Monday, October 12, 2009

Honduras background info - US Fascist Control

Eyes on Honduras
By Stabroek staff | October 12, 2009 in Features
In the Diaspora

(This is one of a series of weekly columns from Guyanese in the diaspora and others with an interest in issues related to Guyana and the Caribbean)

By Alissa Trotz
Alissa Trotz is editor of the weekly In the Diaspora Column

Last week Tuesday (October 6th), ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was interviewed on Canadian national radio, speaking through a translator and by phone from the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he has been holed up since he managed to slip back into the country. The army and police are encamped outside the embassy, preventing visits or regular delivery of even the most basic necessities, and up to two weeks ago there were reports of the use of sonic and chemical weapons, presumably intended to force Zelaya’s surrender.

But the coup leaders (golpistas) underestimated the resilience of Honduran resistance to Zelaya’s illegal removal on June 28th, in which peasants, women, students, indigenous and Garifuna groups have been playing a leading role (the National Front against the coup d’etat just concluded a three day international meeting against the coup and for the national constitutional assembly in Honduras). Nor did they anticipate the condemnation by the international community. And, as political scientist Jorge Heine noted on the radio show, Zelaya’s return has changed things significantly. Zelaya himself noted that his worst fear was that he would be permanently exiled from Honduras, or fall victim to a criminal assassination plot abroad. Given these two possible scenarios, he preferred to face risks in his homeland.

Asked about whether as President he was preparing the ground to extend his stay in power (the justification given by coup perpetrators for removing him), Zelaya responded, “Had I committed wrongdoing, it would have been easier to take me to court than face a coup d’etat. They preferred force to debate.” The golpistas have been unable to maintain their position that they were ‘restoring democracy’, given widespread repression, suspension of civil liberties and shutting down of opposition media outlets following June 28th. Heine usefully points out that it is essential that we distinguish between the disagreement between Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran Parliament and the Supreme Court on constitutional matters, and “what on June 28th was as clearcut a military coup as we have seen.”

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the deadlock continue to be stymied by de facto President Roberto Micheletti’s refusal to accept the terms of the San Jose Agreement drafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, which calls for Zelaya’s reinstatement and for a unity government to be put in place until elections scheduled for November 29th. Zelaya has insisted that he “will only accept a face to face with Micheletti when he agrees to sign the Arias plan which he has yet to accept,” and which has “determined both limits and the reach of my reinstated presidency”.

A diplomatic team traveled to Honduras late last week. It included several Latin American foreign ministers as well as Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (the OAS had been expelled by Micheletti after they suspended Honduras on June 30th). Despite diplomatically describing advances on both sides, the mediators signally failed to shift Micheletti from his position that he will only stand down if Zelaya relinquishes his claim to the Honduran presidency.

Cracks are beginning to appear, however. If a November 29th election proceeds without Manuel Zelaya’s return (Zelaya himself is calling for his reinstatement by Thursday), it seems unlikely that the elected government will be recognized by most of the international community, a hard fact that has left opposition contenders uneasy. The media clampdown reinforced the highly authoritarian character of the interim regime. There is growing discomfort among Micheletti’s supporters, including members of the business community who are feeling the sting of sanctions.

Restoring Zelaya to office matters deeply in a country with a devastating history of military intervention on behalf of the economically powerful minority. It has taken Hondurans back to 1963, when a coup removed democratically elected president Ramon Villeda Morales and set the stage for military rule until 1981. Jorge Heine also underlined the implications for the region, saying “If not here why not Bolivia, why not Ecuador?”

While an excellent point on precedent, Heine unfortunately described June 28th as the first coup in twenty years in the region, with President Manuel Zelaya awoken at gunpoint, put on a plane and summarily sent abroad. That more or less describes the events that led to the illegal removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti in 2004. Then there was the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002, in which Venezuelans were told that President Hugo Chavez had resigned office, the Venezuelan constitution was declared null and void and the National Assembly and Supreme Court were dissolved.

It is important to remember the support given by the governments of Canada and the United States to the Haitian coup, and the backing by the US in the case of Venezuela. Perhaps Zelaya’s appearance on CBC was an appeal to the Canadian public to put pressure on its government (as he said, the international community needs to recognize that what exists in Honduras is a military dictatorship), although he was careful to applaud Canada’s support thus far. Canada was chairing the OAS when Honduras was suspended, but the fact that it has yet to implement a regime of sanctions raises questions about its own vested interests. Canada is the second largest foreign investor in Honduras, with mining and maquiladora interests; companies located there include manufacturing conglomerate Gildan Activewear, which has long faced questions about labour standards in its overseas factories. Canada is also pushing a Canada-Central American free trade agreement that includes Honduras. According to reports the Canadian government has not terminated diplomatic relations or bilateral aid, and a small military training program continues under the coup leaders.

The United States has still not certified that a military coup took place. Zelaya, after all, was taking on powerful economic interests, and was seen as aligning his government with Venezuela and Cuba. It can be no accident that US militarization is on the rise in a region where so many Latin American leaders critical of the Washington Consensus have been elected. There is a large US military base in Palmerola, Honduras (it is impossible that they would not have been apprised in advance of the coup) and the US has since secured rights to use eight military bases in Colombia under undisclosed terms, raising alarm across all of South America. As critic Noam Chomsky has recently documented, the US Fourth Fleet, which covers the Caribbean, Central and South America and surrounding waters, was brought back into operation in 2008 after 50 years, following Colombia’s incursion into Ecuador.

Brazil, an emerging regional and world economic power recently admitted into the G-20 group of nations, offered Zelaya refuge in its embassy in Tegucigalpa and dared the golpistas to infringe upon Brazilian sovereignty by attempting to remove him. On the other hand, the Brazilian army heads the military component of MINUSTAH, the UN’s supposedly peace-keeping mission in Haiti, which is in effect an occupation force that has legitimized the coup of 2004. Was support for Haiti at the time an attempt to appease the United States after Brazil condemned their 2003 invasion of Iraq (CARICOM unequivocally condemned Aristide’s removal and refused to recognize the interim regime)? One cannot help but wonder why Haiti, a country where slaves rose up with a dream that far outstripped the ideals of the French Revolution, could be so easily thrown under the bus. Some observers have suggested that the difference lies in the geopolitical and geomilitary implications of growing US involvement. Jamaican economist Norman Girvan has noted that the Palmerola Base, the reactivation of the 4th fleet and the Colombian bases agreement give the US a continental military reach and capability to secure/preserve access to the energy, water and biodiversity resources of the Amazon region, directly threatening Brazilian interests in the Amazon and South America in general. Yet, while Brazil’s actions in Honduras are to be highly commended as a challenge to US hegemony, we must be aware of the geostrategic interests that allowed Haiti to be sacrificed, when in fact what happened in Venezuela in 2003 and Haiti in 2004 should have been seen as an early and most ominous warning sign that the US continues to consider the hemisphere as its backyard.

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posted by u2r2h at 6:14 AM


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