By Emile Schepers
There is nothing really new today, except that Xinhua reports that President Manuel Zelaya has warned that the startup of the election campaign in Honduras will bring more trouble, as fair elections can not be held under an illegal coup regime and most of the region's governments have stated that they will not recognize the result of such an election as legitimate.
The election is for president, for the 128 member unicameral Congress, for local offices and for 28 legislative delegates to the Central American Parliament. The election takes place on November 29, although there was talk of holding it earlier and an earlier date -- October 25 -- is part of the original settlement plan proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
Tomorrow (Tuesday Sept. 1) President Zelaya will be in Washington D.C. to discuss the situation with the Organization of American States. By rights he should get an honor guard, and a 21 gun salute and be met at the airport by President Obama, as the Obama administration recognizes him as a head of state. Heads of state under international law are all considered equals, whether they be the President of China (Population: 1.3 billion. Land area: 3.7 million sq miles) or the Grand Master of SMOM, the world's smallest state entity (Population: Zero. Land area: Zero).
So the diplomatic protocol for all of them means that their only equal in the host country is that country's head of state. Honduras is a sort of medium sized country in the great scheme of things, with population 7.5 million and land area 43 thousand square miles. But if Zelaya does not get the 21 gun salute and the rest of it (and I doubt he will), I am sure it is the least of his worries. The main thing he wants from the United States is for the Obama administration to officially declare the military coup to be a military coup, to cut off remaining lifelines to the Micheletti crowd, to freeze the bank accounts in the U.S. of the main coup plotters, and maybe most important of all, for the United States government to join almost all the other governments in the area in decling that it will not recognize the results of the November 29 elections unless Zelaya and constitutional normalcy are restored.
So watch this space for news of what happens with Zelaya's discussion with the OAS tomorrow.
Monday, August 31, 2009
By Emile Schepers
Sunday, August 30, 2009
By Emile Schepers.
There is not much that is really new to report tonight. Prensa Latina says that the National Front Against the Coup met in a general assembly today and agreed that street demonstrations will continue until democratic normalcy is restored and President Zelaya returns. Resistance leader Juan Barahona says that their will be a meeting of the three labor union federations this coming Wednesday evening to decide on work stoppages for the rest of the week.
The Mexican newspaper El Financiero reports that this Tuesday, President Zelaya will travel to Washington DC to speak to the Organization of American States (OAS) and that OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza still sees a slim chance for a return to negotiations on the basis of the San Jose proposal crafted by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias.
Let's see what the morrow brings.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
By Emile Schepers
HONDURAN ELECTION SEASON ABOUT TO BEGIN, PRO-ZELAYA FORCES DEBATE BEST TACTICS TO ADOPT. There is no sign of a resolution of the Honduras situation. Late this week coup de facto president Roberto Micheletti offered a “solution” under which both he and the deposed legitimate president, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya would have resigned, the presidency taken over by the current head of the Supreme Court (who signed the order justifying Zelaya’s removal) and Zelaya coming back to Honduras to face charges for treason and abuse of power. Zelaya rejected this insulting offer in no uncertain terms.
So now official election campaign is set to begin on Tuesday, September 1, without a normal constitutional or administrative setup, with the troops and police still repressing pro-Zelaya demonstrations, with major doubts about whether left-wing, pro-Zelaya candidates will even be able to campaign, and with the anti-coup media under siege, and subject to physical sabotage of its facilities.
The major demand now being taken up across Latin America is that all countries, including the United States, declare that they will NOT recognize any government that comes out of such a flawed election scenario. This means that economic sanctions that have been imposed to back the demand for the return of Zelaya would continue beyond the elections. This demand is being put forth because many think that Micheletti’s game is to run out the clock on the elections, run the elections and elect candidates for president, the unicameral congress and other local offices, and then present the world with a fait accompli (that’s French for a done deal) in which gradually the different countries would drift back to restoring diplomatic and commercial relations.
But what should the movement in Honduras do? This is now being debated intensely.
In an interesting article in today’s edition of the left wing Mexico City daily La Jornada, reporter Arturo Cano gives us a glimpse at some of the debates within the Honduran resistance movement (the original article in Spanish can be read at http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2009/08/29/index.php?section=mundo&article=017nlmun)
First, there is the issue of whether to run candidates or boycott the election. Obviously, the election is not going to be fair if it takes place under the coup regime, but it does not necessarily follow that boycotting the election is the best tactic for the Honduran left. Some, however, think that the elections should be boycotted within Honduras also, as well as being denounced as unfair. Independent left wing candidate for the presidency Carlos Humberto Reyes, a labor union activist, for example, has called for a boycott of all participation in the election by the popular forces, if the election is done under the current dictatorship.
Not all are in agreement, however. There are candidates from the pro-Zelaya left wing of the Liberal Party who evidently intend to continue with their electoral campaigns, but under the designation of the left wing Democratic Unification Party. Democratic Unification’s presidential candidate, Cesar Ham, is quoted in Cano’s la Jornada Article as saying “we have to participate. If we don’t, the same thing will happen to us as happened to the retrograde right wing opposition in Venezuela, which did not go to the elections after winning a referendum and left only Chavez in the National Assembly”.
Cano gives us the valuable information that there is a coming apart of the Liberal Party with important sectors gravitating into an alliance with the left in a democratic pro-Zelaya united front. Zelaya’s Interior Minister, Victor Meza, is quoted by Cano as saying that the campaign to get a referendum on a constituent assembly to reform the constitution really has been also a project to create a new political third force to the left of the existing Liberal and National parties.
One suggestion that Cano mentions is that the left, pro-Zelaya forces unite around the candidacy of Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos, the only higher prelate in Honduras who has been opposing the coup. According to the Honduran constitution, Bishop Santos would have to resign from his clerical offices to run.
The Liberal Party presidential candidate, Elvin Santos, is a construction magnate and former Vice President. The National Party candidate, Porfirio Lobo, is a hardline law-and-order big landowner who is for re-introducing the death penalty. The left does not trust either; Santos, who defeated Micheletti as the Liberal Party’s candidate for president, has refused to say whether he considers the June 28 incident to have been a coup or not, and Lobo is obviously a reactionary.
The Supreme Court in Honduras consists of nominees of the Liberal and National parties and is highly politicized in a partisan way.
Friday, August 28, 2009
By: Emile Schepers
1. U.S. PRESS TAKES MICHELETTI “OFFER” SERIOUSLY. Yesterday I told you that the coup de-facto president Micheletti, made an offer to step down if Zelaya also would. The problem with this is that the Supreme Court chief justice would then become the president, and he was one of the chief coup plotters. While the New York Times treated this “generous offer” with the derision it deserved, a lot of other press in the U.S., including the Washington Post, took it seriously and pretend not to understand why such a gimmick would not be acceptable. Also, much of the press said that the deal Micheletti offered would also include amnesty for Zelaya, but this turns out not to be the case –either Micheletti was misunderstood by reporters, or he changed his mind yet again. Letters to the editors are in order.
2. MICHELETTI INSISTS ON ELECTIONS. On September 1, the official electoral campaigning season in Honduras begins. The election for president, the unicameral national Congress and local offices is set for November 29—a three month campaign season. Since the coup crowd are still in control, the opposition is repressed (though fighting back) and the opposition press interfered with (by sabotage and repression), an especially since the illegitimate coup government can not be allowed to run the elections, most of the world sees the results as not being valid unless there is a quick breakthrough on a compromise solution of some kind, or unless the Micheletti regime quickly collapses, which does not seem likely. It is not even clear whether pro-Zelaya candidates will be able to campaign and if they will be certified if they win. Patricia Rodas, Zelaya’s foreign minister, joined most of Latin America in stating that the results of an election carried out under such circumstances can not be recognized as valid. However, the U.S. State Department has not yet stated whether it will or will not recognize the election results. Many feel that a clear statement from the Obama administration that the results will not be recognized (with the implication that normal U.S. aid to Honduras will not resume) would be of great help in turning the situation around. One gets the impression that Micheletti is relying, above all, on being able to manipulate U.S. politics, working through the Republican Party and lobbyist Lanny Davis on Capitol Hill, to pull a rabbit out of a hat, carry off the Nov. 29 elections without a return of Zelaya and constitutional normalcy, and then eventually get recognition for whoever wins the election. This fantasy would be cut short if the U.S. government would say, along with UNASUR, the Organization of American States and others, “no, we will absolutely not recognize the results of such a joke of an election”. Messages to the State Department, White House and Congress should start picking up this theme.
3. OAS DEMANDS RESTORATION OF ZELAYA. The Organization of American States’ Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, has repeated that the election results on November 29 will not be recognized by that body unless Zelaya and constitutional normalcy are restored.
4. THE CENTRAL AMERICA DEVELOPMENT BANK FREEZES HONDURAS CREDIT. The Central American Bank of Economic Integration announced Wednesday a provisional freeze of loans to Honduras, while the Bank studies whether to suspend such loans entirely. They have been averaging about $200 million a year, mostly for infrastructural development. The European Union is preparing a similar move.
5. NO NEWS ON HILLARY CLINTON VIS A VIS MILLENIUM CHALLENGE MONEY FOR HONDURAS. Yesterday I told you that State Department staff had recommended to Secretary of State Clinton that Honduras be suspended from the Millennium Challenge program; there is no response yet.
All for now—more tomorrow, no doubt.
I think I’m qualified to talk about making mistakes on-line, because I have already made most of them.
American politics is conducted, more every day, on the internet and world wide web. It’s a truly wonderful development that extends democracy as well as information. But, like everything else, it comes with a downside. It’s possible to make horrendous errors with a couple of keystrokes.
The best and worst thing about ethernet exchanges is how easy it is. It’s true that the great information highway disseminates a lot of truth, but it also carries a lot of junk and outright lies. Every user must keep that in mind.
People point to MoveOn, the Howard Dean campaign, and the Obama campaign as great examples of the power of well-coordinated on-line work, but there’s a built-in flaw to their approach. It’s one-way communication with very little feedback. That’s why MoveOn often calls public actions right on top of local actions that are already underway, thus dividing our forces unnecessarily. Local organizers are learning the wisdom of signing up to organize for MoveOn as soon as they decide on a local action, just to keep that handful of well-meaning computer experts from calling something else at the same time in some other part of town.
When Lenin gave some of his greatest advice for dealing with other people, “Patiently explain,” he didn’t have the dangers of internet communications to deal with. The printed word, on paper on computer screens, is a lousy way to communicate on delicate issues. It’s just as easy to type “stupid idiot” as “possibly misinformed,” and somewhat more fun. We do not realize how our emotions are amplified in print. Many a flame war has erupted because people made formal written statements when they should have been more sensitive, and the internet just isn’t sensitive. We need to talk face-to-face or at least by phone to avoid a lot of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and ruptured communications.
Not all the dangers of the internet are unintended errors. Some of them are malicious. In the Communist Party of Texas, for example, we receive a lot of innocent sounding requests from people around the state for information on other people. If we give that information out, we’re breaking a trust. We might be giving their names and information to the KKK, for all we know! It’s much better to ask people to let us help them publicize actions in their own areas. If there are good activists around, we’ll find each other!
In Texas, where vast spaces separate us, it is easy for anybody to put up a web page and call themselves something with the word “communist” in it. Several of them, with no authorization or connection to CPUSA or the YCL whatsoever, already have. There needs to be some kind of authorization process so that people in far-flung places can verify their contacts through the national CPUSA.
We need to adapt our work with the upsides and downsides both in mind. The ether is a great but dangerous place to build our movement.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. GUESS WHAT! THERE WAS A MILITARY COUP IN HONDURAS BACK ON JUNE 28, SAYS STATE DEPARTMENT STAFF. Over 60 days after the June 28 coup that overthrew the legal president of Honduras, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, Staff at the State Department officially ruled today that it was not just a coup, but a military coup. This determination is no doubt related to the fact that coup leader Roberto Micheletti has rudely rebuffed the last ditch efforts of Latin American foreign ministers to get the Arias mediation going again, under the San Jose accords which have been accepted by Zelaya but rejected by Micheletti because they would bring Zelaya back as president with an amnesty.
2. MILLENIUM CHALLENGE GRANT NOW UNDER REVIEW, BECAUSE IT WAS A MILITARY COUP. Reports are that Secretary of State Clinton is considering suspending funds due to Honduras via the Millennium Challenge Grant, which she administers outside of her position as Secretary of State, to the tune of $218 million. This appears to be a statutory requirement of the program. Such a cut-off will hurt coup supporters who are major rip-off contractors of the grant more than it will hurt the Honduran people.
3. IF THE CHALLENGE GRANT IS CUT OFF, the next steps would be to implement the request of Zelaya which is to freeze the U.S. bank accounts of the coup leaders. But more and more Latin American leaders are saying that to back Micheletti down, it will also be necessary that the United States make crystal clear to him that if the November 29 national elections go forward without a return to Zelaya and a return to constitutional normalcy, the United States will not recognize the results of those elections and will not restore normal aid.
4. CENTRAL AMERICAN FOREIGN MINISTERS CALL FOR MORE SANCTIONS. Under the auspices of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the foreign ministers of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras (i.e. the Zelaya government) plus representatives of Nicaragua and Panama met in Costa Rica today and announced that they are calling for new, tougher sanctions against the Micheletti de facto government in Honduras. Honduran foreign minister Patricia Rodas called for the following specific sanctions: Suspension of the visas of Micheletti regime officials, commercial sanctions and a refusal to recognize the results of the November elections under the defacto regime. She says the sanctions should be tailored to hit the people responsible for the coup and its aftermath. According to Telesur, Rodas also cautiously supported the idea broached the day before yesterday by Dominican Republican president Leonel Fernandez to suspend Honduras from the CAFTA-DR trading group, but expressed concern that this would not be in the interests of all the other CAFTA countries. She means that it might hurt the economies of some of Honduras’ CAFTA-DR partners, such as Nicaragua and El Salvador, whose economies, badly hit by the world financial crisis, are also being harmed by the Honduras crisis because of the amount of cross-border trade they do
5. MICHELLETI PUSHES NEW UNWORKABLE PLAN. According to the New York Times, Micheletti has now suggested that both he and Zelaya resign from the presidency and allow it to go to the president of the Supreme Court, Jorge Rivera. The problem is that judge Rivera is a big coup supporter who signed the order to depose Zelaya, so I kind of doubt that Zelaya will go for this. According to the New York Times article by Marc Lacey, this is not the first time Micheletti has proposed this.
All for now, tune in again tomorrow.
“We can pass a labor supported agenda in Congress, but first we must get health care with a public option. We will get this if you mobilize your members to go to the town hall meetings and show support and write our representatives urging them to pass health care reform,” said Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, speaking to 75 union leaders at the Causeway Bay Hotel in Lansing, Michigan on Tuesday, August 25. “Then we can get Employee Free Choice and bank regulation so the banks and other financial institutions and the Wall Street crowd are stopped from the speculation that got us into this mess.” The meeting was an AFL-CIO Community Services Seminar to discuss how to out reach to laid off workers about the various services and training programs available to them. Among the new features are an outreach to laid off workers by establishing unemployed clubs that include job fairs, food banks, resume writing, networking, opportunities for training, and helping out in organizing drives. The attendees included union brothers and sisters from AFSCME, United Steelworkers, UAW, Utility Workers, Operating Engineers, CWA and UFCW from various communities in the lower peninsula of the state of Michigan. -- Jim Ryan, Detroit
“We can pass a labor supported agenda in Congress, but first we must get health care with a public option. We will get this if you mobilize your members to go to the town hall meetings and show support and write our representatives urging them to pass health care reform,” said Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, speaking to 75 union leaders at the Causeway Bay Hotel in Lansing, Michigan on Tuesday, August 25. “Then we can get Employee Free Choice and bank regulation so the banks and other financial institutions and the Wall Street crowd are stopped from the speculation that got us into this mess.”
The meeting was an AFL-CIO Community Services Seminar to discuss how to out reach to laid off workers about the various services and training programs available to them. Among the new features are an outreach to laid off workers by establishing unemployed clubs that include job fairs, food banks, resume writing, networking, opportunities for training, and helping out in organizing drives. The attendees included union brothers and sisters from AFSCME, United Steelworkers, UAW, Utility Workers, Operating Engineers, CWA and UFCW from various communities in the lower peninsula of the state of Michigan.
-- Jim Ryan, Detroit
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. A COUP, YES, BUT A MILITARY COUP? WE’RE STUDYING IT. In a phone press conference yesterday, unnamed senior State Department officials responded to questions from the international media on the Obama administration’s attitude toward the latest events in Honduras. Although they repeated the statement that they consider Manuel Zelaya to be the legitimate president of Honduras, and their support for the mediation process of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, they did not have details to share on what further sanctions may happen, their evaluation of the projected impact of the suspension of the granting of new non-tourist visas. Nor were they ready to say yeah or nay to the idea that has been picked up by most of the Latin American countries to declare that the United States will not recognize the government elected on November 29 if the Micheletti crowd doesn’t give in and accept the San Jose accords. However, they did make an interesting distinction among coups. Evidently (or according to these State Dept. officials) U.S. law makes a differentiation between coups (illegal and unconstitutional seizures of power) and military coups (illegal and unconstitutional seizures of power by the armed forces). According to these representatives, they are studying whether the Honduras coup is a military coup or just a coup. If it is the latter, certain sanctions on trade and aid have to kick in, beyond the $35 million or so that has already been cut off. And also, they told the press that the rules of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (which also includes the Dominican Republic, so it’s now CAFTA-DR) would mean that if trade to one country is cut off it has to be cut off to others also. Could someone check this please? I also hope that whoever is studying up on this coup-military coup question looks at the way the army and police have behaved since the coup, and does not become bedazzled by the legalistic claptrap invented by the coupsters. When the army and police take over the administration of village governments, of hospitals and other institutions, and when they repress dissent, rape women with impunity and shut down freedom of the press, it looks to me very much like a military coup, even if it is dressed up in the fiction of “constitutional succession”.
2. FERNANDEZ SAYS HONDURAS SHOULD BE SUSPENDED FROM CAFTA-DR. And no sooner were the words out of the State Department chaps’ mouths than someone came up with a solution for the CAFTA-DR issue. That someone is Leonel Fernandez, President of the Dominican Republic. Fernandez was originally elected from the left, but during his time in power has not budged from the Washington Consensus of neo-liberal policies. Nevertheless, the Dominican Republic has had a very tragic history with military coups and governments, so even this rather conservative person is disturbed by the idea of letting Micheletti and his merry men get away with this stuff. So his proposal is that Honduras be officially suspended from CAFTA-DR. This would seem to clear up the problem raised by the State Department officials in the previous item, no? There is as yet no reaction from leaders of other governments, so stay tuned.
3. COSTA RICAN FOREIGN MINISTER SAYS ARIAS PLAN IS STILL ALIVE. In spite of the defiant response of coup de facto president Micheletti when he met with the OAS foreign ministers yesterday, Costa Rica’s foreign minister Bruno Stagno, who was in the Tegucigalpa meetings, considers that the Arias mediation and the San Jose Plan is not dead. He told the press that the Micheletti crowd keeps claiming that there was no coup but rather a constitutional succession. Stagno said (my translation) “This interpretation is not and will not be endorsed by the international community. The commission of foreign ministers repeated that what happened was a coup d’état. There are inconsistencies in their story, above all having to do with the violation of article 102 of the Honduran constitution to the effect that nobody can be either extradited or exiled from Honduras”.
4. WE ARE 60 DAYS INTO THE COUP, AND THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES. The National Front Against the Coup, which includes labor, religious, ethnic, women’s and other organizations which oppose the coup and call for the restoration of President Zelaya, says there will be no letup in protests. There is a difference between the positions of President Zelaya and the resistance groups, in the sense that they do not want to abandon the idea of a “fourth ballot box” (urna) in the November 29 elections, and they oppose amnesty for coup supporters who have committed crimes against the people, both of which are concessions in the San Jose accords which Zelaya has accepted. In normal elections in Honduras, the “first ballot box” is for the presidency, the second is for the members of the unicameral Congress, and the third is for local offices. The “fourth ballot box” would be the one in which Hondurans vote if they want to have a democratically elected constituent assembly which would work to revise the ramshackle 1982 convention. Al Giordano, who posts excellent articles on the Honduras struggle on the website of the Narco News Bulletin and is interviewed there this week says that it is evident that if the June 28 non-binding referendum had taken place, the “yes” votes would have won. This would have put pressure on the Congress to authorize this “fourth ballot box”. Then it would have given poor Honduran workers and farmers and their families an unprecedented motivation to turn out in mass for the November 29 election. Usually most poor Hondurans don’t vote, but if there were this fourth ballot box, it would have greatly encouraged participation by the poor and perhaps changed the outcome of the election in more ways than one. This is what the oligarchy was afraid of, because it was this kind of mass dynamics that made the election of progressive governments possible in recent years in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and other places. Read the whole interview with Giordano at http://www.narconews.com
That’s all for now, let’s see what the morrow brings.
June Rostan, representing Voice@Work, AFL-CIO, led a rally called by the Detroit Metropolitan AFL-CIO at the Marriott hotel in Pontiac, Mich., on Tuesday, August 18. The event was a shareholders meeting to discuss a merger with Centex, which will make Pulte the largest residential construction company in the United States. At the same location last May, Pulte called the police and prevented three construction workers from the southwest part of our country from speaking about the unjust and unfair working conditions they endure as employees at Pulte Homes work sites. Unions represented at this rally were the Sheet Metal Workers. Teamsters, UAW, Operating Engineers, and UOPWA. Jobs With Justice and InterFaith Committee for Worker Justice joined them. -- Jim Ryan, Detroit
-- Jim Ryan, Detroit
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. MICHELETTI SPITS DEFIANCE AT THE O.A.S., REFUSES TO GIVE AN INCH ON ARIAS PLAN. The de facto president of Honduras, installed by a coup d’état on June 28 of this year with the ouster of the legally elected, left-of-center Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, defied the Organization of American States delegation of foreign ministers today and said that only military force will remove his government from power. The OAS foreign ministers’ delegation, which had arrived in Tegucigalpa yesterday, according to sources in a U.S. military aircraft, included the foreign ministers of Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic, plus the Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza (as an “observer”). The mission was a last-ditch effort to get Micheletti’s coup government to accept the Plan of San Jose, developed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias in a mediation role. The deposed president, Zelaya, has accepted all items in the San Jose plan, but the Micheletti gang absolutely refuses to consider two key ones, namely the return of President Zelaya to serve out his current term, which ends in January 2010, and amnesty for all concerned. Earlier the pro-coup Supreme Court had ruled that if Zelaya returned he must stand trial for treason and abuse of power.
Though Micheletti eventually did meet with the foreign ministers he also told them that he and his colleagues will not cede power no matter what sanctions are put on Honduras, and that only a military invasion would get him out. For the record, nobody has called for a military invasion.
In a press conference, the foreign ministers admitted that they are leaving Honduras empty handed. Costa Rican foreign minister Bruno Stagno read a statement which pointed out that the fall election campaign in Honduras is set to begin on September 1, with the election scheduled for November 29. Numerous governments and regional organizations have said that unless Zelaya and constitutional normalcy are returned to Honduras promptly, they will not recognize the validity of the November 29 elections, or the government that results from them, because of the impossibility of having a fair election in conditions where both pro-Zelaya candidates and press are in danger of violent repression.
2. STATE DEPARTMENT SUSPENDS ISSUING OF NEW NON-IMMIGRANT, NON EMERGENCY VISAS. The U.S. State Department today announced that it is suspending the issuance of all non-immigrant, non emergency visas at its Tegucigalpa embassy, by way of support for the efforts of the OAS to get the Micheletti de-facto regime to back off and accept the San Jose plan. It appears that this ruling applies to new business, tourist or study visas, but not to multi-use visas some people already have. Permanent resident (immigrant) visas will still be given, as will others on an emergency basis. Nevertheless, the (pro-Zelaya) Honduran ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Reina, said that Zelaya’s government considers this a correct move and a step in the right direction; although it will create hardship for some Hondurans, for example the Hundreds of thousands of people of Honduran origin who live in the United States and now will have trouble getting authorization for their relatives to visit them, the blame for this must be laid at the feet of Micheletti and his crew for their intransigence. President Zelaya had actually only asked for a cancellation of visas for top coup supporters and officials. Zelaya also asked for the freezing of U.S. bank accounts of coup leaders, an action which the U.S. has taken against other government leaders with which it has a problem in the past. This has not yet happened.
3. IS IT A COUP YET? NO, NOT YET. Although President Obama has repeated his own strongly worded statements against the Honduran coup, the State Department is now studying whether it is a military coup or not, and will let us know. The problem is that if it is officially ruled to be a coup, some other sanctions must, by law, be applied. You may recall the issue of whether the tragedy of Darfur was genocide or not; former Secretary of State Powell did not want to use the word because it would have committed the Bush administrations to certain actions it did not really want to take.
4. INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PROTESTS FOR HONDURAS SCHEDULED FOR WEDNESDAY AUGUST 26. The National Front Against the Coup, which is the coordinating group in Honduras for organizations supporting Zelaya and opposing the coup, has called for a national day of solidarity with Honduras for this coming Wednesday, August 26. Demonstrations will be carried out in various countries, with sit-ins in front of U.S. embassies to emphasize anger at the role that U.S. intelligence and military agencies have had in making the coup possible, and to further demands that the U.S. government strengthen sanctions against the coup regime.
All for tonight but we can anticipate more important news this week, so stay tuned.
Monday, August 24, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. OAS DELEGATION ARRIVES IN HONDURAS, U.S. ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR MISSION. The long-delayed visit of foreign ministers of the Organization of American States arrived in Honduras today. Along with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, who is billed as an “observer” because the coup leaders don’t like him, the delegation will include the foreign ministers of Mexico, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Canada, Jamaica and now also Panama. The U.S. government issued a statement in support of the OAS foreign ministers’ meeting, whose stated purpose is to get acceptance by the coup authorities for the proposal made by mediator President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica to settle the controversy. President Zelaya has agreed to the plan in principle, though the resistance in Honduras appears not to be fully in agreement with this, specifically to amnesty for the coup plotters and the abandonment of the plan for a referendum to ask Hondurans if they want a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution next year. On the other hand, the Micheletti gang and their supporters seem more determined than ever to dig in their heels and wait out the clock until the scheduled presidential and congressional elections on November 29, after which time (many believe) they think that the rest of the world will lose interest in the issue and will end up recognizing whoever wins. The Honduran Supreme Court, which is described as being a highly politicized and partisan body, said yesterday that they consider it unconstitutional to allow President Zelaya back into the country without prosecuting him for “treason, abuse of power” and other crimes. The de facto deputy foreign minister, Marta Alvarado, has declared Zelaya’s return to be “non-negotiable”. The OAS foreign ministers plan to meet with people on both sides of the issue, including de facto president Micheletti.
2. PRO-ZELAYA MEDIA FACILITIES SMASHED UP, BUT RESISTANCE PRESS PROMISES TO KEEP BROADCASTING. It was reported today that the transmission facilities of two major pro-Zelaya media entities, Radio Globo and television Channel 36, were attacked Sunday night, forcing them off the air, according to reports given to Telesur. The reports state that unknown parties invaded the studios and sprayed “toxic” gases at personnel (nature of this gas not yet revealed), and that damage to the transmission facilities then ensued. By 6 AM Monday morning, apparently both were back on the air using emergency backup. The attacks happened during the airing of anti-coup program, in which musicians from various countries were performing. There have been a number of other attacks on anti-coup media. Pro-coup media are said to be broadcasting inaccurate information on the coup, e.g. claiming that anti-coup demonstrators are controlled by foreign powers and that demonstrations are paid for by the Colombian FARC, so Radio Globo and Channel 36 are extremely important parts of the resistance.
3. INTENSE RESISTANCE TO THE COUP CONTINUES. Today is the 58th day after the coup, but resistance activities continue without letup. Large demonstrations are to take place today and tomorrow, organized by the National Front Against the Coup. Although teachers had gone back to their classrooms for part of the week, the teachers’ union announced that they will have a work stoppage today and tomorrow (August 24 & 25). These demos are designed to coincide with the visit of the OAS foreign ministers, to prove to them that there is large scale popular opposition to the coup.
All for now. Tomorrow should be a key day, so tune in again.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
By Emile Schepers
Not a huge amount of new news today, but please keep in touch tomorrow which will be a very important day because of the visit of the OAS foreign ministers to Tegucigalpa and of a delegation of coup supporters to DC.
1. MEANING OF PRO-COUP SUPREME COURT DECLARATION DEBATED. There is now debate about the meaning of the declaration of the pro-coup Honduran Supreme Court yesterday rejecting any return of Zelaya unless he is put on trial for treason and abuse of power. This is being seen by some as the coup de grace to the mediation effort of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. If that is the case, the question is what tactics are to follow? Zelaya and his followers are steering clear of calling for armed struggle, which they think would play into the hands of the coup regime. The coup regime acts as if it is not afraid of pressure from the Organization of American States or the United Nations, which they see as irrelevant given that the vast bulk of Honduran trade is with the United States, which has not wanted to impose more sanctions.
2. COUP FIGURES COMING TO WASHINGTON D.C. TOMORROW, CISPES ASKS HILLARY CLINTON NOT TO MEET WITH THEM. The coup regime headed by Roberto Micheletti is said to be sending an “official” delegation to Washington D.C. tomorrow to meet with various U.S. persons including officials of the U.S. government. There is worry that if the coup group are allowed to meet with Secretary of State Clinton or other higher level officials, it will be seen as legitimizing the coup and the government that resulted from it. CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) asks that everybody call the State Department first thing tomorrow to insist that such meetings, especially with Ms. Clinton, not take place. The number is 202 647 4000.
3. VENEZUELAN, ARGENTINE DIPLOMATS ARE GROUNDED, SAYS COUP REGIME. The Micheletti regime has ordered all Argentine and Venezuelan diplomats not to leave their embassy premises, because they refused an order to leave Honduras by Friday August 21. The two governments have refused to comply with the order because they don’t recognize the Micheletti government as the legitimate government of Honduras. If they left the embassy premises and were arrested or manhandled by Honduran troops or police, it would be a radical escalation of the crisis.
Tune in tomorrow.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
By Emile Schepers
Not a huge amount to report today, but Monday will be important because of the planned visit of the OAS foreign ministers to Tegucigalpa.
1. RIGHTS REPORT: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today presented its preliminary report on the results of its week-long visit to Honduras last week. According to Telesur, the report was read the Commission’s president, Luz Patricia Mejia, and speaks of disproportionate use of force to repress mostly peaceful demonstrations demanding the return of president Manuel Zelaya. To quote, the Commission cites “the existence of a pattern of disproportionate use of public force [i.e. army and police], arbitrary arrests and a control of information [which is] aimed at limiting political participation of a sector of the citizenry”. Further the report criticizes the use of curfews, mass arrests, bad conditions in detention and “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of Zelaya supporters, as well as an intrusion of the military in many areas of civil society, and a violation of international norms, the arbitrary suspension of constitutional rights, and an especially vicious set of attacks on women, including rape. The report says that if Honduran authorities do not investigate, judge and sentence those who are responsible for abuses, the Organization of American States should take further action against the coup government. (My translations and summaries)
2. ZELAYA SET TO RETURN COUP COURT SAYS IT WILL JUG HIM IF HE DOES. The Mexican newspaper “El Informador” reports that president Manuel Zelaya says he is ready to return to Tegucigalpa to sign the San Jose proposal, produced by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in his role as mediator of the Honduras conflict. He told the Honduran radio station Radio Globo that he has sent a letter to the OAS saying he would like to join the group of foreign ministers who are going there on Monday Aug. 24. However AP says that the Honduran Supreme Court, aligned with the coup, says that if he comes back he will have to face trial for treason and abuse of power. The court allegedly said this on Saturday, indicating that it will not agree to the first item in Arias’ proposal, which is Zelaya’s return.
All for now, stay tuned.
By Sam Webb
It seems clear that the prospects for a bipartisan health care bill are diminishing with each passing day. And as far as I'm concerned that is a good thing. Nothing good, nothing resembling "reform" could come from bipartisanship in this Congress. The Republicans have no appetite for real health care reform. The health care system isn't broken in their view. So why fix it? A few cosmetic changes maybe, but nothing more.
According to media reports, the Democrats have begun devising a strategy to pass a bill without Republican support. I appauld them. While I can understand President Obama's desire to pass a bipartisan bill, there is nothing necessarily virtuous about bipartisanship, it should not be turned into a principle of political governance. Conversely, political partisanship is not necessarily a dirty word either. The appropriate method of governing cannot be resolved abstractly.
Process in politics is important, but it shouldn't trump the democratic will. Millions elected Barack Obama and a new Congress in the expectation that they would bring real change to their lives. But the health care debate is making crystal clear that the Republicans and to a degree some Democrats are in no mood to assist the the legislative agenda of the Obama administration, - an agenda that the majority of Americans elected him to carry out.
The mission of the extreme right in the Republican Party (and the extreme right dominates the GOP), in fact, is to sabotge health care reform and Obama's Presidency by any means necessary. It will embrace bipartisanship only in words and only to the degree that it stalls the reform agenda of the President. Once negotiations become substantive, right wing extremists turn nasty and let loose their attack dogs, including their gun toting ones, on the President and other advocates of real change.
I know the American people would like to have less rancor and partisanship in politics, but it is hard to imagine that changing anytime soon. For one thing, the extreme right turned mean spirited and divisive politics into its trademark three decades ago and there is little reason to think that will change going forward. In fact, the noise from the right wing is becoming more strident and shrill, more dangerous, and more irresponsible since President Obama was elected.
For another thing, eras of deepgoing democratic reform - the 1930s and 1960s come to mind - are a product of clashing partisan interests and political coalitions. Feelings are intense, democratic life is charged, divisions along class and social lines emerge in clearer form, and social inertia gives way to social action. Like it or not, political leaders and ordinary people take sides.
Franklin Roosevelt and John L. Lewis took sides in the New Deal era; so did President Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights era. And in both eras, millions - most of whom were new to political activism - threw themselves into the struggle for progressive social change. It wasn't always pretty, but it was nearly always necessary. Had political leaders not taken sides and had not people taken to the streets, progressive change would have died stillborn.
With the wreckage of 30 years of right wing rule everywhere, an economic crisis of immense proportions hanging over the country, an extreme right, badly weakened, but still a part of the political equation, and powerful corporate interests and their supporters in both parties who either want to prevent or contain people's reforms, can we move this vast country in the direction of economic justice, equality and peace without intense, sustained, and partisan struggle with an increasingly anti-corporate thrust? History and common sense say 'no.'
A reformer from an even earlier era famously said, "Power concedes nothing without a struggle."
Friday, August 21, 2009
1. SCHOLARS, ACADEMICS PRESSURE HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ON THE HONDURAS ISSUE. Nearly a hundred noted experts on Latin America and other scholars have written a letter to Human Rights Watch asking why that organization has not continued speak out against the violations of human rights that are going on every day in Honduras. The signatories include many prominent figures including linguist Noam Chomsky, writer Naomi Klein, historian John Womack and others. Instead of my summarizing it you can read the whole thing HERE: http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/08/21
2. OAS FOREIGN MINISTERS TO TEGUCIGALPA ON MONDAY. The much delayed trip of OAS (Organization of American States) foreign ministers to Tegucigalpa is set to take place after all on Monday, August 24. The foreign ministers are from Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Of these countries, only one –Argentina – has a left wing government at present. The other governments range from center-right to just plain right. Coup leader Micheletti had canceled the trip previously (several times, actually) on the grounds that the delegation was going to include Organization of American States Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza, whom he doesn’t like. Later he changed his mind and said that Insulza could come but only as an observer. Also Micheletti would not allow a visit from foreign ministers of any of the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America (ALBA) which are Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Antigua-Barbuda and St.Vincent and the Grenadines. The purpose of the visit is to try one last time to revive the moribund carcass of the San Jose mediation process led by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Micheletti says he is OK with everything in that proposal except the main thing, which is the return of president Zelaya. Micheletti says that Zelaya can’t come back as president, only as an accused criminal to face trial. The announced agenda of the foreign ministers’ visit will include meetings with the Catholic and Evangelical church leaders, workers, businessmen, presidential candidates and various organizations of the civil society, says Mr. Insulza.
3. ZELAYA FIRES HONDURAN AMBASSADOR TO SPAIN. The government in exile of president Manuel Zelaya today announced the dismissal of the Honduran ambassador to Spain, Jose Eduardo Martell Mejia, on the ground that he has gone over to the Micheletti side. The Spanish government immediately revoked Mr. Martell’s diplomatic status and told him to get out of the country. Good for the Spanish government.
4. NO ADVANCES TO REPORT ON GETTING THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO TAKE A FIRMER POSITION. I have nothing to report in terms of the effort to get the US government to take a firmer position on the coup. President Zelaya had previously requested that the Obama administration do two specific things: Suspend the US visas of the key coup leaders, and freeze their bank accounts in the United States. With regard to the first, the State Department canceled a few special diplomatic visas, but this does not impede the back and forth of coup leaders to this country, to consult with their support base in the Republican Party and the US ruling class. Nor has anything been done to freeze the bank accounts. This is not a novel tactic; the U.S. has on a number of occasions frozen the US assets and/or bank accounts of foreign governments and leaders as a pressure mechanism. Zelaya warns, also, that if the Micheletti gang decide the ground is shifting under their feet, they may try to expatriate juicy chunks of Honduras’ national assets to the US through banks in Miami and beyond. So there is a very practical reason to do this, but it hasn’t been done. The Congressional resolution against the coup, H. RES 630, is also stuck at 44 cosponsors. The right wing resolution that applauds the coup and demands the Obama administration recognize Micheletti’s regime is close to that, with 41 cosponsors. Such things don’t go anywhere with such small numbers. I am aware that Congress is bogged down in the health care debate, but we should be pushing this anyway. To find out what your Congressperson is doing, go to http://www.thomas.loc.gov and type in “Honduras” in the internal search engine, and you will see all legislation regarding Honduras displayed. You can then look at the list of cosponsors for H RES 630. If he or she is not there, get on the phone, send a fax, send an e-mail, make a visit to the district office, but ACT.
4. NO MEDIA DISCUSSION OF HONDURAS GOING ON. With a few exceptions there is practically no coverage of the Honduras situation in US mass media right now. We need to be sending in letters to the editor, writing op-eds etc.
All for now.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
By Emile Schepers
This week there were no new big breakthroughs, just a continual building of tension at all levels. Rather than commenting on each dimension, I will give you some websites to visit. Just block them off, copy them and paste them into your browser.
1. BIG STREET DEMOS IN HONDURAS CONTINUE. To read a detailed on-the-spot of the big demonstrations that have continued in Honduras this week, I recommend you check the “Honduras Oye” blog at http://hondurasoye.wordpress.com/, and especially the on-the-scene reportage by Alexy Lanza of the US Latino organization “Voces de Los de Abajo”. It should spell an end to any doubts about the vitality of the protest movement and the brutality of the coup regime.
2. AMY GOODMAN INTERVIEWS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HEAD, CONGRESSMAN GRIJALVA ON “DEMOCRACY NOW”. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Esther Major of Amnesty International’s London office and U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Major’s comments are on the AI documentation of brutality by the coup forces, while Grijalva makes comments relevant to the political context in the US. You can watch/listen to the interview or read the “rush transcript at the following address: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/8/20/amnesty_honduran_forces_using_arrests_beatings
3. Prensa Latina is reporting that Feministas en Resistencia, a Honduran resistance organization, and Gilda Rivera, coordinator of the Centro de Derechos de Mujeres (Women’s Rights Center) have documented 19 cases of rape carried out by the coup military and/or police. “These observations were corroborated by an “International Feminist Observation Mission” including observers from Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, the USA and Guatemala.
4. POOR, POOR ELVIN. An article by McClatchy Newspapers’ Tyler Bridges reports on diminishing support for the Liberal Party Candidate, Elvin Santos. I am not sure how well founded Mr. Bridges is in these things, but there is interesting info which purports to show that since the coup, the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate in the November 29 presidential elections, Elvin Santos, has lost a substantial lead in the polls to the National Party’s candidate Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, AND ALSO that large numbers of people have moved away from both those candidates to others or the “undecided” column. Bridges’ sources attribute this change to Elvin having fallen between two stools, so to speak, with neither the pro-Zelaya nor the pro-coup sides now trusting him. He was Zelaya’s vice president but broke with Zelaya and resigned from the vice presidency to run for president. Pro-Zelaya folks think he was hand in glove with the coup plotters, and pro-coup people don’t appreciate his (recent) efforts to distance himself from the coup. Read the full article at http://www.mclatchydc.com/homepage/
I will leave it at that for now, back tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. CARAVAN THROUGH TEGUCIGALPA. Last night what appear to have been thousands of vehicles from motor scooters to trucks paraded through the streets of Tegucigalpa while drivers and passengers shouted slogans demanding an end to the coup regime and the return of President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya. People who saw it say it was a very impressive spectacle.
2. MICHELETTI SAYS ALL OF ARIAS’ PLAN OF SAN JOSE IS FINE EXCEPT THE PART ABOUT ZELAYA. Once more coup leader and de-facto president Roberto Micheletti said he is in agreement with the whole proposal presented weeks and weeks ago by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias except for the part of Zelaya returning as president. Micheletti now says that it was a mistake on the part of his military colleagues to have sent Zelaya out of the country; he should rather have been arrested and put on trial. The other points in the Micheletti plan are just about all concessions to the putchists offered in exchange for Zelaya’s return, so it would appear that unless someone pulls a rabbit out of a hat the Arias mediation has failed, and has been cynically used by Micheletti and his crew as a delaying mechanism.
3. INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS DIMENSION OF THE COUP. Foreign Policy in Focus’ columnist Conn Hallinen mentions another dimension of the coup scenario in a Huffington Post posting on August 6, which you can read at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/conn-hallinan/honduran-coup-the-us-conn_b_252836.html. It seems that some of the people in the US who have been gunning for Zelaya, including Otto Reich and Senator John McCain, are very close to US telecommunications corporations (A.T.and T and others) who would like to see the privatization of Hondutel, the Honduran national telecommunications corporation. Reich had accused Zelaya of receiving bribes from Hondutel, and Zelaya has threatened to sue him for libel, Hallinen says. In many poor countries the telecommunications sector is an important bone of contention among various business and political factions.
4. MICHELETTI GIVES ARGENTINE DIPLOMATS UNTIL FRIDAY TO GO, GO GO. But the Argentine embassy says it does not recognize orders or directives from anybody but the Zelaya government, so they are not leaving as also are not the Venezuelan diplomats. My guess is that Micheletti will not go to the extreme of physically touching diplomatic personnel.
All for today, more tomorrow
By Sam Webb
I spoke last weekend at a public library in Blue Hills, a small coastal town in Maine. Most in the audience worked and voted for President Obama, but in the course of what was a very interesting conversation, it became clear that most of them haven't done much since then. How to explain this - probably they thought that they had done their part in electing a new President and that the country would move in a progressive direction on the strength and momentum of that victory.
Obviously, this hasn't happened. Since President Obama entered the White House, opposition to his agenda has been stiff, but none of the earlier legislative struggles match the scope and intensity of the current struggle over health care reform.
The Republican Party and its echo chambers in the mass media, shamelessly spewing hate, and racist caricatures and code words, and lies, want nothing more than to put a stake into the heart of health care reform. Then there are the private insurance companies who turn blue at the thought of a medicare-like public option that would cut into their profits and power. And if this isn't enough, sections of the Obama-led coalition, while supporting some aspects of health care legislation, are busy trying to torpedo a public option as well.
Marx once said that "the weapon of criticism can never replace the criticism of weapons." Marx wasn't making a pitch for violence, but rather suggesting that social change, above all, requires the united action of millions. Marx's observation was insightful then and resonates now as far as the struggle over health care reform is concerned.
If the people who elected the President and a new Congress (as well as others who didn't vote for them, but desperately need health care overhaul) become political actors (criticism of weapons) in the next few weeks, the American people will seal the deal on real health care change and set the stage for other reform struggles, including radical ones.
Admittedly, mobilization by labor and others is going on, but I suspect from my experience in Blue Hills that many decent minded people who could and should be engaged in this battle, are still on the sidelines. If this is so, the main task of supporters of health care reform is to immediately draw these very people into the struggle in very practical ways.
Maybe it's organizing a phone tree to a congressional representative, a visit to a legislator's office, a local demonstration, a town hall meeting, a resolution in a city council, church or union, civil disobedience at corporate headquarters of a private insurer, ...
Victory is assured if we do!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. COUP REGIME TRIES AND FAILS TO KICK OUT ARGENTINE DIPLOMATS. The de-facto regime of Roberto Micheletti announced that it is expelling Argentina’s diplomats in Tegucigalpa, in return for Argentina not recognizing the coup regime’s ambassador in Buenos Aires. Like the Venezuelans before them, the Argentines refuse to comply as they categorize the order as coming from an illegal regime. Argentine foreign minister Jorge Taiana said that no such order has been received from the Honduran government that Argentina recognizes, that of Manuel Zelaya, and that there is no more to be said on the subject. Taiana is one of the OAS foreign ministers who is part of an on again-off again delegation that is supposed to go to Honduras.
2. PLAN OF FURTHER PROTESTS WORKED OUT. The umbrella group organizing protests against the coup regime has laid out plans for continuing their demonstrations until Manuel Zelaya is restored to the presidency. According to Prensa Latina, at a general meeting of the National Front Against the Coup d’Etat, held in the beverage workers’ union center, it was announced that the Front is presenting evidence of violations of human rights by the coup regime to the visiting delegation of the Commission on Human Rights of the OAS, which is in Honduras this week. Already several members of the resistance have appeared before the Commission to testify about violence to which they were subjected by the coup regime for peacefully protesting. The Federation of Teachers’ Organizations (teachers union) has decided to teach classes for the first three days of every week, after having been on strike since the coup, so that children will not fall behind. The union also resolved to teach the children about the need for constitutional order to be restored in Honduras.
3. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL DENOUNCES ABUSES BY COUP REGIME IN HONDURAS. Tomorrow the London office of Amnesty International will issue a report. The report will stress attacks on peaceful demonstrators and especially on women, as well as repression of freedom of the press.
4. MICHELETTI MUGS TALK TO STATE DEPARTMENT IN D.C. An “unofficial” delegation of representatives of the de-facto Micheletti regime was in Washington this week, talking to officials of the OAS. They also met with the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, at the Pan American Union Building (OAS HQ). The meeting was closed to the press, but a spokesman for the State Department, Ian Kelly, stated that the meeting took place in the context of the planned visit of OAS foreign ministers to Honduras, adding that the U.S. would definitely not recognize the Michiletti regime. According to the BBC the State Department had contacted the pro-Zelaya embassy of Honduras in DC to get their view of such a meeting. The BBC says a representative of the embassy suggested that, as the US is trying to get the San Jose mediation process going on; it made some sense for these individuals to be met with.
5. ARMANDO VALLADARES GOES TO HONDURAS. The Cuban daily GRANMA is reporting that Cuban exile celebrity Armando Valladares is now in Honduras, after being accused of large scale fraud in Spain. According to the Cuban government, Valladares had been a policeman in Cuba under the Batista regime, was jailed by the revolution, then became an instant poet in jail, and was appointed by Ronald Reagan as US representative to the UN commission on Human rights. It is not clear why he is in Honduras. Vacation? Beach? No, wrong time of the year.
That’s all for now, more tomorrow.
Monday, August 17, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. HUMAN RIGHTS FACT FINDING MISSION ARRIVES IN HONDURAS. A delegation of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, an OAS entity, arrived in Honduras today to look into charges of human rights abuses by the coup regime headed by Roberto Micheletti. The group will meet with coup government officials, members of the opposition and human rights organizations in sessions that will last all this week. The Honduran coup government says that it is probable that the group will come to unfair conclusions. On the other hand, civil society groups in Honduras such as the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared Detained in Honduras and the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, as well as the umbrella group leading opposition protests, the National Front Against the Coup d’Etat, members of president Zelaya’s government and others will present evidence of disappearances, beatings, arrests and murders.
2. ON THE STREETS AGAIN. The protests against the coup and for the return of Manuel Zelaya to the presidency continue in Honduras. The National Front Against the Coup d’Etat and the Unified Workers’ Federation (FUTH) marched again yesterday to greet the delegation of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. The protesters stress that they are not giving up on the idea of a constituent assembly to reform the constitution. The coordinator of the Front and president of the FUTH, Juan Barahona said that protests will continue as long as it takes to achieve victory, according to Prensa Latina.
3. U.S. MILITARY SAYS NOT INVOLVED IN LOGISTICS OF OUSTING ZELAYA. The U.S. government says that the U.S. was in no way involved in the logistics of kidnapping President Zelaya and whisking him out of the country on June 28. Previously members of the Zelaya government had said that the airplane that moved Zelaya from Tegucigalpa to San Jose Costa Rica had made a fueling stop at the Palmerola (Soto Cano) air force base, which is jointly run by Honduras and the United States, suggesting collusion by U.S. personnel there.
4. STATE DEPARTMENT TO MEET WITH COUP DELEGATION. A delegation from the Micheletti coup government is in Washington D.C. this week to carry out individual meetings with representatives of the member governments of the Organization of American States. A State Department representative will meet with them, but state says that he will meet with them just as individual Honduran public figures and will not recognize them as officials of the Honduran government. State says it will keep pushing the Arias plan.
All for now.
The first successes were reported in Houston, where the principal officer of the local AFL-CIO reported good public crowds with reasonable deportment. Then the Texas federation reported a turnout of 450 for reform on their parking lot in Austin. In Dallas on the morning of August 17, 200 silent pro-reform activists more than doubled the rowdy crowd of 60 outside a town hall meeting featuring North Texas’ only Democratic Congressperson, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and the pride of the Republican House Re-Election Committee, Pete Sessions.
Inside, Sessions blasted what he called “The Democrat Proposal for a Government-Run Health Care System.” His literature said that “119 million people would be displaced from their private health insurance and put on the ‘public option’ or government run plan.” Verbally, he said it would be 200 million. His literature contradicted Sessions by saying “free markets always provide the best distribution of goods and services.” If “free market” insurance is better, why would 119 or 200 million choose the public option?
Congressman Sessions, whose district now include the home of GW Bush, has his own suggestions to improve the health care. One of them, in his literature, would “Allow patients on current government plans (Medicare/Medicaid/SCHIP/VA) to take a defined contribution to purchase in the private insurance market.” In other words, he would destroy the successful programs now running, because insurance companies would “cherry pick” the least expensive patients!
Sessions said that the insurance industry could regulate itself, but Congresswoman Johnson and others asked why it hadn’t done so already. He said that proposed reforms were simply “socialized medicine.” Congresswoman Johnson replied, to great audience response, “Call it what you want to, it’s better than nothing!”
The Congresswoman also received a big response when she said she wanted to end a system where “profits come before people!”
Sunday, August 16, 2009
DENTON, TX -- On August 8th, the day after my birthday, my wife and I went to the Denton, TX health care rally sponsored by Republican Rep Michael Burgess. We found out through MoveOn.org. We got up there as soon as we could and soon realized that this was not a health care town hall meeting, but a Republican pep rally.
There were a few people there in support of the current, or any health care reform, and some student socialists, but the vast majority was just there to cause a scene and give Rep Burgess a cookie for doing such a "great job." It was relatively calm, but that is to be expected when half the crowd can 't hear the one or two people for reform in the crowd. Most people that went up to the mic to "ask" a question were repeating talking points the Congressman or Fox News had already said. The two people who were for reform who did speak were boo'ed off the platform and ignored by Rep. Burgess.
There were several people there specifically to yell and scream nonsense into the mic to make sure the sheeple were ready to put up a fight. One such woman stayed behind the platform to harass people who would disagree or actually speak out against the congressman. I could tell the health reform supporters by the ones who walked away crying or shaking their heads. My wife started crying because of how foolish these people were being, but we stayed.
I also noticed how some of these "astroturfers" make their numbers seem so large. We had a chance to speak with a few people afterwards who were standing up for health care reform. They sported the astroturf pins given out earlier. They told me some loud people were giving them out and were told that if they wanted to be on the right side, to wear them.
It seems most people are confused and angry because they do not have the patience to read the bill themselves . They trust the corporate media and their conservative representatives who stand before them and lie about the what is going on in Washington.
Keep us conservative states in your thoughts and prayers, we need them.
By Emile Schepers
1. ROLE OF U.S. MILITARY IN DEPORTATION OF ZELAYA QUESTIONED. Today Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Patricia Valle accused the U.S. military of involvement in the June 28 coup which ousted President Manuel Zelaya and sent him into exile in Costa Rica. According to Valle, the airplane that flew Zelaya to Costa Rica on that date stopped at the Palmerola (Soto Cano) air force base to refuel. Palmerola/Soto Cano is defined as a joint Honduran-US operation. Although the US claims that it is mostly used for coordination on humanitarian relief and anti-drug operations, people in Central America can’t easily forget that Lt.Col. Oliver North used to run US aid to the “Contra” terrorists out of this base. President Zelaya announced last year that the air base would be converted to civilian air traffic purposes, because the Toncontin airport near Tegucigalpa has runways that are too small and is therefore dangerous. Valle’s implication is that if the plane carrying Zelaya as a prisoner was able to refuel at Palmerola it strongly suggests U.S. military connivance in the coup. However, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Valle, she thinks that the top levels of the Obama administration were not involved in this. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, discussing these accusations, suggested that U.S. President Barack Obama is ignorant of, or does not understand, the dynamics of Latin America, and needs to bone up on the subject. He added that nobody in Latin America wants the U.S. to interfere in the Honduras situation, but to stop their historic pattern of interfering.
2. RADIO PROGRESO CALLS FOR HELP. Radio Progreso, a progressive radio station supported by the Jesuit community in Honduras, has appealed to the world public for support after its reporter was arrested and beaten in Honduras. The reporter, Gustavo Cardoza, was covering an anti-coup demonstration in the city of Choloma, between San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortez in the North Atlantic region of Honduras, when police targeted him and in spite of his identifying himself as press, beat him up and arrested him. Subsequently he was freed after action by progressive lawyers’ and judges’ organizations.
3. CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP TO INVESTIGATE REPORTS OF ABUSES IN HONDURAS. The Inter American Commission for Human Rights, an OAS body, is sending a delegation to Honduras starting Monday August 17 to look into complaints about human rights violations by the Micheletti coup regime, according to Agence France-Presse. Commission Executive Secretary Santiago Canton said that the Commission has asked that some 100 people who fear repression for having spoken out about the coup be assured protection. The Commission will interview witnesses in various parts of the country until August 21.
4. NO NEW NEWS ON THE OAS FOREIGN MINISTERS’ DELEGATION. There is no new news on the planned delegation of OAS foreign ministers to Tegucigalpa, which had been delayed because of the Micheletti gang’s complaints about OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza accompanying the group. The coup regime is sending a new delegation to Washington D.C. this week to talk to OAS representatives to get them to change their support for Zelaya.
That’s all for today—tune in again tomorrow.
My movie buddy really didn’t like the new sci fi movie, District 9. There was too much dirt, too much blood, and entirely too much vomit. Most sci fi movies are antiseptically clean, like Star Trek. Everything is shiny plastic in the future and there’s not a hair out of place, if there’s any hair at all. If people get vaporized, they just turn into talc, although sometimes their heads make a tiny popping sound and turn into a shiny mint Jello.
But in “District 9,” disintegrating people get nasty people stuff all over everything.
She also said it was nothing but an old “cowboy and Indian” shootemup, because there were more war scenes than in any movie since “Transformer.” And also, keeping misunderstood aliens on reservations, cruel and horrible as it is, does come right out of the American West, doesn’t it?
The movie takes place in Johannesburg from 1982, when over a million creatures from space inexplicably arrived, to present, when the South African government decides to move them out of their trashy ghetto to someplace more convenient for people and further out of town.
There’s a lot of humor. The hero is a twit’s twit at first. He delivers “eviction notices” at alien shacks, and asks the soldiers politely but insistently to stop murdering alien families. He’s right out of “The Office,” the British version, where twits are kind of scary.
The civil rights aspects of “District 9” are obvious from the first, and the anti-war aspects get more and more obvious as the movie goes on. There are all kinds of historical comparisons that come to mind as the story unwinds and the morality of it starts to sink in. Concentration camps, bantuslands, apartheid, Native American reservations, the Warsaw ghetto, genocide, the weapons race, and modern Palestine could each claim to be central to the theme. It’s an ugly movie but it’s about ugly things. That’s why I liked it.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
HONDURAS UPDATE AUGUST 15 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. MICHELETTI DENOUNCES U.S. AMBASSADOR LLORENS, HOPES HE WON’T RETURN TO HONDURAS. The head of the coup government in Honduras, former Congress president Roberto Micheletti, has said that he hopes U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens has left Honduras forever. Telesur, EFE and Agence France-Presse are reporting that Micheletti made the comments in an impromptu news conference in the northern city of San Pedro Sula. According to the State Department Llorens is away on vacation, but Micheletti noted that perhaps he is gone forever as his ambassadorial flagpole and flag have been withdrawn. “It would seem he went off on vacation, that’s what I understand, but they withdrew the flagpole and his (its?) flag, so I hope he is not coming back”, Micheletti is quoted as saying. Micheletti has accused Llorens of interference in Honduran internal affairs because he went to meet with Zelaya in San Jose, Costa Rica, some weeks ago, explicitly recognizing Zelaya and not Micheletti as president. Llorens also has met with Honduran and international opponents of the coup. But in much of the commentary on the internet, there has been speculation that Llorens was complicit with the coup plotters, with his Cuban exile (Peter Pan baby) background and national security training and postings being cited as evidence. There have also been demands from the left that the U.S. government withdraw ambassador Llorens, to which Micheletti, ironically, now adds his voice. This blogger has been sharply criticized by some on the left for not insisting on the withdrawal of Llorens; my reply has been that President Zelaya had pointedly not asked for this and that he has seemed to think that Llorens could play some sort of useful role. We may soon see which perspective is closer to reality. Watch this space.
2. INTERESTING REPORT ON MEETING WITH U.S. DIPLOMATS IN TEGUCIGALPA BY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS. There is an interesting report by Belen Fernandez on a meeting between U.S. human rights groups and ambassador Llorens and his staff, on the Narco News Bulletin website. Go to http://www.narconews.com/Issue59/article3767.html.
3. BOTH PROTESTS AND REPRESSION CONTINUE IN HONDURAS. Multiple news sources indicate that both protests against the coup regime and repression of dissent continue in Honduras. Opposition leaders state that they are under surveillance, there are disappearances and the offices of two of the organizations that are most involved in resisting the coup, Via Campesina and the Honduran brewery workers’ union, have been attacked by unknown gunmen (no casualties).
4. GET RESOLUTIONS PASSED ON HONDURAS. If anyone wants a model resolution to use with labor unions, and which can also be adapted for use with other kinds of mass organizations, please contact me at email@example.com and I will send one to you. Many labor bodies are planning or having meetings on Honduras and now is the time to get such resolutions passed.
All for now.
Friday, August 14, 2009
HONDURAS UPDATE AUGUST 14 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. REPRESSION AND RESISTANCE IN TEGUCIGALPA AND SAN PEDRO SULA. The action is on the streets in Honduras’ two major cities, with protesters evidently not intimidated by increasing levels of repression by the coup government’s police and military. Dozens of people have been arrested in San Pedro Sula in addition to the previously reported arrests in Tegucigalpa. A number of people are blogging or reporting from the scene of the action. I recommend for updates from the street the blog on the website of the Quixote Center, www.quixote.org., although they do not have a new report today. I will also try to keep up with events.
2. PROSECUTION OF PROTESTERS ANNOUNCED, FOR “SEDITION” NO LESS. The Micheletti coup regime has announced it will prosecute 24 people captured in Tegucigalpa for “sedition”. They are specifically accused in relation to the burning of a Popeye’s chicken franchise and a city bus, and some other acts. Representatives of the National Front Against the Coup, which is organizing the demonstrations, say that these violent acts were carried out by government affiliated agents-provocateurs and not by the people accused of the crime.
3. RAUL REYES’ MAGIC COMPUTER STRIKES AGAIN. The coup regime has announced that it has evidence that the marches on Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula this week were “paid for” by the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas de la Revolucion Colombiana), the Colombian guerrilla organization. The regime says it will make known its evidence “at the appropriate time” but that it was received from the Colombian government and consists perhaps of information in a computer captured from the late FARC leader Raul Reyes when he was killed in a Colombian military incursion into Ecuador more than a year ago. Since that time, either the Colombian government or right wing authorities in other countries have accused a number of people of having connections to the FARC on the basis of this magic computer. For example, the right wing government of Alan Garcia found itself besieged by massive protests against its neo-liberal policies, and, hey presto! There was info in the Raul Reyes computer linking leaders of the protests plus previous opposition candidate for president Ollanta Humala “in the computer”. So it is no surprise that this magician’s trick is played against the left in Honduras also. How the computer knew more than a year ago that there would be marches in Honduras on August 11 of this year is not explained. If the computer knew this, it must have known that there would be a coup also, and how do you explain that, eh? For Latin American reactionaries, the Raul Reyes magic computer is the gift that keeps on giving. My beat up old computer can’t do ANY of those things. Darn!
4. WHAT GIVES WITH “INTERPOL” PLOY? Earlier this week, the coup regime claimed that Interpol had given orders to arrest four members of Zelaya’s cabinet for fraud and abuse of power, including Rixi Moncada, one of Zelaya’s main negotiators in the talks in San Jose Costa Rica. This was believed by a number of news sources. But I went to the Interpol website (http://www.interpol.int) and could find nothing about Honduras, except that right after the coup Micheletti and his merry men had asked Interpol to arrest Zelaya, and Interpol refused on the grounds that they did not want to be sucked into some arcane political intrigue. So am I looking at the wrong place on the Interpol website, or is there another Interpol out there somewhere? Or are Micheletti and his crew simply the inept liars I suspect them to be?
5. MICHELETTI REPS MEET WITH OAS IN DC. As announced representatives of the Micheletti regime met with OAS officials in Washington this week. Insulza says the talks were “very interesting”. Whatever actual results transpired from that meeting, we shall see presently.
6. CHECK OUT ARTICLES IN NARCO NEWS. The excellent Narco News Bulletin (http://www.narconews.com) has a running commentary and discussion of the Honduras issue. Check out the article by Bill Conroy and Al Giordano about the role of Elvin Santos, the former Liberal Party vice president of Honduras and current candidate of the Liberals in the fall elections, in relation to Millennium Challenge funds.
That’s all for now, more tomorrow.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
HONDURAS UPDATE AUGUST 13 2009
This is not in order of priority or importance, so please have patience and read it through. Last point is important stuff on what is happening on the streets in Honduras today.
1. ARGENTINA EXPELS PRO-COUP HONDURAN AMBASSADOR. President Cristinia Fernandez of Argentina today de-recognized the Honduran ambassador, Carmen Ortez Williams, for going over to the coup Regime of Roberto Micheletti.
The action was taken at the request of (legitimate) Honduran foreign minister Patricia Rodas, who further requested that diplomatic relations between her country and Argentina be conducted through the Honduran embassy in Washington, whose staff is supporting Zelaya even though the old ambassador, Mr. Flores, had also gone over to the coup and was replaced by Zelaya by Mr. Reina. Telesur also reports that Argentina has cancelled an invitation to the Honduran armed forces to participate in an inter-American army conference in Buenos Aires.
2. ZELAYA SAYS NO IMPUNITY FOR THE PUTCHISTS. Speaking at the University of Chile en Santiago, President Zelaya stated that the leaders of the coup should not go unpunished for their actions. According to the Spanish news agency EFE, Zelaya said that if the coup leaders are not subjected to criminal sanctions, it will encourage similar actions in the future. Zelaya also repeated that his government was within its rights to support the popular demand for a vote during the coming November 19 elections on the issue of a constituent assembly to reform the Constitution. Prensa Latina reports that Zelaya made a statement in memory of Chilean socialist President Salvador Allende, who died in the course of a CIA supported military coup on September 11 1973. The Honduran foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, who accompanied Zelaya to Chile, publicly thanked the Chilean government of President Michelle Bachelet for her country’s firm support for Zelaya’s return to the presidency.
3. COUP DELEGATION TO MEET WITH OAS STAFF IN D.C. The Chinese news agency Xinhua is reporting that a delegation representing the Micheletti coup government will be in Washington, presumeably tomorrow Friday August 14, to engage in negotiations with the Organization of American States about the composition of a delegation of OAS foreign ministers to Honduras. I am not clear why the OAS or anybody is “negotiating” with an entity that they themselves do not recognize as legitimate, but perhaps more news on this point will emerge presently. First, Micheletti’s gang said that no ALBA countries could be part of such a delegation (that would exclude the foreign ministers of Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in spite of the fact that Honduras is an ALBA member too. Then they blocked the visit because OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza was going to be part of it. The coup foreign minister, Rafel Pineda Ponce, had even suggested at one point that ideal members of the OAS foreign ministers’ delegation include representatives of Germany and “England” (“Inglaterra”, I suppose he meant the UK as “England” has not had separate ambassadors since it combined with Scotland in the year 1707. Or maybe he did not know that). The insincerity of the coup government, and its desire to use any and all negotiations to play for time, is more evident every day. One puzzling note is that AP is reporting that while they are in Washington, the coup delegation will be meeting with the US representative to the OAS, Lew Amselem, as announced by the State Department. In my opinion, since most of Latin America thinks that the Obama administration and the Clinton State Department are at least complicit with the coup regime, for a US official to meet with a coup delegation in DC is not correct. But what do I know?
4. VIOLENCE IN THE STREETS OF TEGUCIGALPA AND SAN PEDRO SULA. The Quixote Center, a faith based solidarity organization which has observers in Honduras, reports a “steep, brutal escalation” of repression against pro-Zelaya demonstrators with a multiple violations of human rights by army, police and others, against people who have been protesting since large marches terminated in Honduras’ two biggest cities on Tuesday. The Quijote Center has numerous reports and blogs which I will not duplicate here; suffice it to say that it is well worth reading these reports on their website, http://www.quixote.org. They do ask for the following actions, though, which I reproduce from their website:
Also, please call the U.S. State Department (202-647-4000) and Ambassador Llorens 011-504-236-9320 ext. # 4268 and demand that the U.S:
* Publically denounce the extreme and widespread violations of human rights on the part of the coup government.
* Publically state that it will not recognize elections sponsored by the coup regime.
* Revoke U.S. tourist visas and freeze bank accounts of those involved in the coup.
* Cut off all U.S. economic assistance for the coup regime in Honduras.
August 7 at the Maricopa County Superior Court, Judge Armando Gandarilla listened to the first day of the "criminal trespassing" and "disorderly conduct" case against MCSA (Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability) organizer Randy Parraz. The defense strategy is that Randy was targeted and selectively prosecuted and that his 1st Amendment right of Freedom of Expression was violated. Yesterday, Tuesday, August 11, Randy Parraz was acquitted of the charges of Disorderly Conduct and Criminal Trespassing.
Now the last case of targeted activists by Arpaio is the "MCSA 5" who are 5 individuals who were cited and arrested for clapping (Disorderly Conduct??) at the Board of Supervisors meeting on December 17,2008. That trial is scheduled for August 31st.
At the start of the trial and at the end of the trial, Judge Gandarilla reminded the public that "this is not a football game, there are no winners and losers." I mean no disrespect, but the score for the cases of Arpaio and the MCSO acting as Judge and Jury are: Public:6 Arpaio, 0.
Judge Gandarilla made the decision to uphold the defense motion for acquittal at the end of the State's case after prosecuting attorneys said "State rests, no further witnesses." At that point, defense attorneys filed a motion under "Rule 20" for acquittal. Rule 20 requires the Judge to decide the motion before proceding. There was discussion as to how long the Court needed to review the motion, an hour, a day, two days? The Judge decided to recess to review the motion and returned over an hour later. He determined that the State did not make its case.
The Judge stated that his decision was based on the fact that the Board of Supervisors did not call Randy Parraz or anyone else "out of order" during the meeting. Furthermore, the Judge determined that the case for disorderly conduct was unsubstantiated when Randy was escorted from the Auditorium and that Randy was "walking slowly." as Chief Deputy David Trombi of the MCSO testified. Then, whenBoard of Supervisors Chair Andrew Kunasek called a recess, Judge Gandarilla stated that this is not an indication or determination that a person is "disorderly."
Regarding the Criminal Trespass charge, Judge Gandarilla stated "if there are no grounds for 'disorderly conduct' then there are no grounds for 'criminal trespass.'
Judge Gandarilla summarized that there are a range of ways to express disagreement from "passionately expressing one's point of view, to rudely expressing one's point of view" but that conformity in a public meeting should not be determined by law enforcement. Judge Gandarilla questioned who is in control of public meetings and "we are in real trouble when it is law enforcement and there is no real threat when people are trying to come to agreement on public issues."
Before the decision on the motion, both the Defense and the State presented oral arguments on the motion for acquittal.
First, the Defense stated, there are 2 arguments for acquittal and there are 2 charges.
Regarding the Disorderly Conduct charge, the statute cited by the State requires "protracted" utterances and it was noted that the utterances by Parraz were a total of 6 seconds and the State failed to provide proof of "protracted" disturbance. Secondly, the "transaction of business" was not prevented; the Board of Supervisors reconvened in 22 seconds after the "utterances" and the business of the Board of Supervisors meeting was not prevented as charged by the State. Further, regarding the "intent to have business transacted" Randy Parraz asked to have business transacted and was prevented. Randy was prevented from conducting business not the Board of Supervisors. And, lastly, the charge of disorderly conduct is "not devoid of First Amendment principals." The "right to speak before elected officials are critical" and the utterances were not protracted enough given the First Amendment right to petition the government for the regression of grievances.
Regarding the Trespassing Charge, the defense focused on the First Amendment principals, for Trespassing, the person should enter or remain somewhere unlawfully. What he was doing when he was being questioned by the MCSO at the landing area of the Auditorium was exercising his First Amendment right asking "why are you asking me to leave?" He was not, as presented by the State, remaining unlawfully.
Referencing Case histories, based on Houston v. Hill, a person has every right to criticize police officers and challenge them unless the challenge will be "a serious and substantive evil." In this instance, we see several officers in dialog with Randy, and then the arresting officer, Cesolini, who was uninvolved with the dialog, decided on his own that the dialog was over and made the arrest. It is a 'reasonable' request for Randy to ask 'why' he has to leave. Defense stated that Randy asking 'why' is because he knows his rights and complying without asking 'why' to with law enforcement is NOT the law of the land.
Next, the State addressed the motion for acquittal. The State attorneys stated that there was 'sufficent evidence for the Case to procede.' They cited evidence such as when Randy was escorted by the Maricopa County Protective Services, which Randy slightly turned back toward the Board of Supervisors as evidence of disorderly conduct. And then that he was not acknowledged and that Kunasek was not able to continue with the public meeting. They cited safety concerns of the MCSO, which the situation was escalating and that if everyone would have exited the Auditorium at once; it would have constituted a danger.
Finally, the last argument of the State was the Case of the Gun. Reaching for a reason to defend why the MCSO acted so severely in arresting Parraz, the State argued that his asking "why" (he had to leave) put the entire situation into dangerous jeopardy. Their argument stated that if a police officer ordered someone who had a gun, to hand over the gun, that it would not be right for someone who had a gun to dialog with the police officer. Similarly, if Parraz was being asked to leave, that it would not be right for Parraz to dialog with the police officer. Argument rejected as spurious.
The scene was set for the arrests by Chair Andrew Kunasek who sent a letter to the MCSO requesting to provide law enforcement at the September 29th meeting. The letter to the MCSO sets up the Defense position of Selective Prosecution. The Supervisors used the law to eliminate dissent and by prosecuting leader of the MCSA, Randy Parraz.
There were two witnesses who testified on the first day. The Chief of Maricopa County Protective Services (MCPS), Jordon Dactuisto (with since 1994) was the first witness. He was the one who escorted Randy out of the Supervisors Auditorium. The second witness was Chief Deputy for the MCSO David Trombi (18 years) who made the demand that his subordinates, Deputy Sheriff Sesollini and/or Deputy Sheriff Hall to take Randy into custody (to use his phrase stated on the video Exhibit "make him a 42"). Deputy Hall and Deputy Sesollini were confused by Trombi, he stated in testimony 'they both have shaved heads.'
There was an item at the previous BofS meeting on September 17th concerning the contract of the MCSO with the City of Guadalupe. The September 17 meeting was shut down due to the MCSA demands to discuss the topic of the City of Guadalupe as dozens of MCSO deputies lined the front of the Supervisors Auditorium. The question of the relevance of the September 17th meeting was challenged by the State Attorney. The judge ruled that he would allow the events of September 17th to be admissible to permit an overall perspective of the circumstances of the September 29th arrest.
At the September 17th meeting, the MCSA had nearly 100 people in attendance at the Supervisors Auditorium. Anticipating the turnout of the MCSA, the BofS called in nearly 50 MCSO deputies. The Board of Supervisors had no intent to answer to the public demand to discuss the Sheriff. At all of Board of Supervisors meetings, Captains, Chief Deputies and Arpaio were making decisions. They used the circumstances for their political and personal advantage, the precise reason the MCSA was trying to be on the Board of Supervisors agenda.The MCSA had small signs to be on the agenda and many of the members of the MCSA called out, informally, the reasons why the BofS should discuss the Sheriff's contract.
The MCSA had lobbied prior to the meeting and at the meeting and still was not allowed to be on the agenda. At the end they stood up and sang "God Bless America" and then walked out. You can read about that meeting here: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2008/09/day_of_outrage_the_supes_lockd.php,
From the video tape shown during the testimony of witnesses, the disorderly conduct charge was from an incident when Board of Supervisors Chairman Kunasek stated there would be no discussion on the item of Arpaio and MCSO services with the City of Guadalupe. Then, upon the initiation of the public outcry, Kunasek immediately held up his gavel, knowing that he had set a trap where the Protective Services would go into action and the MCSO would follow through with arrests.
Viewing the video tape, Randy stood up as well as others in the Auditorium; he asked "why can't we talk about this? Are you going to put us on the agenda?" in a rhetorical manner, to make a public objection. It was possible to hear other voices before and after Randy, saying things like 'Mr. Arpaio is allowing murder in the streets' and 'uninvestigated rape' and 'payout of $40 million' and I also heard a woman's voice supporting Arpaio saying 'Sheriff Arpaio is right.'
State witness and Chief of Maricopa Protective Services, Jordon Dacfuisto, testified that he had to direct Randy from the Auditorium because he was causing a disturbance. Randy left as directed and was out of the Auditorium within 10 to 15 seconds of the initiation of the entire disturbance. That's the extent of the charge. The witness, Jordon Dacfuisto tried to say that Randy had walked slowly, but there was not hesitation in his step, he exited as requested. Not only is he selectively prosecuted, but by claiming he walked slowly, with video proof showing otherwise, he stubbornly claimed that Randy was walking slowly. But that is not the only time. The State witnesses redefined the meaning of the word "shouting" from audible level of speaking to imply a level unsupported by the evidence.
State makes their own rules. Within 2 seconds of the time the gavel went down and after the removal by Protective Services, the Board of Supervisors meeting was directly back in session. This was the trap laid by the Board of Supervisors and the MCSO. This was the "targeting" aspect that is part of the defense. That the BofS and the MCSO would use the pretext of the distributed "rules of conduct" to shut down the meeting, to deny the First Amendment rights of free speech and then make selective prosecution of Randy Parraz.
The charge of Disorderly Conduct was brought by the supervisor of the MCSO Chief David Trumbi 2 hours after Randy had been cited, booked and arrest for the Criminal Trespassing charge. Trumbi was a witness for the State, he testified that he had seen the video of the Supervisors meeting. In the video tape shown yesterday, Trumbi testified Randy was "shouting" during the meeting. Defense Attorney played the audio/video tape and by all definitions, Randy was speaking in an audible voice, but absolutely not shouting.
The witness David Trombi described Randy as a leader, "inciting" others. He used that word more than once in his testimony. The State tried to prove that this disturbance or disorderly conduct was so out of the ordinary, that it endangered security. To provide a pretext, they handed out rules and regulations, to be follow by the precise letter, any variation punishable by the full power of law enforcement. The question is, are the spirit of the rules for public meetings being followed or are they used to constrain free speech in a public meeting.