Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Hondurans Organize Amid Growing Repression

Hondurans organize amid growing repression

By Heather Cottin
Published Feb 5, 2012 10:23 PM

When the New York Times publishes an op-ed piece stating that Honduras is “descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss” and adds that this is “in good part the State Department’s making,” something is changing. (Jan. 26)

Since the U.S. government-sponsored military coup on June 28, 2009, the State Department has spread a smokescreen to justify the kidnapping of legally elected President Manuel Zelaya Rosales and the brutal military takeover of this country of more than 8 million people.

Conditions in Honduras, the second-poorest Central American nation, have only deteriorated since the coup. Sixty-seven percent of the population — more than 5.5 million people — live below the poverty level. The unemployment rate is almost 30 percent. (hondurasnews.com, Jan. 3) The oligarchs and transnational corporations have taken total control, exploiting the people and resources, even privatizing the country’s rivers.

Since the coup, Honduras has become the center of U.S. military operations in Central America. The Soto Cano Air Base (Palmerola), to which Zelaya was flown during his kidnapping, has received an infusion of up to $45 million in construction funds since 2009. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Violence and drug trafficking in the country also spiraled upward during the same period. As a result of killings carried out by the military and military-trained police forces, Honduras has among the highest murder rates in the world. (southcom.mil) According to a report of the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, there is “generalized impunity for human rights violations” and the return of death squads. (October 2010)

Lucy Pagoada, a representative of Honduras Resistencia USA, told Workers World: “The leader of the coup, Roberto Micheletti, and Miguel Facussé, the country’s richest oligarch and uncle of Honduras’ U.N. Ambassador Mary Flores Facussé, are the leading drug lords of Honduras.”

Facussé is alleged to have stolen vast tracts of land from the Indigenous and Garifuna (Afro-Honduran) people, and his death squads have killed, kidnapped and tortured dozens of peasants in the Aguan Valley. Facussé brought in the Honduran Army’s U.S.-trained 15th Infantry Battalion and private security guards to attack the Aguan peasants. A 17-year-old boy and five security guards were killed in 2010. (Honduras Solidarity Network, Aug. 19, 2010)

The New York Times piece said that the U.S.-backed coup and Washington’s support for the sham election of Porfirio Lobo Sosa in November 2009 placed a regime in power that was quickly recognized by the Obama administration. The Lobo government “threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression. … The judicial system hardly functions. Impunity reigns. At least 34 members of the opposition have disappeared or been killed, and more than 300 people have been killed by state repression.”

According to Human Rights Watch, 18 journalists have been killed since the coup.

Repression breeds resistance

But the Honduran Resistance Movement has been in the streets, facing down the police and army in the cities and countryside. In February 2011, they held a large representative assembly and then went back to their communities to organize to take power.

For the national election set for November 2013, “Peasants, students, Indigenous peoples, teachers and workers have organized a party in direct defiance of the two traditional parties of Honduras, the National Party and the Liberal Party,” said Pagoada. “We call it ‘LibRe’ — for Liberty and Reformation. We have decided to take a political direction. Xiomara Castro Del Zelaya, the wife of Manuel Zelaya, will be our candidate, and a poll taken on Jan. 28 showed that she is the leading candidate.”

Fearing this overwhelming groundswell of resistance, the U.S. government appointed Lisa Kubiske ambassador to Honduras. On Jan. 26, Kubiske whisked President Lobo off to Miami for 10 hours of high-level talks. That resulted in his decision to support unprecedented legislation that would enable the U.S. to extradite suspected Honduran drug traffickers, specifically Miguel Facussé and Roberto Micheletti, to the United States. Lobo also ordered the arrest of police officers believed responsible for the murder of the son of a leading academic. The police then miraculously escaped from prison, Pagoada noted.

On the same day, Honduran lawmakers proposed a bill that would establish an independent monitoring body tasked with reforming the country’s notoriously corrupt police force. (insightcrime.org, Jan. 27)

“Few articles admit that all the poverty, murder, drug trafficking and corruption are the direct results of the U.S.-sponsored coup,” Pagoada told Workers World. “What is clear is that the coup has failed.”

Pagoada informed WW that “Xiomara Castro Del Zelaya is coming to the United States to speak in New York and Washington. She will also address the United National Antiwar Coalition convention in Stamford, Conn., in March [23-25]. We will hear a powerful message of resistance, democracy and peace from the Honduran people.”
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