Archive for June, 2009

Of América Quoted in France’s Le Monde About Honduran Coup

June 29, 2009

LeMonde.fr

This article from France’s Le Monde newspaper, quotes this site on the situation in Honduras. For those of you who read French, here you go:

Honduras : Obama amorce un changement de cap politique
LEMONDE.FR | 29.06.09 | 14h13

epuis 1983, et un coup d’Etat retentissant au Guatemala, l’Amérique centrale n’avait pas connu pareille crise politique. De ce point de vue, la destitution dimanche du président hondurien, Manuel Zelaya, par une junte militaire – et son exil forcé au Costa Rica – marque un nouveau tournant. En particulier pour l’administration américaine, désireuse de donner un nouvel élan à sa diplomatie et d’opérer une rupture manifeste avec l’ère Bush.

//

Barack Obama se savait d’autant plus attendu que les deux pays entretiennent de longue date une étroite collaboration sur le plan militaire, une “task force” (corps expéditionnaire) américaine étant basée non loin de la capitale hondurienne, Tegucigalpa. Sans aller jusqu’à condamner ouvertement le coup d’Etat perpétré contre M. Zelaya, comme l’a fait la communauté internationale, le président américain a tenu des propos mesurés, exprimant sa vive inquiétude et appelant tous les protagonistes “au respect des normes démocratiques, de l’Etat de droit et des principes de la charte démocratique interaméricaine“. “Toutes les tensions et tous les différends qui peuvent exister doivent être résolus pacifiquement par le biais du dialogue et sans ingérence extérieure”, a-t-il affirmé, alors même que le Honduras s’est associé à l’ALBA (Alternative bolivarienne pour les Amériques, alliance politique de gauche). Des propos qui tranchent singulièrement avec ceux de son prédécesseur, George W. Bush.

Car, si sur la forme le verbe est prudent, sur le fond, c’est bien un changement de cap qui semble s’amorcer. En témoignent notamment la volonté de dialogue avec les militaires honduriens et les propos de l’ambassadeur américain à Tegucigalpa, opposé à toute reconnaissance d’un nouveau gouvernement sur place. Le New York Times s’en fait d’ailleurs l’écho lundi : “La condamnation rapide [d’Obama] offre un contraste saisissant avec la façon de faire de l’administration Bush”, souligne le quotidien américain, évoquant l’éphémère tentative de coup d’Etat contre le président vénézuélien Hugo Chavez en avril 2002 ; tentative “soutenue tacitement” par George W. Bush, comme l’ont révélé depuis des documents déclassifiés par la CIA.

Le Time partage cette analyse. Et va même plus loin, en invitant directement Barack Obama à ne pas reproduire les erreurs de son prédécesseur : “Le président Obama doit garder en mémoire combien le souvenir du coup d’Etat avorté de 2002 est encore prégnant en Amérique latine et combien beaucoup, dans la région, demeurent convaincus, non sans raison, que l’administration Bush l’a soutenu.” Pour l’hebdomadaire américain, pas de doute, la stratégie adoptée est la bonne, car elle est la seule à même de briser, ou du moins d’atténuer, la rhétorique “anti-Yankee”. “Son appel contre l’ingérence extérieure et au respect de la souveraineté nationale ce qui apparaissait comme trop souvent ignoré sous l’ère Bush est très subtil”, juge-t-il. “Les gouvernements de gauche d’Amérique latine attendent qu’Obama perde son sang-froid. Mais ce n’est pas le cas […]. Cela les désarçonne complètement”, confirme Michael Shifter, vice-président de l’Inter-American Dialogue (centre d’analyse politique) de Washington, cité par le Time.

Prendre des mesures rapides et ne pas laisser le doute s’installer, c’est aussi ce que recommande Roberto Lovato, éditorialiste reconnu aux Etats-Unis, dans une tribune intitulée “Obama must strongly and unequivocally condemn the coup in Honduras” (“Obama doit condamner fermement et sans équivoque le coup d’Etat au Honduras”). “Si le coup d’Etat représente une formidable occasion de forger de nouvelles relations avec les Amériques, le fait de ne pas le condamner rapidement et sans aucun doute possible nuira considérablement à […] l’image, déjà fragile, des Etats-Unis dans la région”, estime-t-il. Une image d’autant plus écornée, selon lui, qu’elle est encore teintée de soupçons d’implication dans des coups d’Etat en 2006… au Venezuela et en 2008 en Bolivie.

Aymeric Janier

Obama Has the Power-and Responsibility- to Help Restore Democracy in Honduras

June 29, 2009

Supporters of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya demonstrate in front of the presidential residence

Viewed from a distance, the streets of Honduras look, smell and sound like those of Iran: Expressions of popular anger- burning vehicles, large marches and calls for justice in a non-English language- aimed at a constitutional violation of the people’s will (the coup took place on the eve of a poll of voters asking if the President’s term should be extended); protests repressed by a small, but powerful elite backed by military force; those holding power trying to cut off communications in and out of the country.

These and other similarities between the political situation in Iran and the situation in Honduras, where military and economic and political elites ousted democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya in a military coup condemned around the world, are obvious.

But when viewed from the closer physical (Miami is just 800 miles from Honduras) and historical proximity of the United States, the differences between Iran and Honduras are marked and clear in important ways: the M-16’s pointing at this very moment at the thousands of peaceful protesters are paid for with U.S. tax dollars and still carry a “Made in America” label; the military airplane in which they kidnapped and exiled President Zelaya was purchased with the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid the Honduran government has been the benefactor of since the Cold War military build-up that began in 1980’s; the leader of the coup, General Romeo Vasquez, and many other military leaders repressing the populace received “counterinsurgency” training at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the infamous “School of the Americas,” responsible for training those who perpetrated the greatest atrocities in the Americas.

The big difference between Iran and Honduras? President Obama and the U.S. can actually do something about a military crackdown that our tax dollars are helping pay for. That Vasquez and other coup leaders were trained at the WHINSEC, which also trained Agusto Pinochet and other military dictators responsible for the deaths, disappearances, tortures of hundreds of thousands in Latin America, sends profound chills throughout a region still trying to overcome decades U.S.-backed militarism.

Hemispheric concerns about the coup were expressed in the rapid, historic and almost universal condemnation of the plot by almost all Latin American governments. Such concerns in the region represent an opportunity for the United States. But, while the Honduran coup represents a major opportunity for Obama to make real his recent and repeated calls for a “new” relationship to the Americas, failure to take actions that send a rapid and unequivocal denunciation of the coup will be devastating to the Honduran people — and to the still-fragile U.S. image in the region.

Recent declarations by the Administration — expressions of “concern” by the President and statements by Secretary of State Clinton recognizing Zelaya as the only legitimate, elected leader of Honduras — appear to indicate preliminary disapproval of the putsch. Yet, the even more unequivocal statements of condemnation from U.N. President Miguel D’Escoto, the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the Presidents of Argentina, Costa Rica and many other governments raise greatly the bar of expectation before the Obama Administration.

As a leader of the global chorus condemning the Iranian government and as one of the primary backers of the Honduran military, the Obama Administration will feel increasing pressure to do much more.

Beyond immediate calls to continue demanding that Zelaya and democratic order be reinstated, protesters in Honduras, Latin America and across the United States will also pressure the Obama Administration to take a number of tougher measures including: cutting off of U.S. military aid, demanding that Hondurans and others kidnapped, jailed and detained be released and accounted for immediately, bringing Vasquez and coup leaders to justice, investigating what U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, did or didn’t know about the coup.

With the bad taste left by the widely alleged U.S. involvement in recent coup attempts in Venezuela (2002) and Bolivia (2008), countries led by Zelaya allies Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, the Obama Administration faces a skeptical Latin American audience.

Latin American skepticism of U.S. intentions is not unfounded. Throughout his administration, Zelaya has increasingly moved left, critiquing certain U.S. actions and building stronger ties to countries like Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, according to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. COHA, a non-profit research organization, wrote in 2005:

While Honduras signed onto the U.S.-led Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2004, and the U.S. currently is Honduras’ primary trading partner and the source of approximately two-thirds of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI), Zelaya has, within the past year, joined Petrocaribe, Chavez’s oil-subsidy initiative, as well as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the Venezuelan-led trade bloc. Honduras’ Congress ratified its membership in Petrocaribe on March 13, by 69 votes, and Zelaya signed ALBA membership documents on August 22.

The Honduran president has said that apathy on the part of the U.S. as well as by the international lending institutions toward rising food prices and deepening poverty in his country — one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with per capita income around $1,600 — compelled him to turn to Caracas.”

Obama’s meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Monday, whose government has been condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other international organizations as one of the worst human rights violators in the hemisphere, both complicates and will be complicated by Sunday’s’ resurgence of militarism in Honduras.

Zelaya, who continues denouncing the coup from Costa Rica, outlined the long term threat to Honduran and U.S. interests in the region, “I think this is a vicious plot planned by elites. Elite who only want to keep the country isolated and in extreme poverty,” he said adding that, “A usurper government cannot be recognized by absolutely anybody.”

(This article appeared originally on Alternet: http://www.alternet.org)

Why Was Alex Sanchez Arrested? Uprising Radio Interview

June 27, 2009

https://i0.wp.com/feministing.com/imageStorage/uprising.jpg

Interview by Sonali Kolhatkar with former Sanchez lawyer, Alan Diamante, and your truly. Hope it’s of interest:

Uprising Radio Interview

RED ALERT: Schumer, Dems and their Allies Ready to Support National ID Cards

June 25, 2009

national-id-papers-please

RED ALERT: Influential Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer (NY), some Dems, some DC groups (I’ve interviewed a couple) and even the SEIU’s Mike Garcia appear ready and willing to support a NATIONAL ID CARD. According to the L.A.Times,

“As the immigration reform debate begins to heat up again, some observers expect that one of the biggest and most controversial new elements will be a proposed national worker identification card for all Americans.

A “forgery-proof” worker ID card, secured with biometric data such as fingerprints, is an idea favored by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y), the new chairman of the immigration subcommittee. Schumer, who will lead the effort to craft the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation, called the card the best way to ensure that all workers were authorized.”

ACLU and others I’ve spoken with are already gearing up to condemn and fight this (if you want to understand why national ID’s are a big problem, see the ACLU’s “5 reasons” tip sheet). When I interviewed some, including national immigrant rights organizations in DC about this yesterday, their first tact was to prevaricate and confuse by saying something to the effect of “It’s not a national ID. it’s different.” Having covered the electronic surveillance beat when I first started doing journalism, I recognize when somebody’s BS’ing about these crucial, but complicated issues. Letting the DC operatives know that I know electronic surveillance caused a shift in the rhetorical strategy of folks like the person who told me, “Well, the bill is not out yet. So we can’t really argue about this now.” I truly hope that the “tradeoff” desperation of those who spent millions of dollars to get legalization for some undocumented is not so great that they are willing to lend themselves to support reactionary policies like the national ID proposals that’ve been rejected by people of many different political creeds time and time again. I really do.

This national ID move is either a labrynthine charade designed to give Obama and the Democrats a way out of their commitment to immigration reform-even the conservative, punitive “get tough approach of CIR”- or a very dangerous move to continue the Bush surveillance project under the guise “immigration reform.” Either way, this National ID proposal -and its supporters- must be roundly and rapidly condemned before they get Obama to back it with his wealth of political capital. And watch out for the MULTIBILLION dollar interests of Lockheed, Larry Ellison and Oracle, who have lobbied unsuccessfully for national ID cards for many years. It appears that the those eating and profiting at the anti-immigrant trough are now trying to turn a profit by denying fundamental rights to the non-migrant among us. Even many right wingers oppose national ID proposals as when Ellison shamelessly tried to promote his national ID project right after September 11th. He appeared to be “offering free of charge” the software to build such a national ID. But what he nor other backers of national ID didn’t and won’t tell you is that, like other open source software, Ellison and Oracle stand to make billions from upgrades to the national ID software. go figure.

In any case, some in DC will try to hide behind the “but there’s not even a proposal yet” logic that masks nefarious dealings in much the same way that that logic hid the disgusting parts of McCain-Kennedy. This stuff moves us beyond the neglect of detainee and deportee issues and into issues of state control of the entire populace. This needs a powerful push back , regardless of whether it’s backers speak Spanish or can say “Si Se Puede” to further eroding the fundamental rights of people in this country.

Arrest of Gang Intervention Leader Alex Sanchez Raises Questions, Concerns in Community

June 25, 2009

alex-sanchez

Today’s FBI arrest of Alex Sanchez, one of the most respected gang intervention leaders in the country, has raised major concerns in Los Angeles and around the country. As his wife and children watched, Sanchez, who leads Homies Unidos, a violence prevention and gang intervention organization with offices in Los Angeles and El Salvador, was arrested and taken away by FBI agents this morning at his home in Bellflower. The federal charges- being a “shotcaller (someone who manages narcotics operations) for Mara Salvatrucha (MS) and conspiring to kill Walter Lacinos, an MS member shot and killed in El Salvador in 2006- have raised fears and great concerns among the many who’ve known and worked with Sanchez over the years, including myself.

First and foremost among the concerns in the community are concerns for Alex’s immediate safety. As a former gang member who works to help others leave gang life, Alex faces great danger in whatever LA County facility he’s held in-even if he’s put under Protective Custody (PC). Law enforcement authorities have an axe of historic proportions (see Rampart scandal) to grind against Alex and some have demonstrated a lethal propensity towards retribution. Known as “Pecetas”, those held under PC are considered by many gang members to be informants and, therefore, legitimate targets for direct retribution from gang members -and direct and indirect retribution from police.

For more reasons than I have time to enumerate here, I for one do not believe the charges. Rather, I think that these recent accusations are but the most recent in the long, rotten chain of attempts by law enforcement officials to frame Alex, who was regularly beaten, framed, falsely arrested, deported and harassed by the Los Angeles Police Department since founding Homies Unidos in 1998. First and foremost, I spent the evening calling those who know and have worked most closely with him, and they ALL share that sense that, as one of his best friends told me, “He really is a good person.” I’ve known him for years and will be sending a strongly worded support letter like the many I’ve sent over the course of the many years and many frame-ups law enforcement has ravenously pursued. Those close to Homies and Alex know and are again feeling that cloud of anger and concern that comes with being harassed by authorities abusing the power delegated to them.

Also, Alex is alleged to have conspired to kill Walter Lacinos, who sources in the Salvadoran and gang communities tell me had, in the words of one gang expert interviewed, “many, many enemies in the U.S.-and El Salvador.” While most of charges levelled against most of the the 24 other plaintiffs point to physical acts and evidence, the one and most serious indictment (see full indictment here) naming Alex alleges that he participated in “a series of phone conversations” in which the possibility of killing Lacinos is discussed. No proof is offered to corroborate the charges relating to managing narcotics operations for MS.

Lastly, the sensationalistic judgements of many media and some law enforcement officials raise serious concerns, as well. Close scrutiny of the media coverage reveals an definite disposition to judge and convict Alex before his trial even begins. For example, almost all of the coverage follows uncritically the logic laid out in the indictment. No attempt is made to notice that, for example, Alex is not named in most of the 66-page indicment. Other plaintiff’s names appear throughout. Those reading reporting in the LA Times and other outlets might come away believing that Alex might be involved in the murder of seven people or in conspiring to kill another 8. Consider this note from today’s LA Times:

The arrests cap a three-year investigation into the gang and its cliques, which operated in the Lafayette Park area, west of downtown. Among the most serious allegations contained in a 16-count federal indictment unsealed today was the claim gang members conspired to murder veteran LAPD gang officer Frank Flores.

Those named in the indictment include Alex Sanchez, a nationally recognized anti-gang leader and executive director of Homies Unidos.

Notice how there’s zero attempt to clarify or give greater context to Alex’s story, even though he headlines most of these stories. Even worse is the way that law enforcement authorities like L.A. Police Chief Bill Bratton, who the Times tells us has a big “I told you so” for the city, use Alex’s case to build the case for punitive-and failed-anti-gang policies,

LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said the Sanchez case reinforces the thinking behind the city’s efforts to consolidate and more strongly regulate anti-gang funding.

Bratton is no stranger to racially charged policing policies in New York or in Los Angeles (ie; Bratton was roundly repudiated when he first tried to apply the “terrorist” frame to L.A. gangs). Neither he nor any other L.A. official has accepted responsibility for helping create Mara Salvatrucha in L.A. and El Salvador, a country with no previous history of gangs before LAPD collaborated with immigration authorities to deport Mara members. Adding fuel to the fire burning to replace the anti-gang work of Homies Unidos with more punitive, law enforcement-centered approaches favored by Bratton and his, boss, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, are reports like this one which have begun a non-profit and politico witch hunt even before Alex has seen a single day in court. Rather than look more deeply into the charges, media, political and police personalities appear bent on assuming Alex’s guilt and then waving this alleged guilt as if it’s a flag at the front of the contemporary equivalent of a witch hunt.

Although the story of Alex Sanchex touches upon people and issues-immigrants, gangs, Salvadorans- that are explained-and dealt with- simplistically, dangerously, the leadership of Los Angeles must speak out in defense not just of Alex, but of a fundamental principal of a just society: that you are innocent until proven otherwise.

Much more on this important issue in weeks and days to come.

Justicia!: Sotomayor and the Long March of Puerto Rican History

June 18, 2009

https://i0.wp.com/us.tnpv.net/2009/NTA200904/NTA2009041768028_PV.jpg

NEW YORK — Inside the red brick walls of the Bronxdale housing projects, 24-year-old mother of two Geisha Sas says she still hears echoes of music from the 1950s, when her building’s most famous former resident, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, lived there. “Older people still listen to Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri inside their apartments,” said Sas, a salsa and hip-hop fan. Before morphing into the embodiment of urban decay that they became in the 60s and 70s, these public housing projects provided the young Sotomayor the new, lower-middle class housing that facilitated her early pursuit of justice. For Puerto Ricans of Sas’s generation living here, the Bronxdale experience of justice is quite different.

“I’ve also heard gunshots and saw a boy killed on that grass,” said Sas, looking at a large patch of grass surrounded by several seven-story buildings. Asked what expectations for justice she has from fellow Bronxdale Boricua (Puerto Rican) Sotomayor, Sas declared, “I hope she knows how to tell the difference between justicia and injusticia. I hope she does the right thing and that she doesn’t forget where she’s from.

Sas’s clamor for justice echoes the very particular concerns expressed by many Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans in New York). Lost in debates about Sotomayor’s “ethnic allegiances” and what they consider the story of her rise from poverty, are the contributions of the silenced majority living in and beyond the Bronxdale projects: the Puerto Rican community whose political thought and action made Sotomayor’s rise possible.

“The media keeps telling us that she (Sotomayor) has a ‘one in a million’ story,” says Miriam Jimenez Roman, a visiting scholar in Africana Studies at NYU and director of the Afro-Latino Project. “But what they forget to tell us is how the million made the one possible. Many people struggled so that she might become the first Latina on the Supreme Court.” Roman notes that, for example, most news reports and commentaries about Sotomayor frame her life as an up-from-the-bootstraps story of individual accomplishment. This story, says Roman, is partial, at best, in that it excludes mention of the many and ongoing efforts of Puerto Ricans in the Bronx and other areas who fought to improve educational, health, employment, electoral, and other institutions.

Most importantly, says Roman, Sotomayor was very likely exposed to a broad spectrum of political thought about “justicia” that is not mentioned in the current national discussion surrounding her nomination. “I suspect that she heard and was influenced by the Puerto Ricans who were fighting for social justice,” said Roman. “We’re all glad about the nomination. But collapsing the story of an entire people into the story of a single individual is extremely problematic.”

Groups like United Bronx Parents, ASPIRA and the Puerto Rican Student Union organized for improved educational opportunities for young Puerto Ricans like Sotomayor, who herself was active in student access and curriculum issues while at Princeton. More militant groups like the the Young Lords, the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement and the Think Lincoln Committee took over Lincoln Hospital — one of the only health facilities in the Bronx — and forced it to provide better services and greater access to the community when 16-year-old Sotomayor lived in Coop City. A long line of Puerto Rican independistas (those who support ending what they consider the colonial status imposed on the island by the United States), from Pedro Albizu Campos and the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party to the activists who took over the Statue of Liberty, have kept the issue of Boricua identity in the minds of many like Sotomayor, who wrote her graduate thesis about Luis Muñoz Marin, the former nationalist who went on to become the island’s first elected governor. And the hometown associations that doubled as political organizations — fighting housing discrimination, racism and police brutality — were the first to organize the annual Puerto Rican Day parade that took place last weekend along Fifth Avenue.

Beneath the signs marchers in last Sunday’s parade were holding in support of Sotomayor was the long march of Puerto Rican political history, a history many believe helped raise the judge to the pinnacle of legal and political power as much as her much-lauded personal efforts. “There were many institutions that have helped her (Sotomayor) and many others,” said Angelo Falcon, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

“Different people took different routes to social justice,” said Falcon, who knows Sotomayor and supports her nomination. “She took the legal route, but is still a product of her community.”

Roman, who is around the same age as Sotomayor, agrees. She says she hears the workings of Puerto Rican political struggle in the music heard in Bronxdale since the 50s. “Back then,” said Roman, “even listening to booglaoo and salsa — Spanish language music created in the United States by the children of immigrants — was a statement, an assertion of our history and culture. It was normal for us to listen to it, but, in the larger context of an English-speaking country, it was radical in a way.”

Mision Cumplida Indeed: Salvadorans Inaugurate Funes as They Embark on a Journey Out of Darkness

June 1, 2009

MISION CUMPLIDA

Taken during the celebrations of the historic victory of the FMLN in the recent presidential election, this picture has a power I find hard to describe.

In and of itself, the very simple message hand written on the pancarta -Mission Accomplished: Companeros Fallen in the Struggle- says much about what it took to reach today’s inauguration of Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes. Humble young hands paying homage not to comic book or video game characters, but to heroes from a real-life place: their familia.

The kids in the pic told me that they were there celebrating the life of aunts and uncles who died fighting the Salvadoran government so that they would have a future. In the current context, the sign in the background – “Laboratory, Diagnostic Center”- symbolizes for me the fact that the patient suffering under the cancer of U.S.-sponsored military dictatorship has miraculously improved -and now there’s space for experimentation outside of the rat’s cage of U.S. and corporate domination.

But the clincher for me is the picture’s ciarosucuro effect, the claro-oscuro contrast between the darkness behind the young people, who are the same age as their aunts, uncles and many of the combatants when they fought and died in the 80-‘s and early 90’s, and the light shining on them. The young people are members of the first generation in Salvadoran history that will live free of the darkness of a government dominated by oligarchs and military dictators; The light shining on those kids in the picture has no precedent in either the history of light or the history of children in El Salvador. Mision Cumplida indeed.