By Emile Schepers
Here are the most significant items to report:
1. MARTIAL LAW ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN. Honduran de facto coup president Roberto Micheletti announced martial law late Sunday, then the next day said he would drop the decree, now today seems to be going back the other way. The Supreme Electoral Council and others turn out to have pointed out to him that 45 days of martial law would end only a couple of weeks before the national elections scheduled for November 29. Now Micheletti has asked the Supreme Court if that is true or not. A quick glance at a pocket calender would tell him that it is in fact true and a little common sense would have told him that by decreeing martial law for 45 days he was showing the world that the elections will be a rigged farce, as everbody except coup supporters and his cheering section on the Republican benches in the U.S. Congress are stating rather loudly. During that time, only pro-coup parties could campaign, and anti-coup parties and candidates would be suppressed--in jail, in exile or just silenced. Also now that he has shut down all electronic media that were critical of the coup, only pro-coup, pro-oligarchy media will be functioning. Any child can see that an election carried out under such circumstances is a joke in bad taste. So unless he immediately drops this martial law decree he has really shot himself in the foot, and I suspect that the economic and political forces (Honduran and foreign) that are behind the coup will want to move him aside. He has no brain and is an embarrasment to them.
There are lots of rumors and theories about cracks and splits opening among the pro-coup, anti-Zelaya forces.
2. HOWEVER LET US BE CLEAR THAT REPRESSION CONTINUES. Let us understand that no matter what Micheletti blathers into a microphone, repression continues in Honduras. Today Susan Lee Adams, Americas Director at Amnesty International, issued a statement saying "Honduras risks spiralling into a state of lawlessness, where military and police act with no regard for human rights and the law". That has been what has been happening since the June 28 coup, with or without martial law. And even though the archbishop has supported the coup, today the Americas Institute Justice Team of the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic religious order, reported after visiting from August 18 through 25 that there is brutal violation of human rights and the use of excessive force against pro-Zelaya people in Honduras, and asked the US Congress and administration to speak and act forcefully to stop this.
3. IN THE SAME VEIN, today police arrested more than 50 people who had been doing a sit-in at the Honduran Institution of Agricultural Reform. They were taken to the prosecutors office and some specific charges may be filed.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
By Emile Schepers
I was 16. She was 13. But I never forgot the name. It always meant ugly things. Pedophilia, rape, degradation and other things my mother didn't want to talk about. It was there throughout my life.
Roman Polanski. Great director. Artist. Fugitive. Sicko.
My mother was always one to warn about the evils that women could face. "If he hits you once, you leave," she would say.
"Roman Polanski is a pig," she would also say.
I just read Nabokov's "Lolita." I really never thought I would. But after "Reading Lolita in Tehran" I felt I had to.
It's an amazing book. You are forced to suspend yourself from reality. Because if you don't, you will commit crimes as well.
I laughed. I cried. I was disgusted. I was amazed. Nabokov brings to life the evil of pedophilia. He warns the public of this crime when society would just as soon sweep it under the rug. Contrary to what I believed about the book, he does not blame the victim. Humbert Humbert is the sole perpetrator of a crime that steals lives, his, Lolita's and others.
After being surrounded by crimes against children, whether from the pews or parents, and seeing the sexification of children (which Nabokov points out in Lolita) -- I was happy when Polanski was arrested.
I am now an adult woman, like Polanski's victim. It's easy to let time forgive the wounds of crimes of 30-plus years ago. But reading Lolita, a book written longer ago, makes you realize the crime of pedophilia is timeless. Bringing perpetrators to justice is just one step to redemption. There are others. But the road is long and difficult, experts say.
Polanski's arrest is just that one step on a long and challenging road. No one shouts with glee that such a path is welcome. Yet there is some hidden joy in the fact that Polanski, like Humbert, must take responsibility for his actions. We'll see if he meets the same end.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
By Emile Schepers
I had intended to report this morning (Sept. 29) but it was not possible. Here's the latest.
1. MICHELETTI BACKS OFF MARTIAL LAW DECREES, BUT WHAT ABOUT RADIO GLOBO AND CHANNEL 36? On Sunday, coup leader Roberto Micheletti had issued martial law decrees, to be in force for 45 days, evidently to stop a mounting movement of pressure that was supposed to peak with a huge demonstration Monday morning. The Micheletti decrees put an end to freedom of speech, press and assembly, prohibited criticisms of the coup government, and gave police the right to make arrests without warrants. Under these decrees, the coup forces barged into the facilities of the only two major pro-Zelaya electronic media, Radio Globo and Channel 36 TV, hauled away their broadcasting equipment and shut them down. Radio Globo staff were barely able to escape out the back door. As of this evening, Radio Globo has managed to do some limited broadcasting via the internet, but is reaching far fewer people. Channel 36 is off the air completely. So the pro-coup media are free to broadcast all their lies.
But in an amazingly short period of time, Micheletti had to retract his decrees, because of mounting opposition in the Congress and other elite sectors in Honduras. He even asked "pardon" from the Honduran people. The rebellion against Micheletti from his own social base could have several reasons. In the first place, Micheletti and his supporters had been saying ad nauseam that everything was normal in Honduras, that rights to freedom of press and assembly were being respected. He was saying this because he has been trying to convince the world that the elections scheduled for November 29 are good, clean and legitimate. What Micheletti and the other coupsters have been betting on is that after the November election, no matter how fraudulent, and the installation of a new president on January 27 2010, the world will forget about Honduras and the oligarchy will be left alone to go on its merry way. But 45 days of martial law will leave only 18 days for election campaigning without repression of the pro-Zelaya opposition. Meanwhile pro-coup, anti-Zelaya candidates, including Elvin Santos of Micheletti's own Liberal Party and Pepe Lobo of the rival National Party, will have a free rein to campaign, without even being criticized in the press. Obviously such a situation does not allow a free and fair election, so by issuing the martial law decree, Micheletti completely demolished his own main propaganda thrust aimed at the outside world. Perhaps some of the other right-wingers in Honduran politics have a few more brain cells than Micheletti does, and have now grabbed him by his coat-tails and hauled him back from the brink--I hope too late. Some politicians may also be afraid that Micheletti and his closes collaborators may move to monopolize power for themselves. There was a report in the Mexico City daily La Jornada this morning (I am careful to say it was not confirmed by other sources, at least yet) that one radio presenter was told to broadcast the information that Micheletti is planning to stay on beyond January 27, for another two years as "interim president". Even the suggestion of such a thing would surely annoy other politicians, from left to right. Also, Honduran businesses, including both pro- and anti-coup entities, are being harmed by the disruption, continued curfews etc. This is probably another reason that some people who originally supported the coup and Micheletti are having their doubts. If this is so, it shows that the campaigns of internal protest and foreign pressure are working, and that the return of Zelaya on Monday September 21 may indeed have started the coup regime on a slide toward its downfall.
But even before the martial law decree, the Honduran police and military were repressing protesters who spoke out against the coup. And there is no sign that Micheletti is going to return the broadcasting equipment to Radio Globo and TV 36.
2. U.S. AMBASSADORS AND BUSINESS LEADERS MEET, SUGGESTED COMPROMISE OFFERED TO ZELAYA? U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens and John Biehl representing the OAS met with pro-coup businessmen and politicians today, according to the Los Angeles Times. In what may have been a rather acerbic meeting, Llorens and Biehl supposedly told the others that if Zelaya is restored under the terms of the San Jose Accords, proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias months ago but rejected by the Micheletti gang up to now precisely because it involves restoration of Zelaya, that his powers would be limited. Major business leader Adolfo Facusse says he might be in agreement with letting Zelaya come back if he also agrees to face charges in court and if international troops, either from the U.N. or from a country with a right-wing government, are there to keep him in line. Some are suggesting that such troops might be sent from Colombia, Panama or Canada, all three countries having right wing governments. Did I just write "Colombia"? I don't see how Zelaya could agree to the idea of Colombian troops coming into Honduras as they have a horrible record of repressing labor unions and peasant organizations, and there is, right now, a huge controversy about U.S. bases in Colombia, and Colombian threats to its neighbors. I sort of remember, also, Panama having abolished its armed forces, no? Maybe that was for show. Canada has major mining interests in Honduras, and the government of Prime Minister Steven Harper is certainly right wing enough. Zelaya, for his part, expressed optimism that the shifts in position of the Honduran businessmen may be a "good sign".
3. I REPORTED YESTERDAY THAT THE OAS meeting in Washington did not agree on a statement on the latest events in Honduras, but did criticize the martial law decree. Also, the alternate US ambassador to the OAS, Mr. Amselem, made a royal jackass of himself by blasting Zelaya and calling his return to Honduras (a daring and corageous move which has, in fact, set in motion dynamics that may defeat the coup) "irresponsible and foolish". Lots of people immediately started to look up who this Amselem is on the internet. It turns out that he is a career foreign service officer with the usual background of links to the U.S. military and security apparatus. Although other State Department spokespersons have, in the meanwhile, reiterated the Obama administration's opposition to the coup and the martial law declaration, and its support for Zelaya's restoration, the impression has now again been given that the State Department at least is talking out of both sides of its mouth on the Honduras issue. Today Zelaya firmly rejected Amselem's "crude" (grosero) statement.
4. IN BRAZIL, various politicians within and without President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva's governing coalition have been attacking Lula for allowing Zelaya to stay in the embassy and use it as his HQ for calling for an end to the coup. Lula and his foreign minister, Celso Amorim, have more or less held firm but have asked Zelaya to moderate the rhetoric a little and to find a way to reduce the total number of people (about 70) who are with him in the embassy.
5. THE SCHEDULED VISIT OF O.A.S. foreign ministers has been postponed again, from later this week to October 7. The foreign ministers will be Costa Rica's Bruno Stango, Canadian Hemispheric Affairs minister Peter Kent, Jamaica's Foreign Minister Kenneth Baugh, Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, Panamanian Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela, and OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza.
More tomorrow. Never a dull moment in the exciting world created by imperialim and neoliberal globalization.
Monday, September 28, 2009
By Emile Schepers
What a wild and crazy day on the Honduras front! It is now past midnight and I am not able to do my full blog right now. I will do it tomorrow AM; also watch for a new article I just sent to the People's Weekly World and Nuestro Mundo.
Just to give you a taste:
1. IN THE MORNING, evidently to stave off a promised mass pro-Zelaya march, the Micheletti regime announced the 45 day suspension of a number of constitutional guarantees, including the right to criticize the government, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and due process. At the same time, troops were busting into the headquarters of Radio Globo and Channel 36 TV, and have put them off the air. Two reporters, from the Mexican TV channel Televisa and from the Guatemalan channel Guatevision, were beaten up by the troops, but the staff of the two pro-Zelaya stations evidently managed to escape by the back door. The planned mass march was blocked by the troops and police.
2. LATER President Zelaya spoke to the UN General Assembly by a cell phone hookup, denounced the suspension of the constitution and the attacks on the Brazilian embassy.
3. THE OAS MET in emergency session, initially on the subject of the Micheletti regime's deportation of four OAS advance representatives who had gone to Tegucigalpa as the advance team for a visit of OAS representatives later this week. There was an effort to get a statement denouncing the suspension of the Constitution, but the OAS reps could not agree on the language. The U.S. rep denounced both Micheletti and Zelaya. I will try to find out more about this for you tomorrow.
4. THEN THE WORM TURNED, and the Honduran Congress evidently refused to endorse the state of siege/suspension of constitutional rights decreed by Micheletti in the morning. At this writing, it appears that Micheletti is backing down. Evidently someone noticed that if constitutional rights are suspended for 45 days, they will only be lifted on November 11 and the national elections are on November 29. Micheletti claimed as recently as last week, in a guest column in the Washington Post, that those elections will be completely valid because constitutional rights of freedom of speech, assembly and press are in full bloom in Honduras. And now he suspended all those rights, making a mockery of his claim that the elections will be fair.
If in fact Micheletti has to eat his words and withdraw the decree, I think he has lost the game, because the marches and demonstrations will begin again immediately.
At any rate, I will update this and fill in the details tomorrow.
One of the favorite gloats of neoconservatives (and neo“liberals”) especially in the 1990s bore a woman’s name: TINA, for “There Is No Alternative” to capitalism. Perhaps nothing symbolized this notion more fully than the so-called World Economic Forums, whose genesis was in 1971, held each winter in Davos, Switzerland, at which “select” corporate leaders and international heads of state met to discuss the world situation from a very capitalistic perspective.
But by 2001, two years after the glory of Seattle, there was another kind of Forum that began to be held at the same time of year as the “economic” forum, with a much more humane tilt: the annual World Social Forum, with its origins in Brazil and its 75,000-100,000 heads at least partly in the “clouds” of anti-capitalism, even socialism. Each year since, the World Social Forum has “responded” to its self-serving capitalistic counterpart.
Out of the WSF tradition have come several regional Social Forums (the Americas, Africa, etc.) and some national ones as well; but the U.S. did not come on board until 2007 in Atlanta with the first U.S. Social Forum. Another is planned for Detroit from June 22-26, 2010, and, partially in preparation for this national event, some U.S. states have been holding their own Social Forums. Kentucky joined the joyous parade with the Kentucky Social Forum, the first statewide one in the U.S. South, the weekend of July 31-August 2, 2009, at Berea College, some 40 miles south of Lexington.
And nothing could be clearer from the KYSF than that there are indeed alternatives to capitalism—in fact, many of them. The Forum’s statement of its mission said, “We value ALL voices; young, old, poor communities, LGBTQ,” all races and both genders; and it wasn’t kidding. There were workshops on subjects as diverse and various as “The Right to Parent (or Not);” “The Fight for Fair & Healthy Food;” “Reforming Immigration for America—The Kentucky Angle;” “Black and Brown Alliances in Appalachia;” “Pushing the Platform for a Toxic-Free Future;” “Tech Tools and Social Media for Social Justice: An Introduction;” “Let’s Talk About SEX(UALITY);” “Fighting Racism in the Criminal Justice System;” “Food Justice is Social Justice;” “The Economic Crisis and the Solidarity Economy” “Canta Y Llores—Life and Death Around the Borders of US and Mexico;” “The Movement to Eradicate Predatory Lending in KY;” “Human Trafficking, Modern Day Slavery and Immigration: How is It All Related;” “Using Reproductive Justice to Address Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault;” “Theater of the Oppressed;” “Mountain Justice Now!: Activism and Awareness;” “Effective Engagement with Elected Officials and other Government Agencies;” and even “Recess, Free Play and Human Rights” and “Kemet/Ancient Egypt: The Theological Understanding of the Medu Neter.” In addition, there was a “Healing and Spirituality Space” (with coaching and instruction on meditation, yoga, reiki, flower essences and energy balancing, and acupuncture) and a Film Fest that included documentaries on the young black voter, health care, the Middle East conflict, hip hop, and prisons. In short, there was truly something for everyone—except perhaps a Scrooge-capitalist—at the KYSF!
And this is a GOOD thing, for (as the emblematic words of the USSF put it) “Another World Is Possible, Another U.S. Is Necessary” (emphasis added). As the Forum’s mission statement said (for its slogan, it adopted a slight change in the USSF’s: “Another Kentucky Is Possible”), “We see the KY Social Forum as both a platform and a catalyst to bring together diverse populations working to change the political and economic fabric of this state and this nation. We see the process of this Forum as building bridges between communities that have not previously been in contact.”
The main problem, and it was a major one, was that only about 300 people showed up, a result in part of natural disasters (the remnants of hurricane Ike and a severe ice storm) that caused the cancellation of two early planning meetings. For those of us who were there, though, the KYSF was truly a sight to see and an enlightenment to experience--despite the occasional problems with the distances between venues and the lack of elevators in some of the dormitories in which many stayed.
We sampled five of the workshops:
* “Chaos in Coal Country: Mountain Top Removal and Beyond,” presented by a rotation of speakers, mostly students and recent graduates of many Kentucky colleges and universities (for example, EKU and Murray State). A film with the same title as the workshop, the speakers, and the discussion that followed showed that mountain top removal and strip mining annihilate Kentucky ecosystems, transforming the second most biologically-diverse temperate-zone forest in the world into “biologically barren moonscapes.” They also cause depletion of fish stocks (when affected fish are cut open, their insides are black) and cause traditional mining communities to disappear as the number of jobs declines and residents are also driven away by dust, blasting, increased flooding, and the clanging and asphalt-destruction by overloaded coal trucks “careening down small, windy mountain roads.”
It was pointed out, too, that the TVA, the largest electricity producer (and thus user of coal) in the area is perhaps equally to blame with the coal companies. So, the presenters said, use less electricity!! In making these points, they (and discussion participants) related many personal experiences.
* “Single-Payer Healthcare.” The crucial-but-simple basics of single-payer’s amazing benefits were laid out convincingly: how it would cover everything for everybody without interfering in any way with one’s right to choose his/her doctors, hospitals, clinics, and dentists (and how Canada already has such a system without “wait times” longer than in the U.S.—the “evidence” for these wait times is all anecdotal); how the pursuit of profit, reflected in ever-increasing private insurance “fees” here in the U.S. plus the hidden costs of the refusal to insure because of “pre-existing” medical conditions and cover expensive but needed medical procedures wrecks lives (and causes deaths) in our country; how the U.S. is the only developed country without a national health program, which causes it (for example) to have the highest per-capita medical cost in the world (England, with socialized medicine, is lowest) but rank, according to the World Health Organization, 35th in infant mortality and 37th for overall medical quality; how 76 percent of the American public (and even 59 percent of M.D.’s and 70 percent of nurses) support health care reform; how, in the U.S., 59 percent of all bankruptcies are medically-related; and so on. Fortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a floor vote on Rep. John Conyers’ HR 676, the main single-payer bill, this Congress. It may not pass this time, said speakers David Johnson and Dr. David Bos, but the people’s day will come! Phone, write, e-mail, even visit your representative!
* “The Need for the New Black Panther Party in the Black Community in the 21st Century.” At this workshop, three members of the Black Panthers were expected but could not attend; after about half an hour of waiting most attenders left. But those who remained had a very productive session, discussing the Black Panther movement, especially in Chicago and Los Angeles in the 1970s, when it was very, and nonviolently, active (and not only among Black males)—especially in the years before many of those who were Black males were arrested and/or killed; and noting with interest the fact that there is a nascent, new Black Panther movement in its formative stages, with objectives similar to those of the 1960s and 1970s.
* “The Idea of the Common Good: Is it Capitalist or Socialist?” This workshop answered its question most emphatically in favor of socialism, although most attenders spoke predominantly of small, partial steps toward that overarching system. The official KYSF workshop description summed up the main point well: “The U.S. Constitution is structurally biased to promote the interests of the wealthy, property-owning class and it was intentionally [so designed] at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The common good, despite the preamble to the Constitution, has never been an objective of the ruling class. Once one understands these concepts, [one can properly] evaluate legislative proposals and policies at all levels of government. Further, socialism is a viable, workable alternative to capitalism and is the form of government that has the concept of the common good as a fundamental principle.”
* “Organizing in the Age of Obama.” This was a participatory workshop (as many at the KYSF were) which noted the wild enthusiasm with which many greeted President Obama—2.5 million people (!) attended his Inauguration, after all—and focused on three aspects of organizing for progressive and radical causes in the new Age: “what’s working,” “obstacles,” and “solutions.” One of the main organizers of the KYSF, Attica Scott of Kentucky Jobs with Justice, an attender of this workshop, said that one thing that is working is coalition-building (relationships); Kentuckians for the Commonwealth representatives, relying on their experiences especially in the areas of tax justice, voting rights for ex-felons, and mountaintop removal, spoke of people “expressing themselves” and of improved communication (especially via computer: e-mail etc.). An attender from the SEIU spoke of using the many techniques pioneered in the 2008 elections, while one from the FOR suggested, using programs in counter-(military)recruitment and another training teachers in solutions to all forms of violence as examples, that youth might be a common denominator. Grass-roots organizing, rather than “inside the Beltway” things, seemed to be generally agreed to be the main source of recent successes; and it was pointed out that the millions of youth who were mobilized to vote in 2008 will have important beneficial effects for “us” for decades to come. Obstacles to our success that were discussed included the fact that many Bush appointees and hires are still on the job (and many cultural habits in enforcement etc. haven’t changed); overly hopeful expectations of Obama; special-interest lobbying and campaign money; entrenched (often old) politicians; the lack of training of good people to replace those politicians; a lack of organization; and racism. Solutions to these problems, meanwhile, focused on training and mentoring new politicians and activist leaders; focusing on the local-grass-roots level; and perhaps above all unity among people from various specific movements who agree on (only) most things: don’t fight each other, or focus on, single issues!
That last point might serve as sort of an expression of the watchword for the entire Kentucky Social Forum of 2009: accept diversity not only of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability level, etc., but even of the primary issues on which your organization focuses as compared to what other progressive/radical groups emphasize. The TINA idea is nonsense—there are many and various alternatives to capitalism (and conformism)—and there is much more that unites than divides us. Remember that!!
-- Eustace Durrett, Dr. Peggy Kidwell and Ike M. Thacker IV
Sunday, September 27, 2009
A tense day, as tomorrow will also be.
1. MICHELETTI SENDS ULTIMATUM TO BRAZIL. Coup de-facto government head Roberto Micheletti has issued an ultimatum to Brazil to the effect that if Brazil does not clarify, in 10 days, what it is going to do about the presence of Honduran President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, the coup regime will revoke the diplomatic status of the embassy. Micheletti's regime says that Brazil could either give Zelaya political asylum in Brazil or hand him over to the coup authorities for trial for "treason and abuse of power". Micheletti did not say that after 10 days, the diplomatic status being revoked, his goons would invade the embassy and arrest or kill Zelaya and/or others, but a vague threat is implied. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva immediately responded that he rejects such ultimatums and threats because Micheletti and his cronies are not the legitimate government of Honduras.
The Micheletti crowd say that they are doing this as reciprocity for Brazil not recognizing the coup regime, and they accuse the government of Brazil of allowing Zelaya to use the embassy to foment violence (for the record, Zelaya always calls for peaceful resistance).
2. OAS ADVANCE TEAM DETAINED, 3 EXPELLED BY COUP REGIME. Today an advance team of 4 people who had gone to Honduras with the purpose of making arrangements for the planned visit of representatives of OAS countries this week was detained at the airport in Tegucigalpa by coup regime people, and three of the four were expelled on the ground that they did not ask Micheletti's government for permission to come in. The one who was allowed to stay, a Chilean, says he does not know why he was allowed to stay. Whether the OAS team will actually be allowed to come is another matter.
3. CANDIDATE SHOT AND KILLED AS HE CAME OUT OF A CHURCH, UNIVERSITY STUDENT DIES AS RESULT OF GASES. Two new fatalities have been recorded; one was a 23 year old university student, Wendy Avila, who evidently succumbed to an asthma attack brought on by the use of tear gas or other toxic gases by the coup regime's army and police. The other, Marco Antonio Canales Villatoro, was shot as he came out of a church. He was a congressional candidate for the Innovation and Unity Party (which does not support Zelaya, though the report from Prensa Latina did not say what his own views were). He was also the nephew of the owner of the pro-Zelaya Radio Globo, Alejandro Villatoro. The hit was carried out by people on a motorcycle.
4. AMBASSADORS COMING BACK. A number of countries which withdrew their ambassadors after the coup are sending them back in, in order to be available to help with negotiating an end to the standoff. But Micheletti's regime says that it is not necessarily the case that they will be allowed to come back to Honduras unless their home governments recoginize his regime as the legal government of Honduras.
5. THE STRUGGLE IN THE STREETS CONTINUES. President Zelaya has called for a massive national mobilization tomorrow to give a final push to restore him to office. The National Front Against the Coup, which coordinates most of the anti-coup activities by unions, peasant organizations and others, met today (Sunday September 27) and called for a big concentration at the National Pedagogical University in defiance of the "curfew" (really a form of martial law) that the Micheletti regime has imposed. Front coordinator Juan Barahona, leader of the beverage union, called for peaceful resistance and did not mention the destination of the march. The teachers' union has called for a supportive strike for tomorrow also. Meanwhile, President Zelaya has called on the Armed Forces to stop repressing the people and violating human rights, warning them that afterwards there may be consequences for people who have done such things.
6. HONDURAN, CENTRAL AMERICAN ECONOMY GOING DOWN THE TUBES? Various business and economic organizations are saying that if the crisis in Honduras continues, it will harm not only the Honduran economy but that of the whole Central American and Caribbean region. The Mexican online magazine Milenio.com published a Notimex article today in which the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Export of Central America, Panama and the Caribbean points out that the cost of transportation in the region is being jacked up considerably by the uproar in Honduras and the danger of border closings. When Zelaya came back on Monday, Honduras closed its border with El Salvador for 48 hours, causing massive jam-ups and costing area economies $20 million per day. Curfews in Honduras have cost businesses of all sized millions of dollars, and have bitten deeply into the paychecks of Honduran workers.
Please continue to do the following. CALL, FAX, E-MAIL The White House and the Department of State, to ask that they increase the pressure on the Micheletti regime, for instance by freezing the bank accounts of Micheletti and his colleagues and financial supporters in the United States. Also, the number of co-sponsors on H RES 630, which calls for the US to oppose the coup and support restoration of Zelaya, has gone up to 49, but that's not nearly enough to have an impact, especially as a rival resolution, promoted by the Republican Party, which supports the coup and demands that Obama recognize the Micheletti regime, is creeping up and now is at 46 cosponsors. To see if your congressperson is on either, go to www.thomas.loc.gov and write "Honduras" into the search engine on the site. Both resolutions will come up and you can click on "cosponsors" and see if your congressperson has signed onto either of them.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
By Emile Schepers
The situation in Honduras is still extremely tense and volatile, though there is nothing dramatically new to report. Here are the main trends:
1. IN THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY: Red Cross and others have been able to get through. People in the Embassy are holding out and recovering from symptoms reported earlier this week. President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, who appeared at the embassy suddenly on Monday September 21, is in good health. The Narco News Bulletin has a special report on the equipment utilized to bombard the Brazilian embassy with high decibel sound and also toxic gas. There are interesting photos; read it here: http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/3460/honduran-coup-regime-mocks-un-security-council-embassy-attacks
Zelaya has had meetings with all the pro-coup presidential candidates including Elvin Santos of his own Liberal Party and Pepe Lobo of the National Party, but there are no breakthroughs.
2. IN THE STREETS: Once again today (Saturday) there were massive pro-Zelaya, anti-coup demonstrations involving thousand of people. So the coup regime slapped another curfew on the country, from 6 Saturday evening until 6 Sunday morning.
3. AT THE UNITED NATIONS: On Monday, Zelaya's foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, will speak on the situation in her country to the entire United Nations General Assembly. Originally, President Zelaya was to have spoken today. Today Zelaya spoke long-distance to a large crowd of supporters in neighboring El Salvador, urging El Salvador to speak up for democracy in Honduras at the General Assembly and not to let democracy collapse in the Central American region. (There have been civil wars and dictatorships in all of the Central American countries except Belize and Costa Rica in recent decades, and many observers fear that for the coup in Honduras to be successful will constitute a threat of more coups in the region and in South America. Many think that Guatemala, where within the last 50 years military dictatorships have massacred up to 200,000 civilians, could be the next country where a coup might take place).
Growing opposition to banned books, banned ideas, and banned marches in San Antonio
San Antonio, TX. - by John Stanford
The San Antonio Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the San Antonio Public Library will sponsor a Banned Books event on October 1 that will have a special importance for all of Texas and for folks in other states as well. This free event will take place at the downtown Central Public Library at 7 p.m. and will feature remarks by local authors Jay Brandon and Bárbara Renaud González and by San Antonio ACLU Chapter President Patrick Filyk. Brandon and González will speak about how censorship affects them as writers. Filyk, an attorney, will discuss the ACLU's support of the First Amendment, why it is so important, and how banning books in high schools is a threat to our freedoms.
The ACLU will distribute its 13th annual report, Free People Read Freely: A Report on Banned and Challenged Books in Texas Public Schools (during the previous school year). Attendees will get a chance to read passages from their favorite books that have been banned, challenged or censored in Texas public schools.
In recent years the majority population of Texas -- including workers, young people, African-Americans, the indigenous Chicano or Mexican American population -- have been a special target of ultra-conservatives that seek to censor and restrict their freedom of knowledge and speech. These forces have sought to use Texas as a testing ground for ideas and policies they want to impose nationally.
Struggles around the contents of school textbooks are an example. In Texas the contents of school textbooks are determined by a 15-member State Board of Education (SBOE). Half the Board is elected every two years. The contents of textbooks for different grade levels and different subjects are adopted on a staggered schedule, and the textbooks adopted are usually used for several years. Because Texas uses so many textbooks, the economics of the publishers means that textbooks adopted in Texas will be used in many other states.
A big struggle around the contents of science textbooks in Texas just ended. The forces of darkness -- is this not an accurate description? -- wanted "creation science" put on the same level as evolution. The teaching of evolution won by a single vote, though the victory was not complete and there are still some loopholes in the SBOE adopted standards. The ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Texas Freedom Network (TFN) are among the organizations most responsible for this victory.
The SBOE is now in the process of adopting standards for social science and history textbooks. Should Cesar E.Chavez and Thurgood Marshall be included in the texts as role models? Some "experts" hired by the SBOE have said they are not role models and that there is an "over representation of minorities" in current standards.
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, spoke here Sept. 14 at Temple Beth-El to a community meeting sponsored by Planned Parenthood and Texas Freedom Network. She held up a health textbook now used in the schools and read some of its instructions about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases: "Respect yourself. Choose friends who are a positive influence. Go out in a group. Get plenty of rest.” It's a big book, she said, but has not one word about the use of condoms.
The SBOE that will result from next year's election, it was pointed out at this meeting, will decide on the standards for health textbooks that will be used for the next ten years. Some candidates for SBOE positions have already declared their intentions to run.
The struggle against the banning of books from school libraries is closely related to the struggle against the substitution of religious dogma for science in school texts; to the suppression of the role of African Americans, indigenous Chicanos and Mexican-Americans and other minorities in the struggle for freedom throughout our history; and to the suppression of information about sexual and reproductive health care.
On Sept. 8 President Barack Obama spoke to the schoolchildren of our country about the importance of putting in the hard work necessary to succeed in school. He spoke truth to the students, but textbooks also need to tell the truth. Young people know when they're being lied to, or will soon find out, and lies do not motivate them to succeed.
The First Amendment in addition to guaranteeing freedom of speech prohibits abridging "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In spite of this provision of the U.S.Constitution, on November 29, 2007, the San Antonio City Council adopted an ordinance that charges thousands of dollars for the right to march on the city streets. Of the ten largest U.S. cities, only San Antonio charges people to march. If the City of San Antonio decides to "sponsor" the message of a march applicant, fees are waived. Otherwise, even after a discount the ordinance gives for First Amendment marches, the cost to march will range from about $2000 to upward of $30,000.
As soon as the vote on his ordnance was announced, community activists and free speech advocates marched from City Hall to the Federal Court House, where Attorney Amy Kastely filed a suit against the City of San Antonio, the Mayor, City Manager, and Chief of Police on behalf of the International Women's Day March Planning Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition as plaintiffs. The suit asked for a temporary injunction against the enforcement of the ordinance and summary judgment against the City.
There have been many twists and turns in the legal proceedings in the two years since the suit was filed. The ACLU filed an Amicus brief. Judge Xavier Rodriguez granted a temporary injunction against the City and declared part of the ordinance unconstitutional. The City amended the ordinance but left the exorbitant fees. Judge Rodriguez recused himself shortly before the case was to come to trial. The new judge in the case, Fred Biery, granted the City summary judgment without dealing with any of the arguments raised by the plaintiffs. The International Women's Day March Planning Committtee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition (FSC) have filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit.
Community opposition to the ordinance has continued growing. Yard signs and bumper stickers read: "Our Streets Will Not Be Silenced! ¡Las Calles No Se Callan!" The San Antonio Free Speech Coalition usually meets twice a month, has active committees, consists of hundreds of individuals and more than seventeen organizations, including Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, Esperanza Peace and Justice Committee, Food Not Bombs - San Antonio, Fuerza Unida, Martinez Street Women's Center, National Association of Public Employees, Neighborhoods First Alliance, Pax Christi, peaceCENTER, San Antonio Health Care Now, Southwest Workers Union, Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, Texas Indigenous Council, Texans for Peace, Texas Media Empowerment Project, and World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!
On August 8 of this year the Free Speech Coalition held a rally on Main Plaza in front of City Council Chambers. There were plenty of signs and banners, beating on plastic buckets, and a program of street theater. Enthusiasm in the crowd increased. Someone yelled, "Let's take it to the streets!" and 400 people disregarded police instructions to stay on the sidewalks and spontaneously took over Commerce Street, one of the city's main downtown streets. Critical Mass cyclists corked the cross streets to give the marchers protection without the need for expensive wooden barriers. Many union tee shirts were visible in the march, especially the red tee shirts of UNITE-HERE.
The marchers walked from Main Plaza to the middle of Market Square, where they held a rally. The many speakers at the rally included former City Councilwoman Maria Antonietta Berriozábal, Professor Antonia Castañeda, national AFL-CIO Executive Vice-President Emerita Linda Chavez-Thompson, San Antonio Central Labor Council President Rachel Hernandez, and Gabriel Morales, Grand Hyatt worker and UNITE-HERE member who has since been fired because of his union activities. The Grand Hyatt hotel is built on choice lots owned by the City, received tax abatements and other financial help from the City of San Antonio, promised neutrality towards union organizing but has renigged on this promise and has become one of the most active anti-union employers in the city.
From Market Square the marchers went to historic Plaza del Zacate (Milam Park), where they held another rally before dispersing.
Freedoms to read, think, speak and march continue to be under attack, but the fightback is growing.
John Stanford is a member of the ACLU in San Antonio and can be reached at email@example.com
Friday, September 25, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. BRAZILIAN EMBASSY UNDER SIEGE. In flagrant violation of international law, the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti is continuing to besiege the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya and about 70 other people, including Zelaya's relatives and allies plus press and Brazilian embassy staff (the ambassador is currently in Brazil) are holding out. The methods of siege are to sharply restrict the arrival of food, to interfere with water and electrical supplies, and to bombard the people in the embassy with sophisticated sound equipment and sickness-inducing gases. The electronic bombardment is said to be nerve wracking, and the combination of the two methods of attack is causing nosebleeds, bloody urine and other health problems for the people in the embassy. Dr. Mauricio Castellano, Zelaya's minister of public health, says an analysis of the gases collected at some distance from the embassy shows concentrations of ammonia and hydrogen cyanide. Meanwhile the Honduran (pro-Zelaya) foreign minister, Patricia Rodas, announced in a press conference in New York today that the toxic gases being used against the embassy have been provided to the coup regime by two Israeli companies, Alfacom and Intercom. At least one death outside the embassy, that of an 8 year old girl, is being attributed to these toxic gases.
The accusation about the gases was backed up by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights. (CIDH)
The noise making operation is blamed by the online magazine Machetera on Long Range Acoustic Devices, which create noise so intense that it can cause permanent hearing loss and other health problems, up to 150 decibels. Reportedly, witnesses have seen these contraptions being deployed against the embassy (they are said to have been used against protesters at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, also).
There are accusations that the coup regime has not allowed an ambulance from the Red Cross or a team from the French-based NGO Medicins sans Frontiers access to the Embassy.
2. SECURITY COUNCIL DENOUNCES ATTACKS ON EMBASSY. Meanwhile in New York, where one head of state after another has denounced the coup regime and demanded the restoration of Zelaya to the presidence, the Security Council today issued a statement demanding that the harrassment of the Brazilian embassy stop immediately. The special closed-door Security Council meeting was requested by Brazil. The statement condemning the attacks on the embassy did not go into the general issue of the coup and the restoration of Zelaya.
3. ON THE STREETS OF HONDURAS, there seems to have been a temporary lull in activity. But basically all week there have been massive pro-Zelaya demonstrations, with numbers that some sources put as high as 150,000 people participating. There has also been violent repression of these demonstrations by military and police. Since Zelaya appeared at the Brazilian embassy on Monday morning, at least 4 more people have been killed, including the 8 year old girl mentioned in #1 above, a 65 year old man and a labor union activist who was shot dead. This means the number killed by the coup regime since it took power on June 28 stands at about 15. If it is not more, it is because, thanks to the tactics of the Honduran resistance, the world has been watching.
4. MICHELETTI JABBERS INCOHERENTLY. Nothing more was heard today about the suggestion of US ex president Jimmy Carter that a new mediation effort be tried, using the president of Costa Rica and the Vice President of Panama as mediators. President Arias of Costa Rica is still saying that his "San Jose Accords" plan, whereby Zelaya would return under amnesty but with reduced powers, is the best way to go. However, in an interview with the BBC Arias had to admit that the coup regime really is not interested in dialog. Once again, he is putting off a visit by regional foreign ministers. Meanwhile, Micheletti claims that his siege of the Brazilian embassy was in response to the Brazilian government's request that the embassy be given protection against violence. In response to this and to accusations that Brazil is interfering in Honduras' internal affairs, Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva (in Pittsburgh for the G-20 meeting) is quoted as saying "I am not going to respond to the stupidities of a coup monger (golpista)". Lula added, as quoted in the Mexican online magazine Cronica.com.mx, "What is abnormal is not that Zelaya has returned, but that Micheletti has remained". He added that Zelaya is welcome to stay in the embassy as long as necessary.
5. MR. CANAHUATI LOOKS AT THE ECONOMIC SIDE. Honduras is basically run by a handful of very wealthy families, one of which is the Canahuati clan. On Wednesday Bloomberg online quoted Jesus Canahuati, Vice President of the Honduran chapter of the business council of Latin America (the gang that hired Lanny Davis to lobby on Capitol Hill in favor of the coup) as saying that the curfews that have been imposed since Zelaya's return are costing Honduran private enterprise $50 million per day, in the country's "$14.1 billion economy" by which I guess they mean Gross Domestic Product. Canahuati told Bloomberg that since the coup, Honduras has lost $200 million in foreign investments. Canahuati said these numbers "aren't sustainable". Some speculate that the business elites who were basically behind the coup will now try to get Micheletti to moderate his stance, because of these big losses. We shall see.
At a rally in front of the insurance giant Aetna, demonstrators demanded a public option to be part of the national health care legislation. The rally was one of 150 rallies throughout the United States that took place on September 22.
Big health insurance companies like Aetna are spending $641,000 a day to oppose reform because they profit by keeping the system as it is...by denying claims, raising premiums, imposing co-pays and deductibles at will, making health care decisions instead of our doctors, and denying care because of pre-existing conditions.
Ron Williams, the Aetna CEO, made 24.3 million dollars last year and Aetna generated $31.6 billion dollars in revenue from 19 million customers. Enough!! It is time to put PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS! At the conclusion of the rally an Aetna representative was presented with a list of demands that included:
* Aetna stop denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions
* Stop giving incentives to employees for denying care and rejecting claims and
* Stop using consumers money to block health care reform
-- Tom Connolly
Thursday, September 24, 2009
By: Emile Schepers
The situation in Honduras and New York (at the UN) remains tense and dramatic. Demonstrations continue on the streets of Tegucigalpa (with one source saying a march yesterday,which was repressed, included as many as 150,000 pro-Zelaya protesters). Here are the main happenings:
1. JIMMY CARTER TO THE RESCUE--BUT OF WHOM? Evidently ex US president Jimmy Carter called up coup leader Micheletti and offered his good offices to set up some sort of mediation. This appears to have displaced or postponed a plan for OAS representatives to go to Tegucigalpa. The nature of Carter's intervention is unclear, at least to me, but I have my suspicions. Evidently what Carter has proposed is some sort of mediatory role for the Vice President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, alongside Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Actually, Micheletti says he proposed Varela's name as a co-mediator to Carter. Why Panama? Because Panama is the only country in Latin America which has said it will consider the November 29 elections in Honduras to be legitimate even without the return of Zelaya. The current Panamanian government is right wing, in fact except for the Honduras coup regime the only right-leaning government in Central America. (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua have left or left-center governments, while Costa Rica's could be considered center-right). So what Carter seems to be doing is extending some sort of a lifeline to Micheletti and the coup regime. Whether he is doing this at the instigation of the State Department or White House, I have no idea. Sometimes his initiatives have been useful, in the past. This one I have my grave doubts about. It also appears that the idea that the U.S.A. is the mediator and arbiter of everything has not disappeared yet, as this also has the effect of marginalizing even the OAS, hitherto seen by the Latin American left as an instrument of U.S. hegemony. Previously Micheletti had said he would not let Pres. Arias or OAS Secretary General into the country.
2. AT THE UNITED NATIONS. The government of Brazil has asked for a special Security Council Session at the UN. In the continued introductory speeches in the General Assembly, a whole range of mostly Latin American leaders has denounced the coup. In addition to Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva, these have included Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez, Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo and Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes. Costa Rican president Oscar Arias was to speak today, but I have not seen any reports on what he said, if he indeed spoke on this topic. ALBA and the Rio group have also issued statements denouncing the state of affairs and particularly the harrassment of the Brazilian embassy.
3. AT THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY, President Zelaya and a group of about 70 relatives, allies, press and embassy staff are still cut off from the outside world with very little in the way of supplies, with interrupted telephone and electrical service etc. Apologists for the coup government have been spreading the word that Zelaya has lost his mind because he made the accusation that the coup regime has been bombarding the embassy with ultrasound and sometimes with loud noise; but this is in fact a technique developed by the United States and used in 1989 by the George H.W. Bush administration to unnerve Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, when the U.S. invaded that country. Zelaya says he is in communication with representatives of the de facto government, but reports no progress.
4. IN THE STREETS of Tegucigalpa and other Honduran cities and towns, there have been wild confrontations between pro-Zelaya demonstrators on the one side, and army and police on the other. There was a large (don't know how many) pro Micheletti demonstration also today. This will be presented as proof that more Hondurans are against Zelaya than are for him. But I did not hear any reports that the cops and solidiers opened fire on the pro-Micheletti demonstrators with tear gas and live ammunition, as they are doing to the pro-Zelaya people. We now have reports of at four people killed by the military action, including an 8 year child, and also of many, many injured and captive. The fight is taking various forms, including barricades.
5. STATE DEPARTMENT ATTITUDE. In a press conference jointly with President Arias of Costa Rica on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she has warned both sides to keep calm and avoid provocations. She suggested support for the curfew imposed by the Micheletti regime, but repeated that Zelaya should serve out the rest of his term and the elections go forward peacefully. The tone was of an effort to be "evenhanded" which will not please anybody, especially the pro-Zelaya forces and the worldwide left. This shows why it is essential to keep contacting the White House, the State Department and Congress to demand firm action against the coup and the coup regime. We should emphasize the violent repression that is being visited on the Honduran people, and the attacks on the Brazilian embassy (including the possibility of an actual invasion) which violate international law.
More tomorrow, no doubt.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
By Emile Schepers
The Honduras crisis remains tense and critical. Everybody should be passing the word and talking to the White House, State Department and Congress to make sure the U.S. government follows up its stated support for the restoration of President Zelaya with actions such as freezing the bank accounts of the coup leaders etc. Here is a brief list of the many things that are happening:
1. IN THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY, President Manuel Zelaya is still inside with about 70 people including relatives, political supporters, press and embassy staff. The electricity and water is periodically cut off, and there is little food. Zelaya and others in the embassy say they are being threatened with attack plus harrassed by noise machines and tear gas (the noise machine thing is reminiscent of the tactics used against Panamanian president Manuel Noriega under Bush I). However, the threat that the military and police were going to seize the embassy and kill Zelaya and then claim it was a suicide (remember Sept. 11 1973 and the death of Salvador Allende?) has not materialized.
2. IN THE STREETS: LIVE ROUNDS. there was a strict curfew yesterday which left people desparate for lack of food and water. This was imposed after the coup regime violently dispersed the large crowd (up to 20,000 people according to varying reports) which had gathered around the Brazilian embassy to support Zelaya. Then the curfew was briefly lifted supposedly to let people get food. This is not a matter, by the way, of getting a fine for being out after curfew; this is the tradional "toque de queda" of Latin American dictators, more a martial law thing in which they shoot you if they find you in the streets. And indeed at some point a 65 year old construction worker, Francisco Alvarado, was shot dead when he left his home to look for food, according to the Spanish daily "El Pais". His sister says they gunned him down in the doorway of his house. This means that since Zelaya came back there are is at least one and maybe two more fatalities caused by action of the military and police. They are evidently using a mixture of tear gas grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds.
When the curfew was lifted, there was another huge pro-Zelaya demonstration, which was also violently repressed. There was allegedly some looting and the pro-Micheletti police are using this as a pretext for their violent actions. If there was looting it might be from desparation for lack of food. Things are getting very bad in poor working class neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa.
There are also many injured in various hospitals and hundreds of people being held prisoner in a sports stadium.
3. IN THE UNITED NATIONS. Brazil and the United States have called for a Security Council meeting on the Honduras situation, will keep you posted. In the General Assembly today and in the hallways of the UN a number of world leaders spoke on the subject of Honduras. Bolivian president Evo Morales called for the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution calling for the restoration of Zelaya. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, one of the first speakers, denounced the actions of the Micheletti regime againt the Brazilian embassy and called for the international community to assure the restoration of Zelaya to the presidency. Uruguayan president Tabare Vasquez and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez made similar demands. Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, speaking at a related event, called for a new diplomatic initiative which is evidently going be attempted some time this week. There is also going to be a new OAS effort. Supposedly this is at the initiative of the coup regime. I will provide details as they develop.
4. WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING? Calling, writing, faxing, texting, e-mailing, twittering to get the message out. Pounding away at the White House, the State Department to make sure they back up the stated support for Zelaya with more and firmer actions. Getting on talk radio in English and Spanish and getting letters to the editors of the papers, plus comments on the internet list serves and websites. This is the moment, folks.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
By Emile Schepers
Dramatic events are happening in Honduras. At the end of this post I provide numbers to call for us to add our voices.
1. COUP REGIME REPRESSES ZELAYA SUPPORTERS AND THREATENS ATTACK ON THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY. This morning heavily armed cops attacked the thousands of people who had gathered around the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, driving them away, injuring up to 84 people according to some reports and arresting about 300 who are being kept in a sports statium. There are reports of specific resistance leaders being targeted. Later, there were reports by various sources that Roberto Micheletti, the increasingly deranged leader of the coup regime, had asked the Honduran supreme court (the one that gave its blessing to the coup) to give him authority to send in his goons to invade the Brazilian embassy. He had said that he would respect the diplomatic status of the embassy but only if the Brazilian government handed over Zelaya or gave him political asylum in Brazil, which Brazil of course has refused to do as it considers anything coming out of Micheletti's mouth as having no validity. This evening, Zelaya himself reported that the coup regime has announced (evidently through megaphones aimed at the embassy) that it is going to send in police or military to go into the embassy and capture Zelaya by force. This would be a major violation of international law and in fact would justify Brazil in declaring war on Honduras (which is not likely). The US embassy issued a statement that if the Brazilian embassy is attacked, it will consider this to be an attack on the US embassay also. For at least a while, the coup regime had cut off water and electricity to the Brazilian embassy, but there are reports that the Red Cross and the US embassy have been sending in food and water.
What to make of this? My first inclination is to consider this to be just psychological warfare, but one can't be sure, because the coup regime is really terrified and enraged by Zelaya's lightning return to Tegucigalpa and might behave like a cornered wild beast and do irrational, desperate things. So we can't take the stance that "oh, they're only bluffing" and have to do what we can to prevent such a disaster, which mainly consists of continue to push our own government to take a strong stance and to make sure the Obama administration lets Micheletti and all his supporters know that if they violate international law by attacking the Brazilian embassy, all US bank accounts of coup supporters in the US will be frozen and all trade with Honduras will be suspended.
2. RESISTANCE CONTINUES. In spite of the repression at the embassy, the National Front Against the Coup and other resistance groups are calling for people to find their way to Tegucigalpa for a major demonstration at the university starting tomorrow at 8 am Honduras time. The regime has set up blockades and is repressing the pro-Zelaya media by threats and by cutting off electrical current, but the word seems to be getting out. As far as I know the curfuew continues, though I have not seen a specific announcement.
3. INSULZA BLOCKED FROM COMING TO HONDURAS. Yesterday, OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said he was coming to Tegucigalpa today, but he was not able to do so because the coup regime closed all the airports with the specific purpose of keeping this one person out. I do not have info as to if or when he may make another try.
4. BRAZIL CALLS FOR AN EMERGENCY UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON HONDURAS. Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim has requested that the UN Security Council meet in emergency session on the Honduras crisis, I guess tomorrow. I don't know if this has been agreed to. Brazil is not on the Security Council this time around, but has asked permission to attend and present its case.
5. MICHELETTI SAYS HE WILL HAVE A DIALOG BUT ONLY WITH PEOPLE FROM OTHER PLANETS. This morning an op-ed appeared in the Washington Post under the name of Roberto Micheletti, in which he repeated his sing-song that there was no coup and that the elections are the solution because there is freedom of assembly and of the press in Honduras. At the very time Washingtonians were reading this piece, the army and national police were beating up and arresting the people who were trying to exercise freedom of assembly at the embassy, and the pro-Zelaya media were being harassed by power cut-offs and armed threats. Later today the Spanish daily El Pais reported that Micheletti says that he is "disposed to dialog" but only with people who are impartial on the Honduras issue. He specifically denounced Costa Rican president Arias. (Some weeks ago he had suggested that Germany be asked to mediate, and has also tried to set up Secretary of State Clinton and Republican Senator Lugar as co-equal representatives of the US to meet with him).
I have to stop now but if something big is going to happen in Honduras tonight, I will try to gt the word out. Meanwhile please call the State Department at 202 647 4000 to insist that the United States act firmly to prevent further violence against President Zelaya and his supporters, and against the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Also please contact your senators and congressperson at 202 224 3121 with the same demand. More contact information on Congress can be found at www.thomas.loc.gov.
Monday, September 21, 2009
By Emile Schepers.
This is the day! As he has been promising, President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras in the early hours of Monday, September 21, through a circuitious route. He is said to have traveled secretly via el Salvador and then accross Honduras to Tegucigalpa, accompanied by only 4 people and evading all the gangster coup government's security measures.
Though originally it had been said he would be at UN headquarters in Tegucigalpa this was either an error or a piece of decoy info, as in reality he showed up at the Brazilian embassy, where he is now staying with his family. The Brazilian government says they did not help him to return, and that they responded to his request for refuge in the embassy practically when he arrived. But they appear to be supporting him 100%
At first the puppet coup president, Roberto Micheletti, angrily stated that Zelaya's return was a lie, but he soon had to eat his words. He then verbally attacked the Brazilian government and embassy, demanding that they hand Zelaya over for trial for the trumped up "treason" and "abuse of power" charges which were the pretext for his overthrowal on June 28. The Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, replied that any violence against the Brazilian embassy or its personnel would have extremely severe consequences.
The word went out for all Zelaya supporters to converge on the Brazilian embassy and its environs to protect the president from attack. The coup government managed to block cell phone signals, but evidently the news got out anyway because TV pictures show huge crowds developing. Zelaya spoke to the crowd, saying he was back to reclaim his presidency but also calling for peaceful protests and a dialogue among all Hondurans.
The Organization of American States met in emergency mode this P.M. A resolution was passed congratulating Zelaya on his return and reiterating support for the legitimacy of his government, but there was dissent on the part of Nicaragua and Venezuela on a part that called for a settlement on the basis of the San Jose Accords. This is the plan that had been presented by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, pushed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whereby Zelaya would have returned but under severely reduced powers, and would have had to give up a key demand of his mass supporters, namely a constituent convention to rewrite the dysfunctional 1982 convention. The Nicaraguans and Venezuelans said that since Zelaya had presented everybody with the "fait accompli" of returning, the game is now thoroughly changed and the new situation, plus Zelaya's point of view, should be incorporated in a new plan.
At first Zelaya seemed to be still willing to work via the Arias plan, but now he has withdrawn his support for it.
For the rest of this week, there will be the new session of the UN General Assembly in New York. It had been expected that Zelaya would attend and speak, but it is hard to see how that is possible given his arrival in Tegucigalpa. Several other hemispheric leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, are said to be planning to address the topic.
This is a fast moving story. I may add blog entries at various points tomorrow as the situation develops. Also check for several planned stories on the main webpages of the PWW.
Please, also, monitor right wing media in the U.S. to see what kind of response they give to these historic events, so that we can reply effectively.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
By Emile Schepers
I really don't have anything new and important today. Tomorrow and all next week there will be important action at the United Nations in New York, plus important meetings between Hillary Clinton and Arias, and also possibly Zelaya. I will keep you updated on that.
Here is an important article in the Havana Times, English language newspaper in Cuba online, which gives the goals and objectives and perspective of the resistance in Honduras, as articulated by various resistance leaders: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=14142 .
Watch this space.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
By: Emile Schepers
Not much new or earth-shaking today. Just the following:
1. U.S. Actor Danny Glover, in Cuba, announced that he will be traveling to Honduras in solidarity to the resistance to the coup. No date was given.
2. The de-facto, illegal Micheletti regime is bitching and moaning that those yanqui imperialists in Los Angeles have violated diplomatic procedure by forceably ousting the personnel of the Honduran consulate in Los Angeles on September 17. Of course, the personnel in question were coup supporters and the US authorities acted on the request of the legal government of President Manuel Zelaya and foreign minister Patricia Rodas. The Micheletti gang claim that U.S. State Department officials physically attacked the people in the consulate, but this should be taken with a grain of salt. As Bobby Kennedy is supposed to have said about Lyndon Johnson. "How can you tell if Lyndon is lying? If he wiggles his ears, that doesn't necessarily mean he's lying. If he raises his eyebrows, it doesn't necessarily mean he's lying. But if he moves his lips, you know he's lying". Goes double for Micheletti and his ilk.
Next week there is important action at the UN as Zelaya is coming up to give a speech on Wednesday, September 23. So stay tuned.
Friday, September 18, 2009
1. ZELAYA TO SPEAK AT U.N. NEXT WEEK. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya will address the U.N. on the first day of debates next week. This is the opening of the new session of the General Assembly, and a number of other heads of state will be there, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
2. MICHELETTI ACCUSES ZELAYA'S U.N. AMBASSADOR OF TERRORISM. In an interview with Fox News, de facto coup president Roberto Micheletti accused Honduras' ambassador to the U.N., Jorge Arturo Reina Idiaquez, of "placing bombs in the 1980s". Mr. Reina, who I believe is the brother of former progressive Honduran President Carlos Roberto Reina Idiaquez, denied this but pointed out that at the time (i.e. the beginning of the 1980s) there was a military dictatorship which had imprisoned both him and his brother (presumeably, he means the future president), the implication being that it was quite legitimate to fight against such a regime. President Reina, who, after leaving office, committed suicide in 2003 due to a terrible illness from which he suffered, had tried to do some of the things that Zelaya was also trying to do when he was overthrown. He, too, had to battle with the oligarchy, the military and, we assume, various agencies of U.S. imperialism. He also was a member of the Liberal Party, and had to fight right wing elements in that party, just as Zelaya has had to do. The news on Micheletti accusing ambassador Reina of being a terrorist has not been played up on Fox news or other U.S. ultra-right media today yet; we should be ready to deal with it if they try to make it a slimecause.
3. PROGRESSIVE MEDIA ACCUSE COUP REGIME OF SABOTAGE. Prensa Latina is reporting that executives of Channel 36 TV, the only progressive, anti-coup TV station in Honduras, are accusing "pirate" groups contracted by the coup regime of sabotaging their transmissions. They accuse the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) and also HONDUTEL, the publicly owned central telecommunications company of Honduras, of complicity in this. (In Honduras and other poor countries, the question of who controls telecommunications is a big deal. Before the coup, there was conflict between the Zelaya government which wanted to keep HONDUTEL under public control, and various people pushing privatization in the interests of transnational telecommunications monopolies). The accusation is that these people have been creating interruptions in Chanel 36's sattelite signal. The idea seems to be to block news that differs from the point of view of the Micheletti gang.
4. AND NOW THEY'RE GOING AFTER THE JUDGES. According to another Prensa Latina item, independent judges in Honduras complain that they are being persecuted by the Supreme Court for having opposed the coup. The complaint, on the part of the Association of Judges for Democracy of Honduras (Asociacion de Jueces por la Democracia de Honduras -- see, you can learn Spanish just by reading this blog, though I still haven't figured out how to put in the special diacritical marks) says that the Supreme Court has initiated disciplinary actions against nine judges for helping to provide legal recourses for people opposed to the coup, or for participating in demonstrations or publicly denouncing the expulsion of President Zelaya. Judges who have given favorable rulings to people protesting the coup have been transferred or fined. I might add that before the coup was in the air, the US State Department had issued a report on the Honduran Supreme Court which criticized it for being partisan instead of impartial. No kidding. It is now 100% committed to the coup regime, which means it will end up 100% discredited as a judicial body.
More tomorrow, same place.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
By Emile Schepers
News on Honduras today has to do with yesterday's meeting of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the agreed on mediator of the dispute, with five of the six candidates for president in the November 29 elections. The sixth one, who did not attend, was independent leftist candidate Carlos Humberto Reyes.
Four of the five candidates who met with Arias yesterday, namely Elvin Santos (Liberal Party), Pepe Lobo (National Party), Felicito Avila (Christian Democratic Party) and Bernard Martinez (Innovation and Unity Party) signed a document saying they support the Arias process, but do not support the return of Zelaya. Since the return of Zelaya is a sine-qua-non element of the proposals made by Arias, this is tantamount to saying that they support the Arias process, except that they don't. The fifth candidate who met with Arias yesterday, Cesar Ham of the left wing Democratic Unification Party, denounced the whole charade and did not sign anything. President Manuel Zelaya from exile also accused the four musketeers of conspiring to undermine the Arias process. The right wing press in Honduras and beyond is crowing about this, saying that this shows the majority is against the return of Zelaya. Perhaps they forget that majorities are demonstrated by elections, and not only has the election not happened yet, but can not be clean or fair under the current circumstances of repression of press freedom and political participation. Zelaya accused the four candidates of participating in a conspiritorial meeting with former president Carlos Flores Facusse, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez and other right wing elements in order to coordinate sabotage of the Arias negotiations.
Meanwhile, the inaugrual fall meeting of the UN General Assembly looms next week. Various resources state that when president Arias attends, he will have a side meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Honduras issue. In the General Assembly session itself, the issue of Honduras will be presented by Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, on Wednesday September 23.
An Agence France-Presse article in the online edition of the Costa Rican newspaper la Nacion quotes U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtenin, R-FL, as complaining that President Zelaya is being allowed to go and speak to the UN while the State Department has cancelled the visas of the Micheletti coup government's leaders, who according to what they quote ms. Ros-Lehtenin as saying, are carrying out negotiations with the Republican Party to get the Obama administration to drop support of Zelaya. Ms. Ros-Lehtenin, along with the Diaz-Balart brothers (Lincoln and Mario) is an extreme anti-Castro Cuban exile Republican legislator from South Florida. Support for Micheletti has become a cause celebre for the Cuban exile right.
All for now, tune in again tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
By: Emile Schepers
1. MEETING OF ARIAS WITH 4 HONDURAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Today Costa Rican President Oscar Arias met with four of the six presidential candidates in the November 29 elections. The two he didn't meet with are the ones who support Zelaya: The Democratic Unification Party's Cesar Ham and left-wing independent candidate Carlos Humberto Reyes, both of whom are calling for a boycott of the elections. It is not clear whether the fact that Arias did not meet with Ham and Reyes was by their choice or for some other reason. The meeting does not appear to have much of a result, though I have not seen a full report on it yet. Evidently all four candidates, including the Liberal Party's Elvin Santos and the National Party's Pepe Lobo, plus the candidates of two smaller parties, said they "support the Arias mediation" except for the idea of letting president Zelaya return. Ho-hum.
2. SPAIN SLAMS DOOR ON HONDURAN COUP BIGSHOTS. The Mexico-based website Milenio.com reports that today the Spanish government refused to allow a whole gaggle of Honduran coup honchos to enter that country. This was an action on the part of Socialist Party Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero in line with a decision of the European Union to stiff-arm the Micheletti-led coup regime. The people thus shown the door include the coup president of Congress (Jose Alfredo Saavedra Paz) and the head of the coup Supreme Court (Jorge Alberto Rivera Aviles), plus Supreme Court judge Jose Tomas Arita, coup interior minister Oscar Raul Matute, coup defense minister Adolfo Lionel Sevella, coup finance minister Gabriela Nunez de Reyes, coup minister of security Jorge Alberto Rodas Gamero, coup public works minister Jose Rosario bonnano Zaldivar, coup minister of inforation Rene Cepeda, and the prosecutor of the coup regime, Rubi Aguila. The Spanish government is demanding that the coup regime cooperate with the Arias mediation. What this whole crowd wanted to go to Spain for is not clear. It could be to see the bullfights. But more likely it is to (a) coordinate with Spanish ultra-rightists or (b) find places to stash their loot and hang out when it all blows up.
More tomorrow, no doubt.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
By Emile Schepers
1. ARIAS TO MEET WITH (SOME) HONDURAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. Various sources report that Costa Rican president Arturo Arias, mediator for the Honduras crisis, is meeting tomorrow with at least four of the candidates for the presidency in Honduras' elections of November 29. His aim is reportedly to get them to agree to a postponment of the November 29 elections until after Zelaya is restored to the presidency. The presidential campaign has been going on for two weeks and the resistance in Honduras is saying that even if Zelaya is restored now, the situation is too disrupted to have a fair electoral campaign in that period of time. The sources that are reporting the Arias meeting with the candidates suggest that the two "major" party candidates, Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party and Pepe Lobo (Joe the wolf) of the National Party are among the four. There are six candidates at least, two of whom have repudiated the election under coup conditions (the Democratic Unification Party's Cesar Ham and independent leftist candidate Reyes). I will report any results of this meeting in tomorrow's blog.
2. ULTRA-RIGHT PRESS IN LATIN AMERICA ACCUSES OBAMA, ARIAS OF IMPERIALIST INTERFERENCE. It would be funny if it were not so nauseating. The fascist ultra-right press in various Latin American countries is now saying that Arias of Costa Rica as well as the Obama administration are engaging in an imperialist violation of Honduras' national sovereignty, by working for the return of Zelaya. These are the same people who were always ready to do the bidding of the CIA (in exchange for its money) and of the Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations.
North Texas religious leaders have joined the battle for health care reform and other progressive causes. The Dallas Area Christian Progressive Alliance organized a panel presentation at Cathedral of Hope Church in Dallas on September 13. It was titled, “Who Would Jesus Insure? A Discussion and Reflection on Health Care as a Shared Value.”
Dr Winfred Parnell gave a medical doctor’s perspective on the need for reform and the complicated process underway in Congress. He said that reason and discussion should take over from the bellicose anti-reform tactics that are “characterized by fear, anger, and rudeness.” In support of President Obama’s proposed “public plan,” he said, “The idea that health care has to be a private commodity is ridiculous on its face!”
The audience was able to interact with each of the four main speakers.
James Kille, a lay activist with the Progressive Alliance, served as emcee. He said, “We need to do some healing in our churches that fear to talk about politics.” The panelists did not shy away from formerly fearsome words that have become necessary for accurate meaning today such as “working class,” and “classism.”
The group of 35 participated in a liturgy of commitment to health care reform for ourselves and, especially, for our neighbors. The words of Santa Teresa de Avila, formed into song, concluded the program.
A number of North Texas ministers and theologians have joined in Workers Rights Board and Jobs with Justice activities. Their commitment to workers’ justice issues was acknowledged during their attendance at the Dallas AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast.
Monday, September 14, 2009
By Emile Schepers
Some short items, and a link to a recommended reading today.
1. I checked the Colombian press this AM, there is nothing new about yesterday's report of AUC ultra-right death squad types being sent to do police work in Honduras. I will keep monitoring this.
2. The pro-Micheletti Honduran ambassador was thrown out of the meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights today, because of not being recognized by the Zelaya government in exile as their representative, so this individual had no business being there.
3. The United Nations Development Program has cut off aid to Honduras which was supposed to help the November 29 elections go smoothly. Most of the world is now not recognizing those elections and its results as legit, so this is logical.
4. There is an extremely interesting discussion on the ALAI-Network website, featuring the viewpoint of Honduran social scientist and Zelaya supporter Leticia Salomon, who is Director of Scientific Research at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, in Tegucigalpa. She explores the motivations and probable actions of various actors and sectors on the pro-coup side. She concludes that the coup group will collapse before November. Rather than summarizing it here, I suggest you read the whole thing at:
Rain packed North Texans inside the famous honky-tonk "Gilleys" for a health care rally on September 14. They waved signs that said "Thank You" on one side and "Standing Together for Health Care" on the other. An estimated 600 of them stood elbow-to-elbow in a room that would have been comfortable with half as many.
But they didn't mind. Popular political figures like State Senator Royce West, State Representatives Roberto Alonzo and Mark Veazey, and "probably the most popular District Attorney in America" Craig Watkins urged them to continue to fight for every provision of President Obama's health care plan.
They yelled "Fired up, Ready to Go!" over and over in the cramped quarters. The occasion was the "Health Insurance Reform now Bus Tour" that is crossing the United States. For more information on the tour, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Greg Burry
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. -- The Birmingham Bloomfield Democratic Club of Michigan hosted a presentation and discussion on Afghanistan: Now It’s 'Obama’s War' by Dr. Prasad Venugopal, professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, recently. It was a well-received presentation and a needed discussion at an important time when troop increases are ramping up to employ the president’s strategy.
Faced with a difficult topic, Venugopal did an outstanding job developing the historical and material conditions of Afghanistan that the United States confronts.
He told the audience that Afghanistan is large, mountainous and a land locked nation that is difficult to traverse. These geographic features lend to the cultural and ethnic diversity making national identity unlikely because ethnic and tribal affiliations are more important. Any attempt to promote nationalism is seen as suspicious and outside meddling.
Furthermore, Venugopal said historical trade routes coming from Iran, Pakistan and India through Afghanistan over the centuries had a “regional influence that dominates the Afghan ethnic communities,” and had a lasting effect on dividing Afghans ethnically and culturally.
Additionally, Venugopal said that conquest from the Greeks, Mongols, Islam, British, Soviets and the U.S. have heightened suspicion of outsiders in a largely poor and illiterate population spread out into isolated tribal and ethnic communities. Drug money from various factions has perpetuated the drug trafficking and strengthened the warlord’s domination.
The Taliban have been successful in taking advantage of these divisions. Faced with Taliban, insurgent, and Al-Qaeda attacks combined with NATO bombings of civilians, Venugopal said, “The situation in Afghanistan is very bad and is deteriorating rapidly. People in Afghanistan are becoming more divided and hostile to foreign occupiers.”
In the face of these historical and material conditions, will additional troops and the “Clear, Hold and Build” strategy introduced by the President bring about an end to the war? That strategy aims to clear southeast Afghanistan of militants. Then hold areas cleared and build factories and infrastructure. Venugopal asked, “What is the likelihood of success?”
His conclusion was that without adding jobs and providing a hope for a rising standard of living, the likelihood of success is doubtful.
It was thought that the recent elections could bring about some success and stability. But as Venugopal pointed out, the election corruption and drug trafficking has only added to the deteriorating conditions. “Elections are a mess right now and very fluid, it is hard to tell what is going to happen.” For the strategy to succeed, Venugopal stated, “You need a unified center in Afghanistan.” But as he pointed out, a unified center will be difficult if not impossible.
Due to these conditions, the NATO coalition of Britain, Germany, France and Canada is calling for a conference to discuss an exit strategy and timetable before they agree to any more troops.
He asked, “Is the president’s strategy so flawed and mistaken that he becomes the main enemy.” “I think this would be a mistake,” he stated. There are those in the peace movement that have been pushing this. “Attacking the President as the main enemy responsible for this mess in Afghanistan would be a mistake.” “Opposing anything he does would be a mistake. “On the other hand, keeping silent would be a mistake.”
“How do you support the President even though he is wrong?” Troop increases only radicalize the Afghanistan population and bolster the Taliban. Venugopal believes we need to get the troops out now, but he would support and push very hard for the McGovern bill that calls for an exit strategy and timetable. “If there is a movement against troop increases or in support for an international conference of the NATO coalition or international civilian aid,” he would also push for that. He concluded that the McGovern proposal is the bare minimum needed to move forward.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Two significant stories today.
1. OMINOUS NEWS: RECRUITING COLOMBIAN DEATH SQUAD MEMBERS TO GO TO HONDURAS? Today the Bogota, Colombia newspaper "El Tiempo" has a very worrisome report to the effect that members of the oligarchy in Honduras, especially sugar cane and palm oil plantation owners, are recruiting demobilized (?) members of the main right wing paramilitary death squad in Colombia, the AUC, to go and do "security" work in Honduras. Although it has been reported that a number of death squad type people (Cuban exiles and others) have already shown up there, this may be larger scale. The report says that about 40 men were given orientation in the "El Japon" estate which had formerly belonged to the ex right wing paramilitary leader Jairo Correa Alzate, but which theoretically now is under the control of Colombia's anti-drug agency, the National Directorate of Narcotics (estupificantes) or DNE in Spanish. Some other ex paramilitary commanders explained to the young men that they were looking for base level combatants with what appears to be fairly good pay for the region. Some of the recruits appear to be people under the para leader Eduardo Cifuentes, "the Eagle", who want to leave Colombia because the DEA is looking for them because of drug trafficking. Though Colombian authorities so far are noncommittal as to what may be going on, resistance organizations in Honduras (the National Front Against the Coup and the Committee of Relatives of Detained and Disappeared People of Honduras) say that the coup government has been receiving offers of ultra-rightist combatants from various countries in the regioin. Tomas Andino, a Honduran Congressman from the left-wing Democratic Unification Party is quoted in the El Tiempo article as saying that he knows of Cuban and Salvadoran right wing combatants coming into El Salvador and that three of the murders committed this past August against Zelaya supporters were done by such people.
The article also cites journalistic sources as saying that possibly some of these combatents are being hired as guards to protect landing sites for drug-carrying aircraft going from points south, presumably including Colombia, to the United States. Military sources in Honduras are cited as saying that from January to August this year, 16 landing strips were rendered useless.
I will keep monitoring this story in the Colombian press. If it is true that large numbers of demobilized AUC thugs and drug traffickers are being recruited to go to Honduras, it is another reason for us to push two things: Firm action by the U.S. to put an end to the charade of the coup regime, and a pullback from the idea of US armed forces units working out of Colombia bases.
2. CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS DISRUPTED. Prensa Latina has a very interesting story about what is happening on the cultural front in Honduras. According to this report, archaeological, anthropological and other artistic and cultural research activities may be coming to a halt, partly because there is no money to continue them, but also because the coup regime headed by de-facto president Roberto Micheletti is messing around with the leadership of key institutions. The Micheletti regime has fired Dario Euraque, director of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History, and other key figures. The action was taken by the de-facto minister of Culture, Art and Sport, Mirna Castro, according to Euraque in a secretive and illegal meeting. Evidently the people fired are being replaced by political hacks. At any rate the cutoff of OAS and UNESCO aid to Honduras because of the coup is going to put research and other activities into the deep freeze.
I will keep on blogging, so watch this space.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
By Emile Schepers
Some important stuff this time, with actions to be taken.
1. OBAMA ADMINISTRATION CANCELS VISAS OF TOP LEADERS. Yesterday it was announced that the State Department has cancelled all visas (not just the diplomatic ones) of 14 top leaders of the coup regime, including de-facto President Roberto Micheletti, armed forces commander General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, 14 Supreme Court judges, and the coup foreign minister and attorney general. This means that they can't visit the United States, even to go up to Washington to conspire with their political allies here, not even with Senator McCain, who is one of the conspirators in chief on the Honduras matter. This also means that of the major actions that President Zelaya, the only one that has not been acted on to some degree is the request to freeze the bank accounts and the other assets the coup plotters may have in the United States. That should be a tactical goal for us now.
Micheletti responded with anger, especially since the letter he got from the U.S. consulate addressed him as President of the Congress (his pre-coup title) instead of as President of Honduras.
2. WE ARE FALLING BEHIND IN THE RACE FOR CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTIONS ON HONDURAS, OR, WHAT THE HECK IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE U.S. LEFT? The right wing resolution on Honduras, H RES 619, now has one cosponsor more than the progressive resolution, H RES 630 at 45 and 44 respectively. To review, 619 blasts the Obama administration for supporting Zelaya and calls for recognition of the Micheletti coup regime, while 630 supports Zelaya and calls for pressure to oust the coup regime. The 44 number on 630 has not budged for many weeks, but 4 new people signed onto 630 this week. These are only sense of the House resolutions, but they are important as pressure tactics anyway. I hope I'm wrong, but my experience with the US left suggests to me that many do not understand the importance of this kind of tactic. At various times I have felt that some of my left friends do not actually believe that Congress exists or that its actions have an impact on the real world. Let me assure you that action in Congress is extremely important. With the new action by the State Department yesterday (see point 1 above), the ultra right is sure to give a new push in favor of the coup regime. Though Micheletti et al now can't come up here, this does not prevent all sorts of things being organized in this country by the Republicans and by people like Lanny Davis with his Democratic Party connections. So it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that everybody take the following steps:
*Go to http://www.thomas.loc.gov/ and type the word "Honduras" into the search engine. This will bring up both H RES 619 and H RES 630 and a couple of things.
*Then go to the "cosponsors" link for HR 630 and take a look to see if your congressperson is already on board as a cosponsor; if so, write him or her a nice thank you note. The Thomas site will give you the contact info.
*If he/she is not, write immediately to ask that he/she become a cosponsor. Phrase it how you like, based on your knowledge of the politician involved. There is a humanitarian argument which says that among other things, there is violent repression going on which will get worse if the situation is not solved soon. For statements by the AFL-CIO and others, go to the CPUSA website at www.cpusa.org.
*If your Congresscreature is co-sponsoring H RES 619, write an angry letter denouncing this.
Please do this NOW. Follow up with faxes, phone calls, visits etc. Then let us know what happened.
3. MORE REPRESSION. Just as there is no letup in the resistance in Honduras, the repression continues also. Today we got the news that the coup authorities have caught and arrested an important resistance leader, Rene Chavez, former head of the main teachers' union in Honduras. Chavez is also a candidate for Congress for the Atlantic Coast region, the main settlement area of the Garifuna people. The charge is "organizing illegal demonstrations".
Action: People with contact among teachers' and teachers' unions in the US might explore getting some protest actions going.
Also, the coup regime has announced it has revoked the Honduran citizenship of father Andres Tamayo, says Telesur yesterday. Father Tamayo was born in El Salvador but has lived in Honduras for 22 years and is a naturalized citizen of the latter country. Evidently orders have been given for Tamayo's arrest because of his participation in opposition protests against the Micheletti coup regime. Telesur quotes Tamayo as saying "there is an attitude on the part of this government to act like a dictatorship ... I will stay here while they have not captured me"[translation by E.Schepers]. The Telesur bulletin explains that Tamayo has been a leader of the environmentalist movement in Olancho province in the NE of the country. He is a Roman Catholic priest and so has had high visibility as a supporter of Zelaya, because the Archbishop and some other top church officials have effectively been supporting the coup regime. Perhaps religious leaders can begin to make noise in the U.S. about the persecution of this socially progressive clergyman?
The announcement about Tamayo also may have to do with the effort to make people in Honduras who are yet sitting on the fence believe that the movement in support of Zelaya is a foreign conspiracy run by Nicaraguan, Salvadoran and especially Venezuelan imperialism. The coup regime has claimed that the resistance is being funded by the Colombian FARC, or by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez etc. There also has been bad blood at times between Honduras and El Salvador, and a tendency for the Honduran elite to disparage and mistreat Salvadoran immigrants.
4. WILL COUP REGIME PARTICIPATE IN JOINT MILITARY MANEUVERS? I am not clear what is actually happening with the joint military maneuvers planned in the Caribbean from yesterday to September 21. Telesur reported on September 9 that General Douglas Frazer, the head of U.S. Southern Command, wanted to include the Honduran coup regime forces in these exercises. The other countries involved are the USA, Canada, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, the Netherlands, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay, with Mexico and France sending observers. As to the purpose, Lord only knows. If anybody has more updated news on this, please let us know.
All for now.