Organization of American States

Tunisian Protests Move Hillary's Line on Democratic Reform

Back in 1969, when Secretary of State Clinton was writing her senior thesis at Wellesley on Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky, she must have come across this line on page 9 of Alinksy's book "Rules for Radicals":

 

"Revolution by the Have-Nots has a way of inducing a moral revelation among the Haves."

Thursday, Secretary Clinton delivered what the New York Times called a "scalding critique" to Arab leaders at a conference in Qatar.

"The region's foundations are sinking into the sand," Clinton said, calling for "political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives." Those who would "prey on desperation and poverty are already out there," Clinton warned, "appealing for allegiance and competing for influence."

As Secretary Clinton made her remarks, the Times noted, "unrest in Tunisia that threatened its government while serving to buttress her arguments" was among the events that "echoed loudly in the background."

Friday, Tunisian president Ben Ali has reportedly fled the country and the Tunisian prime minister says he is now in charge.

Popular protest can bring down the government in an Arab country. Who knew?

Coup Protestor Gang-Raped by Honduran Police

On Friday, Latin America scholars sent an urgent letter to Human Rights Watch, urging HRW to speak out on violations of human rights under the coup regime in Honduras and to conduct its own investigation. HRW hasn't made any statement about Honduras since July 8.

One of the things Human Rights Watch should be investigating is allegations by Honduran feminists and human rights groups that Honduran police are using rape and other sexual violence as weapons of intimidation against Hondurans nonviolently protesting the coup regime.

[UPDATE: Human Rights Watch put out a very strong statement today (8/25), highlighting the IACHR report, noting, among other things, the sexual assault allegations, and urging the U.S. to exert more pressure for the restoration of democracy. Kudos to Human Rights Watch.]

The Spanish news agency EFE reports:

The group Feministas de Honduras en Resistencia said Thursday that is has documented 19 instances of rape by police officers since the June 28 coup that ousted President Mel Zelaya. There have been many other cases of rape, but the women have not reported them out of fear of reprisals, Gilda Rivera, the executive coordinator of the Honduran Center for Women's Rights and head of Feministas, told Efe.

The activists say that women taking part in the resistance to the coup are being targeted. "We've obtained testimonials from women who've been sexually abused, beaten with cudgels on different parts of their bodies, especially the breasts and buttocks," adds the report presented Thursday at a press conference in Tegucigalpa.

Honduras' Coup Regime: Poster Child for Trade Sanctions

According to press reports, so far the mediation of Costa Rican President Arias, encouraged by Secretary of State Clinton, has not produced any change in the refusal of the coup regime in Honduras to allow Honduras' democratically elected President Zelaya to resume his office. That's not surprising: the strategy of the de facto regime is seems to be to try to run out the clock on Zelaya's term, as long as they can.

That's why it makes sense for the U.S., working together with the governments in the region, to continue to ratchet up pressure on the coup regime. Indeed, as Reuters reported:

 

On the eve of Thursday's talks, the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa said Washington had suspended $16.5 million in military assistance programs to Honduras, and added an additional $180 million in U.S. aid could also be at risk.

One lever that the U.S. government has not publicly discussed using is trade sanctions. Simply beginning the discussion would increase pressure on the coup regime to stand down.

Trade agreements to which the U.S. and Honduras are signatory are unlikely to present any obstacle, because the coup regime in Honduras has no standing to press any claims on behalf of Honduras in any international body. No government in the world, including the United States, recognizes the coup regime as the legitimate government of Honduras. If anyone in Honduras wanted to press a claim, they would need the approval of President Zelaya.

Indeed, there is a powerful and recent precedent for ignoring any attempt by the coup regime to represent Honduras in any international body: that's what the members of the Organization of American States - including the U.S. - did last Saturday, when coup regime tried to withdraw Honduras from the OAS.

Honduran Military: "We Won't Take Orders from a Leftist"

Predictably, the Washington Post and New York Times the have given op-ed space in recent days to people seeking to justify the military coup in Honduras, and blaming the coup on President Zelaya (the same writer in the latter case. )

Meanwhile, the Honduran military's top legal adviser was talking to the Miami Herald. Army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza was, shall we say, a little off-message.

In the interview, Col. Inestroza made two admissions that were remarkable in light of the efforts by pundits and Republicans in the United States to justify the coup.

First: he admitted that the coup was initiated by the military, and that it broke the law:

 

"We know there was a crime there," said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. "In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime."

This much, of course, was obvious. But much more remarkable was Inestroza's admission of what the core issue for the Honduran military was: taking orders from a leftist.

 

"We fought the subversive movements here and we were the only country that did not have a fratricidal war like the others," he said. "It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible."

So, this is democracy, according to the Honduran military: we won't take orders from a leftist, because of our "training."