Latin America News Round-up
June 30, 2009
Mrs. Kirchner downplays defeat and asks for support from Congress. Mercopress
Kirchner resigns as head of Peronist party. UPI
Argentina: Health Minister Resigns Over Handling of Flu Cases. The New York Times
Peru to strenghten bilateral ties with Bolivia. LivinginPeru.com
UPDATE:Ecuador Issues Arrest Warrant For Colombian Ex-Minister. AFP
Ecuador Combats Illegal Drugs and Resists the FARC. The Wall Street Journal
Ecuador: Oil-Product Export Revenue -44% In April to $60.75M. Dow Jones Newswires
Gay Pride March in Caracas, Venezuela. Ultimas Noticias
Chavez suspends visit to Dominican Republic. Dominican Today
Chávez denies that Venezuelan military are entering Honduras. El Universal
No US military base in Colombia: Bermudez. Colombia Reports
Uribe's re-election 'minor' on Obama's agenda: Ambassador. Colombia Reports
Chile May Unemployment Rate Was 10.2%, Agency Says (Update1). Bloomberg
PERU: Minister Tried to Promote Police Investigated for Massacre. Inter-Press Service
Peru: Perenco to start exploration in block 67. LivinginPeru.com
Peru's Transportation Sector Strikes To Protest New Law. Dow Jones Newswires
Brazil-China bilateral trade in Real and Yuan instead of US dollar. Mercopress
Lula's "minister of ideas" quits Brazil government. Reuters
México, Central America and the Caribbean
Mexico's Opposition PRI Leads Calderon's Party in Mitofsky Poll. Bloomberg
UN General Assembly condemns coup in Honduras. AP
WRAPUP 1-Zelaya seeks return to Honduras, gets foreign backing. Reuters
Honduran Coup Turns Violent, Sanctions Imposed. Americas Program
Honduras teachers on strike following coup. Xinhua
2 dead, 60 injured in Honduras anti-coup protests. Xinhua
Journalists briefly detained by troops in Honduras. AP
Central America halts cross-border trade with Honduras. Xinhua
U.S. troops stay put in Honduras; Americans advised to stay inside or get out. The Miami Herald
ANALYSIS-Honduras coup holds few risks for Latin leftists. Reuters
Honduras Business Supports Zelaya Ouster. Latin Business Chronicle
Showdown in Honduras: The Rise, Repression and Uncertain Future of the Coup. Upside Down World
Democracy Derailed in Honduras. The Nation
Honduras Crisis Forces Obama to Focus on Latin America. The Nation
Haiti president's party picks up 5 Senate seats. AP
Protester killed in UN clash was slain by bullet, autopsy finds. AP
Mrs. Kirchner downplays defeat and asks for support from Congress
Mercopress. June 30, 2009
Argentine president Cristina Kirchner downplayed the defeat suffered by government candidates in Sunday's mid term elections and insisted the ruling coalition had won with 31.03% of the overall national vote, denied any cabinet changes and criticized political analysts for their interpretation of election results.
During a Monday afternoon press conference limited in time and questions, Mrs. Kirchner was positive about the new Congress, following on Sunday's results but insisted that "the new composition will have much to do with the governance of the country".
She said that the loss of the congressional majority, although the government retains the leading minority "is going to demand agreements in order to ensure governance; we must negotiate just like in any parliament" and "I trust that everyone will work to achieve governance".
"In the Senate we had 37 seats, and we are down to 35, and the number of possible allies is now 4 instead of 6. In the Lower House we had 115 seats and 22 allies, now we have 107 and 27 possible allies", said Mrs. Kirchner. (For a majority she needs 37 Senators and 129 Deputies).
"This will demand from all of us, government and opposition, consensus to ensure governance. Building consensus depends on others, and this means discussing and reaching agreements in most cases" she emphasized adding "I trust we can achieve it".
However consensus does not mean giving up ideas, "you can never have 100% of what you want from an agreement, but you can try and achieve the better half".
When asked specifically about the vote losses, Mrs. Kirchner suggested a comparison with what happened in Buenos Aires city, "percentages indicate that the city now has three main political forces. The government of Mayor Macri in 2007 garnered 60% of the vote but this time barely managed 31%, with a new political force as runner up".
However the Kirchner couple in 2007 obtained 45% of the national vote and on Sunday 31%. "It's correct I won with 46% of the vote. But we have been in office for six years and always during the second term the ruling party suffers an electoral defeat. It is impossible to govern six years without the people becoming tired."
Regarding the loss in the Kirchner's turf, "in Santa Cruz our defeat had to do with our absence from the territory. In Calafate, we won with 60% of the votes and that is where I belong". However it is a loss that must be analyzed by "the governor and us".
Mrs. Kirchner also recalled that the international crisis continues and the markets remain altered. But "the Argentine currency was the less devalued in the region and the exchange rate has never been so competitive; who knows what would have happened if we forced a massive devaluation as we were repeatedly proposed?".
Asked specifically if Argentine is planning to return to the IMF and the more flexible credit lines, Mrs. Kirchner said that the so called "flexibility and easier access to credits" still has to fully implemented by the IMF, and has only been tried in very few specific cases.
"During the next G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in September we'll have a better idea", and then possibly the issue could be considered.
Finally she denied any cabinet changes as a consequence of Sunday's results. "The only change has been in Public Health, Graciela Ocaña, she has left and will be replaced Wednesday by a new cabinet member, Juan Luis Manzur".
Kirchner resigns as head of Peronist party
UPI. June 29, 2009
BUENOS AIRES, June 29 (UPI) -- Nestor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina, resigned Monday as head of the Peronist Party after losing a key congressional election.
The move quashed hopes for a political dynasty for Kirchner and his wife, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, The New York Times reported. The resignation appeared to put Argentina's presidency up for grabs in the 2011 elections, the newspaper said.
As president, Nestor Kirchner had led the country out of its economic crisis in 2001. In this election, he had run for the lower house of Congress in hopes of helping the administration of his wife.
Nestor Kirchner ran in Buenos Aires province, the country's most populated, where he lost to a millionaire congressman, Francisco de Narvaez.
Kirchner's supporters also suffered heavy losses, and he and his wife lost control of both houses.
Critics have blamed the Kirchners for the flight of capital from the country and a decline in foreign investment, the Times said.
Argentina: Health Minister Resigns Over Handling of Flu Cases
Alexei Barrionuevo. The New York Times. June 30, 2009
Graciela Ocaña, Argentina's health minister, resigned Monday amid a fast-spreading outbreak of swine flu that has killed 26 people in the country, government officials said.
Speculation had grown in recent weeks that Ms. Ocaña was considering resigning over differences with the government in the handling of the outbreak and a previous dengue fever outbreak. Argentine news media reported that other cabinet ministers had blocked her proposed measures for handling the epidemics.
Dr. Juan Manzur, the vice-governor of Tucuman Province and a former health minister there, will take over for Ms. Ocana, said Sergio Massa, the government's chief of staff. Mr. Massa and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with a committee of experts to discuss how to contain swine flu.
In recent days Argentina has reported a disproportionate number of deaths from swine flu compared to the United States and other countries, a spokesman for the health ministry said. Argentina has reported 26 deaths out of 1,587 infections, or a death rate of 1.6 percent.
Peru to strenghten bilateral ties with Bolivia
Isabel Guerra. LivinginPeru.com. June 30, 2009
Peru's Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde expressed his willingness to talk with his Bolivian counterpart, David Choquehuanca, in order to strengthen bilateral ties affected by interference of La Paz in Peru's internal affairs.
Choquehuanca is reportedly seeking a possible meeting with Garcia Belaunde during the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, to be held between July 13th and 17th in Egypt, in order to overcome discrepancies observed in recent weeks.
"I celebrate Choquehuanca's willingness to dialogue," said García Belaunde, who added that he could make some adjustments in his activities' program so that this meeting can take place.
"It is very important to create conditions for improving bilateral relations," he said.
UPDATE:Ecuador Issues Arrest Warrant For Colombian Ex-Minister
AFP. June 29, 2009
QUITO (AFP)--An Ecuadoran judge has issued an arrest warrant for a former defense minister of Colombia over a deadly raid he ordered against leftist rebels inside Ecuador, local media reported.
The military raid, ordered by Juan Manuel Santos when he was defense minister, killed 25 rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, operating inside
Ecuador, including FARC number two Raul Reyes.
An Ecuadorean nation was also among those killed.
The cross-border raid was denounced at the time by Ecuador as a violation of the country's sovereignty and prompted a diplomatic rift between the South American neighbors.
Judge Daniel Mendez, who is heading an investigation into the raid, issued the arrest
warrant Monday, but experts say it has little chance of being executed.
In Bogota, Colombian interior minister Fabio Valencia rejected the arrest warrant, saying the judge had exceeded his authority.
Defending the raid, he said: "We acted against terrorism the way we had to and did what any other country would do."
Ecuador has announced its intention to pursue a case against Colombia before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
According to the Ecuadorian daily newspaper El Commercio, Santos is wanted for murder and violating Ecuador's internal security.
He recently resigned from his position as defense minister in order to pursue a possible presidential run.
The 57-year-old was also responsible for the military operation last July that freed French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages from FARC rebels holding them in the heart of the Colombian jungle.
Ecuador Combats Illegal Drugs and Resists the FARC
Luis Gallegos. The Wall Street Journal. June 30, 2009
Mary O'Grady's June 22 Americas column, "The FARC's Ecuadorean Friends," takes as fact information allegedly found in the computers of a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader who was killed last year under unclear circumstances. The Ecuadorean government rejects the irregular, unethical and irresponsible conduct of some individuals who are looking to deepen the differences between Colombia and Ecuador by delivering nonverified information to the press.
The information that allegedly reveals important links between the government of President Rafael Correa and the FARC was not provided via regular channels to the Ecuadorean authorities responsible for carrying out the investigation, though they had asked for it. Instead, Colombian officials, for an unclear motive, decided to provide misguided information that harms the image of Ecuador. I reject the content of this column because it misleads the American public.
Fortunately, the U.S. government, which only handles verified information, has acknowledged the great contribution Ecuador has made in combating drug trafficking and the pressure the country faces from the harassment of the FARC and others in Ecuadorean territory. The government of President Correa has responded much more effectively than previous governments to these threats. The U.S. State Department's terrorism report, published in April 2009, recognizes the great job done by Ecuador in this area, despite our limited resources. I invite Wall Street Journal readers to corroborate what I have stated at http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2008/122435.htm.
Ambassador of Ecuador
Ecuador: Oil-Product Export Revenue -44% In April to $60.75M
Mercedes Alvaro. Dow Jones Newswires. June 30, 2009
QUITO (Dow Jones)--Ecuador's oil-product export revenues in April fell 44% to $60.75 million from the $108.07 million registered in the same month of 2008, the central bank said.
Oil products include fuel oil and naptha.
According to the central bank, in terms of volume, Ecuador exported 1.39 million of barrels in the fourth month of 2009, up 4.5% from 1.33 million barrels exported in April 2008.
The average price in April was down 46% to $43.81 per barrel from $81.13 a barrel registered a year ago.
Gay Pride March in Caracas, Venezuela
Ultimas Noticias. June 30, 2009
Individuals of every sexual orientation and gender identity arrived from the four corners of the country and marched this Sunday in Caracas to promote respect for sexual diversity.
The activity formed part of the celebrations for the month of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride that is being carried out this June in countries across the world.
The march left from Miranda Park and arrived at Plaza Venezuela where, for the ninth consecutive year, thousands of people rallied. "67 countries recognize the rights of same sex couples, Venezuela doesn't!", and "Socialism must not be homophobic," were some of the messages that could be read on placards.
There are even more activities currently being organized. In the Celarg [Centre for Latin American Studies] the Third Festival of Film for Diversity will continue until the 9th of July. The films begin at 5:30 and 7:30pm. On the 30th of June there will be a forum entitled "Homophobia and hate crimes" in Hall E of the UCV beginning at 9am. On the Fourth of July in the Celarg there will be an activity about Human Rights and Sexual Diversity, on the 7th of July there will be an informal gathering in Altamira and the 9th of July there will be a forum titled "Coexisting among differences."
Translated by Zachary Lown for Venezuelanaysis.com
Chavez suspends visit to Dominican Republic
Dominican Today. June 29, 2009
SANTO DOMINGO. - The visit by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez slated to begin today in the Dominican Republic has been suspended, local media reports.
An official source quoted by local media said a new date for Chavez's visit hasn't bee scheduled.
FILE.- Venezuela president Hugo Chavez's possible visit to take part in the events to mark the centennial of professor Juan Bosch's birth marks the start of the week.
Chávez, whose time of arrival has yet to be confirmed, is also slated to sign with president Leonel Fernandez the letter of intent for the sale of a 49% stake in the only Dominican refinery to Venezuela.
Chávez is also slated to participate in the publication of Bosch's entire works, which will take place in the National Palace tonight.
The main acts by the centenary also the Dominican ex-president initiate today with the one celebration eucaristía in their native city from the 10 in the morning in the Immaculate cathedral Conception the Fertile valley.
Part of Bosch's time in exile was spent in Venezuela, whereas the founding father Juan Pablo Duarte died in that country after Pedro Santana forced him to leave the Dominican Republic in the late 1840s.
Chávez denies that Venezuelan military are entering Honduras
El Universal. June 30, 2009
President Hugo Chávez denied that Venezuelan military are entering Honduras, as reported by some media.
"We will never do that because of the holly respect for Honduran sovereignty. We are here to provide support, while respecting the Honduran people," said the Venezuelan ruler during a meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) held in Nicaragua, reported state-run news agency ABN.
Further, Chávez demanded demonstrations of solidarity with Honduras, not mere statements. "It is not enough to voice a condemnation. We are calling for demonstrations of solidarity with the Honduran people and the constitutional president of the country, Manuel Zelaya," said the Venezuelan head of State.
Andean Region [contents]
No US military base in Colombia: Bermudez
Adriaan Alsema. Colombia Reports. June 30, 2009
There will be no United States military base in Colombia, the country's Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez said Tuesday.
Ever since Ecuador expelled the U.S. from Manta, from where the U.S. Military conducts operations in its fight against drug trafficking, rumors were that the base could be moved to Colombia, a close ally of the U.S. in the war on drugs.
But according to Bermude, "nothing was said" about the subject in the meeting between Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama Monday "and to be perfectly clear, there will no new U.S. base in Colombia."
The United States did already earmark US$46 million to expand its activities at Palanquero Air Base north of Colombia's capital Bogota.
Uribe's re-election 'minor' on Obama's agenda: Ambassador
Kirsten Begg. Colombia Reports. June 30, 2009
Colombian Ambassador in Washington Carolina Barco Tuesday played down the importance of the theme of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's re-election in his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"In the presidents' conversation the election theme was very minor. Logically the conversation centered around our bilateral themes and the role Colombia is playing in the region," she said.
Following a meeting with Colombian President Monday, the American President commented on his potential re-election saying, "two terms are enough and after eight years, in the U.S. people want change."
Barco said that Obama was not making a judgement on the re-election theme and that his comments were open to interpretation.
"He clearly starts by saying that in the U.S. there were two [re-elections], but it doesn't seem to me as if he were making a judgment, if not saying that changes correspond to constitutional changes made democratically," she said.
"What he was saying was that it is an internal issue for Colombia, yesterday he didn't get involved in judging our issue," she added.
The Ambassador did not comment on when the much talked about Free Trade Agreement between the two countries would be approved but said that the technical teams from nations were working on it.
Chile May Unemployment Rate Was 10.2%, Agency Says (Update1)
Sebastian Boyd. Bloomberg. June 30, 2009
June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Chile's joblessness rate was 10.2 percent in May, the National Statistics Institute said today.
Economists expected an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, according to the median of 13 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sebastian Boyd in Santiago at firstname.lastname@example.org
PERU: Minister Tried to Promote Police Investigated for Massacre
Ángel Páez. Inter-Press Service. June 30, 2009
LIMA, Jun 30 (IPS) - Peru's Interior Minister Mercedes Cabanillas attempted to promote 11 police officials for their performance in the brutal Jun. 5 crackdown on native protests against government decrees that opened up indigenous land in the Amazon jungle to oil, mining, logging and agribusiness companies.
But the officials are still under investigation for their responsibility in the deaths of at least nine civilian protesters and 24 police officers.
IPS had access to the ministerial resolution dated Jun. 18 - just two weeks after the police crackdown that ended in bloodshed - in which Cabanillas rewarded the police officials for their "distinguished service" in the Jun. 5 operation near the town of Bagua in the country's northern Amazon jungle region.
A source at the Interior Ministry's Office of Social Communication initially denied and later confirmed the authenticity of the ministerial resolution promoting the officials who are the focus of an internal police probe as well as an investigation by the office of the public prosecutor.
A high-ranking police source told IPS that the promotion was authorised without first consulting with the national police force's Office of the Inspector General, which is investigating the officials who took part in the operation against native demonstrators protesting the decrees that undermined indigenous rights, two of which have since been overturned by Congress.
"An officer or non-commissioned officer involved in an ongoing investigation cannot be promoted," the source told IPS. "Internal rules require that the Office of the Inspector General must first be asked whether or not the officer is subject to investigation, and what the result was, before he can be promoted."
But after confirming that the minister had given the order for the promotions, the Ministry's Office of Social Communication informed IPS that the decision had been suspended until the Office of the Inspector General completed its probe.
"A procedural error has been detected, and as a result the promotion of the 11 officers has been suspended," said the Office. "The suspension has been made effective by means of another ministerial resolution, dated Jun. 20."
But the suspension was also carried out in an irregular manner. "No one is promoted before the Office of the Inspector General's opinion is sought. It is done the other way around. The aim here is to conceal one irregularity with another," said the police source.
The officers are under investigation to determine whether they ordered the police to open fire on the native protesters who had been blocking the strategic Fernando Belaúnde Terry highway near Bagua off and on for 55 days, demanding the repeal of the government decrees.
According to the demonstrators, at the time the police began to shoot at the crowd in the predawn attack, the protesters were already getting ready to pull out, as a result of an agreement reached the day before with the commander in charge of the police deployed to the area.
Under the agreement, the local commander had given the protesters until 10:00 AM to head back to their jungle villages. But the attack began before 6:00 AM.
When the police opened fire on them, some of the indigenous people responded with violence, seizing members of a police contingency guarding a nearby natural gas pipeline, who had reportedly not been informed of the attack on the roadblock, and killing a number of them out of vengeance for the police's failure to honour the non-violence agreement.
Indigenous organisations and local eyewitnesses said a number of bodies of protesters were dumped into a river from a police helicopter with the aim of concealing the real number of civilians killed.
The bloody incident has complicated matters for Minister Cabanillas, who denies that she gave the order for the operation.
Cabanillas claims that on Jun. 4, police chief General José Sánchez reported to her that the next day the roadblock would be broken up.
The interior minister and Prime Minister Yehude Simon were questioned by parliament on Thursday, Jun. 25. "Political authorities do not intervene in the operations carried out by the police," Cabanillas argued. "The how and the when are not decided on by the ministers; they are decided on at the site of the operation."
Cabanillas, the most powerful female politician in the governing Aprista party, continues to blame the killings on supposed "agents" from the left-wing governments of Venezuela and Bolivia, who allegedly infiltrated the native protests in the Amazon jungle. But she has provided no proof supporting such allegations.
"That is called meddling…because they are exporting to Peru propaganda from a model of chaos and anarchy, whose final aim is to topple the democratic government," said Cabanillas.
The legislative blocs of the opposition Nationalist Party, National Unity party and lawmakers allied with former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) said they were disappointed with the minister's explanations and presented a censure motion against her and Simon, which will be debated this week.
"The minister tried to buy the silence of the police implicated in the massacre," said the head of the Nationalist Party legislators, Freddy Otárola.
"It was unethical on her part to promote officials who are under investigation…That is an irregularity, and we are going to investigate it," he added.
Fernando Rospigliosi, interior minister under president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006), expressed a similar view.
"What happened in Bagua was not 'distinguished service,' but a disastrous operation any way you look at it," Rospigliosi remarked to IPS. "The idea was to keep these officials from telling the truth about what really happened on Jun. 5, especially the role played by Cabanillas."
According to the accounts given by different sources in the investigation, the police chiefs received the order to break up the traffic blockade directly from Cabanillas, who in turn had received instructions from President Alan García.
"Those who ordered the police to control a much larger group of people are responsible for what happened," Susana Villarán, a former head of the Defensoría del Policía, told IPS.
The Defensoría del Policía is dedicated to protecting the human rights of Interior Ministry personnel and agents.
According to the autopsy of the nine civilians whose bodies were acknowledged by the authorities on Jun. 5, all of them had been shot to death, at least several by AKM assault rifles, which are used by the police.
Peru: Perenco to start exploration in block 67
Isabel Guerra. LivinginPeru.com. June 26, 2009
Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) has approved the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted by Perenco for the construction of seven platforms and drilling of 14 wells in Block 67 (in Loreto).
Perenco estimated that the Block 67 reserve potential is 300 million barrels of heavy crude oil.
The project's direct influence area corresponds to the territory vacated in the community of Buena Vista, in the district of Napo, Maynas province, Loreto region.
The investment for the construction of seven platforms and drilling of 14 wells amount to 184.80 million dollars.
Perenco plans to invest more than 2 billion dollars in the heavy crude exploration and exploitation works in Block 67.
Peru's Transportation Sector Strikes To Protest New Law
Robert Kozak. Dow Jones Newswires. June 29, 2009
LIMA -(Dow Jones)- Private-sector transportation companies in Peru started a one-day strike Tuesday to protest a new government law that, among other things, increases fines for traffic infractions.
The transport strike, which stranded thousands in Lima, is the latest example of social unrest facing the government of President Alan Garcia.
Government news agency Andina said that dozens of vehicles from the National Police and the Armed Forces were being used to provide protection for people seeking transport in Lima and Callao.
The new traffic law goes into effect on July 21.
"We are trying to cut down on traffic accidents and fatalities," Transport Minister Enrique Cornejo said on government-run Peru TV.
Peru has high incidences of traffic accidents, often involving run-down, outdated buses.
Southern Cone [contents]
Brazil-China bilateral trade in Real and Yuan instead of US dollar
Mercopress. June 29, 2009
The Brazilian Central Bank announced it had reached an initial understanding with China for the gradual elimination of the US dollar in bilateral trade operations which in 2009 are estimated to reach 40 billion US dollars.
"We have reached an initial understanding and we will begin working on the issue" to use the Real and the Yuan in bilateral trade said a spokesperson for the Brazilian Central Bank.
Brazil's Central bank chairman Henrique Meirelles met Sunday with his Chinese counterpart Zhou Xiaochuan in Switzerland where they are participating in a meeting of the International Bank of Settlements.
However Mr. Meirelles pointed out that there was a difference between using local currencies for bilateral trade operations and deciding on moving towards a new currency which would replace the US dollar.
"For the US dollar to be left aside as an international reserve currency there must be another currency which must perform that role", Meirelles said quoted by the Folha de Sao Paulo. The Brazilian official also anticipated that there are similar discussions with India to replace the US dollar for the Real and the Rupee in bilateral trade.
The announcement follows the first meeting in Beijing between Brazilian and Chinese monetary and financial experts. A schedule of technical meetings was agreed two weeks ago by President Lula da Silva during the BRIC group summit (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
BRIC members are considered the largest and fastest growing developing nations.
China became this year Brazil's main trade partner ahead of the US. Brazilian exports to China in the first quarter of this year jumped 64% compared to the same period a year ago. Brazil sells mainly soy and iron to China and this year those sales soared 70% and 50%.
Oil is also expected to join the list of commodities sold to China once Brazil begins the commercial development of the recently discovered sub-salt hydrocarbons resources. In anticipation of these operations the Chinese government banking system extended Brazil and its government managed oil corporation a 10 billion US dollars loan.
China also announced that it was ruling out any "sudden changes" to its foreign- reserves policy. China is the world's main holder of US federal bonds.
China's currency policy remains "quite stable," central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan told reporters, easing concern that emerging-market nations, particularly BRIC may abandon the dollar.
The US currency is expected to strengthen as much as 17% in the second half of the year as North America recovers from recession faster than Europe, according to this year's most accurate foreign-exchange forecasters.
Lula's "minister of ideas" quits Brazil government
Reuters. June 29, 2009
BRASILIA, June 29 (Reuters) - Brazil's minister of strategic affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, is quitting the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to return to his teaching post at Harvard University, Lula said on Monday.
Unger, who took up the newly created post in 2007, had been rumored to be leaving the government because he had been unable to extend his period of leave from the U.S. university's law school.
"He has to fulfill his role at Harvard," Lula told reporters in the capital Brasilia.
Often referred to as Lula's "minister of ideas," Unger devoted much of his efforts to guiding the government's policies toward the Amazon rain forest and outlining a national defense strategy aimed at reflecting Brazil's growing importance on the global stage.
His more development-focused approach to the world's largest rain forest was a frequent source of tension with conservationists and contributed to the resignation of former Environment Minister Marina Silva in May 2008.
Just two years before his appointment, Unger had called Lula's government the most corrupt in Brazil's history. Unger, whose former students at Harvard include U.S. President Barack Obama, later said he had been mistaken.
Unger, who was born in Brazil but has lived most of his life in the United States, has long been politically active in Latin America. He is best known for his efforts to push for an alternative to neoliberalism, the label often given to the view that free-market economics and development go hand-in-hand.
Lula did not say who would replace Unger. (Reporting by Natuza Nery; Writing by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Todd Benson and Vicki Allen)
México, Central America and the Caribbean [contents]
Mexico's Opposition PRI Leads Calderon's Party in Mitofsky Poll
Jens Erik Gould. Bloomberg. June 30, 2009
June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Mexico's opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party leads President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party ahead of this week's mid-term elections, according to a poll released by Mexico City-based Consulta Mitofsky.
The PRI would take 34 percent of the vote while Calderon's PAN would get 29 percent, according to the poll conducted between June 25 and June 28. The Party of the Democratic Revolution, which lost the 2006 presidential election by less than a percentage point, had 13 percent support, the poll said.
The poll of 2,000 people has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, the polling group said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jens Erik Gould in Mexico City at email@example.com
UN General Assembly condemns coup in Honduras
Edith M. Lederer. AP. June 30, 2009
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday unanimously condemned the military coup in Honduras and demanded President Manuel Zelaya's immediate return to power, a decision the ousted Honduran leader called "historic."
The world body adopted a resolution by acclamation, calling on all 192 U.N. member states not to recognize any government in Honduras other than Zelaya's.
Zelaya, who was forced into exile in Costa Rica after soldiers stormed his palace early Sunday morning, was in the assembly chamber for the vote, which was greeted by sustained applause from diplomats in the hall.
General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, who has used many occasions to needle the U.S. and other Western powers, gaveled approval of the resolution and then led applause in noting that the U.S., Canada and other countries had signed on as co-sponsors.
After the vote, Zelaya stood, smiling broadly and waving. Then, he walked to the assembly podium to thank the world body.
"The resolution that the United Nations has just adopted unanimously ... expresses the indignation of the people of Honduras and of people worldwide," Zelaya began.
"This resolution is historic. It is significant. And it will empower every last citizen of this world to continue with these great conquests of humankind," he said.
Zelaya described the military actions as "a brutal coup d'etat" and the work of "a small group of usurpers" that carried out "an act of aggression attacking the democratic will of the people."
Bolstered by international support, Zelaya said Monday he will return home this week to try to regain control of the government. But Roberto Micheletti, named by Honduras' congress as the country's new president, said Zelaya could be met with an arrest warrant.
The resolution condemns the coup "that has interrupted the democratic and constitutional order and the legitimate exercise of power in Honduras, and resulted in the removal of the democratically elected president."
It demanded "the immediate and unconditional restoration" of Zelaya's government and "decides to recognize no government other than that of the constitutional president."
The resolution backs regional efforts to resolve the crisis.
It also expresses deep concern at "the acts of violence against diplomatic personnel" in Honduras and grave concern at security problems that endanger citizens and foreigners alike.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they do reflect the views of the international community.
D'Escoto, a leftist Nicaraguan priest and former foreign minister, called a special session of the world body on Monday to consider ways "to ensure the peaceful restoration of the legitimate government of president Zelaya in the hours and days ahead."
He invited Zelaya to address the world body, and the ousted president flew to New York.
It is rare for the General Assembly to hold a special session on a military coup in a member state. But D'Escoto has used the yearlong post to address political issues more often the preserve of the U.N. Security Council. His presidency ends in September.
WRAPUP 1-Zelaya seeks return to Honduras, gets foreign backing
Patrick Markey. Reuters. June 30, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA, June 30 (Reuters) - Argentina's president and the head of the Organization of American States plan to accompany ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as he tries to return to his country this week, an Argentine Foreign Ministry source said, in a growing show of support in the hemisphere to restore him to power.
Zelaya was bundled out of office and into exile in Costa Rica in a military coup on Sunday. There has been a tide of international condemnation for the ouster, from U.S. President Barack Obama to the Honduran leader's leftist allies in Latin America, led by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
In Honduras, pro-Zelaya protesters have clashed in the streets with security forces.
Zelaya said on Monday evening he planned to return to Honduras on Thursday, accompanied by OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza. The news that Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez also planned to travel with him added to the pressure on the interim leaders of Honduras to back down.
Other Latin American leaders might travel with Zelaya, Fernandez and Insulza, the Argentine source said.
Further piling on the pressure, the World Bank has "paused" all program lending to Honduras following the coup, the bank's president, Robert Zoellick, said on Tuesday.
"We're working closely with the OAS (Organization of American States) and looking to the OAS to deal with its handling of the crisis under its democratic charter," Zoellick told reporters in Washington. "In the process we have put a pause with our lending.
Sunday's coup in Honduras, an impoverished coffee-producing country of 7 million people that had been politically stable since the end of military rule in the early 1980s, was the first military putsch in Central America since the Cold War.
Zelaya, a close ally of Chavez, had riled the armed forces, courts and Congress with his quest to change the constitution to let presidents seek re-election beyond a single four-year term.
But the coup has been swiftly condemned, including by Obama's administration. The U.S. president said on Monday Zelaya was the legitimate Honduran president and he was working with the OAS and other regional bodies to resolve the situation.
In a signal of the international support behind him, Zelaya planned to speak at the United Nations on Tuesday.
Zelaya, speaking of his planned trip back to Honduras, defied the interim government to repress protests, or kill him.
"If they send troops to repress demonstrations or to kill me, then let them try before the eyes of the world," Zelaya said at a meeting of Latin American leaders in Nicaragua. He said he had accepted an offer by Insulza to accompany him, but gave no details of how he expected to carry out his return.
Honduras' Congress named Roberto Micheletti, a conservative veteran of Zelaya's Liberal Party as caretaker president soon after Zelaya was pushed out on Sunday.
The interim government's foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, appeared to leave the door open for Zelaya to come back this week although only if he recognizes he is no longer president.
"He can come in, but only if he leaves his presidency behind him," Ortez told local media. "We are not going to allow him to come here to create unnecessary problems."
The capital, Tegucigalpa, was calm on Tuesday morning after a second night under curfew. Hundreds of Zelaya supporters had clashed with riot police on Monday to demand his return in one of the world's major coffee producers.
Coffee output and exports appeared untouched by the turmoil as ports and roads remained open [ID:nN29384653].
Micheletti, who set himself up in the presidential palace despite the protests outside, told Reuters most Hondurans supported the ouster, which he said had saved the country from swinging to a radical Chavez-style socialism [ID:nN29409053].
Zelaya, a cowboy hat-wearing logging magnate, upset conservative elites with his growing alliance with Chavez.
Micheletti has the backing of the powerful business and political elites that have run Honduras for most of its history since independence from Spain in the 19th century.
His government expects to stay on until elections due in late November, but he will come under pressure to negotiate a swift end to the crisis.
Zelaya has low support -- polls showed around 30 percent before his ouster -- as many Hondurans were uncomfortable with his tilt to the left in a country with a long conservative, pro-Washington position.
"Some sort of negotiation will have to occur," said Shannon O'Neil at the Center on Foreign Relations. "For the international community, the most acceptable solution is that Zelaya comes back and completes the last several months of his term as president, and then steps down."
Left-wing Latin American presidents led by Venezuela's Chavez said in Managua, capital of neighboring Nicaragua, that they would withdraw their ambassadors from Honduras in protest at the coup. Central American nations plan to do the same [ID:nN29361794] and announced a two-day halt in trade.
The Honduras crisis is a test for the White House in a region where Obama has promised a new era of relations after often testy years under the Bush administration.
(Additional reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel, Gustavo Palencia in Tegucigalpa, Guido Nejamkis in Buenos Aires and Sean Mattson in Managua, Editing by Frances Kerry)
Honduran Coup Turns Violent, Sanctions Imposed
Laura Carlsen. Americas Program. June 30, 2009
Thousands of Hondurans are now in the streets to protest the coup d'etat in their country. They have been met with tear gas, anti-riot rubber bullets, tanks firing water mixed with chemicals, and clubs. Police have moved in to break down barricades and soldiers used violence to push back protesters at the presidential residence, leaving an unknown number wounded.
If the coup leaders were desperate when they decided to forcibly depose the elected president, they are even more desperate now. Stripped of its pretense of legality by universal repudiation and faced with a popular uprising, the coup has turned to more violent means.
The scoreboard in the battle for Honduras shows the coup losing badly. It has not gained a single point in the international diplomatic arena, it has no serious legal points, and the Honduran people are mobilizing against it. As the military and coup leaders resort to brute force, they rack up even more points against them in human rights and common decency.
Only one factor brought the coup to power and only one factor has enabled it to hold on for these few days-control of the armed forces. Now even that seems to be eroding.
Cracks in Army Loyalty to the Coup?
Reports are coming in that several battalions-specifically the Fourth and Tenth-have rebelled against coup leadership. Both Zelaya and his supporters have been very conscious that within the armed forces there are fractures. Instead of insulting the army, outside the heavily guarded presidential residence many protesters chant, "Soldiers, you are part of the people."
President Zelaya has been remarkably respectful in calling on the army to "correct its actions." It is likely the coup will continue to lose its grip on the army as intensifying mobilizations force it to confront its own people.
International Community Imposes Sanctions
In the diplomatic arena, it's not that the coup is losing its grip-it never even got a foothold. The meeting of the Central American Integration System in Managua Monday became a forum for pronouncements from one after another of the major diplomatic groups in the region. Latin America is a region where diplomatic recombinations have proliferated in recent years, so the alphabet soup of solidarity statements just keeps on growing.
The Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) issued a resolution, announcing the withdrawal of its ambassadors while continuing the member countries' international cooperation programs in Honduras. The group urged other nations to do the same-a growing list including Brazil and Mexico has already followed suit.
The ALBA group cited the Honduran Constitution, which states in Art. 3:
"No one owes obedience to a government that has usurped power or to those who assume functions or public posts by the force of arms or using means or procedures that rupture or deny what the Constitution and the laws establish. The verified acts by such authorities are null. The people have the right to recur to insurrection in defense of the constitutional order."
Putting teeth behind the words has already begun. The Central American countries agreed to close off their land borders to all commerce with Honduras for the next 48 hours. The Central American Bank for Economic Integration has cut off all lending until the president is restored to power.
It also called for sanctions in multilateral organizations: "We propose that exemplary sanctions be applied in all multilateral organizations and integration groups, to contribute to bringing about the immediate restitution of the constitutional order in Honduras, and to make good on the principle of action that Jose Marti taught us when he said: 'If each one does his duty, no one can overcome us.'"
The Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean nations also met in Managua and issued a statement condemning the coup and supporting Zelaya. Organization of American States Sec. General Jose Insulza was there too. President Zelaya received a standing ovation following his closing speech.
The U.S. government has been unambiguous in its condemnation of the coup and support of President Zelaya. President Obama stated today:
"We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there." He added, "It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backward into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections."
After years of the Bush administration, when the commitment to democracy abroad was decided more on the basis of ideological affinities than democratic practice, some sectors have trouble accepting that the U.S. government is condemning the overthrow of a president who espouses left-wing causes. Note the obstinacy of reporters at today's State Department press conference:
QUESTION: "So Ian, I'm sorry, just to confirm-so you're not calling it a coup, is that correct? Legally, you're not considering it a coup?"
MR. KELLY: "Well, I think you all saw the OAS statement last night, which called it a coup d'état, and you heard what the Secretary just said ..." (Clinton explicitly called it a coup).
This discussion and another drawn-out discussion in which reporters attempted to open up a window of doubt over support for reinstatement of Zelaya went on quite a while. Ian Kelly, the Dept. spokesperson, held fast as reporters tried to equate supposed violations of law by Zelaya with a military coup in a fantasy "everyone's-at-fault" scenario. Kelly reiterated that the coup is indeed an illegal coup and the only solution is the return of the elected president.
The "coup question" is more than semantics and has implications beyond conservative media's political agenda to justify the coup leaders. When a legal definition of coup is established, most U.S. aid to Honduras must be cut off.
Here's the relevant part of the foreign operations bill:
Sec. 7008. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.
So far, the Obama administration has focused on diplomatic efforts and is waiting to see how long the Honduran stand-off will last before looking to specific sanctions. The probability that the coup's days are numbered makes that a reasonable strategy for the time being.
Attack on Freedom of Expression
The military coup has also launched an all-out attack on freedom of expression in the country. Venezuela's Telesur reports that its team was detained and military personnel threatened to confiscate its video equipment if it continued to broadcast.
The ALBA declaration notes the use of censorship as a tool of the coup, "This silence was meant to impose the dictatorship by closing the government channel and cutting off electricity, seeking to hide and justify the coup before the people and the international community, and demonstrating an attitude that recalls the worst era of dictatorships that we've suffered in the 20th century in our continent."
Grassroots organizations that support President Zelaya have faced an uphill battle against the media, which alternates between scaring people about the risk to keep them out of the streets and denying the existence of those who do go out. A message from Via Campesina Honduras warns people that information is controlled by the coup to hide opposition, cut off communications on many channels, and only allow information that favors them. They have now organized to open up contact with reporters throughout the world.
An increasingly organized opposition and independent media on the scene and on the net are breaking through the information blockade. A third source is Twitter. A major player in the Iranian uprising, Twitter has become the pulse of, if not the body politic, at least some bodies of that politic.
All this means that the information black-out designed by the coup is riddled with points of light. It's still hard to get statistical information like crowd numbers or figures of killed and wounded, but Honduras is certainly not the isolated and insignificant "banana republic" it once was.
The Return of the President
Zelaya now leaves for New York City where he will speak before the General Assembly of the United Nations to further outpourings of support. In Managua, he announced that from there he will return, accompanied by Insulza, to Honduras.
In an interview with CNN a coup leader said that Zelaya "can return to Honduras-as long as he leaves his presidency behind."
The Honduran ambassador to the UN, Jorge Reina, said that although the coup leaders have asked to address the UN, "the UN does not recognize them ... They have made a serious mistake, those who think that countries can be led through coups."
"That history has passed."
Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a)ciponline.org) is the Director of the Americas Program (www.americaspolicy.org) for the Center for International Policy in Mexico City.
Honduras teachers on strike following coup
Xinhua. June 30, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA, June 29 (Xinhua) -- All schools in Honduras were forced to suspend classes on Monday as teachers went on a strike following a military coup on Sunday in which President Manuel Zelaya was ousted.
Teachers in all cities on Monday announced a strike and took to the streets to voice their support for Zelaya.
Eulogia Chavez, president of a secondary school in Honduras, told Xinhua his school had been forced to close for two days, and all students were asked to stay home. Chavez said he was not sure when classes would resume.
Hundreds of troops stormed the presidential residence in Honduras' capital Tegucigalpa in the early hours on Sunday. Zelaya was put on a plane and sent into exile in Costa Rica.
Honduras' congress named speaker Roberto Micheletti as the interim president. He has imposed a curfew.
Meanwhile, Zelaya, who is attending an emergency meeting of regional leaders in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, said on Monday that he would return to Honduras on Thursday.
Zelaya said he planned to travel on Tuesday to Washington for a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), and then return to Honduras on Thursday along with OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza.
2 dead, 60 injured in Honduras anti-coup protests
Xinhua. June 29, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from protests against the interim Honduran government installed after a military coup increased to two on Monday after a protestor died in hospital.
The man, a union member, died of injuries sustained in protests against Roberto Micheletti, who was appointed president hours after President Manuel Zelaya was seized at his residence by hooded and heavily armed troops and whisked to Costa Rica.
The man had been protesting the change of bosses in state-run Honduras Telecommunications Corp made by Micheletti.
Sixty people were injured and one died in clashes between Honduran troops and Zelaya's supporters outside the Palace of Government, local television channel Canal 51 reported earlier.
A few minutes earlier, Juan Barahona, who leads the United Workers Federation, told Xinhua by telephone that soldiers had opened fire on demonstrators outside the Palace of Government.
"When we were dispersed, I saw several people with bullet wounds," Barahona said. "Two ambulances arrived but so far I don't know if there are deaths."
Local media had reported shooting and tear gas used at the scene, as two helicopters flew over the area.
Hundreds of protesters, their faces covered in red masks, blocked the roads around the presidential residency with iron boards and stones. They waved the national flag, chanting slogans calling the army "betrayers that have toppled the nation."
Shots were heard in the early hours of Monday morning outside the Palace of Government. The president of the Committee for the Defense of Honduran Human Rights said that 27 people had been arrested.
The interim government has tightened control over foreign reporters, and several of them have been arrested.
Micheletti said on Monday that six new cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez Colindre, Finance Minister Gabriella Nunez and Defense Minister Lionel Sevilla, have been sworn in.
Micheletti was appointed interim president by the nation's legislature on Sunday afternoon, in a session that began with the reading of a resignation letter, reportedly from Zelaya but denounced as fake by the president himself.
Journalists briefly detained by troops in Honduras
AP. June 29, 2009
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Honduran troops detained seven international journalists covering the aftermath of a military coup Monday, freeing them unhurt a short time later. The government also took at least two television stations off the air and interrupted the broadcasts of others.
At least 10 soldiers, most with rifles drawn, arrived at the hotel where journalists from The Associated Press and the Venezuela-based television network Telesur were staying and unplugged their editing equipment in an apparent attempt to stop their coverage of protests in support of deposed President Manuel Zelaya.
One of the Telesur journalists was speaking on a telephone at the time of the detention, and AP's Nicolas Garcia saw a soldier lightly slapping her hand so she would hang up.
Garcia, an Argentine videojournalist, and Esteban Felix, a Peruvian photographer, and two Nicaraguan assistants were loaded into a military Land Cruiser, with another military vehicle following close behind. Also detained were Telesur journalists Adriana Sivori, producer Maria Jose Diaz and cameraman Larry Sanchez.
"They're taking us prisoner at gunpoint," Sivori told Telesur by telephone as she was being detained. Telesur is financed by Venezuela's government and its allies.
Garcia said the four AP journalists were taken to an immigration office where two officials demanded to see their Honduran visas. They were released after explaining they were journalists. Telesur confirmed that its journalists were also released.
The two officials who handled the journalists' cases refused to give their names.
Telesur said military officers also threatened another of its journalists, warning that others would be detained if the network continued to transmit images of protests in support of Zelaya, who was forced into exile on Sunday.
Soldiers also shut down Channel 8, the official broadcaster of the Zelaya government, and another television station sympathetic to his administration in the capital. Honduran reporters also said at least one Tegucigalpa radio station has been forced off the air.
When Zelaya was first arrested Sunday morning, power was cut throughout the capital and all radio and television stations went off the air or simply played traditional "marimba" music. Most networks resumed transmission a few hours later, but they have provided little coverage of the protests outside the military-occupied presidential palace.
The media apparently have been acting on orders from the government, though it is unclear who has been giving them. Soldiers have been posted around some television and radio stations and around the national power and phone companies.
Telesur and CNN en Espanol, the Spanish-language network of CNN, have broadcast news of the protests in Hondurans via cable television, but those transmissions have been interrupted intermittently.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said it is "deeply concerned by reports that several broadcasters have been taken off the air," calling the situation a "media blackout." Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International also expressed similar concerns.
Police and the Honduran military refused to comment on measures involving journalists Monday night.
Central America halts cross-border trade with Honduras
Xinhua. June 29, 2009
MANAGUA, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua Alvaro Colom, Mauricio Funes and Daniel Ortega on Monday decided to halt for 48 hours cross-border trade with Honduras, where a government came to power after a Sunday military coup.
The measures were agreed at the summit that brought together the leaders of the Central American Integration System (SICA), the Group of Rio and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) on Monday in Nicaraguan capital Managua in support Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was forced into exile on Sunday after a military coup.
U.S. troops stay put in Honduras; Americans advised to stay inside or get out
Carol Rosenberg. The Miami Herald. June 30, 2009
Coup opponents clashed with the Honduran military in Tegucigalpa where the U.S. embassy instructed Americans to stay off the streets, but the U.S. Southern Command reported it was business as usual Monday for hundreds of U.S. troops at two sites in Honduras.
No American forces were called back from the Soto Cano air base in Honduras, 60 miles from the capital, where about 600 U.S. forces serve on rotations.
The Pentagon has had a presence at Soto Cano since the 1980s, assisting air missions coming and going from Latin America. The hub typically gets busy for search-and-rescue operations during hurricane season.
''No more troops are coming here and none of us are leaving,'' reported Air Force Lt. Candace Park by telephone from Soto Cano on Monday morning.
Likewise, the U.S. Southern Command kept its group of military officers intact and on assignment at the U.S. Embassy, said Southcom spokesman Jose Ruiz from Miami. There were no plans for reinforcements or withdrawal in the capital, he said.
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa posted a notice on its website instructing Americans ''to remain in their homes or hotels'' unless they were leaving the country or had travel ``of a life or death nature.''
It also told Americans planning to travel to Honduras to stay away.
On Monday, the Southern Command also confirmed that the alleged coup leader, Honduran Gen. Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, had been invited to last week's change-of-command ceremony in which Air Force Gen. Douglas ''Skeet'' Fraser took charge at Southcom's Doral headquarters.
Vasquez did not attend but instead sent a more junior officer -- Brig. Gen. José Gerardo Fuentes, director of Honduras' Defense University. Southcom said the visit was ceremonial nature and Fuentes had no specific meetings with U.S. officials.
In attendance at the ceremonies were Southcom's last Southcom chief, the NATO-bound Adm. James Stavridis; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Marine Gen. James Cartright, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff -- a heavyweight lineup at the outpost for Latin American military policy just days ahead the region's first military coup of the 21st Century.
Records reflect that Vasquez took two short courses in the '70s and '80s at the old School of the Americas in Panama, Southcom's former headquarters.
But a spokesman for the school's successor, The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, said neither was a degree program, meaning Vasquez could not be counted as a graduate.
Ruiz also noted that Southcom learned of the coup no earlier than greater Miami. First word broke at the headquarters, he said, at 9:03 a.m. Sunday when The Associated Press reported it.
ANALYSIS-Honduras coup holds few risks for Latin leftists
Stuart Grudgings. Reuters. June 30, 2009
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 30 (Reuters) - Strong U.S. support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has sharply reduced the chances that the military coup there could reignite ideological tensions in Latin America or encourage similar moves against other leftist governments.
But a failure to match the words with action to help restore the leftist to the presidency could hand a propaganda victory to his fellow socialist leaders in Latin America and damage U.S. efforts to rebuild its leadership in the region.
The apparently weak footing of the Honduras coup in the face of a broad regional consensus against it means it is unlikely to spark similar moves in the historically coup-prone region, analysts said.
"This coup is a failure ... because the world has changed and it was clear before they did it that they wouldn't get support from anyone in the hemisphere," said Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research think tank in Washington. "I don't think it will encourage anyone."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a foe of U.S. trade and foreign policy in Latin America, has threatened military action in Honduras to restore Zelaya and rallied his leftist bloc since the weekend coup, casting the crisis as an attack on democracy by imperialist forces.
U.S. President Barack Obama joined Latin American leaders on Monday in condemning the coup as illegal, marking a contrast to 2002 when Washington went against the regional consensus by initially welcoming a coup attempt against Chavez himself.
'STEALING THE SHOW'
"Part of the reason why the U.S. will come out so strongly against it has to do with the intention of preventing Hugo Chavez from stealing the show," said Kevin Casas-Zamora of the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.
He added, "If Zelaya is put back in power, Chavez won't be able to claim the victory for his Bolivarian revolution," a term inspired by 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar that Chavez uses to describe his push to remake Venezuela as a socialist nation.
Chavez, who blamed former U.S. President George W. Bush for the 2002 coup in which he was briefly ousted, said he wants a probe into any role the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency may have played in Zelaya's ouster.
The CIA has been involved in toppling past leftist governments in Latin America. The White House has said there was no U.S. role in Zelaya's ouster.
A former soldier who himself once led a failed coup attempt in Venezuela, Chavez knows he has enemies who could be emboldened by a successful overthrow of Zelaya in Honduras.
Chavez has been harsh with new mayors and governors elected last year, stripping them of income and power. Some in Venezuela fear that by humiliating the opposition in that country, Chavez may be increasing the credibility of radical elements who believe in removing him by force.
Evo Morales, the fellow socialist president of Bolivia, has faced unrest and strong opposition from conservative business groups and politicians in his country, and police recently uncovered what Morales described as an assassination plot against him.
Zelaya was detained and sent into exile in a dispute over his push to allow a Honduran president to stay in power longer than that country's constitution allows -- a tactic that other leftist leaders such as Chavez and Morales have also used.
Rather than signaling a warning for leftist Latin American governments about pushing constitutional changes too far, the Honduran coup is an example of the risks of doing so without enough political and military support, analysts said.
The near unanimous diplomatic backing for Zelaya, whose push to change the constitution was seen as undemocratic by critics, could shield other leaders in the region from similar criticism in the future, said Chris Sabatini of the U.S.-based Americas Society-Council of the Americas think tank.
"The unconstitutional act being punished is the coup d'etat, not the death by a thousand cuts that comes before -- the erosion of democratic institutions," Sabatini said.
Weisbrot and other analysts said the coup leaders would be looking for any signs of ambivalence in the U.S. stance that could signal that Washington is willing to allow a political outcome without Zelaya's return.
"This government has probably got a plan to hold out for (the) rest of the term," Weisbrot said, referring to Honduran interim President Roberto Micheletti's intention to retain control through a Nov. 29 presidential election.
"They are going to be looking for subtle signals from this (Obama) administration about what they should do."
Obama, saying that Zelaya was the only legitimate Honduran president, said he would work with the Organization of American States and other international institutions to restore Zelaya to power and "see if we can resolve this in a peaceful way."
Both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have explicitly referred to Zelaya's ouster as a "coup." But Clinton said the administration was not formally designating it as a military coup for now, a step that would force a cut-off of most U.S. aid to Honduras.
A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition he not be named said that by holding off on a legal determination that a coup has taken place, Washington was trying to provide space for a negotiated settlement.
"Hillary Clinton seems a little less out front than Obama on this ... it will make the U.S. look extremely weak if they cannot march this back," said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.
"The fact is the U.S. says Zelaya is the legitimate president and a lot of us are aware of the kind of influence that the U.S. should be projecting with the people who carried out the coup."
Honduras Business Supports Zelaya Ouster
Latin Business Chronicle. June 29, 2009
While the international community - including the US government and the European Union - condemned the Sunday ouster of Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras, the business community in the country supported the move.
"It is extremely popular," says Jacqueline Foglia Sandoval, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Honduras. "I don't know of any one who isn't celebrating."
The ouster came after Zelaya's efforts to hold a referendum on whether he could run for re-election. Such a move was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court and the national assembly, but Zelaya planned to move ahead anyway.
That followed three years of Zelaya policies that were seen as arbitrary and often hurting business, Foglia Sandoval says.
"Over the last three years, our ex president had created political and social chaos," she says. "He [was] very unpredictable and many times [imposed] arbitrary actions that …affected the business climate."
WAGE HIKE, SOCIALISM
Among the latest examples, was his decision in December to raise the minimum wage by 60 percent despite that unions had demanded 20 to 30 percent and employers had countered with zero to 10 percent.
Not only did he exceed the union demands, but also imposed the new laws as companies already had their 2009 budgets ready, Foglia Sandoval points out. As a results some 150,000 jobs were lost during the past six months, she says.
Another concern was his talk about implementing socialism of the 21st century, modeled on Venezuela. "People associate socialism with ration cards, with lines, with the things we do not want," Foglia Sandoval says. "It's a poor country, but we don't have rationing, or lack of mobility, or have to ask permission for moving."
Meanwhile, Zelaya neglected the issue that most Hondurans felt was their top concern - the lack of personal safety and the growing drug trafficking, she adds. "He had completely ignored that," Foglia Sandoval says. "This was becoming a narco state."
Foreign investors also singled out the lack of security as the top challenge of doing business ion Honduras. "The main challenge has to do with security, and the negative effects that this issue has both in our consumers and on the ability to attract foreign investment," Pablo Largacha, a Costa Rica-based director of public affairs and communications for Coca-Cola's Latin Center Business Unit, told Latin Business Chronicle in late 2007.
Zeleya didn't score any points for his hostile treatment of foreign oil companies, either. In January 2007, Zelaya announced plans to temporarily assume control of oil terminals and restrict imports of oil to one company in an effort to reduce fuel prices. However, after the US Embassy in Honduras warned that the takeover would have serious consequences, the government reversed its position on the terminals.
The ouster of Zelaya may lead to U.S. trade sanctions, Alfredo Coutino, director for Latin America at Moody's Economy.com, told Bloomberg.
Such a move would be ironic as Zelaya was the one who had been worsening relations with the United States, Foglia Sandoval says. However, the business community is planning to fight any sanctions by getting the message out that the ouster was done in accordance with Honduran laws. Among other channels, it is using the Internet through blogs like the one for the Union Civica Democratica, to get its side of the story out, she says.
"No body cared that for the past three years we had a president who violated laws," would be ironic as Zelaya was the one who ha been worsening relations with the United States, Foglia Sandoval says. "It came to this point."
The ouster won't have much of an impact on bond valuations, according to JP Morgan analyst Franco Uccelli. "While we view yesterday's coup as an isolated event prompted by internal factors (most notably the alienation of business, political and military elites by Zelaya's decision to move Honduras closer to the left and his desire to reshape the Constitution to broaden presidential powers), we believe that to the extent that it exposes lingering institutional weaknesses in Central America, it is bound to generate some concern among investors involved in the region," he wrote in an analysis today. "Given the low risk of contagion, however, we expect the impact on bond valuations to be generally negligible."
Showdown in Honduras: The Rise, Repression and Uncertain Future of the Coup
Benjamin Dangl. June 29, 2009
Worldwide condemnation has followed the coup that unseated President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras on Sunday, June 28. Nation-wide mobilizations and a general strike demanding that Zelaya be returned to power are growing in spite of increased military repression. One protester outside the government palace in Honduras told reporters that if Roberto Micheletti, the leader installed by the coup, wants to enter the palace, "he had better do so by air" because if he goes by land "we will stop him."
On early Sunday morning, approximately 100 soldiers entered the home of the left-leaning Zelaya, forcefully removed him and, while he was still in his pajamas, ushered him on to a plane to Costa Rica. The tension that led to the coup involved a struggle for power between left and right political factions in the country. Besides the brutal challenges facing the Honduran people, this political crisis is a test for regional solidarity and Washington-Latin American relations.
Manuel Zelaya Takes a Left Turn
When Manuel Zelaya was elected president on November 27, 2005 in a close victory, he became president of one of the poorest nations in the region, with approximately 70% of its population of 7.5 million living under the poverty line. Though siding himself with the region's left in recent years as a new member of the leftist trade bloc, Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Zelaya did sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2004.
However, Zelaya has been criticizing and taking on the sweatshop and corporate media industry in his country, and increased the minimum wage by 60%. He said the increase, which angered the country's elite but expanded his support among unions, would "force the business oligarchy to start paying what is fair."
At a meeting of regional anti-drug officials, Zelaya spoke of an unconventional way to combat the drug trafficking and related violence that has been plaguing his country: "Instead of pursuing drug traffickers, societies should invest resources in educating drug addicts and curbing their demand."
After his election, Zelaya's left-leaning policies began generating "resistance and anger among Liberal [party] leaders and lawmakers on the one hand, and attracting support from the opposition, civil society organizations and popular movements on the other," IPS reported.
The social organization Via Campesina stated, "The government of President Zelaya has been characterized by its defense of workers and campesinos, it is a defender of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA), and during his administration it has promoted actions that benefit Honduran campesinos."
As his popularity rose over the years among these sectors of society, the right wing and elite of Honduras worked to undermine the leader, eventually resulting in the recent coup.
Leading up to the Coup
The key question leading up to the coup was whether or not to hold a referendum on Sunday, June 28 - as Zelaya wanted - on organizing an assembly to re-write the country's constitution.
As one media analyst pointed out, while many major news outlets in the US, including the Miami Herald, Wall St. Journal and Washington Post, said an impetus for the coup was specifically Zelaya's plans for a vote to allow him to extend his term in office, the actual ballot question was to be: "Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?"
Nations across Latin America, including Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, have recently re-written their constitutions. In many aspects the changes to these documents enshrined new rights for marginalized people and protected the nations' economies from the destabilizing effects of free trade and corporate looting.
Leading up to the coup, on June 10, members of teacher, student, indigenous and union groups marched to demand that Congress back the referendum on the constitution, chanting, "The people, aware, defend the Constituent [Assembly]." The Honduran Front of Teachers Organizations [FOM], with some 48,000 members, also supported the referendum. FOM leader Eulogio Chávez asked teachers to organize the expected referendum this past Sunday in schools, according to the Weekly News Update on the Americas.
The Supreme Court ruled that the referendum violated the constitution as it was taking place during an election year. When Honduran military General Romeo Vasquez refused to distribute ballots to citizens and participate in the preparations for the Sunday referendum, Zelaya fired him on June 24. The Court called for the reinstatement of Vasquez, but Zelaya refused to recognize the reinstatement, and proceeded with the referendum, distributing the ballots and planning for the Sunday vote.
Crackdown in Honduras
Vasquez, a former student at the infamous School of the Americas, now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), went on to be a key leader in the June 28 coup.
After Zelaya had been taken to Costa Rica, a falsified resignation letter from Zelaya was presented to Congress, and former Parliament leader Roberto Micheletti was sworn in by Congress as the new president of the country. Micheletti immediately declared a curfew as protests and mobilizations continued nation-wide.
Since the coup took place, military planes and helicopters have been circling the city, the electricity and internet has been cut off, and only music is being played on the few radio stations that are still operating, according to IPS News.
Telesur journalists, who have been reporting consistently throughout the conflict, were detained by the de facto government in Honduras. They were then released thanks to international pressure.
The ambassadors to Honduras from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were arrested. Patricia Rodas, the Foreign Minister of Honduras under Zelaya has also been arrested. Rodas recently presided over an OAS meeting in which Cuba was finally admitted into the organization.
The military-installed government has issued arrest warrants for Honduran social leaders for the Popular Bloc Coordinating Committee, Via Campesina and the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, according to the Weekly News Update on the Americas.
Human rights activist Dr. Juan Almendares, reporting from from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, told Democracy Now! that due to government crackdowns and the electrical blackout, there is "not really access to information, no freedom of the press." He said, "We have also a curfew, because after 9:00 you can be shot if you are on the streets. So we have a curfew from 9:00 to 6:00 a.m."
In a statement on the coup, Via Campesina said, "We believe that these deeds are the desperate acts of the national oligarchy and the hardcore right to preserve the interests of capital, and in particular, of the large transnational corporations."
Mobilizations and Strikes in Support of Zelaya
Members of social, indigenous and labor organizations from around the country have concentrated in the city's capital, organizing barricades around the presidential palace, demanding Zelaya's return to power. Sixty protesters have been injured and two have died in clashes with the coup's security forces.
"Thousands of Hondurans gathered outside the presidential palace singing the national hymn," Telesur reported. "While the battalions mobilized against protesters at the Presidential House, the TV channels did not report on the tense events." Bertha Cáceres, the leader of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares y Indígenas, said that the ethnic communities of the country are ready for resistance and do not recognize the Micheletti government.
Dr. Almendares reported that in spite of massive repression on the part of the military leaders, "We have almost a national strike for workers, people, students and intellectuals, and they are organized in a popular resistance-run pacific movement against this violation of the democracy. … There are many sectors involved in this movement trying to restitute the constitutional rights, the human rights."
Rafael Alegría, a leader of Via Campesina in Honduras, told Telesur, "The resistance of the people continues and is growing, already in the western part of the country campesinos are taking over highways, and the military troops are impeding bus travel, which is why many people have decided to travel to Tegucigalpa on foot. The resistance continues in spite of the hostility of the military patrols."
A general strike was also organized by various social and labor sectors in the country. Regarding the strike, Alegría said it is happening across state institutions and "progressively in the private sector."
The 4th Army Battalion from the Atlántida Department in Honduras has declared that it will not respect orders from the Micheletti government, and the major highways of the country are blocked by protesters, according to a radio interview with Alegría.
The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), condemned the coup, media crackdowns and repression, saying in a statement: "[T]he 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."
On Sunday, Obama spoke of the events in Honduras: "I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."
But the US hasn't actually called what's happened in Honduras a coup. Hillary Clinton said, "We are withholding any formal legal determination." And regarding whether or not the US is calling for Zelaya's return, Clinton said, "We haven't laid out any demands that we're insisting on, because we're working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives."
If the White House declares that what's happening in Honduras is a coup, they would have to block aid to the rogue Honduran government. A provision of US law regarding funds directed by the US Congress says that, "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available ... shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree."
"The State Department has requested $68.2 million in aid for fiscal year 2010 [for Honduras], which begins on October 1, up from $43.2 million in the current fiscal year and $40.5 million a year earlier," according to Reuters.
The US military has a base in Soto Cano, Honduras, which, according to investigative journalist Eva Golinger, is home to approximately 500 troops and a number of air force planes and helicopters.
Regarding US relations with the Honduran military, Latin American History professor and journalist Greg Grandin said on Democracy Now!: "The Honduran military is effectively a subsidiary of the United States government. Honduras, as a whole, if any Latin American country is fully owned by the United States, it's Honduras. Its economy is wholly based on trade, foreign aid and remittances. So if the US is opposed to this coup going forward, it won't go forward. Zelaya will return..."
The Regional Response
The Organization of American States, and the United Nations have condemned the coup. Outrage at the coup has been expressed by major leaders across the globe, and all over Latin America, as reported by Reuters: the Presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba have been outspoken in their protests against the coup. The French Foreign Ministry said, "France firmly condemns the coup that has just taken place in Honduras." Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said, "I'm deeply worried about the situation in Honduras... it reminds us of the worst years in Latin America's history."
Even Augusto Ramírez Ocampo, a former foreign minister of Colombia told the NY Times, "It is a legal obligation to defend democracy in Honduras."
Zelaya has announced a trip to the US to speak before the United Nations. He also stated that he will return to Honduras on Thursday, accompanied by Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States. "I will fulfill my four year mandate [as President], whether you, the coup-plotters, like it or not," Zelaya said.
Only time will tell what the international and national support for Zelaya means for Honduras. Regional support for Bolivian President Evo Morales during an attempted coup in 2008 empowered his fight against right wing destabilizing forces. Popular support in the streets proved vital during the attempted coup against Venezuelan President Chavez in 2002.
Meanwhile, Zelaya supporters continue to convene at the government palace, yelling at the armed soldiers while tanks roam the streets.
"We're defending our president," protester Umberto Guebara told a NY Times reporter. "I'm not afraid. I'd give my life for my country."
If you are interested in rallying in support for the Honduran people and against the coup, here is a list of Honduran Embassies and Consulates in the US.
People in the US could call political representatives to denounce the coup, and demand US cut off all aid to the rogue government until Zelaya is back in power. Click here to send a message to Barack Obama about the coup.
Visit SOA Watch for more photos and suggested actions.
Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website covering activism and politics in Latin America. Contact: Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com
Democracy Derailed in Honduras
Greg Grandin. The Nation. June 30, 2009
When Honduran president Manuel Zelaya--who was rousted out of his bed on Sunday morning by a detachment of armed soldiers and forced into exile still in his pajamas--took office in early 2006, unionists, peasant activists and reformers expected little of the center-right politician, a rancher and member of the establishment Liberal Party. Neither did the handful of elite Honduran families who, bankrolled by foreign finance, control their country's media, banking, agricultural, manufacturing and narcotics industries. "You are only temporary, while we are permanent," they told him soon after his inauguration, according one report, reminding Zelaya that he served at their pleasure.
But the realities of governing in a country as poor as Honduras--more than 60 percent of its population live in poverty, more than 50 percent in extreme poverty--tends to reinforce a left-wing slant. Perhaps it was the imperious and imperial behavior of George W. Bush's ambassador to Honduras, described by Zelaya as "barbarous." Or maybe it was the fact that the Central American Free Trade Agreement, rather than delivering promised development, worsened his country's trade deficit with the United States while driving low wages even lower, as Honduras competed with its equally impoverished neighbors for investment. Or perhaps it was the US Food and Drug Administration's unilateral ban of Honduran cantaloupes because they were supposedly tainted with salmonella, though the FDA offered no proof of the charge, a move Zelaya called "unjust."
Whatever the reason, Zelaya shifted course, and over the past two years he has adopted a progressive agenda. As a solution to the disastrous "war on drugs," which has turned Central America into a well-traversed trans-shipment corridor for narcotraficantes--profitable for some, deadly for many--he has proposed the legalization of some narcotics. Earlier this year at the Summit of the Americas, he took the lead in pushing Barack Obama to normalize relations with Cuba. And he has steered his country into both the Bolivarian Alternative to the Americas and Petrocaribe, two regional economic alliances backed by Venezuela meant to wean Latin America off its extreme dependence on the US market.
This left turn is less ideological than pragmatic. Honduras is so broke it "can't even build a road without getting a loan from the World Bank," Zelaya once complained. But that money comes in "dribbles, held up years by paperwork" and often accompanied by onerous terms. In contrast, he said, Petrocaribe financing for infrastructure investment came all at once, at extremely low interest, with no conditions, which helped free up other scarce funds for social services. Through Petrocaribe, Venezuela also provides Honduras with 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day, also on very generous terms.
For those who presume to rule behind the scenes, Zelaya took a step too far when he began to push for the convocation of a constituent assembly in order to democratize Honduras's notoriously exclusionary political system. Expectedly, these efforts were opposed by the national Congress and the Supreme Court, both of which are controlled by an inbred clique of career politicians and judges invested in keeping Honduran politics restricted--including members of Zelaya's Liberal Party. For its part, the US media seem intent on reporting on events in Honduras through the prism of its obsession with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. The New York Times, for instance, ran an op-ed by free-market ideologue Alvaro Vargas Llosa, who claimed that the most unfortunate aspect of the coup is not that it derailed Honduran democracy but--wait for it--that it has allowed Chávez to defend democracy and thus claim the "moral high ground." Vargas Llosa describes Zelaya as a man of privilege, an "heir to the family fortune" who had "devoted decades to his agriculture and forestry enterprises" and who had run for president on a conservative platform that included supporting CAFTA. Misleadingly, Vargas Llosa attributes Zelaya's political turn not to the absolute failure of CAFTA and the fiasco of the "war on drugs" but to Chávez's seductions. The US media have also falsely yet unanimously presented Zelaya's moves as a power grab, an effort to end term limits to allow him to run for re-election. But the referendum Zelaya was pushing--which prompted the coup--asked citizens only if there should be a vote on "whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political Constitution." In other words, Hondurans weren't being asked to vote on term limits or even on revising the Constitution. They were simply being asked to vote on whether or not to have a vote on revising the Constitution, with the terms of that revision being left to an elected assembly.
Latin America has demonstrated a remarkable degree of unanimity in condemning the coup and demanding Zelaya's return to power. "We cannot accept or recognize any new government other than President Zelaya," said Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Organization of American States has stated that it will refuse to make any concessions to the coup plotters and that it will be open only to dialogue that would facilitate the "return of President Zelaya to his legitimate position." Other Central American nations have recalled their ambassadors from Honduras and have taken steps to isolate the country until democracy is restored.
Barack Obama, too, has issued strong words against Zelaya's overthrow: "I think it would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition, rather than democratic elections," he said. "The region has made enormous progress over the past twenty years in establishing democratic traditions in Central America and Latin America. We don't want to go back to a dark past."
The State Department, though, has been more circumspect. At first it was reluctant to use the word "coup" to describe Zelaya's overthrow, since to do so would trigger automatic sanctions, including the suspension of foreign aid and the withdrawal of US troops. Honduras hosts Soto Cano Air Force Base, the main US military base in the region, and Washington is concerned with keeping that installation fully operational. Likewise, according to John Negroponte--who as ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s was implicated in the cover-up of hundreds of death-squad executions--Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is working to "preserve some leverage to try and get Zelaya to back down from his insistence on a referendum" and presumably from his other populist policies.
It seems like what the United States might be angling for in Honduras could be the "Haiti Option." In 1994 Bill Clinton worked to restore Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide after he was deposed in a coup, but only on the condition that Aristide would support IMF and World Bank policies. The result was a disaster, leading to deepening poverty, escalating polarization and, in 2004, a second coup against Aristide, this one fully backed by the Bush White House.
Though there is no indication that the United States is considering using military force to restore Zelaya--as Clinton did for Aristide in 1994--Washington should follow the lead of the rest of the Americas and resist the temptation to attach conditions to its support for his return to office. Last week, during a meeting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, a reporter asked Obama if he would apologize for America's role in the 1973 coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power (and led to the torture of Bachelet and her father, who died as a result). Obama demurred and said that he was "interested in going forward, not looking backward."
As Honduras teeters on the brink--as of this writing, the new regime has cracked down on the media and instituted a curfew, with reports of escalating repression by security forces against Zelaya supporters--one way to move forward would be to provide unconditional support for Zelaya's immediate return.
"This is a golden opportunity," Costa Rica's former vice president, Kevin Casas-Zamora, said , for Obama "to make a clear break with the past and show that he is unequivocally siding with democracy, even if [some in Washington] don't necessarily like the guy."
About Greg Grandin
Greg Grandin teaches at New York University and is the author of Empire's Workshop. His new book, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan), was just published in June.
Honduras Crisis Forces Obama to Focus on Latin America
Tom Hayden. The Nation. June 30, 2009
The military coup against Honduran president Manuel Zelaya puts pressure on President Obama to break sharply with past American policies or risk massive defections in what remains of Latin America's goodwill.
Yesterday President Obama declared the coup was "not legal" and affirmed the Zelaya government's legitimacy, statements that were considered "very good" by Venezuelan diplomats interviewed by The Nation.
The Obama position is complicated by the history of US training of the Honduras armed forces, past involvement with shadowy death squads, and concern over Zelaya's alliance with the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). In the background are memories of US complicity in the attempted coup against Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in 2002.
The issue will become paramount today as foreign ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS) meet in Washington DC to consider their response. The Venezuelans will be accompanied by the exiled Honduran foreign minister. Meanwhile Zelaya is expected to be at the United Nations for meetings at the General Assembly. "This will be a turning point in the history of the OAS", observed the Venezuelan official.
Meanwhile some Democratic insiders were expressing mixed feelings over the coup. Michael Tomasky's blog found it "complicated" before concluding that "a military coup is a military coup, I guess." Faith Smith, writing on the blog of Steve Clemons of the New American Foundation found it "difficult to say which side is democratic." She noted approvingly that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while criticizing the coup offered "no specific support for Zelaya."
The choice for Obama is whether to side with a democratically-elected government which happens to be a Venezuelan ally, or be ostracized by the governments of Latin America. Obama's policies have indicated a desire for modest and gradual rapprochement after the Bush years, without rapid or concrete changes. That gradualism will be tested today.
Haiti president's party picks up 5 Senate seats
Jonathan M. Katz. AP. June 30, 2009
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - President Rene Preval's party won five of 11 contests to fill open Senate seats, according to preliminary results released Monday by the provisional electoral council.
Five other parties won one seat each in the June 21 run-off elections. One seat wasn't filled because voting was canceled in the central plateau region after political violence.
The result was a good one for Preval, giving his Lespwa party 12 seats in the 30-member body, including the nonvoting presidency. That could give him a boost for planned economic reforms sought by the U.S. and other aid donors and for constitutional changes to increase presidential powers that have been limited in the wake of Haiti's dictatorships.
But at least four sitting senators have threatened to try to block the seating of the victors because of extremely low voter turnout in the run-offs and alleged fraud in April's first round.
Turnout in the latest voting was even lower than the 11 percent tallied in the first round. No official percentage has been reported for the June 21 elections, but there were 12,640 fewer valid ballots cast than in April.
On election day, residents of the capital, Port-au-Prince, cited frustration with leaders who have failed to lift them from poverty as their reason for not voting. Many were angry over Preval's opposition to a $3-a-day increase in the minimum wage. Fear also was high after weeks of protests and political party clashes that left several dead.
Another obstacle to getting voters out was a boycott by ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party, whose candidates were barred from running.
The low turnout could fuel complaints by the government's opponents that it has stumbled in developing Haiti as a democracy. The 11 Senate seats in play have been vacant for more than a year, with elections postponed repeatedly since late 2007.
Another round of legislative elections is scheduled for later this year, but officials say it is likely the balloting will be postponed.
Campaigning has already begun for Haiti's 2010 presidential election. Preval, who previously served as president from 1995 to 2000, has said he will not seek a third term.
Protester killed in UN clash was slain by bullet, autopsy finds
Jonathan M. Katz. AP. June 29, 2009
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Haitian police say a demonstrator found slain after a clash with U.N. peacekeepers during a funeral procession was killed by a bullet, and not by a rock as peacekeepers initially reported.
But the police inspector who shared details of the autopsy report on Monday said ballistics tests are needed to determine who fired the fatal shot. The inspector who viewed the autopsy report spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the autopsy. He did not offer any additional details.
Opponents of the 9,000-member U.N. force are using the death to inflame passions against international troops stationed in Haiti since 2004.
The demonstrator, who remains unidentified, was killed June 18 as about 2,000 people marched with the casket of the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, an advocate for the poor who died in May after years of health problems. He was closely allied with ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
At least five Brazilian soldiers with the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission entered the back of the procession near Port-au-Prince's Notre Dame cathedral on foot to arrest a marcher, who was later released. Other demonstrators threw rocks at the soldiers, who responded by firing at least eight shots into the air before leaving in a jeep.
U.N. peacekeeping spokeswoman Sophie Boutaud de la Combe said Monday that the Brazilian soldiers had some weapons loaded with rubber bullets and others with 7.62-milimeter caliber live ammunition. In television footage of the clash at least eight shots can be heard. It is not clear if all were fired by the soldiers. No one else is seen holding a firearm.
"We are confident that the autopsy reconfirmed that our troops were not responsible for this death," Boutaud de la Combe said. She noted that preliminary information that the protester had been killed by a rock or other blunt instrument were incorrect.
Both the death and the clash that preceded it have only added to growing tension surrounding the U.N. troops. The day before the funeral other protesters also calling for their departure burned a U.N. police vehicle, one of a series of anti-U.N. demonstrations this year.
The U.N. and other diplomats have defended the soldiers' decision to enter the funeral procession on the belief that they were arresting a wanted criminal.
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