Archive for the 'HISTORY' 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.

The #Occupy Anthem: “The System is About to Die, Hella Hella Occupy!”

November 3, 2011

Video captures Oakland youth , majority of whom are working class, non-white students chanting what is the national anthem of the black, latino and asian and other youth that are, indeed, in the movement that executed the historic shutdown of the Port of Oakland. Share or sing this with someone next time they say that “there are no “people of color involved in the Occupy movement.”

Bank of America’s Fee Cancellation: Major Victory Signals Maturing of #Occupy Movement

November 1, 2011

Today’s announcement by Bank of America that it would drop its $5 debit card fee represents nothing less than a victory for the #Occupy movement, a victory on many fronts and on many levels. This is especially important when we consider that one of the primary  criteria defining movements is the ability to define and secure victories.

First and foremost, the Bank of America debit fee announcement represents a victory for the communities and groups that have been organizing around banking issues for some time. Groups like Alliance for a Just Society, and organizers behind both the online petition demanding BofA rescind the fee and the “Bank Transfer Day” scheduled for later this week got a major boost and channeled popular energy to secure this win for us all.

Today’s announcement is also critical because it shows the power people really do have over even the most powerful among us-namely the banks and financial institutions that dominate life as we know it. They are vulnerable to us. The fact that Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, SunTrust and Regions banks also announced that they were canceling their plans to increase debit fees is nothing if not a testament to the people power taking hold in the U.S. Not only are we saving ourselves millions of dollars in another unnecessary display of super greed, but we are also starting to show that we may be able to save the country-and the world- from the workings of the super greedy financial institutions.

Another development, perhaps the most critical, reflected in today’s announcement by BofA has to do with how the #Occupy movement is growing into a sea of movement-building that simultaneously feeds and draws from the streams and rivers of other movements, in this case the economic justice movement. In addition to powering and pushing the work of groups fighting the bank fees, the #Occupy movement is also nourishing the work planned or envisioned by other groups. For example, those behind the “Move Your Money” campaign to get people to take their banking out of the big banks and into credit unions and other, more community-oriented financial institutions are getting a major boost from the zeitgeist of the #Occupy moment.

Bank of America and the other banks capitulation to popular demands offers a small, but important example proving to ourselves that we can fight and win against the most powerful, that we can discipline the banks and other institutions and align them with the needs of the majority. We have taken a step towards reaching what Clausewitz called the “culminating point of victory.” As in war, the spiritual value of winning in political activism will be determinant in ending the class warfare against the poor, the war against the 99% by the 1%.

The Greatest Threat to Liberty on Its 125th Anniversary: Corporate Tyranny

October 28, 2011

Liberty turned 125 years today. The Statue of Liberty, that is. As we watch the celebrations of the anniversary of  the iconic statue symbolizing  Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, we should all take at least a moment to reflect on the state of citizenship and freedom -and unfreedom-in the United States.

In a word, freedom is in grave danger because of the most powerful Tyrant of our time: Corporations. There is no greater symbol of the destruction of freedom than Wall Street, which profits from all that has defined tyrants of previous eras: war, poverty, control of government, the lack of free speech, surveillance,  the denial of basic human and civil rights and even the the possible destruction of the planet itself.

The good news is that we are also witnessing an unprecedented global movement that’s trying to define freedom in the age of corporate tyranny. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, Spain’s “Indignados”, the Arab Spring and other movements are directly confronting the corporate control of everything from the culture, land, sea, air we inhabit to  our genetic code and the food we eat. Occupy Wall Street is nothing if not a reflection of the threat to freedom posed by the ways in which corporations dominate the Congress, the electoral system, the economy and the Presidency itself.

The duplicity and threat of corporate-controlled freedom can be found on the Statue of Liberty itself. Much is being made in the media about the “live web cams” that are part of the high-tech makeover of the Statue. Less (or not) reported are the dozens of infrared surveillance cameras, vibration sensors, experimental facial recognition monitors, and other now ubiquitous electronic surveillance devices that capture the image of visitors and send them to databases of national security agencies. The profits from this kind of multi-million dollar makeover of Liberty go to corporations invested in redefining freedom.

The same will to profit from the decimation of Liberty can be found in today’s naturalization ceremony being presided over by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. While Salazar is leading the naturalization ceremony of a small group of citizens at the foot of the statue, the Obama Administration is feeding the multi-billion dollar industry that persecutes and jails, surveills and deports more than a million immigrants since Salazar and the Obama Administration took the reigns of executive power. Such a situation has in essence has rendered meaningless the “New Colossus,” the poem by Emma Lazarus engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the monument in 1903. The anniversary of “Lady Liberty” should give us pause to reflect on these words in the Obama era:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The golden door has become an iron cage; the masses are being huddled into private prisons whose stocks and profits now light the lamp of Liberty brighter with each new immigrant prisoner; The language of the “wretched refuse” on the “teeming shore has morphed an “anchor baby” that corporate-sponsored Republicans and even Democrats decry.

Such a situation points to how non-citizens, especially undocumented immigrants, are being used to divert from and disguise and the sad fact about citizenship in our age: corporate citizenship has humiliated and practically destroyed human citizenship. The buying of politicians by corporations has become synonymous with “democracy” in this New Gilded Age. But, instead of putting responsibility for the death of citizenship on the Corporate Colossus, there is a huge industry invested in blaming the “huddled masses” described in the New Colossus poem.

In the New Gilded Age, freedom and citizenship have become commodities that can be bought and sold.Freedom has become synonymous with “Free Trade”; “Freedom of the press”, to quote the great journalist AJ Liebling, “is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Religious freedom is centered at the altar of quick profits in a society forced to worship Wall Street.

If we are to alter this humiliation of Liberty, we have no choice to look not at the technofied torch and eyes of Liberty, which are monitoring us even as the torch shines forth the false image of “freedom”, but at the invisible chains that shackle the feet of Liberty. At the moment,  bottom-up, street level movements like the Occupy Wall Street movement stand at the feet of Liberty, trying to unshackle us from the chains of corporate tyranny.

May we still yearn to be free.

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…

Gracias for Teaching Me to Love the Bad Magical Words, Piri Thomas

October 19, 2011

Very sad to hear of the passing of Piri, a genuinely sweet man whose first book, Down These Means Streets, was definitive during my youth.Back when we were called “minorities,” the stories in that book legitimized our lives in literature.

As a curious  kid who grew up down the mean street from housing projects like those Piri wrote about, I had to walk secretly to get a chair that raised me high enough to reach the shelf where Piri’s book and the Autobiography of Malcolm X were hidden. These books were placed high on the shelf by my siblings and parents, who didn’t want 11 year-old me learning those  “malas palabras” (bad words) filling those pages.

My siblings and parents got it wrong: Piri’s words pulled and raised us up like the chair so that we could see the Good, and have some sense of our true stature; His words  were magical words written by a writer and committed soul whose journey from the grit & soul of Down These Mean Streets to the mellifluously sweet play captured in Every Child is Born a Poet touched this Word Wanderer Child forever. Gracias, Piri. Gracias, Companero. Piri Thomas, Presente!

To (Re)Gain Latino Voter Trust, Obama Must End SCOMM

October 18, 2011

A piece I wrote about the record-breaking, family-breaking pace of the imprisonment and deportation regime that is the Obama Administration’s preferred policy.

 

 

 

Last Sunday, during a speech made at the dedication of the monument honoring the Reverend Martin Luther King, President Obama declared, in King-like cadences, that the slain civil rights leader “stirred our conscience.”

The president, who is desperately trying to win back Latino votes lost since 2008, went on in the speech to say that King reminds us “to show compassion to the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of are just a few generations removed from similar hardships.” He has also taken to engaging in high-profile appointments and meetings with Latino media executives, like Univision’s president, César Conde, and Latino superstars like Shakira.

While Obama’s meetings and his words of compassion for immigrant families are most welcome, the president’s deeds – and their effects on immigrant families – provide a stunning and tragic contrast.

As documented in Tuesday’s broadcast of PBS Frontline’s ‘Lost in Detention‘ documentary, President Obama’s policies have led to the record and heart-breaking deportation of more than 1 million immigrants, the separation of thousands of families, and the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands forced to live in subhuman conditions in what some of us are calling “Obama’s Immigrant Gulag.” Detainees fall victim to rape and sexual abuse, racism, having to eat worm-infested and rotten food, physical and psychological abuse, the denial of basic rights and other humiliating conditions.

At the heart of this immigrant tragedy is a radical racial profiling program known as “Secure Communities,” or S-COMM, which turns local and state law enforcement officers into immigration officers who are beginning to ask everyone – citizen and non-citizen – for their papers simply because they look a certain way.

By the tens of thousands, Latinos, one of the groups most profiled under S-COMM, will watch the documentary, which will speak to the concerns about the president’s immigration policies and about which an increasing numbers of us are growing angry and impatient.

Polls, like the Latino Decisions-ImpreMedia, conducted in August 2011, tell us definitively that most Latino voters know one of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Presente.org and its allies in 10 cities will call on the Obama Administration to do away with the rotten fruits of S-COMM and other immigration policies he promised to either alter or abolish altogether. The absolute failure and damage of these immigration policies have been thoroughly documented by lawyers, immigrant rights groups and, increasingly, journalists like those responsible for tonight’s unprecedented documentary.

Trying to cover up and divert the attention of the public, especially the now very fed up Latino voter public, will not work. Trying to blame the failure of S-COMM, a program of the executive branch of government, by handing over responsibility to Congress, the legislative branch, as Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s top advisor on immigration, has done repeatedly, will not work.

Latinos are not stupid. We will not accept the false statements and diversionary tactics of apologists for the abominable immigration policies of the administration.

To (re)gain trust of Latino voters, Obama must make fundamental changes to the immigration laws he can change at will, as he proved on August 18, when he announced slight changes to immigration policy after groups across the country protested his campaign offices, including his campaign headquarters.

Until President Obama makes more fundamental changes to his dangerous immigration policies, we will take back the slogan that Obama the candidate borrowed from Latinos – “Sí Se Puede/Yes We Can” – and use it for our efforts to both stop S-COMM and abolish Obama’s Immigrant Gulag.

Roberto Lovato is Co-Founder and Strategist at Presente.org.

 

El tiempo está a favor de buenos sueños (Time is on the Side of Good Dreams)

October 15, 2011

Gazing @ the bright red map that is today’s #Occupiedworld, mobilizing w millions of like-spirited humans, breathing in the sigh of gratitude for our heroines & their children, I am reminded that we would not be here were it not for the parents, the teachers, the mentors and, most especially, the martyrs whose breath still inspires (as in “take in spirit”) that which many had already relinquished to the Powers That Be , Real Hope.

 

 

El tiempo está a favor de los pequeñosde los desnudos, de los olvidados.

El tiempo está a favor de buenos sueños

y se pronuncia a golpes apurados.

Occupy Wall Street Must End the Dictatorship – of Corporations

October 6, 2011


Our Berlin Wall is breaking. The furious waves of marchers in yesterday’s Occupy Wall Street mobilization have cracked the dark marble and teflon walls protecting the Dictator of our age: Big Corporations.

While baffled Teapartyers, Democrat-leaning progressives and most of the media ignored, ridiculed and then fought the nascent movement, the forces of Occupy Wall Street won a stunning ideological victory over the US Dictator. The history that allegedly ended after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marches on on Wall Street and on Main Streets throughout the United States- and the world- of 2011. The heavily-buttressed and beatified idea that Wall Street-the fortressed embodiment of Big Corporate Control of our land, our sea, our air, our country and even our DNA- is invincible just got Occupied.

Though the unprecedented popularizing of the “Wall-Street-as-US-Dictator” meme implicit in the movement’s message is growing and impressive, the real success of Occupy Wall Street, the great struggle of our crisis-ridden lives will be defined by one thing: definitively ending the Dictatorship of Big Corporations. Put another way, the real human beings that make up the citizenry will have to destroy the fake Citizenship of the non-persons that control Republican and Democrat, Obama and Boehner alike.

Failure to fundamentally alter Wall Street’s control of our political, economic and personal lives will lead to even greater devastation of real citizens. The good news is that we in the United States have finally started recognizing, naming and fighting back against the power behind a White House, a Congress, a Pentagon and an entire political and economic system beholden to fantastically rich and powerful corporations controlled by less than 1% of the population.

The history of the future will record how the Occupy Wall Street movement began informally after many of us stood by and watched as the great martyr of our times, Citizen Troy Davis, was denied his fundamental rights, was denied life itself; Historians will document how we watched and grew in anger as Corporate Citizens like the GEO group and other prison construction firms that profit from warehousing Davis and other Death Row inmates suck up all the rights of our citizenship- and none of the responsibility.

Whether they profit financially from the death penalty or from manufactured and unnecessary wars or whether they destroy the Gulf of Mexico or the earth’s climate, Corporate Citizens face no death penalty for their crimes. Only we human citizens do.

Like dictators, Big Corporations act with an unfettered arrogance and a dangerous impunity that profits from death, from war, from poverty and from the destruction of the planet itself. Many of us in the immigrant rights movement see the will to protect the powerful at the expense of the weak in how the Obama Administration jails more than 400,000 poor immigrants a year all the while not making a single banker serve serious time for what should be called ‘Economic Crimes Against Humanity.’

Occupy Wall Street represents a Great Awakening to the need to rescue our free speech and other democratic spaces humiliated by Big Corporations that the Supreme Court protects legally; that the police protect physically; that the media protects culturally and that White House and Congress protect politically.

Like the powerful social movements that are reshaping the Arab world, Latin America and even Israel, Occupy Wall Street must build enough power to avoid the multiple and often carefully disguised attempts by corporate interests to divert and water down our insurgent energy.

While the first line of Wall Street’s defense of its dictatorship is the more openly right wing, hard-line approach of trying to downplay and attack Occupy Wall Street thru any and all physical, political and media means, the next stage of defense will be subtler- and Democrat-led: try to divide and coopt the movement. Among the principal means will be the attempt to align and define the Occupy Wall Street movement by identifying it with the Democratic party and the Obama Administration. Already, the White House has started deploying Treasury Secretary -and Wall Street insider-Tim Geithner to create some sort of wedge between President Obama and Wall Street.

Obama allies in the progressive, immigrant rights, civil rights, environmental, labor and other movements are already trying to do what they did during the our last insurgent moment, the anti-Bush era: channel the insurgent energy into support for Democrats in the elections, in our case the 2012 elections. Failure to recognize these more subtle machinations of the corporate dictatorship will be fatal to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Key to recognizing these machinations is the urgent need and willingness to expose the disturbingly deep connections between the Obama Administration and the dictators of Wall Street. Any attempt to revive the thoroughly dead American Dream that does not detail how the Wall Street-heavy Obama Administration’s economic, military, immigration, environmental and other policies have destroyed the dreams of millions should be deemed questionable, at best.

Reviving Hope and Change will require nothing less than swiftly -and surgically-separating them from an electoral system corrupted by the Corporate Dictator that thoroughly controls both the Democrats and the Republicans. For the moment, real Hope and Change, (i.e. the kind that does not cost a billion dollars of Wall Street and other money to promote)-have returned to their rightful place in the streets and hearts of marchers and those hungry for justice.

Like those courageous souls who tore down the Berlin Wall or the wall of silence surrounding Tahrir Square, we must have the courage to confront the dictatorial menace of our time. In our case, the menace is neither communist nor a blatantly totalitarian dictator. Rather, it is a “Citizen” that none of us voted into office, but who all of us are becoming indebted to and imprisoned by. Before doing the urgently necessary work of (Re)Occupying -and redefining-our Citizenship, let us take a moment to Occupy our breath and take in our Great Awakening as we continue and expand the fight of and for our lives.

Honduras: ¿quién le paga a Lanny Davis?

July 26, 2009
Lanny Davis
“Si quiere comprender quién es el poder verdadero detrás del golpe de estado” [hondureño], dice Robert White, presidente del Centro de Política Internacional con sede en Washington D.C., en una reciente entrevista, “halle quién le paga a Lanny Davis”.

Davis, un aliado de la familia Clinton mejor conocido como el abogado que defendió a Bill durante los procedimientos de enjuiciamiento presidencial, se presento recientemente en Capitol Hill para cabildear entre miembros del Congreso y prestar testimonio en el Comité de Relaciones Exteriores de la Cámara de Representantes contra el exiliado presidente Manuel Zelaya. White –quien sirvió previamente como embajador de Estados Unidos en El Salvador– creía que esa información sobre quienes eran los clientes de Davis sería “muy dificil de encontrar”.

Pero fue facil. Davis, un socio del bufete de abogados Orrick, Herring, & Sutcliffe, los nombró abiertamente. Sus clientes son los mismos poderosos detrás del golpe de estado militar. “Mis clientes representan CEAL, la sección hondureña del Concejo Empresarial de América Latina”, dijo Davis el jueves pasado en su oficina. “Y no represento al gobierno ni hablo con el presidente [Roberto] Micheletti. Mis principales contactos con Camilo Atala y Jorge Canahuati. Me siento orgulloso de representar a empresarios comprometidos al gobierno de la ley”, dijo Davis. Atala, Canahuati y otras familias con intereses corporativos y que son representados por Davis y la CEAL se hallan en la cúspide de una pirámide económica en la que el 62% de la poblacion vive en la pobreza, de acuerdo con el Banco Mundial.

Jorge Canahuati

Jorge Canahuati

Para muchos hondureños y observadores de Honduras, la confirmación de que Lanny Davis trabaja para familias poderosas y establecidas en Honduras es significativa. Para ellos, demuestra que Davis está al servicio de los intereses empresariales que administraron, reprimieron y pusieron en la ruina a Honduras en las décadas previas al viraje hacia la izquierda del gobierno de Zelaya.

“Los golpes de estado no suceden porque un buen día a algunos militares y políticos se les ocurre una buena idea”, dijo White cuando se enteró para quién trabaja Davis. “Los golpes de estado ocurren porque hay gente muy muy rica que quiere que sucedan y ayudan a que sucedan. Es gente acostumbrada a considerar el pais como una máquina de hacer dinero para ellos y para quienes toda legislación social que beneficie a los pobres como una amenaza sus intereses. El salario medio de un trabajador en zonas libres de impuestos es de 77 centavos la hora”.

“La tragedia es”, agrega White, “que los Canahuatis y los Atalas y otros grandes empresarios no comprenden que es para su beneficio ayudar a que la gente gane decentemente, se reduzca la cesantía y se aumente el salario mínimo”.

Davis no está de acuerdo. Cree que la tragedia de Honduras radica en Zelaya y que el presidente causó el golpe. “Es innegable que Zelaya violó la Constitución. Mi deber es aclarar los hechos”.

Al preguntársele si le molesta representar a empresarios vinculados con gobiernos golpistas denunciados e irreconocidos por Naciones Unidas, la Organización de Estados Americanos y muchos países en todo el mundo, incluyendo Estados Unidos, Davis responde que “hay hechos referentes a Zelaya que el mundo no conoce. Me enorgullece representar clientes que apoyan la decisión de la secretaria de Estado Hillary Clinton de apoyar la mediación del presidente Arias en el conflicto. Pero mi principal preocupación es la seguridad de la gente de Honduras”.

Davis no es el único preocupado con la seguridad de la gente de Honduras. El Comité de Familias de Detenidos-Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), una ONG de derechos humanos, publicó la semana pasada un informe que documenta más de 1.100 violaciones a los derechos humanos, desde detenciones arbitrarias, ataques físicos, asesinatos y ataques contra los medios de comunicación por parte del gobierno y elementos clandestinos afines a éste. Todos ocurrieron después del golpe del 28 de junio.

COFADEH responsabiliza del golpe y el terror que causó de manera directa a muchos de los fundadores de la Alianza para el Progreso y Desarrollo de Honduras (APROH), un predecesor de CEAL. Aunque ya no existe, APROH unió en sí a varios de los mismos intereses empresariales y militares que componen el núcleo político y económico de la extrema derecha hondureña, incluyendo a los Canahuatis, los Atalas y otras familias y negocios de CEAL representados por Davis.

El prontuario de cumplimiento de los derechos humanos por parte del predecesor de CEAL es menos que estelar. En 1983, el diario hondureño El Tiempo filtró un documento de APROH que recomienda una solución militar para los problemas de Honduras y el resto de Centroamérica, a la Comisión Kissinger de Ronald Reagan, un comité bipartidario que estaba encargado en aquel entonces de formular la política estadounidense en la región. Más revelador aún, APROH es considerado por COFADEH y otras organizaciones de derechos humanos como la eminencia gris detrás de las ejecuciones de los escuadrones de la muerte conocidos como el infame Batallón 316 durante los años ochenta.

Enterado de las declaraciones de Davis, José Luis Galdamez, un periodista de Radio Globo, ríe: “Davis, o ignora Honduras o a sabiendas ensangrenta su nombre y el de los Clinton a cambio de mucho dinero”, dice. Galdamez tuvo que bajar a la clandestinidad recientemente después de que miembros de las fuerzas armadas y elementos paramilitares le agredieron a él y a sus colegas. Los militares cayeron sobre la estación de radio, golpearon a los empleados y les amenazaron por trabajar en uno de los pocos medios de comunicación dispuesto a “informar lo que realmente sucede en Honduras”, dice Galdamez.

“Me gustaría que Davis viniese aqui, donde estoy escondiéndome, para mostrarle cómo se siente estar amenazado, no solamente por [el presidente de facto] Micheletti y el ejército, sino por los Canahuatis y otros grupos de poder que él representa”, dice Galdamez.

Galdamez, así como Gilda Rivera del Centro para Derechos de la Mujer y otros entrevistados para esta historia temen que al contratar al aliado de Clinton Davis, Canahuati, Atala y CEAL utilicen el brillo liberal del partido Demócrata de Estados Unidos para desviar la atención de la historia detrás del actual golpe de estado en Honduras.

Camilo Atala

Camilo Atala

“Los ricos simplemente envían a matarte y matan con impunidad. Jamás investigan quién mató a quién, porque los grupos en el poder controlan los medios de comunicación, el poder judicial y ahora tienen nuevamente el control del gobierno”, dijo Galdamez. “Davis trata de legitimizar a gente que utiliza la violencia y la intimidación psicológica. Representa los intereses de un estado terrorista”.

En una reciente declaración en la que condenaba el golpe, COFADEH describió a sus seguidores como “el mismo grupo que durante los ochenta era conocido como la Alianza para el Progreso y el Desarrollo de Honduras, que mantiene el terror a través de escuadrones de la muerte”. El informe de COFADEH contiene documentos sobre cuatro casos de asesinatos extra judiciales, incluyendo la muerte a tiros, el 5 de julio, del joven Isis Obed Murillo de 19 años, que fue expuesta posteriormente en un vídeo explícito colocado en YouTube.

En cuanto a las violaciones de los derechos humanos cometidas por el gobierno de Micheletti, Davis nuevamente culpa de la crisis a Zelaya. “He investigado los hechos de lo que ocurrió durante la presidencia de Zelaya. El condujo la violencia de la turba y eso se puede ver en un video de YouTube”.

Cuando insisto acerca de la toma estremecedora de la muerte de Isis Murillo, Davis responde: “¿Se ve en el video a quien disparó? Hay que conocer los hechos”. Agrega: “Si me demuestran en los hechos que mis clientes están implicados en violaciones de libertades civiles, renunciaré”.

(Este artículo fue inicialmente publicado en The American Prospect. Gracias a Gabriel Lerner y nuestros amigo(a)s de HispanicLA por su exitosa traduccion del articulo.)

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.

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

July 20, 2009

https://i2.wp.com/a.images.blip.tv/Lauraflanders-GRITtvJune112009821.jpg

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

The image “https://i2.wp.com/waterconsciousness.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/150_alternet_logo1-300x123.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

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.

Death, Detention and the Dream of Legalization: GritTV Panel on Immigration Reform

July 3, 2009

This show about the possibilities of immigration reform this year was deftly done by the folks at GriTV. Host Laura Flanders steered panelists in what I think is one of the better discussions on this topic I’ve seen. Check out show which includes Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough, Ravi Ragbir who spent two years in immigration detention and is a member of Families for Freedom, Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice and yours truly. Issues hidden away in the shadows of the debate are brought to light and the results are really infromative. So, check it out the clip below! And if you like it, then check out the full episode here.

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.