Washington’s Invented Honduran Democracy

Revised and amended version of COHA communiqué of April 22, 2010
President of Newspaper Guild Joins COHA in Expressing Their Extreme Concern Over the Ongoing Massacre of Honduran Journalists

Washington’s Faux Honduran Democracy has deceived very few in the Hemisphere, with News Journalists Paying the Heavy Price

• U.S. Newspaper Guild president blasts killing of seven Honduran journalists (COHA’s first and longtime chairman, the late Charles Perlik, Jr., also served as the president of the Newspaper Guild)
• With the wave of killings now besieging the Central American country, the White House needs to show that it’s willing to support democracy in Honduras
• It’s disappointing that the Obama administration’s position on Honduran policy has helped to create an environment for the sixth murder of a Honduran journalist in recent days, making the tiny Central American country the world’s murder capital when it comes to gunning down media professionals.


The Honduras Overthrow and Washington’s Failings

Since the constitutionally-elected government of President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a military coup on June 28, 2009, Washington has dragged its feet and repeatedly has acted as an apologist in defending the Honduran de facto government of Roberto Micheletti and its successor, the elected government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Although the (U.S. based) National Democratic Institute at first characterized Lobo’s election as democratic; in fact balloting was boycotted by dozens of anti-coup candidates and was carried out under conditions of state-sanctioned violence. The UN, EU, OAS and the Carter Center refused to send monitors to Honduras to evaluate the quality of the elections. Most of the world has established a cordon sanitaire around the increasingly tainted heir of the coup government and has blocked military, financial, and diplomatic ties to it. We expect the same from the U.S.

The DeMint Affair

Washington’s Latin American policymakers insisted that they were following a policy aimed against the protagonists of a coup d’état against the legitimate Zelaya government, but the reality of U.S. policy was another matter. The June 2009 coup that ousted Zelaya took place five months after the Obama administration had assumed office. In October of 2009, COHA expressed its extreme concern that arch-conservative Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) had been playing a destructive role in the formulation of U.S.-Honduran foreign policy by placing a “hold” on two U.S. diplomatic nominations by the Obama White House. These included Arturo Valenzuela, who had been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. COHA further reported that “Senator DeMint has stated that he would release his hold on the confirmations of Valenzuela and [Thomas] Shannon [to be Ambassador to Brazil] only after the U.S. affirms that it will recognize the upcoming November elections in Honduras.”

This scenario came to pass as DeMint publically “announced the lifting of the veto since he had secured a commitment from the Obama administration to recognize the Honduran elections on November 29th.” It was later revealed that this commitment came in the form of results of a telephone call from Secretary Clinton and Valenzuela assuring DeMint (according to the Senator) that regardless of whether President Zelaya joined a then U.S.-advocated unity government involving the major political forces in Honduras (as stipulated in the San José-Tegucigalpa accords), the U.S. would recognize the election’s results. In other words, the Secretary of State and Valenzuela were prepared to allow DeMint to sabotage the U.S.’s stance on Honduras by caving in on the most important Latin American-related decision of the Obama presidency based on DeMint’s prosaic, if not insulting terms. The amended U.S. position was at variance with the conduct of the vast majority of nations in the hemisphere and the world, including most of the OAS leadership and the entire EU.

As a result of the alarming series of murders of journalists now occurring in Honduras, President Bernard J. Lunzer of The Newspaper Guild Communications Workers of America (representing thousands of working journalists in the U.S. and Canada) joins with Larry Birns, the director of the Washington-based Council in Hemispheric Affairs, in denouncing the slaughter of seven working journalists in a little over a month (as compiled by LatinNews).

    1. Joseph Ochoa (1 March, in the capital Tegucigalpa);
    2. David Meza (11 March, La Ceiba);
    3. Nahún Palacios (15 March, Topoa, near La Ceiba);
    4. Bayardo Mairena (26 March, on a road in the province of Olancha, bordering Nicaragua)
    5. Manuel Juárez (killed with Mairena)
    6. Luis Antonio Chévez Hernández (12 April, San Pedro Sula)
    7. Jorge Alberto “Georgino” Orellana (20 April, San Pedro Sula)

It should also be noted that just hours ago, a reporter for a Vera Cruz daily was kidnapped, the eleventh such event to have occurred since 2003.

There has been no compelling evidence that the Honduran government has been seized by any great sense of urgency regarding the danger facing working members of the Honduran press. To the contrary, Honduran authorities have shamelessly come up with a canard attributing the rash of politically-motivated extrajudicial murders now being witnessed to common criminals. What is acutely troubling is that the State Department has not made it a matter of high priority that its protégé, the government of President Lobo, seems not to be overly concerned about what is occurring in Honduras, nor, for that matter, does Washington. This is unacceptable.

26 thoughts on “Washington’s Invented Honduran Democracy

  • April 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm
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    The killings of journalists are all the more confusing because they do not seem to adhere to one ideological line. Some, like David Meza, worked for anti-Zelaya outlets such as Abriendo Brecha, whereas others worked for smaller community radio stations. Carol Cabrera, a reporter who has had two attacks carried out against her, was also anti-Zelaya. It seems that both sides are settling scores in the wake of Zelaya's removal and taking out their opponents in a most violent manner. However, I resent the fact that this article does not examine the killings of journalists in depth, but rather offers only a summary of events that we already are familiar with: The forced removal of Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009. A serious review would indicate what the real reasons for the murders are: Impunity, plain and simple. Journalists are killed in Honduras because, in a country with the highest murder rate in the Americas, life is cheap and people have no problem with resolving their disputes in a violent, illegal manner. The violence does not appear to be directed at any one ideological line, as it was in the past, making it all the more frightening. Honduran police don't seem to be in any hurry because, let's face it, they couldn't solve these murders even if they wanted to. Despite the very valid criticisms leveled at journalists' safety in Honduras, I resent the superficial treatment of the issue and COHA's use of a very serious matter as a soapbox for the same, tired old argument. Pepe Lobo's government, for better or worse, is the government Honduras is saddled with. He's incompetent, a crook and a liar, but he's what we've got. What do the leftists of the world suggest the answer out of this mess is? They seem to be better at criticizing than offering a valid plan aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of all Hondurans.

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    • April 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm
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      This post reads a lot like COHA intern Brian Thompson.

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      • April 27, 2010 at 5:23 pm
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        …Maybe because it is Brian Thompson? And that's disgruntled former intern to you, mate.

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  • April 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm
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    Please, just read the research reports of Nikolas Kozloff in 2009 at CounterPunch „Otto Reich and the International Republican Institute Honduran Destablization, Inc.“ June 9, 2009, s. :http://www.counterpunch.org/kozloff07092009.html
    and "From Arbenz to Zelaya, Chiquita in Latin America" July 17, 2009 (s.:http://www.counterpunch.org/kozloff07172009.html "The Politics of Destabilization, McCain and Honduras" and Honduras is Only Part of the Story – The Conservative Counter-Attack in Latin America, By MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, 090629 also at CounterPunch.
    .

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  • April 24, 2010 at 4:08 am
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    El Jefe is correct. David Meza was not known to be an izquierdista; therefore, these killings do not have the same political ideology in common.

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  • April 24, 2010 at 9:32 am
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    Even if "El Jefe" should be correct at one point. This given story as a shame – another one – for US foreign policy.
    Moreover, one should consider the economical interests of US Corporations in the privatisation of Tele Communication etc. (which means exploitation for Honduran people) which is decribed by the above mentioned articles by Nikolas Kozloff, in the background are agitating Dick Cheney, Otto Reich, the latter is infamous for his public diplomacy in defending Reagan's wars in Central America, for instance.

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  • April 24, 2010 at 9:58 am
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    I want to add, that people in the world are watching with anxiety how the US are defending their "leadership" , their ideology of promoting the prosperity of the "best", so desperately and short-mindedly, by military means and torture all of the world.
    Regrettably, European governments are joining "the best" so far risking the overkill of human species.
    On the other hand there are many people in the US we can admire for their honesty and responsibility: Noam Chomsky, late Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg, William Blum and many others, I personally learned for my profession very much from Milton Ericson, Virginia Satire, Jane Parsons-Fine to name only few. Regrettably they all seemed to have no influence in policy.
    How long, after all, will Larry Birns and his stuff will have their jester's licence for leading such a forum?

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  • April 24, 2010 at 10:21 am
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    In alteration of the old word of Latin Cato: "Ceterum censeo Karthaginem esse dilendam!" I want to add: "After all, in my opinion the 'Cuban Five' should be released, immediately", being kept as hostages of the double standard of the empire in fighting against terrorism since nearly 12 years. Their treatment contains one violation against human rights, US sonstitution and international law.
    Just visithttp://www.freethefive.org or other websites. Give in their names at Google:
    Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González.
    On the other hand infamous terrorist as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles enjoy their freedom in Miami protected by the CIA and US authorities.

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  • April 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm
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    It could be that Meza was a "false flag" killing; that he was killed to make it appear non ideological. This would make it easier to blame common criminals or on settling accounts as in El Jefe's argument.

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  • April 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm
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    I can see mediocre journalism happens everywhere, even in the USA. Whoever wrote this article, should do his homework and read our constitution/investigate, most of this journalists were anti-Zelaya, the outsting of Zelaya was legal acording to our constitution, the fact that you don't like it doesn't make it less legal.
    I can see you are a biased journalist, left ideology supporter, I respect your inclinations, but when it comes to writting an article about my country, I demand you be a professional in your job.

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    • May 1, 2010 at 7:14 pm
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      Your constitution makes it legal to arrest your President in his pyjamas and try to stick him on a plane to, where was it, Costa Rica?

      If so, you need another constitution, it would be, remind me of the number, the 80th in a century or so?

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  • April 24, 2010 at 7:15 pm
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    Obama, your leftist agenda is only hurting us and helping Chavez, Castro bros., Mel zelaya, rapist Daniel Ortega and all the leftist dictators in America, you think you can camouflage that truth …. dude you can't, you agenda is SO freaking obvious.

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    • May 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm
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      Obama, a leftist? Right, case closed, you do not know what the left is.

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  • April 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm
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    An open message to Ms. Lopez — regardless of the political position of the murdered journalists, isn't it up to the current Honduran government, if it hopes to achieve or maintain any credibility, to seek those responsible and charge them? Who cares what COHA's (hidden, by implication) "agenda" is… the point is not their left-leaning politics, but whether or not the facts surrounding these killings are accurate and what role the US State Dept. is playing, i.e. how our taxes are being used to defend a regime that accepts the assassination of its national journalists.

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  • April 25, 2010 at 11:12 am
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    I want to join "Ana J.". It would certainly be very usefull for all US Americans to find out what for their taxes are spent.
    Human peception is normally limited to that what humans want to believe. We feel much more comfortable when being able to believe in our government. Delegating policy to the responsibility of others leaves us free for fighting for our own survival, which is getting increasingly difficult – given the financial crises, unemployment etc.
    If we are not as successful as we want to be we are tending to blame others, that's why, racism and xenophobia can flourish, especially in difficult times. This is a hotbed for fascism and black-and- white- portrayal.
    There are alternative medias in the Internet where you can compare your truth with that of others, if you have the money, you can travel around and talk to others, and your are able to think it over and try to find out . This would be honest. But if one doesn't want to take into question his own perception and believing or still worse is not allowed to do so by those being in power, what do you think of such a person or such a country?

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  • April 26, 2010 at 3:19 am
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    COHA's Article is absolutely right. Otherwise see the latest avents with regards to Human Rights violations in Honduras, April 16, 2010

    UNA ACTIVISTA DE OPOSICIÓN RECIBE AMENAZAS DE MUERTE
    Rosa Margarita Vargas, una maestra, que ha sido activista de la oposición y ha escrito artículos en los que criticaba el golpe de Estado del 28 de junio de 2009 por el que se instauró un gobierno de facto en Honduras, ha recibido una serie de amenazas de muerte, y alguien ha manipulado su automóvil. Un colega suyo que también era activista de la oposición fue asesinado el 23 de marzo.
    El 11 de abril, los antiguos vecinos de Rosa Vargas le dijeron que dos hombres armados habían acudido a la casa en la que ella había vivido hasta diciembre de 2009, y habían preguntado dónde se encontraba. Rosa había recibido entre el 9 y el 12 de abril una serie de llamadas telefónicas de un hombre que la amenazó diciéndole que no debía hacer nada para investigar el homicidio de su colega José Manuel Flores Arguijo, y que, si persistía, o si seguía trabajando para el movimiento Resistencia, sería “eliminada”.

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  • April 26, 2010 at 9:29 am
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    It is also very possible that even though some of the journalists mentioned in this article were anti-Zelaya, they were nonetheless against the coup. And if this happens to be incorrect, it's still very suspect that so many journalists are being attacked, threatened, or even killed. This suggests that open opposition and freedom of expression are being inhibited.
    Another point I'd like to respond to is that of the legality of the overthrow. While the constitution does call for action against a president that violates any article, I don't recall an article calling for the ousted president to be exiled without a fair trial. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this.

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    • April 26, 2010 at 10:35 pm
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      We can speculate all we want, but the fact remains that these killings are confusing to say the least. In a country with 67 murders for every 100,000 inhabitants, the likelihood of someone being killed, regardless of profession, is still very high. The government is under obligation to investigate these homicides and bring the perpetrators to justice in order to maintain an aspect of governability. However, I'm not sure why COHA continues to question the legitimacy of Porfirio Lobo's administration. What's the alternative? Hold new elections? Create more chaos? As to Menjivar up there, the erosion of Honduran institutions did not begin on June 28. That was the day that the anti-Zelaya crowd decided to put the final nail in Honduran due process. Zelaya started it by taking politics that is normally decided in the halls of congress to the street, creating political chaos in the country. The opposition then decided to take actions of their own, even if they were completely illegal. The reason a trial could never be held is that the entire legal framework which the Honduran government rested precariously on had, by then, completely fallen apart. Keeping Zelaya in the country would've created a spectacle of a trial which would've ended in large-scale riots outside the courtroom. Honduras has neither the rule of law or the facilities for the trial of a sitting head of state. Our democracy is too underdeveloped and our political institutions too corrupt to carry out such an action. Realistically, I wish Zelaya had been tried and Honduras solved its problems in a peaceful, legal manner. However, I am also realistic and realize that Mao was right, and that power does come out of the barrel of a gun. In the political climate of one-upmanship which pervaded in Honduras this time last year, calm dialogue was all but impossible.

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      • April 27, 2010 at 1:29 am
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        I think it's fair to question the legitimacy of the Lobo administration considering the circumstances under which it came into power. The administration can prove its legitimacy by looking into this violent acts. As mentioned, new elections would cause unecessary chaos. I think the solutions needs to be government action in investigating and cracking down on crime.

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  • April 27, 2010 at 1:29 am
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    Also,I am fully aware that turmoil exists well before the coup of June 28th. What I don't understand is why efforts to reform the constitution, which from what you've described needs serious changes, were completely blocked. Zelaya would have not been in office by the time a constituent assembly was formed and his suggestion to change the presidential term limit could have been kept out of reform plans. I'm by no means defending Zelaya. I'm simply defending democracy and legality. And I don't think the coup leaders upheld the values they claimed to be protecting by removing Zelaya by means of a military coup. Two wrongs never make a right. The fact that the current government is not making an effort, at least not to my knowledge, to reform and update the constitution (which has been called the wrost in the world) makes it possible for situations like the Zelaya ordeal to happen again. This crisis proved that the constitution needs revision and yet no action has been taken to update and further develop Honduras' democracy.

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  • April 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
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    I have felt a widows tears on my chest as she cried for her husband and murdered children, in Nicaragua. "They even shot the tractor," she wailed. Her family had been killed by contras, their officers were trained in the United States, College of the Americas, Fort Benning, Georgia. The news team who asked me to interview her because they didn't speak Spanish staggered back before her anguish. "This is not a war," she said in Spanish and I translated for her. "If it's not a war then what is it?" The news person asked. "Terrorisme," she growled. I didn't need to translate that and it was never shown on TV. She cried on my shirt until it was stuck to my chest, forgiving the people of the US, specifically blaming their "terrorist" government.

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