brought about steady flows of migrants out of the country and to the southern border of the U.S.
But Juan Orlando’s enemies — he said on Saturday — are really just angry at the phenomenal success of his anti-drug policies and have made false charges against him. Among those complicit in this sinister attempt at revenge were his political rivals, former president Mel Zelaya (ousted in the U.S.-supported 2009 coup) and Salvador Nasralla. Nasralla, the candidate of the Opposition Alliance, was the rightful winner of the 2017 Honduran presidential election, but Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) was able to snatch it from him in a re-election for a second term that was unconstitutional in Honduras but backed nonetheless by the United States. Fraud by JOH’s National Party is also widely recognized.
In response to the accusations against him, JOH promised to crack down harder than ever before on organized crime:
I call on all good Hondurans…to join together…to continue in the struggle to recuperate our country as we have been doing…and finally finish off all these criminal organizations that have caused so much suffering and pain for the Honduran people. We continue to fully collaborate with national and international authorities…so that anyone who has broken the law will face justice…because no one is above the law.”
That Juan Orlando Hernandez and his brother Tony Hernandez — who flamboyantly branded his cocaine blocks with his initials “TH” — are drug traffickers comes as a surprise to exactly no one in Honduras. In a 47-page document filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, JOH is referred to simply as “CC [co-conspirator] 4.”
Signs that JOH’s time is running out are slowly beginning to reveal themselves. The release of the document comes on the heels of a request last week by the anti-corruption body, MACCIH — a government watchdog that receives significant U.S. support and funding — to the Honduran judiciary to seize the assets of individuals in JOH’s inner circle. Among them is Ana Rosalinda Garcia Carías, Hernandez’s wife, who is implicated in the theft of more than $1.7 million from government coffers in what is known here as the “Pandora Case.”
While the drug trade has transformed the nation’s financial sector into a giant washing machine for the crisp $20 bills preferred by traffickers, it would be an understatement to say that Hernandez’s illegal two-term presidency has been an unmitigated disaster for Hondurans.
A Honduran exodus
Over the past two years, massive caravans of migrants have come together to brave routes designed by the U.S. to be dangerous and even deadly to cross, in order to curb successful migration. Migrants do so knowing that what they face on the other side may very well include concentration camps and separation from their loved ones because those odds still beat the ones they have staying home.
But while the media clings to the spectacle of the migrant caravans, they do not constitute a statistically significant increase in the crisis that has been raging since JOH took power in 2014.
A Honduran flag hangs in a makeshift migrant camp in Escuintla, Chiapas State, Mexico, April 19, 2019. Moises Castillo | AP
Honduras has been the epicenter of the exodus since the U.S.-backed coup 10 years ago and the ultra-violent repression by JOH’s regime, as well as its ultra-neoliberal policies.
These factors — shocking in the scale of upheaval to Honduran society as they have been — have motivated Hondurans to flee towards a less certain misery, even with the possibility of dying on the way or in the custody of ICE.
Today, those conditions include:
The systematic criminalization and targeting for assassination of individuals and groups opposing the Hernandez administration (the so-called “criminal organizations” he vowed to “finish off”);
Total impunity for death squads run out of state security agencies, and for perpetrators of human rights violations;
Abysmal conditions and lack of access to public hospitals and clinics — a result of the privatization of healthcare and the wholesale theft of funds by Hernandez and his allies for personal enrichment and to finance their electoral campaigns;
The worst outbreak of hemorrhagic dengue Honduras has ever seen, closely related to the gutting of the healthcare system;
The reduction of educational programs in public schools throughout the country as part and parcel of a broader ongoing attempt to privatize the educational sector;
An unprecedented dearth of jobs;
The highest poverty rate — 65.7 percent — in the continental Americas, with 42.5 percent of the population living in extreme poverty.
Protests against the Hernandez dictatorship have been steadily increasing since the 2017 electoral crisis, during which over 40 Hondurans protesting the U.S.-supported fraud were killed by state security forces. In addition to lethal force, protests have been met with counterinsurgency and false-flag tactics, resulting in the imprisonment of protesters — including human rights activists Edwin Espinal, Raúl Álvarez, and Rommel Herrera, political prisoners detained in life-threatening conditions in a military-run, maximum-security prison modeled after U.S. detention facilities. Since April, healthcare workers, teachers and students have led near-daily mass mobilizations against IMF-driven privatization policies negotiated with Hernandez.
Free Edwin Espinal Libertad@EdwinLibertad
Honduran social movement led by Committee for the Freedom of Political Prisoners organizes a fast outside Public Prosecutor’s Office all next week, August 5 to 9th. The week ends with a concert demanding #FreePoliticalPrisonersHN#Honduras
At the same time, Hernandez has refused to engage in honest dialogue with the opposition or acknowledge the legitimate demands of the Honduran people, instead doubling down on efforts to gut the public sector and ramping up militarization and repression.
In light of developments in the Pandora Case and his newly documented role as a co-conspirator, Hondurans hypothesize that the real power in the country — the U.S. Embassy — has finally withdrawn its support. The change in guard at the U.S. Embassy, with longtime Chargé d’Affaires and close JOH ally Heide Fulton being replaced by Lawrence J. Gumbiner, has reinforced these theories.
For Hondurans, these developments appear as harbingers of a changing tide, but also raise the question: Whose regime change will this be?
Organizations across the country immediately followed up on the call to action, sending out communiques informing community members of meeting places for the Monday morning protests. These protests come on top of an already-planned week of action in support of political prisoners, including a hunger strike in which Mel Zelaya and Salvador Nasralla have committed to participate, along with many other prominent national figures and movement leaders.
I will be providing regular dispatches from Tegucigalpa throughout the week, as social movements increase pressure for Juan Orlando Hernandez to leave power and seek to take the reins of their country back from U.S.-backed drug traffickers and international financial institutions like the IMF.
At the beginning of the 1980s, during a meeting in New York with then ex-President Jimmy Carter, I accompanied Argentine Nobel Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel as his translator. At that time, wars were ravaging the Central American countries. I remember vividly how at one point Carter asked Pérez Esquivel, “And what do you think, Adolfo, that the U.S. should be doing in Central America?” Such a direct and honest question by a former U.S. president would be unthinkable today.
Pérez Esquivel responded that the U.S. should be more aware of the tremendous needs in the Central American countries; and that the U.S., rather than opposing popular movements should be supporting them, making sure that human rights were respected by all sides in the long-standing conflicts between the rich and the poor in the region.
This observation is very much related to today’s events. It has been estimated that almost 70 percent of the children who crossed the U.S.-Mexican border in 2014 came from what is called the Central American northern triangle, formed by Guatemala, Salvador and Honduras. Those three countries have suffered from U.S. intervention in their social and political affairs.
Perhaps Guatemala best exemplifies the consequences of this intervention. For many years the U.S. controlled coffee and banana trades in addition to demands of oil concessions from the Guatemalan government. As far back as 1918, the Woodrow Wilson administration warned the Guatemalan government, “It is most important that only American oil interests receive concessions.”
In 1954, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carried out a covert operation that deposed the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. The coup that installed Carlos Castillo Armas was the first in a series of U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes in Guatemala and was preceded by U.S. efforts to isolate Guatemala internationally. Arbenz had instituted near-universal suffrage, introduced a minimum wage, and turned Guatemala into a democracy.
Castillo Armas quickly assumed dictatorial powers, banned opposition parties, imprisoned and tortured political opponents, and reversed the social reforms of the Arbenz government. The coup was universally condemned and gave rise to strong anti-U.S. sentiment throughout the Americas.
Nearly four decades of civil war followed, with leftist guerrillas fighting a series of U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes. The consequence was the genocide of the country’s Mayan population, when more than 200,000 indigenous people were murdered by Guatemalan military regimes supported by the U.S.
During the mid-eighties I met in New York Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchú in front of an automatic cash machine next to a United Nations building. She was with four other women, trying unsuccessfully to withdraw money from the machine. Trying to make light of the situation I told her, “Rigoberta, this machine seems to have been made by witches.” “No, César,” she responded, “This machine was made by the white man….”
As in Guatemala, the U.S. also supported the government in the war in El Salvador against the leftist guerrillas (FMLN), providing military aid in the amount of between one and two million dollars per day. U.S. officers took over key positions at the top levels of the Salvadoran military and made critical decisions in conducting the civil war, a war that lasted over 12 years (1979-1992) and resulted in more than 75,000 people murdered or “disappeared.”
According to the United Nations, while 5 percent of the murders of civilians were committed by the FMLN, 85 percent were carried out by the Salvadoran armed forces and the paramilitary death squads. The squads mutilated the bodies of their victims as a way of terrifying the population. The so-called Atlacatl Battalion, which savagely murdered and mutilated six Jesuit priests, was reportedly under the tutelage of U.S. Special Forces just 48 hours before the killings.
Honduras has had historically strong military ties with the U.S. In 2009, Manuel Zelaya, a liberal reformist, was ousted in a military coup. The U.S. refused to call it a coup while working to ensure that Zelaya did not return to power, in flagrant contradiction to the wishes of the Organization of American States. Today, the country is in disarray: violent gangs are everywhere, while government spending on health and education has declined.
In the last century, the U.S. military intervention leading to the overthrow of democratically elected governments –or support for tyrannical regimes– have played an important role in the instability, poverty, and violence that drive tens of thousands of people from the Central American countries toward Mexico and the United States. To these factors, one should add the destabilizing effect of natural disasters and a general climate of insecurity and violence in these countries.
Actions have consequences and interfering in other countries’ affairs can have long-lasting effects. This is especially true when one considers what happened in Central America. It would be naïve to blame the U.S. for all the ills in much of the region. But it would be equally naïve to ignore how the U.S. intervention has helped create the situation that plagues it today.
Instead of spending some $41.9 million on humanitarian aid for Guatemala and Honduras, the US has reportedly decided to pump the spare money into Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido so he can seize power in Caracas.
With Guaido’s campaign to oust Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro failing to gain traction in the last several months, Washington decided to boost his stalled effort with $41.9 million diverted from humanitarian aid to Central America, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing officials and an internal memo circulated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
A congressional aide, with the knowledge of the issue, told the Times that “what they are doing is essentially taking the money that would help poor Central American children and giving it to pay the salaries of Guaido and his officials and employees.”
USAID says the money injection is “necessary due to unforeseen events and exceptional circumstances.”
The cash would go towards covering Guaido’s travel expenses, including the cost of the globetrotting opposition politician’s air travel, as well as that of his political allies. The memo, as cited by the Times, says that part of the sum would be used to pay Guaido and his entourage’s salaries, as well as to provide the opposition with “good governance” training, technical support and propaganda.
The memo, which notifies the House of Representatives of the administration’s plans to repurpose some $41 million of about $370 million in aid it permanently diverted from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, is the first step in the process of getting it to Guaido.
In March, the US cut all aid to the three Northern Triangle nations, accusing them of failing to stop the flow of illegal migrants to the US. “Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have taken our money for years, and do Nothing,” US President Donald Trump tweeted at the time. While the US chastises the impoverished nations for not being able to stop the influx of migrants to the US border, Washington itself has been blamed for leaving the economies of these countries in shambles by pursuing its own political and economic interests in the region.
The hypocrisy is head spinning. As Justin Trudeau lectures audiences on the need to uphold Venezuela’s constitution the Liberals have recognized a completely illegitimate president in Honduras.
“Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the OAS (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence.”
The hypocrisy is head spinning. As Justin Trudeau lectures audiences on the need to uphold Venezuela’s constitution the Liberals have recognized a completely illegitimate president in Honduras. What’s more, they’ve formally allied with that government in demanding Venezuela’s president follow their (incorrect) reading of that country’s constitution.
In November 2017 Ottawa’s anti-Venezuela “Lima Group” ally Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) defied the Honduran constitution to run for a second term. At Hernandez’ request the four Supreme Court members appointed by his National Party overruled an article in the constitution explicitly prohibiting re-election.
JOH then ‘won’ a highly questionable poll. With 60 per cent of votes counted opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla lead by five-points. The electoral council then went silent for 36 hours and when reporting resumed JOH had a small lead.
In the three weeks between the election and JOH’s official proclamation as president, government forces killed at least 30 pro-democracy demonstrators in the Central American country of nine million. More than a thousand were detained under a post-election state of emergency. Many of those jailed for protesting the electoral fraud, including prominent activist Edwin Espinal, who is married to Canadian human rights campaigner Karen Spring, remain in jail.
Ottawa immediately endorsed the electoral farce in Honduras. Following Washington, Global Affairs tweeted that Canada “acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of Honduras.” Tyler Shipley, author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras, responded:
“Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the OAS (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence. Even after all my years of research on this, I’m stunned that [foreign minister Chrystia] Freeland would go this far; I expected Canada to stay quiet until JOH had fully consolidated his power. Instead Canada is doing the heavy lifting of that consolidation.”
In 2009 Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya, which was justified on the grounds he was seeking to defy the constitution by running for a second term. (In fact, Zelaya simply put forward a plan to hold a non-binding public poll on whether to hold consultations to reopen the constitution.) After the coup Ottawa failed to suspend aid to the military government or exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Programme.
A number of major Canadian corporations, notably Gildan and Goldcorp, were unhappy with some modest social democratic reforms implemented by Zelaya. Additionally, a year before the coup Honduras joined the Hugo Chavez led Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas (ALBA), which was a response to North American capitalist domination of the region.
JOH’s National Party won the presidency and he took charge of the national assembly in the post-coup elections, which were boycotted by the UN, Organization of American States and most Hondurans.
Since JOH stole an election that he shouldn’t have been able to participate in the Trudeau government has continued to work with his government. I found no indication that Canadian aid has been reduced and Canadian diplomats in central America have repeatedly met Honduran representatives. JOH’s Foreign Minister, Maria Dolores Aguero, attended a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Canada organized in Montreal four months ago. Recently Canadian diplomats have lauded the “bonds of friendship between the governments of Canada and Honduras” and “excellent relations that exist between both countries.” Canada’s ambassador James K. Hill retweeted a US Embassy statement noting, “we congratulate President Juan Orlando Hernandez for taking the initiative to reaffirm the commitment of his administration to fight against corruption and impunity” through an OAS initiative.
While they praise JOH’s fight against impunity, Canadian officials have refused repeated requests by Canadian activists and relatives to help secure Edwin Espinal’s release from prison. In response to their indifference to Espinal’s plight, Rights Action director Grahame Russell recently wrote,
“have the Canadian and U.S. governments simply agreed not to criticize the Honduran regime’s appalling human rights record … in exchange for Honduras agreeing to be a ‘democratic ally’ in the U.S. and Canadian-led efforts at forced government change in Venezuela?”
Honduras is a member of the “Lima Group” of countries pushing to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela. Last month Trudeau was photographed with the Honduran foreign minister at the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa.
To justify recognizing the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, Juan Guaidó, as president the “Lima Group” and Trudeau personally have cited “the need to respect the Venezuelan Constitution.” The Prime Minister even responded to someone who yelled “hands off Venezuela” at a town hall by lecturing the audience on article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which he (incorrectly) claims grants Guaidó the presidency.
Why the great concern for Venezuela’s constitution and indifference to Honduras’? Why didn’t Trudeau recognize Salvador Nasralla as president of Honduras? Nasralla’s claim to his country’s presidency is far more legitimate than Guaidó’s.
The hypocrisy in Trudeau allying with the illegitimate president of Honduras to demand Venezuela succumb to their interpretation of that country’s constitution would be absurdly funny if it didn’t put so many lives at risk.
Family members wait outside the Air Force Base for the arrival of their relatives, who were deported from the United States, in Guatemala City, June 20, 2018. Luis Soto | AP
Unmentioned in America’s immigration debate is the role that both Democratic and Republican administrations have played in creating the volatile situations that force Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and other Latino refugees to flee in the first place.
TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Late on the evening of June 28, 2009, two days before voters were scheduled to go to the polls to vote on a referendum amending the Honduran Constitution, army officers forced President Manuel Zelaya — wearing only his pajamas and slippers — to board a military airplane for Costa Rica. Three months later, after the deposed president had returned surreptitiously to this capital city and holed up in the Brazilian embassy, police opened fire on thousands of his supporters who had assembled outside the mission to demand the cancellation of the November presidential elections.
A teacher and union activist, Agustina Flores had gone to fetch coffee when the shooting began. Just as she returned, she was cornered by police officers who punched and beat her with batons, then took her and hundreds of others to a nearby soccer field that had been converted into a makeshift jail. Flores told the Guardian newspaper in 2016:
The police and soldiers were firing rubber and live bullets into the crowd, beating women and the elderly. One [tear gas] grenade exploded near me; after that I blacked out.”
Continuing, she said:
They hit my face, neck and body. We were trying to defend the constitution and the democratic process.”
But the tens of thousands of Hondurans who poured into the streets in support of Zelaya quickly discovered that they had powerful political enemies both at home and abroad. Rather than condemn the coup, President Obama’s then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, refused to even use the term and instead pressured Honduras’ neighbors to recognize the new government and proceed with the scheduled elections. The ensuing legitimization of the coup government ushered in an era of state repression, violence, and pro-business policies that have delivered at the United States’ doorstep a flood of asylum-seekers from this impoverished Central American country, which was the murder capital of the world as recently as 2011.
In her autobiography Hard Choices, Clinton wrote:
We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future”
In a 2014 interview, the indigenous-rights and environmental activist Berta Caceres described Clinton’s diplomacy in Honduras as a kind of “counterinsurgency” intended to aid and abet “international capital” in its efforts to extract resources from an adversarial population. Said Caceres:
We warned that this would be very dangerous. The elections took place under intense militarism and enormous fraud.”
A man, flanked by police, holds a placard showing an image of slain activist Berta Caceres, during a protest demanding justice for her murder, outside the Prosector’s Office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 2, 2018. Fernando Antonio | AP
Describing the impact of the government’s crackdown on dissident, she said in another interview:
Every day, people are killed.”
Caceres was herself murdered only days later, gunned down by a team of assassins with ties to a hydroelectric dam opposed by the country’s indigenous community.
Alex Main, an expert on U.S. policy in Central America at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told The Nation magazine:
With the coup, Clinton had a real opportunity to do the right thing and shift U.S. policy to respect democratic processes. But she completely messed it up, and we’re seeing the consequences of it now.”
Fleeing to the country that ruined their countries
As of late, the Washington press corps and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have, understandably, expressed their unique loathing of the Trump White House’s mistreatment of undocumented Central American immigrants filing for political asylum in the U.S. But what typically goes unmentioned in the public debate is the role that both Democratic and Republican administrations have played in creating the volatile situations on the ground that force Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and other Latino refugees to flee in the first place.
It’s important to contextualize the Americas historically as a battle between the mostly European settlers who own the New World and the mostly indigenous and black workers who built it. Destabilizing Central America allows multinationals to continue to exploit labor and resources, and dates back to the CIA’s 1954 plot to overthrow the democratically elected government of Guatemala’s Socialist President Jacobo Arbenz, whose plan to redistribute land to the country’s landless peasant farmers threatened the massive holdings of the United Fruit Company, the predecessor of Chiquita Brands. The coup eventually triggered a civil war between leftist rebels and the U.S.-backed military, led by avid anti-Communist generals.
In an attempt to pressure Guatemala’s government to cease its human-rights abuses, President Jimmy Carter banned all Defense Department sales of military equipment to Guatemala in 1978, followed by a ban of commercial sales in 1980. Shipments previously approved continued, however, and so did the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, disproportionately members of the indigenous Mayan tribe. Ronald Reagan lifted the sanctions in 1981; the war escalated and, by the time it ended 15 years later, nearly 200,000 Guatemalans had been killed.
An Ixil Mayan woman cleans a coffin holding the remains of a civil war victim prior to a mass burial in Santa Avelina, Guatemala, Nov. 30, 2017. After seven years of work by forensic anthropologists, including DNA tests to locate relatives, the remains of 172 indigenous Ixil Mayans killed during the civil war between 1978 and 1982 were buried in the western mountains of Guatemala. Moises Castillo | AP
U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, told the Huffington Post:
It set a pattern. You look at the decades following [the coup], and the military strongmen, and the juntas, and the mass killings, and it’s no wonder Guatemala is in such terrible shape today.”
Fearing the spread of communism, Carter also supported the decades-long war against El Salvador’s leftists guerillas, known by the Spanish acronym FMLN, which cost an estimated 75,000 lives, ruined the country’s infrastructure, and displaced one-fifth of the population.
Experts note that Nicaraguans are not among the hordes of Central Americans trying to enter the U.S. today — at least not in any significant numbers — and attribute their absence to the success of the leftist Sandinista movement in combating U.S. efforts to install a puppet regime. The country is beginning to experience some political unrest today but, for the most part, President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista movement — which took power in 1979 and managed to hold off the U.S.-backed Contras at the polls for a decade, before regaining power — remains alive and well.
President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista movement — which took power in 1979 and managed to hold off the U.S.-backed Contras at the polls for a decade, before regaining power — remains alive and well.
Greg Grandin, a professor of Latin American history at New York University, told the Huffington Post:
You see the direct effects of these Cold War policies. Nicaragua doesn’t really have a gang problem, and researchers have traced this back to the 1980s and U.S. Cold War policy.”
Just on basic humanitarian grounds we should do the right thing by these kids and accept them as refugees — or the legal term is ‘asylum seekers’ — but we also own this problem, we have culpability in it, whether it’s our involvement with thuggish governments there in the past, or whether it’s the fact we are the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs that are transited through these countries, or whether it’s the war on drugs that we’ve foisted upon these countries.
All of those things contribute to the destabilization, the insecurity, the failed governance, the lack of civil-society development. So, one, we should help now that we’ve done so much to create this situation and, two, we should work constructively with regional partners to rebuild these societies to the best that we can.”
Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”
“So far in 2017, the U.S. government has supplied Honduras with approximately $17.3 million in security assistance despite widespread reports of repression and corruption by the ruling government, which first came to power in 2009 in a coup which received support from the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton.”
Why does the USA keep supporting dictatorships? If the US cares so much about democracy and human rights shouldn’t it invade Honduras in order to establish a democracy there?
“We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.”
Masked officers in the Honduras National Police force said they would not confront protesters. (Photo: EPA)
Amid widening violence and ongoing protests, members of the Honduras National Police force—including those within the U.S.-trained units known as the Cobras—say they are refusing to obey orders from the right-wing government of the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has used the security forces to crackdown on demonstrators and imposed a curfew amid allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.
“We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.” —Member of Cobra police unit“We want peace, and we will not follow government orders – we’re tired of this,” a spokesperson for the police told reporters outside the national police headquarters on Monday. “We aren’t with a political ideology. We can’t keep confronting people, and we don’t want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people.”
On Monday night, demonstrations in the streets continued as opponents of Hernández poured into the streets with pots and pans—now with the tacit support of the police forces who had earlier been sent disperse them—as they called for transparency in the counting of votes and the ouster of the ruling party. As Reutersreports, “Some police officers abandoned their posts and joined carnival-like demonstrations that erupted across the city hours after night fell and the curfew was supposed to have begun.”
While reporting indicated that police officers were also striking in order to receive better wages and treatment from their superiors, a member of the elite Cobras unit—many of whom have been trained by U.S. military operators at the infamous School of the Americas or its descendants—said there was more to their refusal than working conditions for themselves. “This is not a strike, this not about salaries or money,” the officer told the Guardian. “It’s that we have family. We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.”
And as TeleSur reports:
A Honduras police officer said on the local television network, UNE, that some officers will go on a hunger strike as they are tired of taking orders from corrupt politicians to go after innocent people, adding that they aren’t machines and are tired of seeing people’s blood spill.
“We can not become violators of Human Rights, if we do it sooner or later we will pay the debt, in fact we are already paying for the violations committed by our superiors in the past, please reconsider and understand and we do not fail our noble institution,” the official statement issued by the National Police stated.
From the capital city of Tegucigalpa on Tuesday, School of the Americas Watch issued a dispatch detailing the latest on the allegations of vote-rigging and the impact of recent events, including the police refusal to obey orders. It read in part:
the Coordinator of the Alliance in Opposition to the Dictatorship, Mel Zelaya, presented slides of vote tally sheets altered by the election authorities to give more votes to the current President Juan Orlando Hernandez and take votes away from the Opposition Alliance candidate Salvador Nasralla. Each party receives tally sheets from each voting station and so the Opposition Alliance was able to compare their tally sheets with those posted by the electoral authorities and found that the electoral authorities had frequently altered the results, even creating new tally sheets to increase the number of votes for Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH as he is called) and reduce those of the Opposition Alliance. The Liberal Party, which came in third place, is also willing to provide its copies of the tally sheets for comparison. Salvador Nasralla declared he was requesting a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States to present the vote tally sheets. The Opposition Alliance’s findings suggest a major fraud operation by the electoral authorities, who are firmly aligned with US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernandez, to try to thwart a massive popular vote that roundly rejected his re-election effort.
People in Honduras continue in the streets demanding an end to the fraud and the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has consolidated power throughout the past 8 years following the SOA-graduate led 2009 coup, and ran for re-election despite the Constitutional prohibition against re-election. Last night, once again people throughout the country chanted ‘Fuera JOH’ (get out JOH) and banged pots and pans throughout the night in a show of resistance to the curfew and suspension of constitutional guarantees. Hernandez, whose regime continues to be financed by the United States despite the massively violent crackdown on protesters, is trying desperately to maintain his grip on power despite widespread popular rejection.
The Platform of Popular and Social Movements of Honduras is now demanding the immediate resignation of Juan Orlando Hernandez and thousands upon thousands continue in the streets today. The momentum is clearly on the side of the Honduran people and the fraud is becoming too obvious to deny. As Hernandez tries to maintain power, will the US continue propping him up? Or will it finally acknowledge how corrupt and repressive his regime is and let the Honduran people decide their own future?
So far in 2017, the U.S. government has supplied Honduras with approximately $17.3 million in security assistance despite widespread reports of repression and corruption by the ruling government, which first came to power in 2009 in a coup which received support from the U.S. State Department under Hillary Clinton. On Monday, despite overwhelming evidence of recent voter fraud and human rights abuses, the Trump administration re-certified the Honduran government as complying with human rights protocols in order to allow the financial assistance to continue.
In its dispatch, SOA Watch called on American voters and residents to speak out against U.S. support for the Hernandez government. “Call on the US to denounce fraud and violent repression following the elections in Honduras, demand the immediate suspension of aid to Honduras, and demand accountability for the US financing of repression and murder in Honduras,” the group urged.
Latin America experts penned an open letter demanding an end to human rights violations and impunity.
Berta Cáceres Photo Credit: Goldman Environmental Foundation
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras (COPINH) is calling for “national and international solidarity to fight back” after two of its leaders, general coordinator Berta Cáceres and member Nelson Garcia, were assassinated this month.
Nearly 1,000 Latin America scholars are heeding that request, with an open letter demanding that the U.S. government withdraw its support for the Honduran military and police, “institutions that have been responsible for human rights violations since the coup d’état of 2009.”
Addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry, the missive notes that the country “has one of the highest rates of homicides, feminicides, and LGBTI murders in the world.”
“In spite of this egregious situation, the U.S. government continues to fund a government that has unapologetically disregarded the right to life of its citizens,” continues the statement, whose international signatories include leading academic experts such as Dario A. Euraque, Barry Carr and Aviva Chomsky.
The letter comes amid mounting global outrage at the escalation of violent repression in Honduras, including the recent detention of Jose Angel Flores, president of the Unified Peasant Movement of the Aguan. Many are demanding that the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton account for their roles in backing the coup, discussed in Clinton’s memoir and released emails.
“I really think Clinton should answer for her role in the Honduras coup because it was so egregious and it was not presidential,” Suyapa Portillo, an assistant professor at Pitzer College who played a key role in organizing the joint letter, told AlterNet. “It came from someone with a great conceit towards Latin America.”
“It is shocking that the U.S. state department would enforce Cold War tactics in Central America in the 21st century,” Portillo continued, asking, “If Clinton becomes president, will we see a resurgence of Cold War tactics in Latin America?”
According to the scholars, Berta Cáceres is the “101st environmental justice organizer to be killed in Honduras since 2010.” Cáceres was a prominent opponent of the coup and organizer against the Agua Zarca Hydroelectricity Generating Project in the Gualcarque River basin, whose construction is fraught with human rights abuses and the expropriation of indigenous Lenca territory.
Cáceres’ assassination “shocked” the academic community, said Portillo, explaining that the scholars who led the initiative all hail from Central American countries. “Berta’s murder was so significant to Central America, to anyone who works on gender, to anyone who studies indigenous people.”
Speaking recently at a thousands-strong mobilization in Tegucigalpa to demand an end to repression and impunity, Berta Cáceres’ daughter Olivia told Democracy Now, “We’ve launched a struggle, a battle at the international level, to exert pressure in order to demand that the aid agencies that fund these multinational corporations that come to plunder, to exterminate our people, to spill our blood in our territories, to create territorial conflicts, that they stop being financed and that they leave our country, because we don’t want international companies that come to finance death, blood and extermination in our communities.”
Meanwhile, the scholars warn, many others are in danger, including the “the sole witness of Berta’s murder, Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican citizen and human rights worker.”
The open letter issues numerous demands, including the call for Congress and the state department to “cease aid to Honduras via the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle until the Honduran government addresses its poor human rights records, demonstrates capacity to prosecute perpetrators, and guarantees the rights of all people, especially indigenous, Afrodescendant and LGBTI people, women and children.”
Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, Sarah co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.
HILLARY MURDERED BERTA CACERES! No, Hillary didn’t pull the trigger herself. She’s not a peon for Christ’s sake!
No Hillary was safe as can be but assisted in the overthrow of the Honduran Government by having President Manuel Zelaya abducted and took up the cause of supporting the new military dictatorship.
Even though by LAW the United States could not support this action and was required to place sanctions against the new military dictatorship. But because of WikiLeaks Hillary’s emails as Secretary of State show her approval of this illegal action. She supported it!
Now Tubularsock is not going to regurgitate the past history of the over throw of the democratic elected President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya in 2009. You can check it out for background if you need to but be careful because the CIA edits a lot of Wikipedia sites so research broadly.
Keep utmost in your mind that the United States treatment of Latin America is indicative of the United States torture training and brutal assistance by the US Army School of the Americas which is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation ………. pure bull shit psychops branding!
The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation is still exporting death squads. That is what they do.
Anyway, Berta Caceres is a true feminist unlike Hillary who is just an apologist for Bill’s cock penetrating and abusing women! Gloria Steinem eat your heart out! Shame on you Gloria for supporting that bitch! Wake the fuck up.
Berta Caceres was the general coordinator and co-founder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Caceres waged a grassroots campaign that pressured the world’s largest damn builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.
Berta Caceres: A True Feminist Leader. RIP.
Berta Cáceres was recognized nationally and internationally as an environmentalist who fought for Indigenous rights.
Berta was also instrumental in leading protests against the 2009 coup that overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Since the coup the human rights situation in Honduras has deteriorated as human rights defenders and social movement leaders are routinely killed and systematically criminalized.
“There is a saying in Honduras about the Central American dirty war that “While the U.S. had its eye on Nicaragua and its hands in El Salvador, it had its boot on Honduras.”’ (Laura Carlsen, May 25, 2011, The World Post)
Well now, thanks to Hillary Clinton …… Berta Caceres was assassinated a few days ago!
So don’t give Tubularsock that crap that Hillary must be elected to the President of the United State position so WOMEN feel historically progressing! Bull shit.
If Hillary was truly a “feminist” she would not have killed Berta Caceres! WOMAN OF THE WORLD UNITED! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BY DUMPING HILLARY.
SAVE THE WHITE HOUSE FROM BECOMING BILL’S BROTHEL!
Gang violence continued to worsen last year in the three countries that make up Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. According to police data, these countries collectively saw 17,422 murders in 2015, 11% more than in 2014. However, there are signs that security challenges are changing, both in the Northern Triangle and across Central America as a whole.
The homicide rate in El Salvador increased by 67% between 2014 and 2015: its 6,657 annual murders equate to around 103 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is among the highest in the world, and higher even than Honduras, which has had the highest homicide rate in the region for years. Indeed, the 2014 murder rate in Honduras fell from 68 to 57 per 100,000 people.
Guatemala’s murder rate was relatively stable, at 30 per 100,000 in 2015 compared to 38 per 100,000 in 2014 – but in the other two countries, the data suggests that the focus of the violence has been shifting.
El Salvador’s sharp spike in murders has its origins in May 2013 with the formal breakdown of a truce between two main gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Mara 18 (also known as Calle 18). These two groups had negotiated a 2013 peace agreement with help from the ruling Farabundo Marti Liberation Front, itself a former guerrilla movement, and the Catholic church.
In return for ceasing hostilities, gang members were moved out of maximum security prisons into minimum security facilities closer to their families. This was an important move, as prisons are important administrative hubs for the gangs.
For a while, the truce appeared to be working and El Salvador’s homicide rate was 4% lower in 2013 than in 2012 – although gangs continued to extort businesses and engage in other criminal activity in their strongholds. However, a change of government led to a change of strategy, and gang members were moved back into maximum security detention. The truce soon broke down, unleashing the high levels of violence that led to the homicide rate jumping 56% in 2014.
Across the border
During the truce, the focus for violence shifted to Honduras, where rivalry between MS-13 and Mara 18 traditionally has been particularly intense. In addition, the country is a transit point for much of the cocaine being shipped from South America to the US, which has led to turf wars involving two Mexican cartels, the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas. The city of San Pedro Sula in particular has become a hub for mara (gang) involvement in cartel activity.
Central America’s various maras have long been a transnational problem. They have their roots among the young Salvadorans displaced to Los Angeles during El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s; they acquired significant knowhow both from other gangs and from fellow inmates in prison.
When the US began large-scale deportations of convicted criminals back to El Salvador in the 1990s, the gang threat grew. El Salvador sought to deal with it robustly, deploying the military and taking a punitive approach to gang members who were caught. While the leaders of MS-13 and Mara 18 remained in the US, both gangs’ activities spread into Honduras and Guatemala.
The latest shift of violence back to El Salvador following the breakdown of the truce there raises the question of whether the maras are becoming more transnational. Violence had increased in Honduras after the truce. Traditionally, while gangs operated across multiple countries, there was little cross border co-ordination, and most leadership was at a local level.
In addition, there have been signs of increased collaboration between the maras and the Mexican cartels. One consequence of this is that that organisation of the maras has become more sophisticated, with cells co-ordinating more closely. In part, this facilitates mara involvement in drug trafficking, but undoubtedly it also internationalises their operations. Therefore, it is no coincidence that a decline in gang violence in one Northern Triangle country leads to an increase in another.
But it’s important not to overstate the internationalisation of the maras and their role in Central America’s cocaine trade. Plenty of domestic factors are implicated in the changing homicide rates; the truce meant urban tensions expressed though violence were pent-up, so its collapse inevitably led to a spike in violence. There was also a rise in political violence following the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted Manuel Zelaya from the presidency.
There is little doubt that the Northen Triangle’s murder rates will remain exceptionally high, and extortion and other gang activity are going nowhere any time soon. There is every chance that homicide rates will continue to fluctuate across El Salvador and Honduras. In addition, there have been signs that the maras are increasingly active in Costa Rica, which previously was a relative safe haven.
Governments keep returning to tough and punitive approaches to the problem. These have failed in the past, and they won’t suddenly start working now. A better bet would be meaningful co-ordination and co-operation between countries. There have been some moves towards this, albeit led by the US. Nonetheless, a lack of resources means that there is little prospect that regional security forces are going to be made more effective – and all the while, the violence they need to tackle is changing shape and spreading.
The murder in Honduras on March 3rd of the global prize-winning environmental activist Berta Cáceres is one of the current achievements (though indirect) of Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s decision in 2009 to allow the newly-installed coup-regime in that country to solidify and remain in power.
As the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton resisted and ultimately overcame the virtually unanimous efforts of other Western Hemispheric and European leaders to oust the coup-regime. She was backed-up in this retrograde decision by U.S. President Barack Obama. Without her efforts, and President Obama’s passive acceptance of her decision, the coup-installed regime wouldn’t have remained in power, and the freely elected President would have been restored to power to complete his term.
The results of this for both the U.S. and Honduras have been disastrous: the world’s highest murder-rate, soaring drug-trafficking, and the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Honduran children who don’t want to spend their lives drug-trafficking, and who have left Honduras because the gangs kill children who refuse. Then, U.S. Republicans, whose representatives in Congress were passionate supporters of the coup-installed regime, complain about the influx of those children into the U.S. and demand they be sent back to die there.
The democratically elected progressive President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown by Honduras’s aristocracy, in a coup on 28 June 2009, organized by that country’s nearly dozen aristocratic families, whose suffocating control over Honduras was being threatened by the entirely lawful and progressive democratic policies and actions by Zelayas’s government, including land-reform and workers’ rights — two things that aristocracies everywhere oppose.
The key to whether or not the coup-regime would remain, or else Zelaya restored to complete his term, was whether or not the U.S. Government would allow financial aid to the Honduran Government to continue. This hinged on whether or not the term “coup” was to be applied to the overthrow. Here is what the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras wrote to the State Department about that:
From: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, U.S. Embassy, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 24 July 2009.
To: Secretary of State, White House, and National Security Council.
“SUBJECT: TFHO1: OPEN AND SHUT: THE CASE OF THE HONDURAN COUP”
This lengthy message from the Ambassador closed:
“The actions of June 28 can only be considered a coup d’etat by the legislative branch, with the support of the judicial branch and the military, against the executive branch. It bears mentioning that, whereas the resolution adopted June 28 refers only to Zelaya, its effect was to remove the entire executive branch. Both of these actions clearly exceeded Congress’s authority. … No matter what the merits of the case against Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly illegal, and [puppett-leader Roberto] Micheletti’s ascendance as ‘interim president’ was totally illegitimate.”
Secretary of State Clinton ignored that clear pleading, from her Ambassador.
People ask, “What did Hillary Clinton achieve as the U.S. Secretary of State?” and here is one solid answer to that question. For more details on it, explaining how and why she did this, and why the Republicans haven’t raised a ruckus about her policy there as they’ve been doing about “the Benghazi incident,” the full answer is here, but a summary of it is this: The Republicans in Congress were virtually united in supporting, passionately and ideologically, the coup-regime, because their Party has always opposed, in principle, land-reform, and criminal-justice reform, in aristocratically controlled countries — it’s a ‘free-market issue’ to them: their belief is that it’s God’s will that only around a dozen people own virtually all the land and control virtually all the corporations in Honduras. To them, the killing of people who lead demonstrations for land-reform etc. is good, not bad. See more about this in the fully documented article that I’ve written on it.
And this is the reason why Hillary Clinton, like Barack Obama, can with impunity perpetrate Republican-supported horrors and pay no political (much less prosecutory) price for it — because neither the Republicans nor their fellow ‘Democrats’ will publicize nor pursue such a horror. America has thus itself become a two-party, one-aristocracy, dictatorship, and the voters had better come to know about it fast, because otherwise, the next President will be elected by an ignorant public, who have been deceived and manipulated by America’s aristocracy, which controls both Parties.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone