By Andrés Thomas Conteris
In his essay “Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side the United States Government Is On With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras,” Mark Weisbrot correctly illustrates U.S. backing for the coup regime and the lack of U.S. support for democracy. For more than 100 days, I have been holed up with President Manuel Zelaya inside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, covering the story for “Democracy Now!” and other independent media. In case Weisbrot’s points were not convincing, here are another 10 ways the U.S. has undermined democracy in Honduras.
10. The resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on June 30 strongly condemned the coup in Honduras. The United States, however, prevented the U.N. Security Council from taking strong measures consistent with the resolution.
9. When President Zelaya returned to Tegucigalpa and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy on Sept. 21, Lewis Amselem, the U.S. representative at the Organization of American States (OAS), called his action “foolish” and “irresponsible.” Amselem, whose background is with the U.S. Southern Command, is known in the halls of the OAS as “the diplomator.” He led the charge for validating the Honduran elections, while many other countries opposed recognition of elections held under the coup regime.
8. The U.S. Southern Command sponsored the PANAMAX 09 joint maneuvers, conducted Sept. 11-21 off the coast of Panama with military forces from 20 countries. Even though the U.S. publicly stated that ties with the Honduran military had been severed, the invitation to Honduras to participate in these maneuvers was not rescinded. The Honduran armed forces finally said they would withdraw, but only after several Latin American countries threatened to boycott the exercises.
7. Key members of the Honduran military involved in the coup received training at the School of the Americas (which changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHISC), including Gens. Romeo Vasquez and Luis Javier Prince. Even after the June 28 coup, the Pentagon continued training members of the Honduran military at WHISC, in Ft. Benning, Ga.
6. The negotiating teams for both sides of the conflict reached an accord Oct. 30. Days later, when the U.S. made it clear it would honor the Nov. 29 election whether or not he was reinstated as president, Zelaya declared the accord to be a “dead letter.” The Obama administration claimed it would recognize Zelaya as the president of the country but refused to accept his withdrawal from the accord. That Washington is ignoring the Honduran president is also evidenced by the failure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama to respond to his letters.
5. U.S. officials continue to sing the praises of the accord, but they have been cherry-picking which parts of the agreement to underscore and which to ignore. The Verification Commission mandated by the accord came together only on one occasion, for a photo op. The accord stipulates international aid for the commission’s work, but the U.S. provided no economic or political support. Had the Verification Commission been activated, it would have denounced the Nov. 5 deadline passing without the formation of a government of national unity. It would have had to consider rebuking coup leader Roberto Micheletti for assuming he would preside over this new government. Given the violations by coup leaders, the commission would have had to rule whether the Nov. 29 elections should have proceeded, or been recognized.
4. The U.S. supports a comprehensive amnesty, a component intentionally left out of the accord. The coup regime filed 24 criminal charges against President Zelaya, and he says he is willing to face all of them in an impartial court of law. He has called for an independent international tribunal and rejected the option of amnesty for himself and the coup perpetrators. If amnesty is declared, impunity will be enshrined for the golpistas, as well as for the U.S. Pentagon and civilian officials complicit in the crimes of the coup.
3. The accord calls for the establishment of a truth commission during the first half of 2010. U.S. officials say they favor this; however “truth-lite” seems to be what they prefer. In recent decades, most truth commissions have limited truth-telling to circumstances within their countries’ borders. One exception occurred in Chad, where the role of foreign governments in funding and training the perpetrators of human rights crimes was investigated. If Honduras followed Chad’s example, its truth commission would examine U.S. behavior before, during and after the coup. Some possible questions: What role did those formerly employed by the U.S. government, such as John Negroponte, Otto Reich and Lanny Davis, play before and after the coup? Why did the plane carrying the kidnapped president on June 28 land just 60 miles from the capital at the airbase where the U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo is headquartered? (U.S. officials claim it was to refuel.) Why did the U.S. allow aid to continue to flow to the coup regime while not declaring that a “military coup” had taken place against the advice of the State Department’s legal experts? Top U.S. officials labeled what happened in Honduras as a coup, but given their actions, it’s more like “coup-lite.”
2. Last August, at the Summit of North American Leaders in Mexico, President Obama had harsh words for opponents of his policy, declaring: “The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we’re always intervening. … I think what that indicates is that maybe there’s some hypocrisy involved in their approach to U.S.-Latin American relations. ...”
The continuing U.S. intervention and hypocrisy in Honduras go well beyond what Mark Weisbrot and I have described. Aid continues to flow to the de facto regime, despite U.S. law that mandates cutting aid to military coups; that is intervention. Lifting the symbolic sanctions temporarily imposed on the dictatorship after the accord was signed but not implemented, that is intervention. Bestowing harsher criticism on President Zelaya and his nonviolent supporters than on the perpetrators of gross human rights crimes, that is hypocrisy.
1. Here in the Brazilian Embassy, incoming death threats are part of the psychological warfare directed against those who continue to accompany Zelaya. Elsewhere in Honduras: Resistance leader Carlos Turcios was kidnapped and beheaded Dec. 16; two members of the United Peasant Movement of Aguan were abducted by four hooded men Dec. 17; and resistance member Edwin Renán Fajardo, 22, was tortured and murdered Dec. 22. In an open letter to fellow Central American presidents Dec. 28, Zelaya cited more than 4,000 human rights violations by the coup regime, including 130 killings, more than 450 people wounded, more than 3,000 illegal detentions, and the political imprisonment of 114 people.
The silence of the U.S. government over the last six months regarding the ongoing human rights violations by the golpistas in Honduras confirms that the Obama regime has sought to support a death-squad democracy, rather than reinstating the nation’s elected leader.
That is intervention. That is hypocrisy.
Andrés Thomas Conteris is director of Program on the Americas, for Nonviolence International, and works with “ ‘Democracy Now!’ en Español.”
AP / Arnulfo Franco
Soldiers and police stand guard near the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, where Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya has been sheltered since sneaking back into the country in September.