Monday, August 31, 2009

Millions in USAID funding still flowing to Honduras

Perhaps if and when the U.S. government finally determines that the Honduran regime change was a military coup more U.S. aid will be cut off but as this article indicates some may flow even if this happens. Note too that some of the companies that coup leaders and other important figures are involved in--such as the Liberal presidential candidate Santos--are receiving benefits through this aid. Imagine there is all sorts of money being sent to fund elections! One might think that countries such as Honduras and Afghanistan might be a bit worried that there election costs were being partially funded by the United States! The Millenium Challenge Corporation has Hilary Clinton as Chair and Timothy Geithner as Vice-Chair!


Millions of dollars in USAID funding still flowing to Honduras
Posted by Bill Conroy - August 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm
Agency bankrolling “good governance” programs to ensure the “rule of law in the country”

The taxpayer-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation has continued to move millions of dollars into Honduras since the June 28 coup d'état, but it is not alone, Narco News has now confirmed.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is slated to provide Honduras with nearly $47 million in funding in fiscal 2009, which ends Sept. 30, 2009. Nearly all of that money (some $43 million) is scheduled to be delivered as previously planned to Honduras — which is now under the leadership of a putsch regime that President Obama has already described as “not legal.”
“Following the June 28 events [the coup] in Honduras, USAID suspended previously funded projects and activities totaling $3.7 million in basic education, family planning, and some environmental activities,” USAID press officer Lisa Hibbert-Simpson told Narco News this week. “USAID is avoiding taking actions that would undermine or interfere with humanitarian programs that directly benefit the people of Honduras and good governance activities with non-governmental organizations that are vital to ensuring stronger rule of law in the country.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Laura Tischler told Narco News recently that State has adopted a policy of “suspending programs we would have to legally terminate” if State declares the situation in Honduras a “military coup” under section 7008 of the US Foreign Operations Law. And she reiterated that the suspension of all such funds is still in place because State has not yet concluded its determination as to whether it will define the coup legally as such.
Section 7008 does not prevent U.S. agencies from continuing to provide assistance that is not directed to the government of the country deemed in violation of the provision, according to the State Department.
“Thus, among other things, all assistance supporting the provision of food aid, HIV/AIDS and other disease prevention, child survival, and disaster assistance, as well as elections assistance to facilitate free and fair presidential elections, is still being provided to the people of Honduras,” a State Department spokesman explained during a July 6 press briefing.
Most of that makes sense, with the exception of the last part about “elections assistance,” given that under the dictatorship of a coup regime, any hope of holding open and free elections would seem to involve stretching the laws of the universe — or at least modern democratic theory.
So where could this USAID “elections assistance/good governance” money actually be going in that case?
Well, the USAID’s Office of Inspector General provides one hint in an audit report released this past June.
The Consortium for Electoral and Political Processes (CEPPS) was awarded a $1.8 million cooperative agreement [by USAID] that is in effect from September 30, 2008 to January 30, 2010. The purpose of the agreement is to provide technical assistance to (1) the Tribunal Superior Electoral (TSE) to effectively and transparently carry out its new decentralized vote management responsibilities and to mitigate allegations of fraud; and (2) and civil society organizations to provide oversight through campaign finance monitoring, domestic election observation, and parallel vote tabulation. ...
Worth noting is the fact that TSE is the Honduran government entity charged with overseeing the nation’s elections (Honduras’ FEC of sorts) — and it is now under the control of Roberto Micheletti and company’s illegal coup regime. In addition, TSE was one of the government agencies in Honduras that played a key role in setting up the bogus legal justifications that led to the kidnapping and exiling of the democratically elected president of Honduras — Manuel Zelaya.
So it seems that CEPPS is currently providing advice on mitigating fraud to a TSE now controlled by a fraudulent regime.
And adding another layer of Alice in Wonderland plotting to the TSE/CEPPS relationship is the fact that CEPPS is a joint venture partnership involving the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and a nongovernmental agency called IFES — the International Foundation for Election Systems.
The taxpayer-funded IRI, NDI, USAID and their sister organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), have all been in the limelight in the past for allegedly playing roles in funding Hugo Chavez opposition groups linked to the failed 2002 coup d’état in Venezuela.
And along with its fellow acronym organizations, the NED is also a player in the “good governance” game in Honduras as well.
The NED’s Web site lists the following grants made to the IRI to advance “democracy” in Latin America, including Honduras:
International Republican Institute (IRI) $550,000
 To promote and enhance the participation of think tanks in Mexico and Honduras as “pressure groups” to impel political parties to develop concrete positions on key issues. Once these positions are developed, IRI will support initiatives to implement said positions into the 2009 campaigns. IRI will place special emphasis on Honduras, which has scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2009.
International Republican Institute (IRI) $400,000
 To provide elected officials with practical institutional management skills that will facilitate good governance practices, policies, and initiatives. IRI will partner with municipalities in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras to equip elected officials with practical institutional management skills to foster good governance practices, policies, and initiatives, and improve the quality of service delivery at the municipal level.
But what is most revealing is a “feature story,” dated July 20 (post-coup), that appears on the Web site of IFES, one of the partner organizations in CEPPS — which is now providing “good governance” services to the coup regime in Honduras.
From the story:
… To describe the events of June 28 as nothing more than a modern version of the old-style coup d’état is misguided. The coups that came to characterize much of 20th century Latin American history generally followed a common script in which the military declares martial law, discards the constitution, deposes the executive, shutters congress and the courts, and installs military officers to govern in their stead. However, in Honduras, the military acted on orders from the Supreme Court to detain a president intent on thumbing his nose at the court’s constitutional authority.
And following Zelaya’s removal from power, Honduras’s democratic institutions—its legislature, judiciary, and other government institutions—continued to function as normal. The constitution remained in force and an interim president succeeded Zelaya as the constitution mandated.
That sure sounds like a creed written to justify the usurper regime now ruling over Honduras and not a denouncement of the putsch government that the President of the United States has already publicly denounced as being “not legal.”
More from the Mad Hatters
But CEPPS is not alone in pouring gravy on the cake of democracy. Yet another USAID-funded group shows up in the mix of the coup batter: the Foundation for Investment and Development of Exports (FIDE).
FIDE is a nonprofit organization overseen by a board of directors composed of business leaders in Honduras and its president is Honduran. However, FIDE, was created by USAID some 20 years ago and its operations are funded by a trust fund set up by USAID.
One of the programs operated through FIDE, and financed by USAID, is the Trade, Investment and Competitiveness Policy (TIC). The program, launched in 2005, was slated to sunset in March of this year, according to a USAID OIG audit report released in February 2009. As of that date, a total of some $4.5 million had been awarded to FIDE for the TIC program.
And here’s what FIDE did with your U.S. tax money, according to the USAID OIG report:
The program has three interrelated components:
• Support for the Center for Economic and Social Research and Proposals (CIPRES), a think tank within FIDE.
• Direct support to the Government of Honduras in implementing free trade agreements — particularly DR-CAFTA.
• Support to a second think tank, the Economic and Social Research Center (CIES), within the Honduras National Business Council (COHEP).
In simple English, TIC was designed to advance free-trade policies in Honduras through the creation and dissemination of think-tank propaganda and by directly lobbying the Honduran government.
More from the February USAID OIG audit report:
FIDE helped draft a telecommunications law and helped garner support for the law. However, the law was subsequently tabled and its prospects are uncertain. Under component 2 of the cooperative agreement, in which FIDE hired consultants to work directly with Government of Honduras counterparts, USAID-financed consultants helped the Government weigh actions to increase competitiveness; helped it identify needed actions to comply with DR-CAFTA [a free-trade pact], especially in the area of labor rights; and drafted sanitary and phyto-sanitary regulations that were implemented by the Government.
So at least up until March of this year, a U.S.-created and -funded Honduran business group was helping to make Honduran law.
And its partner in that endeavor, COHEP, which also received USAID funding through FIDE, according to the USAID OIG report, is no friend of the left-leaning President Zelaya — who was ousted from office in late June after seeking to bring a nonbinding referendum to the people asking them to consider whether a national assembly should be convened to amend the Honduran constitution.
In fact, COHEP, an ardent free-trade advocacy organization representing more than 60 of the largest business organizations in Honduras across a range of industries, issued a statement about the June 28 coup that is remarkably similar in tone and in its flawed legal reasoning to the July 20 story appearing on the IFES Web site.
From the COHEP statement about the coup:
Following the events in the country this day, the Honduran National Business Council (COHEP) states the following:
… President Zelaya's departure comes as a result of a systematic violation, by the government he headed, of the Constitution and Honduran laws despite countless efforts by the major institutions of the country and by the majority of this country’s citizens expressed in the many calls for reflection and massive demonstrations that rejected the efforts of the Executive branch.
… The new authorities headed by President Roberto Micheletti, whose mandate ends on January 27, 2010, are obligated to, during the short duration of their term; seek the general good of the country ahead of any partisan or personal interest. Honduras needs to, today more than ever, care for its democracy with unselfishness, generosity and service.
… What occurred today was the not changing of one president for another; today, framed in national unity, the respect for the Constitution, national laws, and institutionalism was achieved. …
And it is that vision of democracy that led one of COHEP’s member organizations, the Asociacion Hondureña de Maquiladores (AHM), to retain former U.S. Ambassador Roger Noriega as a lobbyist to shill for its cause in Washington, D.C. Noriega’s objective, as penned in his firm’s lobbying registration form: “Support the efforts of the Honduran private sector to help consolidate the democratic transition in their country.”
Noriega himself, of course, has a track record with USAID that dates back to the 1980s when, as part of the agency, he played a questionable role in allegedly moving around money in the shadows of the Iran/Contra scandal.
His fingerprints also mark the failed U.S.-backed coup carried out in Venezuela in 2002 and the successful U.S.-sponsored effort to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in Haiti in 2004. Those efforts were undertaken while Noriega served in increasingly powerful roles within the State Department during the Bush administration.
Following the White Rabbit
If there is any clue as to when a push to more forcefully reverse the direction of the Honduran government under Zelaya might have gotten underway within the U.S. bureaucracy, if such an effort was indeed put into play, it seems logical to take a hard look at the waning months of the Bush administration — say in the summer of 2008, when Honduran President Zelaya made it very clear he was moving into the Bolivarian camp and away from the hyper-capitalist model being pushed by Washington at the time.
And coincidently, at that time, the Department of State convened a major interagency meeting to brainstorm about ideas for developing a five-year Country Assistance Strategy for Honduras. The meeting — dubbed the Washington Interagency Focus Group — was attended by officials from USAID, State, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Treasury and the Millennium Challenge Corp. [the latter chaired by the Secretary of State and which counts among its board members the head of the IRI and USAID].
An Issue Paper that was drafted after that July 2008 interagency meeting, and which was based on what transpired at the meeting, makes specific reference to President Zelaya in a manner clearly characterizing him as a threat to Honduras’ democracy.
From the Issue Paper:
Although Honduras has a long history as a close friend and ally of the United States, it seems to be shifting to the left, along with the rest of Latin America. On August 26, 2008, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement making Honduras a member of the international cooperation organization the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). ALBA is an alternative to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which sought to reduce or eliminate obstacles that would hinder trade. ALBA's mission is not limited to commerce and trade; ALBA is also striving for political, economic and social integration among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Honduras’s democracy remains fragile, due mainly to endemic corruption and the government's failure to deliver on promises of economic and social development for all citizens. Equally damaging, Honduran leaders have failed to develop a truly open, transparent, and fair system of justice and rule of law, leaving the people cynical about the results of a democratic process. …
In the wake of that interagency meeting — beginning in October 2008 through the end of July 2009, as previously reported by Narco News — more than $45 million in Millennium Challenge Corp. funding was delivered to Honduras, including at least $6.5 million after the June 28 coup. The bulk of that funding was directed toward transportation projects designed to facilitate free-trade objectives in Honduras — including, MCC records show, a $7.5 million highway contract award to a construction company controlled by Elvin Santos, an alleged coup backer and the current Liberal Party candidate for president in Honduras.
In addition, in September 2008, the USAID’s $1.8 million contract with CEPPS kicked in — with the objective of advancing “good governance” in Honduras. In fact, USAID's entire budget for Honduras jumped from $37.3 million in fiscal 2008 to $46.8 million for fiscal 2009, which began Oct. 1, 2008, according to figures released by the agency. That represents a 25 percent boost in the midst of a national recession.
The $4.5 million USAID-funded TIC program involving FIDE and COHEP, according to the February USAID OIG report, was already in effect as of the summer of 2008 and was supposed to expire in March of this year — with a possibility for renewal. The OIG Audit report did make clear, however, that USAID/Honduras was not happy with FIDE’s success in pushing free-trade policies on Zelaya’s government.
From the USAID OIG audit report:
FIDE did not perform as well with respect to influencing actions by the Government of Honduras to make needed reforms to comply with DR-CAFTA requirements. … Current USAID/Honduras officials are frustrated that FIDE has not devoted more attention and energy to trying to influence the Government of Honduras to undertake needed reforms, …
The current agreement with FIDE is expected to end in March 2009, but USAID/Honduras expects to continue providing support for DR-CAFTA implementation under a new country assistance strategy that is currently under review. No firm decisions have been made about the form that this assistance will take or the organizations that will receive assistance. …
Narco News did try to determine the status of that program currently through USAID press officer Hibbert-Simpson.
“We are consulting with our Mission [in Honduras] regarding your questions about TIC and FIDE and will get back to you with more information,” she said.
Stay tuned …

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Japan's Liberal Democrats lose to Democratic Party.

The new Japanese government will try to establish a certain degree of independence from U.S. policy. Although the party sounds more progressive than the Liberal Democrats, the Japanese bureaucracy will likely be a force in preventing any radical change. Interesting that 5.7 unemployment in Japan is considered quite unacceptable. In the U.S. now that would look good!

Japanese election upends long-ruling party
By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Writer Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Writer 22 mins ago
TOKYO – Japan's ruling party conceded a crushing defeat Sunday after 54 years of nearly unbroken rule as voters were poised to hand the opposition a landslide victory in nationwide elections, driven by economic anxiety and a powerful desire for change.
The left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan was set to win 300 or more of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament, ousting the Liberal Democrats, who have governed Japan for all but 11 months since 1955, according to exit polls by all major Japanese TV networks.
"These results are very severe," Prime Minister Taro Aso said in a news conference at party headquarters, conceding his party was headed for a big loss. "There has been a deep dissatisfaction with our party."
Aso said he would have to accept responsibility for the results, suggesting that he would resign as party president. Other LDP leaders also said they would step down, though official results were not to be released until early Monday morning.
The loss by the Liberal Democrats — traditionally a pro-business, conservative party — would open the way for the Democratic Party, headed by Yukio Hatoyama, to replace Aso and establish a new Cabinet, possibly within the next few weeks.
The vote was seen as a barometer of frustrations over Japan's worst economic slump since World War II and a loss of confidence in the ruling Liberal Democrats' ability to tackle tough problems such as the rising national debt and rapidly aging population.
The Democrats have embraced a more populist platform, promising handouts for families with children and farmers, a higher minimum wage, and to rebuild the economy.
"The nation is very angry with the ruling party, and we are grateful for their deep support," Hatoyama said after the polls closed. "We will not be arrogant and we will listen to the people."
The Democrats have also said they will seek a more independent relationship with Washington, while forging closer ties with Japan's Asian neighbors, including China. But Hatoyama, who holds a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University, insists he will not seek dramatic change in Japan's foreign policy, saying the U.S.-Japan alliance would "continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy."
National broadcaster NHK, using projections based on exit polls of roughly 400,000 voters, said the Democratic Party was set to win 300 seats and the Liberal Democrats only about 100 — a third of its strength before the vote.
TV Asahi, another major network, said the Democratic Party would win 315 seats, up from the 112 seats it held before parliament was dissolved in July.
................................Japan's unemployment has spiked to record 5.7 percent while deflation has intensified and families have cut spending because they are insecure about the future.
Making the situation more dire is Japan's aging demographic — which means more people are on pensions and there is a shrinking pool of taxpayers to support them and other government programs.
.........................The Democratic Party would only need to win a simple majority of 241 seats in the lower house to assure that it can name the next prime minister. The 300-plus level would allow it and its two smaller allies the two-thirds majority they need in the lower house to pass bills.
Having the Democrats in power would smooth policy debates in parliament, which has been deadlocked since the Democrats and their allies took over the less powerful upper house in 2007.
To ease parenting costs and encourage more women to have babies, the Democrats propose giving families 26,000 yen ($275) a month per child through junior high. Japan's population of 127.6 millionpeaked in 2006, and is expected to decline to 115 million in 2030 and fall below 100 million by the middle of the century.
The party is also proposing toll-free highways, free high schools, income support for farmers, monthly allowances for job seekers in training, a higher minimum wage and tax cuts. The estimated bill comes to 16.8 trillion yen ($179 billion) if fully implemented starting in fiscal year 2013 — and critics say the plans would further bloat Japan's massive public debt.
The Democrats will likely face resistance from Japan's powerful bureaucrats, who favor the status quo and hold a great deal of influence in shaping policy.
.................................................
"It's revolutionary," said Tomoaki Iwai, a political science professor at Tokyo's Nihon University. "It's the first real change of government" Japan has had in six decades.
___
AP reporters Mari Yamaguchi, Kelly Olsen, Shino Yuasa and Tomoko Hosaka contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Japanese elections tomorrow!

It seems the ruling party is going to lose after decades of being in power:

""A general election on Sunday August 30th should change all that. Opinion polls suggest that when voters go to the polls for the powerful lower house of the Diet (parliament), the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), will trounce the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), thus ending over 50 years of nearly continuous rule.
The magnitude of the defeat facing Taro Aso, the prime minister and LDP leader, is startling. A poll in Thursday's Asahi Shimbun suggests that the LDP’s representation in the Diet could be more than halved to about 100 seats. The DPJ could take as many as 320 of the chamber’s 480 seats.""""

The DPJ may change policy with respect to the US and is also against neoliberal policies:

""Whether the DPJ, an unknown quantity, can make a better fist of running the economy is open to question. Mr Hatoyama railed against American-led “market fundamentalism” preferring a woolly-sounding concept, that he calls fraternity. He says it means that activities such as agriculture—already heavily protected—will not be left “at the mercy of the tides of globalism”. Businessmen fear the noises coming from the DPJ that seem to promise more worker-friendly policies such as banning the use of temporary labour in manufacturing and raising the minimum wage. The DPJ has also promised to loosen Japan’s close ties to American foreign policy. So if Sunday’s election produces the political earthquake predicted the next question will be whether the DPJ is capable of delivering a series of aftershocks too.""

Friday, August 28, 2009

Noam Chomsky meets with Chavez in Venezuela

Interesting idea that there should be a peace zone in Latin America where foreign militaries are not allowed to operate. Chomsky is correct to notice that very timid response to the coup in Honduras even though the coup leaders have rejected out of hand the carefully crafted U.S. and OAS negotiated solution. I still am surprised at the coup leaders unyielding position. No doubt they think that there is enough right wing support in the US and Latin America to help them weather any storm the Obama administration might have in store.

Noam Chomsky Meets with Chavez in Venezuela

August 28th 2009, by James Suggett

Mérida, August 27th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- U.S. author, dissident intellectual, and Professor of Linguistics at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Noam Chomsky met for the first time with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas and analyzed hemispheric politics during a nationally televised forum on Monday.
Chomsky is well known in Venezuela for his critiques of U.S. imperialism and support for the progressive political changes underway in Venezuela and other Latin American countries in recent years. President Chavez regularly references Chomsky in speeches and makes widely publicized recommendations of Chomsky's 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance.
"Hegemony or survival; we opt for survival," said Chavez in a press conference to welcome Chomsky. He compared Chomsky's thesis to that of German socialist Rosa Luxemburg in the early 1900s, "Socialism or Barbarism," and referred to Chomsky as "one of the greatest defenders of peace, one of the greatest pioneers of a better world."
Through an interpreter, Chomsky responded, "I write about peace and criticize the barriers to peace; that's easy. What's harder is to create a better world... and what's so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created."
During Monday's forum, which was broadcast on the state television station VTV, Chomsky pointed out that the ongoing coup in Honduras, which began on June 28th, is the third coup the United States has supported in Latin America so far this century, following the coup against Chavez in 2002 and Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
The nearly finalized deal to allow the U.S. to increase its military presence on Colombian bases "is only part of a much broader effort to restore Washington's capacity for intervention," said Chomsky.
According to Chomsky, the region has the capacity to unite and form a "peace zone" in which foreign militaries are forbidden to operate. "Venezuela can help to advance this proposal, but it cannot do it alone," he said.
"The transformations that Venezuela is making toward the creation of another socio-economic model could have a global impact if these projects are successfully carried out," said the renowned author.
Aporrea.org, a popular Venezuelan news and pro-revolution analysis website, described Chomsky as oriented toward "libertarian socialism" and "vehemently anti-Stalinist" in an introduction to a recent interview in which Chomsky said U.S. President Barack Obama's foreign policy will be similar to that of the second administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Chomsky addressed this issue during Monday's conference as well, commenting that Obama "could have much to offer Latin America if he wanted to, but hasn't given any signals that he does." He cited the U.S.'s indecisive posture toward the coup in Honduras as evidence.
Chomsky also addressed the media and freedom of expression in the U.S. "In the United States the socio-economic system is designed so that the control over the media is in the hands of a minority who own large corporations... and the result is that the financial interests of those groups are always behind the so-called freedom of expression," he said.
Chomsky said the growing disappointment with the Obama administration in the U.S. was predictable because the corporate media marketed Obama's presidential candidacy on the slogan of "Change We Can Believe In" but omitted concrete proposals for effective changes, and the Obama administration has since shown an incapacity to institute such changes.
Chomsky was accompanied in Caracas by the co-founder of South End Press and ZMagazine and system operator of ZCom, Michael Albert, and the co-founder and editor of Venezuelanalysis.com, sociologist Gregory Wilpert.

U.S. Prepares further sanctions against Honduras coup leaders

The U.S. after all this time has not yet determined that the coup was a military coup. Suddenly when nothing is going right in terms of the Arias plans it seems as if suddenly it may turn out to be a military coup. If that is the case much more aid will be cut that has been freely flowing up to now especially from the U.S. Millenium Challenge Corporation chaired by one Hilary Clinton!


US Prepares Further Sanctions Against Honduras Coup Leaders
By David Gollust Washington27 August 2009
The State Department signaled Thursday the Obama administration is ready to take tougher action against the defacto leadership in Honduras because of the political impasse over President Manuel Zelaya's ouster in June. An Organization of American States diplomatic mission to Tegucigalpa this week returned empty-handed.
Officials here say Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to make a formal determination as early as Friday that the ouster of Mr. Zelaya was an extra-legal coup, action that would set in motion deep cuts in U.S. aid, and other steps against the interim government.
Obama administration officials have been saying since the democratically-elected Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the Honduran military and deported to Costa Rica on June 28 that the action amounted to a coup, despite the fact that officials of the successor administration maintain they acted within the law.
But the State Department withheld a formal determination of a coup, which carries with it harsh aid penalties mandated by Congress, in hope that diplomatic efforts led by the OAS could restore Mr. Zelaya to power.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, tasked by the OAS to mediate, has offered a proposal under which interim Honduran President Robert Micheletti would step down and allow Mr. Zelaya to return and serve out his term which ends in January.
But at a news briefing, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley said Mr. Micheletti and his supporters categorically rejected the plan when a team of OAS foreign ministers visited Tegucigalpa this week, prompting the United States to consider further sanctions.
"The OAS delegation that went there this week made what we thought was a very direct offer and entreaty to Honduras, to the defacto regime, that they should sign on to the San Jose accords. They have made it categorical that they have, as far as their position today, is that they have no plan to do that. And we are now evaluating based on what we've heard since the delegation has come back to the OAS, and were consulting with the OAS. We're taking stock of that and we'll make some decisions here very soon," he said.
The Obama administration has already suspended several non-humanitarian aid programs for Honduras that it would have been required to halt, if a formal coup determination had been made.
If Secretary Clinton as expected, goes ahead and signs off on such a finding, the aid cuts, worth more than $18 million, would become permanent and other assistance would be affected including a multi-year $215 million U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation program to boost the Honduran farm economy and roads system.
Earlier this week, the State Department said it was suspending non-emergency visa service for Hondurans seeking to visit the United States in another move aimed at pressing the interim government to accept the Arias plan.
Interim President Micheletti has said he does not fear sanctions and that Honduras can get by without international aid. Mr. Micheletti and supporters say Mr. Zelaya, a political ally of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was ousted because he was trying to illegally change the country's constitution to extend his term in office.
Mr. Micheletti, who has the vocal support of some U.S. Congressional conservatives, says Honduras will hold elections in November even if other countries do not recognize the result.
A senior State Department official who spoke to reporters said a coup finding by Secretary Clinton would give U.S. sanctions more bite and importantly, foreclose a resumption of aid without an acceptable resolution of the Honduran political impasse.

U.S. copter opens fire on Afghan Medical Clinic

One wonders how the U.S. authorities were able to establish that the clinic was free of civilians before attacking the facility. It is also interesting that if the commander took refuge in the clinic to be treated then it loses its immunity from attack! Whatever, the official excuses, in propaganda terms shooting up a clinic will not likely be a way to win minds and hearts over to the occupation cause.


US Copter Opens Fire on Afghan Medical Clinic
Posted By Jason Ditz On August 27, 2009 US and Afghan forces, backed by a US Apache helicopter attacked a medical clinic in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan yesterday after receiving reports that a wounded Taliban commander had “sought treatment” at the facility.
The attack sparked a gunbattle which according to provincial officials left at least 12 militants and two policemen killed. The US denied that anyone had died in the attack but claimed to have injured their target, though since he was already injured in the first place it’s probably hard to be sure about that.
The US defended the attack on the clinic, insisting that it had ensured the building was cleared of civilians before the helicopter began firing and that since the clinic was occupied by Taliban it lost “its protected status” as a civilian location.
The Pakitika Province borders Pakistan’s Waziristan Agencies, and is no stranger to major clashes. Attacking a medical clinic, however, particularly when health care is in such short supply in rural Afghanistan, is likely to fuel resentment among locals. Likewise, the attack on a relatively minor Taliban commander when he was already injured and seeking medical treatment is probably going to raise further suspicions as the Afghan government continues to talk about reconciliation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

OAS chief still has hope Honduran settlement.

Given that the Honduran Supreme Court has declared that Zelaya will face arrest and criminal charges if he returns and Micheletti has said that Zelaya cannot return under any conditions it is difficult to understand why Insulza, the OAS chief, still has some optimism. The key may be that the military, some in the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Chambers of Commerce favor a solution along the lines of the Arias accords. They all met together the other day but nevertheless so far their comrades coup supporters are unmoved! If Obama got serious and starting freezing assets of coup leaders in the US and cut off all US aid--much is still flowing partly through a fund that Hillary Clinton chairs, then things might change rather quickly.
Zelaya has of late said nothing about returning. Has he been told to shut up by the U.S. and wait patiently for his return as a lame duck president for a few months!

OAS chief still has hope for Honduran settlement
OAS chief still has hope for compromise to settle Honduran governmental crisis
FOSTER KLUGAP News
Aug 26, 2009 14:23 EST
The head of the Organization of American States held out hope Wednesday for a resolution of the Honduran presidential crisis even after the high-level delegation he led to the Central American country failed to arrange for ousted President Manuel Zelaya's return.



OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza urged a quick acceptance of compromise accords before campaigning heats up for the Nov. 29 presidential election to pick Zelaya's successor.
"There's still a climate for making one final effort," Insulza told an OAS meeting, speaking through an interpreter. Insulza was briefing the organization after returning from a visit to Tegucigalpa, Honduras' capital, with a group of Western Hemisphere foreign ministers.
Zelaya was deposed and exiled on June 28 amid suspicions among his opponents that he wanted to overturn the constitutional provision limiting Honduran presidents to a single term. He denies that was his goal.
Insulza noted some progress arising from the OAS delegation's meetings with senior lawmakers, ministers, presidential candidates and members of the judiciary, electoral commission, military and civil society. At the same time, he acknowledged a continuing reluctance among many of those he met with to accept the San Jose Accord, a compromise proposed by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has acted as a mediator in the dispute.
With each passing day, Insulza said, the margin for solving the crisis gets slimmer. Attention to the coup will not disappear, he said, but it will be diverted by the election campaign season that begins Sept. 1.
Many in Honduras, Insulza said, raised concerns about Zelaya's reinstatement and an amnesty for his alleged offenses, both part of the San Jose Accord.
The officials the delegation met with, Insulza said, appeared more interested in discussing the events that led to Zelaya's ouster. "We wanted to get back to the agreement of San Jose, which was our goal in being there," he said.
On Tuesday, Honduras' interim leader, Roberto Micheletti, acknowledged the country would suffer consequences for refusing to reinstate Zelaya, but he suggested that nothing short of armed intervention could change the situation.
Lew Amselem, the U.S. representative to the OAS, said the U.S. decision to stop, starting Wednesday, issuing most visas at its embassy in Honduras sends a clear signal that "it is never acceptable in the 21st century to expel a sitting president from a country."
Opposition to Zelaya's return is fairly widespread, he said, but "nothing changes the fact that a president was forcibly deposed and exiled. That's the issue."
Zelaya's return to finish his presidential term is indispensable to resolving the matter, Amselem said.
The interim government says Zelaya's removal was legal because it was ordered by the Honduran Supreme Court after he went ahead with plans to hold a referendum asking Honduran voters if they wanted to form a special assembly to rewrite the constitution. The court had ruled that vote illegal.
___

The myth of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terorrists.

Stephen Walt on Afghanistan as a safe haven for Al Qaeda from which they would attack the U.S.

It should be pointed out that the Taliban actually co-operated with the U.S. for some time and were even commended for trying to curb the drug trade by the U.S. Colin Powell even gave them some US aid! Of course they did harbour training camps for Al Qaeda but these were mostly destroyed by attacks. They also harboured Bin Laden but before terms for handing him over for trial were reached the U.S. led Operation Enduring Freedom was begun which allowed the US and the Northern Alliance to turf out the Taliban government.
As Walt points out the Taliban are interested in the Pashtun having more power and ending foreign involvement in Afghanistan not in the broader goals of Al Qaeda. They are only interested in attacking Americans as long as they are in Afghanistan. None of the 9/11 terrorists were Taliban.
Having experienced all the trouble that harbouring Al Qaeda brought them before the Taliban are unlikely to welcome them again supposing the do get back in power. Al Qaeda are welcome in Afghanistan at all only as a means of attacking the Americans and NATO forces. As the article points out 9/11 was not actually planned in Afghanistan but in Germany and the U.S.! If the Taliban did actually set up training camps again the U.S. has the technology to discover them and eradicate them in short order.
Western attempts to remould Afghanistan in its own image with bourgeois democracy and rights are fiercely resented. Karzai's democratic tendencies are to reward warlords and kowtow to fundamentalists! This he does to garner more votes! Finally as the article notes there were no attacks on the Russians after they left Afghanistan with their tail between their legs just a great deal of relief among Russian families that there would be no more casualties.
The whole Obama argument is full of holes but for the most part this is simply ignored by the press. At least on the Afghan war Obama does not need to worry about the right attacking him nor for the most part the left either. Cindy Sheehan is left to organise against Obama almost on her own with all the leftist anti-war groups sitting on the sidelines. Only some right libertarian groups support her it seems. Yet 51 per cent of Americans no longer support the war.

The "safe haven" myth

Tue, 08/18/2009 - 5:48pm
At an appearance before the Veterans of Foreign Wars yesterday, President Obama defended U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, calling it a "war of necessity." He claimed that "our new strategy has a clear mission and defined goals -- to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies," and he declared that “If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”This is a significant statement. In effect, the president was acknowledging that the only strategic rationale for an increased commitment in Afghanistan is the fear that if the Taliban isn't defeated in Afghanistan, they will eventually allow al Qaeda to re-establish itself there, which would then enable it to mount increasingly threatening attacks on the United States. This is the kind of assertion that often leads foreign policy insiders to nod their heads in agreement, but it shouldn't be accepted uncritically. Here are a few reasons why the "safe haven" argument ought to be viewed with some skepticism.First, this argument tends to lump the various groups we are contending with together, and it suggests that all of them are equally committed to attacking the United States. In fact, most of the people we are fighting in Afghanistan aren't dedicated jihadis seeking to overthrow Arab monarchies, establish a Muslim caliphate, or mount attacks on U.S. soil. Their agenda is focused on local affairs, such as what they regard as the political disempowerment of Pashtuns and illegitimate foreign interference in their country. Moreover, the Taliban itself is more of a loose coalition of different groups than a tightly unified and hierarchical organization, which is why some experts believe we ought to be doing more to divide the movement and "flip" the moderate elements to our side. Unfortunately, the "safe haven" argument wrongly suggests that the Taliban care as much about attacking America as bin Laden does.Second, while it is true that Mullah Omar gave Osama bin Laden a sanctuary both before and after 9/11, it is by no means clear that they would give him free rein to attack the United States again. Protecting al Qaeda back in 2001 brought no end of trouble to Mullah Omar and his associates, and if they were lucky enough to regain power, it is hard to believe they would give us a reason to come back in force.Third, it is hardly obvious that Afghan territory provides an ideal "safe haven" for mounting attacks on the United States. The 9/11 plot was organized out of Hamburg, not Kabul or Kandahar, but nobody is proposing that we send troops to Germany to make sure there aren't "safe havens" operating there. In fact, if al Qaeda has to hide out somewhere, I’d rather they were in a remote, impoverished, land-locked and isolated area from which it is hard to do almost anything. The "bases" or "training camps" they could organize in Pakistan or Afghanistan might be useful for organizing a Mumbai-style attack, but they would not be particularly valuable if you were trying to do a replay of 9/11 (not many flight schools there), or if you were trying to build a weapon of mass destruction. And in a post-9/11 environment, it wouldn’t be easy for a group of al Qaeda operatives bent on a Mumbia-style operation get all the way to the United States. One cannot rule this sort of thing out, of course, but does that unlikely danger justify an open-ended commitment that is going to cost us more than $60 billion next year?Fourth, in the unlikely event that a new Taliban government did give al Qaeda carte blanche to prepare attacks on the United States or its allies, the United States isn't going to sit around and allow them to go about their business undisturbed. The Clinton administration wasn't sure it was a good idea to go after al Qaeda's training camps back in the 1990s (though they eventually did, albeit somewhat half-heartedly), but that was before 9/11. We know more now and the U.S. government is hardly going to be bashful about attacking such camps in the future. (Remember: we are already doing that in Pakistan, with the tacit approval of the Pakistani government). Put differently, having a Taliban government in Kabul would hardly make Afghanistan a "safe haven" today or in the future, because the United States has lots of weapons it can use against al Qaeda that don’t require a large U.S. military presence on the ground.Fifth, as well-informed critics have already observed, the primary motivation for extremist organizations like the Taliban and Al Qaeda is their opposition to what they regard as unwarranted outside interference in their own societies. Increasing the U.S. military presence and engaging in various forms of social engineering is as likely to reinforce such motivations as it is to eliminate them. Obama is hoping that a different strategy will eventually undercut support for the Taliban and strengthen the central government, but it is still an open question whether more American involvement will have positive or negative effects. If we are in fact making things worse, then we may be encouraging precisely the outcome we are trying to avoid.Sixth, one might also take comfort from the Soviet experience. When the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the mujaheddin didn't "follow them home." Were the United States to withdraw from Aghanistan and the Taliban to regain power (or end up sharing power, which is more likely), going after the United States won't even be on their "to do" list.
One can of course make a moral argument for an extended commitment in Afghanistan, but that's not the argument Obama made (and it probably wouldn't sell very well here at home). For a realist, the "safe haven" argument is the only possible rationale for a large military commitment in Afghanistan. But the case is actually quite dubious, and somebody in the administration really ought to take a hard look at it. I doubt anyone will, however, because Obama is now committed, and his administration is filled with "can-do" types who never saw an international problem they didn't think the United States could fix.I sure hope they're right and I'm wrong, but I also wish that I didn’t have that feeling quite as often as I seem to these days.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Will the Coup Leaders finally agree to Arias Accords.

Apparently Catholic Church, Military, and Chambers of Commerce are all meeting in downtown Tegucigalpa as of now. They all accept the Arias accords so it will be interesting to see if Micheletti can snub God, The Military, and the Chambers of Commerce! So far both Micheletti and the Supreme Court have completely rejected the return of Zelaya under any conditions.

""Update II: Radio Globo reporter Eduardo Maldonado is reporting, live, his eye-witness account of members of the Honduran military brass and the top chiefs of the National Police who recently arrived a building near Morazan Boulevard in Tegucigalpa and are meeting inside "on the third floor." The radio is also reporting that the Catholic Church hierarchy and various Chambers of Commerce have determined to back the San José solution of reinstating Zelaya to the presidency "regardless of the stance of the Micheletti government." Looks like the visa suspension is peeling away some inner layers of the coup onion rather rapidly. Something's up. And we're here monitoring the situation. Developing...""

Obama and Holder: Perils of the middle road..

Cheney apparently has never heard that many ethicists are quite critical of the principle that the end justifies the means. The principle is obviously in contradiction with the view that America will never torture and will always treat captured enemies humanely and in accord with International Law. If violating these values protects American lives than I guess it is just fine. Take any of the rhetorically inflated key US values and then note that if violating them saves American lives it will be OK to do so. What crapola that passes for argument without even a hint of dissension. The critics simply say: Oh but there is no proof that the methods did save American lives. Nevertheless even if Cheney is right as he very well could be surely it does not settle whether the methods are justifiable.
I wonder how closely Holder is co-ordinating his decisions with what Obama wants. If this article is correct then neither the right nor the left will be happy with the process and Obama will probably sink even further in the polls. Holder has managed to spook the right and the CIA spooks but by not going after any higher ups who probably approved much of what was done he makes the left angry as well. He might as well have gone further. This would be fairer also to those being investigated who in many cases will claim they were simply carrying out orders--and they no doubt were in many cases. The middle ground that Holder is taking is hardly safe or popular in this case. It is the least popular option he could take and certainly occupies no moral high ground to boot.

Interrogation probe steams those on right and left
By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer Pamela Hess, Associated Press Writer 14 mins ago
WASHINGTON – Conservatives and liberals alike reacted critically, though for different reasons, to Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to appoint a federal prosecutor to investigate possible abuses by CIA interrogators in using harsh tactics on terror detainees.
Conservatives, led by former Vice President Dick Cheney, said the probe wrongly targeted those who helped keep the nation safe after the Sept. 11 attacks and would diminish the ability of the government to safeguard Americans. Civil liberties groups were unhappy that officials from the administration of President George W. Bush were not targeted in the probe.
Holder on Monday appointed federal prosecutor John Durham to look into abuse allegations after the release of an internal CIA inspector general's report that revealed agency interrogators once threatened to kill a Sept. 11 suspect's children and suggested another would be forced to watch his mother be sexually assaulted.
President Barack Obama has said interrogators would not face charges if they followed legal guidelines. However, the report said that some CIA interrogators went beyond Bush administration restrictions that gave them wide latitude to use severe tactics such as waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique. Three high-level suspects underwent waterboarding scores of times.
Obama's caveat has not satisfied Cheney, who claimed earlier this year that the Obama administration is making the nation less secure by dismantling Bush-era initiatives aimed at disrupting terrorist plans. He repeated the assertion Monday, saying the Justice Department probe and a new FBI unit to handle interrogations were "a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security."
"The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al-Qaida to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States," Cheney said. "The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions."
Cheney contended that the inspector general's report showed that the severe techniques resulted in "the bulk of intelligence we gained about al-Qaida" and "saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks."
Although the report somewhat buttressed Cheney's contention by saying the interrogations obtained some information that identified terrorists and plots, the inspector general also raised broad concerns about the legality and effectiveness of the tactics, saying that measuring their success is "a more subjective process and not without some concern."
Cheney and others have warned that opening investigations into incidents outlined by the CIA report will destroy morale at the agency and discourage its staff from aggressive intelligence work on terror cases.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the announcement of a special prosecutor a "poor and misguided decision," noting that the cases of abuse have already been reviewed and passed on by federal prosecutors.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the investigation will be a distraction to the spy agency. Rep. Peter King of New York, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, called Holder's decision "disgraceful."
The CIA interrogators "should be given medals for saving American lives," King said Tuesday.
Several key Democrats and officials with Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday that the potential prosecutions are a start, but they said the probe does nothing to investigate the actions of officials who sanctioned the brutal interrogation program.
"Any investigation at this point is welcome," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's national security project, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But any investigation that begins and ends with the so-called rogue interrogators would be completely inadequate given the evidence that's already in the public domain. We know that senior officials authorized torture and we know that DOJ lawyers facilitated torture."
Amnesty International-USA was similarly unimpressed. Tom Parker, its director of terrorism, counterterrorism and human rights, likened limiting the prosecutions to interrogators to "going after the drug mule and leaving the drug king pin alone."
Parker met with the White House's outreach office Tuesday and told the AP that officials made Obama's stand on the matter clear: An investigation into the previous administration's policies is not in the cards.
"He doesn't think it will be politically useful to indulge in an investigation," Parker said.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said the Justice Department inquiry doesn't go far enough.
"The abuses that were officially sanctioned amounted to torture and those at the very top who authorized, ordered or sought to provide legal cover for them should be held accountable," Feingold said in a statement issued late Monday.
___
Associated Press writer Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Teacher's Strike and Protests in Honduras

The mainstream press simply does not cover the protests in Honduras. You would never know that the teachers are on strike or that there are protests of the type described here. Obama's silence on the repression in Honduras is also of note. It remains to be seen if the OAS representatives will achieve anything. I expect not unless the U.S. is a lot more active in convincing the coup leaders that they will pay dearly for their refusal to allow Zelaya to return.

The Learning Curve of the Teachers vs. the Honduras Coup
Posted by Al Giordano - August 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm
By Al Giordano
AUGUST 23, 2009, SABA, HONDURAS: The classrooms were empty but the assembly hall was full. Last Thursday afternoon, more than two hundred striking schoolteachers and other members of the civil resistance from the northeastern state of Colón gathered at the city high school to chart their next steps.
“Compañeros, are you tired?” a speaker called out.
“No!”
“Are you going to go home?”
“NO!”
“Are we going to win?”
“Sííííííííííííí!”
They marched out of the assembly hall, clapping, cheering, and started their engines. More than eighty vehicles were counted as they noisily entered the street – honking horns, waving anti-coup placards out the windows - for the first of two afternoons, Thursday and Friday, of vehicular caravans against the coup regime. Up and down the main streets of Sabá they paraded while resistance coordinator Wilfredo Paz sat down with members of the Narco News team to talk shop.
“Today we evaluated our progress to date,” he shared. “We consider the seven-day march to San Pedro Sula last week a grand success, for the quantity of people who participated, for the solidarity we found in every town along the road where people brought food, drink, shoes and medicines for the marchers, and for the 30,000 participants in the final day of the march in that city. We also notice a deepening of our level of organization that has united us with those in other states.”
Periodically during the interview the noisy caravan would pass by to remind all ears that the resistance to the unpopular coup regime simply does not stop.
“As we speak, campesino organizations have had the government agricultural bureau offices in Tocoa occupied for nearly 25 days,” said Paz. “And beginning today every town and city is sending delegations to the capital, Tegucigalpa, to provide information to Judge Balthazar Garzón of Spain, who prosecuted Pinochet for his war crimes in the Chilean coup, and also the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States. This is a little difficult because the regime has ordered the bus companies not to rent us transportation so we have to organize other means to get there.”
Sabá, at 400 kilometers and nine hours drive from Tegucigalpa (a trip that used to be a about an hour shorter until an earthquake last year toppled a highway bridge that allowed a shortcut through the state of Yoro), is almost as far as one can get from the capital and still be in a city. Three other cities in the state of Colón – Tocoa, Trujillo and Bonito Oriental – are yet a little bit farther out, all toward the northeast corner of Honduras. To travel farther east than that – into what is known as the Mosquitia region and the state of Gracias a Dios (the name of the state means “Thank God”) – one needs a four-wheel drive truck to navigate the mud and dirt roadways, or a boat to reach its outposts via the Caribbean sea.
In this tropical banana producing region, the highway blockades of July were of longer duration – some for as long as 60 or 70 consecutive hours – than in other parts of the country (see also Belén Fernández’s related report from the region, Honduras Reports Lack of Towns Named for Oliver North) and faced less interference from repressive forces. “There is more respect here from the police and the Army,” Paz explained, and by respect it’s clear that he means a healthy fear of provoking this population.
Colón – like Olancho to the south, and much of eastern Honduras – has a farming and ranching populace many of whom possess weapons for hunting and protection. And while the resistance here, too, is nonviolent, the locals do have a nationwide reputation for self-defense. One of the first and biggest stores one sees upon entering Tocoa, population 53,000, is called “La Armería” – “The Gunshop” - and displays large hand painted images of the weapons and bullets on sale inside. As in the rural regions of the United States, sportsmen are a big part of the culture, as are omnipresent cowboy hats men wear. That this region’s civil resistance has remained pacific is evidence of the self-discipline maintained so far by its movement’s most important sectors.
Helping to lead the resistance in this region are the mayors of its four largest cities: Mayor Adán Fuentes of Tocoa’s 53,000 citizens, Mayor Adelmo Rivera of Sonaguera (population 34,000), Mayor Luis López of Trujillo (43,000) and Mayor Clemente Cardona of Bonito Oriental (22,000). In the days after the June 28 coup d’etat, the Armed Forces raided the home of Tocoa Mayor Fuentes, who had been the regional coordinator of the nonbinding referendum campaign for a Constitutional Convention that the coup was designed to prevent coming to a vote that same day.
Luis Agurcia, a coordinator of civil resistance efforts in Trujillo, a public schoolteacher, told us that the Armed Forces had “militarized” the schools of that city from July 13 to to August 13. Uniformed troops had been sent to each of the schools daily to keep watch on teachers, who have been on strike an average of two or three days per week in protest of the coup. On the days that there were studies, students literally had to navigate around the heavily armed uniformados to walk to and from class. The militarization included the “Escuela Normal” in Trujillo that prepares 1,300 youths to become schoolteachers and also includes a grade school for 300 younger students whom the teachers-in-training educate as part of their own education.
“We brought two attorneys here on Monday, August 10. The Colonel accused me of ‘indoctrinating children.’ But the lawyers explained to them the law and they backed down.” The schools have thus been freed at last of a military presence that itself served, if not as a uniformed indoctrination of schoolchildren, certainly, at minimum, a heavy handed attempt at intimidation.
Schoolteachers throughout Honduras are a backbone of the resistance and, through the national teachers unions and their 57,000 members, a key communications conduit between the local resistances across the country. President Manuel Zelaya – forcibly exiled at gunpoint by the coup regime – had raised schoolteacher salaries by eight Lempira per hour (about 45 cents). The average schoolteacher works 27 hours a week in the classroom. The sixteen percent pay hike raised an average $71-per-week salary by an extra $12 dollars. By Honduran standards that’s an important gain that the teachers consider worth fighting to maintain. They believe the coup regime wants to roll back the gains they and other workers won before Zelaya was kidnapped 56 days ago.
Since the June 28 coup d’etat, the golpista media has waged a daily smear campaign against the movement with constant accusations – undocumented, supported only by rumor and innuendo - that those who march in the streets do so because they are supposedly being paid cash to protest. The source of such funds is inevitably claimed, without a shred of evidence offered, to be the government of Venezuela, and even the embargo-stricken isle of Cuba, the coup regime’s sources of much paranoia and obsession. For the schoolteachers, though – and indeed among all Honduran workers who saw the minimum wage raised by 60 percent under Zelaya – they do have financial interest in defending the elected government from the coup regime. That interest does not come in some shadowy bag of cash, but, rather, is fully and transparently disclosed: the pay raises that they and other sectors of workers won fair and square the democratic way through government action. That also explains why they continue to demonstrate, day after day, that the coup regime is not in control of the country's population.
The gossipmongers that spread those malicious and unproved accusations of a cash-directed movement only demonstrate their own inability to grasp that the self-organization of workers for better pay is not a corruption but, rather, a basic building block of any free society. The pay raises are fully disclosed, and a struggle to defend them is recognized as wholly legitimate by all societies that aspire to be authentically democratic.
The struggle by schoolteachers – now agglutinated in six unions and united under the banner of the Honduran Federation of Teachers Organizations (FOMH, in its Spanish initials) – has been long. It has survived previous military coups in 1954 and 1973 and won important gains mainly through the tactics of strikes, marches and road blockades: Among them the 1968 passage of obligatory public education for grade and middle school students.
“Many compañeros don’t know the history of the country, of the union movement or that of the teachers,” Jeremías López, a union organizer in Catacamas, Olancho since the 1970s. He believes the emphasis on strikes, marches and blockades against the coup has been too narrow: “We agree that we have to change tactics. We mus
t avoid taking up arms, and I say that as a former guerrilla fighter. What we need to do is educate and mobilize the general public.”
López and two other organizers, out of their own pockets, recently launched a weekly program titled “The Best of the Resistance” on the Super 10 radio network that broadcasts in the geographically large states of Olancho, El Paraiso and Gracias a Dios. It costs them 2000 Lempira (about $104 US dollars) a month to rent that airwaves space. In recent days the local resistance brought a radical theater troupe to Catacamas from San Pedro Sula, and subsequently the topical musical group Café Guancasco to that same city square.
“Often, when we schoolteachers print a flyer or communiqué for the public, it is written in a fine Castilian Spanish that common people don’t relate to,” says López. “You have to speak in the language of the people.” The increasing emphasis on theater, song and live radio is aimed to expand the movement beyond its union and organizational bases.
López notes that in his region the resistance has also – like those in the state of Colón and elsewhere – adopted the tactic of car caravans in recent days. “Last night we had 800 vehicles parade and make noise throughout Catacamas and Santa María Real throughout the evening against the coup.” Similar caravans are underway in the cities of Tela and San Pedro Sula, reports Radio Progreso.
On Friday afternoon, back in the Northeast corner of the country, the Trujillo teachers union invited two of your reporters to the Escuela Normal for a meeting of sixty of its union leaders. As the reporters sought to interview the locals, the locals were more eager to interview the reporters. They wanted to know: In our reporting from other countries and civil resistance movements, what strategies and tactics had we learned about that might be useful to them?
One of the union leaders shared his concern aloud – one that we’ve heard echoed throughout the country from resistance organizers - that that the Honduran civil resistance’s emphasis on protest marches over the past 56 days risks its falling into a predictable pattern: The movement convenes a march or a blockade, the action is attacked violently by police and the Army, with a toll of wounded and arrested participants, and to denounce the violations of human rights the movement then takes to the streets with another march, which is similarly beaten by the repressive forces, so on and so forth, in a vicious circle that can lead to frustration, fatigue and diminishing returns.
From that a conversation ensued about, among other examples, the African National Congress – the movement that toppled the apartheid regime in South Africa – that spent the 1960s and 70s as an armed guerrilla insurgency but had then transformed into a victorious nonviolent campaign when it had shifted its emphasis to community organizing techniques of house-to-house persuasion and education. From 1994 to the present, the ANC has led the elected government of that country. The big change in the ANC’s tactics came based on the advice the ANC, during its guerrilla stage, had received in the late 1970s from the leaders of Vietnam’s successful armed resistance to US colonial invasion.
The South Africans had arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) hoping to impress the Vietnamese with how many insurgent troops it had trained and armed, and to gain their strategic and tactical support. One ANC delegate who was present at those meetings told Narco News earlier this year that it was the Vietnamese – possibly the most successful armed guerrilla movement in world history - who convinced the South Africans that they weren’t at all ready to wage a successful armed insurgency because they had not engaged in sufficient public education and community organizing to build civilian support for it. (The late Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh was legendary for his attention to the details and minutia of community organizing and educating the citizenry.) The South African shift to strategies and tactics of community organizing, in the end, eliminated the need for armed struggle and brought victory through nonviolent methods. From that emerged a discussion about the public communications and relations needs of the Honduras anti-coup movement, which includes large sectors of labor and farmer organizations – like the teachers union – whose members are already highly politicized but that do not always expand their public education or organizing efforts to the rest of the population.
Other historical examples similarly informed the discussion, from Serbia’s ten-year struggle that toppled the dictator Milosevic to the organizing techniques of the Zapatista and indigenous movements in Mexico, to the blockades by the coca growers of Bolivia, among others.
Reflective of that growing desire to expand the strategic and tactical moves by the civil resistance, the Trujillo schoolteachers then headed out of the meeting, started their engines, and paraded through the city, as their counterparts in Sabá and other cities had done the previous day and repeated again on Friday. They then joined with anti-coup car caravans from Bonito Oriental, from Sabá, from Sonaguera, and from the small towns in the region, converging Friday night on the state’s largest city of Tocoa for a mega-caravan of voluminous protest.
Police agencies and the Armed Forces have not as yet figured out a method by which to stop the sudden epidemic horn-honking protest caravans, which move too fast for the usual repressive weapons of teargas and nightsticks. The cacophonous caravans likewise do not stay in one place long enough to allow the actions of provocateurs, infiltrators or the misguided machos that often leech upon large protests to engage in actions that the pro-coup media then predictably uses as fodder to paint the entire resistance as somehow threatening to the general public.
The caravan rides day and night like a pony express – east, west, north and south – from its decentralized focal points throughout Honduras, heralding the news to the populace that the coup regime lacks the people’s consent. It is also evidence that important movement sectors, like the teachers unions, have decided to reach out beyond their own members to the larger and less organized public. Which only goes to show that they may be teachers, but in Honduras, they are also learning.

Monday, August 24, 2009

NPA demands release of comrades before peace talks with govt.

It seems the government has not kept its part of the preconditions for beginning of talks. No doubt some in the AFP or others objected to the whole idea of peace talks and are trying to sabotage them. Or perhaps the US is putting pressure on Arroyo for negotiating with terrorists. It is because of refusal of the Philippine govt. to ask the US and Europe to take the NPA to be taken off the terror list that the original talks broke off. NPA means New People's Army who are Maoist insurgents operating in quite a few areas of the Philippines mainly rural.


Philippine rebels demand release of comrades
(AFP) – 2 days ago
MANILA — Philippine communist rebels said on Saturday they would not resume talks with the government unless detained comrades were freed.
The government has "rendered extremely difficult or even impossible the resumption of formal talks" because it has failed to release 14 senior communist leaders detained on various charges, said Jose Maria Sison, the Netherlands-based founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"The formal resumption of talks cannot be held in August and probably can never be held in the remaining months of the Arroyo regime," unless they are freed, Sison said in a statement.
He said the 14 were rebel "consultants" on the talks and among 96 insurgents the government had agreed in July would be given immunity from arrest.
Their continued detention is considered an "impediment" to the talks, Sison said.
Peace talks with the CPP, and its armed wing the New People's Army (NPA), have been suspended since 2005 after the government refused to ask the EU and the United States to remove them from their foreign terrorist watchlist.
But President Gloria Arroyo's chief adviser on the talks early this month announced that both sides had agreed to resume negotiations, and promised that some jailed communist leaders would be freed.
The CPP-NPA has been waging a Maoist campaign in the Philippines since 1969, in what is Asia's longest running communist insurgency. The NPA's strength has fallen to about 5,000 fighters from a high of about 16,000 in the mid-1980s

Joe Bageant on the Health Insurance Racket etc.

Although the author takes on the persona of a redneck he seems to have some idea of Frankfurt School ideas about ideology! The article is entertaining enough in its own right. Perhaps this guy should be competing with popular right wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly or Beck!
There certainly is an element of truth in Bageant's description of our media as entertainment that indoctrinates us into the ideology.


The Health Insurance Racket Is Manufacturing Entertainment Value from Pulling the Plug on Grandma
By Joe Bageant, JoeBageant.comPosted on August 22, 2009, Printed on August 24, 2009http://www.alternet.org/story/142120/
Every day I get letters asking me to weigh in on the health care fracas. As if a redneck writer armed with a keyboard, a pack of smokes and all the misinformation and vitriol available on the Internet could contribute anything to the crap storm already in progress.
Besides that, my unreasoned but noisy take on this issue is often about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. None of which has ever stopped me from making a fool of myself in the past. So here goes.
There ain't any health care debate going on, Bubba. What is going on are mob negotiations about insurance and which mob gets the biggest chunk of the dough, be it our taxpayer dough or the geet that isn't in ole Jim's impoverished purse.
The hoo-ha is about the insurance racket, not the delivery of health care to human beings. It's simply another form of extorting the people regarding a fundamental need -- health care.
Unfortunately, the people have been mesmerized by our theater state's purposefully distracting and dramatic media productions for so long that they've been mutated toward helplessness. Consequently, they are incapable of asking themselves a simple question: If insurance corporation profits are one-third of the cost of health care, and all insurance corporations do is deliver our money to health care providers for us (or actually, do everything in their power to keep the money for themselves), why do we need insurance companies at all?
Answer: Because Wall Street gets a big piece of the action. And nobody messes with the Wall Street Mob (as the bailout extortion money proved). Better (and worse) presidents have tried. Some made a genuine effort to push it through Congress. Others expressed the desire publicly, but after getting privately muscled by the health care industry, decided to back off from the idea. For instance:
Franklin Roosevelt wanted universal health care.
Harry Truman wanted universal health care.
Dwight Eisenhower wanted universal health care.
Richard Nixon wanted universal health care.
Lyndon Johnson wanted universal health care.
Bill Clinton wanted -- well we can't definitely say because he made sure that if the issue blew up on him, which it did, Hillary would be left holding the turd. Is it any wonder that woman gets so snappy at the slightest provocation? First, getting left to hold the bag on health care, then the spots on that blue dress.
So why did American liberals believe Barack Obama would bring home the health care bacon? Because they live in an ideological cupcake land. It's a big neighborhood, a very special place where "Your vote is important" and "by electing the right candidate, you can change our beloved nation."
Most of America lives in that neighborhood, even though they've never personally met. It's a place where the shrubbery and flowerbeds of such things as "values" and "hope" bloom. Hope that our desires coupled with the efforts of a good and decent president can affect "change." Evidently these voters never heard the old adage, "Hope in one hand and piss in the other, and see which one fills up first."
The slaughter of the innocents by the health care lobby has pretty much extinguished the political usefulness of the word hope. Nobody, especially Obama, uses it now.
The first on-stage scuffle of the Obama administration, government-assured health care, quickly settled down into the accustomed scenario of very rich and powerful people in expensive suits "finding middle ground," otherwise known as the status quo.
Single-payer health care soon became "a consumer government alternative to private insurance," and is now "a system of health cooperatives. Next comes "slightly better health insurance (but not medical services) than before, from the same insurance companies but at twice the price; don't worry though, we're increasing your tax load so you can afford it."
The televised screaming matches, having served their purpose, are over now. The presidency and the nation have settled back into the normalcy of the officially sanctioned state consciousness and its curious non-language, one modified and shaped daily by corporate and government symbiosis.
Over generations we've come to internalize this imagistic language, which is quite theatrical when heated up for public consumption and dully bureaucratic when attention is to be avoided. But always it is void of content and any sort of truth.
In the corporately managed theater state, it's not whether a thing is true that matters, but how it sounds and looks and what you call it. Call end-of-life counseling a "death panel," and you've just turned mercy and choice into one more Great Satan.
In the end though, health care American style comes down to the preferences of two elite castes, Congress and corporate powers, neither of which can exist without the other.
Corporations need the government to sanction their methods of extracting wealth from the public. Congress needs corporations to finance its campaign chariot races. Right now, members of Congress have an excellent chance of putting the arm on health care industry lobbyist for some real cash:
Sen. Smedley Heathwood: "Oh, I dunno, I'm sort of liking Obama's alternative."
Godzilla Health Care Inc.: "Here, take this suitcase full of gold bullion, call me if you run short. And remember, we've got that ‘Life is a pre-existing condition' bill coming up in the Senate soon."
Siamese twins, joined at the hip, they share the same goal, preservation of control -- the government's social control and the corporations' economic control. And you cannot have one without the other.
Obama got elected on hope of reform, despite that one cannot reform a mafia, only pay increased extortion moneys.
He's fortunate that it was not a genuine demand for reform, just hope. We're fortunate we did not demand reform, because we're not going to get it. Obama doesn't have to reform the health care industry mob. All he has to do is look like he took a shot at it, and hope it's convincing enough.
What we've seen is probably his best shot, too. Why not? There is always the off chance it might work, in which case his "presidential legacy" would be assured.
And if it doesn't, well, the serious progressives who are screeching mad at him now will still have to vote for him as the incumbent in 2012. Or learn to love somebody like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum (take your pick) or some as-yet-unknown the GOP drags out from under the hen house and ballyhoos as a "new face."
Luckily, Dick Cheney is out of the question, barring a coup by the far right wing of the schizophrenic GOP. But still, after Palin, one shudders at the prospects.
Whatever happens, we will not see Congress stand up against the extortion of its people by the health care industry. We will not see even the most ordinary kind of health care declared as a human right, as it is in so many other nations. We will see, however, greater access to the public treasury by the insurance corporations.
Every nation in the world is now party to at least one treaty that addresses health as a human right, including the conditions necessary for the delivery of health services. Health care is a right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hell, even Saddam Hussein provided health care.
That Americans cannot grasp this fundamental aspect of human rights (but then, we cannot even get child nutrition, or limiting the number of times you can Taser an old lady in an airport, out of the starting gate) and join the civilized world and assure its people of such things is testimony.
Testimony that we live in a vacuum exclusive of the accepted standard of mercy and decency common to civilized democratic nations elsewhere. Testimony that even we the citizenry would rather maintain and spread lies than accept truths such as most people in countries with universal health care would not ever give it up in favor of the U.S. system.
Most of all though, it is testimony that we live under an induced mass hallucination where spectacle replaces fact, information and common sense.
In place of actionable information, we are served up screaming red faces -- angry mobs manufactured for TV, protesting "government interference in the people's health care choices." One must wonder what inchoate anger is really being tapped by the organizers of these strange "citizen protests."
As usual, the straw boogeyman of socialism is once more invoked. "Oh my god! I'll have to give up my $1,100 a month insurance bill, which only pays 80 percent of my insurance costs AFTER I pay the initial $5,000 of those costs! If that ain't Joe Stalin all over again, I don't know what is!" We get the false media drama of "death panels."
And being captives of spectacle and hyperbole, we friggin' love it. The idea of death panels plays to our childish attraction to the extreme and entertaining. Killing Grandma is far more entertaining to our imaginations than say, guaranteed access to chest screens and blood-pressure medicine. Two generations into this national infantilization, it's now the only national life we know -- the ideological spectacle made real.
To steal a page from Guy Debord, society has become ideology. We live in an anti-dialectical false consciousness, imposed at every moment on everyday life as spectacle. We are held in thrall.
Our faculty of ordinary encounter has been systematically broken down. In its place we now have our unique social hallucination. Never do we encounter anything directly, yet we get the illusion of encounter. This includes encounter with each other.
Anyone who lives in meatspace with his or her fellow Americans could not deny 57 million of them health. In this society, no one is any longer capable of recognizing anyone else. Instead, we see others as the screamers at the town hall meetings, or as communists who want to give free health care to illegals and establish death panels. Or as Christian fundamentalists, or as liberals or conservatives. Or as celebrities or as nobodies.
But most importantly, whenever we must reach any significant agreement as human beings, whether it be about something as globally insignificant as U.S. domestic policy (we are only 6 percent of the world population, and though it hasn't soaked in yet to most Americans, we're also broke and owe the Chinese loan shark a wad) or as significant as global warming, we immediately cede the field to ideology.
We simply don't know how to do anything else.
Ideology has utterly triumphed. It has separated us from ourselves and built itself a home inside our consciousness, from whence it operates now as our reality. There is no going back, only forward.
Given that we are a nation of children who prefer to close our eyes and make a hopeful wish with Tinkerbelle, rather than give hope the piss test, then let us hope to high hell. We may as well go for broke. So let us hope that, in going forward, new and unforeseen developments in the national consciousness occur. Developments that offer an escape from this one so deeply colonized by the corpo-political machinery we created -- and which in turn re-created us. One that will break us loose from enthrallment.
Maybe collision with a giant asteroid. Or that Garth Brooks will be barred from making a fifth comeback tour. That's one hope. A consciousness-shattering event by American standards.
Another hope is for an absolute and total collapse of the system.
At this point, I'll take what I can get.
Joe Bageant is author of the book, Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War (Random House Crown), about working-class America. A complete archive of his online work, along with the thoughts of many working Americans on the subject of class can be found on his Web site.
© 2009 JoeBageant.com All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/142120/

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chronicle of the Honduran Coup

I do not know anything about the group whose website this is taken from nor about the author but certainly the article is filled with fascinating details about how different groups and companies were involved in promoting the coup and trying to discredit Zelaya. Zelaya's real sin is to have passed some modest reforms and upset the elite as well by joining with ALBA and getting cheap oil from Venezuela. From the first Obama's responses have been fishy but Obama's opponents have been most vocal in support of the coup and have opposed even his timid attempts to try to look less as if the U.S. will always support right wing changes in Latin America. Many Americans apparently are not at all abashed at openly supporting reaction.

Chronicle of a planned coup
Friday, August 21, 2009 By: Sam Holguin
On June 28, the capitalist and U.S. imperialist-backed Honduran military embarked on a new chapter in the long line of military coups in Latin America. In response to news of the coup, President Obama issued the following statement:“I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.” (White House Press Office, June 28)In his first words, Obama had already recognized the “social actors,” and had suggested that there should be “dialogue.” His statement was not off the cuff; rather it was meticulously calculated, written with great anticipation and reflection.The statement echoed throughout the world as an apparent political shift away from President Bush’s Latin America stance. What seemed like a simple statement can now be evaluated with an overall analysis of the actions taken since, and those taken by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. embassy in Honduras in the days leading up to the coup d’etat. Manuel Zelaya was elected president of Honduras in November 2005. Initially, he worked on moderate reforms such as fighting against corruption and bringing about small–scale land reform for the country’s poor. Subsequently, Zelaya pushed his social justice agenda forward—incorporating Honduras into Petro-Caribe, an organization sponsored by Venezuela to provide Central America with subsidized oil, and ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas. He doubled the minimum wage, called for the closing of the American military base of Soto Cano, also known as Palmerola, and proposed changing the military-written 1980 constitution to reflect the widening demand for social change of Honduras’s poor and working class. Each one of these actions brought the president closer to a confrontation with U.S. imperialism. Moves against imperialist interestsThe incorporation of Honduras into Petro Caribe in January 2007 was the first strike against U.S. imperialist interests. The then-U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford, stated, “It’s quite a serious action which we have to look at from the point of view of the investment climate and the rules of the game.” At that time, U.S. companies Exxon and Chevron as well as Royal Dutch Shell were the exclusive distributors of oil in Honduras, all at inflated market prices. Petro-Caribe has saved the Honduran government tens of millions of dollars yearly in petrol imports. (Reuters, Jan. 15, 2007)On August 26, 2008, Zelaya announced that Honduras would be joining ALBA to help the country overcome the decades of underdevelopment and poverty created by the neo-liberal policies of his predecessors. From the outset, ALBA members Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Venezuela and Cuba worked with Zelaya’s government to install Cuban health care workers, Venezuelan petroleum technicians, Bolivian and Cuban literacy campaigns, as well as to work on land reforms to increase agricultural production and exports. ALBA’s anti-imperialist policies and support for economic sovereignty once again struck a nerve with U.S. interests in Honduras. In 2008, Zelaya proposed turning the old U.S military base at Soto Cano into an international airport. The idea was nothing new; Zelaya had discussed such a transition with the Bush administration for years. At this time, it was agreed that a new military base would be provided for the United States but under stricter terms. The negotiations with the Bush administration never flourished, and Zelaya moved quickly to find another source of financing for the airport. On May 31, 2008, ALBA informed Zelaya’s government that it would support and finance the project. But Washington could not accept the removal of over 600 U.S. military personal and 18 combat planes. The military base at Soto CanoThe base today operates as a counter-narcotics airfield but also houses the Honduran Aviation Academy. That means the pilots who were part of the abduction and forced exile of Zelaya on June 28 were trained there. In addition, the plane used is now known to have landed at Soto Cano before flying on to Costa Rica, further demonstrating the involvement of the U.S. military in the operation. (Associated Press, Aug 16)The base’s history includes being the launching pad for the 1954 CIA-organized coup d’etat against democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. During the 1980s, the base was used as the training center for the paramilitary death squads known as the contras, as well as a launching pad for the CIA-coordinated attacks on the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and the social movements in Guatemala, where the contras murdered over 100,000 people. The base was also used for torture operations. During those years, Ambassador John Negroponte ran the U.S. State Department operations in Honduras. Since then, he has held various government positions, primarily during the Bush years, including being appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte now works for McLarty Associates, one of the most influential consulting firms in Washington, D.C. He is vice president of the firm and now a top foreign policy adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The initial 2008 Zelaya announcement that envisioned eliminating the U.S. military base without replacement was a political strike against all the counterrevolutionary activity Negroponte and U.S. governments had executed from that base for the past 50 years. U.S. role exposedThe day after the coup, the Obama administration announced that “the Honduran military surprised it with Sunday’s coup and that the United States as late as Saturday told the military not to go forward with it.” The statement further exposed the administration’s participation in and knowledge of the planned coup.That the U.S. government had advance knowledge is also indicated by the answer of State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley gave to a reporter’s question at an Aug. 17 press briefing: “I think that to the extent that we were concerned about the emerging crisis in Honduras, I think at the ambassadorial level we expressed our concerns to Honduran authorities prior to the coup.” (America.gov, Aug. 17)The military connections do not end with the U.S. involvement at Soto Cano. This military coup once again brings the School of the Americas (now renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) into the light. The top two generals of the Honduran military, Luis Javier Prince Suazo (Honduran military head of the Soto Cano base) and now-infamous military general Romeo Vásquez, were both graduates. (Telesur, July 13)Zelaya fired General Vásquez on June 24, 2009, a few days before the coup. (Venezuelanalysis, June 29) The oligarchy-dominated Supreme Court then reinstated him explaining the move as a defense of Honduran democracy. Days later this claim would be completely countered by the military tanks commanded by Vásquez that surrounded the capital and imposed martial law. (Guardian, June 29)In April 9, Ambassador Ford and long-time right-wing strategist Otto Reich embarked on a media campaign linking Zelaya to an alleged theft of $100 million dollars from state-owned Honductel (Honduras’s telephone company). A formal suit was “brought by Venezuelan lawyer Roberto Carmona-Borjas claiming that Zelaya was part of a bribery scheme.” (Telesur July 13)Roberto Carmona was the same lawyer who in 2002 drafted the “Carmona decrees” under which the Venezuelan constitution was suspended giving power to the coup d’etat government. After the failed coup in Venezuela, Carmona worked at George Washington University and later offered his services to Otto Reich’s defamation campaign aimed at discrediting Zelaya nationally and internationally. The media slander covered a range of topics from connecting Zelaya to drug trafficking to the stealing of millions from Hondutel. Hondutel has a direct connection to now dictator Roberto Michelleti, who was CEO of the company during the 1990s and had tried with the help of Otto Reich to transfer ownership of the company to the private telecom giants AT&T, MCI and Qualcomm. Since the onset of his presidency, Zelaya’s refusal to transfer the state company into private hands once again stepped on the interests of U.S. imperialism and the Honduran oligarchy. U.S business connections do not end with the oil and telecom giants. Zelaya’s push for a higher minimum wage also struck a nerve against other multinationals. The minimum wage hike was a direct challenge to the apparel companies Adidas, Nike and Gap, which operate dozens of factories in Honduras. In Honduras, these companies form a larger front called Worldwide Responsible Apparel Production, an organization aimed at derailing the anti-sweatshop movement while maintaining anti-union factories throughout the world. The industry front was created in June 2000, and since then Otto Reich has been its vice president.Phony ‘democratic’ front set upBeyond the economic and military involvement in Honduras, the U.S. government through United States Agency for International Development and the National Endowment of Democracypumped over $50 million U.S. tax dollars into their operations in Honduras last year. (Global Research, July 15) This year, the NED provided International Republican Institute (headed by board chairman John McCain) $1.2 million for work with “democratic” forces in Honduras. (Telesur, July 13)A month before the military coup, these three agencies engaged the Honduran oligarchy in establishing a front called the Democratic Civil Union of Honduras. This organization is composed of the National Anticorruption Council, the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduran Council of Private Enterprise, Council of University Deans, Workers’ Federation of Honduras, National Convergence Forum, National Federation of Commerce and Industry of Honduras, Association of Communication Media, the Group Peace and Democracy and the student group Generation for Change. A week before the coup, the new “civil union” stated to the national press that they trusted “the armed forces will comply with their responsibility to defend the Constitution, the Law, peace and democracy.” In the days after the coup, the organization sponsored several rallies in support of the military coup and their new leader, Roberto Micheletti. The right-wing rallies were the only thing broadcast in Honduras during the coup, trying to show the national and international community that there had been a public outcry of support for the “new government.” (Global Research, July 15)The creation of the Democratic “Civil” Union of Honduras was a conscious effort at fanning the flames of a military coup. The role of the organization the days and weeks after the coup show that there was nothing “spontaneous” about the right-wing mobilizations, and that rather they had been orchestrated with the financial, technical and political support of the U.S. government. Bipartisan diplomatic offensive and public relations blitzThe role of the U.S. government did not end in creating destabilizing units in Honduras. Days after the military coup, the Honduran oligarchy with the help of the International Republican Institute hired renowned Washington lobbyist and lawyer Lanny Davis. Davis made his mark during the Clinton administration as the president’s legal counsel from 1996 to 1998 during the Lewinsky scandal. He is now an adviser of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Davis organized a diplomatic offensive and public relations blitz in support of the coup regime, including advertisements in important U.S. media that sought to legitimize the coup government. He has also been organizing meetings and hearings with members of Congress, the State Department and the White House. The main objective of the meetings was to work on a congressional resolution aimed at legitimizing the new regime in Honduras. In addition, Senator John McCain and the Cormac Group, a key lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., arranged the visits of a delegation from the new Honduran regime at the National Press Club in Washington. Furthermore, he helped arrange meetings between the delegation and Connie Mack, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mel Martínez, all traditional enemies of the Latin American left. Overnight, other key Republican leaders announced their support for the delegation and the coup in Honduras. In a July 2 statement, Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, stated, “The Honduran Congress, the Honduran Supreme Court, and the Honduran military have acted in accordance to the Honduran constitution and the rule of law.” His statement was right on cue, and in retrospect was the piece omitted from Obama’s initial statement. (U.S. Senate Statement, July 2)True motives come to lightThe true motives of the Obama administration came into perspective with the proposal of a negotiation mediated by President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. Arias, yet another player of the Reagan cold war era, was a chief negotiator in the Guatemalan peace treaty that ended the violence in the country and restored the Guatemalan oligarchy to power in the 1980s. Arias’ proposal for Honduras includes the return of Zelaya to office, the creation of a national reconciliation government, amnesty for all political and military crimes, and Zelaya’s agreement to stop any further attempts to change the constitution. The goal of the negotiation was in reality to legitimize a new oligarchy-dominated government, stop the change of the constitution to benefit the masses of poor and working-class people, regain the political acceptance of Honduras in the region and restore trade relations. The Obama administration immediately expressed full support for Arias’ proposed political solution. The coup government rejected the first proposal, forcing a new proposal, only to reject that one and leave the negotiation table. They returned a few days later to “negotiate again.” In the weeks since, the coup government has only used the negotiations to further entrench themselves in power, buying time to kill and arrest hundreds of left-wing activists, propagate their propaganda through the halls of the U.S Congress, attempt to defuse the struggles of the Honduran masses, and seek support among the few right-wing governments in Latin America. During this time, the Obama administration has moved further and further away from Obama’s initial misleading statement. Since the coup, not one U.S. plane has left Honduras, the base at Soto Cano is still fully operational, and delegations from the dictatorship are happily going around Washington, D.C., looking for support. Since the coup, Zelaya has continually called out the contradictions of U.S. statements and actions: “If President Barack Obama really wants to turn back this coup, these coup leaders will last all of five minutes because the economy of Honduras, all our military, commercial and migration activities, depend on the United States.” In the end, Zelaya’s statement summarizes the supporting cast of the coup—Wall Street, the Pentagon and the Obama State Department. Social movements continue the struggleSince the first day of the military coup, the social movements in Honduras—the labor unions, the peasant unions, the students and the indigenous and Afro-Honduran unions—have not stopped their resistance to the dictatorship. During the past 45 days, the organizations have engaged in a wide range of social protest, including hundreds of road blocks throughout the county, labor strikes that have paralyzed the country, and militant demonstrations in all the major cities and towns. The demonstrations have kept going despite the violent backlash of the state and the military, which have shot and killed several protesters, have incarcerated hundreds including mothers and their children and have forcefully disappeared and tortured several activists. Military force has been used to abduct foreign diplomats from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, as well foreign press correspondents. The courage and resilience of the Honduran people can be seen on a nightly basis. On Aug. 12, thousands of Hondurans marched from every corner of the country, all heading to the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Once there, they rallied in front of the congress, where the military used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the peaceful demonstration. Throughout the night, dozens of disturbances occurred in the city, including the forceful entry at several universities in Tegucigalpa by the military, and the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators. The next day, the same thousands of patriotic and anti-imperialist masses once again rallied throughout the capital demonstrating that they would not be silenced by a dictator, an entrenched oligarchy, a murderous military and their masters in Washington, D.C.