Archive for March, 2016

The U.S. Role In Honduras by Stephen Zunes

The US role in the Honduras coup and subsequent violence

https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/the-u-s-role-in-honduras-by-stephen-zunes

 

People carry the coffin of indigenous leader and environmental activist Berta Caceres after a five-hour autopsy at the Forensic Medicine Center in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, March 3. (CNS/EPA

Stephen Zunes  |  Mar. 14, 2016NCR Today

On March 3, Berta Cáceres, a brave and outspoken indigenous Honduran environmental activist and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, was gunned down in her hometown of La Esperanza. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International, noted how “For years, she had been the victim of a sustained campaign of harassment and threats to stop her from defending the rights of indigenous communities.”

She is just one of thousands of indigenous activists, peasant leaders, trade unionists, journalists, environmentalists, judges, opposition political candidates, human rights activists, and others murdered since a military coup ousted the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Despite being a wealthy logger and rancher from the centrist Liberal Party, Zelaya had moved his government to the left during his four years in office. During his tenure, he raised the minimum wage and provided free school lunches, milk for young children, pensions for the elderly, and additional scholarships for students. He built new schools, subsidized public transportation, and even distributed energy-saving light bulbs.

None of these were particularly radical moves, but it was nevertheless disturbing to the country’s wealthy economic and military elites. More frightening was that Zelaya had sought to organize an assembly to replace the 1982 constitution written during the waning days of the U.S.-backed military dictator Policarpo Paz Garcia. A non-binding referendum on whether such a constitutional assembly should take place was scheduled the day of the coup, but was cancelled when the military seized power and named Congressional Speaker Roberto Micheletti as president.

Calling for such a referendum is perfectly legal under Article 5 of the 2006 Honduran Civil Participation Act, which allows public functionaries to perform such non-binding public consultations regarding policy measures. Despite claims by the rightist junta and its supporters, Zelaya was not trying to extend his term. That question wasn’t even on the ballot. The Constitutional Assembly would not have likely completed its work before his term had expired anyway.

Attention, Seattle! NCR on Tap is coming to your city April 5. Join editor Dennis Coday and others for an evening of food, drinks and good conversation about the church. Learn more.

The leader of the coup, Honduran General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, was a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training program nicknamed “School of Assassins” for the sizable number of graduates who have engaged in coups, as well as the torture and murder of political opponents. The training of coup plotters at the program, since renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, isn’t a bygone feature of the Cold War: General Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who played an important role in the coup as head of the Honduran Air Force, graduated as recently as 1996.


More: Catholic groups write John Kerry to urge US scrutiny of Honduran activist’s death


There is no evidence to suggest that the Obama administration was behind the coup. However, a number of U.S. officials — most notably then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — played an important role in preventing Zelaya’s return to office and the junta consolidating its power in the face of massive nonviolent protests.

Clinton insisted the day after the coup that “all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday’s events.” When asked if her call for “restoring the constitutional order” in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself, she didn’t say it necessarily would. State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly evaded reporters’ questions as to whether the United States supported Zelaya’s return, placing the United States at odds with the Organization of American States, the Rio Group, and the U.N. General Assembly, all of which called for the “immediate and unconditional return” of Zelaya.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens, reflecting the broad consensus of international observers, sent a cable to Clinton entitled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” thoroughly documenting that “there is no doubt” that Zelaya’s ouster “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.” Similarly, Ann-Marie Slaughter, then serving as director of Policy Planning at the State Department, sent an email to Clinton strongly encouraging her to “take bold action” and to “find that [the] coup was a ‘military coup’ under U.S. law.” However, Clinton’s State Department refused to suspend U.S. aid to Honduras — as required when a democratically-elected government is ousted in such a manner – on the grounds that it wasn’t clear that the forcible military-led overthrow actually constituted a coup d’état.

Emails released last year by the State Department also show how Clinton rejected calls by the international community to condemn the coup and used her lobbyist friend Lanny Davis — who was working for the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, which supported the coup — to open communications with Micheletti, the illegitimate interim ruler installed by the military.

Leaders of Latin American nations, the U.N. General Assembly and other international organizations unambiguously demanded Zelaya’s immediate return to office. However, in her memoir Hard Choices, Clinton admits that she worked to prevent restoring the elected president to office: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary Espinosa in Mexico. We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

The elections, held under military rule and marred by violence and media censorship, were hardly free or fair. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) declared they would not recognize elections held under the de facto government and the Organization of American States drafted a resolution that would have refused to recognize Honduran elections carried out under the dictatorship, but the State Department blocked its adoption.

In the subsequent six years, the horrific repression and skyrocketing murder rate — now the highest in the world — has resulted in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing for safety in the United States. Ironically, as Secretary of State, Clinton rejected granting political asylum and supported their deportation.

Clinton’s role in supporting the coup in Honduras is a reminder that the Middle East is not the only part of the world in which she is willing to set aside principles of international law and human rights to advance perceived U.S. economic and strategic interests. Indeed, it may be a troubling indication of the kind of foreign policies she would pursue as president.

[Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, Contributing Editor to Tikkun Magazine, and is currently serving as a visiting professor at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand.]

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Indigenous Activist Berta Cáceres Assassinated in Honduras

Human Rights Organizations Demand an Investigation of the Circumstances Surrounding the Assassination of Berta Cáceres, the General Coordinator of COPINH

https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/indigenous-activist-assassinated-in-honduras

HONDURAS – At approximately 11:45pm last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.

Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources.

Cáceres, a Lenca woman, grew up during the violence that swept through Central America in the 1980s. Her mother, a midwife and social activist, took in and cared for refugees from El Salvador, teaching her young children the value of standing up for disenfranchised people.

Cáceres grew up to become a student activist and in 1993, she cofounded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to Lenca communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.

Berta Cáceres and COPINH have been accompanying various land struggles throughout western Honduras. In the last few weeks, violence and repression towards Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the communities they support, had escalated. In Rio Blanco on February 20, 2016, Berta Cáceres, COPINH, and the community of Rio Blanco faced threats and repression as they carried out a peaceful action to protect the River Gualcarque against the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company DESA. As a result of COPINH’s work supporting the Rio Blanco struggle, Berta Cáceres had received countless threats against her life and was granted precautionary measures by the InterAmerican Commission for Human Rights. On February 25, 2016, another Lenca community supported by COPINH in Guise, Intibuca was violently evicted and destroyed.

Since the 2009 military coup, that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm – most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.

Duty to Warn

by Dr. Gary Kohls

The Execution of Berta Caceres, the United Fruit Company and the US Military: A Historical Timeline Identifying Some of the Perpetrators

By Gary G. Kohls, MD

THE FOLLOWING QUOTES (EXCEPT AS NOTED) ARE FROM:HTTPS://NEWREPUBLIC.COM/ARTICLE/120559/HONDURAS-CHARTER-CITIES-SPEARHEADED-US-CONSERVATIVES-LIBERTARIANS

“In the early 1950s the United Fruit Company hired legendary public relations expert Edward Bernays to carry out an intense misinformation campaign portraying then-Guatamalan president Jacobo Arbenz as a communist threat.” – Scott Price, IC Magazine

“Between the time of the (Honduran) coup (June 2009) and February 2012, there were at least 59 politically motivated assassinations of civilians associated with the resistance movement. This is a low estimate, as intimidation and fear of reprisal prevents communities and family members from reporting many such deaths. There were at least 250 violations of human rights in the military junta’s first three months alone.” – Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), respected human rights organization.

“I’ve seen all sorts of horrific things in my time. but none as detrimental to the country as this.” – Honduran journalist Sandra Maribel Sanchez

 “In 2013, the (illegitimate) Honduran government passed a law…which is to create autonomous free-trade zones that are governed by corporations, instead of the countries in which they exist.”

 “…the project will allow multinationals to violate labor and environmental rights. It’s unconstitutional and violates national sovereignty. According to the charter city law, Honduras will sell territory to investors, and that territory becomes an autonomous region (that is) no longer governed by Honduran laws or police.”

“This is nothing more than a plan to get rid of the national debt by auctioning off the country,” ex-president Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a US-backed 2009 coup.

“Many fear the ZEDEs (‘Special Economic Development Zones’ [‘Privatized Free Trade Zones’]) in Honduras because they will become a tool for organized crime to strengthen its hold on the country”

“Nine Americans remain key players in the ZEDEs—six of whom served in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan.” (They are Mark Klugmann, Grover Norquist, Richard Rahn, Loren A. Smith, Reagan’s son, Michael and Mark Skousen – see below for more details.)

“US investor-members (of the Honduran Special Economic Development Zone’s  so-called Committee for the Application of Best Practices) include Mark Klugmann, speech writer for presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush and image consultant to Honduran post-coup president Lobo; Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform; Richard Rahn, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce during the Reagan administration and senior member of the (Libertarian)Cato Institute; Loren A. Smith, federal judge and chief campaign advisor to Reagan in 1976 and 1980; Reagan’s son, Michael; and Mark Skousen, former CIA economic analyst and Forbes columnist.”

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould, railroad robber baron, as he hired armed Pinkerton detectives (and other goon squad thugs) to brutally break a labor union strike.

This time we can’t just call up the police ‘cause the criminals got all the cops on a leash” – Songwriter Ethan Miller, from his powerful pro-worker songOrganized Crime

Hondura’s President Porfirio Lobo talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Guatemala City on March 5, 2010. (Photo: Guatemala Presidency/Handout)

Hondura’s Illegitimately-elected right-wing President Porfirio Lobo met with President Obama in October 2011 following the military coup that deposed the social democratic president Zelaya

Wounds inflicted by the Honduran military upon a Lenca tribal anti-dam activist, whose father was murdered in the same attack

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Last Sunday I attended a vigil at Peace Church here in Duluth, MN that commemorated the life and death of assassinated Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres, a 44 year-old mother of 4.

Caceres has been devoting her life organizing her fellow aboriginal tribal members (the Lenca Indians), fellow Hondurans and other justice-loving citizens of the world in resisting the privatization of their ancestral lands, resources and rivers by foreign investor groups and the traitorous collaborating politicians and businessmen that rule Honduras. Those “traitors” to her homeland’s indigenous rights are being militarily backed-up by the Honduran military, the private corporation’s armed guards, and shadowy “death squads” who have been harassing Berta and other resistors with death threats, intimidation and killings over the years.

The vigil was somber and meditative and a call to some sort of action to those in attendance. To me it was also a call to do something to resist other tyrannical corporations that are forging ahead with their nefarious plans to exploit and extract our precious, irreplaceable resources by any means necessary.

I have long believed that, in order to be effective, it is necessary to name out loud, not just the evil that is being done to the land and it creatures, but also the suspected or proven evil-doers  That exercise was effective in my practice of holistic health care, where victims of neglect or psychological, sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual trauma needed to not only identify the signs and symptoms of their mental ill health, but also to name the perpetrators of the violence, which were individuals, groups or cultures. Doing so was very therapeutic and often curative.

So, in addition to commemorating the life and death of another martyr to the cause of peace and environmental justice, I feel that it is important to understand the history of the power-hungry perpetrators of violence to the land, its creatures, whether it be greedy individuals, greedy corporate entities, blinded or co-opted bureaucracies or military or police organizations that solve their problems by inflicting violence on others.

Therefore I offer below the following timeline of historical events in Honduras that led up to Berta’s execution, starting with the gold-obsessed Christopher Columbus and the evil conquistadors that followed him to a new world that was already occupied by First Nations’ peoples who were massacred or otherwise cheated out of their sovereign right to make use of their own land, mineral and water resources as they saw fit. I have obtained the information from a multitude of historically accurate sources.

(Note that this March 30 is the 117th anniversary of the merger of two US banana companies into the United Fruit Company (now called United Brands),that did everything in its power to violently enslave the aboriginal people of Central America by illegally and immorally removing them from their ancestral lands, refusing to pay them livable wages for their work, putting their lives and health at serious risk and by hoarding massive amounts of their land, thus impoverishing the original inhabitants,

Of course this pattern of exploitation should familiar to anybody who is awake. It happened (and is still happening) to aboriginal peoples in our own backyard, whether it is in the United States, Canada or in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand or most everywhere else around the world.

Powerful entities like extractive, polluting and otherwise exploitive multinational corporations like PolyMet, Twin Metals, Glencore and Enbridge (just to mention the few companies that are threatening the environmental health of northern Minnesota) need to be resisted. Please offer any help you can give to the Duluth 7 activist group, which is facing criminal trespass charges when they tried to deliver a protest letter to the corporate Duluth offices of Enbridge Energy, a Canadian oil pipeline company on November 2, 2015. Their arraignment is scheduled for April 1.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Historical Timeline from Columbus to the Berta Caceres Assassination

1502 During 4th voyage Christopher Columbus reaches the coast of Honduras, then travels south to Panama.

1525 Spain conquistadors begin the brutal military assault on Honduras and all of Central and South America, with millions of innocents displaced and executed.

17th century The northern coast of Honduras falls to British buccaneers. British Honduras (now Belize) is established as a British colony, along with many Caribbean island nations.

1860 William Walker, US physician and pro-slavery soldier of fortune from Nashville, TN, leads mercenary soldiers in temporarily “conquering” Nicaragua. He is executed by firing squad by the Honduras government.

1898 April-December: Spanish-American war. Following the war, the US militarily occupies Cuba and Puerto Rico.

1899, March 30 The Boston Fruit Company merges with the Snyder Banana Company, and renames itself the United Fruit Company. The company at one time controlled 75% of the banana market in the US.

1903 November: The United States, with an eye on digging an interoceanic canal, conspires with separatist groups in the Colombian state of Panama to declare independence from Colombia. The US government sends the US Navy to prevent Colombia from recovering its territory. As soon as Panama’s independence is assured, the US obtains control over a strip of land (ultimately called the Canal Zone) through which it plans on building the canal.

1903 The United States invades Honduras.

1903 US invades the Dominican Republic.

1906 The US Army re-invades Cuba. The American occupation remains until 1909.

1907 US troops invade Nicaragua and establish a protectorate in the country.

1907 Due to political violence, US re-invades Honduras during the war with Nicaragua to “protect American lives”.

1909 US Army re-invades Nicaragua.

1911 US helps to overthrow President Miguel Devila of Honduras

1912 The US Army sends troops to Cuba.

1912 US marines land in Panama during the contested presidential elections.

1912 The US Army intervenes again in Honduras.

1914 The US Navy fights against rebels in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

1915 The US Army invades Haiti.

1916 The US Army invades the Dominican Republic.

1917 The US Army invades Cuba. The American occupation lasts until 1933.

1918 The US Army intervenes in Panama and keeps a police force in the country.

1919 The US marines land in Honduras during the presidential campaign.

1920 The US Army lands in Guatemala and fights for two weeks and puts down a peasant union movement against the United Fruit Company.

1924 US military “intervenes” in Honduras to “protect American interests” (ie, the profitability of the United Fruit Company) during a presidential election.

1925 US Army lands in Panama during a general strike against the banana plantation owners.

1932 US Navy intervenes in the Marti Revolt in El Salvador.

1932-49 Honduras suffers under the military dictatorship of General Tiburcio Carias Andino and his  right-wing National Party of Honduras (NPH).

1933 First election to the presidency of Honduras of General Carias, who developed close ties with his fellow right-wing, neofascist , military dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, all supported by the US. He remained in office until 1949.

1934 In a military coup, US-backed military dictator Anastasio Somoza takes power in Nicaragua and outlaws political parties that favor the poor and working class. He was assassinated on September 17, 1980.

<<snip>>

1945 The United Fruit Company introduces Miss Chiquita Banana as the company’s official symbol.

1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorizes Operation PBSUCCESS, a covert operation in which the CIA funds, arms, and trains 480 men led by Carlos Castillo Armas, the first of many of Guatamala’s (and other Central and South American) military dictators vigorously supported by the US.

1954 After escaping from prison following an abortive military coup attempt (1950) against the Guatemalan government, strongman and dictator-to-be Carlos Castillo established an army in neighboring Honduras. Castillo received financial and military support from the CIA and political support from Republican US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Dulles. The Dulles brothers were once lawyers for the United Fruit Company.

1954 Castillo’s army invades Guatemala in June, 1954, successfully overthrowing the democratically-elected Jacobo Arbenz, who had instituted land reform benefitting the landless peasants (the 99%) – opposed vigorously by the United Fruit Company, its bought-and-paid-for politicians and wealthy landowners (the 1%).

1954 Che Guevara witnesses the CIA-backed coup in Guatemala against Arbenz and is convinced that only armed revolutions can overthrow fascists and wealthy land-owning tyrants.

1956 The Honduras military ousts civilian president Lozano Diaz in a bloodless coup. Honduras was subsequently ruled by a military junta for the next two years.

1957 José Ramón Adolfo Villeda Morales is elected Honduran president. He serves for 6 years.

1963 October 13 The presidential candidate of the Liberal Party of Honduras, campaigning on the platform to abolish the military, is expected to win the election. But Honduran democracy is again thwarted by a military coup d’etat shortly before election day.

1963 General Osvaldo Lopez took power after the coup and served as president until 1971.

1972 General Lopez again takes power in another coup d’etat and serves until 1974.

1974 General Lopez resigns after he was exposed for accepting a bribe of over a million dollars from United Fruit.

1974 Hurricane Fifi devastates Honduras, killing 5,000.

1975 Colonel Juan Alberto Melgar Castro takes power.

1978 General Policarpo Paz Garcia ousts Melgar in a coup.

1981 Roberto Suazo Cordova, of the Centrist Liberal Party of Honduras, is elected president. He leads the first civilian government in more than a century.

1982 Brutal Guatemalan dictator (and fundamentalist Christian) Rios Montt meets with US President Ronald Reagan in Honduras. Reagan dismisses reports of egregious human rights abuses in the region and resumes weapons sales to military rulers.

1986 President Reagan issues an executive order granting emergency aid for Honduran army.

1988 Amnesty International reports increases in human rights violations by Honduran armed forces, and right-wing death squads.

1989 General Alvarez is assassinated.

1990 Rafael Callejas is sworn in as president; last Nicaraguan Contras leave Honduras.

1990-1998 Honduran military death squads kill hundreds.

1995 Compulsory military service is abolished. First military officers charged with human rights abuses.

1997 Carlos Flores, Liberal Party,is  elected president, pledging to restructure armed forces.

1998 Hurricane Mitch devastates Honduras. Cholera and malaria epidemics ensues.

1999 Honduran armed forces is placed under civilian control.

2001 Honduran Committee for Defense of Human Rights states that more than 1,000 street children were murdered in 2000 by death squads backed by the Honduran police. A drought ravages Central America, and Honduras loses 80% of its grain crops.

2002 Honduras restores diplomatic ties with Cuba.

2003 Thousands of protestors across Honduras unite to demand that the government revoke debt payment agreements with the IMF. Sadly, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua agree to the terms of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

2004 Honduras signs NAFTA.

2005 Liberal Party’s Manuel Zelaya, a social democrat, wins presidential election. Honduran Congress approves Central American Free Trade Agreement.

2006 Zelaya inaugurated as new president, promises to fight corruption.

2008 Honduras joins Bolivarian Alternative for Americas, headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

2008 Zelaya administration blocks many hydroelectric dam projects, siding with the aboriginal people who would be most affected.

2009 June President Zelaya forced into exile following a US-supported military coup d’etat. Porfirio Lobo of the conservative National Party of Honduras installed as president in a fraudulent election November 2009.

2009 In the first three months of President Lobo’s administration, at least 250 violations of human rights occur and over the first two years, over 59 assassinations of civilians are documented. 2010 President Lobo’s rallying cry was “Honduras is Open for Business.”

2010 September The post-coup nationalist government awards 47 hydroelectric dam concessions in just one law, without consulting the indigenous communities which rely on the rivers for food and water. The law was part of a tsunami of pro-business laws passed by the National Congress led by

2010 President Juan Orlando Hernandez becomes the country’s president in an election marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation. Orlando, a businessman, is a staunch supporter of foreign investments in dams, mining, tourism and oil.

Since the 2009 coup, the US builds up its air base presence in Honduras through the establishment of three forward operating bases, ostensibly for “drug interdiction”.

2011 Honduras receives more than $50 million in Pentagon contracts. 62 percent of all Defense Department funds intended for Central America that year go to Honduras.

2012 January President Orlando is invited to visit the US Military’s Southern Command headquarters in Miami to meet with high-ranking officials.

2012 May At least 4 people are gunned down by Honduran forces firing from a US State Department helicopter, under the supervision of uniformed DEA and US Navy agents.

<<snip>>

March 3, 2016 The courageous anti-tyranny activist Berta Cáceres is executed in her sleep by a right-wing death squad connected to those who were issuing the constant death threats. Cáceres was the cofounder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras (COPINH). She was an unrelenting activist protecting her Lenca Tribe’s First Nation’s natural resources, lands and rivers against powerful, military-backed, consortiums of US banks, IMF and World Bank predatory lenders, dam construction companies and mining companies that are intent on unethically – and illegally (in violation of international law) – exploiting the indigenous people’s natural resources.

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Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. He writes a weekly column for the Reader, Duluth’s alternative newsweekly magazine. His columns mostly deal with the dangers of American fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism, malnutrition, psychiatric drugging, over-vaccination regimens, Big Pharma and other movements that threaten the environment or America’s health, democracy, civility and longevity. Many of his columns are archived athttp://duluthreader.com/articles/categories/200_Duty_to_Warn

A Voice for Honduras’ Voiceless

The Lasting Legacy of Berta Cáceres

By Lauren Carasik

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/honduras/2016-03-22/voice-honduras-voiceless

Honduras is reeling from the assassination of prominent indigenous rights activist and environmental leader Berta Cáceres, who was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza on March 2. For years, she had faced death threats from industrialists who laid claim to the land of her people, the Lenca. Her hallmark fight pitted her against powerful figures who sought to dam the Gualcarque River—a sacred site for the Lenca. The construction would have threatened the indigenous group’s livelihood and spiritual connection to the river.

Cáceres’ most public battle may have focused on the small indigenous communities of Rio Blanco that live adjacent to the river, but her struggle was far from local—indeed, her efforts to protect indigenous land rights made her a national and global symbol, standing against transnational capitalism and the threat it poses not only to indigenous people throughout the developing world, but to global ecology as well. In the wake of Cáceres’ death, thousands mobilized to march in Tegucigalpa on March 17 and 18. Outside of Honduras, the killing has galvanized a groundswell of outrage as well. Hundreds of international organizations and academics have signed letters condemning the killing and demanding justice, and activists unfurled a protest banner in front of the headquarters of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington and disrupted a meeting of the Council of the Americas attended by U.S. ambassadors to Central America. Inside the beltway, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahydenounced the United States’ role in “supporting and profiting” from the “corruption and injustice” in Honduras, and 62 members of the House of Representatives have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew to demand an independent investigation into Cáceres’ death and the suspension of U.S. military aid to Honduras. Washington is the Honduran government’s biggest patron, and it must now decide which side of the nation’s history it wishes to be on.

AGE OF RESISTANCE

Cáceres came of age during the 1980s, a decade marked by brutality across Central America. She was raised in a household that was steeped in the ideas and actions of resistance. The Cáceres family spent nights huddled around a radio listening to revolutionary dispatches from Nicaragua. Her mother, also named Berta, frequently took in refugees fleeing the civil war in El Salvador.

Cáceres first entered politics in 1993 when she co-founded the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras(COPINH). COPINH sought to resist illegal logging and protect therights of indigenous people, a group historically excluded from Honduras’ political system. Cáceres soon emerged as a leader in a broader social movement that united a coalition of marginalized groups seeking greater political and economic inclusion. Cáceres spent the next 16 years advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples, women, and other marginalized groups. To advance those goals, she helped build a social movement in Honduras and established strong connections to groups across the region and around the world.

Her work became particularly urgent after the coup in Honduras in 2009 that ousted democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. The president had laid the groundwork for populist changes which included land reform, efforts that were scrapped once Zelaya was out of office. Since then, life has become harder for activists of all stripes. Indeed, any groups who opposed the new regime’s neoliberal agenda became an official target for retribution.

Since the coup, successive administrations have courted foreign capital, engaged in privatization efforts, granted hundreds of hydroelectric and mining concessions to international corporations, and built infrastructure to support the accelerated exploitation of natural resources in Honduras. Among the projects was the Agua Zarca dam over the Gualcarque River—the issue the defined Cáceres efforts. The dam is being built by Desarrollos Energéticos, SA(DESA). Among the company’s owners is the powerful Atala family, suspected of ties to the coup, including Camilo Atala, president of theFicohsa Bank, the largest in the country. The Chinese hydroelectric engineering firm Sinohydro was initially overseeing the work with financing from the World Bank. But the protests over the construction compelled both to withdraw in 2013. Cáceres had also implored other foreign financiers, including the Dutch Development Bank FMO, the Finnish Fund for Industrial Cooperation and German firms Siemens and Voith, to pull their funding. Mounting public pressure after the murder of Cáceres’ and COPINH activist Nelson Garcia two weeks later finally prompted the Dutch and Finnish banks to suspend disbursements on March 16, although they have not permanently withdrawn from the project.

JORGE CABRERA / REUTERS

The words “Berta Lives” are seen written in chalk to honour the slain environmental rights activist, Berta Caceres during a vigil to mark International Women’s Day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 8, 2016.

The heart of Cáceres’ strategy was to push the government to recognize that the COPINH’s demands were grounded in internationally recognized rights, including the right to prior and informed consent for projects that affect indigenous communities, and to target the project’s international financiers. At first, Cáceres and COPINH tried to block the Agua Zarca dam’s construction through political channels, including indigenous assemblies, public declarations opposing the dam, and legal challenges. When these failed and construction was set to begin in 2013, it seemed like the community was out of options.

The next salvo was peaceful protests. COPINH set up a roadblock that prevented DESA from accessing the river. DESA responded with a concerted campaign of harassment and intimidation that, at times, turned violent. Tomás Garciá, a COPINH protestor who was unarmed, was shot at close range and killed by a Honduran soldier in 2013. Two other members of COPINH have also been killed since then, and others have been attacked with machetes. Cáceres herself had been arrested on charges of illegal possession of a firearm (which she claimed was planted), as well on charges of usurpation, coercion, and damages as a result of the blockade. These charges were ultimately dismissed.

In the IACHR’s December 2015 Situation of Human Rights in Honduras report, the group specifically decried the criminalization of Cáceres’ protest movement. According to Global Witness, Honduras was the most deadly country in the world for environmental and land rights defenders in 2014.

In the end, COPINH’s orchestrated resistance to the Agua Zarca dam halted its construction in Honduras’ Rio Blanco community, but failed to thwart the project altogether. DESA moved the dam project across the river, near the town of San Francisco de Ojuera, where the company boasted of winning support for USAID projects. Construction began in August of 2015. The conflict simmered on, reaching a boiling point again on February 20, as security forces detained 100 protesters, including Cáceres, who had traveled to the new dam site to register their disapproval. Among those seeking to block the path of the protestors were members of the Honduran military. During the altercation, COPINH members reported that a local official told Cáceres that she would never come back to the project’s new site, and that she might be killed.

A man puts flowers on the coffin of slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres at a cemetery in the town of La Esperanza, outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 5, 2016.
JORGE CABRERA / REUTERS
A man puts flowers on the coffin of slain environmental rights activist Berta Caceres at a cemetery in the town of La Esperanza, outside Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 5, 2016.

UNDER PRESSURE

Since Cáceres’ death, the Honduran government has yielded to tremendous public pressure and agreed to launch a prompt investigation into her murder.

Initial signals, however, have inspired little confidence. State investigators ignored the Cáceres family’s demand for an independent expert to attend the autopsy. The crime scene was compromised, and authorities were quick to suggest that her murder was either a crime of passion or a random robbery. Gustavo Castro Soto, a prominent Mexican environmental activist who was injured in the attack and is the sole eyewitness, provided testimony over multiple days in harsh conditions, but was prevented from leaving the country for 30 days, though he believes his life is in danger in Honduras. His lawyer’s license was suspended for 15 days after lodging a request that the decision to detain him in Honduras be revised. To this day, Castro remains in the Mexican Embassy compound in Tegucigalpa for his own safety, despite his stated desire to return home to his family. Intense and prolonged questioning of COPINH leaders have fueled concerns that Honduran authorities are more interested in extracting intelligence about Cáceres’ activist group to distract their efforts, rather than finding her murderer.

Cáceres’ family has expressed their doubts about the integrity of any investigation conducted by the Honduran government. They have demanded an independent international investigation to be overseen by the IACHR—one that could not only name the material perpetrators of the crime, but its masterminds as well, however high up the chain of command they may be. Honduran authorities have cited an agreement with the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights to accompany the investigation, but there is good reason to doubt that the local office has the capacity, expertise, and investigative authority necessary to ensure an independent inquiry.

STAYING SAFE
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Cáceres’ family and the international community have also demanded that the Honduran government implement the IACHR’s orders to keep members of COPINH safe. But activists cannot be protected with armed guards and cameras alone. Rather, Tegucigalpa must confront the root of the social conflict that claimed Cáceres’ life, by respecting the rights of indigenous people, and canceling the concession to the Agua Zarca dam and others. Short of this, the cycle of unrest and repression in Honduras is sure to continue.

As U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton provided tacit support for the administration of former Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti despite near universal condemnation of his tenure. Cáceres herself criticized Clinton for opposing the demand for Zelaya’s reinstatement, which set the stage for a deepening of the human rights crisis inside the country. And despite pervasive and persistent reports of repression—some of which has been directly linked to Honduras’ state security forces—Washington has continued to provide security aid as well as development financing to Honduras.

When Cáceres won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, she dedicated it to “all the rebels out there, to my mother, to the Lenca people, to the Rio Blanco, and to the martyrs who gave their lives in the struggle to defend our natural resources.” She now takes her place on that list, but if her killers thought they could silence her voice and derail her mission, they were mistaken.

Links

  1. [1]  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/honduran-activist-shot-killed-home-article-1.2552454
  2. [2]  http://www.britannica.com/topic/Lenca
  3. [3]  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/08/20138510295334159.html
  4. [4]  https://intercontinentalcry.org/indigenous-peoples/lenca/
  5. [5]  http://fpif.org/one-year-resistance-rio-blanco/
  6. [6]  http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-death-of-berta-caceres
  7. [7]  http://web.mit.edu/urbanupgrading/upgrading/resources/organizations/USAID.html
  8. [8]  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/patrick-leahy/
  9. http://hankjohnson.house.gov/sites/hankjohnson.house.gov/files/documents/03_2016_Letter_Honduras_Berta_Caceres.pdf

10] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/03/04/who-murdered-environmental-activist-berta-caceres.html

[11] http://www.thenation.com/article/end-all-us-police-and-military-aid-honduras/

[12] https://www.foreignaffairs.com/regions/central-america-caribbean

[13] http://www.copinh.org/
[14] http://culturesofresistance.org/groups-we-support-COPINH
[15] http://copinhenglish.blogspot.com/
[16] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/Pages/Declaration.aspx
[17] http://www.latinamericansocialmovements.org/honduras/
[18] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/world/americas/29honduras.html
[19] http://www.britannica.com/biography/Manuel-Zelaya
[20] http://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227/european-funders-suspend-support-for-agua-zarca-dam
[21] http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapid=298110979
[22] http://cepr.net/blogs/the-americas-blog/new-report-details-multilateral-development-bank-us-role-in-human-rights- abuses-in-rio-blanco-honduras
[23] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-21/central-american-billionaires-discovered-amid-citi-asset-sales [24] http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2015/01/27/ficohsa-becomes-honduras-biggest-bank/

Garifuna Communities of Honduras Resist Corporate Land Grabs

FINALLY 2

 

By Samira Jubis | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | September 23, 2015

The fate of the Garifuna people of Honduras hangs in the balance as they face a Honduran state that is all too eager to accommodate the neoliberal agenda of U.S. and Canadian investors. The current economic development strategy of the Honduran government, in the aftermath of the 2009 coup against the democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, has not only benefited the political and economic elite in Honduras, but it has also encouraged the usurpation of some of the territories of indigenous peoples of this Central American nation. The often-violent expropriation of indigenous land threatens the Garifuna’s subsistence.

The Garifuna people are descendants of African slaves and two indigenous groups originally from South America—the Arawaks and the Carib Indians. In 1797, the British deported 5,000 Garifuna, also known as Black Caribs, from St. Vincent to Roatán. Since then, the Garifuna people have immigrated throughout North and Central America.[i]

Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra are home to two of the forty-eight Honduran Garifuna communities along the Honduran Atlantic coast corridor. Due to an ecologically rich geopolitical position, these regions have attracted foreign-backed investments, including tourist and recreational centers, natural resource extraction industries, and self-governing corporate zones. The concept of “self-governing” does not apply to democratic procedures of native citizens, but to the domination of foreign elites who view the Garifuna land as a mere means to the private accumulation of wealth.

Mega development projects have been advertised as a stimulus to economic growth and employment within the country. However, in practice, they have aggravated discrimination and harassment against indigenous and ethnic groups, whom developers generally perceive as obstacles to the expansion of such economic projects. Hence, the Honduran political system, in thrall to ambitious tycoons and foreign interventionism, has infringed on the Garifuna community’s relationship to and management of their ancestral lands. The displacement of these Honduran Afro-descendant communities from their ancestral lands for the development of economic projects accelerated after the coup d’état of June 28, 2009 against the democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya, and the installment of a U.S. backed golpista regime.

The United States and Canada perceived the center-left policies of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya as an intolerable restraint on American and Canadian investment objectives in Honduras. The alignment of Honduras with the left-leaning Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and PetroCaribe along with stricter domestic reforms to rein in the damage caused by neoliberal policies, emboldened the U.S.-Canadian intervention in the Honduran political system. The coup brought the golpista regime of Roberto Micheletti (June 28, 2009 to January 27, 2010) to power and was followed by the subsequent election of two right wing presidents. Tegucigalpa has pursued policies that are more obedient to the economic consensus of Washington and Ottawa, reversing its march towards progressive land and labor reforms and opening the doors wide to foreign investors. As a result, Honduras has been the bloody stage for human rights violations against those who have resisted some of the more intrusive features of the neoliberal economic model.

The Garifuna community of Triunfo de la Cruz, for example, possessed title deeds of full ownership to their ancestral territories. However, the U.S. and World Bank-backed 1992 Agrarian Modernization Law not only led to the expansion of Tela’s city boundaries, but also stimulated future transactions of ancestral lands without consent of the Garifuna community members.[ii] Grahame Russell is the director of Rights Action and has devoted his life to protecting human rights in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Russell points out: “All along the north coast, most particularly in the Tela Bay and Trujillo Bay areas, Garifuna villages are being pressured—with false legal documents, with forced sales and with repression—to sell their lands and territories to international tourism operators that are supported by the illegitimate and repressive Honduran regime.”[iii]

The municipality of Tela sold ancestral territories to a corporation called Inversiones y Desarrollos del Triunfo S.A de C.V. The municipality later issued construction permits for the development of tourist projects, such as the Indura Beach and Golf Resort.[iv] Government officials and foreign investors have overlooked the Garifuna people’s opposition to these projects. In turn, there have been frequent territorial disputes between the investors and members of the Garifuna community. In 2014, the Honduran national police and military officials attempted to violently dislodge the Garifuna population from their lands. Despite the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declaring that the Garifuna culture is one of the nineteen Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity (2001), violence and physical force have been constantly used to threaten the livelihood of the Honduran Garifuna communities. Oscar Bregal and Jesus Alvarez, two committed Garifuna leaders, were murdered in 1997 while protesting against the violation of the human and civil rights of the Garifuna communities. Oppression and harsh conditions been the principal causes of displacement and emigration of the Honduran Garifuna inhabitants

According to the Indura Beach investors, the first phase of this US $120 million tourist-complex development has created 400 direct jobs and 800 indirect jobs.[v] The Honduran Tourism Institute insists that these jobs have primarily benefited the communities around the complex, especially the Garifuna communities. These benefits, however, have not reached the hands of the Garifuna population. As a matter of fact, unsustainable tourist projects have threatened the Garifuna people’s food sovereignty. As stated by Miriam Miranda, leader of The Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), the Garifuna people cannot continue to exist without the land required to grow their subsistence crops. Foods like rice, beans, and yucca not only make up the Garifuna daily diet, but also represent critical components of the Garifuna culture. The women of the communities sow and harvest the land for household consumption and income. The Honduran state’s failure to protect the interests of these Honduran citizens has led Garifuna indigenous communities to request the intervention of international organizations.

From August 24 to August 29, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its 53rd period of extraordinary sessions in Honduras. During the sessions, the court visited the Garifuna Communities of Triunfo de la Cruz and Punta Piedra to commence proceedings against the Honduran state. OFRANEH— speaking on behalf of the Garifuna inhabitants of Triunfo de la Cruz, Punta Piedra, and Cayos Cochinos—claimed that Honduras has failed to ensure these communities’ right of land ownership as well as their right to free, prior, and informed consent. Although Honduras has ratified the International Labour Organization Convention no. 169, and the Honduran constitution recognizes the rights of indigenous and ethnic peoples, the Honduran Garifuna communities continue to face discrimination and harassment within the Honduran economic and political systems. The petition of the Honduran Garifuna communities was presented to the Inter-American Commission on Human rights on October 29, 2003. [vi] Following the commission’s hearings, the Honduran state agreed to put in place measures to protect the property rights of the Garifuna people. The state, however, has failed to uphold this agreement.

In February 2013, the commission submitted the case Garifuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members v. Honduras to the Inter-American court after the Honduran government failed to inform the Commission of the measures it had taken to enforce the property rights of the Triunfo de la Cruz inhabitants.[vii] This case not only confirms state collaboration with the violation of Garifuna people’s rights in Honduras, but it also challenges the effectiveness of the international community—in this case the court’s jurisdiction, in protecting those rights.

It has been 12 years since the petition was presented to the commission and the Honduran Garifuna communities are still living in despair and fear. Do we hear their call for justice in the North? Russell remarks that “while OFRANEH and the Garifuna communities are waiting for the Inter-American Court to render its final decision, which—if justice is to prevail—will find in favor of the Garifuna people, against the actions and omissions of the Honduran State, they are not depending on it.” Furthermore, Russell adds that the Honduran Garifuna communities, “resist peacefully, resolutely, on and on, from one community to the next.”

The usurpation of ancestral territories by multinational corporations backed by the political and security structure of the Honduran state has evoked justified skepticism among the Honduran Garifuna communities in regards to neoliberal economic policies that put profits before human needs and respect for participatory democratic procedures. While the Garifuna communities are still waiting for the court’s final decision on their case against the State of Honduras, they have been committed to voicing their grievances. The leadership and determination of the Honduran Garifuna has encouraged other indigenous and ethnic groups in the western hemisphere to fight against hegemonic neoliberal policies that threaten their ability to live and develop in community.

Featured Photo: Chachahuate, a small Honduran island inhabited by Garifuna communities. From: Dennis Garcia

[i] Escure, Geneviève, and Armin Schwegler. “Garifuna in Belize and Honduras.” In Creoles, Contact, and Language Change Linguistics and Social Implications, 37. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=622399.

[ii] Brondo, Keri V. “La pérdida de la tierra y el activismo de las mujeres garífunas en la costa norte de Honduras.” Journal of International Women’s Studies, 9, no. 3 (May 2008): 374.

[iii] Grahame Russell, e-mail message to author, September 20, 2015

[iv] IACHR, Merits Report No. 76/12. Case No.12.548, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members (Honduras), November 7, 2012, paragraph 159, 160.

[v] Diario El Heraldo Honduras. “Lista Primera Etapa De Indura Beach and Golf Resort.” Accessed September 20, 2015. http://www.elheraldo.hn/alfrente/566419-209/lista-primera-etapa-de-indura-beach-and-golf-resort.

[vi] IACHR, Merits Report No. 76/12. Case No.12.548, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members (Honduras), November 7, 2012, paragraph 1.

[vii] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, (2013). IACHR Takes Case involving Honduras to the Inter-American Court. Available at: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2013/076.asp [Accessed 22 Sep. 2015].

Canadian Tourism Operators Are Stealing Garifuna Lands, Literally

 http://www.rightsaction.org/action-content/canadian-tourism-operators-are-stealing-garifuna-lands-literally
Monday, December 8, 2014

The Canadian ‘Porn King’ Randy Jorgensen “is by far the main developer in the area these days. His Life Vision Developments company is behind several residential projects marketed to Canadians: Alta Vista, New Palm Beach, Coroz Alta, and Campa Vista. He owns the Jaguar Construction company often tasked with building. He’s the key figure behind the new Banana Coast cruise ship port and its affiliated tour operator, Banana Coast Tours.”

https://www.beaconreader.com/sandra-cuffe/canadian-developers-are-steali…

*******

The 2009 Military Coup In Honduras: Repression, impunity and global business opportunities

The extremely high levels of repression and violence in Honduras are not a “Honduran problem” – they are also a U.S. and Canadian problem.  Since the June 2009 military coup, that ousted the last democratically elected government, Honduras has become the ‘Murder Capital of the world’, the ‘Repression Capital of the Americas’.  Since 2009, the U.S. and Canadian governments have legitimized a succession of illegitimate, repressive regimes. North American companies and investors, and “development” banks (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank) have increased business activities in African palm production, maquiladora sweatshops, privatized “model cities”, tourism and mining.  The Honduran regime remains in power due, in large part, to its political, economic and military relations with the U.S. and Canada and the “development” banks.

Across Honduras, community based organizations – struggling for fundamental reform to the Honduran State and society – need considerably more human rights accompaniment, funding, media attention on the harms and violations and education and activism in Canada and the U.S.

Meet Miriam Miranda, Honduras

Miriam Miranda

Miriam Miranda

December 9, 2015

 

“We live almost on the sea, right on the beach. It’s a blessing but recently it’s also become a curse, because of course all those with power want to have a place on the beach. The displacement of communities and the loss of cultures that come with the development of tourism is growing… but the Garífuna women, many of them elders, have incredible strength. They participate in meetings, in actions, tearing down walls that are built on the beach. They’re sustaining the Garífuna youth so that they know who they are, without shame.”


Miriam has dedicated her life to defending the cultural and land rights of the Garífuna people in Honduras. Miriam’s brave, unwavering leadership is currently guiding the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).

Miriam was born in Santa Fe, Colon, a small Garífuna village located near Trujillo on the north coast of Honduras. Like many other Garífuna in Honduras, Miriam and her family eventually had to leave their village in order to find work and educational opportunities. As a young adult, Miriam moved to the capital city Tegucigalpa to study at the public university.

Still a student, Miriam immersed herself in social movements that worked closely with women living in poor neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Miriam traveled to these neighbourhoods to listen to the women’s stories and speak to them about their rights. In these conversations, Miriam’s lifework as a feminist took root.

Miriam’s pride as a Garífuna woman lies at the heart of her activism. After years of working alongside mestizo, or mixed indigenous women, Miriam decided to shift her focus to promote the rights of her own people—the Garífuna.

The Garífuna people are descendants of West Africans who escaped the slave trade and found refuge on the island of San Vincente, an island in the Caribbean, in the early 1600’s—where  they intermarried with Carib, Indian and Indigenous peoples. Following expulsion from San Vincente in 1797, the Garífuna people arrived on the coast of Honduras. Approximately 100,000 Garífuna now live in Honduras, but there are also community strongholds on the coasts of Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Garífuna culture is intrinsically linked to the land and access to the sea.

Land reforms in Honduras have disregarded cultural land titles, and have made it easy for foreign tourism and real estate investors to displace Garifuna communities to build hotels and retirement communities. Illegal drug cartels also steal Garífuna land for their operations. The Honduran government has failed to protect Garífuna land titles against foreign interests and, in many cases, has been directly involved in their displacement.

Under Miriam’s leadership, OFRANEH and the Garífuna people have organized to defend their land and their culture. They currently have two cases against the state of Honduras pending at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). Most recently, the Garífuna succeeded in bringing Canadian investor Randy Jorgensen to trial in Trujillo, Honduras for his mega-tourism project illegally built on Garífuna land.

Miriam’s activism has come at a cost. She faces incredible risk for the work she is doing and has been threatened many times and kidnapped. Miriam and her colleagues are regularly arbitrarily detained and portrayed as criminals in the media. In the face of these threats, Miriam is not backing down from her struggle to ensure the Garífuna people’s land and culture is protected.

– See more at: http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2015/12/meet-miriam-miranda-honduras/#sthash.IB26Bxpo.dpuf

The Voice of Berta Cáceres

By  |  20 / March / 2016

The news shocked the world, but it wasn‘t entirely unexpected. As an opposition leader up against giant companies and international financial institutions that sought to grab indigenous lands, as an organizer against a patriarchal system that dominates women by force, and as critic of imperialism’s arming of repressive forces in Honduras, Berta Caceres was a marked woman. And she knew it.

On March 3, hit men entered Berta’s house in La Esperanza, in Lenca indigenous territory. In the middle of the night they burst in and shot her and then her colleague, Mexican environmentalist, Gustavo Castro. The murderers committed this atrocious act knowing that to kill Berta—recognized worldwide for her defense of indigenous and women’s rights—would carry a high political price.

But their determination to silence Berta won out over political calculations, for two reasons. First, because the race to gain control of dwindling natural resources, removing all obstacles in the path, has reached a point where in lawless countries like Honduras social and human costs don’t matter any more.

And second, because Berta’s voice was not just any voice. It was, and continues to be even after her death, an extraordinarily powerful and articulate voice, a voice that united people in defense of land and rights, and that brought together thousands of likeminded people and organizations throughout the world.

Violent Times

Berta Cáceres led the opposition to the construction of the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project. The project included a series of dams on the Rio Gualcarque, the sacred river of the Lenca people. Indigenous communities protested that they had not been consulted and the project would cause severe environmental damage and uproot their communities and livelihoods. As a result of the efforts of the organization she co-founded, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Chinese investors and the World Bank backed out of the project led by the Honduran company, DESA, but Finnish and Dutch financing remained.

COPINH members have organized to recover ancestral lands and have won victories in blocking infrastructure projects imposed despite indigenous and environmental opposition. In many ways, it was the success of the organization and Berta herself that made her a target. Just a week before the assassination, Honduran federal agents threatened Berta directly in a confrontation with members of the organization resisting evictions from their lands.

In a communiqué dated March 7, the COPINH explicitly linked Berta’s death to her defense of natural resources. “We know for certain that Berta Cáceres’ assassination was a political assassination with the motive of silencing a national leader in the struggle against the neoliberal model of destruction and death that the Honduran state seeks to impose. We hold responsible the Honduran government and the economic and political powers that wanted to silence Berta Caceres’ protests.”

The assassination brings worldwide attention to the human rights crisis in Honduras. What’s at stake is the effort to rapidly transform a sovereign nation into a hunting ground for transnational corporations where, armed with private security guards and the support of government armed forces, they hunt for profits in the forests, rivers and seas that have been the lifeblood of human and animal communities for centuries.

Since the coup, the governments of Porfirio Lobo and now Juan Orlando Hernandez have handed out hundreds of permits and concessions to private companies for energy and tourism megaprojects and mining operations. So eager is the government to sell off public resources that it has adopted a “model cities” plan, formally called Employment and Economic Development Zones”, to attract foreign investment. These zones cede national territory and natural and human resources to transnational companies, which are then allowed to institute their own legal, political and administrative systems based on neoliberal economic principles.

Indigenous, rural and urban communities that actively oppose this all-out effort to transfer natural resources to global capital automatically become the enemy. Global Witness reports that between 2010 and 2014, 101 environmental activists were assassinated in Honduras. The Mesoamerican Network of Women Human Rights Defenders reports that in the region women defenders of land and territory receive more threats and attacks than any other category of defenders.

The war on drugs and repression of grassroots movements

The process of transformation of land use in Honduras has been accompanied by massive militarization. Private security guards hired by companies and businessmen now outnumber police and armed forces, according to a UN report, and in some cases can be considered mercenaries due to their role in clashing with the population to defend the interests of foreign companies. Then there are the military and police, which have been known to attack populations organized in defense of land and territory, as in the recent case of a young Garifuna man murdered by the Honduran armed forces last December.

The US government has supported the deployment of the Honduran armed forces with the pretext of the war on drugs. Millions of dollars in aid have flowed to the country, despite hundreds of documented cases of human rights violations and executions of civilians. In a nation where impunity reigns, and where violation of the law is a constant within the same institutions that are charged with enforcing it, U.S. support to the security forces bolsters a repressive apparatus that is frequently used against the population itself.

The result is the erosion of what was left of the rule of law. Drug trafficking has increased alarmingly in Honduras since the coup, at the same time as U.S. arms and security programs have spread throughout the country. In her last public declaration, Cáceres invited the society to join an international effort called the Caravan for Peace, Life and Justice against the misnamed war on drugs that creates the conditions for imposing the neoliberal transformation, as the force of contention against popular resistances.

Sins of Origin

The murder of Berta Cáceres occurred in the context of the 2009 military coup d’état that was never resolved. That year, after many deaths and daily mass demonstrations in the streets for nearly five months, the maneuvers of the U.S. government and the coup leaders prevented the return to power of the democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya and the restoration of the constitutional order. Illegal elections were held, organized by the coup and boycotted by a large part of the population that demanded an end to the illegitimate regime.

In her autobiography, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State during the coup and currently candidate for the presidency, wrote about the 2009 coup in Honduras: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico… We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

Cáceres cited this statement frequently to prove firsthand what was already evident at the time: the central role of the U.S. government in perpetuating the coup d’état in Honduras.

That history that goes beyond the scope of this article. What’s relevant is that this sin of origin—the failure to restore constitutional order in Honduras after the 2009 coup—gave rise to the many deadly sins that have followed, giving Honduras one of the worst human rights records in the world and culminating in the assassination of Berta (up to now, because there were many before and, sadly, there will likely be others to follow).

They killed her because she was an obstacle, and because the message of 2009 was read loud and clear: if crime benefits the powerful, it will go unpunished. In other words, they killed her because they knew they could get away with it.

Endemic crime and corruption in Honduran institutions make it absolutely necessary to demand an independent investigation into the assassination. There is a major risk that the Hernandez government will attempt to write it off as a crime of passion, a common robbery or a conflict within her own organization. In this way it could attempt to criminalize, and it won’t be the first time—the victims. The U.S. State Department has steadfastly refused to call for an international investigation to date.

Berta’s Voice

In the context of predatory capitalism, human life is devalued. If people have to be killed to pave the way for profits, they will be. And Berta was a huge boulder in the road to converting Honduras into the latest laboratory for corporate globalization. She ended up on the growing list of defenders of the rights of indigenous peoples, campesino, LGBT, dissidents and others who have fallen in Honduras since the coup.

But in addition to her role, Berta Cáceres had an extraordinary voice. Her indigenous worldview gave her spiritual strength and the clarity of viewing the environment as Mother Earth that must be constantly protected. Her anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist analysis provided her with a framework to understand and explain what was happening to her people by linking it to the national and global context. She believed in international solidarity to confront an international system that continually threatens the peace and wellbeing of the vast majority in all parts of the world.

And she was profoundly feminist. She said that defense of the environment is by definition anti-patriarchal, that the defense of territory implies the fight for women’s rights because patriarchy considers a woman’s body as its territory.

It is this integral resistance that they wanted to kill. Berta Cáceres united sectors and issues, across borders. And by bringing paths together, she was building a broad road to freedom. That is the road she has left to her children, and to the many others who will follow in her footsteps.

Columna publicada en Palabras al Margen, 15 de marzo. http://palabrasalmargen.com/index.php/articulos/internacional/item/la-voz-de-berta-caceres

Photo: Laura Carlsen

Berta Cáceres, ¡Presente!
When Berta Cáceres Flores was assassinated in a political murder on March 2, she was in the midst of an intense struggle in defense of the Gualcarque River, a sacred river for the Lenca people. She and the Lenca people of Rio Blanco had already blocked the Agua Zarca Dam from being built on the Gualcarque River one time, in 2013-2014 and now DESA was making a second attempt. During the 2013 struggle against the Agua Zarca Dam, Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia was murdered by the Honduran military, other Lenca leaders were attacked, Berta received numerous death threats, and the military detained Berta on trumped up charges. Soon a second set of charges followed, and Berta was ordered to jail. She went underground, and after months international outcry, the charges were eventually dismissed. However, DESA, the company trying to build the dam, appealed and requested the charges against Berta and two other COPINH leaders be reinstated.In approximately August of 2015, DESA began attempting a second time to build the Agua Zarca Dam, this time accessing the Gualcarque River from the opposite side of the river in San Francisco de Ojuera. Berta and many Lenca people again mobilized to defend the Gualcarque River and their ancestral territory.  As they organized to stop the dam, the situation again began to intensify.

On November 4, 2015, when Berta was not home, an unknown man took a laptop with significant COPINH information from her home.

On the night of November 6, 2015, three shots were fired towards Berta as she driving to Rio Blanco.

On November 24, 2015, Tomas Gomez, another COPINH leader, received a phone call from a man known to be a supporter of the dam company, who informed Tomas that they were going to fix things with Berta Cáceres for better or for worse, “a buenas o a malas.”

On November 30, 2015, Berta Cáceres and other COPINH leaders were traveling to request a meeting with the Mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera, who had authorized the dam, when the Honduran police detained their vehicles. While they were detained, machinery dug huge holes across the public roads to prevent COPINH from passing. After Berta and the rest of the COPINH members finally reached San Francisco de Ojuera, municipal employees began to throw rocks at them and threaten them, including a threat that Berta was the one “who had to be killed.” One of the armed men came close to Berta and almost cut her chest with a machete. All of this occurred as the Honduran police and military watched and did nothing, despite Berta requesting their protection. Finally, Berta called the Minister of Security, Julian Pacheco, and requested he relay orders for the police present to provide protection. Still, the police and military did not respond and the harassment continued.

Then in late December 2015, the Honduran police detained two men for illegal possession of weapons. Berta was informed that one of them is reported to have explained he was contracted by DESA because “the COPINH people were f**ing things up a lot.” This man was previously involved in a violent attack on a COPINH member who opposed the dam, and his police files indicate he was involved in a murder. Residents of Rio Blanco report that he had previously stated he was going to kill COPINH members, including Berta and Francisco Javier Sanchez, President of the Indigenous Council of Rio Blanco.  Berta received information that Jorge Avila – the head of security of DESA and former police official – moved money around to secure the release of those detained for illegal possession of weapons despite the murder in police file. Shortly after his release, this man was identified by Rio Blanco residents working with DESA’s security team without a uniform. In February 2016, Berta wrote a communique publicly denouncing the money provided for this man’s release and stated that there were known paramilitary guards working for DESA who made threats against COPINH members.

Early in February 2016, shots were fired in the vicinity of Berta’s home shortly before she arrived.

On February 16, Berta and other COPINH leaders were pursued by armed men as they left Rio Blanco, after visiting with the Lenca people in resistance to the Agua Zarca Dam on the Rio Gualcarque. The armed men pursued Berta’s vehicle on the isolated road for at least 20 minutes until Berta reached a town and stopped.

Then on February 20, 2016, as Berta and COPINH members traveled to San Francisco de Ojuera to protest the dam, employees of DESA and the Mayor’s office threatened, detained, and harassed them as well as vandalized the vehicles and buses as the police and military looked on. COPINH members report that the Vice Mayor of San Francisco de Ojuera threatened Berta, telling her she would never come back there and that she could be killed.

On February 25, as the police and military evicted about 50 COPINH families from their homes in Jarcia, Guinse, Intibuca, a member of the DGIC harassed Berta and told her the security forces would not respond if something happened to her.

On February 26, at 1:45pm, a new, double-cabin truck with polarized windows drove up the road leading to the COPINH office, stopping before reaching the office. A tall man with a military-style haircut got out and went outside the COPIN office and asked for Berta, while another man stayed in the running vehicle. When informed she was not there, he wanted to know where she was and her phone number. When asked to identify himself, he refused and left.

Despite all of this, and many additional threats, Berta and COPINH continued forward in the struggle to defend the Gualcarque River and all Lenca territory. Berta repeatedly denounced the concession of the Gualcarque River by the Honduran government to DESA in violation of the Lenca people’s right to free, prior, and informed consultation. She also spoke against the violence, militarization, hitmen, and repression that DESA and the Honduran state were using to impose the dam. Berta denounced the Dutch Bank FMO and the Finnish Bank Finnfund, majority owned by the Dutch and Finnish governments respectively, for financing DESA for the Agua Zarca Dam project despite having been informed of the human rights violations around the dam. Berta was in the process of planning a trip to Holland and Finland in which she and Rio Blanco Lenca leaders would protest the financing of the dam and request Dutch and Finnish government leaders take action to stop the funding.

On March 2, 2016, DESA’s head of security was spotted in a vehicle with about 16-20 people, at the turn off from Honduras’ main highway to La Esperanza, where Berta lives.  The men were speaking about Berta.  The vehicle headed toward La Esperanza.

That night, two men forced their way into Berta’s home and Berta was assassinated.

Berta was a voice not only for the self-determination of the Lenca people but for all Hondurans. She was a very outspoken leader against the 2009 military coup and the resulting repressive regimes. She led COPINH in supporting numerous Lenca communities struggling against displacement, dams, privatization of their resources, and megaprojects imposed on their territory against their will. She was a national leader in the struggle against the ultra-neoliberal plan being imposed on Honduras, which entails the privatization and exploitation of almost everything possible, and the brutal repression against those who resist. Berta spoke out against the US backed Alliance for Prosperity plan being put in place in Central America, clearly explaining that its militarization and economic privatization and exploitation projects will only bring more destruction and death to Honduras. She was a leader in the Platform of Popular and Social Movements of Honduras, pushing for national articulation of the social movements. She loudly criticized the current regime for its repression of Honduran society, and refused to be silent. No matter how many death threats she received, no matter how many times she was followed, pursued, or threatened, Berta would not be silenced.

And she must not be silenced today. Berta’s voice and struggle must continue to be heard. I can hear her right now, asking us to go to Rio Blanco to accompany the Lenca people as they are criminalized and repressed for resisting the dam. I can hear her asking us to organize to pressure FMO and Finnfund to cut their funding to the dam and to demand that the Honduran military and US-backed TIGRES leave Lenca territory. And I can hear her loudly and clearly telling US Congresspeople, just as she did in meetings barely a year ago, to stop supporting the Honduran regime, to cut all Honduran military funding, to end the Alliance for Prosperity. I can hear her voice denouncing international banks and multinational corporations who together with the current Honduran regime and the support of the US plunder the Honduran territory and its people. I can hear her calling for an end to the criminalization of COPINH and for respect for the self-determination of the Lenca people.

More than anything, I can clearly hear Berta saying that the female spirits of the Lenca people live in the Gualcarque River.

Why Is Hillary OK With Honduran Death Squads?

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

18 March 16

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/35818-why-is-hillary-ok-with-honduran-death-squads

Honduran assassination has deep American roots if not fingerprints

 

hen a Honduran death squad gunned down internationally-honored environmental activist Berta Caceres, 44, a retired teacher and mother of four, in her home on March 3, the media-filtered world as we know it took note, briefly, expressed some regret, provided little context, and moved on. The outcry from rest of the real world included demands from the UN, more than 20 U.S. Congress members, and hundreds of NGOs for an independent investigation of this political assassination [a 2014 letter from 108 congressmen to Secretary of State John Kerry calling for the U.S. to address human rights abuses in Honduras had little impact]. Now, in response to a similar request, the U.S. has sent FBI agents to help the Honduran government, whose first action was to detain the only witness, Gustavo Castro Soto, himself shot twice in the same attack (and still in Honduran custody two weeks later).

What our media-shielded world mostly did not note is that Honduras is one of the original banana republics, long open to corporate plunder under the protection of the U.S. government. Nor was there much attention to longstanding political corruption in Honduras with its “elected” puppet government and major American military presence. Also omitted generally was how Honduras has served as a main base of American military operations at least since the Reagan administration’s illegal and war-crime saturated war against Nicaragua in the 1980s. Several hundred U.S.Marines are deployed in Honduras with official missions to train Hondurans and fight the war on drugs (similar to the missions of 3,500 Marines in Peru and others elsewhere), consistent with U.S. military expansion in Central America during President Obama’s first term.

But how could any of this be relevant to the assassination of yet another Honduran activist defending human rights, defending the rights of indigenous people, defending the environment, or defending the Honduran majority against military repression? None of the people currently running for president have apparently thought it worth more than a passing comment at most, not even Bernie Sanders, whose vision of an America run by billionaires has long been a grotesque reality in oligarchical Honduras. Pretty much irrelevantly, Sanders did take a glancing swipe at Clinton’s relationship with Honduras (rated “Mostly True” by Politifact) during their March 9 debate:

One of the great human tragedies of recent years is children came from Honduras where there’s more violence than in any place in this country, and they came into this country…. And I said welcome these children into this country. Secretary Clinton said, send them back. [This omits Clinton’s lawyerly conditions for expatriation, but accurately characterizes her bottom line: “Send them back.”]

So why are Honduran children fleeing in the first place?

Perhaps the most interesting contextual aspect of the Berta Caceres assassination is that it’s an extension of American “engagement” in Honduras and provides a lucid paradigm of foreign policy as Hillary Clinton practices it.

On June 27, 2009, Honduras had a legitimately elected president, Manuel Zelaya, himself a multi-millionaire oligarch, who was accused of instigating a months-long power struggle over whether he could extend his term-limited presidency by democratic but constitutionally-challenged, nonviolent means. Zelaya denied this intent, saying he would leave office as scheduled in January 2010. His opposition, including the Congress, attorney general, and Supreme Court, were holding their own in June. Congress had begun to consider impeachment. The stated issue was apparently not the real issue.

In the mid-1970s, Zelaya’s father had been convicted for taking part in the massacre of at least 15 priests, students, and other protestors, killed by Honduran military forces. Victims’ bodies were burned, castrated, and otherwise mutilated. In 1980, Zelaya’s father was freed by an amnesty after less than two years of a 20-year sentence. Zelaya, during his rise to the presidency, was accused of embezzling all or part of a missing $40 million, but he was not prosecuted. He won the presidency in 2005 with 45.6% of the vote. Zelaya ran as a traditional Honduran conservative from the Liberal Party and seemed at first to be no great threat to the Honduran sense of order, control, and wealth distribution. The National Party accused the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of gross errors and contested Zelaya’s 3.4% margin of victory, only to concede the election ten days later.

Once in office, Zelaya started doing things that displeased the elites as well as the United States. He led Honduras to join ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), founded in 2004 by Venezuela and Cuba to promote social, political, and economic integration of Latin countries. Although the U.S. remained Honduras’s main trading partner, Zelaya pursued expanded trade with Oceania and Africa. His foreign policy included improving relations with Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. This alienated Honduran business elites, as did his other initiatives, including: education for all children, subsidies to small farmers, lower bank interest rates, an 80% increase in the minimum wage, and numerous programs that reduced poverty by 10% in Honduras (one of the world’s poorer countries with a 62.8% poverty rate in 2014, substantially higher than when Zelaya was in office). For three years, Honduran mass media, owned by just six families (media concentration similar to the U.S.) provided little unbiased coverage, leading Zelaya to invoke a little-used law to force the media to carry government broadcasts.

U.S.-sanctioned military coup ended Honduran non-crisis

On June 28, 2009, Honduran military forces seized President Zelaya and took him to a nearby U.S. military base. From there, Zelaya was sent into exile in Costa Rica, setting off protests around the region and the world, including a UN General Assembly resolutionon June 30, with Zelaya present at the UN (in Washington, Obama officials refused to meet with him). The resolution, agreed to by consensus, unanimously condemned the coup and demanded immediate, unconditional restoration of democratically-elected President Zelaya. The U.S., by choosing not to block the consensus, managed to avoid voting for or against a resolution that condemned its own proxies’ actions.

In October 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement re-affirming the June resolution that “condemns the coup d’état in the Republic of Honduras that has interrupted the democratic and constitutional order and the legitimate exercise of power in Honduras.”

At least part of the explanation for U.S. duplicity was made clear in an email to Clinton from Tom Shannon, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, saying that he planned on “calling the new SouthCom Commander to ensure a coordinated U.S. approach [since] we have big military equities in Honduras through Joint Task Force Bravo at Soto Cano airbase.” Coincidentally or not, Shannon was in Honduras a week before the coup, consulting with the military and civilian groups later involved in the coup.

Given the longstanding, close, bi-partisan ties between U.S. and Honduran governments, especially their military establishments, it is all but inconceivable that high-ranking officials in the Obama administration, perhaps Obama himself, did not have at least some advance notice of (if not involvement in planning) the coup. How else does the Honduran military take a president at gunpoint and fly him to a U.S. military base only to be welcomed with open arms?

The Obama administration has never offered a credible, principled explanation for indirectly supporting and directly securing the Honduran coup. Early on, President Obama gave appropriate lip service to opposing the coup: “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there.” By avoiding calling the transparent military coup a “military coup,” Obama avoided triggering an American law that would have imposed significant sanctions against Honduras and especially the Honduran military. Instead, the Obama administration applied only token sanctions, did little to resist Republican support for the coup government, maneuvered to take the issue out of public view, and acted as if the Honduran government’s investigation of itself was sufficient response. The point person in this exercise in anti-democracy was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who described her actions in her official autobiography “Hard Choices” (now out in paperback with the Honduran section scrubbed).

Hillary Clinton’s “diplomacy” whitewashed the military coup

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was excellently positioned to move the question of the Honduran military coup out of the potentially pro-democratic forum of the Organization of American States into more sheltered talks that included both Zelaya and his appointed successor, Roberto Micheletti Bain, who publicly offered to step down during the summer of 2009 on the condition Zelaya would not return to power. During that same period, Clinton received an email from Ann-Marie Slaughter, then director of policy planning at the State Department, strongly urging her to “take bold action … find that [the] coup was a ‘military coup’ under U.S. law,” a position the administration had refused to take for the prior six weeks. Slaughter’s August 16 email added:

I got lots of signals last week that we are losing ground in Latin America every day the Honduras crisis continues; high level people from both the business and the NGO community say that even our friends are beginning to think we are not really committed to the norm of constitutional democracy we have worked so hard to build over the last 20 year [sic]. The current stalemate favors the status quo; the de facto regime has every incentive to run out the clock as long as they think we will have to accept any post-election government. I urge you to think about taking bold action now to breathe new life into the process and signal that regardless what happens on the Hill, you and the president are serious.

No such seriousness was forthcoming from the administration. Clinton, with no interference from Obama, played out the clock until bogus elections, held under the complete control of the coup government, could produce a result satisfactory to the U.S. The State Department kept negotiations alive among a variety of parties (including Zelaya and Micheletti) until it was effectively too late to have a meaningful democratic election. During September and October, Micheletti suspended five basic constitutional rights (including freedom of association, movement, speech, and personal liberty, as well as habeas corpus). On October 30, a joke of an “agreement” was announced by mediator and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Under this agreement, Zelaya was to be reinstated, almost powerless, in the final weeks before the election, which would remain under the control of the coup government, and even this farce included its own poison pill: the requirement  that the Honduran Congress approve Zelaya’s temporary reinstatement. Not surprisingly, the agreement was never realized, in part because four days later, the U.S. said it would honor the coup government’s “elections” whether Zelaya was ever reinstated or not. So much for the restoration of democracy in Honduras under Secretary Clinton.

What good is an election that doesn’t confirm the power structure? 

The November 27 sham election held under the control of a “unity government” that included no constitutionally-legitimate members, was punctuated by police violence and widespread media censorship. The winner was Porfirio Lobo Sosa, another multi-millionaire agricultural oligarch, who had lost to Zelaya in 2009. In an election boycotted by numerous candidates and with a turnout 6% lower than 2005, Lobos won 56.6% of the vote. The result was rejected by Spain and 11 Latin American countries, but widely accepted by the U.S. and its allies – and got a hypocritically glowing gloss from Assistant Secretary Shannon in an email to Clinton aide Cheryl Mills that falsely hyped the voter turnout:

The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one, and puts Brazil and others who would not recognize the election in an impossible position. As we think about what to say, I would strongly recommend that we not be shy. We should congratulate the Honduran people, we should connect today’s vote to the deep democratic vocation of the Honduran people, and we should call on the community of democratic nations (and especially those of the Americas) to recognize, respect, and respond to this accomplishment of the Honduran people….

As president, Lobo presided over the further descent of Honduras (literally “the depths”) into violence, chaos, and corruption. Political assassinations now run to the hundreds as Honduras has achieved the highest murder rate in the world. Lobo (and now his dubious successor) have nurtured a vicious but U.S.-friendly government that has allowed its country to grow so violent that Hondurans flee northward by the thousands, while those who stay behind to resist are murdered by the hundreds. The environmental organization Global Witness, which tracks assassinations of environmentalists worldwide, found Honduras the most dangerous country per capita for environmental activists.

Among Clinton’s foreign policy achievements, Honduras may or may not be more disastrous than Libya. In “Hard Choices,” Clinton assessed Honduras this way:

We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.

In retrospect, the “strategy” failed to restore order, ensured no free and fair elections, nor any legitimate election – but it did effectively legitimize a military coup undertaken in America’s interest (as in Haiti or Egypt – sorry, Madagascar).

Clinton’s record seems unknown only to Americans  

In a healthy democracy, one might expect candidates for president to challenge the one who actively supported a military coup that helped turn an impoverished country into an expanding charnel house. In the United States in 2016, the devastation produced by American foreign policy is an issue only for those who see it as inadequate. In the home countries, American depredation is not such a secret, least of all to those who resist it. In 2014, more than a year before her assassination, Berta Caceres named Clinton as one of the perpetrators of Honduran suffering (translated):

We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community – officials, the government, the grand majority – accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.[emphasis added]

Writing in The Nationhistorian Greg Grandin amplified what Caceres meant when she warned that Clinton policy “was going to be very dangerous.” Once the sham election installed a U.S.-compliant government, Honduras adopted Washington-sponsored terrorism and counterintelligence laws that criminalized political protest. Clinton’s policy consolidated the power of murderers, Grandin noted, and led to the murder of Caceres:

Well, that’s just one horror. I mean, hundreds of peasant activists and indigenous activists have been killed. Scores of gay rights activists have been killed. I mean, it’s just—it’s just a nightmare in Honduras. I mean there’s ways in which the coup regime basically threw up Honduras to transnational pillage. And Berta Cáceres, in that interview, says what was installed after the coup was something like a permanent counterinsurgency on behalf of transnational capital. And that was—that wouldn’t have been possible if it were not for Hillary Clinton’s normalization of that election, or legitimacy.

Of course, it was also Obama’s discreet blessing of a predator state that keeps Honduras bleeding. There’s blood enough for his hands as well as Clinton’s and all the apparatchiks at the White House and State Department who enthusiastically helped this enduring crime against humanity go down.

And now there is another victim that we know about among the hundreds still unknown. On March 15, another death squad (or perhaps the same one) shot a man four times in the face in his home. He was a member of the same indigenous people’s organization as Caceres (she is one of 14 members killed so far). He was Nelson Noe Garcia Lainez, 39, father of five and a community leader. His execution followed a violent government eviction of indigenous people from their homes because they were protesting the megadam project (Agua Zarca, funded in part by USAID) that would destroy their ancestral land.

The Associated Press reported, with profound but apparently unintended irony: “The United States Embassy condemned the killing, saying that ‘coming so close to the murder of his colleague Berta Cáceres, his death is cause for particular concern.’” So it would not be a cause for concern had it happened later?

When Latino USA asked if Clinton “is still proud of the hell she helped routinize in Honduras,” a Clinton spokesperson said criticism of Clinton’s Honduras policy “simply nonsense.” Clinton is not known to have expressed regret for any part of her Honduran activities, not even sending children back to hell. Running an empire ain’t for sissies.

 

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.