Category Archives: Central America

For Indigenous Lenca People in Honduras, Rebellion Is a Centuries-Old Story

The Honduran Coup’s Ugly Aftermath

Honduran death squads kill four student protesters, including a 13-year-old

White House outlines policy for deepening intervention in Central America

Anti-Mining Protests in Nicaragua

Global Research, August 15, 2014
International Allies Coalition Against Mining in El Salvador 13 August 2014
While the Nicaraguan government opens its doors to foreign investment through the 1st International Mining Congress, more than 1,000 people from communities affected by mining projects are being detained to prevent them from mobilization to Managua to publicly express their concerns about negative impacts of mining in their communities.

Managua, Nicaragua – Today, social organizations concerned with the protection of the environment organized an environmental walk in Managua to express concerns about the negative impacts that mining projects are having on communities around the country, but as the organization of the walk progressed, several measures were taken by government officials to prevent the mobilization of communities to defend their commons and mother earth.

On August 12, 2014, officials with the national police called drivers hired to mobilize from Matagalpa to inform them that they did not have permission to drive to Managua and were directed to cancel already scheduled trips to Rancho Grande that would mobilize people to the environmental walk Managua. Today, August 13, 500 members of the Movement Yaoska Guardians community organization are retained in the town of Palo Solo, Peñas Blanca in Matagalpa by riot patrol and traffic police. The police are withholding documents (licenses and vehicle registration) and are telling community members that they are not allowed to travel to Managua.

Rancho Grande is a highly productive district, which generates by the main export of the country (coffee), in an organic and sustainable manner.  Community members argue that any extractive activity will destroy the environmental conditions that exist in the area ensure sustainable production which already provides general employment,  a sustainable local economy and a sustainable development model for the country.

The 36 communities in the municipality have publicly rejected the “El Pavón” mining project owend by Canadian mining company B2Gold.

In the town of Santo Domingo, 500 people are also been detained by the national police, and also prevented from participating in the walk for the defense of the environment in Managua.  In a similar fashion, community members were not given permission to leave the town, and finally 3 buses full of people have been retained.

In this municipality, communities are opposed to the “El Jabali” mining project which has operated without prior consent from the population since 2012.  This project is also owned Canadian mining company B2Gold.

Janeth Castillo, Member of the strategic alliance for the defense of the environment of Matagalpa stated that “Government authorities are violating Articles 53 and 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua that guarantees freedom of movement and freedom of expression and the right to protest and express ourselves in defense of our commons “.

Given the above stated facts:

• We, men and women of organizations and social movements in the Central America region, demand respect for the civil and political rights of the inhabitants of these municipalities, particularly their freedom of movement and  freedom to speak freely in defense of our common goods.
• We demand that the Government of Nicaragua guarantees the integrity of the people who are being detained.
• We express our opposition to the installation of extractive projects in our countries, because of the environmental and social costs they bring to the region.
• We demand the creation of sustainable development policies that guarantee the right to life, to a healthy environment for future generations.

Source: Global Research

From El Salvador to the United States: An immigrant teenager’s story

Bleedback of a US Imperial Wound

Honduran government suspends gold mine rescue effort

Ríos Montt Guilty of Genocide: Are Guatemalan President Pérez Molina, U.S. Officials Next?

Hundreds Killed in Honduras Jail Fire Shows Post-Coup Impunity

Honduras’s prison inferno: A crime of capitalism

18 February 2012

The official death toll in the horrific fire that burned through the Comayagua prison in central Honduras on February 14 rose to 356 on Friday with the announcement that another hospitalized inmate had succumbed to third-degree burns.

The more that emerges about this immense tragedy, the more it becomes clear that those who died were victims of a state organized massacre, just as surely as if they had been gunned down by the military death squads that have played such a bloody role in Honduras’s recent history.

On Thursday, reports surfaced that the blaze, first attributed to an electrical short circuit and then to a prisoner’s cigarette igniting a mattress, was set intentionally by guards as a cover for a conspiracy involving better-off inmates who paid the warden to stage a prison escape. Honduran authorities are reportedly investigating the bank accounts of officials assigned to the facility.

Surviving prisoners have reported that they were fired upon as they tried to escape the flames and have called upon those doing the grim forensic work of identifying the victims to check the corpses for bullet wounds.

The firefighters who responded to the blaze have also testified to the gunfire. While they arrived within less than 10 minutes of being called, the call itself was not made until 20 minutes after the fire had started, and more precious time was lost as they were unable to go in for fear of being shot. By the time they began fighting the fire, it was too late to save anyone.

Prisoners and their families charged that guards failed to open cell doors, leaving the inmates to burn to death locked behind bars. Even if they had acted responsibly, there were only two guards actually inside the prison grounds to organize the rescue of 852 inmates. Authorities have acknowledged that there were no existing plans for the facility’s evacuation in event of an emergency.

The government of Honduras has acknowledged that nearly 60 percent of those imprisoned in Comayagua had not been convicted of any crime, but rather were either awaiting trial or had been thrown into jail as suspected gang members under draconian laws that allow police to detain individuals on no more evidence than having a tattoo.

If ever there was a disaster foretold, the Comayagua prison disaster was it. In 2004, a similar blaze killed 107 inmates at the prison in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s second-largest city, and the year before, 66 prisoners and three female visitors died in a massacre at the El Porvenir jail near the Caribbean coastal city of La Ceiba.

As recently as 2010, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report indicting the abysmal conditions in Honduran jails and demanding that the government take urgent action to address them. Since then, the Honduran government has only allowed conditions to worsen as it has imposed one austerity program after another, slashing wages and social conditions to improve profits for the country’s dozen ruling families, the international banks and the transnational corporations that exploit low-wage labor in Honduras’s assembly sweatshops, or maquiladoras.

The conditions in the prisons is an accurate barometer of prevailing social conditions in any country. In Honduras, they reflect a society that is among the most unequal in the world. The second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, it is ruled by a narrow oligarchy of landowners, industrialists and financiers, while 60 percent of the population subsists in poverty and 30 percent are unemployed.

The international media’s response to this atrocity has inevitably included references to Honduras’s murder rate, the worst in the world with 82.1 per hundred thousand, compared to a 6.9 average globally, and to the role of the drug trade.

Virtually unmentioned, however, is Honduras’s long and bloody history of state violence, which is intimately bound with its more than century-long oppression by US imperialism.

Invaded seven times by US Marines during the first three decades of the 20th century, Honduras was the scene of rampant state killings, torture and repression in the 1980s, when it served as the CIA’s base of operations for the “contra” war against Nicaragua. It remains the site of the largest US military facility in Latin America, the Soto Cano Airbase, which this week supplied the Honduran authorities with 400 body bags for the Comayagua dead.

The country’s corrupt and reactionary institutions and ruling elite have been shaped by a long series of US-backed military coups, the latest of which took place just two-and-a-half years ago with the indispensable backing of the Obama administration.

The country’s current president, Porfirio Lobo, has managed to legitimize the bloody work of the June 2009 coup, while assuring all of its leaders complete impunity. The ousted ex-president Manuel Zelaya, who was frog-marched out of the presidential palace in his pajamas by Honduran troops in 2009, has made his peace with this regime. A wealthy landowner who earned the ire of his class with populist rhetoric, an alliance of convenience with Venezuela’s Chavez and a minimum wage hike, Zelaya signed an accord with Lobo last May, endorsing the government’s legitimacy and extolling the virtues of “democracy.”

For the masses of Honduran working people, however, the criminal contempt shown for the lives of the prisoners at Comayagua is an accurate indicator of the real character of this so-called democracy, in which journalists, trade unionists, human rights activists, workers, peasants and others continue to die at the hands of death squads.

The intense popular outrage over the prison atrocity in Honduras has profound roots in the determination of Honduran workers to resist. The massacre at Comayagua only demonstrates once again that it is impossible to secure livable conditions, democratic rights and freedom from imperialist domination outside of the independent mobilization of the working class in Honduras and throughout the Americas in the struggle to put an end to class oppression and build a socialist society.

Bill Van Auken

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/feb2012/pers-f18.shtml

Ex-General Otto Perez Molina to expand drug war as Guatemala’s new president

By Kevin Kearney
17 January 2012

Otto Perez Molina, a former army general accused of war crimes in Guatemala’s protracted civil war, assumed office as the country’s president Saturday. Outgoing president Alvaro Colom gave his final address to Congress and attended the ceremonial passing of power to Molina at Guatemala’s Sport’s Dome in the Capital City’s Zone 13.

In addition to a reception by Mexican president Felipe Calderon, Perez Molina has been warmly congratulated and endorsed by both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. In fact, the US embassy recognized his victory before the official tally was in last November, when Perez Molina, the candidate of the Patriot Party, defeated his opponent, another right-winger, Manuel Baldizón of the LIDER party.

Despite the fact Perez Molina is unpopular with and even hated by most Guatemalans, his influential sponsors—the US Government, Guatemala’s elite families and the country’s notorious military forces—have given him a clear mandate to expand the brutal drug war militarization into Central America’s most populous nation. There is every reason to believe he’ll make good on his ominous campaign promises to impose order with an “iron fist”—his party’s symbol.

The newly installed president is wasting no time. He pledged to mobilize the Air Force Special Forces in the drug war and to expand the military by 2,500. However, according to the Miami Herald, his top priority is, “ending a long-standing US ban on military aid imposed over concerns about abuses during the Central American country’s 36-year civil war.” The Herald notes, “Perez wants military equipment to battle Mexican drug traffickers.”

Although the US military has dramatically increased its presence in Guatemala over the last several years via the Mexican drug war, it has had to do so under the fig leaf of an “advisory role,” which prohibits certain types of direct military aid. The act says Guatemala can regain full military aid once the US secretary of state certifies that the military is “respecting internationally recognized human rights” and cooperating with judicial investigations of former military personnel and with the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) in Guatemala.

Although the bar to military aid is a legal formality that has not prevented the US military from setting up and running operations throughout the country, even this pretense will likely come to an end so long as Perez Molina does not sack Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey, appointed by Colom in December 2010.

Paz y Paz Bailey, the first female attorney general in the country’s history, has been fawned over by the media as a “tough”, apolitical prosecutor cleaning up Guatemala’s corrupt “old boy” network. In reality, Bailey’s long legal career had been unremarkable until her appointment to the position last year, the same month Alvaro Colom, under the guidance of the US embassy, declared martial law over sections of the country in furtherance of the drug war.

Hillary Clinton has personally met with Paz y Paz Bailey twice in the past six months, awarding her the International Crisis Group’s Pursuit of Peace prize. Specifically, Paz y Paz Bailey’s cooperation with the United Nations-sponsored CICIG—a UN anti-corruption commission formed to prosecute the drug war in Guatemala—is cited as proof positive that she is the champion of democracy in the country and will keep Perez Molina in check.

Although the work of Paz y Paz Bailey with the CICIG is widely portrayed as the first real effort in decades to hold the Guatemalan military responsible for the horrors and genocide committed against alleged communists in the impoverished indigenous community, its primary function is to subordinate the country’s judiciary to world imperialism via the drug war.

The lauded prosecution of war criminals is farcical—only four soldiers have been convicted, while Molina, an intellectual author of the genocide, has seized the country’s highest office. However, in her year of service as attorney general, Bailey has prosecuted five times the number of drug traffickers compared to her predecessors.

Nonetheless, Paz y Paz has come under fire from ex-military officers for her token prosecutions of war criminals, but she has quickly capitulated. When several ex-military operatives filed frivolous lawsuits against their accusers, naming as defendants notable human rights activists, academics, outgoing first lady Sandra Torres de Colom and even Paz y Paz Bailey’s father and cousins, the attorney general dutifully assigned a special prosecutor to investigate the charges, accepting them as legitimate.

Molina endorsed her cowardice in a November interview, saying that justice is not merely “persecution of just one side”

In fact, just months before Molina took office, Paz y Paz Bailey initiated her own political prosecution of Gloria Torres—the sister of Sandra Torres de Colom, wife of outgoing president Alvaro Colom—for misappropriation of government contracts. Sandra Torres de Colom, a center-left candidate vilified by Molina in the press for her limited welfare programs, was widely seen as his strongest competitor for the presidency before she was ruled ineligible due to her marriage to Colom.

Molina’s bid for the presidency, however, was given legal sanction, despite the fact that he was being prosecuted for war crimes while a candidate. Specifically, Molina has been pursued by human rights organizations for carrying out the massacre of Mayan Indians in Nebaj, Quiche, in 1982 and 1983. In that case, numerous survivors have described being personally tortured by him.

Moreover, he has been prosecuted for the kidnap, torture and murder of alleged guerilla leader Efrain Bamaca in 1992. In defiance of the repeated rulings against Perez Molina in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the case has languished in Guatemalan courts.

Unsurprisingly, Molina’s transition team leader, Eduardo Stein, says Molina will keep Paz y Paz Bailey on as attorney general as they “share the same goals.” Nonetheless, the mandates of both Paz y Paz Bailey and the CICIG will automatically expire by 2013 unless they are extended by Congress.

In the face of his leadership role in what can only be described as a holocaust against the country’s indigenous population, the unabashed support for Molina from Washington and Guatemala’s political elite merits a brief review of his past.

Molina, a graduate of the US Army’s School of the Americas, made his military career as an intelligence specialist, one of the most influential sections of the army at the height of the bloody civil war. He is closely associated with the brutal Guatemalan special forces unit known as the Kaibils—a group regularly implicated in heinous massacres during the war. The savagery of this murderous outfit is well documented in the 1998 report “Guatemala Never Again.”

The report found that that during the civil war, more than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, concluding as well that over 90 percent of the violence was perpetrated by the military or right-wing paramilitary forces. It is estimated that 626 massacres were carried out by state security forces, the vast majority against defenseless Mayan Indian communities.

These reports graphically detail atrocities carried out by Kaibil units to instill terror in the Indian population, including rape, torture, amputation, the killing of defenseless children, “often by beating them against walls or throwing them alive into mass graves where the corpses of adults were later thrown,” and other horrors.

Despite the irrefutable documentary evidence of such crimes, Molina continues to insist the massacres never occurred. Defiant, he has pledged to deploy Kaibils in the drug war, despite accusations that current and former Kaibils are themselves participants in drug trafficking.

Perez Molina has named three former Kaibils to the three top military positions: Col. Ulises Anzueto as defense minister, Col. René Casados Ramírez as commander of the joint chiefs of defense, and Col. Manuel López Ambrosio as sub-commander of the joint chiefs of defense. Two officers have been appointed to cabinet-level positions, including former Colonel Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, who was named interior minister and charged with coordinating the drug war with Mexico.

In a thinly veiled threat to his political rivals, El Periodico of Guatemala reported that Perez Molina has announced he will seek to repeal a law that requires five years of police protection for former state officials. Dismissing his own bloody rhetoric about the dangers to politicians in Guatemala, Molina says he would replace the law’s current requirement of police protection with his own assessment of “how well the official did his job” while in office.

The rapid return to militarism in Guatemala is the response of the national bourgeois to Washington’s security agenda for the entire region, which began with Colombia, expanded into Mexico and now seeks a firm foothold on the Central American isthmus. The militarization project is rooted in the global economic crisis that has radicalized millions while sharpening imperialist rivalries.

The selection of a war criminal like Molina stands as a testament to Washington’s desperation in the face of an intractable economic breakdown and a dire warning to workers in Central America—a region recognized as an increasingly valuable source of mineral wealth and an alternative cheap labor platform within close proximity to the US.

Throughout the region, governments are exerting themselves to impose police state measures at the behest of their sponsors in Washington. Just this year, Honduras ordered the army into the streets of its cities in March, El Salvador has done the same, and even Costa Rica has set in motion a significant increase in police forces over the next four years. In addition, the US and Colombia are establishing in Panama a joint training center for police forces from throughout the region, recalling the nightmarish School of the Americas.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/jan2012/guat-j17.shtml

Pt2 Is Canada’s Gold Corp. Good for Guatemala?

USA tortures Guatemala to point of exhaustion

Guatemalan authorities have consented to giving their former President Alfonso Portillo who was found guilty of money laundering to the U.S. This Central American country confirmed the status of a “banana republic” as major decisions for this seemingly independent nation are made in Washington. Incidentally, in the recent past the U.S. committed heinous crimes on the territory of Guatemala.

Alfonso Portillo in 2000-2004 served as the President of Guatemala and during his four-year time “excelled” in cases of corruption. Fearing imprisonment, he fled to neighboring Mexico, but in 2008 the latter gave him to Guatemala. At home he was accused of embezzling $15 million from the budget of the Ministry of Defense. It was decided to release the politician on bail, but he fled to Mexico again. Finally, in early 2010, he was brought to Guatemala again, but this time at the request of the United States.

U.S. law enforcement authorities believe that the former Guatemalan President is guilty of laundering $70 million from charities and the public treasury through U.S. banks. Subsequently, the funds were transferred to the accounts belonging to relatives of Portillo in Europe and Bermuda. In the spring of this year in Guatemala the charges of embezzlement and corruption have been removed, but the U.S. extradition request remained in force.

Despite the fact that in most countries there are rules prohibiting the transfer of its citizens for trial in another country, Guatemala does not follow this rule. First Criminal Court, then the Constitutional Court, and then acting President Alvaro Colom agreed to send Portillo to the United States. It turns out that Washington’s will is above the country’s sovereignty. However, at a glance at the history of the US-Guatemalan relations, the surprise factor of this behavior of the authorities of this Latin American country disappears.

The name “banana republic,” which means a country whose entire economy is dependent on the export of tropical crops to U.S. companies, and whose policy is coordinated with Washington, is very suitable for Guatemala. The U.S. penetration in this country began in the 19th century. Before the Americans settled in Guatemala, its main export commodity was coffee. Thanks to the “guests from the North” bananas became another export commodity.

In 1898, a conservative politician Manuel Cabrera became the President of Guatemala. He gave the American company United Fruit vast lands, on which the banana plantation were grown. Gradually the “guests” expanded ports in the Caribbean and Pacific coast of the country to make it easier to export goods abroad. Nearly all of the revenue flowed into the United States. Something settled in the pockets of Guatemalan leaders, while the people did not see any of it.

In 1920, the “benefactor” Cabrera was deposed. The power struggle continued until 1931, when a protégé of the United States General Jorge Ubico became the President. He gave the new United Fruit new lands free of charge where Guatemalan laborers worked for pennies. In 1944-1945, Guatemala has experienced a series of military coups, until a writer Juan Jose Arevalo became the President. He did not infringe upon the dominance of the American companies, but his policies have become a little more independent.

Recently, an American professor Susan Reverbay revealed the horrific facts of experiments that the Americans conducted in Guatemala in 1946-1948 during the presidency of Arevalo. With the permission of the authorities of Latin American countries “visitors from the north” carried out medical experiments on Guatemalans. Doctors from the United States infected over 1,300 residents of Guatemala with various sexually transmitted diseases. With the funds allocated by the White House, they wanted to test on human beings whether penicillin was able to prevent infection with syphilis.

The experiments were conducted without the consent of Guatemalans – they were told that they were getting vaccinated. The result was deplorable. At least 700 people were infected with syphilis and gonorrhea, 83 were killed. The United States recognized the fact of such experiments only in 2010. Barack Obama has apologized to his counterpart Alvaro Kolomu. Today some of the survivors and descendants of the study participants who died from the experiment are trying to obtain compensation from the Americans, so far to no avail.

By 1951 the United Fruit felt at home in Guatemala. However, the presidential election was won by Jacobo Ahrens. He refused the demand of the U.S. to send Guatemalan troops to the front of the Korean War. Under his presidency the influence of leftist parties increased. However, the main development was his decision to nationalize the land of the United Fruit, paying the company a million dollars. The company, however, insisted on 16 million.

The entrepreneurs failed to come to an agreement with Ahrens on good terms and began to seek support of the United States. President Dwight Eisenhower and brothers Allen and John Foster Dulles, one of whom was a director of the CIA and the other one Secretary of State, joined the pressuring campaign. In April of 1954 they demanded that Guatemala returned the United Fruit $15.8 million, and Ahrens agreed only to $594,000. As a result, the U.S. decided to conduct a military operation to oust the intractable President that went down in history as “Operation PBSUCCESS”.

“Contras” groups led by Castillo Armas trained in the United States were brought to the territory of Guatemala from neighboring Honduras. The rebels kept in touch with the American authorities. The airplanes of “Contras” that bombed Guatemala City were likely operated by the American pilots. Ahrens chose to abdicate and gave the power to the commander in chief of the armed forces Enrique Diaz under the obligation to continue to fight the rebels. However, subordinates have committed treason and, abetted by the U.S. overthrew Diaz.

As a result, the leader of the mercenaries Armas became the new President. He returned all the land to the United Fruit, removed 70 percent of the population from the election process and created a Committee for the Protection from the Communism. Massive repressions were deployed in the country with the full approval of the United States. Meanwhile, former CIA Director Walter Bedell Smith, head of the United Fruit, felt like a complete master of Guatemala. In 1957 Armas was assassinated, but nothing has changed in terms of the U.S. influence.

Tired of the dominance of the U.S. and United Fruit, in 1960 a group of junior officers took up arms and went to the mountains. Over the next 36 years a war engulfed the entire territory of Guatemala. Meanwhile, pro-American dictators succeeded each other in office, making a crackdown on dissidents. Among others, the leader of the local Communists Bernardo Alvarado Monzon was executed. The war ended only in 1996. A Native American activist Rigoberta Monchy who spoke against the dictatorship in 1992 received the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the past 15 years, Guatemala was finally able to catch its breath after the war. Presidents began to succeed each other in a democratic way. The current President Alvaro Colom who came to power in 2008 even started a policy relatively independent of the U.S. Today, the successor to the United Fruit called Chiquita Brands International no longer feels like the owner of the country.

However, the independence of Guatemala is not quite complete. On the first cry from Washington its former President was given to the United States. This means that the legacy of “banana republic” is still there.

http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/18-11-2011/119665-guatemala-0/

Mel Zelaya returns to Honduras – reconciliation or class struggle?

Written by Jorge Martín

On May 28 Mel Zelaya, the Honduran president removed by a coup in June 2009 returned to Honduras where he was met by a massive crowd. On June 1, the Organisation of American States voted to readmit Honduras as a member, with only Ecuador voting against. The agreements that made this possible have provoked a lot of discussion amongst Honduran revolutionaries in the Resistance Front (FNRP) and throughout Latin America.

Mass demonstration on 28 May welcoming Zelaya back to Honduras. Photo: Felipe CanovaMass demonstration on 28 May welcoming Zelaya back to Honduras. Photo: Felipe CanovaOn June 28, 2009, the Honduran military kidnapped the country’s president Mel Zelaya and took him first to the US military base in Palmerola and then to Costa Rica. The immediate trigger for the coup was the attempt by Zelaya to hold a popular consultation about the calling of a referendum about the need for a Constituent Assembly. Elected as a president for the Liberal Party, Zelaya had progressively earned the wrath of the country’s oligarchy (closely linked to US imperialism). In his attempts to improve the conditions of the country’s poor he had aligned himself with the ALBA countries (Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and others).

His attempt to convene a Constituent Assembly had caught the imagination of millions of the country’s workers, peasants and poor as an opportunity to fundamentally change their living conditions. The ruling class feared that such a move could unleash a revolutionary movement with the participation of the masses and decided to move against Zelaya before things went too far. The United States knew all about the coup preparations and their only objection was that it should be carried out “institutionally”, that it should have some sort of “legal” cover. Obviously, the 12 families of the oligarchy that have ruled the country for the last 200 years had other ideas and did not care much for “legality”, and although they got the Supreme Court to ban Zelaya’s popular consultation, they just went ahead with an old fashioned coup. Wealthy businessman Roberto Micheletti, from Zelaya’s own Liberal Party was appointed as the new illegitimate president.

Far from preventing the Latin American revolutionary wave from reaching Honduran soil, the coup unleashed a process of mass mobilisation, resistance, organisation and development of the political consciousness of the masses without precedent. Hundreds of thousands participated in mass demonstrations, strikes and daily protests and the National Front of Peoples’ Resistance was established as an organisation coordinating the different sections involved (trade unions, peasant organisations, the youth, etc).

It was in the context of this massive movement of the Honduran people that the country was expelled from the Organisation of American States at the initiative of Venezuela and the ALBA countries. Despite all the attempts by the US and its agents in the region to find some sort of negotiated settlement (through the so-called San José Accords), the Honduran oligarchy stubbornly refused to make any concessions. In these conditions it was difficult even for Washington to recognise the legitimacy of the Micheletti regime.

Through a combination of brutal repression and diplomatic manoeuvres, the Micheletti regime managed to survive until November 2009 when it called new elections. These were rigged elections without any democratic guarantees, taking place in conditions of brutal repression, selective assassination of Resistance activists, intimidation of opposition media, etc. The Resistance rightly boycotted the elections which resulted in a massive 65% rate of abstention. While the United States and other right wing governments in Latin America (Perú, Colombia, Panamá) recognised the new government of Porfirio Lobo as legitimate and democratic, Venezuela and most other Latin American countries refused to restore relations with Honduras.

The continued struggle of the Honduran people against the Lobo regime, which went through different phases but was never completely smashed by repression, put the Honduran ruling class in a difficult position. The country is heavily dependent on international finance and investment and unless its government was fully recognised it could not get complete access to either. Being readmitted into the Organisation of American States was crucial from their point of view.

Mediation – who benefits?

In April 2011, there was a meeting between the new Colombian president Santos, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Porfirio Lobo at which they agreed to start a “mediation” aimed at bringing Honduras back to the OAS at its scheduled general assembly in June. The picture of the three together caused surprise and consternation amongst the activists of the Honduran Resistance. How was it possible for Chavez to meet with Lobo, thus implicitly recognizing him as the legitimate president of Honduras?

The FNRP had just celebrated its national assembly in February 2011 in which those who favoured an electoral strategy had been defeated, and the Front had agreed to start a process towards convening a Constituent Assembly, for which they had collected 1.3 million signatures, in direct confrontation with the oligarchy and the Lobo regime. The beginning of the mediation took place as Honduran teachers were involved in a bitter strike against Lobo, in which the regime was using brutal repression.

Clearly, these talks had started behind the backs of the elected leadership of the Resistance Front and not even Zelaya himself was aware of the meeting. Zelaya came out quickly in favour of the mediation. But the leaders of the Front had to be flown to Caracas where they met with Zelaya and Chavez and raised four demands for the negotiations:  “the safe return of the Coordinator of the FNRP, Manuel Zelaya and of all the exiles; respect for human rights; the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly and the recognition of the FNRP as a political force with the capability and legal status to participate in future electoral processes.”

Many of the FNRP activists were extremely unhappy both about the way in which the talks had started as well as about the content of what was being discussed. One of the main leaders of the resistance, former assembly member Tomás Andino published an open letter expressing the opinion of the left wing of the Front. He correctly pointed out that the whole negotiation and reconciliation process was a trap which had been set in motion by Colombian president Santos, with the sole aim of getting Honduras readmitted into the OAS. He further criticized the fact that the four conditions that the FNRP representatives had set in Caracas were in contradiction with the democratically decided aims of the Front, as ratified in its National Assembly in February. Specifically, there was no mention of punishment for the coup plotters and all those responsible for human rights abuses under Micheletti and Lobo. And finally he pointed out that the Front representatives to Caracas had not been elected or appointed by anyone and that any decisions or proposals should be put to the democratic vote of the structures of the Front and consulted with the rank and file of the Resistance.

Read the rest of this entry

Special Report: Honduran Teachers Get Shock Treatment

Interview: Return to El Salvador

Written by Tim Høiland

Why do 700 Salvadorans leave their native country every day? This is the burning question behind documentary filmmaker Jamie Moffett’s latest project, Return to El Salvador. Narrated by Martin Sheen and endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the film provides a rare glimpse into how the lives of North Americans are directly tied to those of this tiny Central American nation. I recently interviewed Moffett about the film.

Tim Høiland: Why have you chosen to tell this story?

Jamie Moffett: My introduction to this story came through my connection as a co-founder of The Simple Way community. In 1999, Salvadoran pastors came to visit us in Kensington, Philadelphia and we just kind of fell in love with each other. Through them I gained my first perspective into this Central American country.

 

I learned a lot more about this through Betsy Morgan, a professor of mine at Eastern University. I was in post-production on my first documentary, The Ordinary Radicals and I asked her to be an advisor for the film. At that time she was directing a one-hour documentary for PBS about the 1992 peace accords in El Salvador. Hearing about this project from her made me curious and I kept asking more and more questions. It seemed that the more questions I asked, the more disturbing and compelling the answers I’d receive. It got to the point where I felt like this story – which in a way was my story – was non-negotiable for me.

TH: One particularly poignant part of the film has to do with the mysterious disappearance and murder of Marcelo Rivera, the anti-mining activist. How does this incident relate to the broader situation in El Salvador and the region?

JM: Marcelo’s case is an example of the lack of control over corporate actions in North America and how Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining corporation, can use influence – whether they actually pulled the trigger or used their funds – to help silence him. There is no doubt that Pacific Rim is negatively influencing events in the region and in the Cabañas district of El Salvador. What I hope viewers can observe from this story is that we’re not helpless in the United States and Canada. There are actions we can take to stop these kinds of corporate actions from occurring.

I’m working with a Member of Parliament in Canada named John McKay who has presented a piece of corporate accountability legislation called Bill C-300. There are 2700 Canadian mining corporations which account for 10% of the country’s gross domestic product. These corporations receive taxpayer-funded government subsidies. Some of these companies choose to misrepresent the environmental impacts of their actions in these countries. McKay and many MPs have been saying this needs to have some sort of corporate control, the intention being that if mining companies are going to continue to operate in such a poor fashion abroad, they will no longer be eligible for subsidies.

Marcelo’s story is about a corporation that exerted its will on a community. That community decided to stand up, and that corporation struck back in a way that would end in the death of Marcelo and two more anti-mining activists in Cabañas.

TH: What surprised you the most while making this film?

JM: There was one important nugget that didn’t make it into the film that really disturbed me. We went to the morgue in El Salvador and the scientists were studying DNA there from 80 bodies from four days’ time. The average rate of murders in El Salvador is 12 people per day. And at this morgue, they were all related to drugs – not drug use, but drug trafficking. So I began asking questions. Who are the victims of the drug trade? That answer was clear. Where are the drugs sent? They are sent mostly to the north, to the United States. And what would happen if the US didn’t have the appetite for illegal drugs that it currently has? The woman at the morgue answered point blank that none of these people would be in the morgue.

I’m disappointed that this didn’t make it into the film. I hope I can somehow communicate to people who use drugs in the United States that what they use to put in their arm or up their nose – they’re not just harming themselves. There is literally a trail of blood behind every hit, up from South America, through Central America, and lots of people are killed along the way. I’m sure there are folks who have absolutely no understanding of that in their worldview and I hope this can be more strongly communicated to American consumers. It really comes down to supply and demand, and this demand is literally killing thousands of people every year, but North Americans never see it.

TH: There’s a scene late in the film in which some adults and children are seen dancing in a circle. The song you chose for the soundtrack for that scene is about revolution. What are you communicating there?

JM: Big picture change in El Salvador is going to be through joy and through love. There’s one side of the story in which people are using very negative tones and straight-out oppression to try to move people in the direction they want. But there are others in El Salvador who’ve decided that their tools are going to be joy, peace and love, and through that, they believe revolution can occur.

To learn more about Return to El Salvador visit www.returntoelsalvador.com.

Tim Høiland blogs at www.tjhoiland.com.

Published june 2010

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/el-salvador-archives-74

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