Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for December, 2009

Honduras Coup, Act VI, Day 32

Posted by Charles II on December 31, 2009

Adrienne has a soul-wrenching piece about the human toll of the coup on Honduran opponents living in the United States, and on the eerie perkiness of PJ Crowley & Co. An excerpt:

All of them [diplomats working for the Zelaya government] have worked so hard all these months, putting on their suits day in and day out, going to work despite the pay having been cut off from the start, trekking from one governmental office to another, maintaining a presence at those atrocious think tank events where pompous coup-supporters disguised as intellectuals are given an unequal platform to drone on incessantly. The whole thing must have been something like a 6-month long wake for a relative whose body hasn’t been found. Should they still maintain hope? Should they mourn? How can they reproach the assassin in the room if the killer may still be holding their loved one alive?

I have seen the personal toll this dictatorship is taking on Hondurans, on families, on friends, and it’s not an academic issue. People’s lives, everything they’ve worked for, a lifetime (and even generations) of friendships, their homes, savings, belongings, their families, destroyed.

These are the fortunate ones. Those less fortunate never had possessions or savings to lose. They have been dining on hope and sleeping under the roof of prayer.

Update: Again from Adrienne, poet René Novoa and a companion were beaten with rifle butts by police and soldiers.

Some interesting points raised by Eva Golinger (via Magbana at HondurasOye):

In Bolivia, USAID was expelled this year from two municipalities, Chapare and El Alto, after being accused of interventionism. In September 2009, President Evo Morales announced the termination of an official agreement with USAID allowing its operations in Bolivia, based on substantial evidence documenting the agency’s funding of violent separtist groups seeking to destabilize the country.

In 2005, USAID was also expelled from Eritrea and accused of being a “neo-colonialist” agency. Ethiopia, Russia and Belarus have ordered the expulsion of USAID and its contractors during the last five years.

Development Alternatives, Inc. is one of the largest U.S. government contractors in the world. The company, with headquarters in Bethesda, MD, presently has a $50 million contract with USAID for operations in Afghanistan. In Latin America, DAI has operations and field offices in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

The money pipeline flows from USAID-> NED/IRI -> “civil society programs” such as DAI. If, as alleged by Golinger, DAI is linked to the CIA and, further, that there is substantial reason to believe that USAID has been consciously supplying money to such an organization to destabilize most of Latin America, this is a scandal as big as what the Church Committee had to deal with and could make Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s comment particularly prescient.

Brother John describes an ordination (elsewhere, he promises us a photo of Hermano Vaquero):

During his homily the bishop noted that a priest promises obedience to his bishop – and thus to the whole church. The priest also should make an option for the poor and, though he should care for all people, he should not be identified with the rich and seek their favor. The priest should be effectively and affectively poor because Christ was poor and so he should make make special efforts to serve the poor….

Thank God for this diocese and for the commitment of so many people – bishop, priests, and lay pastoral workers – to spread the message of a God who is on the side of the poor.

To that I will say “Amen.”

Posted in Honduras, Latin America | 3 Comments »

Honduras Coup, Act VI, Day 31

Posted by Charles II on December 30, 2009

And don’t miss: Jesse Freeston and Adrienne Pine interview President Manuel Zelaya (en Español)

The Quixote Center report on the election is up. An excerpt:

Low Participation With the exception of San Pedro Sula [which had demonstrations and violent repression], the streets of Honduras were mostly empty. …

Media Manipulation Despite the low numbers on the streets, Honduran corporate media consistently reported high turnout. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal went so far as to extend the voting day an extra hour, to lend the impression that polling stations were packed. …

Threats and Fear These “elections” took place in a latent environment of fear, intimidation, and militarization. The same state security forces responsible for more than a dozen deaths and countless beatings and detentions of peaceful protesters were responsible for the safekeeping of the ballot boxes. Rumors flew that the leaders of the anti-coup resistance movement would be assassinated …People were told there would be violent retaliations against them by police and military forces if they did not vote….

Economic Manipulation Farmers in rural areas were told by local officials that they would be fined the equivalent of three months’ earnings if they did not vote. Army reservists were offered large sums of cash to work to protect ballot boxes on election day… Large corporations offered 40% off for consumers who came into their stores with inked fingers, the mark of having voted…

Impunity The courts were illegally closed on election day, so that writs of habeas corpus could not be filed on behalf of those detained.

Revistazo published a critique of corruption, cronyism, and exaggeration of benefits delivered to the poor under Zelaya, using as its source Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa. It’s worth listening to such critiques seriously:

  • Zelaya had one big advantage: in 2006, Honduras received a debt abatement of $4B to reduce poverty, equivalent to the national GDP
  • The teachers staged a strike in March, 2005 and Zelaya devoted 70% of the debt abatement to salary rises for teachers and health workers
  • The other 30% of funds were distributed according to political ends
  • The rise in minimum wage was one of the few things Zelaya did for the poor, but it was done at the worst moment in the global economic crisis, costing 15,000 jobs
  • The cascade effects included a strike at the UNAH for over two months.
  • Zelaya was director of the Honduran Social Investment Fund which “lost” $40M (nothing was proven against him).
  • Zelaya named a crony, Marcelo Chimirri as general manager of Hondutel. Chimirri was convicted of self-enrichment of over $1M and Latin Node pled guilty to paying $1.1M in bribes to Hondutel
  • The dictatorship alleged that Zelaya spent $1.6M on travel, $4.2M on consultants, and $1.7M on undocumented professional expenses
  • Zelaya never offered a 2009 budget
  • Zelaya spent $4M on the Constitutional Convention
  • I answered them, pointing out that they’d missed a few of his good deeds, like holding down the price of petroleum and helping deal with the large landowners; that they don’t seem to understand that politics is in part about rewarding your friends; and that if all the the dictatorship could come up with was a few million of questionable expenditures, they obviously have never heard of the Pentagon which manages to lose sums of money that are large even by American standards. My response was not particularly well-written, but hopefully it’s intelligible.

    Posted in Honduras, Latin America | 4 Comments »

    Honduras Coup, Act VI, Day 30

    Posted by Charles II on December 30, 2009

    And don’t miss: Jesse Freeston and Adrienne Pine interview President Manuel Zelaya (en Español)

    Update: Via Quotha, Dina Meza of Defensores en Linea report that journalist César Silva has been released. He had been seized at gunpoint, taken to a secret prison, and interrogated for 24 hours supposedly to find out what groups he was arming, then dumped in an abandoned site near the El Chile neighborhood. Two of the men had accents as of Chile, the country.

    The very dangerous Abuela Dos (Grandma II)

    70 year old María Yolanda Chavarría was grabbed by the police and interrogated in a dark room at a postal branch

    70 year old María Yolanda Chavarría was grabbed by the police and interrogated in a dark room at a postal branch (Dina Meza, Defensores en Linea)

    Journalist Rony Martinez of Radio Globo, despite having been granted official protective measures by the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, continues to be stalked by the police. Martinez, Radio Director David Romero, and owner Alejandro Villatoro had previously been harassed by the military. Among other things, while under military surveillance, the tires on Martinez’s car were punctured.

    César Silva, a journalist who was at the side of Isis Obed Murillo, the first person slain by the dictatorship, has been kidnapped by the dictatorship. He was accused by the dictatorship of somehow magically being involved in Murillo’s death and was beaten up on August 12th.

    Tiempo says there’s a full-fledged water crisis. They approved slightly over $1M to solve it, so one can pretty well predict it’s not going to get solved: half goes to a company called EFA for water purification and the rest means that some temporary wells will get drilled. An impoundment is promised as a permanent solution, but the money for that is as yet imaginary. The government also promises there will not be a famine. The government is tinkering with gasoline pricing, allowing larger profit margins for gas stations, but promising that the system of price controls that Zelaya established to prevent profiteering would not be unwound. Another lawyer in La Ceiba, 56 year old Jose Vargas Navarro, was murdered by gunshots. He represented the National Public Employee Association. On December 12, another lawyer, former judge of the court of penal letters, José Bernardo Aguilar Rodezno, was also assassinated in La Ceiba. A national strike by a number of public employees is likely, since the pretend government has only been pretending to pay wages. A major flashpoint will probably be negotiations over whether to apply the minimum wage to the maquilas. As one might guess, the owners are predicting mass unemployment if this happens, the workers are predicting mass starvation if it doesn’t, and it’s pretty obvious who’s closer to right.

    In e-mail dated December 30th, the State Department informs me that they will not be having press conferences on December 24th and December 28th. Also, that Christmas is a federal holiday. That explains their Honduras policy. They live in a time warp. So, any day we can expect them to get excited about the overthrow of a democratically elected leader by military coup.

    Posted in Honduras, Latin America | Comments Off on Honduras Coup, Act VI, Day 30

    “Though you intended it for harm, God turned it to good”(Gen 50:20).

    Posted by Charles II on December 30, 2009

    The more I read about the unsuccessful Detroit pentaerythritol bombing, the more I wonder if the hand of God was not in it, helping to heal the grievances that drive terrorism. It has often been said that the greatest recruiting devices Al Qaida could have wished for were Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: Muslims, many innocent of any crime, being tortured by a nation that claims that it stands for equal treatment under the law and never tortures.

    Two of the men who are believed to be the planners of the bombing, Muhammad Al-Oufi and Sa’eed Al-Shihri were released apparently by the Bush administration to the Saudi authorities in 2007. The Saudis tried religious re-programming, a not-unreasonable approach for cult members not known to have committed a crime (Perhaps Americans should try it on members of C-Street, like Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford). Now, the Saudi Gazette (which I would guess is directed toward western opinion) reports :

    [Al-Oufi’s mother] said Al-Oufi has reneged on his promise and betrayed the trust of the government and the people who love him. “He broke the heart of his wife and children. I don’t think she will recover from this shock,” she said.

    Al-Oufi’s sister said she hoped he would realize the trauma of the family. “Our father is bedridden ever since the news of his son’s detention in Guantanamo broke out. My poor father was already crestfallen with the death of my brother Sami who was killed in Afghanistan about eight years ago. Muhammad’s detention in Guantanamo further aggravated his health.”

    She said Muhammad had sworn by God that he would never do anything against his country and people.

    It is these kinds of conversations and opinions which undermine terrorism. Here the enemy had paroled suspects (again, not known to have committed any crime) on their word of honor that they would drop the religious extremism that wound them up in Guantanamo– and they lied. Is the shock and sorrow and regret real, or directed at avoiding government harassment and maybe assuaging western opinion? I would guess some of all.

    The right wants to convince people that if we just lock ’em all up, innocent or guilty, we’ll be safe. This is, of course, insane. Whenever we are holding someone that we don’t believe is guilty, we should release him. It’s the right thing to do. It means we don’t waste resources– we certainly can’t lock up a billion potential opponents just because of their religion or ethnicity. And releasing the innocent prevents our opponents from exploiting grievances for their recruiting purposes.

    But there will be mistakes made, as it appears the Bush Administration may have done in the cases of al-Oufi and al-Shihri. As a consequence, American lives may be threatened, as they were in Detroit, or even lost. Even so, I think the Bushies did right– way too late, and maybe with the wrong people.

    As the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. Part of the price is in national defense. But part of the price is defending civil liberties, even when it means we can’t enjoy the perfect security of the police state.
    Even dangerous terrorists have wives and sisters and mothers and fathers and children… and it’s their opinion and the opinion of people like them that matters in a conflict like this. If and when their family members turn against terrorism, then their cause is lost.

    This is how the hand of God works, almost invisibly, perhaps by sparing a would-be killer from his own suicidal folly, so that not only he but others like him can repent of it. And this, too, is how conflicts wind down, as we all come to see the folly of war.

    Posted in terrorism, torture | 4 Comments »

    The IMF Eternal Debt Game

    Posted by Charles II on December 29, 2009

    Via BoRev.Net and the Financial Times, Ruibal Games of Argentina has come up with a game called Deuda Eterna (Eternal Debt) in which you try to beat the IMF. It’s sold out.

    A fun game with a designed based on Latin America people, where the player needs to beat the International Monetary Fund (IMF). You can buy and sell but if you ask for more money the devaluation of your currency will be inevitable. You must made some agreements with other countries. A great Family game.

    Times like this, I feel really, really old. I can remember when the United States was the good guy.

    Posted in Just for fun, Latin America | Comments Off on The IMF Eternal Debt Game

    Honduras Coup, Act Vi, Day 29: You have a say!

    Posted by Charles II on December 29, 2009

    The American Anthropological Association is asking for input on a resolution condemning the Honduran coup. And it’s open for comment, right here! My comment was this:

    I support the resolution, and suggest that the complaints against its imperfections represent an unwillingness to face facts.

    1. Asking that people not be killed, beaten, or unjustly jailed is not meddling, “dominative,” or “hegemonic.” [these were arguments used in the rebuttal by coup supporters]. It is what every one of us would wish if the shoe were on the other foot.

    2. Supporting the abolition of an institution, the Honduran military, that has almost never been used for defense but has regularly been used to kidnap, torture, and maim is not “over-the-top.” It is common sense.

    3. It is a lie that anthropologists are not “political.” It was no accident that one of the main arenas of the McCarthy witchhunts was the AAA under Irving Hallowell. It was no mistake that anthropologists were used in the Vietnam War– and are being used for “human terrain mapping” in the drug war in Mexico. No, anthropologists are definitely political. The question is whether they will use their talents and knowledge to benefit the people from whose study they make their livelihoods or whether they will turn those talents to impoverishing them and erasing their cultures.

    4. The argument that Zelaya’s attempt to poll the population on whether to convene a Constitutional Convention in any way justifies a coup is so self-evidently morally bankrupt that it hardly needs a response. Even if the argument had any validity, which it certainly does not, Zelaya is hardly in a position to try to conduct the poll, whereas the people who kidnapped him, murdered several dozen dissidents, gravely wounded hundreds, jailed thousands of others, and so on remain in power.

    There’s a simple test for this situation. Do you think that American tax dollars should go in any way to encourage or support the Iranian mullahs, who even now are beating, kidnapping, torturing, and killing their citizens?

    Then either you also believe that your government should stop supporting the Honduran dictatorship, or you are a hypocrite.

    Please participate.

    (Image from El Heraldo)

    Zelaya warns his fellow Central American leaders that the failure to punish the coup undermines everyone.

    In another blow to press freedom, so to speak, the editor of El Libertador René Novoa and another man were seized by police/armed forces. They were beaten with weapons.

    Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim complained about the failure of the US to communicate with Latin America regarding the bases in Colombia and the re-activation of the Fourth Fleet, as well as the delay of sanctions against the Honduran dictatorship.

    Tiempo reports that four masked men siezed and executed 50 year-old Juana Albertina Rodríguez and her son, 19 year-old Darwin José Ramírez in El Jaral, Santa Cruz de Yojoa.

    The drought has turned into a water shortage and possible emergency in Tegucigalpa.

    Update: Radio Globo server is down. Channel 36 is reporting interference from the government (they seem to be getting flooded with hang-up calls). Lots of people are complaining about the foul water.

    Posted in Honduras, Latin America | 2 Comments »

    This Is Shaping Up To Be Good Video Day

    Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 29, 2009

    FDL’s Jon Walker took part in a debate with Wendell Potter on Democracy Now! on whether or not the Senate health care reform bill should be killed outright.

    This is must-see TV, and better than anything you’re likely to see on the networks or cable.

    Posted in health care | Comments Off on This Is Shaping Up To Be Good Video Day

    For Your Viewing Pleasure

    Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 29, 2009

    Watch as Spencer Ackerman spanks Pat Buchanan on live national TV over the botched terror attempt on a Detroit-bound airplane earlier this week:

    A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

    Posted in Rule of Law, terrorism | Comments Off on For Your Viewing Pleasure

    Ah, Short Memories

    Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 28, 2009

    The Republicans currently staging trouser-wetting fits for the cameras while muttering about how President Obama was bad not to cancel his vacation because some idiot castrated himself with flash powder seem to have forgot all about George W. Bush’s fateful vacation in Crawford, Texas, where he refused to be bothered by CIA agents trying to warn him about Al-Qaeda. He dismissed them with a curt “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.”

    Posted in Bush, BushCo malfeasance, President Obama, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, rightwing moral cripples, terrorism | Comments Off on Ah, Short Memories

    Honduras Coup, Act VI, Day 28

    Posted by Charles II on December 28, 2009

    (Cartoon by Alan McDonald here. Legend: We are a multicultural nation. You speak many tongues? No, many of us bite our tongues.)

    Marco Antonio Madrid contrasts the achievements of Dario Euraque (appointed by Zelaya) at the Ministry of Culture vs. the non-accomplishments of the typical political hacks appointed in previous administrations and with the accomplishments of the coup-appointed Myrna Castro, whose main accomplishment is purging the historical records of Gen. Vasquez’s involvement with a car theft ring and R. Micheletti’s involvment in subversion and an attempt to alter the Constitution.

    Tough times in Honduras? Not according to entrepreneur Jimmy Dacarett. This is, by golly, a grand opportunity, since the last four years have been such a disaster.

    Posted in Honduras, Latin America | Comments Off on Honduras Coup, Act VI, Day 28

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