JFP News, 7/14 - LAT: US must increase pressure on Honduran coup regime
Just Foreign Policy News
July 14, 2009
LAT, Arias: US Must Pressure Honduran Coup Leaders
The problem of the coup in Honduras did not magically disappear with the mediation of Costa Rican President Arias. President Arias says more US pressure is needed on the coup regime, in particular to the effect that the US will not recognize elections that take place under the coup government; the Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, agrees.
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your financial contributions to Just Foreign Policy help us create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a just foreign policy.
1) Manuel Zelaya is the president of Honduras and should be returned finish his term, argues the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. On this point, the UN, the OAS, Venezuelan President Chavez and President Obama are agreed. It's time the US put more superpower pressure on the Honduran establishment, the LAT says. The Obama administration needs to make it clear now that elections held under the coup regime will not be regarded as legitimate. The U.S. should consider imposing sanctions on individuals involved with the coup, such as canceling visas and freezing bank accounts.
2) President Manuel Zelaya gave coup leader Micheletti one week to step down, the Miami Herald reports. Zelaya and Micheletti's negotiating teams are expected to resume talks in Costa Rica on Saturday. But if those talks do not produce results, Zelaya said he would pay "any cost" to reclaim the presidency.
3) Colombia's deputy Defense Minister says the U.S. government will unfreeze US$50 million in funding destined for Plan Colombia, according to Colombia Reports. The funding was frozen in 2007 due to human rights violations in Colombia.
4) Obama vowed to veto a pending $680 billion military spending bill for next year if lawmakers set aside funding for more F-22 warplanes than the Defense Department says it needs, the Washington Post reports. Sens. Levin and McCain oppose the additional F-22s. Some Democrats, including Sens. Kennedy and Kerry, have pushed for the purchase of more F22s. Lockheed Martin has been lobbying aggressively to keep the production line open.
5) President Zelaya will likely return to Honduras, setting up the political confrontation that coup leaders hoped to avoid by taking him out of the country, writes Mark Weisbrot. The only way coup leaders can win this political battle will be through repression. The coup government has used widespread media censorship and repression to control information; it has shot and killed demonstrators. The Obama administration has been almost completely silent in the face of this repression. Will they remain silent as it intensifies if Zelaya returns?
6) For some Afghan villagers - and some U.S. Marines - corrupt Afghan police are the problem, not the Taliban, AP reports.
7) Many Iraqis can't understand why American soldiers are still on their streets, NPR reports. US and Iraqi officials say the soldiers are trainers and advisers allowed under the security agreement. But to many Iraqis, they look the same.
8) Some Pakistani health officials say the country's health system, already run-down, is near collapse under the strain of refugees from the US-supported government offensive in the northwest, AP reports. Pakistan's health-care system has a budget of less than $150 million this year. By contrast, the military budget last year came to $3.45 billion and is expected to reach $3.65 billion next year [the total health budget is less than the expected increase in the military budget - JFP.]
9) The US deported Luis Arce Gomez, a key figure in Bolivia's last military dictatorship to Bolivia to serve a prison sentence for crimes including genocide and political assassinations, AP reports. [Bolivian law defines the crime of genocide differently, in terms of scale, than US usage - JFP.] "I want to recognize the work of the U.S. justice system," President Morales said. Under the dictatorship, Arce Gomez rounded up hundreds of journalists, political and labor leaders and church officials; opposition figures accused of communist sympathies were forcibly disappeared, tortured and assassinated.
10) President Chavez says Venezuela is making progress in achieving UN Millennium Development Goals for reducing extreme poverty and infant mortality, Xinhua reports. Extreme poverty in Venezuela was 9.4 percent in 2007, down from 29.8 percent in 2003. The infant mortality rate was 13.7 per 1000 live births in 2007, down from 19 per 1000 live births in 1998. The figure in the continent is 27 per 1000 live births.
1) Put pressure on Honduras
Failure to restore the legitimate president to power would signal to the rest of Latin America that the old days of solving problems by a coup are back.
Editorial, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2009
De facto, interim or congressionally installed - no matter the qualifier - Roberto Micheletti is not the president of Honduras. Manuel Zelaya is, and like him or not, the man who was ousted in a military-civilian coup on June 28 should be returned to Tegucigalpa to finish the last months of his term. On this point, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and President Obama are agreed. The question is how to get him there against implacable opposition from the political elites.
The Obama administration was right to let Latin America take the lead in resolving the Honduran crisis, first through the OAS and, after Zelaya's failed attempt to return home, through the mediation efforts of Costa Rica's Nobel Peace Prize-winning president, Oscar Arias. But the talks broke up after two days of impasse, and the clock is ticking. Chavez has expressed doubts about the Arias negotiations, and Zelaya is threatening another return - a move that could put his life and others' at risk. It's time the United States put more superpower pressure on the Honduran establishment.
Obama has stated clearly that tossing Zelaya out of the country by military force was illegal, and the United States has put a "pause" on tens of millions of dollars in aid. Venezuela has cut oil shipments, and the OAS has suspended Honduras, but none of that has ended the standoff. Micheletti and company seem to believe that if they can shoulder the hardships until November elections, all will be forgiven. Not so. The Obama administration needs to make it clear now that elections held under those conditions will not be regarded as legitimate and that such a plan would only prolong Honduras' troubles. Meanwhile, the U.S. should consider imposing sanctions on individuals involved with the coup, such as canceling visas and freezing bank accounts. It could also follow the European Union and recall the U.S. ambassador.
2) Zelaya Gives Micheletti Deadline to Step Down as Honduras Leader
Honduras' Manuel Zelaya gives rival week to quit
Tim Rogers and Jim Wyss, Miami Herald, Tue, Jul. 14, 2009
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya gave his rival, Roberto Micheletti, one week to step down, saying he was prepared to risk bloodshed to recapture the presidency, which he lost on June 28.
Speaking from neighboring Nicaragua, Zelaya accused Micheletti, who is serving as interim president, of trying to sabotage ongoing mediation talks in Costa Rica and using the time to consolidate his power.
He also called on the administration to recognize the resolutions of the Organization of American States and the United Nations that demand Zelaya's return. "The regime is just trying to buy time so it can keep terrorizing," Zelaya said. "The Honduran people are just another victim."
Zelaya and Micheletti's negotiating teams are expected to resume talks in Costa Rica on Saturday. But if those talks do not produce results, Zelaya said he would pay "any cost" to reclaim the presidency.
"Let me come back - me with the people and you with your bayonets," he said. "And instead of shooting innocent kids, shoot me."
The ultimatum came as Micheletti spent Monday consolidating his power by swearing in the nation's top diplomat and its environmental chief.
Carlos López Contreras, who had been acting as Micheletti's chief negotiator in the crisis, was named foreign affairs minister and sworn in at the presidential palace.
In his conference from Nicaragua, Zelaya also called on the government to cease its crackdown on the media and opposition politicians.
On Saturday, authorities detained pro-Zelaya reporters with the Venezuelan network Telesur and held them overnight. The government has also been interrupting the transmission of some news programs. In addition, Zelaya said his negotiation team's mobile phones were cut and their bank accounts frozen.
Zelaya said he would spend coming days traveling to Mexico, Guatemala and South America, as he continues his barnstorming tour to maintain support for his cause.
The Micheletti administration has yet to be officially recognized by a single nation. The newly minted foreign affairs minister, Contreras, said he hoped to change that.
3) US unfreezes $50 million for Plan Colombia
Kirsten Begg, Colombia Reports, Friday, 10 July 2009 14:46
The U.S. government will unfreeze US$50 million in funding destined for Plan Colombia. The funding was frozen in 2007 due to human rights violations in Colombia.
Colombia's deputy Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said he was informed of the decision during a recent visit with President Alvaro Uribe to Washington. Pinzon said the U.S. State Department will take the initiative before Congress.
The deputy Defense Minister said he thinks Colombia will have access to the $50 million before the end of the year.
4) Obama Vows A Veto In Dispute Over F-22s
President Pushing to Close Production Line
R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 14, 2009
President Obama vowed yesterday to veto a pending $680 billion military spending bill for next year if lawmakers set aside funding for more F-22 warplanes than the Defense Department says it needs.
Obama's intervention in the long-simmering debate over the wisdom of ending the F-22 program increased pressure on Senate lawmakers to respect his military priorities. It also sharpened his grievance with House and Senate Democrats who have defied the White House and supported keeping the F-22 production line open. Many such lawmakers, including Massachusetts Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, have F-22 contractors in their home states.
"We do not need these planes," Obama said in letters to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), and the committee's senior Republican, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), both of whom oppose the additional F-22s and spoke against them on the Senate floor yesterday. "I will veto any bill that supports acquisition of F-22s beyond the 187 already funded by Congress."
Obama noted in his letters that, under his proposal, production of F-22s would be terminated at roughly the same level proposed by the Defense Department during the Bush administration in 2004. To override the proposal would "waste valuable resources that should be more usefully employed to provide our troops with the weapons that they actually do need," he said.
The president's veto threat reflects his desire to win congressional backing for virtually all of the large revisions in Pentagon spending put forward by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in April, including terminating a half-dozen Cold War-era weapons programs to help pay for arms and equipment that military commanders say they need in Iraq and Afghanistan and for future counterinsurgency efforts.
Lockheed Martin, the plane's manufacturer, has been lobbying aggressively to keep the production line open. Yesterday, it circulated an unsigned document on Capitol Hill saying that the plane has "performed extremely well" and that its maintenance problems are abating. The paper was a response to a report in The Washington Post last week disclosing that the Defense Department had calculated the hourly flying cost for an F-22 at $49,808 and that tests last year showed that the mean time between critical failures during an F-22 flight was 1.7 hours.
5) Why Is Our Government So Quiet About Repression and Media Censorship in Honduras?
Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research, July 13, 2009
The media coverage of Honduras has drawn a sharp contrast between the Obama administration's response to the coup in Honduras and that of his predecessor to the military coup in Venezuela in 2002. But in reality there are much more similarities than differences. When the Venezuelan military overthrew Chavez in April of 2002, the Bush administration initially supported the coup. But within a day, Latin American heads of state meeting in a Rio Summit made it clear that no one would recognize the coup government; the Bush Administration quickly switched its position and opposed the coup government.
Similarly, the Obama administration's first response to the coup differed from all other governmental responses in the world in that it did not criticize the coup. Rather, it said called upon "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
For those who know anything about diplomatic language, this really makes it clear that the Obama administration is not on the same page as the rest of the world, when it comes to this coup. The coup leaders only need to run the clock for the few months remaining in Zelaya's term, and everything that this administration has done so far is consistent with this goal - including the arrangement of a mediation effort with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, which was doomed to fail from the beginning.
Looking forward, Washington will still play an important role. Zelaya will likely return to Honduras, setting up the political confrontation that the coup leaders hoped to avoid by taking him out of the country. The only way they can win this political battle will be through repression. As reported in the Miami Herald, the coup government has used widespread media censorship and repression to control information. It has shot and killed demonstrators, and yesterday there was a report that a trade union leader was murdered. The Obama administration has been almost completely silent in the face of this repression. Will they remain silent as it intensifies if Zelaya returns?
6) Afghan Police Not Always An Asset
AP Impact: Crooked Afghan police challenge Marines
Jason Straziuso and David Guttenfelder, Associated Press, Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Aynak, Afghanistan - Afghan villagers had complained to the U.S. Marines for days: The police are the problem, not the Taliban. They steal from villagers and beat them. Days later, the Marines learned firsthand what the villagers meant.
As about 150 Marines and Afghan soldiers approached the police headquarters in the Helmand River town of Aynak, the police fired four gunshots at the combined force. No larger fight broke out, but once inside the headquarters the Marines found a raggedy force in a decrepit mud-brick compound that the police used as an open-pit toilet.
The meeting was tense. Some police were smoking pot. Others loaded their guns in a threatening manner near the Marines.
The U.S. troops ousted the police two days later and installed a better trained force they had brought with them on their recently launched operation into southern Helmand. The original force was sent away for several weeks of training the U.S. is conducting across Afghanistan to professionalize the country's police.
But the encounter, witnessed last week by The Associated Press, highlights one of the largest problems facing the international effort to stabilize Afghanistan in the face of an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency: the need for competent, trustworthy police. What many villagers see now is the opposite - a pot-smoking, ragtag, thieving force that makes the Taliban look disciplined in comparison.
Afghans across the country complain bitterly about the country's police, whose junior ranks earn only about $150 a month. Police pad their salaries by demanding bribes at checkpoints or kickbacks to investigate complaints, and police in opium poppy-growing regions turn a blind eye to drug smuggling for a cut of the profits, many Afghans complain.
The role of the local police is especially sensitive here in Helmand province, the center of the lucrative opium poppy industry and a Taliban stronghold. A main goal of the ongoing U.S. military operation is to restore Afghan government control - which requires a disciplined police force that commands public respect.
7) To Many Iraqis, US Troops Have Not Faded Away
Quil Lawrence, NPR, July 13, 2009
Nearly two weeks after U.S. combat troops officially pulled out of Iraq's cities, the government in Baghdad is hailing the withdrawal as a sign that it is holding the U.S. to an agreement stipulating that all American troops leave Iraq by 2012.
Despite continuing violence, the Iraqi government says that the arrangement is going smoothly. Many Iraqis, however, aren't so sure. They can't understand why American soldiers are still on their streets.
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, has seen more than its share of trouble during the six-year-long American occupation of Iraq. After the city was virtually taken over by al-Qaida, Sunni Arabs reclaimed it and, with American backing, turned against the insurgents. The city is relatively safe now, and crucial reconstruction has begun.
But that doesn't mean there is affection for the U.S. Army.
A resident of Ramadi who gives his name only as Omar, says that after June 30, the Americans should now be gone. But there are more U.S. soldiers in the streets than before, he says, adding that he's not sure they are ever leaving. Omar does admit that security is better, which is allowing the rebuilding Ramadi to begin.
But electricity and clean water are still scarce, and people still direct their anger about most everything toward the Americans, says Gen. Tariq al-Asal, the head of Iraqi police in Anbar province.
Average Iraqis still have questions about why, post-June 30, all Americans aren't gone, Asal says.
American soldiers are still in Anbar and other parts of the country, says Asal, because the Status of Forces Agreement with the government of Iraq allows thousands of U.S. advisers and trainers to continue working in the cities.
Some confusion is understandable, says Army Lt. General Frank Helmick, who oversees the American and NATO troops still operating in Iraq's cities.
"It's a major challenge to get the information out to the Iraqi people, and it's a challenge that the government of Iraq has. They're doing an adequate job at that as well. ... Our uniforms look the same whether you're an infantryman or a public affairs officer who's conducting a training or advising mission inside one of the security ministries," he says.
8) In Pakistan, Refugees Push the Health System Toward Collapse
Associated Press, Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A refugee holds her child as he is treated for dehydration at Mardan District Hospital in Pakistan. The country's run-down health-care system is near collapse, health officials say, bringing yet more instability to a country already in turmoil.
Hospitals have been overwhelmed by more than 2 million refugees from the northwest, where the army is battling Taliban insurgents.
"To tell you honestly, health is not our national priority. It is very unfortunate," says physician Arshad Khan, the health ministry's top official in Mardan, which borders the battle zone. "And now, with this crisis, every smaller hospital is overloaded with displaced people, and our district hospital in Mardan is collapsing."
The government has allocated about $12,500 for medicine for the refugees. But Khan says it will be months before the refugees see any because of bureaucratic hurdles.
Pakistan's health-care system has a budget of less than $150 million this year. By contrast, the defense budget last year came to $3.45 billion and is expected to reach $3.65 billion next year.
9) US extradites 'Minister of Cocaine' to Bolivia to serve time for political killings
Carlos Valdez, Associated Press, 2:49 PM PDT, July 9, 2009
La Paz - The United States deported a key figure in Bolivia's last military dictatorship back home Thursday to serve a 30-year prison sentence for crimes including genocide and political assassinations.
Luis Arce Gomez, 71, known as "the minister of cocaine," took part in the July 1980 coup led by then-Gen. Luis Garcia Meza and backed by drug traffickers. As interior minister, he gained a reputation for ruthlessness for personally torturing political prisoners.
Arce Gomez had been imprisoned in Miami on a 1991 drug-trafficking conviction.
A U.S. judge denied him political asylum after his November 2007 release, a decision that President Evo Morales applauded Thursday. "I want to recognize the work of the U.S. justice system," Morales told a news conference. "It is a historic day for human rights."
As Garcia Meza's right-hand man, Arce Gomez rounded up hundreds of journalists, political and labor leaders and church officials, even hiring the late Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie as an adviser.
Dozens of opposition figures accused of communist sympathies were forcibly disappeared, tortured and assassinated.
The dictatorship only lasted a year, however, and both men fled into exile.
In 1989, Arce Gomez was captured in eastern Bolivia and extradited to the United States, where he was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 30 years. Affidavits from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said he extorted cocaine traffickers while serving as interior minister.
In 1993, a Bolivian court convicted him in absentia of a series of crimes including armed insurrection and genocide. He was sentenced to 30 years without parole.
Garcia Meza, 79, is also serving a 30-year prison term at Chonchocoro prison. He was arrested in 1994 in Brazil after also being convicted in absentia. Garcia Meza has spent much of the last few years in a military hospital.
10) Venezuela makes progress in achieving UN development goals
Xinhua, July 12
Caracas - Venezuela is making progress in achieving UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing extreme poverty and infant mortality as well as extending life expectancy, President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday.
Extreme poverty in Venezuela was 9.4 percent in 2007, down from 29.8 percent in 2003. The infant mortality rate was 13.7 per 1000 live births in 2007, down from 19 per 1000 live births in 1998. The figure in the continent is 27 per 1000 live births.
Venezuelans have an average life expectancy of 73.6 years, compared with 70.6 years for Latin Americans as a whole.
Just Foreign Policy
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.