Archive for the 'CENTRAL AMERICA' Category

Thoughts On the Decline and Fall of That Most Ignoble of Terms, “Illegal immigrant”

April 2, 2013

AP NO MORE

Today’s stunning  announcement by the Associated Press that it dropped the racist term “Illegal immigrant” from its AP Stylebook, the BIble of  journalistic usage, marks a historic juncture. The history of the decline and fall of the term “illegal immigrant” and it’s derivatives (“Illegals”, “illegal alien” and the like) is one that should be recounted, IMHO.

Firstly, it’s important to understand the long how and the deep what of this collective accomplishment, this latest victory, because victories, including linguistic victories, are one of the defining characteristics of major social movements. One need look no further than  the social and linguistic change engendered by the movements of black power (“N” word, African American), women (“B” word & others), queer communities (“F’ word & others), disabled people (“C” word) and many others. Many, many did indeed work on this and we should all celebrate. In the words of Ivan Roman, former President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which led the fight in the quiet of editorial rooms throughout the country since the late 90’s,

“Thanks to lots of work by a lot of people and more intense work more recently by a certain cluster of folks, it’s finally happened! Kudos!”

Journalists and the poc journalism orgs led and were the most consistent in this fight for many years and that needs to be underscored because it is less-known.

undocumented

Within that most recent “cluster” Ivan mentions, I identify and salute Jose Antonio Vargas & Define American, Oscar Chacon & NALACC, DREAMers, Presente.org, artists, linguists and lots of local, regional and national groups who mounted different initiatives with different outlets in different cities at different times in the past 3.5 years that defined that cluster moment. Of special note are Rinku Sen and the Applied Research Center (ARC) and their Drop the I  Word campaign for the money,  for the full and part-time staffing and for the consistency that, since 2010, carried the campaign to national scale and attention, far and beyond the polite (and sometimes impolite!) conversation of the editorial room.

And I know of no single person who spent more time thinking about, who worked more hours (slept fewer hours!) with more groups in more cities and with more media outlets to drop the I-Word than Monica Novoa, ARC’s former Drop the I-Word Coordinator, current Define American team member;  These facts I want not to be lost in the thrill and buzz of victory.

monica_novoa_CLdrop the i word

In terms of the deep what of what was accomplished, we should recall that the roots of the Associated Press’ decision-and the campaign that brought that decision- lie  in the history  and confluence of the Jewish and the Salvadoran experiences of violence- and the dehumanization that enables it. Unbeknownst to most is that the language activism of  Drop the I-Word and the immigrant rights movement that informed it was itself a continuation of the work begun- en Español-  by Salvadorans organizing the “Nigun Ser Humano Es Ilegal”campaign in the 1980’s. In support of the right of Salvadorans in the 1980’s to legal status in the U.S. under international political asylum statutes, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Elie Wiesel gave the Salvadoran sanctuary movement the now storied phrase, “No Human Being is Illegal.” “Yes, I gave that term to the Sanctuary movement, Wiesel told me some years ago. “It was wrong to deny them (Salvadorans and Guatemalans) (legal) status. I was happy to support the cause.” And there,  in the marriage of Jewish and Salvadoran dignities, was born the beginning of the end of the ignoble term “illegal immigrant.”

vallen_no_human_illegal

Speaking with Wiesel and with Salvadorans, Guatemalans and other victims of extreme violence, one thing about language becomes tragically obvious: violent, oppressive language is a necessary precursor to both violent, oppressive policy and violent, oppressive physical and psychological action; What also becomes clear is that eliminating such language does, in fact, make bad policy and violent behavior that much more difficult and avoidable. This alone is reason to celebrate.

Let us now add this ignoble term to the dustbin of dead and offensive language that includes “nigger”, “faggot”, “cripple”, “chink”, “jap”, “bitch” and too many others in a country born of a noxious blend of Biblical language and the language of exploitation and officially-sanctioned violence.

Let us rejoice that, over time, our children will learn you don’t refer to human beings as “illegals”, “illegal immigrants” and other dehumanizing (to referent and to speaker) terms.

Over time, we will all proudly remember that we held our own faith and were resolute in delivering the Word: Ningun Ser Humano Es Illegal.

DREAMers: Undocumented Youth Turn Images into Political Acts

December 20, 2012

butterfly_inline

by Roberto Lovato

(A Creative Time Reports and Culture Strike collaboration)

On a recent Friday in the nation’s capital, visitors to the U.S. Capitol, the White House, and other white-walled centers of global power dotting the National Mall stood beneath sunny autumn skies papered with colorful dreams. Literally. Thanks to a collaboration between artists and DREAM Act activists (aka “DREAMers”), images of faces representing millions of undocumented youth gleamed on kites in the upper echelons of Washington. Their stories have come to the forefront of a national immigration debate that, until recently, excluded them.

Writing in the same unequivocal tone that forced President Obama to grant DREAMers a temporary, but historic, stay of deportation, the organizers of the Dream Kites project declared its simple objective: “to highlight a flawed system and request that we turn our attention onto the current state of inadequate immigration reform.” With the help of artist Miguel Luciano and Culture Strike, an organization bringing artists and activists together in the U.S. immigration debate, images of Dream Kites glided onto the front page of the Washington Post, along with the stories behind them.

The kite action reflects how the wings of artistic and political imagination are helping the immigrant rights movement grow beyond the multimillion-dollar policy designs of national immigrant rights groups. The latter have remained largely uncritical of President Obama, even as he has deported 1.4 million immigrants (including many DREAMers), a record for a single term in office. On the eve of another national debate about immigration reform, artist-enabled people power has found new ways to soar above the money-enabled Powers from Above.

My current understanding of the role of culture and cultural workers in immigrant rights and other social movements has its roots in Latin America, the source of most human and butterfly migration to the U.S. It was in El Salvador—the tropical, forested land of my parents—that, after graduating college, I first came to know the Tree of the (Cultural) Knowledge of Good and Evil. Slowly, my time in El Salvador withered away my former college radical’s cold aversion to protest songs, to poetry, to the delicate stencils of the talleres culturales (“cultural workshops”) there as no more than the work of revolucionarios de escritorio (“desktop revolutionaries”). I developed an altogether different sense of the political and the cultural—and the transformative, silken space between them. I learned how words could be liberating, but also dangerous. After government, media or right-wing civil society groups eviscerated the humanity of nuns, priests, peasants or students by labeling them comunistas or subversivos, they sometimes ended up being persecuted or killed.

Cultural struggles to preserve, protect and promote the humanity of all—like those of the butterfly-bearing activists—have been and remain paramount to disrupting the violence of state and non-state actors: psychological violence, physical violence and the violence of bad policy. In the face of such abuse, artists have often been the earliest adopters of the call by rights activists to see immigrants for what they are: human. It was novelist and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, a conservative, who gave the Central American refugee movement what became the international slogan of immigrant rights: “No Human Being Is Illegal.” Since he spoke these words, more left-leaning artists have reproduced “No Human Being Is Illegal” and other pro-migrant memes and messages in rap lyrics, digital images, t-shirts, posters, poems, films, chalk drawings and many other media.

Some 25 years and several local, national and global campaigns after I made the “hard” distinction between the “concrete” work of “real” political organizing and what I saw as the more ancillary work of artists, creative interventions like the kite action have turned me into a cultural believer. Of special note is the symbol of the butterfly, a new face for the immigrant rights movement. As a bearer of beauty symbolizing the life force (the Greek word for butterfly is “Psyche,” also meaning “soul”), the butterfly appeals to everyone’s humanity at a time when the dehumanization of immigrants fuels multimillion-dollar industries in lobbying, media, electoral politics, prison construction, border and other security industries.

I recently witnessed the symbolic flight of the political butterfly during a misty exam week at UC Berkeley. Students rushing in and out of the Life Sciences building were momentarily startled out of their concentration by an image of a blue and white butterfly with the word “MIGRANT,” and the phrases “All Humans Have a Right to Migrate” and “All Migrants Have Human Rights,” drawn in chalk. “Don’t step on it! It’s art,” said one student to her classmates. Another student, a 20-year-old political science major named Andrea Lahey, said: “You can’t really argue with the message because being human is not controversial—we’re all human.” Hours later, the DREAMer butterfly was washed away by evening rain. But, like the colored dust left by the pollen-covered wings of a butterfly, the DREAMers’ image had already made its mark, turning the prosaic activity of walking to and from science class into a poetico-political act.

Forcing the country to face social issues through cultural interventions is especially critical for a grassroots U.S. immigrant rights movement, given that none of the “leaders” of the Washington-based immigrant rights groups with national media clout is an immigrant. That’s right: none. This is one reason why it is so important to stage protests with powerful images of immigrants and symbols of migration: for example, displaying digitized DREAMer posters that depict butterflies yelling “Our Voices Will Not Go Unheard” into a megaphone, or more directly, getting undocumented writer José Antonio Vargas, undocumented artist Julio Salgado and other DREAMers on the cover of Time magazine under the heading “We Are Americans.”

obamaPOSTER7

Artists will need precisely this kind of political imagination to confront the extraordinary and unprecedented challenges facing immigrants. By working together, artists and activists have exposed Barack Obama as the worst U.S. president ever in terms of persecuting, jailing and deporting—and, I would argue, terrorizing—mostly innocent immigrants, including children. Washington-based artist César Maxit’s powerful image of a sinister-looking Obama accompanying the message “1,000,000 Deportations. Ya Basta! No More! Obama: Stop the Deportations” took big risks that paid off. The image became iconic, appearing in national newscasts, mass protests, online videos and other media as it went viral, despite disapproval from Obama’s powerful allies within the immigrant rights movement. In the process of putting potent and uncompromising images before the public, DREAMer and other immigrant activists and artists have redefined the relationship between Latinos and both major parties.

As we enter a super storm of intersecting and rapidly growing global crises—economic decline, food shortages, climate change, etc.—that are leading migrants to embark on their often-breathtaking journeys, the truth-telling work of artists and cultural activists has taken a definitive turn. Foregrounding immigrant beauty, immigrant freedom and immigrant solidarity in order to disarticulate the myths manufactured by the anti-immigrant industries, as the Dream Kites and butterflies do, is still vitally important. But, because of the astonishing confluence and complexity of these crises, engaged artists must not only fight dehumanization but also craft a constructive path towards the social equilibrium necessary to decimate anti-immigrant hatred everywhere. Through the storm, the perilous flight to freedom continues.

Healing the Hurt of War and Violence: Guatemalan Government Apologizes for US-Sponsored Coup of 1954

October 21, 2011

Huge spiritual news from Guatemala. Today’s New York Times reports that

More than a half-century after Guatemala’s elected president Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown in a coup planned by the C.I.A. and forced into a wandering exile, President Alvaro Colom apologized on Thursday for what he called a “great crime.”

While much of the media adopted the ‘too little, too late’ theme in their headlines ( NYT-An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later, BBC’-Guatemala ‘sorry’ for Arbenz coup) I actually saw this story and thought “What a colossally great thing!”  “Great” because, for anyone that has some sense of the staying power of violence-induced trauma in Guatemala and other Central American countries during the wars of the 1980’s, it’s obvious that today’s apology represents a colossal contribution to the necessary  healing of the collective psychic wounds of war & violence. The apology institutionalizes and attacks directly the erasure of memory that keeps these psychic wounds of war and violence perpetually festering. Makes one look (momentarily) past the political calculations that likely inform this move by the failed left (allegedly) government of President Colom.

Nonetheless, this is psychically huge for un pais tan sufrido like Guatemala.

As important is that the United States respond to former President Jacobo Arbenz, who, after the coup, declared “Here started the injustice and I [call on] the United States to recognize their errors.” The US sponsored the military and deployed the CIA in the political and human tragedy that followed the coup:systematic assassinations, disappearances, torture and other crimes against humanity. The US government should follow the lead of the Guatemalan government with a formal apology to the Guatemalan people for its Definitive role in the 54 coup-and its bloody laundry list of crimes against humanity in Guatemala (and throughout the world) One Fine Day.

Still, I join my Guatemalan friends in celebrating this victory of Truth over Amnesia…

Of América’s Anthem: Latinoamérica by Calle 13

September 30, 2011

 

For those of you that haven't heard it, this song by the ever-incisive 
Calle 13, speaks to the sensibilities-cultural, political, visionary- that 
inform this blog. Check out the lyrics (below) as you play the vid. One thing 
i would add: include those of us in the new country we're
giving birth to-the United States of América.

Latinoamérica

Soy,
Soy lo que dejaron,
soy toda la sobra de lo que se robaron.
Un pueblo escondido en la cima,
mi piel es de cuero por eso aguanta cualquier clima.
Soy una fábrica de humo,
mano de obra campesina para tu consumo
Frente de frio en el medio del verano,
el amor en los tiempos del cólera, mi hermano.
El sol que nace y el día que muere,
con los mejores atardeceres.
Soy el desarrollo en carne viva,
un discurso político sin saliva.
Las caras más bonitas que he conocido,
soy la fotografía de un desaparecido.
Soy la sangre dentro de tus venas,
soy un pedazo de tierra que vale la pena.
soy una canasta con frijoles ,
soy Maradona contra Inglaterra anotándote dos goles.
Soy lo que sostiene mi bandera,
la espina dorsal del planeta es mi cordillera.
Soy lo que me enseño mi padre,
el que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre.
Soy América latina,
un pueblo sin piernas pero que camina.

Tú no puedes comprar al viento.
Tú no puedes comprar al sol.
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia.
Tú no puedes comprar el calor.
Tú no puedes comprar las nubes.
Tú no puedes comprar los colores.
Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría.
Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores.

Tengo los lagos, tengo los ríos.
Tengo mis dientes pa` cuando me sonrío.
La nieve que maquilla mis montañas.
Tengo el sol que me seca  y la lluvia que me baña.
Un desierto embriagado con bellos de un trago de pulque.
Para cantar con los coyotes, todo lo que necesito.
Tengo mis pulmones respirando azul clarito.
La altura que sofoca.
Soy las muelas de mi boca mascando coca.
El otoño con sus hojas desmalladas.
Los versos escritos bajo la noche estrellada.
Una viña repleta de uvas.
Un cañaveral bajo el sol en cuba.
Soy el mar Caribe que vigila las casitas,
Haciendo rituales de agua bendita.
El viento que peina mi cabello.
Soy todos los santos que cuelgan de mi cuello.
El jugo de mi lucha no es artificial,
Porque el abono de mi tierra es natural.

Tú no puedes comprar al viento.
Tú no puedes comprar al sol.
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia.
Tú no puedes comprar el calor.
Tú no puedes comprar las nubes.
Tú no puedes comprar los colores.
Tú no puedes comprar mi alegría.
Tú no puedes comprar mis dolores.

Você não pode comprar o vento
Você não pode comprar o sol
Você não pode comprar chuva
Você não pode comprar o calor
Você não pode comprar as nuvens
Você não pode comprar as cores
Você não pode comprar minha felicidade
Você não pode comprar minha tristeza

Tú no puedes comprar al sol.
Tú no puedes comprar la lluvia.
(Vamos dibujando el camino,
vamos caminando)
No puedes comprar mi vida.
MI TIERRA NO SE VENDE.

Trabajo en bruto pero con orgullo,
Aquí se comparte, lo mío es tuyo.
Este pueblo no se ahoga con marullos,
Y si se derrumba yo lo reconstruyo.
Tampoco pestañeo cuando te miro,
Para q te acuerdes de mi apellido.
La operación cóndor invadiendo mi nido,
¡Perdono pero nunca olvido!

(Vamos caminando)
Aquí se respira lucha.
(Vamos caminando)
Yo canto porque se escucha.

Aquí estamos de pie
¡Que viva Latinoamérica!

No puedes comprar mi vida.

Our Man In Honduras

July 22, 2009

Our Man In Honduras

war

“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is” says Robert White, president of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, during a recent interview, “you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis.”

Davis, an ally of the Clinton family who is best known as the lawyer who defended Bill during the presidential impeachment proceedings, was recently on Capitol Hill lobbying members of Congress and testifying against exiled President Manuel Zelaya before the House Foreign Relations Committee. White, who previously served as the United States ambassador to El Salvador, thought that such information about Davis’ clients would be “very difficult to find.”

But the answer proved easy to find. Davis, a partner at the law firm Orrick, Herring, & Sutcliffe, openly named them — and his clients are the same powerful Hondurans behind the military coup.

“My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America” said Davis when reached at his office last Thursday. “I do not represent the government and do not talk to President [Roberto] Micheletti. My main contacts are Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law,” said Davis. Atala, Canahuati, and other families that own the corporate interests represented by Davis and the CEAL are at the top of an economic pyramid in which 62 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.

For many Hondurans and Honduras watchers, the confirmation that Davis is working with powerful, old Honduran families like the Atalas and Canahuatis is telling: To them, it proves that Davis serves the powerful business interests that ran, repressed and ruined Honduras during the decades prior to the leftward turn of the Zelaya presidency.

“No coup just happens because some politicians and military men decide one day to simply take over” says White upon hearing who Davis is working for “Coups happen because very wealthy people want them and help to make them happen, people who are used to seeing the country as a money machine and suddenly see social legislation on behalf of the poor as a threat to their interests. The average wage of a worker in free trade zones is 77 cents per hour.”

“The tragedy” adds White, “is that the Canahuatis and the Atalas and the other big businesspeople don’t understand that it’s in their best interest to help to do things like help people make a decent living, reduce unemployment and raise the minimum wage.”

Davis disagrees. He believes that the tragedy of Honduras lies with Zelaya and that the president brought the coup upon himself. “It is an undisputed fact that Mr. Zelaya has violated the constitution. It’s my job to get the facts out.”

Asked if he had qualms about representing business people linked to a coup government denounced and unrecognized by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and many countries across the globe (including the United States), Davis responded, “There are facts about Mr. Zelaya that the world community may not be aware of. I’m proud to represent clients who support the decision of Secretary of State Clinton to back the mediation of President Arias in the conflict [between Zelaya and coup leaders]. But my biggest concern is safety and security of the Honduran people.”

Davis is not the only one concerned about the safety and security the Honduran people. The Committee of Families of Disappeared-Detainees in Honduras (COFADEH), a non-governmental human rights organization, released a report last week documenting over 1,100 human rights violations — arbitrary detentions, physical assaults, murders, and attacks on the media by the government and affiliated clandestine forces — that have occurred since the coup began on June 28.

COFADEH has also placed responsibility for the coup and the terror it has wrought directly on many of the founders of the Alliance for Progress and Development of Honduras (APROH), a predecessor of CEAL. Though now defunct, APROH brought together some of the same business and military interests that compose the political and economic hub of Honduran’s radical right, including the Canahuatis, Atalas and other CEAL families and businesses represented by Davis.

The CEAL predecessor’s track record on human rights has been less than stellar. In 1983, Honduras’ El Tiempo newspaper leaked an internal APROH document that recommended a military solution to problems in Honduras — and the rest of Central America — to Ronald Reagan’s Kissinger Commission, a bipartisan committee charged with formulating U.S. policy in the region. Perhaps more damning, APROH is considered by COFADEH and other human rights organizations as the eminence grise behind the death squad killings conducted by the infamous “Batallion 316” in the 1980s.

Upon hearing Davis’ statements, Jose Luis Galdamez, a journalist for Radio Globo, laughs. “Mr. Davis is either ignorant of Honduras or is knowingly bloodying his name and that of the Clintons for lots of money,” he says. Galdamez recently went into hiding after members of the armed forces and paramilitary organizations harassed him and his colleagues. The military raided his radio station, beat workers there and threatened them for working at one of the few independent media outlets willing to “report about what’s actually happening in Honduras,” says Galdamez.

“I wish Mr. Davis would come here where I’m hiding so I can show him what it’s like to feel threatened not just by [de facto Honduran President] Micheletti and the military, but by the Canahautis and other groups of power he represents,” says Galdamez.

Galdamez, Gilda Rivera of the Center for Women’s Rights, and others interviewed for this story fear that, in hiring Clinton ally Davis, Canahuati, Atala and CEAL are using the liberal sheen of the Democratic party to divert attention from the dark history behind the current Honduran coup.

“The rich simply send you out to kill you and then kill with impunity. They never investigate into who killed who because the groups in power control the media, control the judiciary and now control the government again,” says Galdamez. “Mr. Davis is trying to legitimize people who use psychological intimidation and violence. He’s representing the interests of state terror.”

In a recent statement denouncing the coup, COFADEH described its backers as “the same group that in the 1980s was known as Alliance for Progress and Development of Honduras, which maintains its terror thru death squads.” The COFADEH report documents four cases of extra-judicial killings, including the July 5 shooting of 19 year-old Isis Obed Murillo, captured in a graphic video subsequently posted on YouTube.

Asked about human rights violations by the Micheletti government, Davis again places the onus for the current crisis on Zelaya. “I researched the facts on what occurred during the presidency of Mr. Zelaya. Mr. Zelaya led mob violence and you can see that on a YouTube video.”

When pressed about the grisly footage of the shooting of 19 year-old Isis Murillo, Davis responded, “Is there a video of the shooters? We need to know the facts.” He added, “If you can show me facts proving that my clients are involved in violations of civil liberties, I’ll resign.”

(This article appeared originally in the American Prospect, http://www.prospect.org)

Honduran Women at Forefront of Resistance to Coup

July 22, 2009

http://orhpositivo.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/20090628elpepuint_91.jpg

Honduran Women at Forefront of Resistance to Coup

New America Media, Interview, Roberto Lovato, Posted: Jul 22, 2009

Editor’s Note: For more than a week, Honduran women’s groups backed by more than 5,000 other activists led a takeover of the National Institute of Women (INMU) to protesting the appointment of a coup supporter as director of the organization. NAM contributing editor Roberto Lovato spoke by phone to Gilda Rivera, one of the leaders of the uprising, about the role of women and women’s organizations in the Honduran crisis. Rivera is the director of the Honduran Center for Women’s Rights (CDM).

Q: What motivated you and other women to take over the INMU?

At the center of the coup crisis here in Honduras is fundamentalism – fundamentalist religion, fundamentalist military and fundamentalist business. These are the powers behind the coup, and they also represent the greatest threat to women and women’s rights. They want to cut any and all advances made by women.

This threat is being made concrete by the appointment of coup supporter Maria Martha Díaz Velásquez to head the INMU. We’ve taken this building because we cannot allow the illegitimate government to start pushing its program on women. And we have solidarity of many other sectors that have joined us.

Q: What role are women playing in the opposition to the coup and why don’t we hear more about this participation?

From the very beginning, women have been protagonists in the opposition (to the coup). The main sources of information in the country are owned and run by the backers of the coup.

Of course, you don’t see this in the media reports because the media will only show right wing women in a positive way. If they are depicted at all, before and after the coup women acting on behalf of women in Honduras are depicted in the most negative way as communists, as haters of family.

Q: What is the current situation facing women in opposition to the coup?

Repression increases. Our organization and others have documented more than 1,000 human rights violations in the weeks since the coup started. The [Roberto] Micheletti government and the military are chasing people and going into their homes, including many women’s – they’re restricting movement [of people].

Q: Is your organization being affected and if so, how?

Our offices are being surveilled. Members of our organization have been threatened. The radio show of our organization was taken off the air because it’s considered a threat. Other women’s organizations have also been attacked.

Q: And how is this impacting women in general?

These represent attacks not just on us, but on women in general. Fundamentalist Christian and Catholic church leaders are frontal enemies of women. For years, evangelicals like Vice Chancellor Marta Lorena Alvarado have pushed to oppress women. They have stopped birth control and AIDS prevention programs, closed sex education programs and generally promote a very traditional role for women at home and at work. And in a country run by the military and the oligarchs, who benefits from keeping women in a subservient role?

Q: What should women in the United States know about the situation you and other women in Honduras face?

Women and men in the United States should know that we women in Honduras are standing strong. They should know that we do not think your government or any other government should recognize or deal with illegitimate governments like this one. Nobody should be negotiating with coup leaders. Your government plays a key role and must do more to isolate the coup government. And conservative religious and business groups from here are trying to build support for the coup among their peers in your country.

Q: How are you planning to follow up on the INMU action?

We took over the INMU in order to show that women are angry and active about what is taking place in our country, and we’re still angry. We’re going to continue taking to the streets and will continue resisting until President Zelaya, the democratically elected of the country, is reinstated.

We do not dialogue with sectors supporting the coup. We will continue mobilizations. We are launching national forums to discuss and debate about the coup. Our organization and others are monitoring human rights violations. Many groups are considering a general strike.

Thousands of women have taken to the streets and participated in acts of denunciation. Women have contributed and will continue to contribute to the democratic process of Honduras.

Honduras’ El Libertador Puts Faces-and Names- on “Los Golpistas”, coup ring leaders: BIG BUSINESS

July 21, 2009

El Libertador

image

Considering the repressive conditions under which it was published, this statement by El Libertador demonstrates courage on a scale little known to most. In it, the editors name the names and show the faces of those they believe are the true power behind the coup-powered Micheletti regime in Honduras.

As the Obama Administration starts considering its next steps inl ight of the impending failure of its Arias-led negotiations, some are already calling for tougher measures, measures applied to other regimes, measures like denying the visas and freezing the bank accounts of those found to be both financing and benefiting from state terror as if the government aparatus is some kind of repressive slot machine. Some will probably see the Libertador’s list as a list of whose bank accounts to start freezing, whose visas to revoke.

You can read the statement in its entirety below.

These are the Coup Leaders, They Will be Judged!

(Editorial by the daily El Libertador of Honduras)

These are the coup leaders: 1) Carlos Flores Facussé; 2) Rafael Leonardo Callejas; 3) Cardenal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez; 4) Adolfo Facussé; 5) Armida de López Contreras; 6) Schucry Kafie; 7) Elvin Santos; 8) Emilio Larach; 9) Enrique Ortez Colindres; 10) Pastor Evelio Reyes; 11) Felícito Ávila; 12) José Alfredo Saavedra; 13) Jorge Canahuati; 14) Jorge Yllescas; 15) Juan Ferrera; 16) Juan Ramón Martínez; 17) Carlos López Contreras; 18) Billy Joya; 19) Ana Abarca; 20) Rafael Ferrari; 21) Juan José Pineda; 22) Vilma Morales; 23) Marcia Villeda; 24) Renato Álvarez; 25) Ramón Custodio; 26) Rafael Pineda Ponce; 27) Olban Valladares; 28) Pastor Oswaldo Canales; 29) Ricardo Maduro; 30) Romeo Vásquez Velásquez; 31) Porfirio Lobo Sosa; 32) Ricardo Álvarez; 33) Antonio Rivera; 34) Guillermo Pérez Cadalso; 35) Mauricio Villeda; 36) María Martha Díaz; 37) Antonio Tavel Otero; 38) Luis Rubí; 39) Toribio Aguilera; 40) Ramón Velásquez Nassar; 41) Elán Reyes Pineda; 42) Luz Ernestina Mejía; 43) Martha Lorena Casco; 44) Rodolfo Irías Navas; 45) Rigoberto Chang Castillo; 46) Mirna Castro; 47) Gabriela Núñez; 48) Hugo Llorens.

1. All of these people used their positions to plot, cause, or finance the breakdown of constitutional order with the kidnapping and extradition of President Zelaya, which culminated in the coup.

2.  They are directly responsible for the deaths, injuries, imprisonment, and the unease imposed upon Honduran society; they have destroyed democracy and ruined Honduras’ image nationally and internationally.

3.  The coup leaders reactivated the anti-terrorist and anti-communist organization called the Alliance for Honduras’ Progress (APROH), which operated in the 1980s.  Their greed and lack of culture prevented them from understanding that the people are free to choose the political and ideological system that will offer them security and well-being.

Tegucigapla.  This time their names and faces will go down in history, and Hondurans and citizens of the world will remember them.  They will be judged by society and by national and international courts.

The coup plotters utilized variations on the mechanisms that the Alliance for Honduras’ Progress (APROH) used in the 1980s.  Under the guise of a business organization, it hid clear political doctrine of “low-intensity war against those who opposed the repression of the Sandinista government and against social discontent in Honduras.  United States intelligence financed the organization through the Moon sect.”

“Industrious Businessmen”

Nothing particularly “suspicious” is written in the APROH’s statutes.  A group of businessmen got together to study their problems, with a project to assist other sectors.  The economic model that the associates defended was clear: they advocated laissez faire policies with few mechanisms of control and with many mechanisms to maximize profits.

The associates were required to “guard the confidentiality of the documents and information that they acquired through their participation in APROH activities and that divulging this information could cause harm to its members. [sic]

In the beginning of 1983, soon after its founding, APROH didn’t draw attention to itself.  It was seen as a new attempt to bring together Honduras’ most conservative sectors.  In November of that year, the newspaper “Tiempo” published one of those confidential “documents:” APROH was recommending to the Kissinger Commission, through a personal friend and aid to Kissinger, a military solution for Central America.

Yesterday and Today’s Truth

Military fascism found its place in APROH–then in Gen. Alvarez, the president of that organization, and now [Gen.] Romeo Vasquez.  As now, it was comprised of the country’s far-right business class, although in reality more than being ideological they are corrupt businessmen who have gotten rich because they determine what happens or not in the country.  They are the eternal scroungers who live off financial subsidies, they are the ones who obtain concessions and million-dollar debt forgiveness from the state.  They are the ones who finance and control the political parties and use their influence to have power in the National Congress and in the courts. In short, they are the ones who have the country trapped and don’t allow the advancement of other businessmen and marginalize the people because for them it’s business as usual that they remain ignorant and hungry.  It’s easy for them to manipulate them with the corporate media, as they are doing with this coup.

At the end of 1983, [there was] a rumor that the United States embassy was concerned about what it saw as the consolidation of a pressure group within the country that was very conservative and very vulnerable to criticism, as is the case now.  The coup leaders are once again a problem for the United States.  Then, the APROH was dormant for many years, but it awoke on the morning of June 28, 2009, to carry out its work: overthrow the President, manipulate through the corporate media, extra-judicial executions that no one will know about, repression, and psychological war in order to confuse people.

Who Were the Members?

Gen. Gustavo Alvares was the boss, the man in charge of APROH.  Rafael Leonardo Callejas admitted that when he was the APROH’s Secretary of Student and Worker Affairs–which hoists the flag of anti-communism–he worked so that Osawlado Ramos Soto would be the rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH).

The Moon Sect, a well-known religious organization, collaborated with this organization.

The APROH was created by Álvarez Martínez during the Roberto Suazo Córdova administration as the precursor to the Security Doctrine and responsible for dozens of political assassinations and disappearances in the country.  José Rafael Ferrari, Miguel Facussé, Fernando Casanova, Rigoberto Espinal Irías, Benjamín Villanueva and ex-union leaders Andrés Víctor Artiles and Mariano González were also members.

Osmond Maduro, brother of the ex-president and coup leader Ricardo Maduro Joest, was also a member, [as well as] national and international bankers; textile and chemical industry, agribusiness, and television barons; and the technocrats.  All of them were represented in the APROH.

Now look on this page at the coup leaders; they are members of the new APROH.  There is no difference between them and those of the past.  Some of them are even the same: Miguel Facussé, Rafael Leonardo Callejas y José Rafael Ferrari.

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Know the “Brainwashing Codewords” the Coup Leaders Use to Manipulate Hondurans

The coup leaders’ fierce psychological war waged through their corporate media, which are the driving force behind media in this country, reproduces codes of mass manipulation of the population’s mind.  For example, it is legal to kidnap the President, because he is Chavez’s friend.  Micheletti is good, because he hates Fidel and Daniel and Chavez.

by El Libertador

Tegucigalpa.  The brainwashing the coup leaders use as its prototype of Honduran democracy can be decoded as seeing what’s bad as good, illegal as legal, and the usurper as necessary because he loves the country.

The coup as a “constitutional succession” and the hatred of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Fidel Castro justifies a breakdown of the rule of law and the soldiers’ savagery against protesters who demand a return to constitutional order.  Those who seek the path of a country where the law is respected are rabble-rousers and vandals, and those who support the dictatorship dress in white because they are pure. They are patriots because they sing the national anthem and demand democracy, which is the same as defending Micheletti because he shares the desire for peace and harmony in Honduras.  Many are incapable of understanding that this is how the masses are manipulated by means of the method known as “fool catchers.”  Others who have weak minds belong to families that have gotten rich off of the misery of the majority of the population.

The Democracy Code According to the Coup Leaders:

Democracy = no Chavez-no Fidel-no Ortega;

Democracy = the rich are innocent, the poor are guilty;

Democracy = Yes to he who breaks the law for our own good, no to Mel who breaks the law for the good. [sic]

Democracy = I support Micheletti and I am a peacemaker, you support Mel and you break windows;

Democracy = I love the Cardinal, you forget our father (and you offend the cardinal);

Democracy = corrupt, more or Zelaya [sic], but hate Chavez and hate Fidel [sic]

Democracy = Kidnapping Mel is good, opposition’s bloodshed is good and repression is good, communism is bad.  Mel is a communist.  The coup leaders don’t respect life nor the law because the protect us from bad.

Democracy = Mel is dangerous because of Chavez, Daniel, and Fidel.  Micheletti only seeks the good for everyone.  Micheletti is good, Mel is bad.

Democracy = Chavez and Fidel want to impose strange ideologies on Hondurans.  Mel is Chavez and Fidel’s friend, to loathe Mel, Chavez, and Fidel is good because we are Hondurans.

Source: Popol Nah Foundation for Local Development

¡Estos son los golpistas, el soberano juzgará!

Estos son los golpistas: 1) Carlos Flores Facussé; 2) Rafael Leonardo Callejas; 3) Cardenal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez; 4) Adolfo Facussé; 5) Armida de López Contreras; 6) Schucry Kafie; 7) Elvin Santos; 8) Emilio Larach; 9) Enrique Ortez Colindres; 10) Pastor Evelio Reyes; 11) Felícito Ávila; 12) José Alfredo Saavedra; 13) Jorge Canahuati; 14) Jorge Yllescas; 15) Juan Ferrera; 16) Juan Ramón Martínez; 17) Carlos López Contreras; 18) Billy Joya; 19) Ana Abarca; 20) Rafael Ferrari; 21) Juan José Pineda; 22) Vilma Morales; 23) Marcia Villeda; 24) Renato Álvarez; 25) Ramón Custodio; 26) Rafael Pineda Ponce; 27) Olban Valladares; 28) Pastor Oswaldo Canales; 29) Ricardo Maduro; 30) Romeo Vásquez Velásquez; 31) Porfirio Lobo Sosa; 32) Ricardo Álvarez; 33) Antonio Rivera; 34) Guillermo Pérez Cadalso; 35) Mauricio Villeda; 36) María Martha Díaz; 37) Antonio Tavel Otero; 38) Luis Rubí; 39) Toribio Aguilera; 40) Ramón Velásquez Nassar; 41) Elán Reyes Pineda; 42) Luz Ernestina Mejía; 43) Martha Lorena Casco; 44) Rodolfo Irías Navas; 45) Rigoberto Chang Castillo; 46) Mirna Castro; 47) Gabriela Núñez; 48) Hugo Llorens.

1 Cada una de estas personas desde su posición maquinó, motivó o financió la ruptura del orden constitucional con el secuestro y extradición del Presidente Zelaya, consumando así el golpe de Estado.

2 Son responsables directos de los muertos, heridos, encarcelados y de la zozobra impuesta a la sociedad hondureña; son los que destruyeron la democracia y la imagen del país en el ámbito nacional e internacional.

3 Los golpistas reactivaron la organización antiterrorista y anticomunista que funcionó en la década de 1980 llamada Alianza para el Progreso de Honduras (APROH). La falta de cultura y avaricia les impide razonar que los pueblos son libres de elegir el sistema político e ideológico que le ofrezca seguridad y bienestar.

Redacción / EL LIBERTADOR

Tegucigalpa. Esta vez los nombres y los rostros quedarán para siempre para que la historia y los hondureños y el mundo los conozca, y sean llevados al juzgado de la sanción moral de los ciudadanos y a los tribunales de justicia nacionales e internacionales.

Los urdidores del golpe de Estado contra Zelaya pusieron en marcha una variante de la maquinaria que en la década de 1980 utilizó la Alianza para el Progreso de Honduras (APROH) que bajo un disfraz aparentemente empresarial, pero debajo escondía líneas políticas doctrinarias claras de “guerra de baja intensidad contra los opositores a la represión contra el gobierno sandinista y el descontento social en Honduras. El financiamiento de la organización lo trasladaba la inteligencia de Estados Unidos a través de la secta Moon”.

“EMPRESARIOS LABORIOSOS”

En los estatutos de APROH no aparece nada especialmente “sospechoso”. Un grupo de empresarios se asocian para estudiar sus problemas, con una proyección asistencial hacia otros sectores. El modelo económico que defendían asociados era claro: presionar por políticas de libre empresa con escasos mecanismos de control y con múltiples mecanismos para maximizar la ganancia.

A los socios se les exigía “guardar la debida confidencialidad sobre los documentos o informaciones que conocieran mediante su participación en las actividades de APROH y que la divulgación pudiera causarles perjuicios a sus miembros.

Recién creada, en el primer semestre de 1983, APROH no llamó la atención de nadie. Se veía como un nuevo intento de cohesionar a los sectores más conservadores de Honduras. En noviembre de ese año, diario “Tiempo” publicó uno de esos “documentos” de uso interno: APROH recomendaba a la Comisión Kissinger, a través de un amigo personal y asesor de éste, la solución militar para Centroamérica.

LA VERDAD DE AYER Y HOY

Rata.gifEn APROH se reúnen el fascismo militar que representaba en aquel entonces el general Álvarez -presidente de la Asociación y, ahora Romeo Vásquez. Estaba integrada como ahora por la ultraderecha empresarial del país, aunque en verdad más que ideología son empresarios corruptos enriquecidos porque lo se hace o no en el país lo determinan ellos. Son los eternos vividores de prebendas fiscales, son los que obtienen concesiones y perdones de deudas millonarias con el Estado. Son los que financian y controlan a los partidos políticos e influyen para colocar sus cuadros en el Congreso Nacional y en el Poder Judicial. En suma, son los que tienen atrapado el país y niegan la superación a otros empresarios y marginan al pueblo porque para ellos es negocio que siga ignorante y con hambre, así les resulta fácil manipularlo con sus medios de comunicación como pasa en este momento con el golpe de Estado.

A fines de 1983, los rumores sobre la preocupación con que la embajada de Estados Unidos veía el consolidamiento de un grupo de presión tan conservador y tan vulnerable a la crítica al interior del país, igual que ahora, los golpistas se han vuelto un problema para los mismos Estados Unidos. Entonces la APROH fue dormida por muchos años, pero la despertaron en la madrugada del 28 de junio de 2009 para consumar su trabajo: botar al Presidente, manipular a través de los medios de comunicación, ejecuciones extra judiciales que nadie sabrá, represión a propios y extraños y guerra sicológica para confundir al pueblo.

¿QUIÉNES ERAN LOS MIEMBROS?

El general Gustavo Alvares era el jefe, el hombre a la cabeza de la APROH, Rafael Leonardo Callejas reconoció que cuando era secretario de asuntos obreros y estudiantiles de la Aproh –que enarbolaba la bandera del anticomunismo, se impulsó a Oswaldo Ramos Soto para que llegara a la rectoría de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH).

Es de señalar que la APROH fue creada en el gobierno de Roberto Suazo Córdova por Álvarez Martínez, máximo precursor de la Doctrina de Seguridad y responsable de decenas de asesinatos y desapariciones políticas en el país.

Esta organización contaba con la colaboración de la “Secta Moon”, una organización religiosa conocida en todo el mundo.

Es de señalar que la Aproh fue creada en el gobierno de Roberto Suazo Córdova por Álvarez Martínez, máximo precursor de la Doctrina de Seguridad y responsable de decenas de asesinatos y desapariciones políticas en el país. En la Aproh también estaban José Rafael Ferrari, Miguel Facussé, Fernando Casanova, Rigoberto Espinal Irías, Benjamín Villanueva y los ex dirigentes sindicales Andrés Víctor Artiles y Mariano González.

Esta organización también tenía entre sus miembros a Osmond Maduro, hermano del ex Presidente y golpista Ricardo Maduro Joest. Los personajes de la banca nacional y extranjera, los de las industrias química y textil, los de la agroindustria y la televisión y los de la tecnocracia. Todos estaban representados en APROH.

Ahora usted mire en esta página a los golpistas más representativos, son los miembros de la nueva APROH. No hay diferencia con los del pasado, es más, algunos son los mismos: Miguel Facussé, Rafael Leonardo Callejas y José Rafael Ferrari.

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Conozca el “código de palabras lava cerebros”

de golpistas para manipular a los hondureños

La feroz guerra sicológica de los golpistas a través de sus medios de comunicación, que son la mayor fuerza mediática del país, reproduce en la mente de la población códigos de manipulación de masa, por ejemplo, es legal secuestrar al Presidente, porque es amigo de Chávez; y micheletti es bueno, porque odia a Fidel a Daniel y a Chávez.

Redacción / EL LIBERTADOR

Tegucigalpa. El prototipo de la democracia hondureña en clave que los golpistas reproducen el cerebro de los hondureños, se descifra como ver lo malo como bueno. Al ilegal como legal, al usurpador como necesario porque ama el país.

El golpe de Estado como “sucesión constitucional”, el odio contra Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega y Fidel Castro justifica el rompimiento del Estado de Derecho y el salvajismo de los militares contra los protestantes que reclaman la vuelta al orden constitucional. Los que buscan el camino de un país donde se respeten las leyes son chusma y vándalos, y los que apoyan la dictadura se visten de blanco porque son puros, son patriotas porque cantan el Himno Nacional y claman democracia, eso es igual a defender a Micheletti porque comparte el deseo de paz y armonía en Honduras, pero para muchos la incapacidad de entender que así se manipula a las masas mediante la técnica conocida como “atrapabobos” y otros igual de mentes débiles pertenecen a familias que se han lucrado con la miseria de mayor parte de la población.

LA DEMOCRACIA EN CLAVE DE LOS GOLPISTAS:

Democracia = no Chávez-no Fidel-no Ortega;

Democracia = Rico inocente, Pobre culpable;

Democracia = Sí al que viola la Ley por nuestro bien, no a Mel que viola la Ley por el bien.

Democracia = Yo por Micheletti soy conciliador, tú, por Mel rompes vidrios;

Democracia = yo amo al Cardenal, tú, olvidas el padre nuestro (y ofendes al Cardenal);

Democracia = corrupto, mayor o que Mel, pero odia a Chávez y odia a Fidel;

Democracia = El secuestro de Mel es bueno, el derrame de sangre de los opositores es bueno y la represión es buena, el comunismo es malo: Mel es comunista; los golpistas NO respetan la vida ni la ley porque nos protegen del mal.

Democracia= Mel es peligroso por Chávez, Daniel y Fidel, Micheletti sólo busca el bien de todos; Micheletti es bueno, Mel es malo.

Democracia= Chávez y Fidel quieren imponernos ideologías extrañas a los hondureños; Mel es amigo de Chávez y Fidel; aborrecer a Mel, a Chávez y a Fidel es bueno porque somos hondureños.

Fuente: Fundacion Popol Nah Tun Para el Desarrollo Local

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Aline Flores, ha jugado un papel vital

antes y después del golpe de Estado

A La Cámara de Comercio e Industrias de Tegucigalpa (CCIT), cuya presidenta es la empresaria Aline Flores, admite que los empresarios han obligado a su personal a marchar de blanco contra el Presidente Zelaya.

B El gobierno de Zelaya le dio un golpe bajo a la empresa Corporación Flores (representante exclusiva de la marca Toyota en Honduras), propiedad del padre de Aline Flores, y donde ella es la gerente general, al descubrir y demandarla ante los tribunales por la venta de automóviles con dispensas falsificadas el caso sólo lo publicó este periódico con el título “Toyotazo”.

C El padre de Aline Flores, Alan Flores, enfrenta un juicio desde hace más de dos décadas por parte del hermano menor Valentín Flores, que lo acusado de haberse apropiado de manera indebida de la participación accionaria que el papá le dejó y que la influencia de Aline y Alan en el sistema judicial y medios tradicionales de comunicación ha impedido que hasta hoy se haya emitido sentencia final.

Redacción EL LIBERTADOR

ALINE.gifTegucigalpa. La Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Tegucigalpa ha jugado un papel importante antes y después del golpe de Estado. Esta cámara es una versión de federación de cámaras hondureñas. Dos días antes del secuestro del Presidente Zelaya, la presidenta de la cámara, Aline Flores, envió esta nota a personajes de dinero solicitando un apoyo que iba de 1,000 a 3,000 dólares y les dijo: “es necesario que el sector privado de Honduras, tome acciones urgentes encaminadas a apoyar la defensa de la democracia y de las libertades sociales y económicas”.

Además, esa cámara repartió panfletos entre sus afiliados exhortándolos a acudir a un “gran plantón” contra Zelaya, quien según ellos “atenta contra tu libertad”. El panfleto dice: “Esperamos que las empresas se hagan presentes con todo su personal”.

LA CAMARA, ANTES DEL GOLPE

Diferentes dirigentes sociales y otras fuentes privadas en contra del golpe denunciaron que muchas de las marchas realizadas en oposición a Manuel Zelaya antes y después del golpe de Estado han estado llenas de empleados a quienes se les obligaba a marchar, con la amenaza latente que de no hacerlo serán despedidos.
Esta versión, desestimada por la prensa tradicional hondureña y algunos medios internacionales, en realidad es muy fácil de confirmar: La Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Tegucigalpa (CCIT), lo confirma en su grupo de contactos en línea por Facebook.

En Facebook hallamos un panfleto que convoca a los empresarios afiliados a un “gran plantón” el 26 de junio (dos días antes del golpe de Estado) en contra de la encuesta promovida por el Presidente Manuel Zelaya, donde dice: “Participa con tu personal en defensa de la democracia”.

LA CAMARA, DESPUÉS DEL GOLPE

Después del golpe de Estado, la Cámara de Comercio de Tegucigalpa llamó de nuevo “a todos los empresarios y empresarias afiliadas: se les invita a participar en el Gran Plantón a realizarse el día Martes 30 de Junio de 2009 a las 10:00 a.m. en el Parque Central de la Ciudad Capital” en apoyo al gobierno dictatorial de Roberto Micheletti. En el mismo, indican: “esperamos que las empresas se hagan presentes con todo su personal“.
Estas protestas fueron mostradas por los medios locales y las cadenas internacionales como una muestra del “respaldo popular” que supuestamente tenía el gobierno golpista de Micheletti.

What Next For Honduras After Failed Negotiations? GRITtv Interview With Laura Flanders

July 20, 2009

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This interview with Laura Flanders is chock full of information and analysis of the current situation, something abysmally lacking in the reporting in the mainstream media. Joining Laura and me is Democracy Now’s Andres Thomas Conteris who just returned from Honduras, lived there for many years and is one of the more knowledgeable people about the current situation that I know.

Of special note is a preview of an article I’m writing that will appear in the American Prospect later this week. The article explores the little known business interests that have hired Clinton ally Lanny Davis to both lobby on their behalf and to attack exiled Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya. The article includes one of the first and only interviews with Davis about the matter. And, as always, the informed and insightful questions from host Laura Flanders provide a fluid foundation for serious inquiry. If you like the clip below,the rest of the 16 minute interview can be found here.

What Kind of “Hope” is Obama Offering Honduras and Latin America?

July 10, 2009

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For a U.S. audience, to watch as the wet, pinkish-red jelly — the brains of Isis Odem Murillo, the young man killed last Sunday by the U.S.-trained Honduran military — spill onto those who carried the Christ-like victim was to watch another tragedy unfold in a far off land.

But for those of us familiar with countries in the region like Honduras and El Salvador, where in 1989 U.S.-trained troops literally shot out the brains of six Jesuit priests, their maid and her young daughter, we see reminders of the possible return of the terror that takes friends, family and colleagues.

Such traumatic memories inform the sense of the past in the Americas, the same past that President Barack Obama recently told his hemispheric audience that he wants to break with. We see this, for example, in repeated references to the “past” Obama made during his important speech before the Summit of the Americas meeting in April (“To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements.” Or: “I didn’t come here to debate the past — I came here to deal with the future.”)

Noticeably absent in the forward-looking Obama’s messages to Latin America is one of the two words we all identify him and his presidency with: hope.

Whatever the reasons for this omission, Obama would do well to remember that, in the bloodied streets of Honduras, and throughout the Americas, there exists a powerful political tradition in which esperanza (Spanish for “hope”) is often defined by overcoming the pro-military policies of the country that took as its own the name given to the entire continent — “America.”

Regardless of the outcome of negotiations to end the standoff in Honduras between the de facto military government and the only recognized leader of the country, President Manuel Zelaya, Obama must view the Honduran crisis as an opportunity to support and negotiate with the forces of esperanza on the continent.

He must do so if he is to overcome the past and move forward as he said in his summit speech: “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership.”

In the insurgent region of Central America, tiny Honduras is nothing less than ground zero for the first encounter in the hemisphere between the tradition of esperanza and Obama’s still-untested notions of “hope.”

Contrasted against Obama’s still-being-formulated-as-we-speak notions of “hope” and “change” in the region, the movements flying the ancient banner of esperanza have delivered historic shifts across the Americas, as can be seen in the leaders elected in recent years, leaders with no less startling and inspiring stories as Obama’s. Indigenous leaders such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales; socialist single mothers, and former torture victims, like Chile’s Michelle Bachelet; and former steelworkers like Brazil’s “Lula” — Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

In times of great crisis, times in which Obama has yet to consolidate a sense of “hope” about the U.S. system in terms of things like health care, banking and jobs, the U.S. president has little to offer Latin America in the way of an alternative to the strides toward universal health care as in Venezuela and Cuba, the nationalization oil and other wealth redistribution programs of Bolivia or the democratization efforts of the deposed Zelaya in Honduras.

Until “hope” has some heft besides military heft to back it up, “esperanza” of Latin America will reign supreme — and be defended ferociously.

Once called “America’s Backyard” by Obama’s predecessors, América the continent has torn down the fences of what political scientists call the “unipolar” power of the United States in the region as the forces of esperanza usher in a new, more multipolar moment.

For example, many Latin Americans were not just united in calling for an end to Obama’s continuation of the $42.5 million in economic and military aid for Honduras in 2009. (Obama’s just-announced cuts in Honduran military aid can be viewed as either the victory of esperanza or the negotiation between esperanza and hope). Polls show that Latin Americans are also fairly unified with regard to their skepticism about U.S. motives in the hemisphere.

According to a widely quoted poll by the respected Latinobarometro Corp. in November, Latin Americans have a more favorable opinion of Spain, Japan and the European Union than they do of the United States — an unprecedented development — and two-thirds of all Latin Americans say they “don’t believe that the change of leadership in that country (the U.S.) will change the attitude of that country towards the region (of Latin America).”

China, whose foreign aid is mostly non-military (U.S. foreign aid varies between about one-third to two-thirds mostly military aid, as in the case of Colombia), which makes it one of the most important providers of foreign assistance to the region, is tied with the U.S in popularity ratings (58 percent favorable rating) — and trending upward.

He Li, a political scientist at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., the rising popularity of China reflects a resurgent Latin American sovereignty and independence of action. Writing in the North American Congress on Latin America magazine, Li stated, “the Beijing consensus (in Latin America) represents an attractive alternative to its Washington counterpart, largely because Beijing respects the sovereignty of Latin American nations, not meddling in their affairs and certainly not dictating their policies.”

Plus, when compared with the fact that Latin American families who live and work in the U.S. send $50 billion to their families at home — exponentially more than what the U.S. government gives in aid — the fountain of U.S.-led “hope” in the Americas appears to have dried up in Washington.

In the land of esperanza, Obama must recognize that talk of “hope” that is accompanied by continued military funding for governments like those of Honduras or Colombia rings as hollow. And are as increasingly vapid as the political slogans, such as “Si Se Puede” (Yes We Can), deployed by politicians and corporations pilfering beer, burgers and bad foreign policy.

Although the diplomatic dance between the Obama administration and Latin America has just begun, the initial steps in tiny Honduras may not be taken to the tune of “hope,” but to that of esperanza.

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

Honduran, Latin American & U.S. Activists Prevail: Obama Cuts Military Aid to Honduran Government Obama

July 9, 2009

This report from Reuters confirms that the Obama Administration will cut military aid to the Honduran government. The announcement represents a major victory for activists in Honduras, Latin America and the U.S., who have demanded such action by the Obama Administration since the coup began in June 28th.

Though the aid represents a small amount- $16.5 million-, the political value of this shift in U.S. policy is enormous. Some will try to interpret the Administration’s acquiesence to popular demands (elites never admit to responding to pressure) thru the foggy lens bureaucratic process. But anyone with any political sense knows that the cutoff of military aid would not have happened without the actions-phone calls, letter writing, protests, marches and other pressures-applied directly and indirectly by individuals, organizations and some governments throughout the hemisphere.

While President Zelaya has not yet been reinstated (negotiations begin today), those of us opposed to the coup, those who are helping the Obama Administration do the right thing, should take at least a brief moment to breathe in a deep appreciation of our work. Despite a media blackout, despite opposing the policies of an extremely popular president, the workings of popular hemispheric power continue. And though we should continue actions, we should should continue them in the knowledge that these actions have an impact. Yes We Will.

Latin América’s Neda: Video of Killing of Isis Oved Murillo

July 6, 2009

The parallels -mass protest against military governments, military killing non-English-speaking millenials, worldwide denunciation-could not be greater. But the differences between coverage and official treatment here in the U.S. of the situation in Iran and the situation in Honduras couldn’t be starker. Why? I am working through a piece on this for later. In the meantime, check out this video and see for yourself what most U.S. media and many elected officials in the U.S. are mum about (Warning: this video is extremely graphic, gut wrenchingly so):

“NUESTRO NEDA”: PIC OF HONDURAN YOUTH KILLED BY US-FUNDED MILITARY

July 6, 2009

Picture of our Neda: boy killed by Honduran military with bullets and M-16’s paid for by the U.S. government.

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

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.

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.

Mo(u)rning in El Salvador

March 26, 2009

The Nation.

A young supporter of FMLN presidential candidate, now president-elect, Mauricio Funes. RODRIGO ABD/AP

Roberto Lovato

March 26, 2009

In Izalco, El Salvador, an idyllic but very poor village nestled under the gaze of the great volcano of the same name, I asked Juliana Ama to help me understand how the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), the guerrillas-turned-political-party, had managed to triumph over the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) in the presidential election on March 15, ending the right-wing party’s twenty-year reign. Ama guided me to a dusty, football field-size dirt lot adjacent to a church. The 61-year-old schoolteacher said nothing at first, staring meditatively at a round spot blackened by a campfire or some burnt offering. Then she said simply, “It’s our dead.”

Her explanation lacked the revolutionary bravado and the análisis político heard from chain-smoking former guerrilla commanders and Facebook-using radical students in San Salvador, the capital. Instead, she threw open her arms and said, “Most of the people killed in the Matanza [the Great Killing] are buried here.” Before us lay the remains of many of the 20,000 to 30,000 mostly indigenous Pipil-Nahuat killed in January 1932 on the orders of military dictator Maximiliano Hernández.

In slow, measured speech, Ama, one of a tiny fraction of Salvadorans who identify themselves as indigenous, explained how indigenous peasants like her great-great-granduncle, the peasant leader Feliciano Ama of Izalco, and others from the western coffee-growing part of El Salvador rose up against deadly poverty, stolen land and other abuses in Depression-era El Salvador, only to be brutally slaughtered.

“We’ve organized commemoration ceremonies on this spot since 2001,” said Ama, as she pointed at the darkened patch on the lot. “People who can’t remember and are silent are people who are submitted (sumisos). Those ceremonies made it normal and acceptable to be open about the loss of long ago, the loss that still lives with us. Nothing like this was ever possible before, and I think that the ceremony made it possible for people to start being more open about political feelings too.”

My initial reason for visiting Izalco during the country’s presidential election season was that I’d learned of ARENA’s defeat in the Izalco mayoral race in January–the party’s first defeat since it was founded in 1981 by Roberto D’Aubuisson, who also founded El Salvador’s notorious death squads. The death squads, backed by the right-wing military government, were responsible for killing many of the 80,000 people who died during the bloody civil war of 1980-92.

The FMLN’s recent victory in small, neglected Izalco–after campaigning on a message of change backed by a coalition of Catholics, students and evangelicals–had political analysts buzzing about how it might herald a national trend in the lead-up to the historic presidential election. Even some ARENA loyalists I interviewed quoted D’Aubuisson’s prophetic maxim: “The day we lose Izalco, that day will be the end of the party.”

In Izalco it became clear how Ama’s explanation of the FMLN’s victory aligned perfectly with the central lesson of revolutionary political warfare that some former Salvadoran guerrilla commanders told me they’d learned in Russia, Vietnam and other Communist-bloc countries in the 1960s and ’70s: the spirit of the people matters most. The power that broke the chain of oligarchies and military dictatorships that shackled El Salvador for 130 years was the will of the people to break their silence.

Few embody this will to break the silence like Mauricio Funes, the FMLN candidate and the first leftist elected president in the history of El Salvador.

Funes, a 49-year-old former journalist, rose to prominence in no small part thanks to the democratic space created by the signing of the peace accords ending the war in 1992. Until then, the seventy-year rule of oligarchs and dictators made freedom of expression a rarity. My first memories of Funes are as the talk-show host and commentator my family in San Salvador would listen to in the late ’80s as they huddled around a small, battered black-and-white television set during their lunch breaks.

As the grip of state military-run television loosened in the postwar period, Funes became the country’s most popular TV personality in his role as host of Entrevista al Dia (Interview of the Day), El Salvador’s equivalent of Meet the Press.

Hosting al Dia, on which he grilled and debated left- and right-leaning guests with his famously mercurial intelligence, helped to make Funes a symbol of the openness ushered in by the signing of the peace accords. After losing every presidential race since laying down its arms to become a political party in 1992, the FMLN embraced change. With the help of people like Funes’s mentor Hato Hasbun–a sociology professor who worked closely with the six Jesuit priests killed by the military during the FMLN offensive in 1989–the party finally recognized that putting up presidential candidates who were former guerrilla commanders or wartime opposition leaders might not be the best strategy for winning over an electorate trying to overcome the war’s painful legacy. The party chose Funes, who was neither a combatant nor a member of the FMLN during the war.

In doing so, the former guerrillas gave their party a much-needed upgrade that allowed them to use the FMLN’s legendary organizational capacity (during the war, the US State Department called the FMLN one of the “best organized” and “most effective” people’s movements in Latin America in the last fifty years) to meet the political requirements of the media age. And as a Jesuit-influenced intellectual, Funes also gave the FMLN–an organization with many leaders who were themselves profoundly influenced by liberation theology and first organized in Christian base communities–some ideological comfort.

When I interviewed Funes on the night of his victory, in the restaurant of a San Salvador hotel, the first thing he did was echo the thinking of one of those who courageously broke El Salvador’s silence. “Now we need a government like the one envisioned by [Archbishop of El Salvador] Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who, in his prophetic message, said that the church should have a preferential option for the poor. Paraphrasing Monseñor Romero, I would say that this government should have a preferential option for the poor, for those who need a robust government to get ahead and to be able to compete in this world of disequilibrium under fair conditions.”

Like almost every Salvadoran I spoke with after Funes’s victory, the candidate said he wished a deceased family member, in his case his brother killed during the war, was with him to share the moment.

And like Juliana Ama, he too rooted his victory in the legacy of silence and struggle from Izalco: “Our history–what happened in 1932, the poverty of the ’70s that caused the armed conflict in the ’80s and the state in which many in the countryside like Izalco still find themselves today–these can be explained fundamentally by the unjust distribution of wealth, the use of the government to support the process of concentrating wealth.”

After talking with Funes at the hotel, I went to the Escalon neighborhood, where those who have benefited from the concentration of the country’s wealth live and do business behind the big, heavily guarded walls of gated buildings and fortressed mansions. For reasons I don’t know, but imagine have something to do with poetic justice, the FMLN decided to hold its massive victory celebration that Sunday night on Escalon Boulevard.

The neighborhood was also where the FMLN launched its offensive on San Salvador in 1989. After the demise of Communism put in doubt the survival of Latin American revolutionary movements, including El Salvador’s, the FMLN made a strategic decision to bring its guerrilla army of young men and women and older adults, some of whom had little to no combat experience, into the capital, leading to some of the bloodiest battles of the war.

I walked along the crowded blocks of the Escalon with my good friend Joaquin Chávez, a fellow in the NYU history department, who founded the first Central American studies program in the United States with three other colleagues and me. Passing by Citibank and Scotiabank, OfficeMax, McDonald’s and other corporate buildings on the Escalon never felt so exhilarating. The major difference was the hundreds of thousands of boisterously happy, red-shirted, mostly poor children, youth and families waving homemade red-and-white FMLN flags.

For his part, my bookish, bespectacled historian friend Joaquin, who had lost many friends and family members during the war, was initially pretty academic about what the electoral victory meant.

“The origins of the war were not ideological. What brought on the armed struggle,” began Joaquin, whose current research looks at the role of intellectuals in the origins of the war, “was the reaction of various groups to the repression of the state. If the government had allowed fair elections in 1972 and 1977, there would have been no war.” His voice started to crack slightly with emotion. “And that’s what makes tonight so hope-inspiring: it makes possible a political transition through legal and electoral means.”

Watching the wave of thousands of mostly young FMLN supporters walk, sing and dance as they held handpainted signs with messages like Misión Cumplida: Compañeros Caídos en La Lucha (Mission Accomplished: Compañeros Who Fell in the Struggle), Joaquin reminisced, not as the accomplished historian but as the former guerrilla leader: “I remember being here on Seventy-fifth Street (during the 1989 offensive) to pick up the bodies of dead and injured young combatants. They were the ages of these kids walking here now.”

He continued: “Tonight I feel like they didn’t die for nothing. Spiritually, it feels like a weight has been taken off of you, where you feel the absence of those who initiated these processes. This is an explosion of happiness and a celebration of rebellion, a triumph of the 1932 rebellion of Feliciano Ama and the indigenous people.”

Back at the empty lot, near the blackened patch of dirt that is ground zero of revolutionary El Salvador, Juliana Ama pondered the escape from silence her country had begun. Despite the threats the commemoration ceremonies provoked, she said, “our ceremony is not intended as a political act. It is first and foremost a spiritual act. We have no choice; we can’t remain and suffer in silence.” Her eighth-grader son, Alex Oswaldo Calzadia Chille, stood solemnly nearby.

Asked what he thought the political turns in his country portended, the rather reticent, dark-skinned 14-year-old star student, soccer forward and drummer at the Mario Calvo school responded with an unexpected forcefulness. “I’m Pipil (Indian). Feliciano Ama, he’s my family and was killed defending the land against the government, like many people do today.” As if he’d been waiting for the opportunity to speak even more, he declared, “My family voted for the FMLN because they wanted change.” His intense brown eyes alive with the energy one imagines his rebellious ancestor had, Alex added, “When I’m old enough, so will I.”

CUNY TV Interview on El Salvador Elections

March 22, 2009

This interview with CUNY TV‘s Gary Pierre-Pierre goes over lots of terrain. Thanks to CUNY TV’s Michelle Garcia for conceiving of and developing the idea for what turned out to be a good interview. Enjoy!

Daring to Change: Exclusive Interview with El Salvador’s President-Elect, Mauricio Funes

March 18, 2009

A Conversation With Mauricio Funes

by Roberto Lovato & Josue Rojas

March 17, 2009

On March 15, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) became the first leftist party to clinch a presidential election in the history of El Salvador. By 10 pm, it became clear to Salvadorans and to the world that the former guerrillas had ended more than 130 years of oligarchy and military rule over this Central American nation of 7 million. In the streets, thousands of red-shirted sympathizers chanted “¡Si Se Pudo!” (Yes, We Could), while they celebrated the victory of the FMLN’s Mauricio Funes.

Funes captured 51 percent of the vote, to 49 percent cast for Rodrigo Avila of the Nationalist Republican Alliance party, which had been in power for twenty years. Though Funes, a former journalist, is the best-known Salvadoran on his country’s TV networks, he is little known outside the region. Thanks to a collaboration between The Nation and New America Media (NAM), reporters Roberto Lovato and Josue Rojas had the opportunity to interview El Salvador’s next president on the night of his election. What follows is an excerpt from this interview with Funes, who addressed numerous issues: the meaning of his presidency, El Salvador’s relationship with the United States, immigration and other domestic and foreign policy concerns.

Immigration has become one of the defining issues of the US-El Salvador relationship. How will your administration’s approach to this issue differ from that of the outgoing Saca administration?

The fact that we’re going to rebuild the democratic institutions–enforce the constitution and make of El Salvador a democratic state that respects the rule of law–is the best guarantee to the United States that we will significantly reduce the flows of out-migration. Salvadorans who leave to go the United States do so because of the institutional abandonment, the lack of employment and dignified ways to make a living. This forces them to leave in search of new possibilities in the US. It’s not the same for us to ask the US government to renew TPS [temporary legalization] without a Salvadoran effort to avoid further migration flows, as to do so from a position in which we have undertaken efforts to reduce the migration flows.

What’s the first message you’d like to send to President Obama?

The message that I would like to send to President Obama is that I will not seek alliances or accords with other heads of state from the southern part of the continent who will jeopardize my relationship with the government of the United States.

Opinion polls in El Salvador indicate that large majorities of its citizens reject key policies that define, in many ways, the relationship between El Salvador and the United States, specifically CAFTA, dollarization and the Iraq war. What will your approach be to these issues?

We can’t get mixed up in repealing CAFTA…nor can we reverse dollarization, because that would send a negative message to foreign investors, and then we’d be facing serious problems because we wouldn’t have enough investment to stimulate the national economy.

rl-funes1

What do you think the United States government should be concerned about with regard to El Salvador at this time?

To the degree that we do our part, which is to rebuild our productive capacity and to create a coherent social policy that improves the quality of life, there will be fewer reasons to leave for the US and we’ll reduce migration flows. And that should be a concern for the US.

Where will the effects of the transition in power be felt most immediately?

We’re going to change the way we make policy. And one of the most significant changes is that we will no longer have a government at the service of a privileged few. And we will no longer have a government that creates an economy of privileges for the privileged. Now, we need a government like the one envisioned by [Archbishop of El Salvador] Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who, in his prophetic message, said that the church should have a preferential option for the poor. Paraphrasing Monseñor Romero, I would say that this government should have preferential option for the poor, for those who need a robust government to get ahead and to be able to compete in this world of disequilibrium under fair conditions. This government implies a break from traditional policy-making. Now, what we’re going to do is put the government and the structure of the state at the service of the Salvadoran people–the totality of the Salvadoran people–but fundamentally, of that great majority who are oppressed and excluded from the country’s social and economic development. [The people who for] not just the last twenty years but for last 200 years or more have not had the possibility of participating in the formation of public policies. A government like the one I’m going to create will give them the protagonist’s role, which, until now, they have not ha