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Stu Monty

The Latin America thread

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I'm pretty interested in some of the stuff that's happening in south and central America at the moment with regard to the leaders they are choosing and the fledgling shoots of some sort of new union for the region seem to be appearing. I thought that maybe other people were to and so if anyone has anything interesting about news in that area they could throw it on here?

 

I was reading an article that got me thinking about a thread like this on The Nation, the other day and so I guess that's the best thing to start with.

 

El Salvador Rising

 

It's a fairly large read so you'll need to put fifteen minutes aside for it. Some interesting stuff though.

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Just keeping up to date with what's going on over in Honduras and what steps are being taken to depose the people who staged this coup. Article in the Nation about it:

 

Waiting for Zelaya

 

It's a good five minute read but I found it interesting. The guy who wrote it is on the editorial committee for http://www.nacla.org which has got some very interesting stuff on there about current goings on all over Latin America.

 

 

Waiting for Zelaya

 

By Greg Grandin

July 28, 2009

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

 

 

The push to restore Honduran president Manuel Zelaya-- dragged out of bed a month ago by soldiers and bundled onto a plane to Costa Rica--has reached a tense deadlock. After negotiations between coup leaders and Zelaya's representatives brokered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias broke down last week, the deposed leader vowed to return to his country over land, setting out from Managua, Nicaragua, in a jeep. He arrived at the border on Friday, symbolically stepping foot on Honduran soil before returning to Nicaragua, where he remains camped just a few feet from Honduras.

 

For his part, Roberto Micheletti, Honduras's de facto president, has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he tries to enter the country again. Soldiers have set up a cordon on roads leading to Nicaragua and have aggressively sought to contain Zelaya supporters, launching tear gas into gathering crowds and detaining hundreds. On Saturday a protester captured by troops the day before turned up dead. A twenty-four-hour curfew for southern Honduras remains in effect. About 500 Zelaya supporters have avoided the main roads, however, entering Nicaragua over mountainous paths to join the ousted president.

 

It's a dramatic showdown, a fight for which Zelaya, who goes by the name Mel and likes to dress in a white shirt, black leather vest and white cowboy hat, seems perfectly cast. No one knows how it will end--rumors are swirling in Tegucigalpa that the military is pressuring Micheletti to agree to Arias's proposal to allow Zelaya to return as president, as head of a reconciliation government--but it does feel that the monthlong fight to win over public opinion is coming to a head.

 

Honduras's new regime has gone to great lengths to present itself to the world as democratic and constitutional, in line with the values of an open society. Micheletti and his backers claim to have acted procedurally, intervening on behalf of the courts to stop Zelaya's Hugo Chávez-like lunge for power. The coup's business backers even hired Lanny Davis, a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, to lobby his old boss to recognize the new regime. "This is about the rule of law. That is the only message we have," Davis said.

 

But in Honduras, paranoia reigns, redolent of a time when death squads ruled and anticommunism justified widespread murder. Then the perceived threat was Moscow. Today it is Caracas. "I'm against the way Zelaya was forced out of the country," said one prominent television host the other night, "but I'm also against Hugo Chávez coming here and conscripting my son to serve for six years in his army."

 

Then there's Fernando--a k a Billy--Joya, a former member of Honduras's infamous Battalion 316, a paramilitary unit responsible for the deaths of hundreds in the 1980s. Joya had previously fled the country on charges of, among other atrocities, having kidnapped and tortured six university students in 1982. But he's resurfaced as "special security adviser" to Micheletti's government. He's been seen walking side by side with Micheletti in a pro-coup "March for Peace and Democracy," and he's appeared on local talk-shows as an "international analyst," justifying the overthrow of Zelaya by invoking his admiration of Augusto Pinochet (lucky for Lanny Davis, Joya stays off CNN). And none other than Pinochet's daughter Lucia has endorsed the coup, praising Micheletti for continuing her father's legacy, fittingly so since the International Observation Mission--made up of representatives from fifteen European and Latin American human rights organizations--has warned of ongoing "grave and systematic" political persecution.

 

At least nine people have been assassinated or disappeared in the past month, with one body dumped in an area used by death squads in the 1980s as a clandestine cemetery. Among the executed, disappeared and threatened are trade unionists, peasant activists and independent journalists. They include Gabriel Fino Noriega, a reporter for Radio Estelar, in the department of Atlantida, shot dead leaving his work, and Roger Ivan Bados, a former union leader turned reformist politician, pulled off a bus following a pro-Zelaya demonstration and killed. Progressive Catholic priests have likewise been targeted, including Father José André s Tamayo Cortez, a prominent advocate of environmental and social justice, who went into hiding after receiving death threats following his participation in an anti-coup protest, in the department of Olancho. The Jesuit Ismael Moreno, director of the independent provincial Radio Progreso, has also been harassed by the military.

 

A member of the International Observation Mission told me that the number of killings and disappearances are likely higher than documented, as security forces reign with impunity in some remote, rural areas, making it nearly impossible to report such crimes. The army has also taken advantage of the crisis to conduct "forced conscriptions," kidnapping the teenage sons of peasant families--a practice that was commonplace throughout Central America through the 1980s, during the dark days of oligarchic rule, and only recently abandoned in Honduras.

 

One of the first to be killed was Vicky Hernandez Castillo, previously known as Sonny, a transgendered activist in San Pedro Sula's LGTB community. Hernandez left her home on the night of the coup, apparently unaware that the new government had decreed a curfew. She was found dead the next morning, shot in the eye and strangled. Just one month before her killing, Human Rights Watch had issued a report titled "Not Worth a Penny: Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Honduras," which documented seventeen unsolved murders of transgendered people in the past five years, as well as sustained police violence against them. The details of Hernandez's killing are unknown, yet her activism highlights the expansion of oppositional politics that has taken place in Central America since the end of the cold war, to include issues concerning sexual rights. That she was the first person killed suggests how the fundamentally antidemocratic nature of the coup is aimed at all challenges to hierarchy, not just those defined in economic terms.

 

Reading the major Honduran newspapers or watching news on Honduran TV is like entering a time warp back to the censorious days of the cold war, with one story after another trumpeting Micheletti's virtues. After Honduran troops shot and killed a 19-year-old protester, La Prensa, a major daily, ran a doctored photo of the boy's limp body, with the blood that was still pouring out of his head airbrushed away. Billboards with smiling faces of well-fed peasants (more than 40 percent of Hondurans live on a dollar a day) thanking Micheletti for defending democracy adorn major thoroughfares. Alternative media outlets--mostly radio and television stations in the provinces, not owned by a coup-supporting family--have been occupied and threatened. CNN was shut down for a period, and Telesur, the Spanish-language news network sponsored by, among other countries, Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia, is off the air (in covering the border standoff, CNN in Spanish is primarily using video feed from Telesur, which highlights the importance of that network as an information source). Every evening, the government takes over cable and broadcast channels to announce the hours of the next day's curfew.

 

What specifically did Zelaya do to conjure these malevolent spirits of the cold war past? The US press has focused on his efforts to build support for a constitutional assembly, misrepresenting the effort as a power grab when in fact the proposal to revise the Constitution was broadly supported by social movements as an effort to democratize Honduras's notoriously exclusive political system. The business community didn't like Zelaya because he raised the minimum wage. Conservative evangelicals and Catholics--including Opus Dei, a formidable presence in Honduras--detested him because he refused to ban the "morning-after" pill. The mining, hydroelectric and biofuel sector didn't like him because he didn't put state funds and land at their disposal. The law-and-order crowd hated him because he apologized on behalf of the state for a program of "social cleansing" that took place in the 1990s, which included the execution of street children and gang members. And the generals didn't like it when he tried to assert executive control over the military. Similar to the armed forces in Guatemala and El Salvador, the Honduran military after the cold war diversified its portfolio, with its officers investing heavily in both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, such as the narcotics trade, illegal logging, and illicit adoptions. In 1993 the general who carried out the coup, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez--trained in the School of the Americas--had been arrested and charged with running a car-theft ring.

 

Zelaya likewise moved to draw down Washington's military presence; Honduras, alone among Central American countries, hosts a permanent detachment of US troops at the Soto Cano air force base, a holdover from the Contra war. Zelaya's government also picked at cold war wounds not yet healed. Among his top advisers are Milton Jiménez Puerto--who in the 1980s was one of the students tortured by Joya--and Patricia Rodas, daughter of Modesto Rodas Alvarado Zamora. In the 1960s Rodas Alvarado represented the developmentalist wing of the Liberal Party, and in 1963 he was prevented from becoming president in a coup Hondurans insist was engineered by the CIA. Zelaya himself comes from a family with a deep history in the cold war: some in Honduras speculate that his reformism stems from a desire to atone his father's involvement in the 1975 massacre of fifteen activists, mostly peasants and two priests--one from Colombia, the other from Madison, Wisconsin--on his family's hacienda, in the northeastern department of Olancho. In the 1980s, an anti-coup activist told me, Zelaya was one of the few Liberal Party members to speak out against the Contra war, which the CIA organized and ran from Honduras. "History is pushing Mel," a journalist, critical of Zelaya during his tenure for a certain degree of demagogy yet firmly in favor of his return, told me.

 

Article pasted as per bumming avoidance regulation 13.7 of the GF handbook.

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lol

 

Venezuela to fine networks that air 'Family Guy' - Venezuela - MiamiHerald.com

 

Venezuela to fine networks that air 'Family Guy'

 

The Associated Press

 

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan authorities plan to impose fines on cable television companies that refuse to stop airing the animated television series "Family Guy."

 

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami says the program should be pulled from the airwaves because it promotes the use of marijuana.

 

El Aissami was outraged by a recent episode in which the show's characters started a campaign to legalize marijuana.

 

He said Thursday that cable networks that broadcast "Family Guy" would be fined by Venezuela's telecommunications regulator if they refuse to dump the program.

 

The government of President Hugo Chavez is preparing to impose new regulations on cable television. Among other rules, cable providers could be forced to carry Chavez's frequent speeches.

 

 

Looks like it's Cartoon Wars, for real.

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I have a couple of friends here who managed to get out of Venezuela. They say the country is going down rapidly under Chavez.

 

In what way, Rev? Not looking for a row, just genuinely interested in what they've said.

 

That Family Guy stuff is retarded; obviously. The forcing of the media to carry political messages less so, although you'd be looking for some balance.

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Chavez is a real conundrum to me.

 

Sometimes I get the feeling that he will be the man to make left-wing politics fashionable all around the world again; then when I see news like the above I say he is the one who will give it its final blow.

 

You obviously have to factor in the agenda against him when news is filtered through the western media sieve.

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Meanwhile in Honduras...

 

How Much Repression Will Hillary Clinton Support in Honduras?

ZNet - Hillary & Honduras

September 24, 2009 By Mark Weisbrot

Source: The Guardian Unlimited

 

 

On September 22, 2009, Mark Weisbrot appeared on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman to discuss Manuel Zelaya's return to Honduras.

 

 

 

Now that President Zelaya has returned to Honduras, the coup government - after first denying that he was there - has unleashed a wave of repression to prevent people from gathering support for their elected president. This is how U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the first phase of this new repression last night in a press conference:

 

"I think that the government imposed a curfew, we just learned, to try to get people off the streets so that there couldn't be unforeseen developments."

 

But the developments that this dictatorship is trying to repress are very much foreseen. A completely peaceful crowd of thousands surrounded the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, where Zelaya has taken refuge, to greet their president. The military then used the curfew as an excuse to tear-gas, beat, and arrest the crowd until there was nothing left. There are reports of scores wounded and three dead. The dictatorship has cut off electricity and water to the embassy, and cut electricity to what little is left of the independent media, as well as some neighborhoods. This is how the dictatorship has been operating. It has a very brutal but simple strategy.

 

The strategy goes like this: they control the national media, which has been deployed to convince about 30-40 percent of the population that their elected President is an agent of a foreign government and seeks to turn the country into a socialist prison. However, that still leaves the majority who have managed to find access to other information.

 

The strategy for dealing with them has been to try to render them powerless: through thousands of arrests, beatings, and even some selective killings. This has been documented, reported, and denounced by major human rights organizations throughout the world: Amnesty International, the Center for Justice and International Law, Human Rights Watch, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and others.

 

One important actor, the only major country to maintain an ambassador in Honduras throughout the dictatorship, has maintained a deafening silence about this repression: that is the United States government. The Obama administration has not uttered one word about the massive human rights violations in Honduras. This silence by itself tells you all that you need to know about what this administration has really been trying to accomplish in the 87 days since the Honduran military squelched democracy. The Obama team understands exactly how the coup government is maintaining its grip on power through violence and repression. And President Obama, along with his Secretary of State, has shown no intention to undermine this strategy.

 

In fact, President Zelaya has been to Washington six times since he was overthrown, but not once did he get a meeting with President Obama. Why is that? Most likely because Obama does not want to send the "wrong" signal to the dictatorship, i.e. that the lip service that he has paid to Zelaya's restoration should be taken seriously.

 

These signals are important because the Honduran dictatorship is digging in its heels on the bet that they don't have to take any pressure from Washington seriously. They have billions of dollars of assets in the United States, which could be frozen or seized. But the dictatorship, for now, trusts that the Obama team is not going to do anything to hurt their allies.

 

The head of the Organization of American States' Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Luz Mejias, had a different view of the dictatorship's curfew from that of Hillary Clinton. She called it "a clear violation of human rights and legal norms" and said that those who ordered these measures should be charged under international criminal law.

 

What possible excuse can the military have for breaking up this peaceful gathering, or can Ms. Clinton have for supporting the army's violence? There was no way that this crowd was a threat to the Brazilian embassy - quite the contrary, if anything it was protecting the embassy. That is one reason why the military attacked the crowd.

 

On August 11, sixteen members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging him to "publicly denounce the use of violence and repression of peaceful protestors, the murder of peaceful political organizers and all forms of censorship and intimidation directed at media outlets."

 

They are still waiting for an answer.

 

Some might recall what happened to President Bill Clinton when his administration sent mixed signals to the dictatorship in Haiti in 1994. President Clinton had called for the dictator Raul Cedras to step down, so that the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide could be restored. But Cedras was convinced - partly because of contradictory statements from administration officials like Brian Latell of the CIA - that Clinton was not serious. Even after Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell, and then Senator Sam Nunn were sent to Haiti to try to persuade Cedras to leave before a promised U.S. invasion - the dictator still did not believe it. In September of 1994 President Clinton sent 20,000 troops to topple the dictatorship and restore the elected president (who ironically was overthrown again in 2004, in a U.S.-instigated coup).

 

By now, the coup government in Honduras has even less reason than the 1994 Haitian dictatorship to believe that the Obama team will do anything serious to remove them from power.

 

What a horrible, ugly message the Obama administration is sending to the democracies of Latin America, and to people that aspire to democracy everywhere.

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But the us and former soviet union are the only two countries who imposed their overbearing power (both military and economic) on much smaller states and economies. Lately, the EU and China seem to have started following suit.

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Well, as superpowers they tend to be better at defending their interests.

 

Don't think for one second that there is a solitary nation on this Earth that would behave any differently if it had similar means available to it.

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Interesting contrast in the media response to Honduras and the Iranian elections. Military coup and repression of demonstrations in Honduras barely merit a paragraph. Similarly muted response from all the politicians who were queuing up to condemn the Iranian government.

 

Clearly the US government knew about the coup in Honduras (600 US troops based there) beforehand. The whole situation sheds a lot of light on the true nature of the Obama administration - this is John Pilgers take on it:

 

And all of this, it seems to me, has come together in the presidency of Barack Obama, who is almost a creation of this media world. He promised some things, although most of them were amorphous, and has delivered virtually the opposite. He started his own war in Pakistan. We see the events in Iran and Honduras being quite subtly, but very directly, influenced in the time-honored way by the Obama administration. And yet, the Obama administration is still given this extraordinary benefit of the doubt by people who, in my view, are influenced by mainstream media.

 

Rest of the article here:

 

John Pilger on Honduras, Iran, Gaza, the Corporate Media, Obama's Wars, and Resisting the American Empire

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In what way, Rev? Not looking for a row, just genuinely interested in what they've said.

 

That Family Guy stuff is retarded; obviously. The forcing of the media to carry political messages less so, although you'd be looking for some balance.

 

I was bumming around South America this time three years ago and Venezuela was definitely the strangest country we went to.

Came in from Brazil, spent 6 days hiking up to Mount Roraima (amazing) went to Angel Falls, spent a bit of time in Santa Elena de Uairen and Ciudad Bolivar.

All the Venezuelans we met were pretty much ace - really friendly and generous, but the towns were weird, they completely shut down at 6.30pm. It was impossible to go to any restaurants after that. One time we went into a (chinese) place at about 6, and the owner locked the doors and pulled down the metal blinds. He unlocked them to let us out, but didn’t let anyone else in the whole time.

My in-laws used to live in Caracas in the early 70s so the missus was keen to go there, but every backpacker we met who’d stayed there had got robbed. Two girls from Caracas we met told us not to go there as well as it was too dangerous to go out anywhere for foreigners, so we decided not to in the end.

What was also strange is that it’s obvious the country has got everything going for it, loads of land, a mix of climates, perfect for growing all types of food, oil, and great coastline and well developed holiday islands and tourism industry. Really it should be one of the wealthiest and best places to live in the world.

I guess it used to be like that if you were in the mainly Spanish heritage middle classes, but the indigenous population got left right behind. Fair play to Chavez for at least paying lip-service to improving the lot for the poorest members of society, and he probably wouldn’t have got the chance if the old ruling elite hadn’t been so riddled with corruption. Shame he seems to be a bit of a crackpot.

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Well, as superpowers they tend to be better at defending their interests.

 

Don't think for one second that there is a solitary nation on this Earth that would behave any differently if it had similar means available to it.

 

True.

 

It always baffles me why people like John Pilger hold the USA to some kind of higher standard than the rest of the world. It's doing what all empires do, it's doing what we did, and what the French and Spanish did. The Russians did the same, and the Chinese are currently in the process of eating Africa.

 

Countries do what they do for a reason, both internal and external preassures. The driving force of the US desire to expand its markets in the 20th Century IMO was probably prompted by the depression. The man in the street in the USA went from not having a pot to piss in to being fairly financially secure - and understandably - didn't want that situation to end.

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I'm sorry but the notion that might is right and people just have to lump it, does not go down well with me and I find it unacceptable that intelligent people don't get infuriated at this kind of thought.

 

If our ancestors had reasoned along such lines, we would still have suffrage of landed gentry only, slavery, no workers' rights so on and so forth.

 

In my humble opinion, any kind of injustice should be shown up and fought with all ones capabilities

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True.

 

It always baffles me why people like John Pilger hold the USA to some kind of higher standard than the rest of the world. It's doing what all empires do, it's doing what we did, and what the French and Spanish did. The Russians did the same, and the Chinese are currently in the process of eating Africa.

 

Countries do what they do for a reason, both internal and external preassures. The driving force of the US desire to expand its markets in the 20th Century IMO was probably prompted by the depression. The man in the street in the USA went from not having a pot to piss in to being fairly financially secure - and understandably - didn't want that situation to end.

 

I'm baffled why you're baffled. The USA has the potential to be an incredible force for good and progress in the world, instead the small clique that drive its foreign policy use much of that power for narrow selfish purposes. Is it too much to ask for that they actually followed the values they espouse ?

 

Long-term it has to be in the interests of the general population of the USA to support progressive forces in other countries that bring equitable development to their populations rather than the corrupt and brutal regimes they often favour. There won't be peace without justice.

 

Your explanation of how 'countries' serve their own interests sounds a bit like Thatcher's 'no such thing as society'.

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Er, did you not read the post directly above mine or something? O_o

 

I didn't need to. I did, but I'm already pretty well versed on events over there. I'm not daft enough to think that suddenly holding your tongue about a military coup that rids the continent of another left-leaning leader can be described as being damned when you don't interfere. And I don't think it's tin foil hat territory to be wondering if, as with pretty much every other coup on the continent, the CIA didn't have their fingers in pies somewhere along the way.

 

I completely agree that the US should look after their own interests, that makes sense, but if they want to continue preaching to the world on the values of freedom and democracy then they need to follow those words up with action or people will, quite rightly, start to see their arses with them.

 

Anyhow. Read something today that I thought might be really interesting to a few people here. It's an interview in The Nation with Chavez discussing plenty of different issues, with one of them being Obama.

 

There Is Much to Do: An Interview With Hugo Chavez

 

It makes me laugh when people throw him in the same bracket as people like that Iranian loon; turning up to the UN and denying holocausts again. Here's to hoping that Venezuela can keep playing banker for the region for long enough to see if some real social democracy can flourish.

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