JFP News 7/27: Grijalva Calls for US Sanctions on Honduras Coup Leaders
Just Foreign Policy News
July 27, 2009
Rep. Grijalva Urges Greater U.S. Pressure on the Coup Regime in Honduras
Rep. Raul Grijalva is circulating a letter to President Obama, calling on him to denounce the repression in Honduras by the coup regime, and to freeze U.S. assets and suspend U.S. visas of coup leaders. Signers of the letter include Reps. McGovern, Conyers, and Serrano. Urge your Representative to sign the Grijalva letter calling for more U.S. pressure on the coup regime.
Scholars, NGOs Respond to Hillary's "Reckless" Attack on President Zelaya
When talks in Costa Rica broke down due to the intransigence of the coup regime in Honduras - responding to a lack of US pressure - President Zelaya tried to return, prompting Secretary of State Clinton to denounce President Zelaya as "reckless." Scholars and NGOs respond to Secretary Clinton in a public sign-on statement, charging her with giving a green light to the coup regime for repression. You can view the statement and sign-on here.
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1) Honduran President Zelaya has complained about waning condemnation by the US of his removal from office, saying Washington's position on the coup was not clear, Al Jazeera reports. Secretary of State Clinton criticised Zelaya Friday for being "reckless" when he tried to return to Honduras late last week in a symbolic gesture before the international media. But Zelaya hit back at Clinton saying she had stopped using the term "coup" to describe his removal from power. "The position of the Secretary Clinton at the beginning was firm," he told reporters. "Now I feel that she's not really denouncing [it] and she's not acting firmly against the repression that Honduras is suffering." An analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America said the Obama Administration's "wishy-washiness" is giving the impression that they are backing away from their original stance.
2) Unions have been at the forefront of the battle to restore President Zelaya, In These Times reports. Honduras's three largest public sector unions called a general strike; a union official estimated that 100,000 workers walked off the job. The AFL-CIO condemned the coup and lobbied the OAS and the U.S. government not to recognize the coup regime. The International Transport Workers Federation called on its affiliated unions to oppose the coup by "focusing protests on the Honduran merchant fleet." We won't know the effects of the ITF edict until some ITF-affiliated unions - such as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, an ITF affiliate, which has also condemned the coup - are called upon to unload Honduran ships, ITT says. That hasn't happened since ITF issued the statement.
3) The Afghan government said it had arranged a truce with a group of Taliban in a district in northern Afghanistan in order to allow elections to go ahead Aug. 20 and allow development projects to proceed in the area, the New York Times reports. The deal is one of several election officials have managed to secure to allow the elections to go ahead. While local agreements have seemed possible in the north, heavy fighting in southern and eastern provinces are likely to cause widespread disruption in voting, military officials say.
4) Secretary of State Clinton ruled out explicitly the possibility that the Obama administration would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection, the New York Times reports. Some officials have hedged slightly when asked whether they could envision a situation in which Tehran, as part of a broader deal, might be permitted to produce its own nuclear fuel, called a fuel cycle in the nuclear industry. Reformers and hard-liners in Iran have said the country should produce its own fuel and have argued that it has that right as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. "You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control," Clinton said. Her phrase "under your control" seemed to leave open the possibility of having others enrich uranium on Iran's behalf, perhaps on Iranian soil, the NYT says. [International enrichment in Iran is the Pickering proposal, which Iran agreed to negotiate on in a letter to the United Nations - JFP.]
5) Soldiers from a US Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops killed civilians for no reason, AP reports. Some soldiers suggested their behavior was a predictable consequence of their Army training to kill.
6) The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has come under siege after deciding to show a documentary about Rachel Corrie, who was killed while trying to prevent an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian's home, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Two foundations which had long backed the festival denounced AFSC and Jewish Voice for Peace, which had cooperated in promoting the movie "Rachel," as anti-Semitic.
7) The Honduran armed forces issued a communiqué Saturday indicating they would not stand in the way of an agreement to restore President Zelaya, the New York Times reports. Officials said the military communiqué was significant because it was the first sign of support for the San José Accord by a powerful sector of the de facto government. And the officials said it could make it more difficult for the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court to reject the accord.
8) The Pakistani offensive in South Waziristan has been delayed by the refugee crisis spawned by fighting in Swat and an overstretched military unwilling to let its guard down with India, the Washington Post reports. The US said it was not pushing Pakistan to begin the South Waziristan offensive, that the first imperative was to secure the returnees in Swat.
9) The Mexican military says it has convicted 12 soldiers since 2006 and is prosecuting another 52 for various crimes, including homicide, torture and kidnapping, EFE reports. The claims contradict a statement issued by Human Rights Watch. HRW said "Mexican military courts - which routinely take over the investigation of military abuses against civilians - have not convicted a single member of the military accused of committing a serious human rights violation." HRW said the State Department should not certify Mexico's compliance with the Merida Initiative's human rights requirements so long as Mexican army abuses continue to be tried in military rather than civilian courts.
1) Zelaya decries US stance
Al Jazeera, July 27, 2009
Manuel Zelaya, the deposed Honduran president, has complained about what he described as waning condemnation by the US of his removal from office, saying Washington's position on the coup was not clear.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, criticised Zelaya on Friday for being "reckless" when he tried to return to Honduras late last week in a symbolic gesture before the international media.
But Zelaya hit back at Clinton saying she had stopped using the term "coup" to describe his removal from power by the military last month. "The position of the Secretary Clinton at the beginning was firm," he told reporters. "Now I feel that she's not really denouncing [it] and she's not acting firmly against the repression that Honduras is suffering."
Zelaya crossed the border from Nicaragua on Friday and took a few steps on Honduran soil before retreating shortly after that, but has set up a camp at a border crossing in a bid to put pressure on the Honduran interim government. "Secretary Clinton needs to confront the dictatorship with force so we will be able to speak well about President [Barack] Obama," Zelaya said.
In Washington, the Honduran embassy announced that Zelaya had asked Obama to ban bank transactions and cancel the US visas of individuals "directly responsible for my abduction and the interruption of constitutional order in my country". The list included Roberto Micheletti and top government and military officials.
"We believe that the measures that we are asking the US administration to take will exercise direct pressure on the perpetrators of the coup without causing any sort of negative impact on the people of Honduras," Enrique Reina, Zelaya's new ambassador-designate in Washington, said.
"It's been very clear from the outset that [the Obama administration] didn't really like Zelaya anyway," said Vicki Gass, an analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America. "This wishy-washiness on their part is giving the impression that they are backing away from their original stance."
2) In Solidarity, Labor Steps Up Pressure on Honduran Junta
Lindsay Beyerstein, In These Times, July 27
Tomorrow marks the one-month anniversary of when soldiers raided the home of Mel Zelaya, the democratically elected president of Honduras, and forced the pajama-clad leader into exile in Costa Rica.
From the very beginning, unions have been at the forefront of the battle to restore Zelaya to power. The Honduran workforce is heavily organized and Honduran labor has played a pivotal role in opposing the coup at home.
Upon Zelaya's ouster, Honduras's three largest public sector unions called a general strike. A union official estimated that 100,000 workers walked off the job.
Latin American unions joined the fight. On July 3, the Global Union Federation organized a protest in Nicaragua near the Honduran border which was attended by unions members from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
On the same day, members of unions affiliated with the London-based International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) formed a symbolic ring around Honduras with simultaneous demonstrations on all three of the country's international borders.
The American labor movement also moved quickly to denounce the coup. The AFL-CIO condemned the coup and successfully lobbied the Organization of American States and the U.S. government not to recognize the new regime.
Individual unions also weighed in. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) issued a statement condemning the coup and expressing concern for the safety of trade union leaders in Honduras.
Dan Kovalik, the associate general counsel of the United Steel Workers, traveled to Honduras earlier this month on a fact-finding mission and met with union leaders, human rights advocates and other community activists. His delegation also helped block the Pan-American Highway outside of the capital of Tegucigalpa as part of an anti-coup protest.
Labor leaders agree that that the outcome of this crisis has implications beyond Honduras' borders. Zelaya is a moderate left-wing leader who is more sympathetic to labor than most Honduran presidents have been. Moreover, if this military coup is allowed to prevail, other left-wing leaders of Latin American countries might find themselves vulnerable to coups by conservative elites.
As the crisis drags on and Zelaya remains in exile, some labor organizations are trying to step up the pressure on the regime. On July 17, the ITF called on its 656 affiliated unions to oppose the coup by "focusing protests on the Honduran merchant fleet." The press release didn't say what kind of protests the ITF had in mind, however. ITF spokesman Sam Dawson stressed in an email yesterday that ITF wants member unions to stay within the law. The federation is not publicly calling for a general boycott.
There are many historical precedents of longshore workers using strikes to make political points, but ITF isn't ready to go that far.
We won't know the effects of the ITF edict until some ITF-affiliated unions are called upon to unload Honduran ships. That hasn't happened since ITF issued the statement.
Dawson said that ITF is monitoring the movements of Honduran ships but that, so far, there has been "minimal contact" between members of ITF-affiliated unions.
If member unions take action, their protests could have far-reaching effects. Ship owners from around the world fly the Honduran flag as a "flag of convenience," meaning that they use Honduras as a cheap place to register their ships even though they don't hire Honduran crews or do business with Honduran firms. So, protests targeting the Honduran fleet could have a global impact. Honduras is also the largest producer of textiles in Latin America and a major exporter of coffee. The United States is its number one customer.
Robert McEllrath, the international president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a U.S.-based ITF affiliate, condemned the coup in a July 22 letter to the ITF.
"The military takeover of a democratically elected president and the removal of union workers from their jobs for organizing peaceful demonstrations in support of president Zelaya are not acceptable," McEllrath wrote. However, so far, there is no indication that McEllrath is prepared to back up these sentiments with a call for action against the Honduran merchant fleet.
Since the coup, international labor groups have gradually intensified the pressure on the regime. Remember that negotiations are still ongoing to resolve the crisis. So, unions may be holding back to see whether the process will work. It remains to be seen how far they are prepared to go in solidarity with the workers of Honduras.
3) Election Truce With Taliban in Northern Afghan District
Carlotta Gall and Sangar Rahimi, New York Times, July 28, 2009
Kabul - The Afghan government said Monday that it had arranged a truce with a group of Taliban in a district in northern Afghanistan in order to allow elections to go ahead on Aug. 20 and allow development projects to proceed in the area.
Local elders negotiated the truce with the local Taliban commander in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis Province, and the commander agreed to have election officials open a registration office in the area, said Ahmad Zia Siamak Herawi, a deputy spokesman for President Hamid Karzai.
The deal is one of several local arrangements election officials have managed to secure through negotiations with local elders to persuade Taliban and other opposition groups to allow the elections to go ahead, the chief of Afghanistan's election commission, Azizullah Ludin, said in an interview.
People wanted to participate in the elections - in particular, provincial council elections - in order to have their own representatives in power, he said, and local Taliban leaders in some places were bowing to the pressure of the communities to let them happen.
The Taliban have also agreed to allow government development projects to go forward in the Bala Murghab area and for construction of the main highway, which circles Afghanistan, to proceed through the district, Mr. Herawi said. The Taliban have withdrawn from three areas to allow the work to proceed, he said.
While local agreements have seemed possible in the north, heavy fighting in southern and eastern provinces are likely to cause widespread disruption in voting, military officials say. American and British casualties have risen sharply amid an offensive in those regions.
4) Clinton Says Nuclear Aim Of Iran Is Fruitless
David E. Sanger, New York Times, July 27, 2009
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Iran's leaders on Sunday that if they were seeking nuclear weapons, "your pursuit is futile," and ruled out explicitly the possibility that the Obama administration would allow Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel, even under intense international inspection.
Mrs. Clinton made her statement, on NBC's "Meet the Press," days after she raised the possibility of an American-created "defense umbrella" over the Middle East to counter Iran's efforts to build its power in the region by trying to develop weapons capacity.
While the Obama administration has often said that it would not allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon, some officials have hedged slightly when asked whether they could envision a situation in which Tehran, as part of a broader deal, might be permitted to produce its own nuclear fuel, called a fuel cycle in the nuclear industry. Reformers and hard-liners in Iran have said the country should produce its own fuel and have argued that it has that right as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
But President George W. Bush had argued that Iran forfeited that right by conducting secret nuclear activities for 18 years. In contrast, Mohamed ElBaradei, the departing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nonproliferation watchdog, has argued that the best way to avoid a confrontation is to allow Iran a token of nuclear fuel capacity, under toughened inspection rules to assure that fuel is not diverted for weapons. On Sunday, Mrs. Clinton seemed to side with the Bush administration.
"You have a right to pursue the peaceful use of civil, nuclear power," she said, as if addressing Iran directly. "You do not have a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your control. But there's a lot that we can do with Iran if Iran accepts what is the international consensus."
Her phrase "under your control" seemed to leave open the possibility of having others enrich uranium on Iran's behalf, perhaps on Iranian soil.
5) "All I Know How to do Is Kill People"
Troubled Soldiers From Colorado-Based Army Unit Describe Iraq Horrors
AP, July 27, 2009
Soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Some Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.
The Gazette based its report on months of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs.
Several soldiers said unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq. "Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated," said Daniel Freeman. "You came too close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley," an armored fighting vehicle.
With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions "and just light the whole area up," said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. "If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em."
Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome. "You didn't get blamed unless someone could be absolutely sure you did something wrong," he said
"If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot," Marquez told The Gazette in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving a 30-year prison term. "But after Iraq, it was just natural."
The Army trains soldiers to be that way, said Kenneth Eastridge, at left, an infantry specialist serving 10 years for accessory to murder.
"The Army pounds it into your head until it is instinct: Kill everybody, kill everybody," he said. "And you do. Then they just think you can just come home and turn it off." He also said: "I had no job training. All I know how to do is kill people."
6) Rachel Corrie Documentary Sparks Uproar at Jewish Film Festival
Matthai Kuruvila, San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, July 25, 2009
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has come under siege after deciding to show a documentary about Rachel Corrie, a Washington state 23-year-old killed in 2003 while trying to prevent an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian's home.
Compounding the issue, festival organizers invited Corrie's mother, Cindy, to speak after today's showing at the Castro Theatre of the film "Rachel." It is one of 71 films at this year's festival, which includes two films profiling kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
The reaction has been outrage. The festival board's president stepped down from her role, opening-night ceremonies were boycotted by some, and Israel Consul General Akiva Tor said it was a "big mistake to invite Mrs. Corrie."
Allegations of new anti-Semitism have been particularly vociferous from the Koret and Taube foundations, longtime backers of the festival. The foundations criticized Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization widely considered to be on the vanguard of Christian pacifism. The festival had asked the two groups to promote "Rachel" within their constituencies. The two Jewish foundations issued a joint statement labeling the Quaker and Jewish peace organizations as "two virulently anti-Israel, anti-Semitic" groups associated with "groups that aid and abet terror against the Jewish state."
For more information about "Rachel" and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, go to www.sfjff.org.
7) Military in Honduras Backs Plan on Zelaya
Ginger Thompson and Blake Schmidt, New York Times, July 26, 2009
Washington - The Honduran armed forces issued a communiqué on Saturday indicating that they would not stand in the way of an agreement to return Manuel Zelaya, the country's ousted president, to power.
The communiqué was drafted in Washington after days of talks between mid-level Honduran officers and American Congressional aides. Posted on the Honduran Armed Forces Web site, it endorsed the so-called San José Accord that was forged in Costa Rica by delegates representing President Zelaya and the man who heads the de facto Honduran government, Roberto Micheletti.
The accord, supported by most governments in the hemisphere, would allow Mr. Zelaya to return as president, although with significantly limited executive powers. Mr. Micheletti has steadfastly rejected Mr. Zelaya's return as president.
In its communiqué, the Honduran military added its support to the proposal. Officials involved said it was meant to dispel any perceptions that the military would block civilian efforts to resolve the crisis.
The officials said the military communiqué was significant because it was the first sign of support for the San José Accord by a powerful sector of the de facto government. And the officials said it could make it more difficult for the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court to reject the accord when they consider it.
American officials who met here with the Hondurans said that they were two colonels who were concerned about the tensions generated by the political conflict.
8) Pakistani Pledge To Rout Taliban In Tribal Region Is Put On Hold
Waziristan Operation Delayed by Refugee Crisis, Focus on India
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Monday, July 27, 2009
Islamabad, Pakistan - Soon after Pakistan launched its offensive against the Taliban this spring, President Asif Ali Zardari declared that the mission would go beyond pushing the Islamist militia out of the Swat Valley. "We're going to go into Waziristan," he said.
More than two months later, that still has not come to pass. Instead, the planned invasion of South Waziristan, a Taliban and al-Qaeda sanctuary along the Afghanistan border, has been delayed by the refugee crisis spawned by fighting in Swat, an overstretched military unwilling to let its guard down with India and the difficulty in isolating the Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, according to Pakistani and American officials.
Pakistan's military has blockaded the tribal district and bombed it from the air, and it insists that the ground assault will proceed. But as the clock ticks, military analysts worry that fighting in the mountains will be more difficult as the weather turns cold in the fall. The delay has raised questions about Pakistan's commitment to waging war against Taliban fighters the state has nurtured in the past.
Mehsud is believed to be responsible for the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, as well as many of the recent suicide bombings in Pakistan. American officials, however, said they have not urged Pakistan to launch the operation because of the scope of problems in the Swat Valley, where 2 million refugees were displaced by the ongoing military operation there.
"Baitullah Mehsud is a dreadful man, and his elimination is an imperative. However, the first imperative is to secure the areas the refugees are going back into," Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to the region, said in an interview.
Although Holbrooke said it could be beneficial to have simultaneous offensives - the U.S. Marines on the Afghanistan side of the border and the Pakistani army in the tribal regions to the east - the greater concern is unfinished business elsewhere. "Why would I push them to start an offensive when they have 2 million people they have to protect first?" Holbrooke said.
But the offensive in Swat pushed some 2 million people from their homes, and the fighting damaged hundreds of schools, homes and businesses. The military now must orchestrate the return of thousands of refugees each day along with rebuilding and trying to prevent the Taliban from returning, as it has done in the past. The Taliban overwhelmed the police before the operation and residents are skeptical about whether the military can keep control.
Mehsud's stature has grown in part because of recent decisions by other Taliban commanders, such as Maulvi Nasir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who once cooperated with Pakistan but have announced their intention to fight security forces. Their representatives said they have been outraged by missile strikes from unmanned American aircraft. Instead of being able to rely on rival Taliban commanders to assist the army, the drone attacks have unified them against the state, intelligence officials said.
To add to the tactical problems, it is unclear whether the army would be greeted in South Waziristan with the same degree of public support it enjoyed in Swat. The government there has angered Mehsud tribesmen by arresting people and shutting down businesses under regulations that allow punishment based on tribal affiliation.
9) Mexican Rights Body Says Law Can't Be Trampled Upon in Drug War
EFE. July 26, 2009
Mexico City - Mexico's National Human Rights Commission, or CNDH, defended a report issued this week detailing complaints about rights abuses by army soldiers, saying the fight against organized crime in the country cannot be waged with illegal actions by security forces.
On Thursday, Gen. Jaime Antonio Lopez Portillo, an officer with the National Defense Secretariat, or Sedena, which oversees the land and air branches of the country's armed forces, said the CNDH is being used by Mexico's drug gangs to discredit the army's efforts against organized crime.
The CNDH, equivalent to a national ombudsman's office, responded by issuing a statement Friday indicating that the commission "defends people without requesting letters of good conduct or proof of lack of a criminal record" from those reporting crimes.
On Thursday, Lopez Portillo said the Mexican army has convicted 12 soldiers since 2006 and is prosecuting another 52 for various crimes, including homicide, torture and kidnapping.
Lopez Portillo's comments about convictions handed down in military tribunals contradict a statement issued earlier this month by New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In a July 13 news release, HRW said "Mexican military courts - which routinely take over the investigation of military abuses against civilians - have not convicted a single member of the military accused of committing a serious human rights violation."
"The country's military prosecutors and judges lack the independence necessary to ensure that these cases are brought to justice."
HRW said the U.S. State Department should not certify Mexico's compliance with the Merida Initiative's human rights requirements so long as Mexican army abuses continue to be tried in military rather than civilian courts, referring to a regional security plan promoted by the United States to help Mexico and Central America combat drug trafficking.
The rights group noted that 15 percent of the funds for the Merida Initiative are contingent upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certifying to the U.S. Congress that Mexico has complied with four human rights condition, including a requirement that "military abuses be investigated and prosecuted by civilian rather than military authorities."
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