Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Silence of the Loons: The Obama Administration's Quiet About Face on Honduras


Hillary ClintonManuel Zelaya and Hugo ChavezBarack Obama

A Relatively Quiet Honduras

We have not heard much recently about events in Honduras, where the constitutional crisis provoked by the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya last June dominated news on U.S.-Latin American relations for months. The recent negotiation of an agreement to resolve the conflict and continue with the presidential elections scheduled for last November 29 apparently brought an end to the worst fears that the country might slip into political chaos. The Obama administration has dropped its earlier hard-line stance against the interim government and has very quietly recognized the results of the elections, which gave the presidency to National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo in a contest thankfully free of violence and in which voter participation met the requisite international norms.

The international community's previously unified stance in opposition to Zelaya's removal, which typified the political climate of the past five months, is now unraveling in the wake of the Honduran presidential elections. In addition to the U.S. acknowledgement of Lobo's victory, at least four other countries in the hemisphere have recognized the legitimacy of the vote; including Colombia, Panama, Peru, and neighboring Costa Rica. Naturally, a contradictory view is held in Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Argentina; all of whom have announced their rejection of the election's results, though President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil has at least held out the possibility that his country would be open to some gesture which restores Zelaya in time to preside over the inaugural ceremonies, which are scheduled for January 27, when Lobo will assume the powers of his office under Honduran law.

The central problem the Hondurans now confront is deciding what to do with Zelaya, who remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, working his cell phone until the late evening hours trying to rally international support for his return and, in the opinion of the interim government and most Hondurans, trying to destabilize the impending presidential transition. The November accord negotiated to bring an end to the standoff Zelaya created when he sneaked back into the country last September required the Honduran Congress to vote on his reinstatement, which they did on December 2, rejecting him by a resounding vote of 111-14. Following this embarrassing defeat for the ex-President, which on his part suggests a serious lack of understanding of the wishes of the Honduran people, Mexico offered to take him out of the country and even sent a plane to pick him up. But the interim government refused to let Zelaya leave unless he agreed to travel only as a private citizen seeking asylum and not as a claimant to the presidency, an offer Zelaya rejected.

Honduran Congress Votes Overwhelmingly Against Reinstating Zelaya as President
Source: European Pressphoto Agency

Zelaya's Future: Embassy Prisoner, Destabilizing Force, or Exile?

The interim government's refusal to permit Zelaya to depart the country under any status other than that of a private citizen leaves the former president's own future in doubt. Brazil says he can remain at their embassy in Tegucigalpa and that no limit will be set on his stay. But this almost disinterested public stance on the part of the Brazilians is belied by the fact that they are also pressing the U.S. to secure Zelaya's safe passage out of the country, a position the State Department has supported consistently as part of the settlement of the crisis. President-elect Lobo has offered to meet with Zelaya "anywhere" to negotiate an end to the matter, though there is no mention of the possibility of any impending action the incoming President might take once in office.

Honduran leaders continue to insist that so long as Zelaya refuses to recognize the results of the election, that he will continue to represent a genuine threat to their country's stability. These fears are not entirely unfounded. Just this past week Fidel Castro sent a letter to Hugo Chavez to be read before the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Spanish acronym: ALBA) conference being held in Havana which accused the U.S. of continuing its historic tradition of "aggression" in Latin America and pointedly cited Honduras as the major focus of this renewed "offensive." Given that Chavez's fiery temperament does not lend itself to passive inaction, it should not be ruled out that he will be prepared to finance a campaign to destabilize the Central American country in retaliation for its rejection of his twenty-first century socialist agenda. President Micheletti has in fact warned of the possibility that Zelaya might try to attack Honduras from exile, which has been the interim government's primary motivation for refusing permission for the ousted leader to leave the country without a renunciation of his claims to power.

Why the Silence from Washington?

One almost has to dig a little to find any news out of Washington with respect to the Obama Administration's policy towards Honduras. Some of what they have released has been positive for its effect in dispelling misinformation. Immediately following the November 29 vote, the State Department acknowledged that turnout apparently had exceeded that of the previous presidential election, which conflicted with the propaganda emanating from the small minority who continue to support Zelaya within Honduras, doing much to dismiss it in the process. But the recurring refrain from Foggy Bottom has been constant on three points; Zelaya should be reinstated before the inauguration of the new President, a national unity government should be put in place to handle the transition to a new administration, and a "Truth Commission" should be formed to make clear to Hondurans, as well as the rest of the world, exactly what happened with respect to the ouster of Zelaya.

With the exception of the demand that Zelaya be returned to the presidency, it appears that the Hondurans are at least attempting to fulfill all other conditions Washington has set. The national unity government seemed to be in place until the Honduran Congress rejected Zelaya's reinstatement, and with less than six weeks remaining before Porfirio Lobo's inauguration, attention has shifted to the formation of his cabinet. The Truth Commission is still promised, but it will take Lobo's support to make it possible and he has pledged to move forward with the proposal. But one wonders just how much "truth" Washington will be able to take here. After all, it was the State Department which buried its own legal analysis of the events leading to Zelaya's overthrow, leaving the Congressional Research Service's study as the only publicly-released overview from within the U.S. government, and the CRS found that, with the exception of Zelaya's forced exile, practically everything that had been done in Honduras was in accordance with the country's constitution and laws.

Honduras is quite simply one topic the Obama Administration would prefer not to discuss. Wall Street Journal editorialist Mary Anastasia O'Grady revealed recently that she has learned of new evidence supporting the allegation that Zelaya intended to use the supposed "non-binding" referendum on constitutional reform to remain in power, after Honduran officials informed her of a planned celebration for the evening of the vote which several leftist Latin American presidents would attend, as well as Zelaya's refusal to authorize the transfer of state funds to enable the November elections to proceed. Yes; a Truth Commission may be a good idea indeed, but how much embarrassment will the Obama Administration face as a consequence if its policy of supporting Zelaya's return is shown to be flawed for upholding an attempted overthrow of Honduran constitutional democracy?

It may be that a larger problem the Obama Administration faces is that the 2008 presidential campaign is over and they are now learning that the sloganeering and public posturing that appealed to the left wing of their political base does not work in the real world. During the campaign, then-Senator Obama frequently mentioned--and genuinely overstated--the problems Colombia had with labor violence, pinning the "right wing bastards" label on the country and its government, a tactic that had broad appeal among the American left, especially when coupled with political rallies and campaign offices where Ché t-shirts and posters abounded. But now that the work of governing has begun, the administration has moved to expand the U.S. military presence in Colombia, an act directly at odds with Obama's earlier opposition to Plan Colombia while on the campaign trail. Pro-Chavez Obama supporters are not an unknown quantity--they are rather numerous in fact--and it cannot be easy for the new President to explain the Chavez threat to them, whose nature is now grasped at least in part within the administration, regardless of the rhetoric, which the expansion of Plan Colombia makes clear. This same analysis can be applied to Honduras.

Thus can we arrive at an explanation for the silence in Washington with respect to the Honduran crisis. Coming so soon after a major national election, Obama cannot expect forgetful minds to overlook the atmosphere of the recent campaign. Containing or deterring Chavez's threats to Colombia and Honduras have become necessary goals within his Latin American policy. And when compared against his campaign rhetoric and the posture of the American left that supports him, the distinctions have become recognizably broad.

One wonders if there are those in the new administration in Washington who are asking themselves just how looney the American left truly is for its failure to grasp the reality of Chavismo in action. Such questions do not return easy answers.

So perhaps the best thing for the Obama Administration to do is to stay silent and leave the loons to their delusions. Even if they did vote for you. And especially if you want them to think you're still one of them.


Read More. . . .

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Successful Outcome to Protest March in Managua: Sandinistas Back Down


Tens of Thousands March in Opposition to FSLN in Managua Today
Source:  La Prensa

In spite of a threatened confrontation with supporters of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (Spanish acronym: FSLN), which many feared could have turned violent, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans from varying political parties and alliances put away their internal divisions and marched in Managua today, voicing their common opposition to President Daniel Ortega and the policies of his regime. The protesters made two complaints more prominently than all others; their allegations of recent electoral fraud in municipal elections around the country a little over a year ago and the recent decision of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court declaring that the prohibition against presidential reelection was invalid.

Sandinista militants fire homemade mortars at protesters leaving the demonstration
Source:  La Prensa

The violent retaliation from Sandinista militants many feared would be wrought on the demonstrators during their march did not come to pass and the promised mass counter-demonstration of the FSLN also never materialized, though a few hundred did gather in Managua. It was only after the march ended that Sandinista supporters harassed departing groups using homemade mortars and rocks. But there were instances of FSLN violence apart from the demonstration and especially outside Managua. The worst in the vicinity of the capital city centered upon a Sandinista attack in nearby Empalme de Izapa, where four trucks of FSLN militants ambushed Luis Diaz, a leader of the opposition Liberal Party. Diaz and others accompanying him were beaten, the tires on their vehicles were slashed, and their engines disabled. Other instances of similar attacks occurred elsewhere in the country.

Though the marchers displayed noticeable unity across party lines in opposition to Ortega and the FSLN, it is difficult to tell whether their mobilization represents the development of unified multi-partisan political action. Their shared rejection of the results of the municipal elections last year and the recent Supreme Court decision to permit Ortega to run again in 2011 united them, but there was little expression of proposals for concrete action to be taken by the opposition in unison. But former President Arnoldo Aleman used the occasion to call upon Ortega to begin realistic dialogue with the opposition and a former presidential candidate and ex-Sandinista Edmundo Jarquin declared that the illusion of FSLN support had been dissipated.

I am going to include a translation of a blog entry from La Prensa journalist Luciano Cuadra, who I quoted yesterday, on the meaning of today's march. And a special note, he will refer to Leonor Martinez, an opposition activist who had her left arm broken last October 22 when she was attacked outside her Managua home by three Sandinista militants. She has identified the man who organized the attacks publicly, but the national police have thus far done nothing, which is making her case something of a cause célèbre among the Nicaraguan opposition.

TRANSLATION: Why Are We Marching?
By Luciano Cuadra
At this time we are initiating one more event by means of which, the people ask for peace, but they also call for justice. There will be thousands and thousands of citizens who with their steps, sweaty bodies and challenging looks, will tell the tyrant that this farce is about to come to an end.

Nicaraguans are marching in support of those whose voices tyranny has sought to silence as if they were a broken muffler. The people are in the streets in support of Leonor Martinez, the activist who was attacked in a cowardly fashion by those who feared the edge that her words carried when telling the truth.

For the journalists who have been abused by the Orteguista gangs, simply for reporting. For fulfilling their work, for being faithful to their society.

They are also going for the bus driver, for the taxi driver. For the market tenant who shows up in his work stall at such early hours, to ensure the payment of the tuition for his kids, but so they will learn to write, not to shoot homemade mortars. For the shoeshiners and shoemakers. They are marching today for the children who present themselves every day with military discipline at stoplights, and then get up on the sidewalk when the Comandante passes by quickly in his Mercedes Benz. For them and the young girls for sale who go along their way. We are also marching for them. Because we no longer want to see them there, "working."

We also express ourselves in solidarity today with Reinaldo Escobar, the husband of the Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez; who was attacked yesterday by a Cuban crowd, because he wanted to debate ideas with the Castrista agent who attacked Yoani some days before. How great is the fear of cowards when someone threatens them with the drawing of words and beating them with those words in an intellectual duel to the death. Incredible! They fear that their brain will die. I do not understand.

This struggle for the rule of truth is not limited to Nicaraguans. It is universal. It is a battle of people against a new version of the obtuse nomenklatura of the 60's, 70's and 80's, when those mummies tried to take hold of the people's wills and dreams. Now--the freshly made-up cadaver returns with new impetus once again but with the same intent to force people to submit.

We will go on marching. Making inroads...fighting!

The situation in Nicaragua may be worth watching a little more closely over the coming months.


Read More. . . .

Intimidation of Cuban bloggers continues: Update from Penúltimos Días

Nueva golpiza y mitin de repudio contra blogueros (updated)


Reinaldo Escobar

I have a short note to post here by way of an update on the earlier news I posted regarding the violent intimidation of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and others in Havana on Friday, November 6.

Penúltimos Días has posted an update on a new incident in which Yoani's husband Reinaldo Escobar, who has his own blog at Desde aquí, was beaten in full view of members of the foreign press by a pro-Castro crowd in Havana on Friday.

Reinaldo is alright and you can see a series of four photos of the attacking crowd subjecting him to abuse at his own blog at the link posted above.

I am going to add those photos images in right here, in which I include a small red arrow pointing to Reinaldo so that he is clearly visible. Please notice the presence of the foreign press and the fact that Castristas are completely unintimidated by their presence.

Reinaldo enters the demonstration area

And the subsequent violent abuse

And Reinaldo's reaction? Well, he entitled his post "Para empezar a perdonar" which we would translate as "To Begin to Forgive."

Reinaldo Escobar is a man worth knowing about. What more needs to be said?


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Violence and Protests in Nicaragua: Pro and Anti-Government Forces at Odds


FSLN militants evacuating a Managua site in advance of tomorrow's demonstrations
Source:  La Prensa

It appears that Nicarguan President Daniel Ortega's recent actions to remove presidential term limits and take his country down the path of Chavismo are meeting with ever-stiffening resistance from his countrymen, who are now organizing in a manner that portends for confrontation in the near future. That could happen as soon as tomorrow, when simultaneous mass demonstrations are scheduled to take place in the capital city of Managua that could bring over a hundred thousand protestors and pro-government supporters into the streets and at each other's throats if the pro-Ortega National Police do not keep the two separated from each other. While recent reports of the use of violence on both sides have appeared, it is clearly the attitude of the opponents of the Ortega regime that the Sandinistas are launching a terror campaign and the hitherto divided opposition appears to be uniting--finally--along lines not seen in Nicaragua since the 1980's, including a "re-uniting" of the former Contra rebels who eventually forced the Sandinistas to schedule elections that led to their removal from power.

Lying underneath the present situation is a recent history of Sandinista misrule under Ortega's minority government. An untimely legislative maneuver in the national congress that occurred just before the start of the Nicaraguan presidential campaign in 2006 prevented a runoff election from being held and, as a consequence, Ortega won the presidency in November that year with less than 40% of the national vote. Most opinion polls showed that he could never have beaten his potential challenger in a head-to-head matchup, but from there it has been all downhill. Ortega has used his presidential powers to full effect to pursue an agenda almost exclusively focused upon cementing the political control of his Sandinista Front for National Liberation (Spanish acronym: FSLN) over the national government and has cast aside almost all other considerations of efficient and capable governance, which has led to a significant debilitation of Nicaragua's economy. And according to the opposition, much of the political maneuvering Ortega has pursued, which includes a recent decision by the country's Supreme Court supporting the removal of presidential term limits, has been made possible by the infusion of enormous cash resources provided by--guess who?--Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In the opinion of many Nicaraguans, a renewal of the violence that marked the FSLN-Contra clash of the 1980's appears imminent. Not least among those concerned is the Catholic Church, a very strong institution in an overwhelmingly-Catholic country. On Tuesday the Bishops Episcopal Conference issued a public statement directed to the national government which almost openly supports the opposition's accusation that Ortega and the FSLN were trampling on constitutional law and basic political freedoms. They directed their warning "to the executive branch and the political forces to reject and condemn all types of violence, above all that which has as its object to terrify and suppress the freedom of expression and mobility of our people." The lines of opposition to the government are being drawn forcefully and within an atmosphere that condemns their intentions.

To continue the point of expressing the fears Nicaraguans have that the present situation is deteriorating dangerously, the following is a translation of a brief comment made in the personal blog of La Prensa journalist Luciano Cuadra, who compares the current threat with that of the violent period of the 1980's:

. . . Now, almost thirty years later, it looms over our country again, the threat of renewed internal conflict. This time it is not foisted by the United States and the former Soviet Union, but it is rather fueled by the iron-willed policy of the Secretary General of the FSLN party. [Ortega] All this is happening within sight and patience of an opposition more preoccupied with assuring shares in power than in presenting a solid block which might contain and halt the reelectionist aspirations of Ortega and his uncompromising circle. . . .

The frank condemnatory tone of a La Prensa journalist should not surprise anyone. The paper, which is known for its opposition to the FSLN, has even reported recent sabotage of its printing presses, a problem they were able to overcome on their own. But they also made clear that they do not consider it a coincidence that the damage comes "at a time when the government (of Daniel Ortega) is pursuing more aggressive discourse against the independent communications media." Additional threats and harassment from the Ortega regime have also been reported elsewhere during the past few weeks.

For a change, U.S. policy with respect to the unraveling of Nicaraguan democracy seems to hold up rather well under scrutiny. Following the decision of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to overturn the constitutional ban on presidential term limits last month, U.S. Ambassador Robert J. Callahan issued a frank criticism of the ruling, which brought immediate calls from Sandinista leaders for his expulsion from the country. Callahan was chased from a university by pro-Sandinista students who hurled homemade fireworks at him and he left Nicaragua soon afterwards.


It is a familiar pattern that began in Venezuela in 1999 and has been repeated in Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, and now Nicaragua. A president elected under a democratic process comes to power and immediately initiates a policy of undermining the strength and enforceability of constitutional restraints upon his authority while in office and limits upon his tenure. This process may have hit a high-water mark recently in Honduras, where Manuel Zelaya was removed from office for attempting to hold what he described as a "non-binding" national referendum on changing the country's constitutional restrictions on term limits. The Chavez-style model of destroying constitutional law is now very well understood in Latin America and there seems to be an emerging appreciation of the need for immediate and forceful action to protect national political institutions among the political center and right in Central America in particular.

But now the scene of conflict is in Nicaragua, where the burden of history looms large. The national divisions which emerged in the violent struggle between the Sandinistas and their opposition during the 1980's have not entirely dissipated after two decades of democratic rule. Add into the mix the influx of cash from petroleum-rich Venezuela and the vulnerability of a poor nation to outside manipulation of its internal political processes becomes evident. This situation could deteriorate significantly, given that the FSLN may expect that they will receive international political support from the Organization of American States, whose record of supporting the preservation of constitutional law and political freedoms elsewhere in Latin America of late has been frankly abysmal.

Apparently the Obama Administration is learning that the rhetorical support for Chavez-style "Socialism for the 21st Century" given by the hard left here in the United States has missed the mark. Ambassador Callahan's open criticism of a very suspicious alteration of constitutional prohibitions on presidential term limits may help to set the tone for international cooperation to preserve Nicaraguan democracy. That concerted action will be a necessity, but if it is to be a part of the solution, it must be made known now, before the situation unravels within Nicaragua. Clearly the OAS and the remainder of the international community in Latin America cannot be counted upon to ameliorate the deterioration of the situation, as recent events in Honduras have proven conclusively.

In the meantime, we will have to watch and simply pray that saner heads prevail.


Read More. . . .

Saturday, November 7, 2009

That Special Place in Hell


Fidel CastroSean Penn

I just read a post put up at the Babalu Blog by Ziva Sahl which is occasioned by the news of the open and undeniably brutal repression of freedom of expression surfacing out of Cuba yesterday and today with respect to the regime's crackdown on bloggers. Ziva recounts in very brief form the numerous crimes of the Castro regime, both past and present, and then proceeds to point out that some of the most prominent in Hollywood continued to be enamored of these thugs.

Here is a quote:

. . . Equally shocking is the fact that these mass-murdering thugs remain the darlings of the left. Just this past week Hollywood’s roving reporter Sean Penn made pilgrimage to Cuba in search of spike for his kool-aid. Surely, there must be a special place in hell for them all.

My sentiments exactly Ziva.

The childish and very dangerous attitudes put forth by those within the artistic community who see something worthy of admiration in Castroite Cuba are beyond reproach. They are quite simply, and without any qualification, opponents of human rights and proponents of slavery.

Let us continue to strive for the realization of genuine human rights for all and an end to slavery.

And may we remain confident that Satan will have that very special room ready for those who laud slavery, like Sean Penn and his Hollywood compatriots.



Read More. . . .

Brutal Arrest and Detention of Cuban Bloggers in Havana on Friday (Translation)

Friday afternoon a number of Cuban bloggers, including the well-known Yoani Sanchez, were briefly detained and brutally assaulted by state security personnel in Havana when they were intercepted on their way to attend a "performance march," that was billed as a peaceful gathering to support non-violence.

I ran across the news of this when I visited the Babalu Blog this evening and I have decided that, since almost all of the "primary source" news is in Spanish, maybe I ought to help out and post a full translation of what is known so that the story can be circulated among English-language readers. The Spanish-language blog Penultimos Dias has done an excellent job of keeping as much of the evidence in the first person as is possible, so props go out there.

I am going to post a full translation of the entry put up at Penultimos Dias:


State Security detains Yoani Sanchez and other bloggers on their way to participate in a demonstration-performance on 23rd Street (Updated)
November 6th, 2009

The plan was [that] today at 5:30 in the afternoon: a group of youths should make a peaceful (not a protest nor a demanding political) performance-march from 23 and G up to 23 and L, crossing the corner of the Yara cinema and returning by the other sidwalk back to 23 and G. The idea was to add joyful people, without belligerent, only festive spirit. The performance-march was coordinated by Luis Eligio, of the Zona Franca OMNI group, and Amaury and Aldo, the rapper from Los Aldeanos. Also invited were the musician Ciro Diaz of the band Porno Para Ricardo and the photographer Claudio Fuentes, who formed part of the plan. The "demonstrators" were carrying cardboard placards with the words: Join us, No more violence, For the future of our children, etc. (some of the participants even thought about bringing their children to the march).

There was a prior rehearsal in the Dimitrov Park at Paseo and 23, which included fraternization excercises (several of the participants calling each other brothers) and group theater. They are very new and astonishingly naive faces.

A few minutes ago, when they were preparing to participate in the march, a group of bloggers (Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, among others) were arrested by State Security and right now their whereabouts are unknown.

Yoani's arrest was at the entrance to the Calixto García hospital: they put her by force into a State Security car, with a private license plate.

Claudia Cadelo, with whom I spoke a few minutes ago, was also arrested, put into a patrol car and released somewhere near Nuevo Vedado, far from the scene of the march, of which I am unaware as to whether it finally took place.

Penultimos Dias Update: From Claudia Cadelo's Twitter a few minutes ago:

They took me by force in a patrol car and released me in Nuevo Vedado.
2 minutes ago from txt

Yoani was arrested with olpl and put in a security car
5 minutes ago from txt

I don't know where Yoani, olpl, nor Ciro are
9 minutes ago from txt

They have now released me
15 minutes ago from txt

[unintelligible shorthand]kicks me[?], Yoani, olpl, ci
30 minutes ago from txt

I am detained
36 minutes ago from txt

Penultimos Dias Update 2: From Claudia Cadelo's Twitter a few minutes ago:

Apparently Orlando, Silvia and Yoani are somewhere near the Vedado, after being victims of a [State] Security ambush. They let Claudia go somewhere in Nuevo Vedado, but I couldn't say much more because I had no mobile phone credit, the same with Yoani. Orlando called me about five minutes ago: they applied arm locks to him and he was dizzy with neck pain. This was happening in the line at the P-11 stop at 29th and G, in sight of several acquaintances, including the young narrator Ketty Blanco. Orlando managed to drop the phone out the window and I do not know if anyone was able to pick it up. The girls also seem to have been abused. They split up in two cars: Yoani and Orlando on one side and Silvia and Claudia on the other. They wanted to go to a performance of the OMNI in Mariana Grajales park, 23 and C. I do not know much more. Orlando was so dazed, I could not speak with Yoani. They released her over by Loma and Paseo, somewhere near the Plaza.

Penultimos Dias Update 3: The performance-march against violence and for freedom took place in the park at 23 and G. Some 200 people participated. Ciro Diaz and Claudio Fuentes began to arrive and they took photos of what happened. Now they are trying to go to the house of Yoani, whose mobile phone has been disconnected.

Penultimos Dias Update 4: Acknowledgment of the message received from Veronica Cervera

Ernesto, I just spoke with Yoani. She is at home now. She has a bruise on one eye. They physically and verbally assaulted her. Orlando too. They shouted at them [i.e. Yoani and Orlando] in the patrol car until they arrived there, they put her head down and feet up and they applied karate chops. She was very nervous. Me too.

Penultimos Dias Update 5: A detailed account of the beatings in Yoani's statements to El Nuevo Herald (Miami)

There is no blood. [There are] bruises, bumps, pulled hair, punches to the head, kidneys, knee and chest. In the end, professional violence. "I, who am a person of spoken pacifism, I am shaken by the violence, because violence mutes anyone," Sanchez said by telephone after the incident which lasted about 20 minutes.

"We were almost there when we were intercepted by three men in a car with private plates who ordered us to get in," Sanchez said. "We refused. I did not know if they were kidnappers or what. And it raised the tone of violence on their part."

Sanchez said they were near the Calixto Garcia hospital, in Vedado, when she was "dragged into the vehicle and pulled inside by the head."

"They applied judo or karate chops and continued raining blows and punches," she said.

During the attack, Sanchez added, she managed to take a piece of paper one of the men had in his pocket, and put it in her mouth.

"I don't know, it was as if to say: 'I have something of yours,'" she said. "The paper contained a name of a person and a telephone number."

"It made him even more furious, and [he threw] more blows" she said.
After about 20 minutes en route, the vehicle stopped in an area far from where they had been intercepted.

"And we were thrown violently into the street" she said.

I encourage everyone to circulate this news. Forget copyrights, etc. Take the translation and run with it.



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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is Alice Leaving Wonderland? Taking a Step Away from Chavez in Honduras


Deposed Honduran President Manuel ZelayaU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

An Agreement to End the Honduran Crisis Reached?

Over the past few weeks the eyes of Latin America watchers around the world have fixated upon Honduras, where U.S.-backed negotiations between representatives of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the interim government which came to office after his ouster strove to achieve a resolution to the constitutional crisis in the small Central American nation. The talks proceeded slowly, with fits and turns which frequently made their outcome uncertain, but negotiators finally produced an agreement the U.S. State Department hailed last Friday as paving the way for international recognition of the results of Honduras' pending presidential elections scheduled for the 29th of this month.

The Honduran Congress first must approve the negotiated settlement, a point Zelaya insisted upon rather than permitting the question to be put to the country's Supreme Court, which he blames for legitimizing his ouster in the eyes of his fellow countrymen. Once the congress ratifies Zelaya's return he then would reassume his office with only limited authority. A national unity government would be created containing both Zelaya supporters and others who have backed the interim regime of President Roberto Micheletti. And finally, a special committee to guarantee the fairness and transparency of the upcoming elections also would be formed; all of which would secure the international community's recognition of the legitimacy of the Honduran electoral process and a return to normal governance early next year, when the newly-elected president will assume the duties of his office.

Continued Honduran Resistance to U.S. Pressure

However; events over the past few days suggest that the Hondurans will attempt to delay Zelaya's reinstatement long enough to make the event an inconsequential footnote to obtaining international recognition of the validity of their presidential elections, which has been the common goal of all major parties and presidential candidates in the country from the onset of the crisis last summer, a fact largely unreported in the American news media. But even if Honduras should put the terms of the accord into effect quickly, other unforeseen problems could yet arise.

Wall Street Journal editorialist Mary Anastasia O'Grady has argued that there is more than one possible scenario under which the fulfillment of the negotiated agreement could be carried out which could create an altogether different kind of constitutional crisis for Honduras. Up until now, and contrary to the reporting developed in most of the international press, Hondurans have largely accepted Micheletti's interim government as legitimate. Only Zelaya's firmest supporters have opposed it, but their numbers are so small that they really constitute only a fringe element in Honduran politics. Micheletti himself is a member of the same Liberal Party as Zelaya, another fact not often made clear to Americans, who have been inundated with the interpretation that Zelaya's ouster was a "military coup" that overthrew civilian rule--it did not--and was therefore blatantly unconstitutional. According to O'Grady it is possible that various institutions of the Honduran state could find themselves at odds with each other over the legality of the accord and the procedural steps required for its implementation. This could create something which has not existed in Honduras since Zelaya's removal--real divisions beyond the leftist fringe as to the legitimacy of the government in power in Tegucigalpa.

Last Tuesday, November 3, the Honduran legislative committee empowered to call the Congress into special session to act upon the accord voted to wait until the country's Supreme Court, Attorney General, and others weigh in with their own legal opinions on the agreement, and without setting a deadline. The American response has been muddled, to say the least. U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has been dispatched to the country to help the Hondurans in the formation of a unity government, a move some interpreted as indicating increased U.S. pressure on the interim leadership to move quickly. But Secretary Solis has stated since her arrival that she is more involved with working on the formation of a new cabinet, saying that she knows things move slowly in Honduras but she is at the moment "focused on bringing different groups together to create a new cabinet," a comment that does not place Zelaya's reinstatement at the top of the agenda for the U.S.

Has the Obama Administration Policy Changed?

Apparently, the U.S. now believes that the negotiated agreement binds both parties to its terms; however they may be carried out. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon told CNN en Español that both Zelaya and Micheletti "took a risk and put their trust in [the Honduran] Congress, but at the end of the day the accord requires that both leaders accept its decision." Zelaya has requested Secretary of State Clinton to clarify the State Department's position, pointedly asking whether its earlier stance that his ouster was a coup still holds true. But Shannon's statement makes clear the U.S. intention to get past the Honduran elections later this month, sacrificing Zelaya if necessary. To quote Blas Padrino of the Orlando Republican Examiner "the Obama Administration has now thrown Mr. Zelaya under the bus." The evidence is mounting daily to support Padrino's analysis. So perhaps it may be worthwhile to ask why the change has occurred.

Analysis:  The Absurdities of Aligning U.S. Latin American Policy with Chavismo

There are complexities to the Honduran constitutional crisis, which the Obama Administration does not feel comfortable explaining when asked for clarification. The U.S. State Department has arrogantly refused to produce its own legal analysis of the perplexing problems surrounding the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya last June 28, yet the assessment of the Congressional Research Service has been available for several weeks. Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma C. Gutierrez prepared and submitted the CRS report last August and its findings reveal much about the facts of Zelaya's ouster as judged under Honduran constitutional law.

Ms. Gutierrez gives a thorough examination of the intricacies of the Honduran Constitution, the facts of the case against Zelaya, and the manner in which the country's two main institutions, the Congress and the Supreme Court, interpreted and handled the matter. Her conclusions are strikingly at odds with the public policy stance the Obama administration has pursued from the outset:

   V. Was the removal of Honduran President Zelaya legal, in accordance with Honduran constitutional and statutory law?

      Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

      However, removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution, and apparently this action is currently under investigation by the Honduran authorities.

Norma C. Gutierrez
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
Congressional Research Service

The above analysis presents the problem we have confronted with Honduras in a nutshell. Honduran institutions acted properly under their own laws right up to the point when they sent Zelaya into exile, which they were forbidden from doing by their constitution's prohibition against extraditing or expatriating Honduran citizens. Their removal of Zelaya was legal, but sending him out of the country was not, a mistake Micheletti admitted this past August.

Norma Gutierrez's clear thinking has not been part of the Obama Administration's approach towards the handling of the crisis however, and it may be that some of the responsibility for this lies with lower level diplomats, including Ambassador Hugo Llorens in Tegucigalpa and others in Washington, who set the tone for U.S. policy almost immediately. But the tact of treating Zelaya's ouster as a military coup, while simultaneously refusing to permit any discussion of the facts on the ground in Honduras, has aligned the Obama Administration with some of the worst players in Latin America--Chavez and his leftist allies in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Ecuador. And the dangers inherent in this realignment were not lost on Hondurans, who only fortified themselves further to preserve a democratic way of life they have come to treasure since 1982, when they adopted their new constitution. The widespread support from all major factions within the country for preventing Zelaya from returning to power speaks volumes, but until very recently the words have not been heard in Washington.

Rather than pursuing a calming of the situation through an open diplomatic dialogue, which would involve not only all parties in Honduras but also inform the American people of the progress of events and the formulation their foreign policy, the Obama administration instead adopted the very worst tactics of the Latin American Left to force Honduras to bend its knee to power. The administration has controlled public debate over the controversy through its manipulation of the press, silenced any discussion of Honduran constitutional law and the facts which led to Zelaya's removal, misrepresented the political situation within the country after the installation of an interim government, and worst of all threatened the Honduran people with their own immiseration and internal political disintegration so long as they continued to insist upon ... wait for it America! ... the rule of law fairly interpreted in an open hearing and a resolution of the crisis through free and fair elections.

By the time the final step of denying international recognition of the validity of regularly-scheduled elections approached, the Obama administration's policy was defeated by its own absurdity. America, the rule of constitutional law, and free elections remain inseparable. That maxim was greeted with jeers when afternoon mate de coca was served at Mad Hatter Hugo Chavez's party with los nuevos invitados Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in attendance. But the jeering will stop soon. The Hondurans have put the lie to the taunts.

The Hondurans have spoken truth to power.



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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm Back!

Sorry for my absence everyone, but I have been busy overcoming the ill effects of last year's economic difficulties, which impacted the software company with which I work in a most negative manner.

I have survived.

And now, back on with the show.



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