The United States' Anti-Democratic
Pattern in Honduras
by Elizabeth DiNovella
The general at the center of the military
coup in Honduras has a connection to the U.S. military-General
Romeo Vasquez attended the School of the Americas (SOA).
The School of the Americas, now known
as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC),
is a combat training school for Latin American soldiers, located
at Fort Benning, Georgia. General Vasquez attended trainings at
least twice-in 1976 and 1984, according to the watchdog group
School of Americas Watch.
Graduates of the School of the Americas/WHINSEC
have a long history of repression and anti-democratic actions.
The School has produced at least 11 Latin American dictators,
including SOA grad General Juan Megler Castro who became military
dictator of Honduras in 1975.
"From 1980-82, the dictatorial Honduran
regime was headed by yet another SOA graduate, Policarpo Paz Garcia,
who intensified repression and murder by Battalion 3-16, one of
the most feared death squads in all of Latin America (founded
by Honduran SOA graduates with the help of Argentine SOA graduates),"
says SOA Watch.
It's worth noting that John Negroponte,
former ambassador to Iraq under Geoge W. Bush, was ambassador
to Honduras 1981-1985. As filmmaker Paul Laverty wrote in the
July 2005 issue of The Progressive, "a prizewinning series
in the Baltimore Sun in 1995 demonstrated that Negroponte knew
about the torture and murders that Honduras's Battalion 3-16,
trained by the CIA, was carrying out. He then covered them up
by whitewashing reports back to Congress about Honduras's human
The United States used Honduras for years
as a staging ground for its proxy war against the Sandinistas.
The United States still stations troops at Cano Soto Air Base,
near Tegucigalpa, which was used as a base of operations for the
And while U.S. assistance to Honduras
does not quite match the incredible sums spent during the 1980s,
between 2005-2010, military and police aid to Honduras will reach
more than $40 million.
FY 2010 Congressional Budget Justification
for Foreign Operations report, which was released May 2009, states
that "U.S. foreign assistance to Honduras focuses on partnering
with the Government of Honduras to enhance security, strengthen
democracy and rule of law . . ."
Given the history of U.S. intervention
in Latin America, Obama faces a skeptical audience when he talks
about upholding the rule of law. His State Department's budget
request says "Honduras has the lowest level of public support
for democracy of the 22 countries surveyed in the Americas."
Let's hope that when the story behind
the coup emerges, taxpayer dollars, through groups such as USAID,
are not found to be supporting the coup plotters, like it did
President Obama has said he was "deeply
concerned" and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said
Zelaya's arrest should be condemned.
At least Obama did not endorse this ill-fated
coup, unlike the Bush Administration's immediate diplomatic recognition
of coup plotters in Venezuela in 2002. But Obama could do more.
My friend and colleague Roberto Lovato
writes, "Beyond immediate calls to continue demanding that
Zelaya and democratic order be reinstated, protesters in Honduras,
Latin America and across the United States will also pressure
the Obama Administration to take a number of tougher measures
including: cutting off of U.S. military aid, demanding that Hondurans
and others kidnapped, jailed and detained be released and accounted
for immediately, bringing Vasquez and coup leaders to justice,
investigating what U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens,
did or didn't know about the coup."
In the early 1990s, I spent a few months
in Honduras. Most of my time was spent in a Chiquita banana plantation
town in the north near San Pedro Sula. Honduras's utter poverty
was overwhelming, even compared to Guatemala, El Salvador, and
Chiapas, Mexico. Social movement groups, such a human rights organizations,
seemed beaten down.
Now, though, times have changed. The poverty
remains but "civil society" seems pretty upset about
this coup. Kristin Bricker, a writer for NarcoNews, reports, "It
is clear that Hondurans are resisting. People are taking the streets
in Honduras despite incredibly hostile conditions created by the
military. Radio Es Lo De Menos reports that their colleagues on
the ground have been fired at by snipers who are positioned in
rooftops around the city. They stress that the gunfire at this
point has only been in the form of 'warning shots' and no one
has been reported injured from gunfire."
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous
Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) wrote in a communique, "We
tell everyone that the Honduran people are carrying out large
demonstrations, actions in their communities, in the municipalities;
there are occupations of bridges, and a protest in front of the
presidential residence, among others. From the lands of Lempira,
Morazán and Visitación Padilla, we call on the Honduran
people in general to demonstrate in defense of their rights and
of real and direct democracy for the people, to the fascists we
say that they will NOT silence us, that this cowardly act will
turn back on them, with great force."
Meanwhile, the "kidnapped" Honduran
President Zelaya, in an interview with Al Jazeera, is calling
for peaceful resistance.