Monday, November 29, 2010

Is Wikileaks a smoke curtain?

Everyone is entitled to be skeptical about everything and the leaks regarding diplomats around the world don't really reveal relevant information about what is actually taking place and who is behind it, but is more based on personal attacks which are more reminiscent of a soap opera rather than serious international affairs. It is very doubtful that Berlusconi, Merkel, Westerwelle, Sarkozy, Preval (all of which share good relations with the United States) will mind being called the things they were called, yet this is the greatest show on Earth being presented as ultra-secret files, as if Berlusconi's sex scandals weren't spread by the media on an almost weekly basis, or as if Westerwelle and all  of these politicians were highly popular or accepted in their countries, something which is curiously not the case of almost all of these political figures (apparently not coincidentally either).

It shouldn't be so extraordinary to ask oneself if this is just a smoke curtain to distract people from the relevant things going on by making a big media show out of nothing, because it is very possible that all of these diplomats did not only previously know what was going to take place, but that they also agreed on it for the important events and changes they are making  in their countries to be lost among the big superficial drama in the news. It could even help them acquire the popular support they don't have, instead of potentially stirring conflict with the US. Big media shows are the way politics operate to distract the masses while governments do and undo(See the Chilean miners showcase)

A very good example of this leak being a smoke curtain is it taking place exactly yesterday, Haitian Election Day amid a cholera outbreak that killed already over 1,500 people, while many were protesting, plus allegations of fraud and irregularities not only by citizens, but by 12 out of 18 candidates themselves. In the meantime, everyone was too busy reading the leaks and the" big nasty thing" a US diplomat said about Preval.

Regarding Honduras, ambassador Llorens didn't really reveal anything most of us didn't know and the US official stance was never really inconsistent with its actions, since the Library of Congress report on the coup determines it as "constitutional". One could even dare to say that this leak whitewashes Llorens(and even the US's in general) role during the coup putting him as a guy "who knew what was right" but was almost like a victim of the whole situation, unrelated to the "inevitable" circumstance that was going on around him, when some of  his statements during this time showed the opposite: indirectly justifying the coup by implying that Zelaya had provoked the whole thing.

We must also remember that yesterday, November 28, Haitians are not the only one "celebrating" elections, but it  is the first anniversary of the Honduran fraudulent elections which took the Lobo coup continuation government to office, elections with results that were fully recognized by the United States, its Secretary of State even pushing for recognition in several Latin American tours, so there is no contradiction here. The CIA factbook has allegedly real data on it, so why would a "secret" cable contain false information on it? Would it have made a difference had this cable been published earlier, now, or in a few years? Surely not. After all, Llorens did say it was a coup all along as did the US.

Some people might argue that "it damages the US more than it benefits it" and see this as a measure of reliability, but I am not so sure about that, because in games, sometimes players risk some things, or even make many concessions or apparent concessions in order to gain advantages in the long term. Any thinking human being can observe that The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel are not really exactly anti status quo media, but the opposite, just with a slight touch of "progressive" make-up here and there. They are big business too and very likely, just like so many of them, not quite at the service of the vast majorities, but of their and their clients' own interests. As far as we know, this might all be unilateral. Skepticism will never ever hurt, even if there is no evidence for now. Time will tell.


By Karen Spring,

On Tuesday, November 23 at 7:00 am, between 300-400 military officers and a reported seven military commanders occupied the offices of the National Agrarian Institute (INA) in the department of Colon.

The occupation of the INA office occurs just eight days after the murder of five campesinos and the severe injury of four members of the Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA) by private security guards of large African palm producer, Miguel Facusse in Bajo Aguan, Colon. Facusse's African palm company, Dinant Corporation is the recipient of a $30 million dollar loan from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation. (For more information, see Annie Bird's article below).

Since the massacre a week ago, the region has been heavily militarized by state forces and various check points have been set up along the major roads to 'guarantee the security of the region.' The military and police forces are accused by various campesinos organizations in the region of acting in favour of the large land owners, arriving hours after the conflicts and deaths occur and not carrying out the proper investigations often solely accusing the campesinos as being at fault.

INA, the state office responsible for titling land and working to resolve land disputes, and its director Caesar Ham have been publicly accused by large land owner Miguel Facusse to be assisting the campesinos in the region in the efforts to recuperate land illegally taken from them. It is speculated that today's occupation of the INA office is an attempt to frame the state institute for providing arms and supporting the campesino struggles in the region.

In an outcry against the killings and in an act of solidarity, campesinos from six departments of Honduras (Atlantida, Colon, Olancho, Santa Barbara, Cortez and Choluteca) began land occupations shortly after the November 15th murders. To pressure the government and demonstrate their force, campesinos will be arriving in Tegucigalpa on Thursday for a gathering outside of the National Congress.


Julian from the community of Guadalupe Carney and one of the four MCA campesinos injured was shot in the head during the confrontation with Facusse's security guards. He remains in the hospital where he is awaiting an operation to reconstruct parts of his face.

A bullet entered in the right side of his face just below his cheek bone, passed through his upper lip area and exited on the left side of his face, fracturing his cheek bone. "The upper part of my mouth is destroyed. I can't eat, just liquids but not other types of good." Almost all of Julian's upper teeth and gums have been destroyed.


The Campesino Movement of Aguan (MCA) and the families of the nine affected campesinos have many medical expenses and funeral costs.

Make check payable to "Rights Action" and mail to:

UNITED STATES:  Box 50887, Washington DC, 20091-0887
CANADA:  552 - 351 Queen St. E, Toronto ON, M5A-1T8


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Memo Reveals US State Department Knew Honduras Coup Was Illegal, Did Not Follow Own Advice

Leaked Cable, Early During Coup, Defined Removal of President Manuel Zelaya as Illegitimate
Less than month after the coup d'état that removed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from office at gun point, the US Embassy in the country's capital sent a memo to State Department headquarters in Washington DC ripping apart arguments used by the coup plotters.
“...The military and/or whoever ordered the coup fell back on what they knew – the way Honduran presidents were removed in the past: a bogus resignation letter and a one-way ticket to a neighboring country,” reads a confidentialcable from Tegucigalpa, signed by US Ambassador Hugo Llorens (pictured right) and published today by the organization Wikileaks.
The agency did not heed the warnings written by Llorens. The document, which was sent to the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the military, is in contrast to the State Department's position to back a coup supporter to be the future president of the country months after the memo was sent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was later found to be involved ingiving millions to the coup regime through a US government-financed corporation she helped manage.
In the July 9, 2009 document, titled “Open and Shut: The Case of the Honduran Coup,” Llorens writes that after consulting legal specialists and analyzing the country's constitution it's clear that “the actions of June 28 can only be considered a coup d'etat by the legislative branch, with the support of the judicial branch and the military, against the executive branch.”
On that date soldiers forced their way into the democratically-elected president's home in the capital and put Zelaya on a plane to San José, Costa Rica after the country's Supreme Court had issued a secret arrest warrant. “Accounts of Zelaya's abduction by the military indicate he was never legally 'served' with a warrant; the soldiers forced their way in by shooting out the locks and essentially kidnapped the President,” Llorens says in the memo. 
Zelaya's alleged “crime” according to coup backers was proposing to have a vote to create an assembly to rewrite the country's constitution. Later that day the National Congress passed a resolution to remove Zelaya from office, while presenting a fake resignation letter. Roberto Micheletti, President of the National Congress, was declared the new president of a de facto government run by coup supporters. 
The cable says “it is not clear” that promoting a vote to change the constitution is unconstitutional, and that regardless of the legal arguments, the armed forces are not allowed to execute judicial orders and Congress had no authority to remove Zelaya from office.  
“Zelaya's arrest and forced removal from the country violated multiple constitutional guarantees, including the prohibition on expatriation, presumption of innocence and right to due process,” Llorens writes. “Furthermore, a source in the Congressional leadership told us that a quorum was not present when there [sic] solution was adopted, rendering it invalid. There was no recorded vote, nor a request for the 'yeas' and 'nays.'”
Despite calling the Micheletti government “illegitimate” and the coup a product of a “hasty, ad-hoc, extralegal, secret, 48-hour process,” it was Llorens and the State Department who later began to support the coup. The US-financed Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which had “hands on” management by Clinton on its board of directors, gave $6.5 million to the coup regime after Zelaya was ousted. The agency then backed coup supporter Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo as the winner of a presidential election held five months after Zelaya was removed. Lobo denied a coup had taken place, and as president he later gave amnesty to everyone involved in plotting it. 
In other words, while it is now clear that the State Department knew the coup was illegitimate and unconstitutional, why did the agency get so involved with funding the coup regime and backing one of its key supporters in elections that were marked by well-document abuses and fraud?
That question could be answered soon. The cable in one of hundreds from Honduras that will be made available over the next few months according to Wikileaks, and they may explain the State Department's handling of the first Latin American crisis under the Obama administration.

First Leaked State Department Cable on Honduras Coup

Around 250,000 cables from the State Department and its branches in the world were leaked recently by the internet operator Wikileaks. From those at least 2000 are from the Tegucigalpa embassy. 
Western media, particularly five newspapers from Western Europe and the United States, are revealing information since last October about US military activity. This week the State Department got in contact with foreign governments to warn them on the contents that were going to be released in order to prevent a diplomatic crisis in the world. French Le Monde published an article explaining why it was publishing this information, and about the editorial process most, if not all, of the cables were passing through in order to protect the interests of those individuals directly involved and without interfering with ongoing intelligence activity.

We believe not only to protect individuals but also the interests of political adventures undertaken by the State Department itself, although calling the Honduras Coup a Coup, manipulation of information of the Honduras cable is clearly evident in El Pais and the New York times most likely from the writer (Llorens) but perhaps also from the editors (NYT/EP). Information was also accessible for The Guardian, Le Monde and German Der Spiegel . These transnational media outlets would never dare to seriously damage the interests of the United States in front of the world’s public opinion specially in matters of this delicate nature (Latin American insurgency).  
Le monde says about this “in common, the five newspapers have carefully edited the raw texts used in order to withdraw all names and data for which divulgation could imply risks for physical individuals”. Is the word individual here to be understood as Miguel Facussé for instance?

The first important Tegucigalpa cable dated 2009-07-24 appeared in El Pais clearly shows a dismissal of significant information of the story told from the viewpoint of Hugo Llorens in which he appears to be arguing on the basis of only one topic; the golpistas argument on the legality of the coup as if they never made it to sell a credible story on the Honduras crisis. The Tegucigalpa Embassy over analyzes the arguments from pro-coup sectors and only in the last line it states that there might be two sides and leaves untold that, perhaps, the second side might have different supportive statements and positions regarding the constitutional issues in Honduras at that time.

The message seems to focus blame on how the oligarchy of Honduras failed on doing a smarter job completely denying the arguments of lawyers supporting Zelaya on the legality of the survey taking place on Sunday the 28th and the democratic procedures undertaken by his administration to propose the writing of a new constitution. Llorens once again inteligently covers his very Golpista drive in this now world public cable published by the New York Times and El Pais which we believe millions will eventually read. 

On the other hand, tt is interesting to note at the end of the script that amongst the destinations for that cable were Cthe aracas Embassy and Southcom in Miami, FL.

However, we wonder, is this really something we would have had to wait years or decades to see otherwise? 

Source for the following information was The New York Times:

DATE 2009-07-24 00:23:00
SOURCE Embassy Tegucigalpa
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2019

Classified By: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary: Post has attempted to clarify some of the
legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28
forced removal of President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. The
Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the
military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired
on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and
unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while
accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya
have committed illegalities and may have even violated the
constitution. There is equally no doubt from our perspective
that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was
illegitimate. Nevertheless, it is also evident that the
constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing
clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by
the President and resolving conflicts between the branches
of government. End summary.
2. (U) Since the June 28 removal and expulsion of President
Zelaya by the Honduran armed forces, the Embassy has
consulted Honduran legal experts (one cannot find a fully
unbiased professional legal opinion in Honduras in the
current politically charged atmosphere) and reviewed the
text of the Honduran Constitution and its laws to develop a
better understanding of the arguments being parlayed by the
coup's supporters and opponents.
Arguments of the Coup Defenders
3. (SBU) Defenders of the June 28 coup have offered some
combination of the following, often ambiguous, arguments to
assert it's legality:
-- Zelaya had broken the law (alleged but not proven);
-- Zelaya resigned (a clear fabrication);
-- Zelaya intended to extend his term in office
-- Had he been allowed to proceed with his June 28
constitutional reform opinion poll, Zelaya would have
dissolved Congress the following day and convened a
constituent assembly (supposition);
-- Zelaya had to be removed from the country to prevent a
-- Congress "unanimously" (or in some versions by a 123-5
vote) deposed Zelaya; (after the fact and under the cloak
of secrecy); and
-- Zelaya "automatically" ceased to be president the moment
he suggested modifying the constitutional prohibition on
presidential reelection.
4. (C) In our view, none of the above arguments has any
substantive validity under the Honduran constitution. Some
are outright false. Others are mere supposition or ex-post
rationalizations of a patently illegal act. Essentially:
-- the military had no authority to remove Zelaya from the
-- Congress has no constitutional authority to remove a
Honduran president;
-- Congress and the judiciary removed Zelaya on the basis
of a hasty, ad-hoc, extralegal, secret, 48-hour process;
-- the purported "resignation" letter was a fabrication and
was not even the basis for Congress's action of June 28;
-- Zelaya's arrest and forced removal from the country
violated multiple constitutional guarantees, including the
prohibition on expatriation, presumption of innocence and
right to due process.
Impeachment under the Honduran Constitution
5. (U) Under the Honduran Constitution as currently
written, the President may be removed only on the basis of
death, resignation or incapacitation. Only the Supreme
Court may determine that a President has been
"incapacitated" on the basis of committing a crime.
6. (U) There is no explicit impeachment procedure in the
1982 Honduran Constitution. Originally, Article 205-15
stated that Congress had the competence to determine
whether "cause" existed against the President, but it did
not stipulate on what grounds or under what procedure.
Article 319-2 stated that the Supreme Court would "hear"
cases of official or common crimes committed by high-level
officials, upon a finding of cause by the Congress. This
implied a vague two-step executive impeachment process
involving the other two branches of government, although
without specific criteria or procedures. However, Article
205 was abrogated in 2003, and the corresponding provision
of Article 319 (renumbered 313) was revised to state only
that the Supreme Court would hear "processes initiated"
against high officials. Thus, it appears that under the
Constitution as currently written, removal of a president
or a government official is an entirely judicial matter.
7. (U) Respected legal opinion confirms that the removal of
a president is a judicial matter. According to a 2006 book
by respected legal scholar Enrique Flores Valeriano -- late
father of Zelaya's Minister of the Presidency, Enrique
Flores Lanza -- Article 112 of the Law of Constitutional
Justice indicates that if any government official is found
to be in violation of the Constitution, that person should
be removed from office immediately with the ultimate
authority on matters of Constitutionality being the Supreme
8. (U) Many legal experts have also confirmed to us that
the Honduran process for impeaching a President or other
senior-level officials is a judicial procedure. They
assert that under Honduran law the process consists of formal
criminal charges being filed by the Attorney General
against the accused with the Supreme Court. The Supreme
Court could accept or reject the charges. If the Court
moved to indict, it would assign a Supreme Court
magistrate, or a panel of magistrates to investigate the
and oversee the trial. The trial process is open and
transparent and the defendant would be given a full right
of self-defense. If convicted in the impeachment trial,
the magistrates have authority to remove the President or
senior official. Once the President is removed, then the
constitutional succession would follow. In this case, if a
President is legally charged, convicted, and removed, his
successor is the Vice President or what is termed the
Presidential Designate. In the current situation in
Honduras, since the Vice President, Elvin Santos, resigned
last December in order to be able to run as the Liberal
Party Presidential candidate, President Zelaya's successor
would be Congress President Roberto Micheletti.
Unfortunately, the President was never tried, or
convicted, or was legally removed from office to allow a
legal succession.
The Legal Case Against Zelaya
9. (C) Zelaya's opponents allege that he violated the
Constitution on numerous grounds, some of which appear on
their face to be valid, others not:
-- Refusing to submit a budget to the Congress: The
Constitution is unambiguous that the Executive shall submit
a proposed budget to Congress by September 15 each year
(Art. 367), that Congress shall approve the budget (Art.
366) and that no obligations or payments may be effectuated
except on the basis of an approved budget (Art. 364);
-- Refusing to fund the Congress: Article 212 states that
the Treasury shall apportion quarterly the funds needed for
the operation of the Congress;
-- Proposing an illegal constitutional referendum: The
Constitution may be amended only through two-thirds vote of
the Congress in two consecutive sessions (Art. 373 and
375); a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution,
as Zelaya promoted, is therefore unconstitutional; however,
it is not clear that proposing a constituent assembly in
itself violates the constitution, only that any changes
ensuing from that assembly would be invalid;
-- Defying the judgment of a competent court: Zelaya
insisted on pushing ahead with his constitutional reform
opinion poll after both a first-instance court and an
appeals court ordered him to suspend those efforts;
however, while he clearly intended to follow through with
the poll, he never actually did it;
-- Proposing to reform unreformable articles: Since
Zelaya's proposed constituent assembly would have unlimited
powers to rewrite the constitution, it violated Article
374, which makes certain articles unamendable; once again,
though, Zelaya never actually attempted to change the
so-called "carved in stone" articles; it was only assumed
he intended to;
-- Dismissing the armed forces chief: The Supreme Court's
Constitutional Hall ruled June 25 that Zelaya was in
violation of the Constitution for dismissing Defense Chief
Vasquez Velasquez; the Constitution (Art. 280) states that
the President may freely name or remove the chief of the
armed forces; but the court ruled that since Zelaya fired
him for refusing to carry out a poll the court had ruled
illegal, the firing was illegal.
10. (C) Although a case could well have been made against
Zelaya for a number of the above alleged constitutional
violations, there was never any formal, public weighing of
the evidence nor any semblance of due process.
The Article 239 Cannard
11. (U) Article 239, which coup supporters began citing
after the fact to justify Zelaya's removal (it is nowhere
mentioned in the voluminous judicial dossier against
Zelaya), states that any official proposing to reform the
constitutional prohibition against reelection of the
president shall immediately cease to carry out their
functions and be ineligible to hold public office for 10
years. Coup defenders have asserted that Zelaya therefore
automatically ceased to be President when he proposed a
constituent assembly to rewrite the Constitution.
12. (C) Post's analysis indicates the Article 239 argument
is flawed on multiple grounds:
-- Although it was widely assumed that Zelaya's reason for
seeking to convoke a constituent assembly was to amend the
constitution to allow for reelection, we are not aware
that he ever actually stated so publicly;
-- Article 239 does not stipulate who determines whether it
has been violated or how, but it is reasonable to assume
that it does not abrogate other guarantees of due process
and the presumption of innocence;
-- Article 94 states that no penalty shall be imposed
without the accused having been heard and found guilty in a
competent court;
-- Many other Honduran officials, including presidents,
going back to the first elected government under the 1982
Constitution, have proposed allowing presidential
reelection, and they were never deemed to have been
automatically removed from their positions as a result.
13. (C) It further warrants mention that Micheletti himself
should be forced to resign following the logic of the 239
argument, since as President of Congress he considered
legislation to have a fourth ballot box ("cuarta urna") at
the November elections to seek voter approval for a
constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. Any
member of Congress who discussed the proposal should also
be required to resign, and National Party presidential
candidate Pepe Lobo, who endorsed the idea, should be
ineligible to hold public office for 10 years.
--------------------------------------------- -
Forced Removal by Military was Clearly Illegal
--------------------------------------------- -
14. (C) Regardless of the merits of Zelaya's alleged
constitutional violations, it is clear from even a cursory
reading that his removal by military means was illegal, and
even the most zealous of coup defenders have been unable to
make convincing arguments to bridge the intellectual gulf
between "Zelaya broke the law" to "therefore, he was packed
off to Costa Rica by the military without a trial."
-- Although coup supporters allege the court issued an
arrest warrant for Zelaya for disobeying its order to
desist from the opinion poll, the warrant, made public days
later, was for him to be arrested and brought before the
competent authority, not removed from the county;
-- Even if the court had ordered Zelaya to be removed from
the country, that order would have been unconstitutional;
Article 81 states that all Hondurans have the right to
remain in the national territory, subject to certain narrow
exceptions spelled out in Article 187, which may be invoked
only by the President of the Republic with the agreement of
the Council of Ministers; Article 102 states that no
Honduran may be expatriated;
-- The armed forces have no/no competency to execute
judicial orders; originally, Article 272 said the armed
forces had the responsibility to "maintain peace, public
order and the 'dominion' of the constitution," but that
language was excised in 1998; under the current text, only
the police are authorized to uphold the law and execute
court orders (Art. 293);
-- Accounts of Zelaya's abduction by the military indicate
he was never legally "served" with a warrant; the soldiers
forced their way in by shooting out the locks and
essentially kidnapped the President.
15. (U) The Armed Forces' ranking legal advisor, Col.
Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, acknowledged in an interview
published in the Honduran press July 5 that the Honduran
Armed Forces had broken the law in removing Zelaya from the
country. That same day it was reported that the Public
Ministry was investigating the actions of the Armed Forces
in arresting and deporting Zelaya June 28 and that the
Supreme Court had asked the Armed Forces to explain the
circumstances that motivated his forcible exile.
16. (C) As reported reftel, the legal adviser to the
Supreme Court told Poloff that at least some justices on
the Court consider Zelaya's arrest and deportation by the
military to have been illegal.
Congress Had no Authority to Remove Zelaya
17. (C) As explained above, the Constitution as amended in
2003 apparently gives sole authority for removing a
president to the judiciary. The Congressional action of
June 28 has been reported in some media as acceptance of
Zelaya's resignation, based on a bogus resignation letter
dated June 25 that surfaced after the coup. However, the
June 28 Congressional resolution makes no mention of the
letter, nor does it state that Congress was accepting
Zelaya's resignation. It says Congress "disapproves" of
Zelaya's conduct and therefore "separates" him from the
office of President -- a constitutional authority Congress
does not have. Furthermore, a source in the Congressional
leadership told us that a quorum was not present when the
resolution was adopted, rendering it invalid. There was no
recorded vote, nor a request for the "yeas" and "nays."
18. (C) In sum, for a constitutional succession from Zelaya
to Micheletti to occur would require one of several
Zelaya's resignation, his death, or permanent medical
incapacitation (as determined by judicial and medical
authorities), or as discussed previously, his formal criminal
conviction and removal from office. In the absence of any of
these conditions and since Congress lacked the legal
authority to remove Zelaya, the actions of June 28 can only
be considered a coup d'etat by the legislative branch, with
the support of the judicial branch and the military, against
the executive branch. It bears mentioning that, whereas the
resolution adopted June 28 refers only to Zelaya, its effect
was to remove the entire executive branch. Both of these
actions clearly exceeded Congress's authority.
19. (C) The analysis of the Constitution sheds some
interesting light on the events of June 28. The Honduran
establishment confronted a dilemma: near unanimity among
the institutions of the state and the political class that
Zelaya had abused his powers in violation of the
Constitution, but with some ambiguity what to do about it.
Faced with that lack of clarity, the military and/or
whoever ordered the coup fell back on what they knew -- the
way Honduran presidents were removed in the past: a bogus
resignation letter and a one-way ticket to a neighboring
country. No matter what the merits of the case against
Zelaya, his forced removal by the military was clearly
illegal, and Micheletti's ascendance as "interim president"
was totally illegitimate.
20. (C) Nonetheless, the very Constitutional uncertainty
that presented the political class with this dilemma may
provide the seeds for a solution. The coup's most ardent
legal defenders have been unable to make the intellectual
leap from their arguments regarding Zelaya's alleged crimes
to how those allegations justified dragging him out of his
bed in the night and flying him to Costa Rica. That the
Attorney General's office and the Supreme Court now
reportedly question the legality of that final step is
encouraging and may provide a face-saving "out" for the two
opposing sides in the current standoff. End Comment.

DE RUEHTG #0645/01 2050023
O 240023Z JUL 09

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dreams of an Insurgency

by RNS, from the blog, Honduras Culture and Politics

On November 15, armed guards at one of Miguel Facussé's African palm plantations in the Bajo Aguan community of El Tumbador,shot and killed 6 campesinos who they said were trying to invade the plantation.

The police declined to investigate the latest shootings. They neither recovered the bodies nor collected any evidence.

After these latest killings, Porfirio Lobo Sosa ordered the complete militarization of the zone.

Oscar Alvarez, Honduras' security minister, claims to have information through the Police intelligence unit that there are armed groups intending insurrection forming in the Bajo Aguan.

This is not a new claim; it was made at least as early as Februaryof this year. There's no public evidence to support the claim.

Then on Wednesday, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, declaring that there was good evidence that there was an arms cache somewhere in the Bajo Aguan with 1000 AK-47s and M-16s in the hands of groups being trained to attack the government of Honduras. Lobo Sosa knows this because Security Minister Alvarez told him it was true.

Lobo Sosa indicated a massive, secret operation was underway in the Aguan, to clean out all the known arms caches in the Bajo Aguan:
"We have traces of the people who have been voyaging outside of Honduras to receive training, we have them all located, including the places where they are being trained outside of here, of Honduras; it's a large quantity of arms they have, and we're going after them."

No one outside of the military and the national police knows the target(s) of this investigation. Lobo Sosa claims the current operation will put an end to the killings in the Bajo Aguan.

The first, and so far, only target, was the INA regional office in the Bajo Aguan, which the military and police took over in an early morning raid yesterday morning.

They found nothing.

Why target INA? it might have something to do with the history of the land where the latest massacre of peasant activists took place.

El Tumbador, the site of the massacre, in the 1980s formed part of the Centro Regional de Entrenamiento Militar (CREM). CREM, just outside Trujillo, was where US military advisers trained Salvadoran, and later Nicaraguan Contra forces, in the US's battle against leftists in Central America.

There's a long history of conflict over this land, home to some important archaeological remains investigated in the 1970s by Paul Healy. In 1983 I was advised by the Honduran military that the US base commander had denied me permission to verify the safety of the Selin Farm archaeological site, which I was checking as a representative of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia.

After the CREM facility was decommissioned, campesinos moved in and established the community of Guadalupe Carney in the remains of the base. Guadalupe Carney has been the site of killings of as many as 17 campesinos in struggles over rights to the land.

Today, both the Movimiento Unificado de Campesino del Aguan (MUCA) and the US citizen Temistocles Ramirez claim El Tumbador. So how does Miguel Facussé come into it?

The Instituto Nacional Agrario (INA) says that the government, not Miguel Facussé, owns the land in question at El Tumbador.

The documentation is stored in the INA regional office in Sinaloa, in the Bajo Aguan. César Ham, current head of INA (a cabinet position in the Lobo Sosa government, remember), said that Facussé appropriated 565 hectares of government land inappropriately, land which belongs specificially to INA, land that was part of CREM.

Oscar Alvarez, the security minister, says that armed groups in the Bajo Aguan are funded by NGO's that are trying to destabilize Honduras. According to him, it's Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who are supporting these supposed clandestine groups. This charge has drawn a categorical denial by Nicaraguan Authorities.

Rafael Alegria, campesino leader and one of the voices of the FNRP called Alvarez's allegations a smoke screen designed to disorient public opinion.

The de facto regime made similar claims about the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) right after the coup, and harrassed and deported many Central Americans during its 7 month reign. In fact, Oscar Alvarez goes further, and revives a claim that in the 1980s, "several Hondurans were recruited in Nicaragua and then trained in Cuba to try to destabilize the Honduran government".

In fact, there is a large paramilitary organization in the Bajo Aguan right now, armed with AK-47s and M-16s, and protected by powerful individuals, just as Porfirio Lobo Sosa claimed. Except that it's not a campesino group. It's the armed guards hired by DINANT corporation to guard facilities in the Bajo Aguan.

Honduran resistance members argue that these private police forces are being trained by Colombian groups like the Mano Blanco, linked to similar violence against campesinos in Colombia. Reportsof former AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) operatives being hired by Honduran elites were treated seriously by the UN in fall 2009. It is publicly acknowledged by Honduras and Colombia that security forces from Colombia are in Honduras this year on a "training" mission.

It was the spokesperson for DINANT corporation, Roger Pineda, who told HRN radio the unbelievable story that the El Tumbadorfinca guards were attacked by a group of 200 campesinos armed with AK-47 rifles. Press photographs circulated that showed several of the corpses allegedly holding (in what appeared to me to be a completely unnatural manner) AK-47s.

It's among DINANT corporation's paramilitary guards that Oscar Alvarez needs to look for his arms cache.

But instead, credit the new military operation for the successes it can report: in traffic stops they found 27 people carrying pistols and even a shotgun, without having the proper documentation of their right to own these guns

So José Luis Muñoz Licona, director of the National Police called the operation a success.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Snakes Sleep: Attacks against the Media and Impunity in Honduras

Written by Sandra Cuffe   
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 17:21

In Honduras, there is a particular quote by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano that has been adopted into the country's rich lexicon of idioms: “Justice is like snakes. They only bite the barefoot.” 
Of the thousands of human rights violations committed in Honduras since the coup in June 2009, in most cases the only serious investigations have been carried out by the grassroots organizations involved with the Human Rights Platform and the resistance movement. Very few charges have been laid against the human rights violators who ordered and carried out illegal detentions, kidnappings, beatings, torture, rape, and extrajudicial executions.
At the international level, however, there have recently been positive signals that spark the hope that justice may one day be served. Last week, the International Criminal Court announced that preliminary investigations are underway to determine whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over a case related to Honduras. Essentially, the Court is investigating whether or not war crimes and/or crimes against humanity have been committed in Honduras since the coup on June 28, 2009. 
Also earlier this month, Honduras faced its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, a process that each UN member State undergoes every four years. Tellingly, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia did not attend because they do not recognize the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who was elected President in November 2009 in highly controversial elections that many contend were simply the prolongation of the illegitimate rule of the civic and military authorities that coordinated the overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya Rosales. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, El Salvador and Ecuador explicitly clarified that they do not recognize the government of Honduras, but intervened in the Review process nonetheless in order to support the human rights of the Honduran people.
At the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, several concerns were voiced about the impunity surrounding human rights violations in general, and the murder of journalists in particular. Nine journalists have been murdered in Honduras in 2010 to date. According to the “Death Watch” compiled by the International Press Institute (IPI), Honduras is now the second most dangerous country for journalists, second only to Mexico. Prior to 2010, the countries with the most murders of journalists were mainly countries officially deemed to be in conflict, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Somalia. When the Honduran population of less than eight million is taken into account, the statistics are exponentially more serious. 
According to the IPI's research, from 1997 when the Institute started the “Death Watch” until the coup, only seven journalists were killed. At the Universal Periodic Review, UN member States demanded investigations and justice in the cases of the nine journalists killed in 2010 alone. While the final report will not be adopted until the Human Rights Council meets again to discuss the case in March 2011, the Honduran government stated its acceptance of the 129 recommendations during the Review process earlier this month. In the case of the journalists, however, the promise to investigate and to prosecute those responsible did not come without a rebuttal.
“In none of the cases investigated have the victims or their families alleged political motivations, nor have the investigations turned up evidence that such a pattern exists,” said Honduran Vice President Maria Antoineta Guillen de Bogran during the Review. 
Earlier this year, in an interview with the Tribuna newspaper on May 3rd, Honduran Minister of Security Oscar Alvarez went even further, stating: “I guarantee that in all of the cases [of the journalists' murders], there is no connection to indicate that it is due to their work as journalists. That is to say that there is no person or people trying to silence journalists; it is simply that, just as other people, after their work as reporters, journalists spend their time on their own personal situations.”
Of course, as murdered journalists themselves, Gabriel Fino Noriega, Joseph Hernandez Ochoa, David Meza Montesinos, Nahum Palacios, Jose Bayardo Mayrena, Manuel Juarez, Jorge Alberto Orellana, Luis Arturo Mondragon, and Israel Zelaya Diaz are not able to contest the statements by Vice President Guillen and Security Minister Alvarez. In most cases, however, journalists who have been threatened, kidnapped, beaten, and tortured have demonstrated the clear connection between their work as critical journalists supporting or reporting on the resistance movement and the human rights violations they have endured. 
In the case of direct attacks against media outlets, the evidence is clear. Most of the violent assaults against radio stations and the confiscation of equipment took place either on June 28th, 2009, the morning of the coup, or three months later, on September 28th, 2009, after a specific executive decree including more curfews and martial law also addressed media outlets. The decree established a State of Emergency and restricted several basic rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, giving authorities the green light to “halt the coverage or discussion through any media, be it verbal or printed, of demonstrations that threaten peace and public order” or that compromised the “dignity” of government authorities or decisions.
“The decree [defined] the framework of a military dictatorship,” asserted well-known radio journalist Felix Molina. 
"Honduras had not seen - not even during the dirty war of the 1980s, when the military governed with a civilian facade - something like what we saw the morning of June 28th 2009, which was repeated the morning of September 28th 2009, exactly three months later. The arrival in person of soldiers to a media outlet. Confiscation. Well, on June 28th, there was no confiscation of equipment, but in September, Channel 36's equipment was destroyed and confiscated and completely confiscated from Radio Globo," explained Molina after the military assault on Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur, the only radio and television stations, respectively, with nation-wide coverage to clearly identify with the resistance movement against the coup.
"In the 24 hours after the publication of the decree in the official newspaper, the army invoked it to take away equipment and take two media outlets off the air... And we could have expected anything to happen, but as a journalist, I would have never expected that a media outlet be physically dismantled by the army, and yet that is what we saw at dawn on September 28th," said Molina. 
On June 28th, in the hours after the Honduran army sprayed the house of elected President Zelaya with bullets and forced him onto a flight to Costa Rica, several radio stations around the country reporting the urgent news were targeted by the armed forces and forced off the air. That same morning, a nation-wide consultation was to have taken place for people to express their support or opposition for a fourth ballot box in the 2010 elections concerning a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. The initiative was supported and coordinated both by Zelaya and much of the Honduran social movement. Many of the media outlets that would later support the coup either simply did not report anything that morning, or reported the official version of events involving Zelaya's resignation and voluntary departure. Electrical power blackouts also occurred in much of the country.
One of the radio stations attacked and forced to stop broadcasting on June 28th 2009 was Radio Juticalpa, located in the state of Olancho, home to both ousted President Zelaya and current controversial President Lobo. When station director Martha Elena Rubi arrived before dawn, she found the windows and walls of the studio shot up from outside. The shells inside the studio were all from M-16s, the assault rifles assigned to the Honduran army. Witnesses also identified the armed forces as responsible for the violent attack, but Rubi went ahead and broadcast the news of the coup. 
“We thought that this time, if we informed the people of what was really going on, we would help neutralize it. So, knowing that I was going to do this work, what they did was that when I got here, at about five thirty or five o'clock in the morning, [they thought that] I would realize that they had shot up the station and that I would be afraid and not even go on air,” said Rubi.
“I knew they were going to come,” added Rubi, “so I had little time to tell people the truth, and for the town to realize the way in which they were trying to silence what we were, in an impartial way, saying: the truth. So I knew that I was racing against the clock and I committed to getting people to wake up to reality. About two or three hours later, they came with orders for me to shut down the station.” 
There was a power blackout in Juticalpa, but Radio Juticalpa had a solar plant and therefore became the only radio station on the air in the entire region. When the heavily armed soldiers were approaching, Rubi stopped her news coverage and switched to music. However, the station was forced off the air for the rest of the day. Luckily, Rubi and her colleague Andres Molina were able to prevent the army from confiscating their equipment.
Likely due in large part to the persistence of Honduran human rights organizations and mounting international pressure, Colonel Rene Javier Palao Torres and sub-official Juan Alfredo Acosta Acosta were charged with Abuse of Authority for the assault on Radio Juticalpa and sentenced to prison in Juticalpa, Olancho. The military officials appealed the verdict, however, and the sentence was overturned earlier this month by the Court of Appeals. 
The number of cases in which charges have not even been laid is unfortunately far greater than those that have at least made it to court. Flying in the face of the statements by Vice President Guillen and Security Minister Alvarez, one such case is the kidnapping and torture of 29-year-old Delmer Membreno on September 28th 2009, the same day as the military attacks on Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur. A former photographer for the Tribuna newspaper and the Spanish News Agency, the resistance-supporting El Libertador newspaper photographer Membreno was forced into a vehicle by armed men in Tegucigalpa.
"They put a balaclava over my head, they handcuffed me, and they burned my body. They hit me, and they uttered threats against the newspaper I work for: El Libertador," said Membreno, with the bruises and burn marks still visible on his face and body. 
"They beat me. They burned my body with cigarettes. Here [on my arm], my face, and my chest. They ripped my shirt and left me without shoes... 'Cry, cry! Why aren't you crying, you commie?' That's what they said... They said that the director better be careful, that they were following him, and that what they had done to me was nothing in comparison to what they were going to do to him," narrated the wounded photographer.
When the torture of Membreno took place, there had already been so many cases of human rights violations against journalists and media outlets that the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) had petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for precautionary measures specifically for a long list of journalists and media outlets that had been attacked. From July 2009 on, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to a long list of journalists and media outlets; however, during two separate IACHR hearings that took place one month ago in Washington DC, evidence began to pile up that Honduras had not been carrying out the measures. 
On July 24th, 2009, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to television journalist Nahun Palacios, the news director of Aguan Television on channel 5 in Tocoa, Colon, in the Aguan Valley. Palacios had immediately and publicly voiced his opposition to the coup and reported on the mobilizations against the coup and in support of the fourth ballot box and the Constituent Assembly. Only two days after the coup, on June 30th, soldiers raided Palacios' home, intimidated his family, held his children at gunpoint, and seized his vehicle and some work-related equipment. 
Despite the IACHR precautionary measures granted the following month, Palacios never received any communication from the State, let alone any effective protection. Eight months later, on March 14th, 2010, 34-year-old Nahun Palacios was traveling home when his vehicle was intercepted and gunned down with AK47s, automatic weapons that are illegal but easily acquired in Honduras. Two unknown men fled the scene, leaving Palacios dead in the street, his body and vehicle riddled with dozens of bullets. Another passenger in the car was seriously injured and died later in the hospital.
As in many of the other murders of journalists this year, all of which remain unsolved, police did not carry out a proper investigation at the scene of Palacios' murder. After failing to gather sufficient evidence from the body back in March, the police exhumed Palacios' body in August, further upsetting his distraught relatives who still wait for justice eight months later, despite the State's international assurances that they are carrying out investigations and precautionary measures.
Nahun Palacios' murder in March 2010 was only one of five journalists killed that month. Due to the overwhelming impunity in the country, others have been forced to flee into exile. Many have also remained in Honduras, carrying out their vital work despite the ongoing threats and attacks. 
"They can intimidate. You know, yes, of course there is fear, but I don't think that it will stop us from informing the people of the truth," said Delmer Membreno after his kidnapping and torture.
The announcement of the International Criminal Court about its preliminary investigations into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity in Honduras, as well as the ongoing pressure within the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, would not be possible without the work of the innumerable committed Honduran journalists, media outlets, and human rights organizations from day one. 
For now, back in Honduras, however, the snakes of justice are far from trying their fangs out on the high-ranking military, police and political leaders behind both the coup and outrageous human rights violations. Justice may simply be sleeping like so many court cases in the country. Or perhaps Zelaya and democracy were not the only ones forced into exile at gunpoint on June 28th, 2009.
Sandra Cuffe is a writer and activist of no fixed address. After living and working in Honduras for four years from 2003 to 2007, she returned five days after the coup, and stayed through April 2010, collaborating with COFADEH and other local organizations.