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Undo the Coup

Posted on Jun 30, 2009

By Amy Goodman

  The first coup d’etat in Central America in more than a quarter-century occurred last Sunday in Honduras. Honduran soldiers roused democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya from his bed and flew him into exile in Costa Rica. The coup, led by the Honduran Gen. Romeo Vasquez, has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Organization of American States and all of Honduras’ immediate national neighbors. Mass protests have erupted on the streets of Honduras, with reports that elements in the military loyal to Zelaya are rebelling against the coup.

  The United States has a long history of domination in the hemisphere. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can chart a new course, away from the dark days of military dictatorship, repression and murder. Obama indicated such a direction when he spoke in April at the Summit of the Americas: “[A]t times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations.”

  Two who know well the history of dictated U.S. terms are Dr. Juan Almendares, a medical doctor and award-winning human rights activist in Honduras, and the American clergyman Father Roy Bourgeois, a priest who for years has fought to close the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA) at Fort Benning, Ga. Both men link the coup in Honduras to the SOA.

  The SOA, renamed in 2000 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), is the U.S. military facility that trains Latin American soldiers. The SOA has trained more than 60,000 soldiers, many of whom have returned home and committed human rights abuses, torture, extrajudicial execution and massacres.

  Almendares, targeted by Honduran death squads and the military, has been the victim of that training. He talked to me from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital: “Most of this military have been trained by the School of America. ... They have been guardians of the multinational business from the United States or from other countries. ... The army in Honduras has links with very powerful people, very rich, wealthy people who keep the poverty in the country. We are occupied by your country.”


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  Born in Louisiana, Bourgeois became a Catholic priest in 1972. He worked in Bolivia and was forced out by the (SOA-trained) dictator Gen. Hugo Banzer. The assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the murders of four Catholic churchwomen in El Salvador in 1980 led him to protest where some of the killers were trained: Fort Benning’s SOA. After six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were murdered in El Salvador in 1989, Bourgeois founded SOA Watch and has built an international movement to close the SOA.

  Honduran coup leader Vasquez attended the SOA in 1976 and 1984. Air Force Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, who also participated in the coup, was trained at the SOA in 1996.

  Bourgeois’ SOA Watch office is just yards from the Fort Benning gates. He has been frustrated in recent years by increased secrecy at SOA/WHINSEC. He told me: “They are trying to present the school as one of democracy and transparency, but we are not able to get the names of those trained here—for over five years. However, there was a little sign of hope when the U.S. House approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill last week that would force the school to release names and ranks of people who train here.” The amendment still has to make it through the House-Senate conference committee.

  Bourgeois speaks with the same urgency that he has for decades. His voice is well known at Fort Benning, where he was first arrested more than 25 years ago when he climbed a tree at night near the barracks of Salvadoran soldiers who were training there at the time.

  Bourgeois blasted a recording of the voice of Romero in his last address before he was assassinated. The archbishop was speaking directly to Salvadoran soldiers in his country: “In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: Stop the repression.”

  Almost 30 years later, in a country bordering Romero’s El Salvador, the U.S. has a chance to change course and support the democratic institutions of Honduras. Undo the coup.

  Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times,” recently released in paperback.

  © 2009 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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Trailing Begonia's avatar

By Trailing Begonia, July 1, 2009 at 8:47 am Link to this comment


Not to mention the kipnap of officials from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.  Could they have been more obvious on this one?

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By Bliss Doubt, July 1, 2009 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

Yes, all indicators point to advance knowledge of the coup, and US approval of it. reports: 

“Under the Foreign Assistance Act, no US aid can be given to a country whose elected head of government is removed by a military coup. The US is providing Honduras with $43 million in aid this year and maintains a major military presence in the country, including a base staffed by 600 US troops located 50 miles from the capital, Tegucigalpa. The US has also refrained from recalling its ambassador to Honduras.”


“The official US line is that it attempted unsuccessfully to convince the Honduran military not to proceed with the coup. However, this amounts to a tacit acknowledgment that Washington was well aware of the coup plans.”

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By Lester Shepherd, July 1, 2009 at 7:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“This coup could not have happened without Obama agreeing to it”

How could he not?  Is the CIA independent?  What the hell are daily briefings about?  All bullshit!  The Almighty God Damned President is supposed to know all.
He is Mr Big.  Right.

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Trailing Begonia's avatar

By Trailing Begonia, July 1, 2009 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

Whenever anything goes egregiously wrong in the world, follow the trail and it will take you to Washington, D.C. about 99.9% of the time…

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By b, July 1, 2009 at 4:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wish somebody would look further into why this President was deposed. Wasn’t he repeatedly trying to ovestep his constitutional authority and refused to adhere to the Honduran Supreme Court’s rulings?

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By ardee, July 1, 2009 at 2:45 am Link to this comment

Folktruther, July 1 at 2:09 am #

This coup could not have happened without Obama agreeing to it

This is a rather serious accusation, FT, and one repeated a number of times since the coup. I wonder if you forgot to note the words,“in my opinion” as there is seemingly no proof of any US involvement.

If credibility is sought, if we seek a common ground from which to make changes, necessary changes, to our own nations governance and its domestic and foreign policy charges of this nature , the truth of which you cannot possibly know, seem only to further separate us ....

It is my understanding that President Zelaya is returning to Honduras accompanied by the Presidents of several other nations in order to re-assume his office. Hopefully there will be no violence.

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godistwaddle's avatar

By godistwaddle, July 1, 2009 at 2:36 am Link to this comment

Merkins had two elections stolen recently (2000, 2004) and couldn’t be bothered to demonstrate, much less grab their plentiful firearms, so how much can we care about Iran and Honduras?

Besides, if it’s good for predatory capitalism, it must be good for Honduras, eh?

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By Commune115, July 1, 2009 at 12:04 am Link to this comment

Jeremy Scahill confirms in his blog that Zelaya was doing nothing illegal as the fascist coup plotters are trying to claim:

President Zelaya intended to perform a non-binding public consultation, about the conformation of an elected National Constituent Assembly. To do this, he invoked article 5 of the Honduran “Civil Participation Act” of 2006.  According to this act, all public functionaries can perform non-binding public consultations to inquire what the population thinks about policy measures.

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By Folktruther, June 30, 2009 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

This coup could not have happened without Obama agreeing to it.  What he is doing now is what he as always done: say one thing and do the opposite.  He is for Democracy and stated that the coup is illegal, and Zelaya is still the legal president.  But he is continuing the funding of the coup meisters and not putting pressure on them to seat Zelaya.

The rest of Latin America, the population, and parts of the army are.  But they must overcome US resistence, as occurred in the coup against Chavez.  Here again Obama is continuing Bush policies of coups in Latin America.

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Mayponce's avatar

By Mayponce, June 30, 2009 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

Come on American media—where’s the outrage!

Democracy has been thwarted! Wasn’t it just a week ago that everyone was all twitterpated about the loss of “democracy” in Iran.

Now that we actually have a true crisis of Democracy, no one seems to give two shits.

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By rockinrobin, June 30, 2009 at 10:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Corporations you speak of have umbilical cords to politicians of the USA; it is NOT a 2 party system; they political agenda in the USA is to TARGET and HARM for PERSONAL profit & gain; it is a CRIME. Criminals are PROMOTED in the USA; at the National Press Conference in Wash DC (seen on C span of course) it was brought out that Eric Holder had ASKED the JUDGES (supreme court etc) HOW they wanted him to do his job; (he is the ATTORNEY GENERAL of the USA); it was brought up that there IS no justice in the USA (course there isn’t!); and that the judicial branch of the Gov has been broken; sad to say, the PERSON they were addressing this to was a MEMBER of CONGRESS: lord have mercy! THAT will CERTAINLY get something done now won’t it! And world dominion is the AGENDA: using Corps in EVERY NATION and the CULTURE of the criminal with no justice so called “democracy” which has deceived the PEOPLE of the USA for decades;

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By Kristen, June 30, 2009 at 9:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Who cares where the General who carried out the order of the Supreme Court of Honduras trained?  His SOA training probably kept the exercise from turning bloody.  This was not a coup but a legal change of leadership.  If say, an American President commits a criminal act and is convicted by the Supreme court, is it a coup when the VP takes over?  Zelaya was trying to follow in Chavez’ footsteps.  That is bad for Honduras, Central America and the US.  An orderly change of leadership is not bad for anyone.

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By boggs, June 30, 2009 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment

I hope all this publicity for the SOA will make more people aware of the bad deeds that comes from the school and a bigger protest to get it shut down.
It’s got to go, it puts on a level of evil with Hitler. When corporations want to go into other countries to steal their resources, our government must not provide the mercenaries to make them safe.
That has been a lot of the cost of the Iraq war. To keep the oil contractors safe while they pumped Iraq oil. That was worth spilling blood for, Bush said it was worth it!

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By Roberto Martinez, June 30, 2009 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why do you lie to the people like this?

The manifestations that occured today were PRO the separation of Zelaya and support the new legally established Government.

The truth is that 80% of the people agree with the separation of Zelaya. THAT IS THE FACT.

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