Friday, October 9, 2009

Honduran Solution Remains Stubbornly Elusive

Well, folks, contrary to my announced intentions, I’ve continued posting on this blog, but still may take a break over the weekend to celebrate my great-grandson’s second birthday and give a book reading, as mentioned last time, as well as prepare for my trip to Va. Tech to give more readings later in the week. Now I have six official blog followers, one of whom I actually know. A number of others also contact me from time-to-time directly by e-mail.

Here’s one regular blog reader’s observation: Micheletti seems as eager to comply as Fidel Castro is to step down from the position as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party. I have a feeling he will persist and hold the elections, hoping for a change in the international sentiment, unless the rest of the Honduran oligarchy chickens out fearing the prolongation of sanctions or the army revolts and gives a coup or simply refuses to continue repressing Zelaya's supporters. It will not be a simple task to get him to back down. Micheletti seems to have a taurine temperament. I’ll bet he has a Taurus zodiacal sign! Come to think of it, the guy is a cattleman so maybe that type of behavior comes naturally to him!

Writing in the Wall St. Journal (Oct. 9, 2009), Lanny Davis, a DC attorney who has worked both for Bill Clinton and GW Bush, proposes that both Zelaya and Micheletti resign (presumably with amnesties all around) and that a conciliation government be formed to look at making constitutional and economic reforms providing for a more equitable distribution of wealth. Sounds good, sounds almost utopian, the idea of a conciliation government, but perhaps there are persons of goodwill and sufficient influence and ability on both sides willing to undertake such a task? I haven’t seen anyone yet in Honduras proposing such an agreement and the whole history of Honduran politics and, indeed of politics everywhere, especially in Latin America, is one of winner-take-all. And, in this case, both Micheletti and Zelaya seem to sincerely believe they are in the right, morally and legally. Maybe Obama, as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, should offer to step in as mediator to show the way.

The following item is quite worrisome. Wealthy Hondurans are concerned about protecting their property should Zelaya return to power or urge his followers to engage in continued class warfare. And maybe Zelaya was not so far off the mark when he accused interim government mercenaries (Israelis, he said) of beaming harmful rays into the Brazilian Embassy. (See also second article below, could Zelaya possibly end up spending years inside the embassy?) At the same time, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan agents are also said to be inside Honduras, making this a genuine international clash.

U.N. experts concerned Colombia fighters in Honduras
Friday, October 9, 2009 7:37 AM

GENEVA - U.N. human rights experts voiced concern Friday at reports that former paramilitaries from Colombia had been recruited to protect wealthy people and property in Honduras after that country's military coup. The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries said "information available to date" suggested that land-owners hired 40 former members of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia as guards after violence erupted between supporters of the de facto government and backers of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.

They also cited reports that 120 paramilitaries from several neighboring countries had been brought in to support the late-June coup that has triggered Central America's worst crisis in years. "We urge the Honduran authorities to take all practical measures to prevent the use of mercenaries within its territory and to fully investigate allegations concerning their presence and activities," the five independent experts said in a joint statement issued in Geneva.

Honduras has signed an international convention barring the recruitment, use, financing and training of mercenary fighters, noted the group members: Shaista Shameem of Fiji, Najat al-Hajjaji of Libya, Amada Benavides de Perez of Colombia, Jose Luis Gomez del Prado of Spain and Alexander Nikitin of Russia. The experts also raised concerns about "allegations of discriminate use of long-range acoustic devices" by police and mercenary forces to harass Zelaya and his supporters who have taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Honduran Coup Regime in Crisis
Greg Grandin
The Nation
8 October 2009

How long can the Honduran crisis drag on, with President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a military coup more than three months ago, trapped in Tegucigalpa's Brazilian Embassy? Well, in early 1949 in Peru, Víctor Haya de la Torre--one of last century's most important Latin American politicians--sought asylum in the Colombian Embassy in Lima, also following a military coup. There he remained for nearly six years, playing chess, baking cakes for the embassy staff's children and writing books. Soldiers surrounded the building for the duration, with Peru's authoritarian regime ignoring calls from the international community to end the siege, which was condemned by the Washington Post as a "canker in hemisphere relations."

So far Roberto Micheletti, installed by the coup as president, is showing the same obstinacy. Shortly after Zelaya's surprise appearance in the Brazilian Embassy on September 21 after having entered the country unnoticed, probably from El Salvador or Nicaragua, the de facto president ordered troops to violently disperse a large crowd that had gathered around the embassy, using tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets, killing a number of protesters and wounding many. Amnesty International has documented a "sharp rise in police beatings, mass arrests of demonstrators, and intimidation of human rights defenders" since Zelaya's return.

The government has suspended civil liberties and shut down independent sources of news, including the TV station Cholusat Sur and Radio Globo. In response to rolling protests throughout Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, security forces continue to round up demonstrators, holding some of the detained in soccer stadiums--evoking Chile in 1973, after Augusto Pinochet's junta overthrew Salvador Allende, when security forces turned Santiago's National Stadium into a torture chamber. The Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH) says Hondurans are indeed being tortured, burned with cigarettes and sodomized by batons, and that some of the torturers are veterans of Battalion 316, an infamous Honduran death squad from the 1980s. Police and soldiers raided the offices of the National Agrarian Institute, capturing dozens of peasant activists who had been occupying the building. Police also fired tear gas into COFADEH's office, which at the time was filled with about a hundred people, many of them women and children, denouncing the repression that had earlier taken place in front of the embassy. "Honduras risks spiraling into a state of lawlessness, where police and military act with no regard for human rights or the rule of law," said Susan Lee, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Back at the embassy, Honduran troops have tormented Zelaya and his accompaniers, including the Catholic priest Father Andres Tamayo, with tear gas, other chemical weapons and sonic devices that emit high-pitched and extreme-pain-inducing sounds. This high-tech assault has largely been ignored by the international media, though George W. Bush's former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told Fox News that Zelaya's description of this harassment indicated "delusional behavior."

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