Friday, July 24, 2009

Honduras crossroads

Lots of comings and goings.

President Zelaya is on the road in Nicaragua, heading to the border at Las Manos. The military, which does not normally man the crossings, has deployed in strength across all the southern entry points, and has reimposed a 6 pm curfew (11 pm in the rest of the country). Hondurans are trying to reach the border, some on foot because the military has shot out the tires on their vehicles. The Some police are on strike, apparently wanting to make it clear who's in charge of repressing the resistance to the coup. {But see Charles' posts in Update below.]

Coup leader Gen. Romeo Vasquez is headed to Miami to address a Christian Dominionist convention. He's scheduled for a Saturday morning session, from 9:45-10:45, to "release powerful revelation concerning God’s Kingdom in the earth today, and how you can live victoriously in His Kingdom no matter what is happening in the world system." The most optimistic reading of that would be "how you can retire to Miami even if the U.S. government cuts you off". [h/t BoRev]

But here in the real world, despite Gen. Vasquez' thinly veiled death threat today against Zelaya, the U.S. government won't break ties with the Honduran military, revoke visas or freeze the assets of coup leaders, or do anything further to put pressure on the generals or the businessmen who give them their orders. Instead, they'll tut-tut about Zelaya's decision to return "resulting in violence", as if he were the one firing on unarmed citizens. If Obama and Clinton were truly intent on Zelaya's restoration to office, they'd send the ambassador and the commander of the U.S. airbase at Palmerola to the border to welcome and accompany him.

Not far from where Gen. Vasquez is scheduled to impart prophetic anointing is the headquarters of the U.S. military's Southern Command. School of the Americas Watch demonstrators will be there at noon Saturday to condemn the coup and call for an end to U.S. military ties to Honduras.

And at the same time, Rep. Connie Mack, R-Nation of Miami, will be going to Tegucigalpa to meet with the coup regime, conveying the support of the Republican right that so clearly would welcome a coup here.

Update: 2:45pm, 24 July - Good sources for further info: Charles' blog posts at MercuryRising, RealNews video overview of the battle over Honduras in Washington, and Adrienne Pine's reports from friends inside Honduras and Hondurans in DC.

Update 2: 4:30pm, 25 July - Highly recommended: Adrienne Pine's concise and accurate rebuttal of the most common lies/misconceptions surrounding the coup. Do read it all, but this passage is the most urgent:

It is time for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a firm stance against the violence being carried out in Honduras by individuals and institutions trained by the U.S. military both in Honduras and at the School of the Americas, by taking concrete measures required by U.S. law in the case of a coup: removing their ambassador, ending all military alliances, and cutting off trade. It is time that we, as Americans, demand they do so. If we accept the lies supporting the violent attack on Honduran democracy, we only weaken our own.

For Sec. Clinton to chastise Zelaya's return to Honduras as "reckless", while saying not a word in criticism of the coup regime's repression and violence -- arbitrary detentions, assassinations, media suppression, suspension of constitutional rights -- sends an unmistakable message to the rest of the hemisphere that the U.S. government is fundamentally allied to the coup supporters, unwilling to apply full pressure to them, and backing Zelaya's return more for appearance's sake than out of any real determination to beat back this threat to democratic governments everywhere.

Update 3: 12:30pm, 26 July - At about the time that the NY Times story about the military's split with the coup government's rejectionism hit the web last night, Gen. Vasquez was interviewed by phone on Radio Globo making the same point, live-blogged by by listeners Al Giordano and Charles. This new media world is a strange and wondrous thing... [Update 7/27: Charles has the remarkable Radio Globo exchange between Xiomara Castro (Zelaya's wife) and the general. An earlier post has more distressing reports from the ground in Honduras. Via a commenter at RAJ's (who's done the tremendous service of translating and analyzing both the 'San Jose Accord' and the military's communique), Gen. Vasqez is now denying [Sp.] that the military supports negotiations or Zelaya's return.] Negotiations seem set to resume in Washington on Tuesday, with the "San Jose accord" (a proposal, not an agreement) as the basis for discussions. [Update 7/27: Nope; Zelaya will probably attend [Spanish] a long-scheduled regional summit, the Tuxtla Group, with the other presidents of Central America, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, that begins today in Tamarindo, Costa Rica; it will focus on the Honduran crisis.] We have today and tomorrow to convey to our government the demand for full restoration of Zelaya's government, including all cabinet ministers, as well as the mayor of San Pedro Sula, whose removal by force has gone uncovered by U.S. media. Amnesty for Zelaya's removal is up to the politicians, but there can be no amnesty for the killings and assaults on coup opponents.

Media and U.S. government silence reigns on these crimes of the coup-makers and their supporters, of which the most recent are: The death-squad-style murder [Spanish] of Pedro Ezequiel Martinez Magdiel Muñoz, a man taken prisoner by the military near the border Friday (along with many others trying to get to Las Manos), who was found by a highway Saturday dead, handcuffed, and with 42 stab wounds. [Update 7/27: El Tiempo coverage of his funeral, attended by thousands.] The same message was sent in the capital Friday, when 15 shots were fired near the airport at a car carrying the son of Rodrigo Trochez, a Liberal Party member of Congress who'd been publicly speaking and lobbying against the coup in D.C. this past week. Juan Trochez and a friend with him were both wounded, Trochez seriously.

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At 1:02 PM, July 24, 2009, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

Wow, that bit with the Christian Dominionist convention is bizarro news of the year.

At 3:37 PM, July 24, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

Oh, it gets wierder. Gen. Vasquez also appeared at the 2008 version of this 'Kingdom Government' convention in Paris.

And the Miami event was preceded by a weeklong 'Caravan of Glory' Covering 70 miles of the city of Miami, every night for 7 days, with the blood of Jesus!

Appealing image, eh? The blood is apparently metaphorical, in that the event involves driving around Miami at 11:00 at night.

I'm pretty disgusted with the games the State Department is playing. And unlike Al Giordano, I decline to absolve Obama of responsibility for the apparent policy, which is to use the coup to teach Zelaya a lesson:

::Philip Crowley, Asst. Secy. of State: We certainly think that if we were choosing a model government and a model leader for countries of the region to follow, that the current leadership in Venezuela would not be a particular model. If that is the lesson that President Zelaya has learned from this episode, that would be a good lesson. ::

Some unusually acute member of the DC press corps actually calls Crowley on the implication of that statement:

::It’s like – it’s justifying, sort of, the coup d’état, because if any government try to follow the socialist Government of Venezuela, then it’s fair, then, that somebody can try to make it – you know, defeat the government or something like that? Can you explain a little bit where we’re –
what was your statement about Venezuela?::

This may not be a coup approved in advance by the Obama administration, but failure to put the screws to the Honduran oligarchy and military NOW to restore Zelaya will have sent a message to the whole region: coups are back. No amount of "we tried" b.s. will undo it; no one in the region believes for a minute that the coup could persist if the U.S. sent clear, strong, unambiguous signals to end it.

At 9:43 PM, July 24, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Nell. You actually do much nicer analysis, with more depth and context. I;m envious.

I am not sure that the Christian Dominionist stuff is that strange. There's a lot of that down that way, thanks to a fellow by the name of William Cameron Townsend. Even Mel talks like he has a touch of Jerusalem syndrome.

In a nice kind of way, of course.

--Charles of MercuryRising

At 3:43 PM, July 25, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

Thank you, Charles. It's easy to have depth when you only blog every other week... ;>

The Obama-Clinton response to the coup reminds me of nothing so much as the 2007 Democratic congressional leaders' approach to Iraq war funding: many statements and gestures to show a desire to cut or condition war funds, but a clear determination to avoid actually succeeding in doing so.

At 10:55 PM, July 25, 2009, Blogger Nell said...


Dominionism is way more bizarre and far-right politically (and much less common, thankfully), than evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant Christianity.

At 12:08 AM, July 27, 2009, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

I have a humble question about this item: "The military forced Zelaya out after he defied Supreme Court orders and promoted a nonbinding referendum that many thought could lead to a constitutional change eliminating the one-term limit for presidents." (WaPo, 7/6).

Does this refer to a Honduran Supreme Court ruling *prior* to the one authorizing(/"authorizing") Zelaya's removal? Even if it turns out both rulings were "Yoo-ishly" wrong, in the meantime I find myself disputing not one but two Honduran court rulings, while knowing, nothing about their laws or constitution.

Maybe it doesn't matter: at the end of the day, this looks like a coup, walks like a coup, and quacks like a coup -- whether or not Zelaya may have been unwise in the events *preceding* that coup.

At 3:02 AM, July 27, 2009, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

OK, have watched more Real News and read a bit more, so that I now have a grand total of upwards of 45 minutes of accumulated, (flawed, dissipating) knowledge about Honduras. It looks like they have had a bad *actual* system as opposed to whatever it is they have on paper -- hmm, know how that feels a little bit, though thankfully no skin lesions from cyanide gold mining -- Z. may have been thinking about talking about voting about maybe maybe changing that, and if so good for him.

At 5:13 PM, July 27, 2009, Blogger Nell said...

My comment here directly addresses the zombie lie about the constitutional reform being intended to give Zelaya another term.

Wrt the court orders: The vote to be taken on June 28 was originally intended to be binding on Congress, and the Supreme Court nixed that as unconstitutional. In response, Zelaya and supporters of constitutional reform agreed it would be non-binding, simply an encuesta, or poll. Then the Congress passed a law two weeks before the poll declaring even non-binding polls illegal within six months of a national election. So that was the law that Zelaya broke when he retrieved the ballots for the encuesta from the air force and continued with plans for the poll.

A real arrest order would have been for that charge. It would have been served by the police, not the military. It would have resulted in Zelaya's appearance for arraignment, like any other charge, and the setting of a trial date. It's worth saying that the arrest order was not shown to Zelaya by the military on the morning of June 28, casting considerable doubt on whether the Supreme Court had even drawn it up before he was illegally forced out of the country. In the event of a legitimate arrest and charge, Zelaya might or might not have been required to step down as president, but if he had been, or had chosen to do so, he would have been replaced by his elected vice president.

A majority of members of Congress were and are determined to prevent even a non-binding expression of popular opinion because a big showing of opinion in favor of having a vote on convening a constitutional assembly would have applied political pressure, even though I'm sure the Congress would not have agreed to it.

The failure of Sec. Clinton to put any real pressure on the coup-makers since the beginning of negotiations speaks far more loudly than she or Obama may understand; the people of Latin America aren't fools. No visas removed, no bank accounts frozen, no cutoff of economic aid, no removal of Amb. Llorens, not even a single public statement decrying the killings, assaults, arbitrary and un-recorded detentions, forcible deportations (more than a hundred non-political Nicaraguan immigrant workers) and ongoing media suppression. The only thing she's found to criticize is Zelaya's effort to return. Message received.

At 11:21 PM, July 27, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

A friend of mine was watching a cable Spanish news channel a few weeks ago and heard Hogo Chavez say that "es dificil creer que los militares hondurenos hubieran dado un paso adelante sin la luz verde del pentagono."

I agree with that observation by Chavez, and I assume both President Obama and Secretary Clinton, having a lot more experience than me, would share that suspicion. I think it almost falls into the category of the obvious to anyone who reflects even briefly on the longstanding military.

Secretary Clinton certainly understands the way the world works, and it doesn't surprise me one bit that the only criticism she has offered is of Zelaya. She may be smart and experienced, but I think Obama ultimately cannot trust her too much. And I think he knows that too.

Note that I am not saying Obama himself isn't in the loop on all this to some extent. I don't know how much he knows and how much he has signed off on. But he is certainly less involved than the people in the military, CIA, and State who deal with Honduras, and less involved than Clinton. That is the case by the simple operation of the breadth of his responsibilities, not because he's either better or worse than them.

My own opinion is that Obama is at least somewhat better than State and the military (and I suspect quite a bit better). Obama may have sold out the Hondurans, but maybe not as much as it appears. I don't know. What I think is most likely is that the Hondurans aren't quite important enough, at least in obama's mind, relative to what else he is doing. And he probably also doesn't want to inflame the wingnuts and, more importantly, the oil company interests, which range from hyperconservative to neanderthal. Really, it's an industry that was born of crazed Baptism, ruthlessness, unbridled greed, and reactionary capitalism, and it doesn't seem to have changed much at its core despite all the technological sophistication now.

Getting on the side of Latin American populism would be a huge political struggle for Obama. Those who care about Latin America certainly don't have to concede that health care and afghanistan and the middle east and china are all way more important so it's ok to forget the Hondurans. But I do think it's always good to understand Obama's situation. He isn't the real villain, even if he does end up looking like the biggest disappointment.

Anyway, nuff said for now. Nell, thanks for the new information and your excellent periodic blogging efforts.

At 11:28 PM, July 27, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

As for Christian Dominionism and all that weird authoritarian evangelical crap, the U.S. has been supporting that sort of right wing religion, Christian and Islamic and indirectly (through the contributions of our citizens at a minimum) even Jewish too, for decades. Hell, the GOP even uses Reverend Moon.

This is partly, but only partly, calculated and cynical. Hitler once wrote Pope Pious, when negotiating the German Concordat with the Vatican in the mid 1930s, "we need believing people," and I doubt he thought of that before anyone else had. The Right has long used religion to manipulate people, which was why Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the masses.

But it doesn't have to work that way. In Latin America, Vatican II and Liberation Theology had become a big problem by the 1970s, and in addition to mass murder of troublemakers, proselytizing with that good old fashioned right-wing evangelical religion became a big movement among the Latin American right. The US government wholly supported it. There was a lot of GOP, right-wing, CIA backing to Operation Condor, and also to getting right-wing religion off the ground in Latin America as an antidote to religious-based leftism.

Anyone wanting to know how weird evangelism can get can read Jeff Sharlett's The Family or some of the books of Sara Diamond or Jeff Neiwert. The visions of God held by evangelicals and those who were inspired by Vatican II have little in common.

Even apart from religion, people on the right seem nuts to those of us who are not. I once met a Salvadorean military "human rights" officer who told me that the Untied States lost the war in Vietnam because of CISPES, and who seemed to me to be a complete lunatic. But I've also known oil company executives who would have loved having a beer with him and agreed on almost everything he said. In my experience, many influential/powerful people are kooks. Exhibit A, the Senate.

So these people are batshit crazy, but also powerful, and lucky Obama gets to deal with them. Those are all my apologetics for him for the day.


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