Archive for May, 2014

La Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos, ante la pretendida instalación de proyectos mineros e hidroeléctricos,  en todo el departamento de Santa Barbará, con la anuencia de las autoridades nacionales y municipales, se pronuncia de la siguiente manera:

Que el despojo de los bienes naturales a sus legítimos propietarios, que son los habitantes de las diversas comunidades, constituye una violación a los derechos de estos pobladores, de disponer del uso racional de estos recursos, y a la vez de la riqueza que estos racionalmente explotados pudieran producir.

 

Que estos proyectos violentan su derecho de gozar de un medio ambiente saludable, ya que como la experiencia lo demuestra, la minería a cielo abierto contamina el agua, arrasa con bosques y montañas, daña plantas y animales,  y sobre todo afecta al ser humano en sus medios de vida y producción, generando más pobreza y destrucción.

 

Es por estas razones que acompañamos a las comunidades en sus luchas en contra de la instalación de proyectos de minería a cielo abierto  y en contra de proyectos hidroeléctricos que pongan en precario el uso del agua, y  que la totalidad de sus beneficios no sea para todos los habitantes de la comunidad en donde se implemente.

 

Hoy nos solidarizamos con la lucha del pueblo de Atima, Santa Barbará, y los acompañamos en su movilización para exigir de las autoridades municipales informen sobre los proyectos mineros e hidroeléctricos que pretenden desarrollar en el territorio de este municipio, y que a la vez informen sobre la desforestación provocada en los alrededores de la cueva de Pencaligüe, y que tipo de proyectos son los que pretenden desarrollar en ese sector.

Manifestamos nuestra plena disposición de seguir denunciando nacional e internacionalmente este tipo de proyectos, y exigimos del gobierno nacional y municipales cesen con esa política entreguista de nuestros recursos naturales,  e  implementen proyectos que favorezcan la seguridad alimentaria, de salud y educativa del pueblo.

 

¡No a la entrega de nuestros recursos naturales!

¡No a la Minería!

 

Convergencia por los Derechos Humanos.

 

28 de mayo del 2014.

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Below is an English translation of the communiqué read at the press conference convened by the Agrarian Platform today, May 27, 2014, at Cooperativa Elga, where they denounced the illegal and violent evictions against peasant families of the Authentic Peasant Reclamation Movement of the Aguán (MARCA ) last May 21.

Evictions and Violations of Human Rights of Peasant Families in the Bajo Aguán Continue

Given the violent events that occurred on May 21 in peasant cooperatives in the Bajo Aguan the Agrarian Platform communicates to the Honduran people , the international community and national and international media the following communication :

1. We strongly condemn the violent and illegal evictions executed by members of Operation Xatruch under Colonel René Jovel Martínez, the National Interagency Force ( Fusina ) under the orders of Germán Alfaro Escalante and the security guards of René Morales against peasant families organized in the cooperatives El Dispertar and La Trinidad of the Authentic Peasant Reclamation Movement of the Aguan ( MARCA) .

2. That, on June 29, 2012, Attorney Jose Antonio Trejo improved the position of the peasant families in the cooperatives San Isidro, La Trinidad, and El Despertar, after a final judgment issued by the Supreme Court in favor of the peasants, but on September 22 of the same year he was killed in a sector of Tegucigalpa. In September 2013 the farmers of Cooperativa San Isidro were evicted. 20 months later the repressive forces of the State and the private guards of René Morales stripped the cooperative members of El Despertar and La Trinidad. These acts only reflect the manipulation of weak Honduran justice and the impunity enjoyed by landowners Miguel Facusse , René Morales, and Reinaldo Canales.

3. That, on May 2st, during the violent and illegal eviction, 15 people were arrested including children, pregnant women, and the elderly, and peasant leaders who had been granted precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ( IACHR) last May 8 were severely beaten by security forces.

4. That, 24 hours after the violent eviction was executed in the cooperatives LA Despertar and La Trinidad where the heavily armed security guards of the company Oleopalma participated, Dinant corporation representative Roger Pineda said in international media, that they had disarmed the security guards of Dinant , but that they would support the construction of a military base (on their farms) for security.

5. We demand respect for the possession of the lands of the families of the Gregory Chavez Peasant Re-foundation Movement who have been in the process of recuperating the Paso Aguan farm since 5 May.

6. Urgently request the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to demand that the government of Honduras respect and comply with the precautionary measures granted to 123 men and women peasant leaders of the Bajo Aguan , as well as resolve the source of human rights violations of the peasants.

7. That, the agricultural and food crisis in our country is a result of the LAW OF MODERNIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE AGRICULTURAL SECTOR (of 1992) approved by President Rafael Leonardo Callejas, as pure politics against organized peasant sectors, which has been expressed through violent evictions and the lack of support for the development of national agriculture.

8. We demand solidarity from domestic and international human rights defenders to remain vigilant and demand respect for the universal rights of peasants struggling for access to land in the Bajo Aguán.

Given in the city of Tegucigalpa 27th day of the month of May, 2014 by the Agrarian Platform, It was attended by 22 media outlets:

1- Radio Cadena Hondureña de Noticias
2- Radio Nacional
3- Radio Globo
4- Radio Progreso
5- CB24 Costa Rica
6- Tele Sur
7- Contra Censura Independiente
8- La Tribuna
9- El Heraldo
10- Canal 50
11- Canal 9
12- Canal 6
13- Canal 11
14- Canal MVC-75
15- Maya TV
16- CCI News
17- Tras La Verdad
18- Hoy Mismo Canal 3
19- TN5
20- Noticiero Mi Nación
21- Globo TV
22- Hondudiario

English translation by Marilyn Lorenz:

State Violence and eviction in the Garifuna community of Puerto Castilla

Once again the Honduran security forces are using indiscriminate violence against the civilian population, the break-up of a protest demonstration in Puerto Castilla community last Friday May 23 culminated with six children hospitalized in the city of Trujillo.

The use of tear gas as an offensive weapon has become a usual strategy for Honduran security forces, which unfortunately are trained in techniques of aggression rather than deterrence, and have a painful and long history of human rights abuses against the civilian population.

The community of Puerto Castilla is perplexed by the hospitalization of six minors and the evacuation of many of the infants to a ship anchored in front of the community, so as to avoid the poisoning caused by the pepper spray and tear gas bombs. The recent events have given rise to widespread protests among the Garifuna village in the absence of human sensitivity on the part of the repressors and the inability to dialog shown by the Empresa Nacional Portuaria (EPN) and state officials.

The use of chemical weapons for “crowd control¨
The use of chemical weapons to dissolve protests and demonstrations has increased in recent years on the planet, especially after the collapse of the world economy of 2008. In Honduras tear gas became part of the usual menu for the Honduran people after the coup.

In Puerto Castilla hundreds of gas bombs CS (clorobenzilideno malononitrilo), which can cause severe lung damage, as well significant damage to the heart and the liver were used indiscriminately. The majority of the bombs of 40 mm were manufactured by ALS Technologies, a company that in its reference sheet on the product indicate that contains a hazardous chemical. In addition to the CS gas, rubber bullets were used by the elements responsible for suppressing in Castilla.

The bombs hit the Garden of Nin@s and insie the community homes, spreading terror among the people before receiving the final onslaught of a disproportionate number of uniformed men.

The civilian dictatorship that Honduras suffers, in addition to the induced failed state, has led to a maze of structural violence, where the claims of the population become a target of criminalization on the part of the State, in addition to a chronic repression.

The community of Puerto Castilla and their historical claims
The Garifuna community of Puerto Castilla received a degree in 1889 from the hands of President Luis Bogran, under the name of “La Puntilla”, which included territory12 miles long and three wide. This title was endorsed in 1904 by Manuel Bonilla by awarding the title to the community of Cristales and Rio Negro. Later part of the lands were granted in the year 1921 to the Truxillo Railroad Company and transferred back to the community of Cristales and Rio Negro in 1942. In 1974 General Alvarez Martínez forced the community of Cristales and Rio Negro at gunpoint to lease the land of La Puntilla to the National Port Company (ENP).

Apparently the Garifuna community of Castilla was relocated in 1940 to the south of its original place, for the construction of a US military base, which was returned to Honduras at the end of the war. A number of heliports and moorings (helipuertos y atracaderos) in the US-Honduran military base are currently under construction, part of the metastasis of US military bases on the continent.

The inhabitants of Puerto Castilla face a huge overcrowding, given the absence of available land for the expansion of the community. The village has been demanding for a field of five manzanas, loaned to Mr. Jose Mauricio Weizemblut Olive, representative of Intermares, a Japanese company that tried to establish in Honduras in the 90s. The land in question is apparently for sale by Mr Weizemblut Olive, who has assumed be the purported owner.

Among the commitments cyclically signed by the ENP, is to provide a share of jobs to the inhabitants of Puerto Castilla, point that has never been fulfilled by the company, which has been involved in numerous cases of corruption. There is also an increase in racism toward the Garifuna staff working in the EPN, which in many occasions suffer from harassment, especially those individuals allegedly associated with the community claims.

The dispossession of the Garifuna communities and the territorial claims
The violent incursion of the security forces in Puerto Castilla are not helping to solve the severe problems faced by their inhabitants . The security policy of the club applied by the current “nationalist” administration resembles more each day the dictatorships of beginnings of the last century, which dilutes the creation of an effective rule of law in Honduras.

In spite of the intensive campaign of the Administration of Juan Hernandez to eradicate the image of a violent country controlled by political narcos, the attack on the civilian population, in particular the fatal assault that led to six juveniles at the hospital as a result of the use of chemical weapons, and the evacuation of a large group of children to a barge to circumvent the effects of pepper spray, increases the image of a failed State where the dialog has been supplanted by the pepper gas, moving away from possible and awaited foreign investment.

Our organization condemns the barbaric actions, and we demand the fulfillment of the accords that have been signed between the National Port Authority (ENP), with the inhabitants of the community of Puerto Castilla, as well as the return of land to the Garifuna community, which by right of ancestral possession belongs to them, which was ratified in the recent hearing held in San Jose Costa Rica before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in relation to the case of Triunfo de la Cruz.

CIDH condena asesinato de defensor de derechos humanos en Honduras

28 de mayo de 2014

http://www.oas.org/es/cidh/prensa/Comunicados/2014/062.asp

Washington, D.C. – La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) condena el asesinato en Honduras del defensor de derechos humanos Orlando Orellana, Presidente del Patronato de la colonia Cerrito Lindo, jurisdicción de San Pedro Sula, quien era beneficiario de medidas cautelares otorgadas por la CIDH en 2005. La Comisión urge al Estado a investigar este asesinato, y a procesar y sancionar a los responsables.

La información presentada a la CIDH y también de conocimiento público disponible indica que el 4 de mayo de 2014, el señor Orellana, de 75 años, se dirigía a la casa de un vecino para atender asuntos de la comunidad cuando habría sido aproximado por un taxi del cual se habrían bajado dos sujetos que le dispararon. El Sr. Orellana se desempeñaba como presidente del Patronato de la colonia, cargo que habría asumido luego del asesinato de la antigua presidenta Orfilia Figueroa el 26 de marzo de 2012. De acuerdo con la información que dio origen a la medida cautelar, los pobladores de la colonia Cerrito Lindo mantienen una disputa por la propiedad de lotes de tierra que habrían adquirido de una empresa local. Al conocer de la ilegalidad de la venta, habrían emprendido acciones legales y de protesta con el fin de resolver la disputa sobre los terrenos. A raíz de estas acciones, varios pobladores de la colonia habrían sido víctimas de diversos actos de violencia como desalojos violentos, amenazas de muerte y asesinatos vinculados al reclamo de sus derechos.

La CIDH otorgó medidas cautelares el 20 de abril de 2005 a favor de los pobladores de la colonia Cerrito Lindo, cuya vigencia fue reiterada el 26 de abril de 2012. No obstante, según la información recibida, desde 2005 habrían ocurrido cuatro asesinatos de pobladores de la comunidad, todos beneficiarios de medidas cautelares, sin que a la fecha dichos hechos hayan sido esclarecidos.

La Comisión expresa su alarma por las amenazas y ataques a los que continuarían siendo sometidos los miembros de la colonia, en particular los integrantes de la Junta Directiva del Patronato, así como por la alegada falta de implementación efectiva de las medidas cautelares. La CIDH recuerda que es obligación del Estado conducir una investigación oportuna, de oficio, orientada al esclarecimiento de las circunstancias en que ocurrió la muerte del Sr. Orellana y, de ser el caso, identificar y sancionar a los responsables. Dicha investigación debe ser emprendida con debida diligencia de manera exhaustiva, seria e imparcial. Asimismo, la Comisión insta al Estado de Honduras a adoptar en forma inmediata y urgente todas las medidas necesarias a fin de garantizar el derecho a la vida, la integridad y la seguridad de los demás miembros de la colonia Cerrito Lindo, tal y como lo plantea la medida cautelar aún vigente.

Como ha señalado la Comisión anteriormente, los actos de violencia y otros ataques contra las defensoras y los defensores de derechos humanos no sólo afectan las garantías propias de todo ser humano, sino que atentan contra el papel fundamental que juegan en la sociedad y sume en la indefensión a todas aquellas personas para quienes trabajan. La Comisión recuerda asimismo que la labor de defensores y defensoras es esencial para la construcción de una sociedad democrática sólida y duradera, y tienen un papel protagónico en el proceso para el logro pleno del Estado de Derecho y el fortalecimiento de la democracia. En este sentido, la CIDH insta al Estado a tomar todas las medidas necesarias para garantizar que las y los defensores de derechos humanos puedan realizar sus actividades de denuncia, acompañamiento y protección, libres de ataques u actos de violencia que pongan en riesgo su vida, su integridad y su seguridad.

La CIDH es un órgano principal y autónomo de la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), cuyo mandato surge de la Carta de la OEA y de la Convención Americana sobre Derechos Humanos. La Comisión Interamericana tiene el mandato de promover la observancia de los derechos humanos en la región y actúa como órgano consultivo de la OEA en la materia. La CIDH está integrada por siete miembros independientes que son elegidos por la Asamblea General de la OEA a título personal, y no representan sus países de origen o residencia.

Summary of Human Rights Issues and Events in Honduras (April 2014)

Please find here our latest Summary of Human Rights Issues and events in Honduras, for March 2014.

Please find below the main items of this summary:

  • Honduras featured in a number of reports by international organizations: IACHR, PBI Honduras, Global Witness.
  • Government under criticism for continued failure to implement IACHR precautionary measures and for proposal to withdraw them from some beneficiaries.
  • Carlos Mejía Orellana of Radio Progreso, recipient of IACHR precautionary measures, was found dead with multiple stab wounds at his home in El Progreso, Yoro on April 11.
  • Impunity, threats, and intimidation continue against journalists throughout Honduras.
  • Four lawyers killed so far this year, an average of one a month.
  • Threats and intimidation against opponents of mining in La Nueva Esperanza continue, despite IACHR precautionary measures.
  • Murderers of three Tolupans in Locomapa, Yoro continue at large in the community despite IACHR precautionary measures.
  • COPINH members subject to murder allegations
  • World Bank Loan to Facussé’s Dinant Corporation under strong scrutiny.
  • Defense lawyer for José Isabel ‘Chabelo’ Morales lodges an appeal following guilty verdict.
  • Case of four judges sacked in 2010 for opposition to the coup was referred to the Inter-American Court.
  • Supreme Court ruled that the trial of the ex-commander of the COBRA Special Forces, Elder Madrid Guerra, and five other police officers should continue – for illegal detention and ill-treatment of anti-coup protesters.
  • Eight police officers will be tried for the death in custody of Mario Sequeira Canales.
  • The size of the PMOP (Public Order Military Police) will double in May. TIGRES trained by U.S. and Colombian instructors in April.
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography presented preliminary findings of her mission.
  • Controversy generated by ‘Guardians of the Homeland’ scheme for children at risk.
  • Fierce debate on proposal to lift ban on emergency contraceptive pills.
  • Government forms commission for the protection of people displaced by violence – 17,000 Hondurans forced to flee their homes since 2008.
  • UNHCR survey shows that 5% of Honduran migrants leave their country because of threats and insecurity, amid reports of the dangers of the journey to the US.
  • National Lawyers Guild report on November 2013 Elections in Honduras cites serious problems that undermine claims that the election was “free and fair” and “transparent.”
James D. Nealon
Civilian Deputy to the Commander,
Foreign Policy Advisor
United States Southern Command 

NealonJim Nealon assumed duties as Civilian Deputy to the Commander and Foreign Policy Advisor, U.S. Southern Command, Miami, FL,
in September 2013. As Civilian Deputy to the Commander, he is primarily responsible for overseeing the development and ongoing refinement of USSOUTHCOM regional strategy as well as the Command’s strategic communications, public affairs and human rights activities. He also plays a key role in  interagency and business engagement. As Foreign Policy Advisor, he advises the Commander and other principals on U.S. foreign policy issues linked to the region and supports the Command’s relationship with the Department of State and U.S.Embassies abroad. 

Mr. Nealon came to SOUTHCOM after serving as Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa,Canada (2010-2013). His other assignments include serving as Deputy Chief of Mission in Lima, Peru (2007-2010); Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission in Montevideo, Uruguay (2005-2007); Counselor forPublic Affairs at the Embassies in Madrid, Spain and Budapest, Hungary; Press Attaché at the Embassies inManila, Philippines and Budapest; Cultural Attaché in Montevideo, Uruguay; and Assistant Press Attaché in Santiago, Chile. Mr. Nealon also served at the United States Information Agency’s Bureau of HumanResources in Washington, DC. 

Mr. Nealon is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor. He has been awarded the State Department’s Superior Honor Award as well as numerous senior performance awards. 

A native of Virginia, Mr. Nealon holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Brown University and completed additional graduate work in history at Boston College. Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1984, he was a high school history teacher and athletics coach. He speaks Hungarian and Spanish. 

Mr. Nealon and his wife Kristin, a teacher of English as a Second Language, have four grown children

US ambassador to Honduras offers tacit support of brutal crackdown

American diplomat condemns campesino and indigenous groups for protesting land grabs for private development projects

January 7, 2014 7:15AM ET

http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/1/u-s-ambassador-humanrightsviolationshonduras.html

 

In remarks last month, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske decried pervasive impunity in Honduras as the single biggest threat to human rights during an International Human Rights Day commemoration. In a country already plagued by grinding poverty and unrelenting violence, entrenched impunity does present a terrifying threat to justice. However, despite her own admission that the Honduran legal system is dysfunctional, Kubiske blamed those being oppressed by that impunity for taking the law into their own hands to defend their rights.

Kubiske specifically reproached peasant farmers in the fertile lands of the Lower Aguan Valley, who are engaged in a desperate struggle with local wealthy landowners and the government for control over their lands, which has left 113 members of their campesino community dead since the 2009 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Over the last two decades, campesinos lost the lands granted to them in the 1970s under agrarian reform initiatives through a combination of corruption, intimidation, intentional division, force and fraud. Efforts to seek legal redress were largely unsuccessful. Zelaya was ousted shortly after he vowed to institute measures that would reverse illegitimate land grabs by oligarchs, including Miguel Facusse Barjum, a palm-oil magnate. When land grabs continued under President Porfirio Lobo, a landowner, the campesinos, with no other options, resisted the encroachment by peacefully occupying their lands. State security and paramilitary forces responded with escalating repression and bloodshed. Last month, after a complaint lodged by Rights Action, an international human-rights organization, the World Bank’s independent auditor issued a report on its private lending arm’s funding for Dinant Corp., which is headed by Facusse Barjum. World Bank President Jim Kim has indicated that he is preparing an action plan in response to the findings. As the investigative process drags on, repression continues unabated in the Lower Aguan.

Kubiske also admonished the indigenous Lenca community in Rio Blanco, which organized a peaceful blockade to halt the construction of a hydroelectric dam on their ancestral lands after exhausting legal efforts to challenge its development. After the 2009 coup, the Honduran government passed a number of neoliberal laws, including one granting water concessions to international companies essentially privatizing water resources in the country and spawning proposals for a number of hydroelectric dam projects. Transnational investments have since poured in. But investors face a problem: Under international law, including the International Labor Organization Convention 169, projects on indigenous territories require the informed consent of those communities. One project, the Agua Zarca, has gone ahead as planned despite a resounding nay vote by indigenous assemblies as well as public protests. The project is run by Honduras’ Desarrollos Energeeticos S.A. (DESA) in partnership with Sinohydro, a Chinese-owned hydropower engineering and construction company. Agua Zarca’s funding has come from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, which, according to a report by Rights Action, appears to be funded by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through the Central American Mezzanine Infrastructure Fund.

In recent years, the World Bank has retreated from funding large-scale hydroelectric dam projects after allegations of egregious human-rights violations and environmental concerns in Guatemala, India and other places. However, the bank has changed its policy and now supports hydroelectric projects, claiming it has instituted protections to prevent human-rights violations from recurring.

Given Honduras’ notoriously corrupt and ineffective legal system, the marginalized have no other option than peaceful resistance.

The Rio Blanco community filed numerous complaints, including to the special prosecutor for ethnic groups, the secretary for the environment and natural resources and the National Congress, with support from the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH). Because of pervasive and endemic corruption and inefficiency in the Honduran legal system, none of the complaints received a full and fair resolution of charges that construction of the dam and the associated repression violates international law. Finally, in April, when construction threatened irreparable harm to their community, the residents blocked access to the site. The government’s response to protesters was swift and brutal, triggering a cycle of forcible evictions and community resurrections of their blockade. Since the crackdown, threats against and intimidation of Lenca protesters continue to escalate. On July 15, COPINH leader Tomas Garcia was killed by state security forces as he led a protest march, and his son was seriously injured. Despite efforts of the dam’s proponents, the blockade continues, and tensions remain high.

Shortly after Honduran papers claimed in June of last year that Kubiske called for the prosecution of those who engage in land occupations and human-rights defense, DESA filed charges against COPINH leaders Berta Caceres, Tomas Gomez and Aureliano Molina for inciting the blockades, land usurpation and other charges that found a sympathetic audience in the Honduran courts, which issued an arrest warrant for Caceres. With understandable skepticism that the court would provide her with a fair hearing, Caceres is in hiding. Threats of violence against her, her elderly mother and her four children continue. Amnesty International has indicated that if Caceres is incarcerated, she would be a “prisoner of conscience.” The criminalization of resistance sends an unmistakable message: The courts will protect the powerful and come down hard on those who challenge the status quo.

The wrong message

On International Human Rights Day, of all days, Kubiske should have sent a clear message to the Honduran government that its actions are unacceptable and that the rights of the marginalized need the most protection. Instead she offered tacit endorsement of the crackdown.

While condemning the organized civil disobedience of campesino and indigenous communities, Kubiske failed to mention how exactly they should protect their rights in a state that does not respect the rule of law. Honduran elites control the courts, the security forces and the legislative and executive branches. Given the country’s notoriously corrupt and ineffective legal system, which constantly fails to protect all Hondurans, the marginalized have no other option than peaceful resistance.

The Obama administration has a range of tools in its arsenal to encourage respect for human rights and the rule of law in Honduras. With the largest voting share in the World Bank and 30 percent of the voting shares in the IDB, which is also instrumental in funding development projects, the U.S. could push for making continued funding contingent on strict adherence to international human-rights standards. In addition, since the Leahy Law requires the U.S. government to withhold financial assistance to groups that commit verifiable gross human-rights violations, Washington should leverage its support for Honduran security forces to advance human rights. The law requires local embassies to vet the credibility of human-rights abuse reports compiled by nongovernmental organizations and media sources. Kubiske, therefore, is empowered to protect those targeted by the Honduran military and police. Instead of using that power, however, she has condemned the acts of dispossessed campesinos and indigenous populations. An alarming statement from a Honduran military official after the ambassador’s comments suggest that the military feels it can act with relative impunity from U.S. interference.

On Dec. 12, in a statement reported by La Tribuna newspaper and repeated elsewhere, Col. German Alfaro, commander of the U.S.-funded and -trained Honduran military Xatruch III forces in the Aguan Valley, declared that Annie Bird, a highly respected human-rights advocate, was being investigated for alleged subversive activities related to her work defending the human rights of the campesinos in the Lower Aguan. Bird is a U.S. citizen from Rights Action. Human Rights Watch expressed alarm about this development and denounced the U.S. for failing to repudiate Alfaro’s comments.

At least one news story included Bird’s photo, raising concerns that she will be targeted for an extrajudicial attack. Observers fear that the investigation is an attempt to intimidate and deter international human-rights defenders from working in Honduras or is a precursor to an imminent intensification of repression in the country. Others warn that Honduran authorities are testing international response to escalating violence in the aftermath of a contested presidential election, in which right-wing law-and-order candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the winner.

The United States has a long and shameful history of supporting anti-democratic and repressive regimes in Latin America. Despite its rhetoric on human rights, the U.S. government has failed yet again to use its influence in the region to promote justice for Honduras’ most vulnerable and besieged inhabitants.

Lauren Carasik is Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Western New England University School of Law.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

19 de Mayo de 2014

Estado de Honduras pide perdón por asesinato de ambientalista

Redacción La CIDH sentenció a Honduras al considerar que fue intencionalmente de garantizar el derecho a la vida de Carlos Luna.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras
http://www.elheraldo.hn/pais/710811-331/estado-de-honduras-pide-perd%C3%B3n-por-asesinato-de-ambientalista

El Secretario de Derechos Humanos, Justicia, Gobernación y Descentralización, Rigoberto Chang Castillo, en nombre del Estado de Honduras, encabezó este lunes la ceremonia en la que pidió perdón a los familiares del ambientalista Carlos Antonio Luna López, quien fue asesinado el 18 de mayo de 1998 en Catacamas, Olancho.

El acto se realizó en atención a la sentencia de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH), que establece que el Estado hondureño es internacionalmente responsable por la violación del deber de garantía del derecho a la vida. Chang Castillo dijo que Carlos Luna fue un Quijote en Honduras porque luchó contra grandes intereses “sabemos que no hay palabras para consolarlos pero ustedes deben sentirse orgullosos del padre que tuvieron”. Asimismo reiteró que el gobierno del presidente Juan Orlando Hernández es respetuoso y cumplidor de los derechos humanos.

“Pido perdón especialmente a su viuda e hijos por lo que ha pasado, sabemos que si como Estado hubiéramos cumplido con la Ley y se le hubieran dado las garantías, su muerte no hubiera ocurrido”, reconoció el funcionario hondureño. Chang Castillo expresó que hechos como el ocurrido a Carlos Luna no deben repetirse en el país porque el Estado no se puede dar el lujo de que lo estén demandando por violaciones a los derechos humanos.

Por su parte, César Luna, dijo “para nosotros es bien difícil recordar ese momento y por eso exigimos al Estado de Honduras que cumpla con la sentencia y proceda contra los responsables que siguen libres, porque nosotros seguimos sufriendo por la pérdida de nuestro padre y mientras haya impunidad seguirá este dolor”. Luna exigió que esa deuda de impunidad que existe sea reparada con la captura de los culpables. “Han sido 16 años muy difíciles en los que hemos sido víctimas no solo como hijos sino como compañeros en su lucha y Honduras necesita líderes como él, con compromiso, convicciones y honestidad”.

Sin embargo, Luna aseguró que la ceremonia de perdón es muy oportuna y aunque es un acto simbólico ayuda para que el Estado mejore, ya que es un acto de humanidad muy importante. Además de la ceremonia de perdón, la sentencia de la CIDH ordenó que el Estado como medida de rehabilitación debe brindar gratuitamente y de forma inmediata el tratamiento psicológico que requieran las víctimas, previo consentimiento informado y por el tiempo que sea necesario, incluida la provisión gratuita de medicamentos. Asimismo establece que se debe presentar un informe anual donde se indiquen las acciones que se han realizado para implementar una política pública efectiva para la protección de los defensores de derechos humanos, en particular de los defensores del ambiente.

En la ceremonia de perdón estuvieron presentes el ministro de Derechos Humanos, Justicia, Gobernación y Descentralización Rigoberto Chang Castillo, la viceministra del ramo, Karla Cueva, el Procurador General de la República Abraham Alvarenga, la Fiscal de Derechos Humanos Soraya Morales, la representante de las Naciones Unidas, Consuelo Vidal y un representante de la Fiscalía Especial del Medio Ambiente.

US Aids Honduran Police Despite Death Squad Fears
By ALBERTO ARCE and KATHERINE CORCORAN Associated Press
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras March 23, 2013 (AP)
The U.S. State Department, which spends millions of taxpayer dollars a year on the Honduran National Police, has assured Congress that money only goes to specially vetted and trained units that don’t operate under the direct supervision of a police chief once accused of extrajudicial killings and “social cleansing.”

But The Associated Press has found that all police units are under the control of Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla, nicknamed the “Tiger,” who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. He was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

Honduran law prohibits any police unit from operating outside the command of the director general, according to a top Honduran government security official, who would only speak on condition of anonymity. He said that is true in practice as well as on paper.
Celso Alvarado, a criminal law professor and consultant to the Honduran Commission for Security and Justice Sector Reform, said the same.

“Every police officer in Honduras, regardless of their specific functions, is under the hierarchy and obedience of the director general,” he said.

The official line from Honduras, however, is that the money does not go to Bonilla.

“The security programs that Honduras is implementing with the United States are under control of the ministers of security and defense,” said Foreign Minister Arturo Corrales, who negotiates the programs with the State Department.

But the security official attributed the contradiction to the politics necessary in a country in the grip of a security emergency.

With 91 murders per 100,000 people, the small Central American nation is often called the most violent in the world. An estimated 40 percent of the cocaine headed to the U.S. — and 87 percent of cocaine smuggling flights from South America — pass through Honduras, according to the State Department.

The allegations against Bonilla, along with other concerns about police and military killings, prompted the U.S. Congress to freeze an estimated $30 million in Honduran aid last August. Most has been restored under agreements with the U.S. Department of State over the monitoring of Honduran operations receiving U.S. money.

The agreement doesn’t specifically mention Bonilla, but Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who has led a Congressional group that has questioned human rights violation in Honduras, said last week that he made his intentions clear:

“No units under General Bonilla’s control should receive U.S. assistance without credible information refuting the serious allegations against him,” Leahy said in an email to the AP.

That information so far has not been provided by the State Department, and the AP’s findings have prompted more questions.

“Senator Leahy has asked the State Department to clarify how they differentiate between what they told the Congress and what is being said by those within Honduran police units under his authority,” Leahy aide Tim Rieser said Friday. “Sen. Leahy, like others, made clear early on his concerns about Gen. Bonilla and the conduct of the Honduran police.”

Dozens of U.S. Congressmen, Leahy chief among them, have been raising concerns for many years about abuses of authority and human rights violations by the Honduran police, a force of 14,000 officers that is considered among the most corrupt in the world.

The AP reported on Sunday that two gang-related people detained by police in January have disappeared, fueling long-standing accusations that the Honduran police operate death squads and engage in “social cleansing.” It also found that in the last three years, Honduran prosecutors have received as many as 150 formal complaints about death squad-style killings in the capital of Tegucigalpa, and at least 50 more in the economic hub of San Pedro Sula.

The country’s National Autonomous University, citing police reports, has counted 149 civilians killed by police in the last two years, including 25 members of the “18th Street” gang, one of the largest and most dangerous in the country.

California Rep. Sam Farr sent the AP report to every member of Congress on Friday, saying, “I share the concerns outlined in this article about the continued lack of investigations into human rights violations at the hands of Honduran law enforcement officials.”

U.S. law, according to an amendment that bears Leahy’s name, requires the State Department to vet foreign security forces receiving U.S. aid to make sure the recipients have not committed gross human rights violations. If violations are found, the money is withheld. The State Department in a report last August said Honduras met the provisions of the Foreign Operations and Related Programs Act, which requires that the secretary of state provide Congress proof that Honduras is protecting freedom of expression and investigating and prosecuting all military and police personnel accused of human rights violations.

The department “has established a working group to examine thoroughly the allegations against (Bonilla) to ensure compliance with the Leahy Law,” the State Department report to Congress said. “While this review is ongoing, we are carefully limiting assistance to those special Honduran law enforcement units, staffed by Leahy-vetted Honduran personnel who receive training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement, and not under Bonilla’s direct supervision.”

When asked by AP if the specially vetted Honduran police units working with the U.S. Embassy still report to Bonilla, the Honduran security official said: “Yes, that’s how it works, because of personal loyalty and federal law.”

U.S. support goes to Honduran forces working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on anti-narcotics operations, and anti-gang, anti-kidnapping and border-security units, according to an embassy official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

On Monday, the State Department announced another $16.3 million in support to Honduran police and prosecutors to battle violence and money laundering and to improve border security. Some of the U.S. money will go to the Gang Resistance Education and Training program under the director of community policing, who also told the AP that he reports directly to Bonilla.

“I only report to the director general, all of the programs of the Honduran police are directed personally by him,” said Otoniel Castillo, a police sub-commissioner. “He has a personal and intense closeness to all projects of international cooperation, especially because of his good relationship with the U.S. Embassy.”

Assistant Secretary of State William R. Brownfield, who appeared on Monday with the country’s vice president to announce the new funding, did not answer questions.

“The United States undertakes stringent vetting procedures, as required by U.S. law, to ensure U.S. assistance doesn’t go to individuals or units in the Honduran police and military if there is credible information they’re linked to human rights abuses,” said William Ostick, a spokesperson in the Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau of the State Department. “We’re in close communication with the U.S. Congress and Senator Leahy on this issue. Promoting human rights and the rule of law is, and will remain, central to our engagement in Honduras.”

of particular note is the role of John Negroponte – whose role in Honduras since the time of the contras is well known and it is suspected that he is the “author” of the Honduras coup that removed Zelaya for a more guaranteed and compliant government

Washington behind the Honduras coup: Here is the evidence

Repression intensifies

Global Research, July 15, 2009

http://www.globalresearch.ca/washington-behind-the-honduras-coup-here-is-the-evidence/14390

The US Department of State had prior knowledge of the coup. The Department of State and the US Congress funded and advised the actors and organisations in Honduras that participated in the coup. The Pentagon trained, schooled, commanded, funded and armed the Honduran armed forces that perpetrated the coup and that continue to repress the people of Honduras by force.

The US military presence in Honduras, that occupies the Soto Cano (Palmerola) military base, authorised the coup d’etat through its tacit complicity and refusal to withdraw its support of the Honduran military involved in the coup. The US ambassador in Tegucigalpa, Hugo Llorens, coordinated the removal from power of President Manuel Zelaya, together with Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon y John Negroponte, who presently works as an advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

From the first day the coup occurred, Washington has referred to “both parties” involved and the necessity for “dialogue” to restore constitutional order, legitimising the coup leaders by regarding them as equal players instead of criminal violators of human rights and democratic principles. The Department of State has refused to legally classify the events in Honduras as a “coup d’etat”, nor has it suspended or frozen its economic aid or commerce to Honduras, and has taken no measures to effectively pressure the de facto regime.

Washington manipulated the Organization of American States (OAS) in order to buy time, therefore allowing the coup regime to consolidate and weaken the possibility of President Zelaya’s immediate return to power, as part of a strategy still in place that simply seeks to legitimate the de facto regime and wear down the Honduran people that still resist the coup. Secretary of State Clinton and her spokesmen stopped speaking of President Zelaya’s return to power after they designated Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias as the “mediator” between the coup regime and the constitutional government; and now the State Department refers to the dictator that illegally took power during the coup, Roberto Micheletti, as the “interim caretaker president”.

The strategy of “negotiating” with the coup regime was imposed by the Obama administration as a way of discrediting President Zelaya – blaming him for provoking the coup – and legitimising the coup leaders. Members of the US Congress – Democrats and Republicans – organised a visit of representatives from the coup regime in Honduras to Washington, receiving them with honors in different arenas in the US capital. Despite the fact that originally it was Republican Senator John McCain who coordinated the visit of the coup regime representatives to Washington through a lobby firm connected to his office, The Cormac Group, now, the illegal regime is being representated by top notch lobbyist and Clinton attorney Lanny Davis, who is using his pull and influence in Washington to achieve overall acceptance – cross party lines – of the coup regime in Honduras. Otto Reich and a Venezuelan named Robert Carmona-Borjas, known for his role as attorney for the dictator Pedro Carmona during the April 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela, aided in preparing the groundwork for the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.

The team designated from Washington to design and help prepare the coup in Honduras also included a group of US ambassadors recently named in Central America, experts in destabilising efforts against the Cuban revolution, and Adolfo Franco, ex administrator for USAID’s Cuba “transition to democracy” program. No one doubts that the fingerprints of Washington are all over the coup d’etat against President Manuel Zelaya that began on June 28. Many analysts, writers, activists and even presidents, have denounced this role. Nevertheless, the majority coincide in excusing the Obama Administration from any responsibility in the Honduran coup, blaming instead the lingering remains of the Bush-Cheney era and the war hawks that still pace the halls of the White House. The evidence demonstrates that while it is certain that the usual suspects who perpetrate coups and destabilisation activities in Latin America are involved, ample proof exists confirming the direct role of the new administration in Washington in the Honduran coup.

The Department of State

The new form of diplomacy of the United States, known as “smart power”, has played a principal role before, during and after the coup in Honduras. During a press briefing on July 1, spokespeople for the Department of State admitted to having prior knowledge of the coup in Honduras, clarifying that US diplomats had been meeting with the groups and actors planning the coup to encourage a different “solution” to their discontent with President Zelaya.[i] The State Department also confirmed that two high level representatives from the Department, which included Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig Kelley, were in Honduras the week prior to the coup and maintained meetings with the civilian and military groups that later participated in the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected president. They state their mission was to “urge against” the coup, but evidently such verbal pressure was insufficient to discourage the actors involved in the coup, particularly considering the actions manifested by Washington contradicted those harsh words.

On the day of the coup, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton published a statement regarding the situation in Honduras. Despite the fact that governments around the world were quickly condemning the actions as a coup d’etat, Clinton’s statement did not recognise the events in Honduras as a “coup d’etat” and also did not call for the return of President Zelaya to power. Curiously, Clinton’s statements from day one have referred to “all parties” of situation, legitimising the coup leaders and somehow placing blame – publicly – on President Mel Zelaya for provoking his own overthrow: “The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all. We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue. Honduras must embrace the very principles of democracy we reaffirmed at the OAS meeting it hosted less than one month ago.”[ii]

And ever since, despite different references to a “coup” having occurred in Honduras, the Department of State has refused to legally classify what took place as a coup d’etat. By doing so, the US government would be obligated to suspend economic, diplomatic and military aid to Honduras, which apparently they are unwilling to do, since such a measure would substantially affect US interests in the Central American nation and the region. On July 1, the spokesmen for the State Department explained their wavering on the coup question: “In regard to the coup itself, I think it would just – it would be best to say that this was a coordinated effort between the military and some civilian political actors. Obviously, the military was the entity that conducted the forcible removal of the president and has acted as the securer of public order during this process. But for the coup to become more than an insurrection or a rebellion, you have to have an effort to transfer power. And in that regard, the congress – the congress’s decision to swear in its president, Micheletti, as the president of Honduras indicates that the congress and key members of that congress played an important role in this coup.”[iii]

This position of ambiguity, that condemns the events in Honduras as a violation of constitutional order but doesn’t go as far as classifying the situation as a coup d’etat and also doesn’t call for the reinstatement of President Zelaya to the presidency, was ratified again after the meeting held between Secretary of State Clinton and President Zelaya on July 7. Clinton made the following statement, “I just finished a productive meeting with President Zelaya. We discussed the events of the past nine days and the road ahead. I reiterated to him that the United States supports the restoration of the democratic constitutional order in Honduras. We continue to support regional efforts through the OAS to bring about a peaceful resolution that is consistent with the terms of the Inter-American Democratic Charter…We call upon all parties to refrain from acts of violence and to seek a peaceful, constitutional, and lasting solution to the serious divisions in Honduras through dialogue. To that end, we have been working with a number of our partners in the hemisphere to create a negotiation, a dialogue that could lead to a peaceful resolution of this situation.”[iv]

Now it was clear, after this meeting, that Washington would no longer consider Zelaya’s return to the presidency as a necessary solution but rather would lobby for a “negotiation” with the coup regime, that in the end, favours US interests. Sources that were present at the Organisation of American States (OAS) meetings that took place after the coup affirm that the presence of a high-level US delegation intensified the pressure against other States to urge for a “negotiated” solution that didn’t necessarily imply the return to power of President Zelaya.

This method of circumventing the main issue, manipulating the outcome and attempting to appear as though one position has been assumed when in reality, actions demonstrate the contrary, forms part of the new Obama doctrine of “smart power”, which purports to achieve imperialist objectives without demonising the government. “Smart Power” is “the capacity to combine ‘hard power’ with ‘soft power’ to achieve a victorious strategy. ‘Smart Power’ strategically uses diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building, military power and economic and political influence, in an effective way with a political and social legitimacy.” Essentially, it’s a mix of military force with all forms of diplomacy, with an emphasis in the use of “democracy promotion” as a principal tactic to strongy influence the destiny of societies, instead of a military invasion. [Note: Beware that “smart power” places an emphasis on the use of agencies like USAID and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to do the ‘dirty work’ of silently penetrating and infiltrating civil society organisations in order to promote a US agenda. This explains Obama’s call for an additional $320 million in “democracy promotion” funds for the 2010 budget just for use in Latin America. This is substantially a higher sum than the quantity requested and used in Latin America for “democracy promotion” by the Bush administration in its 8 years of government combined.]

The ambassador

Journalist Jean-Guy Allard has revealed the origens of the current US ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens[v]. Per Allard, Hugo Llorens, a Cuban national from birth who arrived in the United States as part of Operation Peter Pan, is “a specialist in terrorism… In 2002, George W. Bush’s White House strategically placed the astute Llorens as Director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council in Washington, D.C., which converted him into the principle advisor to the President on Venezuela. The coup d’etat in 2002 against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez occured during Llorens’ tenure, who was working together with Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Otto Reich, and the very controversial Elliot Abrams. In July 2008, Llorens was named Ambassador to Honduras.”

On June 4, 2009, just weeks before the coup d’etat against President Zelaya, Ambassador Llorens declared to the Honduran press that “…One can’t violate the Constitution in order to create another Constitution, because if one doesn’t respect the Constitution, then we all live under the law of the jungle.”[vi] Those declarations were made in reference to the national opinion survey on the possibility of convening a constitutional convention during 2010, that would have taken place on June 28th if the coup d’etat against President Zelaya hadn’t occured. The commentaries made by Llorens evidence not only his position against the survey, but also his interference in the internal affairs of Honduras.

But Llorens wasn’t alone in the region. After his nomination as US Ambassador in Honduras – position that he was assigned to due to the urgent necessity to neutralise the growing presence of leftist governments in the region and impede the regional potency of ALBA – several other US ambassadors were also named in neighboring nations, all experts in destabilising the Cuban revolution and executing psychological warfare.

The diplomat Robert Blau arrived first to the US embassy in El Salvador, on July 2, 2008, named as second in command. In January 2009, Blau became the Charge d’Affairs at the Embassy. Before arriving to El Salvador, Blau was subdirector of Cuban affairs at the Department of State in Washington, after working for two years at the US Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, as a Political Counselor. His work with Cuban dissidents was so successful that Blau was honored with the Department of State James Clement Dunn Award for Excellence. Llorens and Blau were old friends, after working together as part of Otto Reich’s team in the State Department.

Soon after, Stephen McFarland was named as US Ambassador in Guatemala, on August 5, 2008. McFarland, a graduate of the National War College in the US, similar to Hugo Llorens and Robert Blau, and also a former member of Combat Team Number 2 of the US Marines in Iraq, was the second in command at the US embassy in Venezuela during William Brownfield’s tenure. Brownfield is known for achieving a substantial increase in State Department funding and strategic support for the Venezuelan opposition. After Venezuela, McFarland was sent to the US Embassy in Paraguay to oversee the construction of the large US military base in that country that borders Bolivia. McFarland was also Director of Cuban Affairs at the State Department and his resumé claims he is an expert in “democratic transitions, human rights and security matters.”

Ambassador Robert Callahan arrived to Managua, Nicaragua, also at the beginning of August. Callahan has worked at the US embassies in La Paz, Bolivia, and San José, Costa Rica, and was a distinguished professor at the National War College. In 2004, he was sent to Iraq as press attaché at the US Embassy in Baghdad. Upon his return, he established the press and propaganda office at the newly created Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) in Washington, which today is the most powerful entity in the US intelligence community.

Together, these ambassadors – experts in coup d’etats, destabilisation and propaganda – prepared the terrain for the coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.

Funding the coup leaders

Just one month before the coup against President Zelaya occured, a coalition of different organisations, business associations, political parties, high level members of the Catholic Church and private media outlets, was formed in opposition to Zelaya’s policies. The coalition was called the “Democratic Civil Union of Honduras”. It’s only objective was to oust President Zelaya from power in order to impede the future possibility of a constitutional convention to reform the constitution, which would allow the people a voice and a role in their political process.

The “Democratic Civil Union of Honduras” is composed of organisations including the National Anticorruption Council, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP), Council of University Deans, Workers’ Federation of Honduras (CTH), National Convergence Forum, National Federation of Commerce and Industry of Honduras (FEDECAMARA), Association of Communication Media (AMC), the Group Peace & Democracy and the student group Generation for Change.

The majority of these organisations have been the beneficiaries of the more than $50 million annually disbursed by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for “democracy promotion” in Honduras. In fact, a USAID report regarding its funding and work with COHEP, described how the “low profile maintained by USAID in this project helped ensure the credibility of COHEP as a Honduran organisation and not an arm of USAID.” Which basically means that COHEP is, actually, an arm of USAID.

The spokespeople for the Democratic Civil Union of Honduras representing, according to them, “civil society”, declared to the Honduran press on June 23rd – five days before the coup took place against President Zelaya – that they “trust the armed forces will comply with their responsibility to defend the Constitution, the Law, peace and democracy.” When the coup took place on June 28th, they were the first to immediately claim that a coup had not occured, but rather “democracy had been saved” from the hands of President Zelaya, whose crime was to attempt to give voice and visibility to the people. Representing the biased middle and upperclasses, the Democratic Civil Union has qualified Zelaya’s supporters as “hoards”.

The International Republican Institute (IRI), entity that receives funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), received more than $1.2 million in 2009 to work with political groups in Honduras. IRI’s work has been dedicated to supporting “think tanks” and “pressure groups” to influence political parties and “support initiatives to implement political positions during the campaigns in 2009.” This is a clear example of intervention in the internal politics of Honduras and evidence of NED and IRI funding to those groups involved in the coup.

The Washington lobby

Republican Senator John McCain, ex US presidential candidate, helped coordinate the visit of a coup regime delegation to Washington last week. McCain is well known for his opposition to governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries in the region considered “anti-imperialist”. McCain also maintains very close ties to the Cuban exile community in Miami. McCain is also Chairman of the Board of the International Republican Institute (IRI) that has funded the coup participants in Honduras. McCain offered the services of a lobby firm in Washington, closely tied to him, the Cormac Group, that organised a press conference for the coup regime delegation at the National Press Club on June 7th. McCain also helped set up several meetings in Congress with the traditional Cuban-American representatives and those general “Chávez-haters”, such as Connie Mack, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mel Martinez.

But beyond the Republican connection to the Honduran coup regime, there is a even more damning link to the current Democrat administration in Washington. Lawyer Lanny Davis was hired by the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL) to lobby in favour of the coup regime and convince the powers in Washington to accept and recognise the de facto government in Honduras. Lanny Davis was special counsel to ex President Bill Clinton from 1996-1998 and he is a close friend and advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Davis is organising a diplomatic offensive and public relations blitz in favour of the coup regime, including the strategic placement of advertisements in important US media that seek to legitimise the de facto Honduran government, and he is organising meetings and hearings with members of Congress, the State Department and the White House. CEAL represents the conservative business community in Latin America, including those that have promoted and participated in previous attempts to oust democratic governments via coup d’etats and/or other forms of sabotage. For example, the Venezuelan representative of CEAL is Marcel Granier, president of RCTV, the television station that heavily participated in the 2002 coup against President Chávez and that consistently has violated Venezuelan law in order to promote its political agenda.

As part of this offensive, Lanny Davis arranged a special hearing before the House Foreign Relations Committee, attended by high level members of Congress and overseen by Democrat Elliot Engel (congressman from New York). Testimonies were given at the hearing by representatives of the coup regime from Honduras and others who have supported the coup – directly and indirectly – such as Michael Shifter from the InterAmerican Dialogue, Guillermo Pérez-Cadalso, ex Honduran foreign minister and supreme court judge, and the infamous Otto Reich, a Cuban-American well known for his role in the majority of destabilisation activities against leftist and progressive governments in Latin America throughout the eighties. Reich, who was named Special Advisor on Latin America to President George W. Bush, also played a key role in the 2002 coup against President Chávez. As a result of this hearing, the US Congress is currently trying to pass a resolution that recognises the coup regime in Honduras as a legitimate government.

Another consequence of Lanny Davis’ lobbying efforts was the meeting arranged in the Council of the Americas Washington office on June 9th. This event included the participation of Jim Swigert, Director of Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean for the National Democratic Institute (NDI), entity that receives its funding from NED and USAID, Cris Arcos, former US ambassador to Honduras, and Adolfo Franco, ex USAID Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the director of the “transition to democracy” program for Cuba. These three characters are working as advisors to the Obama administration on the Honduran crisis. Franco, who was previously advisor on foreign policy to John McCain during his presidential campaign in 2008, has been accused of corruption for his mismanagement of USAID funds destined for the Cuba “democracy” program. Franco diverted a large quantity of these funds, totaling over $40 million, to groups such as the Committee for a Free Cuba and the Institute for Cuban Studies in Miami, without adhering to a transparent process of funds disbursement.

Negroponte and Reich, again

Many analysts and specialists on Latin American have speculated on the role of former ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, who directed the paramilitary forces and death squads known as the “Contra” against leftist movements in Central America during the 1980s. Negroponte held various high level positions during the Bush administration, including US Ambassador to Iraq, US Ambassador to the United Nations, National Director of Intelligence and lastly, subsecretary of state, second only to Condoleezza Rice. After leaving the Department of State in January 2009, Negroponte entered the private sector, as is custom amongst former top government officials. He was offered a job as vice-president at the most influential and powerful consulting firm in Washington, McLarty Associates. Negroponte accepted the job. McLarty Associates was founded by Thomas “Mack” McLarty, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and also Clinton’s Special Envoy to Latin America. Since the end of the Clinton administration, McLarty has managed the most powerful strategic consulting firm in Washington, which until just last year, was called Kissinger-McLarty Associates due to the merging of Thomas McLarty and Henry Kissinger. This partnership clearly evidenced the bi-partisan unions that truly craft the most important policies in Washington.

In his new role, John Negroponte presently works as advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Remember, the current US ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, has worked closely under Negroponte’s domain during the majority of his career. So it would not be a far jump to consider that John Negroponte, expert in crushing leftist movements in Central America, has played a role in the current coup against President Zelaya in Honduras.

Otto Reich has also been investing his energy during the last couple of years in a campaign against President Zelaya. The Honduran president actually threatened to sue Reich for defamation in April 2009, after Reich accused President Zelaya of stealing $100 million from the state-owned telecommunications company, Hondutel. These accustations were never backed by evidence, and the truth was revealed soon after that explained Reich’s interest in Hondutel. Through his consulting and lobbying firm, Otto Reich Associates, the Cuban-American was representing a multinational corporation that was pushing for the privatisation of Hondutel, a move that Zelaya opposed. With President Zelaya out of the picture now, Reich is able to pursue the multi-million dollar deal.

Reich also co-founded an organisation in Washington named Arcadia Foundation[vii] together with a Venezuelan, Robert Carmona-Borjas, a lawyer specialised in military law who is linked to the April 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela, per his own resumé. Robert Carmona-Borjas was in the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, together with the dictator Pedro Carmona, on the days of the coup, from April 11-12, 2002, and escaped, together with Carmona, when the palace was retaken by the presidential guard and constitutional order was restored. He later fled to the United States after he was brought up on charges for his role in the coup d’etat in Venezuela, and became a university professor at George Washington University in Washington, DC (nice to see the warm welcome coup leaders and violators of democracy receive in the United States). Since last year, Reich and Carmona-Borjas have been conducting a campaign against President Zelaya, accusing him of corruption and limiting private property rights. Through the Arcadia Foundation, they created a series of video clips that have been shown in different media, attempted to portray Zelaya as a corrupt president who violates the basic rights of the Honduran people.[viii]

Carmona-Borjas has travelled frequently to Honduras during the last few months, and even held public meetings where the coup against Zelaya was discussed openly. At one encounter where Carmona-Borjas was present, Honduran Public Defender Ramón Custodia, who was involved in the coup d’etat, declared to the press that “coups are a possibility and can occur in any political environment”. After the coup took place, Robert Carmona-Borjas appeared at a rally in support of the de facto regime, on July 3, and received the honors and applause from the coup leaders who declared him “an important actor” that “helped make possible” the removal from power of President Zelaya and the installation of the dictator Roberto Micheletti as de facto president.[ix]

Military power

The United States maintains a large military presence in Honduras in the Soto Cano (Palmerola) base, located about 50 miles from the capital, Tegucigalpa, that has been actively operating since 1981, when it was heavily occupied by the US Ronald Reagan Administration and used for its operations in Central America.

During the eighties, Soto Cano was used by Colonel Oliver North as a base of operations of the “Contra”, the paramilitary forces trained, armed and funded by the CIA, and charged with executing warfare against all leftist movements in Central America, with particular focus on the neighbouring Sandinista government in Nicaragua. From Soto Cano, the “Contra” launched terrorist attacks, psychological warfare (overseen by Otto Reich’s Office for Public Diplomacy), death squads and special covert missions that resulted in the assassination of tens of thousands of farmers and civilians, thousands of disappeared, tortured, wounded and terrorised all throughout the region.

John Negroponte, US ambassador at the time in Honduras, together with Oliver North and Otto Reich, directed and oversaw these dirty operations. They later became involved in the Iran-Contra scandal once the US Congress cut the funding for the paramilitary groups and death squads used by the Reagan Administration to neutralise the leftist movements in the region, and the Negroponte-North-Reich team sold arms to Iran to continue funding their covert operations.

The Soto Cano base houses the US Joint Task Force-Bravo military group, composed of members from the army, air force, joint security forces and the First Batallion Regiment 228 of the US Air Force. The current total presence of US forces on the base numbers approximately 600, and includes 18 combat planes, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, used for special warfare operations. The Honduran Aviation Academy is also located on the Soto Cano base. More than 650 Honduran and US citizens also live inside the base installations.

The Honduran constitution does not legally permit the presence of foreign military in the country. A “handshake” agreement was made between Washington and Honduras authorising the “semi-permanent” important and strategic presence of hundreds – at times thousands – of US military personnel on the base. The agreement was made in 1954, in exchange for the multimillion dollar aid the US provides to the Honduran armed forces, which ranges from training programs, arms and military equipment and joint exercises and operations that take place on the ground in Honduras. The base was first employed by the US military and CIA to launch the coup d’etat against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.

Each year, Washington authorises hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic aid to Honduras, which is the third-poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti and Nicaragua. This “exchange” securing the US military presence in the Central American nation can be terminated at any time by the Honduran government, without much notice.

On May 31, 2008, President Manuel Zelaya announced that Soto Cano (Palmerola) would be converted into an international civilian airport. The construction of the airport terminal would be financed with a fund from the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA – of which Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominique, Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vicents, Antigua and Barbados and Venezuela are members). This obviously was a huge threat to the future US military presence in Honduras.

The two generals that have participated in key roles in the coup against President Zelaya are both graduates of the US School of the Americas, famous for training dictators, torturers and repressors in Latin America, and they maintain very close ties with the US military forces based in Honduras. The Commander of the Honduran Air Force General Luis Javier Prince Suazo studied in the famous School of the Americas in 1996. The Head of the Honduran High Military Command, General Romeo Vásquez, who was fired by President Zelaya on June 24, 2009, for disobeying the president’s orders, and later appeared as the principal actor in the military coup just days later, is also a graduate of the School of the Americas. These two high level military officers also maintain close contact with the Pentagon and the Southern Command.

The US Ambassador in Honduras through September 2008, when Hugo Llorens was appointed to the position, Charles Ford, was transferred from Honduras to the Southern Command in Florida and charged with providing “strategic advising” to the Pentagon about Latin America, a position he holds today.

The Honduran military are funded, trained, schooled and commanded by the US military. They have been indoctrinated with the anti-leftist, anti-socialist, pro-empire mentality since the beginning of the Cold War. The Generals and high level officers involved in the coup in Honduras have publicly stated that they were “obligated” to remove President Zelaya from power because of the “threat” he posed with his “leftist” ideology and alignment to socialist nations in the region such as Venezuela and Cuba. Per one Honduran colonel, “’We fought the subversive movements here and we were the only country that did not have a fratricidal war like the others…It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That’s impossible. I personally would have retired, because my thinking, my principles, would not have allowed me to participate in that.”.[x]

All of the above evidence – and certainly more to come in the future – proves the undeniable role of Washington in the coup d’etat aginst President Zelaya in Honduras.