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Good News, Zelaya Returning to Honduras; Bad News, Coup Oligarchs Continue Human Rights Abuses

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(528 Obama-dumping days until 2012 election-Hugh's Obama's Scandals List)

Dana Frank reports that 70 members of the US Congress are calling for suspension of U.S. military and police aid to Honduras because of how, especially in the last two months, there has been a serious acceleration of government repression.

Frank also reports that ousted President Zelaya will be allowed to return to the country:

On May 22, Zelaya and the current president of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, signed a pact permitting Zelaya to return free of the trumped-up charges the coup makers leveled against him when the Honduran military packed him onto a plane to Costa Rica on June 28, 2009. Lobo also promised to allow plebiscites and to recognize the National Front of Popular Resistance, the broad coalition uniting labor, women’s groups, peasant organizations, gay alliances and Afro-indigenous movements.

But both of these “concessions” are already legally on the books, and grant nothing concrete to the opposition.

Zelaya’s return itself does have enormous popular significance. For hundreds of thousands of Hondurans, including those who are quite critical of him, he is the grand symbol of resistance to the ongoing military coup. He represents constitutional order, the rule of law and a hope for a different Honduran future based on social justice.

But neither Zelaya’s return nor the pact address the horrific human rights situation in the country. Lobo appointed the same officers who ran the coup to control the armed forces, the state-owned telephone company, the airports and the immigration service. And the government’s authoritarianism in the past two months now exceeds the period right after the coup.

You remember when then President Zelaya in his pajamas was dumped on an airport tarmac by the military early that Sunday morning almost two years ago? This military overthrow was tch’d tch’d publicly by the Obama administration, yet at the same time done with the US government’s covert support.

According to Alex Lantier:

Zelaya was overthrown because his populism was seen as a threat both to conservative sections of the bourgeoisie in Honduras and to US strategic interests in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In October 2008, Zelaya joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA in Spanish), a regional alliance organized by Chávez that includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda. Member states receive subsidies coming largely from Venezuelan oil earnings. One provision, which Zelaya chose not to ratify, calls for common defense in case one of the member states is attacked by the US.

Zelaya’s efforts to hold a constitutional referendum that would allow him to run for a second term provoked an escalating conflict with the Honduran military, the Congress and the courts, which culminated in his ouster.

US diplomats worked closely with the Honduran opposition to Zelaya. A US official speaking anonymously confirmed to the New York Times that US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. and US Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens spoke to “military officials and opposition leaders” in the days before the coup. He explained: “There was talk of how they might remove the president from office, how he could be arrested, on whose authority they could do that.”

[snip]

The official speaking to the Times complained, however, that the administration did not expect that the Honduran army would go so far as to carry out an overt military coup. The Obama administration was evidently seeking to engineer a de facto coup, but with a gloss of constitutional legality. Thus Washington’s main complaint about the Honduran coup is not that the army intervened in politics. Rather, it is that the Honduran army’s open intervention has exploded the democratic veneer that the bourgeois media tries to give to US foreign policy.

Ms. Frank describes the latest conditions of repression:

Police and the military now routinely shoot tear gas canisters directly at peaceful demonstrators at close range. Paramilitary gangs have killed more than 40 peasant activists since Lobo took office, including four in the last three weeks. Since Lobo came to power in the coup, more than 300 opposition members have been killed, according to human rights groups. Impunity reigns. You can drive by and shoot a teacher, an indigenous activist or a trade unionist, and nothing – nothing — will happen to you.

Lobo, in the accord, promised to create a new ministry overseeing human rights. But his promise means nothing. Indeed, three days after the accord, his police launched live bullets and tear gas against a group of high school students protesting the suspension of their math teachers.

Despite growing congressional recognition of the crisis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeps insisting that “democracy has been restored” and that Honduras should be readmitted to the Organization of American States at its June 5-7 meeting.

Frank accuses Clinton of trying to “whitewash a repressive regime.” One of those regimes the US administration would like to be regarded myopically with good will within the US. Despite the hypocritical "support for global democracy" rhetoric pouring out of Obama's mouth lately, because of realpolitik US interests it is really an “our bastards” regime that is friendlier to corporate interests than human rights.

Perhaps the Congressional momentum against US military support to an inhumane and what should have been an illegitimate regime in Honduras will gain strength and attention and help seriously challenge the “ongoing coup government” of Porfirio Lobo.

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