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U.S. government backs Honduran oligarchy

Published Mar 14, 2010 7:33 PM

The Obama administration continues to support the ruthless Honduran oligarchy in its war against a nonviolent political and social movement led by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular. The movement has united peasants, workers, trade unionists and students; the Garifuna, Afro-Honduran and Indigenous communities; and lesbian/gay/bi/trans/queer activists, women’s groups, intellectuals and Christians guided by liberation theology.

The FNRP was formed after the Honduran military kidnapped President Jose Manuel Zelaya. On June 28 Zelaya was taken from his residence to the Soto Cano Air Base — a U.S. military installation in Honduras — and flown to San Jose, Costa Rica.

The Obama administration claimed it knew nothing of the coup until after the fact. But aircraft cannot fly in or out of the base without clearance from the 612th Air Base Squadron, which is in charge of base operations, air traffic control and checking flight manifests. Vehicles cannot enter or leave the base without clearance from the Joint Security Force, which is responsible for base security and includes Army, Marine and Air Force personnel.

The Honduran military has umbilical-cord ties to the Pentagon. Two of the military leaders of the coup — Gen. Romeo Vasquez and Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo — are graduates of the School of the Americas located on the U.S. Army base at Fort Benning, Ga. The Honduran Air Force Academy is located on the Soto Cano Air Base. It is inconceivable that the Honduran military could make the necessary coup preparations, including troop movements and telephone calls, without Pentagon, CIA and U.S. embassy knowledge.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters during a recent trip to South America that “The Honduras crisis has been managed to a successful conclusion. It was done without a civil war, it was done without violence, and I think that our policy in the vast majority of countries in Latin America is either given high marks or great respect.” (Reuters, March 1) This is a lie.

This writer travelled to Honduras in October as part of a fact-finding and solidarity delegation initiated by the International Action Center and observed first-hand a civil war — from the barrios to downtown — in the streets of the capital city Tegucigalpa. One side — the Armed Forces of Honduras and the National Police — had automatic weapons and crowd suppression devices, while the other side — the FNRP — was completely unarmed.

Since day one of the coup the oligarchy has used violence in an attempt to destroy the FNRP. Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten up, gassed and shot to death. Death squads and nightriders in pickup trucks with tinted windows have followed and seized FNRP members. In February Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, a leader of the Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute; Julio Funez Benitez, a member of the SANAA national utility union; and Claudia Larisa Brizuela Rodriguez, the daughter of a prominent FNRP leader, were all murdered by death squads.

The Feminist Collective of University Women is a radical women’s organization that opposes the coup and supports LGBTQ rights. In an interview posted on the Web site hondurashumanrights.wordpress.com on March 7, members Blanca Dole, Celeste Mejia and Gabriela Flores all described receiving threatening phone calls and being followed by cars with tinted windows and no license plates.

Solidarity is key

Most Latin American countries do not recognize the coup-installed government, whether led by Roberto Micheletti or Porfirio Lobo. Yet on March 4 Clinton directed the release of $30 million to the current coup leaders.

At this time international solidarity, especially from North America, is most important to the FNRP. The rotation of short-term delegations and the work of activists based in Honduras give space to the FNRP and ensure that the Honduran people are not isolated and that the actions of the oligarchy and the Honduran military are documented for future consideration in international courts of justice.

North American solidarity with the Honduran people has its own heroic history. James Carney, a Jesuit priest from Missouri known as Padre Guadalupe, was the spiritual advisor to a Honduran guerrilla unit of the Revolutionary Party of Central American Workers-Honduras. In July 1983 Padre Guadalupe was captured by the infamous Honduran army Battalion 3-16 and executed with CIA agents present.

One of the leaders of the unit who was killed in the same action was the Nicaraguan-American David Arturo Baez Cruz. Baez Cruz was a former member of the U. S. Army Special Forces who was radicalized while stationed in Panama. The events are described in the book “Inside Delta Force” by Eric Haney, a U.S. military advisor to Battalion 3-16 in July 1983.

Thousands will gather in Washington, D.C., on March 20 to protest the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is important that the U.S. war against the people of Honduras also be on the agenda that day.