June 2012, Week 5


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Sat, 30 Jun 2012 17:07:55 -0400
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Latin America: How the US Has Allied with the
Forces of Reaction

    Honduras three years ago created a new
    template of the US backing coups to
    compensate for lost influence on the continent

By  Mark Weisbrot
Guardian (UK)
June 29, 2012


It was three years ago this week that the Honduran
military launched an assault on the home of
President Mel Zelaya, kidnapped him, and flew him
out of the country. The Obama administration,
according to its own conversations with the press,
knew about the coup in advance. But the first
statement from the White House - unlike those from
the rest of the world - did not condemn the coup.

That sent a message to the Honduran dictatorship,
and to the diplomatic community: the US
government supported this coup and would do what
it could to make sure it succeeded. And that is
exactly what ensued. Unlike Washington and its few
remaining rightwing allies in the hemisphere, most
of Latin America saw the coup as a threat to
democracy in the region and, indeed, to their own

"It would be enough for someone to stage a civilian
coup, backed by the armed forces, or simply a
civilian one and later justify it by convoking
elections," Argentine President Cristina Fernandez
told South American leaders. "And then democratic
guarantees would truly be fiction."

For that reason, South America refused to recognize
the Honduran "elections" held six months later
under the dictatorship. But Washington wanted the
coup regime legitimized. The Obama administration
blocked the Organization of American States (OAS)
from taking action to restore democracy before
"elections" were held.

"We have intelligence reports that say that after
Zelaya, I'm next," said President Rafael Correa of
Ecuador, after the Honduran coup. This turned out
to be correct: in September of 2010, a rebellion by
police held Correa hostage in a hospital until he was
freed, after a prolonged shootout between the police
and loyal troops of the armed forces. It was another
attempted coup against a social-democratic
president in Latin America.

Last week, Cristina Fernandez' warning against a
"civilian coup" proved prescient in Paraguay. The
country's left president, Fernando Lugo, was ousted
by the Congress in an "impeachment trial" in which
he was given less than 24 hours notice and two
hours to defend himself. All 12 foreign ministers
from the Union of South American Nations,
including Brazil and Argentina, travelled to
Paraguay on Thursday to tell the rightwing
opposition that this clear violation of due process
was also a violation of UNASUR's democracy clause.
Brazil's president Dilma Rouseff suggested that the
coup government should be kicked out of UNASUR
and MERCOSUR, the southern cone regional trading

But the Paraguayan right, which had one-party rule
for 61 years until Lugo's election, was determined to
return to their ignominious past. And they knew
that they had one ally in the hemisphere they could
count on.

"As a general matter, we haven't called this a coup
because the processes were followed," said US State
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on 26
June. And, as if to remind the world of Washington's
strategy with the Honduran coup, she added:

    "You know that they're supposed to have
    elections in 2013, which need to go forward. So I
    think we will refrain from further comment until
    we see how we come out of the OAS meeting."

Of course, she knew that the OAS meeting would
not resolve anything, because the US and its allies
can kill anything there - as they did earlier this
week. The conclusion is obvious: any rightwing
faction, military or civilian, that can overthrow a
democratically elected, left-of-center government,
will get support from the United States government.
Since the US government is the richest and most
powerful country in the hemisphere and the world,
this counts for a lot.

Meanwhile, Honduras since the 2009 coup has
turned into a nightmare, with the highest homicide
rate in the world. Political repression is among the
worst in the hemisphere: journalists, opposition
activists, campesinos fighting for land reform, and
LGBT activists have been murdered with impunity.
This week, 84 members of the US Congress sent a
letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging
US action against murders of LGBT activists and
community members in Honduras. In March, 94
member of Congress asked her "to suspend US
assistance to the Honduran military and police
given the credible allegations of widespread, serious
violations of human rights attributed to the security

The Obama administration has so far ignored these
pleas from Congress, and the international media
has given them scant attention. Ironically, this is
not so much because Honduras is unimportant, but
because it is important: the US has a military base
there and would like to keep the country as its

But the hemisphere and the world have changed.
The US has lost most of its influence in the vast
majority of the Americas over the past decade. It is
only a matter of time before even poor countries like
Honduras and Paraguay gain their rights to
democracy and self-determination.


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