Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for December 30th, 2009

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 »

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