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From Honduras to Colombia

U.S. policy threatens Latin America

Published Aug 12, 2009 2:40 PM

The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words,” underlines a dangerous reality regarding any alleged change in U.S. relations with Latin America, and especially regarding Honduras and Colombia.

At last April’s Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, President Barack Obama broke with former President George W. Bush’s harsh rhetoric. He spoke in a slightly more conciliatory tone toward Latin America, and even on Cuba, saying, “We are not dug in into policies that were formulated before I was born.” This apparently new attitude from the North brought some hope that the long imperialist intervention in the region would recede.

But events in Honduras and Colombia show that Simon Bolivar’s famous statement—“The United States seems destined by providence to plague the world of misery in the name of freedom”—still holds true.

Honduras, a crucial crossroads

Hardly two months after the summit, a coup d’état reminiscent of the nightmarish U.S.-backed military dictatorships in Latin America of the 1970s was carried out in Honduras, with help from Washington. Initial words from both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to side with Honduras’ people. Though they spoke much after many Latin American and world leaders condemned the coup, Obama and Clinton also condemned the criminal coup and said Washington recognized the legitimate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Since then, the Obama administration has only helped the coup leaders with maneuvers and has softened its opposition to the coup regime. Clinton has even publicly opposed Zelaya’s attempt to return to Honduras, at one point calling Zelaya “reckless” for trying to cross the border before reaching an agreement.

Despite help from U.S. imperialism that includes a monumental media campaign on behalf of the criminal coup, the coup regime has big problems. A powerful resistance has arisen uniting all sectors opposing the coup, who have put any political differences aside and worked incessantly and cooperatively with only one main objective: to defeat the coup d’état.

Faced with repression, assassinations, mass detentions, torture, constant curfews, etc., this movement, organized under the Popular Front of Resistance against the coup d’état, has, contrary to U.S. expectations, grown and strengthened.

Juan Barahona of the Honduran Unitary Federation of Workers (FUTH) and a leader of the Popular Front illustrated the resistance’s strength in an Aug. 8 interview. Workers World’s first call found Barahona in the middle of an assembly, itself reflecting the ongoing consultative character of the movement, which carefully assesses every event and development in order to plan adequate actions.

Barahona thanked WW and the International Action Center for their support and solidarity: “For us, that solidarity and support that the peoples of the world have given us is what keeps our morale high, with the firmness and the conviction that we will defeat the golpistas [coup plotters].”

The resistance leader continued: “Here we are fighting strongly, resisting, organizing massive mobilizations against the coup. This coming Tuesday and Wednesday [Aug. 12], thousands of Hondurans will arrive in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa from all over the country to strengthen the resistance. This week an OAS [Organization of American States] commission headed by Insulza accompanied by five exterior ministers will arrive here. We are hoping that the time for the golpistas to abandon office is near and [that they] will hand power to the legitimate president.

“We are demanding that Obama increase pressure against the golpistas, since up to now we feel that the U.S. government has not done enough to pressure the golpistas to surrender. The most important demand is to suspend all financial and military support for Honduras. That is why they do not surrender, because it is like the oxygen that keeps them alive.”

Later, WW learned that Roberto Micheletti’s coup regime had prevented the OAS delegation from reaching Honduras, stating that Secretary General José Miguel Insulza was unwelcome because he was not neutral.

More than 40 days of constant actions on the streets have illustrated Barahona’s claim that the resistance movement is growing wider and new sectors are joining. The country is virtually paralyzed. Hospitals and schools have closed. The workers of the National Company of Electric Energy have joined the strike. The National Association of Meteorologists of Honduras has declared an indefinite strike affecting air transit in all the airports, which have been closed. Taxi drivers have also joined the strike.

Colombia—U.S. hope to destabilize region

While Washington hesitates to condemn the Honduras coup, it massively militarizes Colombia, which many call the “Israel of Latin America” because of its flagrant role as a U.S. military proxy. The Pentagon plans to increase its presence in Colombia far beyond replacing the Manta base in Ecuador after President Rafael Correa refused to renew Manta’s 10-year contract.

The Pentagon will now have open access to seven additional military bases in Colombia—three army, two air force, and two naval bases, one of them on the Pacific and the other on the Caribbean, very close to the Guajira region on Venezuela’s border.

Washington and its puppet paramilitary Colombian President Alvaro Uribe claim the bases are necessary to fight drug trafficking and “terrorism” and simply extend Plan Colombia. They do not even call them U.S. military bases.

During a recent meeting with Spanish-language reporters, Obama said: “There have been those in the region who have been trying to play this up as part of a traditional anti-Yankee rhetoric. This is not accurate. We have had a security agreement with Colombia for many years now. We have updated that agreement. We have no intent in establishing a U.S. military base in Colombia.

“This is continuation,” Obama said, “of assistance that we had been providing them. We have no intention of sending large numbers of additional troops into Colombia, and we have every interest in seeing Colombia and its neighbors operate peacefully.” (Reuters.com, Aug. 7)

But Latin American leaders see it differently. They have spoken out against the establishment of such bases as a dangerous development that can lead to war in the region and act against its neighboring countries, Ecuador and Venezuela, whose presidents have already denounced the installation of new U.S. military bases in Colombia.

Next: Uribe’s whirlwind tour to seven Latin American countries, the growing war threat against Ecuador and Venezuela, the UNASUR meeting.