Category Archives: Honduras

When the respectable become extremists, the extremists become respectable: Colombia and the mainstream media


By James Petras
May 20, 2012

By any historical measure, whether it involves international law, human rights conventions, United Nations protocols, socio economic indicators, the policies and practices of the United States and European Union regimes can be characterized as extremist.

By that we mean that their policies and practices result in large scale long-term systematic destruction of human lives, habitat and likelihood affecting millions of people through the direct application of force and violence. The extremist regimes abhor moderation which implies rejection of total wars in favor of peaceful negotiations. Moderation pursues conflict resolution through diplomacy and compromise and the rejection of state and paramilitary terror, mass dispossession and displacement of civilian populations and the systematic assault on popular sectors of civil society.

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the West’s embrace of extremism in all of its manifestation both in domestic and foreign policy. Extremism is a common practice by self-styled conservatives, liberals and social-democrats. In the past, conservative implies preserving the status quo and at most tinkering with change at the margins. Today’s ‘conservatives’ demand the wholesale dismantling of entire social welfare systems, the elimination of traditional legal restraints on labor and environmental abuses. Liberals and social democrats who in the past, occasionally, questioned colonial systems have been in the forefront of prolonged multiple colonial wars which have killed and displaced millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

Extremism both in terms of methods, means and goals has obliterated the distinctions between center left, center and rightwing politicians. Moderate opponents to policies subsidizing a dozen major banks and impoverishing tens of millions of workers are called the “hard left”, “extremists” or “radicals”.

In the wake of the extremist policies of public officials, the respectable, prestigious print media have engaged in their own versions of extremism [1]. Colonial wars that devastate civil society and materially and culturally impoverish millions in the colonized country are justified, embellished and made to appear as lawful, humane and furthering secular democratic values. Domestic wars on behalf of oligarchies and against wage and salaried workers, which concentrate wealth and deepen despair of the dispossessed are described as rational, virtuous and necessary. The distinctions between the prudent, balanced, prestigious and serious media and the sensationalist, yellow press have disappeared. The fabrication of facts, blatant omissions and distortions of context are found in one as well as the other.

To illustrate the reign of extremism in officialdom and among the prestigious press, we will examine two case studies: US policies toward and the Financial Times and New York Times reportage on Colombia and Honduras.

Colombia: The “Oldest Democracy in Latin America versus “the Death squad Capital of the World”

Following on the heels of euphoric eulogies of Colombia’s emergence as a poster boy in an April issue of Time, and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the Financial Times ran a series of articles including a special insert on Colombia’s political and economic “miracle”, “Investing in Colombia” [2]. According to the FTs leading Latin American journalist, one John Paul Rathbone, Colombia is the “oldest democracy in the hemisphere” [3]. Rathbone’s rapture for Colombia’s President Santos extends from his role as an “emerging power broker” for the South American continent, to making Colombia safe for foreign investors and “exciting the envy” of other less successful regimes in the region. Rathbone gives prominence to one Colombia business leader who claims that Colombia’s second biggest city “Medellín is living through its best of times” [4]. In line with the opinion of the foreign and business elite, the respectable print media describe Colombia as prosperous, peaceful, business friendly-charging the lowest mining royalty payments in the hemisphere – a model of a stable democracy to be emulated by all forward-looking leaders. Colombia under President Santos, has signed a free trade agreement with President Obama, his closes ally in the hemisphere [5]. Under Bush the trade unions, human rights and church groups and the majority of Congressional Democrats were successful in blocking the agreement on the bases of the basis of Colombia’s sustained human rights violations. When Obama embraced the free trade agreement, the AFL-CIO and Democratic opposition evaporated, as President Obama claimed a vast improvement in human rights and the commitment of Santos to ending the murder of trade union leaders and activists [6].

The peace, security and prosperity eulogized by the oil, mining, banking, and agro-business elite are based on the worst human rights record in Latin America. With regard to the murder of trade unionists Colombia exceeds the entire rest of the world. Between 1986-2011 over 60% of the trade unionists assassinated in the world took place in Colombia, by the combined military-police-paramilitary forces, largely at the behest of foreign and domestic corporate leaders [7]. The “peace” that Rathbone and his cohort at the Financial Times praise is at the cost of over 12,000 assassinations and arrests, injuries, disappearances of trade unionists between January 1, 1986 and October 1, 2010[8]. In that time span nearly 3,000 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, hundreds were kidnapped or disappeared. President Santos was the Defense Minister under previous President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). In those eight years, 762 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, over 95% by the state or allied paramilitary forces [9].

Under Presidents Uribe Santos 2002 – 2012 over 4 million peasants and rural householders were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and their lands were confiscated and taken over by landlords and narco-traffickers [10]. The terror tactics employed by the regimes counter-insurgency strategy served a dual purpose of repressing dissent and accumulating wealth. The Financial Times journalists ignore this chapter in Colombia’s “resurgent growth”. They are especially enthused by the “security” that ensued because large scale foreign investment, over $6 billion dollars, in 2012 flowed into mining and oil regions that were formerly “troubled” by unrest [11].

Leading drug lords, who were closely linked to the Uribe-Santos regime, and were subsequently jailed and extradited to the US, have testified that they financed and elected one-third of the Congress people affiliated with Uribe-Santos party in what Rathbone refers to as Latin America’s “oldest democracy”. According to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-chief of the former 30,000 member United Self-Defense of Colombia paramilitary death squad, he met with then, President Uribe, in different regions of the country and gave him money and logistical support in his re-election campaign of 2006. He also affirmed that many national and multi-national corporations (MNC) financed the growth and expansion of the paramilitary death squads. What Rathbone and his fellow journalists at the FT celebrate as Colombia’s emergence as an investor’s paradise is writ large with the blood and gore of thousands of Colombian peasants, trade unionists and human rights activists. The gory history of the Uribe/Santos reign of terror has been completely omitted from the current account of Colombia’s “success story”. Detailed records of the brutality of the killings and torture by Uribe/Santos sponsored death squads, which describe the use of chain saws to cut limbs from peasants suspected of leftist sympathies, are available to any journalist willing to consult Colombia’s leading human rights organizations [12].

The death squads and military act in concert. The military is trained by over one thousand US Special Forces advisers. They arrive in a village in a wave of US supplied helicopters, secure the region from guerillas and then allow the AUC terrorists to savage the villages, killing, raping and disemboweling men, women and children suspected of being guerilla sympathizers. The terror tactics have driven millions of peasants out of the countryside

Allowing the generals and drug lords to seize their land

Human rights advocates (HRA) are frequently targeted by the military and death squads. President Uribe and Santos first accuse them of being active collaborators of the guerillas for exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity. Once they are labeled, the HRA became “legitimate targets” for armed assaults by the death squads and the military who act with complete impunity. Between 2002-2011, 1,470 acts of violence were perpetrated against HRA, with a record number of 239 in 2011, including 49 assassinations during the Presidency of Santos. [13] Over half of the murdered HRA are Indians and Afro-Colombians.

State terrorism was and continues to be the main instrument of rule under Presidents Uribe and Santos. The Colombian “killing fields” according to the Fiscalia General include tens of thousands of homicides, 1,597 massacres, thousands of forced disappearances between 2005 – 2010 [14].

The practice, revealed in the Colombian press, of “false positives” in which the military kidnaps poor young men, dresses them as guerrillas and then assassinates them, comes across in the respectable US print media as evidence of Santos/Uribe’s military successes against the guerrillas. There are 2,472 documented cases of military false positive murders [15].

Honduras: New York Times and State Terrorism

The New York Times featured an article on Honduras, emphasizing the regime’s “co-operation” with the US drug war.[16] The Times writer Thom Shanker speaks of a “partnership” based on the expansion of three new US military bases and the stationing of US Special Forces in the country.[17]

Shanker describes the successful operation of the Honduras Special Operations forces guided and directed by trainers from the US Special Forces. Shanker mentions a visit by a delegation of Congressional staff members who favorably assessed the local forces respect of human rights, and cites the US ambassador in Honduras as praising the regime as an “eager and capable partners in this joint effort”.[18]

There are insidious parallels between the NY Times white wash of the criminal extremist regime in Honduras and the Financial Times’ crude promotion of Colombia’s death squad democracy.

The current regime headed by “President” Lobos- which invites the Pentagon to expand its military control over swathes of Honduran territory- is a product of a US backed military coup which overthrew an elected liberal President on June 28, 2009, a point Shanker forgets to mention. Lobos, the predator president, retains control by killing, jailing and torturing critics, journalists, human rights defenders and landless rural laborers seeking to reclaim their lands which were violently seized by Lobos’ landlord backers.

Following the military coup, thousands of Honduran pro-democracy demonstrators were killed, beaten and arrested. According to conservative estimates by Human Rights Watch 20 pro-democracy dissidents were murdered by the military and police.[19] Between January 2010 and November 2011 at least 12 journalists critical of the Lobos regime were murdered.

In the countryside, where NY Times reporter Shanker describes a love fest between the US Special Forces and their Honduran counterparts, between January and August 2011,30 farm workers in northern Honduras Bajo Aguan valley were killed by death squads hired by Lobos backed oligarchs .[20] Nary a single military, police and death squad assassin has been judged and jailed. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti and President Lobos, his successor, have repeatedly assaulted pro-democracy demonstrations, especially those led by school teachers, students and trade unionists and have tortured hundreds of jailed political dissidents. Precisely in the same time span as the NY Times publishes its most euphoric article on the friendly relations between the US and Honduras, the death toll among pro-democracy dissidents rose precipitously: eight journalists and a TV commentator have been killed over the first 4 months of 2012. [21] In late March and early April of 2012 nine farmworkers and employees were murdered by pro-Lobos landlords.[22] No arrests, no suspects, impunity reigns in the land of US military bases. The Times follows the Mafia rule of omega-silence and complicity.

Syria: How the FT Absolves Al Qaeda Terrorists

As western backed terrorists savage Syria, the Western press, especially the Financial Times, continues to absolve the terrorists of setting of car bombs killing and maiming hundreds of civilians. With crude cynicism their reporters shrug their shoulders and give credence to the claims of the London based terrorists propaganda mongers, that the Assad regime was engaged in destroying its own cities and security forces. [23]


As the Obama regime and its European backers publically embrace extremism, including state terror, targeted assassinations and the car bombing of crowded cities, the respectable press has followed suit. Extremism takes many forms –from the omission of reports on the use of force and violence in overthrowing adversary regimes to the cover-up of the wholesale murder of tens of thousands of civilians and the dispossession of millions of peasants and farmers. The “educated classes”, the affluent reading public are being indoctrinated by the respectable media to believe that a smiling and pragmatic President Santos and elected President Lobos have succeeded in establishing peace, market based prosperity and securing mutually beneficial free trade and military base concessions with the US—even as the two regimes lead the world in the murder of trade unionists and journalists. Even as I read, on May 15, 2012 that the US Hispanic Congressional caucus has awarded Lobos a leadership in democracy award, the Honduran press reports the murder of the news director of station HMT Alfredo Villatoro, the 25th critical journalist killed between January 27, 2010 and May 15, 2012.[24]

The respectable press’s embrace of extremism, its use of demonological terminology and vitriolic language to describe imperial adversaries is matched by its euphoric and effusive praise of state and pro-western mercenary terrorists. The systematic cover-up practiced by extremist journalism goes far beyond the cases of Colombia and Honduras. The reportage of the Financial Times Michael Peel on the NATO led destruction of Libya, Africa’s most advanced welfare state, and the rise to power of armed gangs of fanatical tribal and Islamic terrorists, is presented as a victory for a democracy over a “brutal dictatorship”[25]. Peel’s mendacity and cant is evident in his outrageous claims that the destruction of the Libyan economy and the mass torture and racial murders which ensued NATOs war, is a victory for the Libyan people.

The totalitarian twist in the respectable press is a direct consequence of its toadying to the extremist policies pursued by the western regimes. Since extremist measures, like the use of force, violence, assassination and torture, have become routinized by the incumbent presidents and prime ministers, the reporters have no choice but to fabricate lies to rationalize these crimes, to spit out a constant flow of highly charged adjectives in order to convert victims into executioners and executioners into victims. Extremism in defense of pro-US regimes has led to the most grotesque accounts imaginable: Colombia and Mexico’s Presidents are the leaders of the most thoroughly narcotized economies in the hemisphere yet they are praised for their war on drugs, while Venezuela the most marginal producer is stigmatized as a major narco pipeline. [26]

Articles with no factual bases, which are worthless as sources of objective information, direct us to seek for an underlying rationale. Colombia has signed a free trade agreement which will benefit US exports over Colombian by over a two to one ratio [27]. Mexico’s free trade policy has benefited US agro-business and giant retailers by a similar ratio.

Extremism in all of its forms permeates Western regimes and finds its justification and rationalization in the respectable media whose job is to indoctrinate civil society and turn citizens into voluntary accomplices to extremism. By endlessly prefacing “reports” on Russia’s Putin as an authoritarian Soviet era tyrant, the respectable media obviate any discussion of his doubling of living standards and the 60% plus electoral triumph. By magnifying an authoritarian past, Gadhafi’s vast public works, social welfare programs and generous immigration and foreign aid programs to sub-Sahara Africa can be relegated to the memory hole. The respectable press’s praise of death squad Presidents Santos and Lobos is part of a large scale long term systematic shift from the hypocritical pretence of pursuing the virtues of a democratic republic to the open embrace of a virulent, murderous empire. The new journalists’ code reads “extremism in defense of empire is no vice”.

[1] There’s a general consensus that the respectable print media include The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

[2] Financial Times (FT) 5/8/12; See also FT (5/4/12)”Colombia looks to consolidate gains in country of complexities”

[3] FT 5/8/12 (p. 1)

[4] FT ibid

[5] BBC News, May 5, 2012

[6] ibid

[7] Renan Vega Cantor Sindicalicidio! Uncuento poco imaginativo) de Terroismo Laboral Bogotá, Feb. 25, 2012.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] Inforrme CODHES Novembre 2010.

[11] FT 5/8/12 p. 4.

[12] See the Annual Reports of CODHES, Reiniciar and Human Rights Watch

[13] Claroscuro Informe Aual 2011; Programa Somos Defensores Bogota 2012; Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados. Jan. – March 2012.

[14] Fiscalia General. Informe 2012


[16] Thom Shanker “Lessons of Iraq Help US Fight a Drug War in Honduras” New York Times, May 6, 2012.6

[17] ibid

[18] ibid

[19] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012

[20] Honduran Human Rights, May 12m, 2012.

[21] ibid

[22] ibid

[23] The notorious cover-up of the car bombing is the handiwork of the FT’s star Middle East journalists. See Michael Peel and Abigail Fielding-Smith “At Least 55 Die in two Damascus Explosions: Responsibility for Blasts Disputed”, FT 5/11/12.

[24] Honduras Human Rights, April 24, 2012.

[25] Michael Peel, “The Colonels Last Stand” FT 5/12 – 13/12

[26] One of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary narco traffickers described the close financial and political ties between the Colombian United Self Defense terrorists and the Uribe-Santos regime. Se La Jornada 5/12/12.

[27] BBC News, 5/15/12. According to the US International Trade Commission estimates the value of US exports to Colombia could rise by $1.1 billion while Colombia’s exports could grow by $487 million.



Hondurans attack Government buildings, demand U.S. leave


By John Glaser
May 17, 2012

People in Honduras have burned down government offices and demanded U.S. drug agents leave the area after news got out that American and Honduran forces shot and killed up to six innocent Hondurans.

The dead included two pregnant women and two children. The Drug Enforcement Administration agents, with their Honduran counterparts, fired from U.S. helicopter gunships at a boat carrying the civilians, mistaking it for their intended target – a boat carrying drug traffickers.

Anger is aimed at both Honduran authorities and U.S. authorities. ”These innocent residents were not involved in the drug problem, were in their boat going about their daily fishing activities … when they gunned them down from the air,” Lucio Vaquedano, mayor of the coastal town of Ahuas, said Wednesday.

“For centuries we have been a peaceful people who live in harmony with nature, but today we declared these Americans to be persona non grata in our territory,” the statement continued.

Honduran news media and human rights organizations began publicizing the incident, of which the American people were not informed, and claimed the DEA agents themselves did the shooting. But after news broke out, U.S. authorities started claiming the American agents merely assisted Honduran forces, without doing any of the shooting themselves and that didn’t shoot first.

Honduras has become a hub of drug-trafficking, particularly cocaine, which has earned it renewed focus from Washington.

The Obama administration chose to support the illegal military coup in Honduras in 2009, which ousted democratically elected Jose Manuel Zelaya. The coup leaders continued to receive U.S. aid as American military and DEA presence in the country began to expand. This began a descent into what Dana Frank, professor of history at the University of California, called “a human rights and security abyss.”

More than 600 U.S. troops are stationed in Honduras and the DEA has a Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team based there. By the end of 2011, 42 Honduran law enforcement agents were working with the DEA, despite widespread human rights abuses and forced disappearances of political opponents and journalists.

“We have seen over the years that whenever the military interfaces with the populace, incidents of human rights abuses go way up,” said George Withers, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America. “We’re concerned that the U.S. is encouraging the use of the military for police work.”

In a written statement, the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), a human rights organization, said that “a foreign army [i.e., the U.S. army] protected under the new hegemonic concept of the ‘war on drugs,’ legalized with reforms to the 1953 Military Treaty, violates our territorial sovereignty and kills civilians as if it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria.”

COFADEH called Honduras “a failed state” and said “the so called Honduran authorities have the ethical and political duty to demand from the U.S. Department of State an explanation and a public apology, and to punish those responsible.”


Consequences of the Military Occupation of Honduras


May 15, 2012

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS–Although we have not read the official reaction of the U.S. Embassy about the tragic military actions of the Drug Enforcement Agency in detriment of the civilian population of the municipality of Ahuas in La Mosquitia, we can draw three preliminary conclusions.

The first one is that the operation launched at night against suspected drug dealers early Friday, was led by U.S. military uniformed agents of the DEA.

Mayor Baquedano from Ahuas confirmed it, and Commissioner Ramirez del Cid, a former liaison between the US Embassy and Casamata, admitted it.

The second conclusion is, then, that a foreign army protected under the new hegemonic concept of the “war on drugs”, legalized with reforms to the 1953 Military Treaty, violates our territorial sovereignty and kills civilians as if it was in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria.

Two pregnant women, two children and two adult males were killed by shots fired from helicopter gunships piloted by U.S. soldiers on a boat on River Patuca returning to their community. They were workers in the local lobster and shellfish diving industry.

The third conclusion drawn from the above is that the “failed state” of Honduras gave way to the foreign military occupation under the script of the “war against the drus cartels”, similar to what has happened in the past eight years in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala.

And this reality, from the perspective of a human rights organization, is unacceptable and reprehensible.

In a country under military occupation, as it occurred between 1979 and 1990, as part of the strategy of low intensity warfare against armed insurgencies in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, the main victims were civilians.

The so called Honduran authorities have the ethical and political duty to demand from the US Department of State an explanation and a public apology, and to punish those responsible for the Ahuas massacre.

To keep an act of terror covered up in the midst of media confusion was always a strategy of psychological warfare, a special chapter of state terrorism.

We should not accept this. We demand an official statement immediately!


Honduras: A Symbol of the Resistance, Emmo Sadloo, Slain


September 8, 2011

Besides Manuel Zelaya, the person who has perhaps most symbolized the Resistance movement in Honduras during the past two years is Mahadeo Roopchano Sadloo Sadloo — more commonly known by his friends as “Emmo”. He was the man who wore the distinctive long grey beard, a red t-shirt, and a red bandana tied around his head prominently displaying the word “Mel” and phrases like “They fear us because we are not afraid”. Mr. Sadloo often carried the red flag of the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP) the profile of Honduran hero Francisco Morazán, and he was always at the forefront of every FNRP assembly and march. He was among the people who accompanied Mr. Zelaya during his long sojourn at the Brazilian embassy. Ironically, Emmo was not originally from Honduras, but India, and so some referred to him as el hindu. Mr. Sadloo was shot and killed in Tegucigalpa on Wednesday afternoon as he sat in a rocking chair in a tire shop he owned along Suyapa Boulevard. The assailant is an unidentified young man who arrived on a motorcycle and took aim with a 9 millimeter pistol at close range. A total of five to six shots are believed to have been fired. Mr. Sadloo was transported by paramedics to the Hospital Escuela, where he later expired.

The victim was shot minutes after returning from a demonstration in front of the Court of Appeals building calling for the release of former Minister of the Presidency Enrique Flores Lanza, who has been indicted and is currently under house arrest for embezzlement of public funds.

Already there are accusations by the FNRP that the killing of Mr. Sadloo is politically motivated. Former First Lady and likely presidential candidate for the Broad Front for Popular Resistance (FARP), Xiomara Zelaya, speculated yesterday that Mr. Sadloo’s murder was not a random crime, but rather “a political crime and a warning” against her husband, Mr. Zelaya.

“Emmo has been a bulwark of the Resistance; he has accompanied Mel, he has been at Mel’s side. They have murdered someone who is a symbol for us… and don’t come and say that it was a common crime, because this crime was committed for political reasons. This is a political crime, and it must be investigated,” said Mrs. Zelaya.

On July 21, Mr. Sadloo appeared before the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (Codeh) to file a complaint against members of Mr. Zelaya’s personal security detail. “Since I am part of the National Front for Popular Resistance and a close friend of ex-President Manuel Zelaya… when the President arrived [in Honduras] on May 28, 2011, his bodyguards — Hugo Suazo, his son Rubén Suazo, Geovany, Peña, José Enrique Navas and Eddy — detained me and beat me,” stated Mr. Sadloo. “When Mel left the [Radio Globo] radio station, I tried to board his car, and they nearly killed me. Rubén, the son of Hugo Suazo, pushed me onto the street… If I had not held on to the flatbed of the car, I would have been dead.”

Mr. Sadloo, 55 was a naturalized Honduran citizen, having arrived in the country more than 30 years ago. He was the father of 12 children — all born in Honduras. (9/8/11)


Honduras resistance launches political party, as repression continues


by Felipe Stuart Cournoyer and John Riddell
July 11, 2011

Honduras: National Assembly of the Resistance, June 26, 2011.

A National Assembly of the Resistance, uniting more than 1,500 delegates from across Honduras, voted June 26 to launch a new political party, the Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular (Broad Front of Popular Resistance—FARP).

The assembly was convened by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National People’s Resistance Front—FNRP), the main coordinating body of popular struggle since a right-wing coup overthrew the democratically elected government of President Manuel Zelaya two years ago, on June 28, 2009.

The new party is to function as an arm of the Resistance Front in the political-electoral arena and will contest the 2013 presidential elections.

The delegates met under large suspended banners displaying the images of ALBA presidents—Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Raúl Castro (Cuba), and Evo Morales (Bolivia), alongside those of Francisco Morazán, Simón Bolívar, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro. Honduras was illegitimately removed from the ALBA alliance by the coup regime established in 2009.

At the assembly, Zelaya, who returned from exile on May 28, urged the FNRP to guard its unity. It must embrace all sectors affected by the cruelty of the existing system, which has devastated the lives of millions of Hondurans, he said. Zelaya stressed that Honduras needs deep structural reforms. The Honduran resistance, pressing forward in every field of activity, is capable both of taking political power and setting in motion the convening of a constituent assembly, he said. (See report by Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson.)

According to a July 10 report by the Nicaraguan left-wing website, “The president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, has initiated a discussion with a number of political parties on convening a Constituent Assembly. This proposal is similar to the one advanced by Ex-President Manuel Zelaya, which caused his ouster on June 28, 2009.”

Zelaya took part in this discussion, which was held in the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa. Zelaya insisted that it is the people who have the sovereignty to convoke a constituent assembly, not the state authorities. The Cartagena Accord accepted a framework in which the people must be consulted, he said, calling on organizations of teachers, peasants, workers, and various social sectors to demand their inclusion in the process.

Death squads still active

Zelaya returned to Honduras as part of the May 22 Cartagena Accord, which included provisions to rein in the coup regime’s campaign of terror against resistance and social activists. This repression included close to 100 political killings in 2010. As we warned in our May 24 report on the accord, the Cartagena agreement did not halt death-squad activity.

According to Bertha Oliva of COFADEH (the Committee of Family Members of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras), only a few days after the accord was signed, a death squad struck down a close associate of Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife and political partner, along with another victim. Oliva was interviewed June 24 by Todd Gordon and Jeffery R. Webber (see “Imperialism and the Future of Honduran Resistance.”)

“Security forces can torture, and nothing will happen,” Oliva said. “They can detain and assassinate their opponents, and nothing will happen.”

On June 5, three peasant activists were assassinated near their San Esteban cooperative, Oliva reports. The same day, security guards working for Miguel Facussé, a large landowner notorious for illegal expropriation of peasant lands, entered the National Agrarian Institute and opened fire on peasants who had taken refuge there, seriously wounding one of them. On June 10, government and private security forces invaded several other peasant cooperatives in the Bajo Aguán region.

During their visit to Honduras, Gordon and Webber met many other activists who had recently received death threats.

Nor is repression directed only at the grass roots. On June 15, Gordon and Webber say, Zelaya’s former chief of staff, Enrique Flores, who had returned from exile on the same plane as the former president, was placed under house arrest—a clear violation of the Cartagena Accord.

Assessing Cartagena

According to Gordon and Webber, the urgent struggle against this murderous repression has been rendered more difficult by the Cartagena Accord, which “is likely to cast a democratic veneer over these atrocities, à la Colombia.” The accord “is best understood as a blow to the Honduran Resistance, one that is likely to undermine efforts to continue building a grassroots movement genuinely capable of challenging political and economic power in the country.”

Gordon and Webber concede, however, that this is not currently the prevailing view in the resistance.

They analyze the movement as divided into three wings: the “official resistance,” composed of the forces that broke with Zelaya from the capitalist Liberal party (“a persecuted branch of former members of the ruling class”); a militant wing, Refoundational Space, which is critical of the Accord; and “a third and oscillating force … composed principally of popular classes and oppressed groups.”

In the lead up to the accord and since Zelaya’s return, Gorden and Webber say, “momentum within the Resistance has moved from Refoundational Space to the official wing of the Frente.”

This “momentum” was evident at the Resistance Front’s June 26 conference. Delegates of COPINH (Council of Peoples’ and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), a major component of Refoundational Space, argued against the decision to launch a political party in conditions of ongoing capitalist pillage and repression in the country. In their view, “To fall into the trap of participating in the 2013 elections would be a huge mistake.” (Berta Caceres of COPINH in an interview by Gordon and Webber.)

Yet the resolution launching a political party to participate in electoral activity was approved by a 90%-95% majority at the Resistance Front’s June 26 assembly.

Gordon and Webber question the fairness of debate in the assembly. Most speakers were “selected from the officialist camp”; Zelaya’s personal authority weighed heavily on the gathering; discussion was “truncated,” they say.

Dick and Miriam Emanuelsson note, however, that the four resolutions presented during this discussion had been fully discussed by base organizations and committees of the Resistance Front in urban barrios and on a municipal and departmental level. Opponents of launching a political party were able to make their arguments before the assembly, but they did not convince many, and the vote to launch the FARP was greeted with general jubilation. There is no basis to question grassroots delegates’ understanding of the different strategic choices before them or their capacity to evaluate them.

According to the assembly decisions, the new political party will not replace the resistance front. Membership in the party will be individual; forces with divergent views on the party remain united in the Resistance Front.

Combined strategy

Gordon and Webber conclude their analysis with a quotation from Tomás Andino, a Refoundational Space delegate at the Resistance Front assembly:

“The same powers that were responsible for the coup d’état remain in place…. [A]re we to expect that these forces that came to power through force are going to give up that power through voting? No! … [T]he only strategy available to the people is to rise up…. If we simply move toward participation in elections we are going to be lost.”

If the Resistance Front majority were proposing to replace a strategy of mass action with sheer electorialism, Andino’s point would be well taken. In fact, this majority argue for maintaining the grass-roots struggle for a Constituent Assembly and democratic rights alongside participation in the coming elections. Andino and the Refoundational Space delegates were unable to convince many that such a combined strategy would be unviable.

There are some in Honduras and elsewhere who believe that electoral action will have a negative effect, no matter how it is conducted. But in several Latin American countries in recent years, including Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, an integration of electoral action with grass-roots initiatives has had some positive results.

Gordon and Webber have contributed to building our understanding of the Honduran resistance, which deserves close study internationally. But there is no need for us pass judgment at this stage on the debate among Honduran activists.

Whatever our views on the discussion there, we have a joint responsibility to continue building opposition to the repression in Honduras and to ongoing pillaging of the country by imperialist powers and their corporations.


Honduras Truth Commission rules Zelaya removal was coup


July 7, 2011

The Truth Commission says Mr Zelaya and those who ousted him bear responsibility for the coup.

The Honduras Truth and Reconciliation Commission has concluded that the removal from office of former President Manuel Zelaya was a coup.

It said the move was illegal and not a constitutional succession as some of Mr Zelaya’s opponents said.

The Commission investigated the events of 28 June 2009, when Mr Zelaya was forced into exile in Costa Rica.

The crisis was triggered by Mr Zelaya’s refusal to cancel a referendum linked to presidential term limits.

Point of no return

The chair of the Commission, former Guatemalan Vice-President Eduardo Stein, presented the report to current Honduran President Porfirio Lobos, Head of the Supreme Court Jorge Rivera Avilez and Secretary General of the Organization of American States Jose Miguel Insulza in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.

The Commission identified Mr Zelaya’s decision to press ahead with the referendum on constitutional change as “a point of no return” in the crisis.

His critics said the move was aimed at removing the current one-term limit on serving as president, and paving the way for his possible re-election – a charge he repeatedly denied.

The consultation was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and Congress.

When Mr Zelaya insisted the consultation go ahead, Congress voted to remove him for what it called “repeated violations of the constitution and the law”.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said Mr Zelaya, 58, had manoeuvred himself into a corner, where he lacked the support of Congress, the Supreme Court, and even his own party.

The Commission said Mr Zelaya broke the law when he disregarded the Supreme Court ruling ordering him to cancel the referendum.

It said therefore both Mr Zelaya and those who ousted him bore responsibility for his forced removal from office.

De facto regime

The report said the Honduran Congress lacked a clear procedure to resolve power conflicts such as the one which arose in June 2009 between the president and Congress, but that it had acted beyond its limits by deposing the president.

The report further said that Congress overstepped its powers when it nominated Speaker of Congress Roberto Micheletti as interim president.

Mr Zelaya gave OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza one of his trademark hats during his visit.

According to the Commission, the interim administration was therefore illegal and a “de facto regime”.

The report also said that 20 people were killed in the repression which followed the coup.

“At least 12 people were killed by police and military forces making disproportionate use of their firearms and toxic gases,” the report added, while another eight opposition activists were killed “by the state or people acting in its interest”.

Mr Micheletti led the interim government for seven months, but his administration was not recognised internationally, and the Organization of American States expelled Honduras.

He was replaced by the current President Porfirio Lobo after general elections were held in November 2009.

Many governments, including the United States, restored their ties with Honduras after Mr Lobo’s election.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established under the auspices of the Organization of American States to look into the events surrounding Mr Zelaya’s removal from power.

Mr Zelaya returned to Honduras in May, but under Honduras’ constitution he cannot run in the 2013 election as presidents are limited to a single term in office.


Video: Zelaya – Frente Amplio de Resistencia Popular will rule Honduras (spanish)


The FNRP decides to formally become a Broad-Base Resistance Front


June 26, 2011

Honduras: Extraordinary Assembly of the Popular National Resistance Front (FNRP) in Tegucigalpa, June 26, 2011.

“In a month time the FNRP will hold a new Extraordinary Assembly to compose its statutes and create an official new name. Collection of signatures will start in order to register as a political institution; the Broad-Base Front. The self-convened process agreed during last February subjugates to this new scheme and the FNRP will demand a Constituent Assembly possibly through the use of a plebiscite”. Resistance Radio Program.

Tegucigalpa. June 26, 2011. On Sunday the Extraordinary National Assembly of the People’s National Resistance Front approved almost unanimously the creation of a broad-base political front that allows the participation of the resistance in the next elections of 2013.

After debating, discussing and approving the repeal of the agreement No.2 of the National Assembly of last February, which prevented the FNRP from participation in elections, Juan Barahona, the FNRP Deputy Coordinator introduced the motion for the creation of a political tool.

The discussion was based on the views expressed as to whether the conditions were met to participate in the forthcoming general elections of 2013, including allegations that these conditions had not been met yet and those who, in turn, declare that the return to the country of General Coordinator, Manuel Zelaya, opens the doors to create those conditions and achieve seize of power from the oligarchy in 2013.

After the discussion, voting on the Barahona proposal took place; the Assembly almost unanimously approved the creation of the broad-base front of political struggle for the coming elections of 2013 and commanded its creation to the FNRP’s National Coordination.


Triumphal return of Honduran ex-leader Zelaya


May 28, 2011

Manuel Zelaya speaks upon his arrival in Tegucigalpa (AFP, Rodrigo Arangua)

TEGUCIGALPA — Former president Manuel Zelaya made a triumphal return to Honduras Saturday as tens of thousands of people cheered and waved banners to welcome him home nearly two years after his ouster from power in a coup.

Zelaya, wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, landed in Tegucigalpa with his wife and aides aboard a Venezuelan plane on a flight from Managua, and immediately went to a nearby plaza to rally his supporters.

“We arrive full of optimism and hope to search for an exit to this crisis. At one moment we had almost lost it all, but they never defeated us,” he told his supporters.

Supporters of Manuel Zelaya (C,R, with hat) surround him upon his arrival (AFP, Rodrigo Arangua)

Zelaya, 58, thanked his supporters and paid homage to those “who spilled their blood in this plaza,” including an 18 year-old shot dead during a protest a week after the coup.

“Their blood was not spilled in vain because we are here still engaged in the struggle,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Several people fainted in the heat waiting for the former president, who was several hours behind schedule.

The end of the former cattle rancher’s 16-month exile was part of a deal brokered by several Latin American governments that will end Honduras diplomatic isolation and give the government of President Porfirio Lobo access to foreign investment and aid.

Manuel Zelaya celebrates upon his arrival in Tegucigalpa (AFP, Orlando Sierra)

The ousted former president is returning to lead the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a movement formed after the June 2009 coup to challenge a two party system that has dominated Honduran politics since the early 20th century.

“He was the only president that remembered us, the poor,” said Maria Elisa Ferrufino, a 75 year-old farmer who got up at dawn Friday to catch a bus to Tegucigalpa for the rally.

Zelaya “helped the poor people — no president had done that before,” said Arnulfo Mendez, 62, who traveled from a town 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the capital for the rally. “There is hope that with his leadership we can do something with the Resistance Front.”

Zelaya’s return will allow Honduras to rejoin the Organization of American States (OAS) and gain access to international aid, vital in a country where 70 percent of a population of nearly eight million live on four dollars or less a day.

The deal included a promise that all legal action against Zelaya would be dropped.

The ex-president arrived in the Nicaraguan capital on Friday from the Dominican Republic, where he had spent most of his time in exile.

Lobo and Zelaya signed a reconciliation agreement in Colombia last week, and the two will meet at the presidential palace along with the head of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, and Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.

Zelaya was a conservative rancher when he was elected in January 2006, but took a political turn to the left once in office.

He was ousted in a military coup sanctioned by the Honduran legislature and the supreme court after calling for a referendum to rewrite the constitution. His opponents feared he would use it to extend his term in office as his ally Hugo Chavez had done in Venezuela.

Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras before the de facto regime could hold elections, holing up at the Brazilian embassy surrounded by regime police in an impasse that lasted four months.

Meanwhile, the interim regime that ousted Zelaya held elections and Lobo took office in January 2010.

Despite his broad popular support Zelaya cannot run in the 2013 presidential elections because the constitution limits presidents to a single term in office. Supporters want his wife to run instead.

In an interview just before departing Managua broadcast on Telesur television network, Zelaya said his return from exile was “the result of an effort of all the countries of Latin America.”

“Today we begin the true reconciliation in Honduras,” Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro said, adding that they were committed “to continue the struggle to transform” the country.


Zelaya: I Return to my Homeland for the Rest of my Life


Tegucigalpa, May 26 (Prensa Latina) Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said he would return to his country for the rest of his life, in a message released by his supporters on the Internet.

“I return to my homeland on Saturday, May 28, noy for a week or 24 hours as it has been erroneously stated, but for the rest of my life,” Zelaya wrote in the message he issued Wednesday to clear up any doubts about his stay in Honduras.

The former Honduran president added that he was not afraid of the danger and adversities he would face, even though his return was guaranteed by an agreement signed with President Porfirio Lobo.

After his scheduled arrival at Toncotin International Airport on Saturday at 11 a.m., Zelaya is set to take part in a welcome ceremony organized by the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP)in Isy Obed Murillo Square, south of the airport.

Zelaya has been living in the Dominican Republic for over a year, and is returning home after about two years through the National Reconciliation and Democracy Agreement he signed, along with current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, with the mediation of Venezuela and Colombia.