Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for the ‘Honduras’ Category

Battalion 316, Honduras, and post-coup State-sponsored Terrorism

Posted by Charles II on June 20, 2015

Heather Gies, UpsideDown World:

After the 2009 military coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president said in an exclusive interview with Democracy Now! that Battalion 316 was “already operating” in Honduras under a different name and using “torture to create fear.”

“There was a tremendous resurgence (after the coup) of death squad activity and assassinations of human rights defenders, trade unionists, campesinos, activists of the resistance of all sorts including journalists, lawyers,” Dana Frank, professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz, told teleSUR. “It was very rare in the 20 years before the coup for these kinds of assassinations to happen … but it shot up dramatically after the coup.”

The post-coup links to Battalion 316 terror were palpable, both in the vast increase in human rights abuses, including torture, assassinations, and forced disappearances, as well as the direct connections of Battalion 316 personnel offering their expertise to the coup regime.

Former head of the Battalion 316, School of the Americas graduate Billy Joya, became a prominent coup regime spokesperson, advisor, and aide to de facto president Roberto Micheletti. According to COFADEH, many other retired Battalion 316 agents also became government advisors.

[Professor Adrienne] Pine, author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras,” said that the numbers of state-sponsored disappearances, tortures, and extrajudicial killings since the coup have far exceeded those of the 1980s.

With striking similarity to the fear campaign of the 1980s, COFADEH documented in 2010, along with dozens of other death threats and assassinations, that a former Battalion 316 agent publicly threatened resistance activist Candelario Reyes with forced disappearance and death, saying that killing such a “communist dog” would make the “best example” for other resistance activists.

“You can see the continuity with some of these individuals including the references to the 80s that are conscious references,” said Frank. “It’s terror, it’s deliberately spreading terror.”

Harkening back to 1980s terror was a deliberate strategy to instil fear in perceived political threats. In 2012, COFADEH human rights defender Dina Meza received a series of threats of death and sexual violence by text message signed with the initials CAM, standing for Comando Alvarez Martinez, early 1980s head of Battalion 316 responsible for grave human rights abuses. According to Amnesty International, CAM was used as a pseudonym in numerous death threats against journalists and activists in the wake of the coup.

According to Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. foreign policy in Honduras, the clearest and most alarming examples of post-coup strategies that follow the model of Battalion 316 are the TIGRES special units of the police force and FUSINA inter-agency task forces that bring together military, police, military police, prosecutors, and other government officials under military control.

FUSINA was initially headed by School of the Americas graduate Colonel German Alfaro, former commander of Battalion 15, the military unit in the Aguan Valley region implicated in dozens of post-coup murders of campesino activists. Trained by the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marines, FUSINA is not only troubling for its conglomeration of agency functions under a military mandate, but also for its U.S.-enhanced intelligence capacities.

COFADEH denounced TIGRES as a “crude resurrection” of Battalion 316’s political disappearances, murder, and “criminal behaviour.”

These new constellations of state and military power, designed and deployed to create fear and contain political dissent, have again had a deep social and political impact in Honduras.

“A combination of the ‘soft power’ of USAID and NED-funded (so-called pro-democracy) programs on the one hand, and death squads within the police, the military, and now the military police have succeeded in destroying the post-coup resistance movement,” explained Pine. “This is what makes possible the neoliberal plunder of the country currently underway.”

Courtesy of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Posted in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Honduras, Latin America, terrorism | 1 Comment »

A real winner

Posted by Charles II on April 22, 2015

DemocracyNow:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As we continue to mark Earth Day, we end today’s show with a new report that finds at least two people working to save the environment were killed each week in 2014. In total, the group Global Witness documented the murders of at least 116 environmental activists last year. Three-quarters of them were killed in Central and South America.

AMY GOODMAN: The report is called “How Many More?” It looks in detail at an activist who stood up to a mining project in one of the deadliest countries and survived. Her name is Berta Cáceres, and she is another winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize. This is Berta Cáceres describing how she helped organize indigenous communities in Honduras to resist a hydro dam on the Gualcarque River because it could destroy their water supply.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] In more than 150 indigenous assemblies, our community decided that it did not want that hydroelectric dam.

NARRATOR: Berta filed complaints with the Honduran government and organized peaceful protests in the nation’s capital. As her visibility increased, she became a target for the government.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] We denounced this dam and were threatened with smear campaigns, imprisonment and murder. But nobody heard our voices, until we set up a roadblock to take back control of our territory.

NARRATOR: For well over a year, the Lenca maintained the roadblock, withstanding harassment and violent attacks. Tragically, Rio Blanco community leader Tomás Garcia was shot by the Honduran military at a peaceful protest.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] Seeing this man murdered, the community became indignant, forcing a confrontation. The company was told that they had to get out.

PROTESTER: [translated] We have 500 people here, and we are Rio Blanco comrades. We will defend Rio Banco, and we will not let them pass.

BERTA CÁCERES: [translated] And that is how Sinohydro left Rio Blanco. But it cost us in blood.

AMY GOODMAN: Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, who won the 2015 Goldman Prize, as well. For more, we’re joined by Billy Kyte, campaigner for Global Witness, author of their new report, “How Many More?

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us a little more about the 2015 Goldman Prize winner who we just played a clip of, Berta Cáceres, and her significance and what she’s doing in Honduras?

BILLY KYTE: Well, she’s an emblematic case. I mean, she’s a very courageous activist. She fights for indigenous rights, but also women’s rights, as well. Her leadership in COPINH, indigenous network in Honduras, has been inspirational for many, many people. She’s suffered threats against her life. Two of her children have had to flee the country because of these threats. She continues to receive threats. Even recently, she received attempted plans to kidnap her. And despite this, she still struggles on with the fight to protect indigenous areas and the rivers of the Rio Blanco community.

Berta Caceres was one of the strongest resisters of the 2009 coup. She is a real winner.

Posted in Good Causes, Good Things, Honduras | Leave a Comment »

The Eurotrash Earl, Aaron Schock

Posted by Charles II on February 3, 2015

An interior by Eurotrash (Image from Eurotrash, an interior designer)

Our good friend (if by “friend”, we mean “corrupt right-wing puppet”) Aaron Schock, the Republican congressman who supported the Honduran junta, is living like an Earl. Ben Terris, WaPo:

The Rayburn House Office Building is a labyrinth of beige offices.

And then, there’s . . . Rep. Aaron Schock’s new digs.

Bright red walls. A gold-colored wall sconce with black candles. A Federal-style bull’s-eye mirror with an eagle perched on top. And this is just the Illinois Republican’s outer office.

“It’s actually based off of the red room in ‘Downton Abbey,’ ” said the woman behind the front desk, comparing it to the luxurious set piece at the heart of the British period drama.

A blond woman popped out of an inner office. “Want to see the rest?” she asked.

She introduced herself as Annie Brahler, the interior decorator whose company is called Euro Trash. She guided me to Schock’s private office, revealing another dramatic red room. This one with a drippy crystal chandelier, a table propped up by two eagles, a bust of Abraham Lincoln and massive arrangements of pheasant feathers.

Then, my phone rang.

It was Schock’s communications director, Benjamin Cole.

“Are you taking pictures of the office?” he asked. “Who told you you could do that? . . . Okay, stay where you are. You’ve created a bit of a crisis in the office.”

A staff member then came and asked me to please delete the photos from my phone. So started a day of back-and-forths with a congressman’s office about interior design.

Nice to know the aristocrats are getting prepared for the new monarchy. But who would have imagined Schock as an Earl?

Posted in Congress, corruption, Honduras | 5 Comments »

Your tax dollars at work

Posted by Charles II on October 18, 2014

Adrienne Pine has posted a documentary by Globo TV about death squad activity in Honduras. The first 30 seconds or so are staged. After that, it gets to what is actually happening. It’s in Spanish. But what we hear is this:

Aurora Pineda, the mother of a murdered child, says people engage in death squad activity either as a business or for pleasure.

Sociologist Carlos Eraso says that the people behind the wave of murders are oligarchs who participated in the coup of 2009, a military with an invisible government behind it.

The narrator says that most of these are not gangland or drug slayings as the authorities claim, but are directed assassinations reminiscent of Battalion 316.

He then shows the operation of a squad. He picks out several young men who take pictures and are in contact with vehicles without license plates, notably a gray double cab truck, which he later says is typical. Two of the young men are confronted and seek refuge in a patrol car, which takes them to safety.

Adrienne links a great blog From Here Below, written by one of the journalistic heroes who we often mentioned during the coup.

Posted in Honduras | Comments Off on Your tax dollars at work

Dumb Choices: Why Hillary should not be president

Posted by Charles II on October 2, 2014

I had five minutes to read Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, so I skimmed 10 pages on Latin America. Although I knew where she stood on Honduras, reading her explanation about that and the ongoing Cuban embargo made me realize how much contempt she has for Latin America.

I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Read Havana Nocturne (T.J. English) and see if it doesn’t raise questions in your mind about his character. I do recognize that he has done some good things, both in ending extreme poverty in Cuba and in terms of opposing apartheid and elevating world health. But I recognize that he’s done it through undemocratic means. That’s Realpolitik: understanding why leaders can be bad people yet popular, or at least more popular than the alternative.

But the embargo against Cuba–which was just extended for a year–is not just a “relic of the Cold War.” It is a flagrantly and increasingly illegal act, condemned by the entire world. Not even the U.K., not even Japan, not even Poland stands with us (Israel does). But Hillary Clinton goes along with the US line that we have to continue to isolate ourselves in order to force the Cuban government to democratize.

Even though it hasn’t worked for 52 years.

Even though the only people really hurt by it are the Cuban people.

And, according to Hillary, any Latin American country that sees the embargo not as a quaint “relic”, one that we can keep around out of fondness for the death and misery it causes, but as U.S. bullying (not to mention arrogance and stupidity) must be a commie creep like that Chaaavez fellow.

That is not leadership, Madame Secretary. That is contempt for Latin America and for the intelligence of your readers.

And then there’s Honduras. And Nicaragua. And Venezuela. And Brazil (!) All of whom are/were run by “strongmen.” Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is even the “caricature of a strongman.”

No, Madame Secretary. You’re a caricature of American arrogance and blindness. And your justification for your actions during the Honduran coup is transparently dishonest. You tell us that Oscar Arias (correctly) told you that a military coup against a democratically-elected leader could have a “domino effect” throughout a region that had been plagued by coups and dictatorship. You were most entertained by this “novel interpretation” (if I recall your phrase correctly) of the domino theory.

FFFFFFF. If this is the sort of contempt for Latin America that you display in public, what you must feel in your heart!

No more fake Democrats, please.

Posted in Brazil, Chavez, Cuba, Honduras, impunity, Latin America, Venezuela | 6 Comments »

Honduras is a free market paradise!

Posted by Charles II on June 13, 2014

That’s what one would think if one relied on the US media for news. In reality:

And now there’s this added motivator [for children to flee Honduras], huge motivator, of this surging violence in Honduras, where, you know, kids are seeing dead people on the streets every day. One in 10 children are not leaving their homes ever, for fear of being kidnapped. And we’re seeing younger children. And before, one in four children were girls. Now nearly half are girls. Before, parents didn’t send for their girls, because of the fear that smugglers might rape them. Now there’s such desperation, because the gangsters go to girls coming out of the schools and say, “You’re going to be my girlfriend, or I’m going to kill your whole family.” And if the girls don’t agree, they just grab them and rape them and put them in a plastic bag and kill them. So, the violence has just gotten so much worse since Enrique made his journey and Jose made his journey. It’s many—there is that draw of coming to reunify with the mother, but there’s also this enormous violence that’s pushing these kids out of these countries.

And a lot of this is fueled by our drug use in the United States. You know, we consume more illegal drugs than anywhere on Earth. And 80 percent of the cocaine from Latin America is being funneled through Honduras, and so you have the cartels and the gangs vying for those routes. And that is fueling a lot of this violence in Honduras.

Our fine readers may recall that at the time of the coup which removed Manuel Zelaya from the presidency, we were told that he was responsible for narcotrafficking, economic decline, etc.


(From Linda Pressley, BBC)


(From The Economist)

When Zelaya was president, the murder rate was about 60 per 100,000. If U.S. policy, including his ouster, is so brilliant, why is the number of child refugees spiraling upward?

I strongly recommend the DemocracyNow interview, which predicts that there will be well over 100,000 child refugees arriving in the US next year (up from 90,000 this year) thanks to the fruits of our policies in Latin America. And it gives a human face to why things are the way they are.

Posted in Honduras, immigration, State Department | 1 Comment »

A land of light and shadow

Posted by Charles II on February 12, 2014

A picture of sunset in Honduras by Brother John

by John Donaghy

A picture of a virtually empty stadium at the inauguration of Juan Orlando Hernández reproduced by Adrienne (photographer not listed)

via Adrienne Pine

And a photo of massive protest, by Adrienne:

by Adrienne Pine

The caption says in part:

In the face of
1) a military coup June 28, 2009
2) fraudulent elections November 27, 2009
3) fraudulent elections November 24, 2013
MADE IN THE U.S.A.
…..
We propose to stay in resistance until the constitutional order, justice, equality, and respect for my country are re-esetablished.

HONDURAS. WE DO NOT FORGET. WE DO NOT FORGIVE.

Posted in Honduras | 1 Comment »

Honduras election, day 3

Posted by Charles II on November 26, 2013

In a discussion with RAJ at Honduras Culture and Politics, I think we have agreed that the results out of Cortes may not be anomalous. Nasralla reportedly did very well there, capturing 6/20 delegates according to La Prensa. The incomplete vote totals, while I haven’t verified them in detail, look at a glance to be consistent. His slate was doing very well, and the count was much more complete than the presidential. RAJ based her statement that the results were odd based on historical data and knowledge of the reason. But of course one can’t be omniscient, and the electorate was volatile, since the two-party monopoly has been broken.

Adrienne has given an interview in which she talks about the alleged vote discrepancies:

BP: So the results we got in were that there are two candidates who are claiming victory. We have Juan Orlando Hernandez who is the more conservative candidate, and leftist Xiomara Castro (wife of former President Manuel Zelaya ousted in 2009), who is also claiming victory. What is going on?

Adrienne: Well, obviously there’s a strong difference of interpretation of the votes, and it has to do with the difference in how those votes are being counted. There’s a transparency requirement of Honduran voting that at the polling places themselves, the public is allowed to be present, and therefore ensure that the counting is done in a fair and free manner by the polling workers at the tables. And those poll numbers are reported publically. And those poll numbers have been coming out right after the election closed last night, for several hours, just being read off one after the other on a couple radio stations and television stations. And almost all of them were overwhelmingly, not just a little bit, but overwhelmingly in favor of the candidate Xiomara Castro of the Libre Party. However, after that vote count gets done, then the new system in Honduras for these elections is that the results get entered into a scanner and get sent to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (SET). And then the SET compiles those results, and those are the statistics that it gives. The SET’s numbers are the numbers that the candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party is basing his claim for victory upon.

Those numbers tell a very different story from the numbers coming out from what they call the “boca de urna,” which is like the “mouth of the ballot box.” They say, in fact, that Juan Orlando Hernandez is winning by several points. And when the first numbers came out with about 20 percent of the vote reported claiming that Juan Orlando Hernandez was in the lead, people who supported Libre claimed that what they were doing was cherry picking, and picking only the areas that really supported the National Party. But when they have now, I think over 50% of the vote counted and he still has a significant lead. That contrasts completely with the numbers coming from the polls, as well as the exit polls, which give a broader idea of what the accurate numbers should look like. That’s the basis for the two different interpretations of the results. And then of course there’s also what we saw on the ground ….

We have yet to hear from the election observers, which is troubling. Their reports should settle whether there was monkey business at the polls. The TSE, i.e., the Electoral Court, hasn’t reported more votes in a long time. That is adding to suspicions.

Tracy Wilkinson of the LAT has the following cynical comment:

Several international election-monitoring organizations thought the vote count giving victory to Hernandez’s National Party was probably accurate. That’s in part because any fraud probably took place months ago, when Hernandez supporters could use the state machinery to offer jobs and discount cards in exchange for votes. Meanwhile, numerous irregularities and complaints of intimidation were reported on election day, Sunday.

But, as I mentioned to Brother John, vote buying doesn’t work unless there’s a way to verify that people have voted as they have agreed to vote. In Mexico, the PRI sent small children into the voting booths to monitor votes, so it was easy to demonstrate a connection between vote buying and results. But I have not heard reports of this in Honduras. According to RAJ, there are separate ballots for presidential candidates and diputados, which adds another layer of complexity. If you buy votes for a presidential candidate, and the presidential results don’t correspond to offices lower on the ballot, there’s a suggestion of some kind of fraud. A detailed analysis is needed and, alas, I am not going to do it. I hope someone will.

Posted in Honduras | Comments Off on Honduras election, day 3

Another sham election in Honduras?

Posted by Charles II on November 25, 2013

Solid news out of the Honduran election is hard to come by. What is clear is that not many people are going to agree on the result. The National Party has claimed victory, based on a count of half the ballots, closed down last night. Although the level of intimidation, bribery, and outright manipulation appeared to be less than in the previous election, independent reports are troubling. For example, from Honduras Culture and Politics:

Looking over those numbers, albeit preliminary, we are struck by the report for Cortés– the Departamento in which is located San Pedro Sula, second-largest city and industrial capital of the country.

These show Salvador Nasralla of the Partido Anti-Corrupción leading with 35.1% of the vote.

LIBRE is in second place, with 23.46% of the votes.

The Partido Nacional is in the third place with 22.15%.

The Liberal Party is down at 18.8%

That strikes us as very, very odd. There was at least one report from an electoral mesa yesterday that said LIBRE votes were being reported as PAC votes. But that would take a lot of votes to be shifted: PAC is said to have 122,362 votes to LIBRE’s 81,796.

From Hermano Juancito:

A US friend of mine who was an international observer in Tegucigalpa maintains that Juan Orlando Hernández [of the Nationalists] was losing in almost every one of the voting places where she and about 180 others were observers. I am especially curious about where his support comes from.

Berta Caceres, a human rights observer, denounces the election.

Radio Globo just reported that the Public Ministry was seized by troops and all personnel were removed. A report that there was a bomb scare has been debunked, and there was belief that they were going to file a judicial action.

DemocracyNow reports.

I am unable to bring up the website of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral. It shows that less than half of the ballots have been counted and only 75,000 ballots separate the first and second place candidates.

Honduras-elections-9-AM-Mon

Links

Honduras Solidarity Network Twitter account
Hermano Juancito
The Supreme Electoral Court
The Americas Blog liveblog

______________
Update: There are serious irregularities. Tiempo is editorializing, The Darkness is Deep, an excessively vague editorial whose basic point is that Honduras is lost. It does, however, mention that there have been irregularities, which emerged early in the vote count.

AP has a weird news article that says, “the electoral count [is] coming to a halt without final results or explanation.” Election observers, at least the ones the AP is listening to, are making no comment. The candidates are remaining silent (this statement is objectively untrue). Four hundred thousand votes are disputed in a contest that has the Nationalist ahead by 100K. Although the final polls showed the Nationalist even with Libre’s Xiomara Castro, the AP thinks that the Nationalist’s call for an even more oppressive military presence won the day. The problem with that is that the Nationalist was getting his surge from the collapse of ant-corruption candidate Nasralla. But Nasralla greatly outperformed the polls, while Xiomara Castro underperformed. So, a plausible scenario is that votes were switched from Castro to Nasralla. This is, I suspect, what RNS of Honduras Culture and Politics meant in the quote given above. The deputies of his party do seem to have outpolled those of Libre, with the Nationals not far behind. Right wing La Prensa is calling it 6:5:5:3:1 for Nasralla’a PAC, Libre and the Nationals, and the two minor parties. So, it’s not blatantly inconsistent.

Posted in Honduras | 1 Comment »

Lucha Libre: The Nationalists vs. Libre smackdown today (Sunday)

Posted by Charles II on November 24, 2013

Via Quotha, Jesse Freeston of The Real News reports on the Honduran election.

Things do not look good for democracy.

Posted in Honduras | Comments Off on Lucha Libre: The Nationalists vs. Libre smackdown today (Sunday)

 
%d bloggers like this: