Tuesday, August 11, 2009



By Emile Schepers

There is a lot of news today; I may have to save some of it for tomorrow’s blog posting.

1. MASSIVE DEMONSTRATIONS IN TEGUCIGALPA AND SAN PEDRO SULA, NEW CURFEW. Tens of thousands of protesters demanding the end of the coup government and the restoration of the ousted president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya poured into Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ two largest cities, today. I have not seen any semi-final estimate of numbers but the photos I have seen indicate that they were very large, at least tens of thousands if not more. They are planning to stay in a protest mode for the rest of the week, some basing themselves in the campus of the National Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa. Police used various means to block the marches including tear gas, and at least one person was wounded by gunfire, in the leg. Near the end there were incidents when some people set fire to a Popeye’s Fried Chicken franchise and also a city bus. March organizers accuse the perpetrators of being provocateurs, and the press note that when the fried chicken place was becoming “refrito”, the police stood by and did nothing. The Micheletti coup government has imposed a new state of siege in response to the demonstrations. Strikes are going on by teachers, nurses and health care workers, taxi drivers, airport workers and other groups, and a general strike has been declared by the country’s three main labor federations.

2. GRIJALVA AND 14 OTHERS ISSUE NEW LETTER TO OBAMA ON HONDURAS. Fifteen Democratic members of Congress have issued a new letter to President Obama, dated August 7, demanding stronger action against the illegal coup government. The letter was organized by Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and has been signed by Congresspersons James McGovern (D-MA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), John Conyers (D-MI), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Bill delaHunt (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Il), Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands, nonvoting), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), and Linda Sanchez (D-CA). I don’t know if others are going to sign on. The letter is in a pdf format so I could not copy and paste it for you, but you can find it on Mr. Grijalva’s official website by going to good old www.thomas.loc.gov, and then going to the House of Representatives Pages. This letter stresses the violations of human rights that are happening in Honduras and the evident breakdown of the Arias-mediated talks, and finishes “We therefore urge you [i.e. president Obama] to publicly denounce the use of violence and repression of peaceful protestors, the murder of peaceful political organizers and all forms of censorship and intimidation directed at media outlets. Finally, we urge you to take further measures against the de facto government. The State Department should fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place and follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law. Even more importantly, we ask that you instruct the Treasury Department to freeze the bank accounts and assets of individuals involved in the coup, and deny them entry into the United States. We believe that these measures, which would have no adverse effect on the people of Honduras, could be effective in exercising the pressure needed for the de facto government to abandon its uncompromising stance."

3. ARIAS HAS H1N1 FLU, BUT FOREIGN MINISTERS WILL BE COMING. Tonight there were two announcements germane to the stalled San Jose mediation: Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has come down with the H1N1 (“swine flu”) influenza and so may be out of action for a while, and OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has announced that the visit of the foreign ministers of Canada, Argentina, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Jamaica, with Insulza along as an observer, will happen later this week or early next week.

4. WRONG WAY CORRIGAN AT INTERPOL. The Honduras office of Interpol announced that it has put out an arrest warrant for Rixi Moncada and two other Honduran cabinet members for abuse of power and fraud. Rixi Moncada has been one of the main representatives of President Zelaya in the San Jose negotiations mediated by President Arias of Costa Rica. Evidently the Interpol officials are doing this at the request of the coup regime. I have not had a chance to check the main website of Interpol to see if the international organization is going along with this charade. Previously Interpol's main office had refused a request by Micheletti to have Zelaya arrested.

5. TAKEOVER OF GARIFUNA RURAL HOSPITAL NEEDS PROTESTS. MEDICC, (Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba) an international organization that works with the Cuban health care missions, has called our attention to the fact that the coup government has now taken over a key medical resource of the Garifuna people in Northern Honduras, the Garifuna Rural Hospital. The Garifuna are descendents of African slaves who had been imported to Jamaica in colonial times, then escaped and moved to the island of Dominica (not the Dominican Republic) where they picked up the language of the Carib indigenous people. They subsequently migrated to the Gulf coast of Central America, and are present in numbers in coastal areas of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras (there are also Garifuna communities in the United States). The Hospital in question is headed by Dr. Luther Castillo, a Cuban trained physician of Garifuna ethnicity whom you may have seen in the Cuban film “Salud”. It has received considerable support from overseas including from many U.S. institutions, including the Sacramento, California Central Labor Council, Global Links, the Birthing Project, MEDICC, as well as Johns Hopkins, Emory University, Charles Drew and the University of California-San Francisco. The coup regime has notified the hospital that it is being downgraded to a clinic and that the staff will be fired. Read more and especially about what you can do on the website of MEDICC, at www.medicc.org.

6. HONDURAS’ ECONOMY GOING DOWN FOR THE THIRD TIME, SAYS CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR. According to Telesur, the governor of the Central Bank of Honduras, Edwin Araque, says that the coup is resulting in severe economic damage to Honduras. Especially international reserves are falling drastically. Before the coup, Araque says, the reserves were about $2.5 billion US and they have fallen to $2,150,000,000, a loss of $350 million in a little over a month. Araque attributes this to foreign investors’ lack of confidence due to the unstable situation created by the coup.

7. MILLENIUM CHALLENGE MONEY CONTINUES TO FLOW TO HONDURAS. Al Giordano, who writes on Honduras and other topics for various web publications, has an interesting article on the Millenium Challenge Corporation, which is a major semi-governmental entity providing economic development aid to poor countries. Although it was a creation of the Bushites, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sits on its board, and it has continued to send money into Honduras in spite of the coup. The article can be read in its entirety at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/al-giordano/

8. VIGILS AND PROTESTS IN U.S.A. There were vigils and protests on Honduras in various parts of the USA today; I will try to get you reports on them tomorrow night.

All for now.

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