On the one year anniversary of the coup d’etat that ousted Honduras’s Manuel Zelaya, AFP begins reporting on the situation in the country, which it calls deeply “polarized,” and far from one of national reconciliation. As an editorial in Tiempo puts it, Honduras is experiencing a situation of profound “abnormality.” The social-political trauma caused by the coup is very different than past coups, the paper writes, “due to the complex characteristics of its authors -- a coalition of individuals holding State power, businessmen, the military, religious fundamentalists, and politicians, never before seen in Honduras.” The paper continues:
“Moreover, the true motivations of the golpistas remain hidden behind a dense rhetoric about defending democracy from a supposed socialist totalitarian threat, when the real purpose was – and continues to be – preventing any possibility for the Honduran people to have their own voice and participation, since, from the elite perspective, the people do not have the capacity to reason.”
Added to this all, says Tiempo, is the power of narcotraffickers in the country – a second force, in addition to the golpistas, who desire a weak Honduran state.
The AP, meanwhile, focuses on whether or not the return of Mel Zelaya might help facilitate a solution to the on-going crisis. Some analysts, like Francisco Rojas, secretary general of FLACSO, say the ousted former leader’s return would open the door for Honduras’s re-entry to the OAS (as well as new deal with the international financial institutions to help the country’s cash-strapped economy). Others disagree, however, continuing to argue Zelaya must be taken to court should he return to his native country.
For its part, the Honduran resistance (FNRP) which developed as the principal opposition movement to last year’s coup is planning a mass demonstration today to commemorate the illegal ouster of the Zelaya government. Turnout could provide a clearer idea about just how deep the roots of the Resistance are in Honduras. In addition, the Honduras Human Rights Platform plans to install its “alternative truth commission” today. Both Tiempo and Honduras Culture and Politics have more on the participants of the alternative commission.
And various letters and press releases from rights advocates this weekend highlight on-going abuses in Honduras. I mentioned the important letter from 27 US members of Congress that was sent to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton last week. So too does the Washington Office on Latin America have a statement citing the persistence of human rights violations, illegal dismissals, impunity, and attacks on journalists. And here’s how Amnesty International’s Guadalupe Marengo puts it:
“President Lobo has publicly committed to human rights but has failed to take action to protect them, which is unacceptable. He needs to show he is serious about ending the climate of repression and insecurity in Honduras - otherwise the future stability of the country will remain in jeopardy."
Behind that headline this weekend:
· The Inter-Press Service has some human rights / citizen security pieces of importance this weekend. First, on Mexico, IPS says the Mexican military’s participation in the drug war has “triggered a jump in violence in the areas where troops are on the ground.” That analysis comes from a new report entitled “Statistical Analysis and Visualisation of the Drug War in Mexico,” published by US statistics expert, Diego Valle. Using the report, Valle makes some interesting distinctions between the original deployment of the military in places like Michoacán and southern Guerrero in 2007 – where violence initially dropped – and the later militarization of the north and parts of Veracruz state, which was followed by significant increases in violence. “The expansion of military operations beyond Michoacán and Guerrero was unnecessary,” says Valle. “Given the resulting increases in violence it is doubtful that involving the army was the appropriate solution.”
· The New York Times, meanwhile, highlights the cancellation of various US summer study abroad programs in Mexico, due to fears – misplaced or not – of rising drug-related violence. And in the LA Times, a report on likely cartel infiltration of police forces in Michoacán. The report focuses on that state’s security minister, Minerva Bautista, who was recently the target of a cartel assassination attempt. Authorities suspect that corrupt police officers – in one of the few states that has not undertaken a major purge of its police forces -- may have tipped off members of La Familia to Ms. Baustista’s movements.
· Moving to Venezuela, another IPS report looks at old problems of violence within the Venezuelan police forces. Alfredo Ruiz of the non-governmental Justice and Peace Support Network describes a situation in which “torture and human rights violations” have “persisted for decades” and where those responsible can still today “be found in many police forces and several military corps.” Since 1995, the organization RedSalud DDHH has documented and helped with over 470 cases of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment all around Venezuela, but particularly in the capital of Caracas. A long history of impunity, the report concludes, remains one of the most pressing challenges for the country.
· A recommended rights-related piece from Juan Forero at the Washington Post this weekend. Forero reports on the Inter-American Human Rights Court’s decision last week which held the Colombian government responsible for the murder of Communist Party Senator, Manuel Cepeda, in 1994. According to the Post,
“As President Alvaro Uribe prepares to leave office in August after eight years in power, investigators at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the OAS, are grappling with many of these cases. The most recent have triggered a national and international firestorm over the army's systematic killing of peasant farmers to inflate combat kills and revelations that Uribe's secret police spied on opponents, foreign diplomats and rights groups.”
While the greatest number of rights complaints to the inter-American justice system have come from Peru (1400), the paper says it’s “Washington's closest ally in the region, Colombia, “where the most serious cases of abuse” have emerged. “In all, the commission is evaluating 1,055 cases. Dozens of the cases of serious violations took place during Uribe's administration,” says the paper.
· The Inter-American Court of Human Rights also recently condemned the 1981 forced disappearance of Guatemalan indigenous leader, Florencio Chitay Nech.” As in previous cases, the court has urged the Guatemalan government to “carry out an in-depth investigation of what happened and to punish those found responsible.”
· The Miami Herald says Haitian President Rene Preval has “issued two presidential decrees, each designating Nov. 28 as the official date for Haiti's presidential and postponed legislative elections.”
· Larry Rother in this weekend’s NY Times is none-too-kind to Oliver Stone’s new movie on the Latin American Left, South of the Border.
· On Cuba, a new press release from the Center for Democracy in the Americas on the House Agricultural Committee’s decision to mark-up legislation that seeks to end the US Cuba travel ban and remove impediments for US agricultural exports to the island. According to the release, the Agriculture Committee has scheduled a mark-up of H.R. 4645, introduced by Chairman Collin Peterson with support from 62 cosponsors, for June 30, 2010.
· Which leads to opinions. Mary Anastasia O’Grady is confused about why the US Congress would be bringing up the issue of Cuba and the travel ban right now. True to form, she connects that issue with Hugo Chavez and the one-year anniversary of the coup in Honduras.
“Why were the Obama administration and key congressional Democrats obsessed, for seven months, with trying to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back? Why did the U.S. pull visas, deny aid, and lead an international campaign to isolate the tiny Central American democracy? To paraphrase many Americans who wrote to me during the stand-off: "Whose side are these guys on anyway?"
Such doubts about the motivations of the party in power in Washington will be hard to ignore this week as the Democrats try to put U.S. Cuba policy back on the legislative agenda.”
Similarly, Jaime Daremblum of the Hudson Institute calls Juan Manuel Santos’s victory in Colombia a “defeat for Hugo Chavez” in the Weekly Standard. And Andres Oppenheimer says Latin America’s rich must be more generous. A new report shows the region’s wealthiest individuals got even richer during the global economic downturn of the last few years. “But what should be more worrisome,” claims Oppenheimer, “is that the region’s wealthy plan to give less to charity than their counterparts elsewhere.”