Just Foreign Policy News
August 14, 2009
16 Members of Congress call on Obama to take further measures against Honduran coup regime
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1) The President of Brazil called on the U.S. to use more political influence to help solve the Honduran crisis, Mercopress reports. President Lula reaffirmed support for President Zelaya’s "immediate and unconditional" return to Honduras. Lula promised to talk to President Obama about the issue at "an appropriate time." Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim said Zelaya’s return would largely depend on the position of the U.S. "Lula said that clearly: we are concerned by the delay, because as time passes, the chances for President Zelaya’s legitimate elections calendar is weakening" Amorim said. Amorim insisted it all depends on "how the United States will act; it must be a multilateral action. We believe that actions should be conducted by the OAS."
2) The Center for International Policy reports on accounts of repression of protests in Honduras. Hundreds of people have been arrested, beaten, and many are wounded, according to reports from different human rights organizations. Congressman Marvin Ponce was shot; the president of the Soft Drinks Industry Workers’ Union had part of his ear pulled off and his arm was broken.
3) As it increasingly appears that President Karzai will be its partner over the next five years, the U.S. has toned down its criticism, the Washington Post reports. "Because they couldn’t construct a plan to replace Karzai, I think they toned down the criticism and kept the option open of working with Karzai, should he get reelected," said Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
4) A series of ceasefire deals have been agreed with Taliban commanders to ensure that voting can go ahead in Afghanistan’s volatile south during next week’s presidential elections, the Guardian reports. Karzai’s campaign manager says he successfully appealed to Taliban commanders on the grounds that if they stop Pashtuns from voting, they risk throwing the election from the Pashtun Karzai to a non-Pashtun candidate. A western expert in Kandahar said that Taliban threats to disrupt the election had been half-hearted.
5) Diplomats from Brasília to Mexico City say they fear Obama is only half-heartedly pressuring Honduras’ coup government to let President Zelaya back in to finish his term, a perception that could cause problems for the U.S. in the future, Tim Padgett reports in Time Magazine. To raise the heat, the U.S. could enforce visa bans for the élite behind the coup, Padgett suggests.
6) Many fear that U.S. operations at military bases in Colombia will be broader than those at the base in Ecuador that are supposedly being replaced, Time Magazine reports. The prospect of the U.S. having permission to use Colombian bases for more military-oriented counterinsurgency activities has unnerved even the centrist government of Brazil.
7) Honduras’ coup president again reversed course and rejected any official visit by the head of the OAS, AP reports. In Tegucigalpa Thursday, 5,000 Zelaya supporters gathered in front of offices of federal investigators, demanding information about the whereabouts of 27 pro-Zelaya demonstrators arrested the previous day. Chile’s President Bachelet received Zelaya with head-of-state honors and reiterated her government’s recognition of him as the democratically elected president of Honduras. "We will continue to support all actions" aimed at restoring Zelaya to the presidency, said Bachelet.
8) President Zelaya shook things up by raising the minimum wage and apologizing for the executions of street children and gang members carried out by security forces in the 1990s, writes Greg Grandin in The Nation. He moved to reduce the US military presence and refused to privatize Hondutel, the state-owned telecommunications firm, a deal that Micheletti, as president of Congress, pushed. Zelaya also vetoed legislation, likewise supported by Micheletti, that would have banned sale of the morning-after pill. This was perhaps Zelaya’s most courageous move, Grandin says.
9) 70 percent of Pakistanis now oppose the Pakistani Taliban, AP reports. 64 percent of Pakistanis see the U.S. as an enemy. But 53 percent want relations with the U.S. to improve. 58 percent oppose U.S. missile attacks inside Pakistan as a violation of national sovereignty.
10) The head of Colombia’s biggest association of indigenous people is concerned allowing U.S. troops to use military bases in Colombia will lead to greater U.S. control over Latin America, while a native activist warned of an increase in the number of cases of sexual abuse of young indigenous women by foreign soldiers, Inter Press Service reports. U.S. forces at the bases will have immunity from the Colombian justice system.
1) Brazil Urges Obama to Tighten the Vise on Honduras to Get Zelaya Back
Mercopress, Thursday, 13 August 2009
The President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya called on Wednesday, August 12, on the United States to use more political influence to help solve the Honduran crisis.
Zelaya, who was received in Brazilian capital Brasília with full head of state honors for a one day visit, said Washington should address the issue with more energetic measures such as trade sanctions against the Honduran interim government. Almost 70% of the Honduran economy depends on the United States.
Following the hour and a half meeting in Brasília, President Lula reaffirmed support for Zelaya’s "immediate and unconditional" return to Honduras. The Brazilian promised to talk to his US peer Barack Obama on the issue at "an appropriate time."
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told the press that Zelaya’s return would largely depend on the position of the United States.
"President Lula said that clearly: we are concerned by the delay (in Zelaya’s return), because as time passes, the chances for President Zelaya’s legitimate elections calendar (scheduled for November) is weakening" Amorim said. Zelaya was expected to end his term as president at year-end.
Amorim insisted it all depends on "how the United States will act; it must be a multilateral action. We believe that actions should be conducted by the OAS (Organization of American States)."
2) Military Forces Sow Terror and Fear in Honduras
Dick Emanuelsson, Center for International Policy, August 13, 2009
[Translated by Laura Carlsen]
The armed forces and police attacked tens of thousands of Hondurans in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, the industrial center of the country, resulting in two days of terror and fear in Honduras. Hundreds of people have been arrested, beaten, and many are wounded, according to reports from different human rights organizations.
The nation’s two principal cities have been militarized. The peaceful marches that for 46 days have maintained an order not to respond to provocations have been attacked by army units, the Cobra Command, and the national police. There are many accounts that the armed forces, police, and mayor’s office of Tegucigalpa have sent infiltrators into the marches. They have provoked the security forces, which have in turn attacked the demonstrators, who defend themselves with whatever they have in their hands.
Labor leaders Juan Barahona of the Unified Federation of Honduran Workers (FUTH) and the Popular Block, and Israel Salinas of the Unified Confederation of Honduran Workers (CUTH) reject accusations by the coup-controlled press and the spokesman of the national police that the de facto authorities do not attack the marchers as long as they don’t affect public or private property.
[…] The demonstrators were savagely beaten and many people were later tortured. A taxi driver reported to Radio Globo that he saw the army take 30 people out of the back part of the National Congress. Eyewitness accounts and testimonies from some of those released said the prisoners were stretched out face down, barefoot, and shirtless.
They were placed on a bus that took them to the First Infantry Battalion on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. Many faces were bloodied. The taxi driver said first he counted them then followed the bus to find out where the arrested demonstrators were being taken.
Human rights groups have gone to corroborate the testimonies in terms of the existence of such a center.
"The Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) told the national and international public that during the police repression of demonstrators in downtown Tegucigalpa that day, Congressman Marvin Ponce was wounded by a bullet and is receiving medical attention at the Hospital Escuela. Along with Ponce, Dr. Napoleon Vallejo was also shot," COFADEN reported. Vallejo is a medical doctor who joined the popular resistance.
The Francisco Morazan Pedagogical University was taken over by military forces and the people inside were tortured, according to testimonies broadcast over Radio Globo.
In San Pedro Sula, thousands of demonstrators were also attacked.
The organization Via Campesina released a dramatic communiqué this morning saying that last night at 11:23 p.m., after the curfew began at 10:00 p.m., unknown persons aboard a cream-colored Toyota Turismo with the license plate PCA1981 opened fire at the Via Campesina office in Honduras, run by Rafael Alegria.
"The occurrence was a clear attack on our grassroots organizations and their social leaders that are at the forefront of the resistance against the coup d’etat. Recall that some 15 days ago there was a bomb capable of killing 15 people that went off in the headquarters of the Soft Drinks Industry Workers’ Union (STIBYS). Today another criminal act has taken place at the Via Campesina office. The two organizations mentioned are part of the National Front of Resistance against the Coup."
Alegria commented that "The rights of the people are being seriously violated. This is a regrettable situation-since the beginning of the resistance there have been many wounded, assassinated, captured, disappeared, and many other violations of the human rights of Hondurans."
The STIBYS union, which is one of the strongest and most combative in the country, is at this moment totally militarized. The union’s headquarters used to house Hondurans who have come to the capital from other parts of the country to participate in demonstrations against the coup. Up to now, it served as a meeting place for leaders of the Front against the Coup.
The president of the STIBYS union is the legendary labor leader Carlos H. Reyes. Two weeks ago he was brutally beaten by the Cobra Command when they broke up a roadblock north of Tegucigalpa. In the act, he had part of his ear pulled off and his arm was broken in two places. He is currently confined to bed rest with his arm in a cast.
3) With Karzai Favored To Win, U.S. Walks A Fine Line
Criticism Tempered To Avoid Hostility
Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Friday, August 14, 2009
Kabul – The last time Hamid Karzai ran for president, in 2004, he was clearly America’s man in Afghanistan. U.S. military helicopters shuttled him between campaign stops. At his inauguration, Vice President Richard B. Cheney was there to hail the day as a major moment "in the history of human freedom."
With a new round of voting one week away – and Karzai favored to win another term – a less-enamored Obama administration is looking for ways to lessen U.S. reliance on the Afghan president by working more closely with favored ministers and bolstering the authority of provincial and local leaders, according to American and Afghan officials.
The goals reflect frustration among U.S. officials over Karzai’s performance in the past five years, particularly his seeming indifference to the widespread corruption within his government. But as it increasingly appears that Karzai will be its partner over the next five years, the United States has also sought to preserve a relationship with him.
"Because they couldn’t construct a plan to replace Karzai, I think they toned down the criticism and kept the option open of working with Karzai, should he get reelected," said Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. "I think some administration officials realized that by being so openly critical of Karzai, they faced the risk that they could get a Karzai who was not only reelected but was hostile to the U.S. because of how he had been treated."
4) Taliban Chiefs Agree Ceasefire Deals For Afghan Election
Jon Boone, Guardian, Thursday 13 August 2009 20.07 BST
A series of secret ceasefire deals have been agreed with Taliban commanders to ensure that voting can go ahead in Afghanistan’s volatile south during next week’s presidential elections.
Under the deals, brokered by Ahmed Wali Karzai – the controversial brother and campaign manager of the president, Hamid Karzai – individual Taliban commanders will agree to pull back on election day and allow the Afghan army and police to secure the polling centres.
A Nato spokesman confirmed that a number of deals between the Afghan government and insurgents were in the pipeline, saying: "We support any initiative that enhances security and enables the people of Afghanistan to vote."
The US embassy has given its blessing to the plan, which was discussed last week at a joint meeting of the country’s national security chiefs.
Many of the key negotiations with local Taliban commanders in the south are being handled by Wali Karzai, who is also the powerful head of Kandahar’s provincial council. He is running his brother’s re-election campaign in the southern Pashtun belt.
The Guardian was told by Wali Karzai that truces in some of the country’s most violent provinces, including Helmand and Kandahar, would be announced in the next few days with individual commanders. The deal would allow for more polling stations to open; officials had said that as many as 700 of the country’s 7,000 voting centres would stay closed.
Wali Karzai said that commanders were split on whether or not to follow the orders of Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, who wanted the election disrupted. "It will all depend on the group and who they are connected with. Some Taliban leaders will look the other way, but others will say no, stop them, this is helping the Jew and the Christian in this war."
The prospect of the south being unable to vote has worried the Afghan president, who needs the votes of his fellow Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, to ensure victory without having to go to a second-round run-off. It also alarmed western powers anxious that the strife-torn region might be further destabilised if the election were won by a candidate who did not enjoy support in the Pashtun belt.
Wali Karzai said many local Taliban commanders shared those fears despite the stance of Omar. "I just had a meeting with a very, very, influential Taliban commander," he said. "I told him, look, the election will happen despite these four provinces participating or not. Whether we take part or not, the election will happen because Afghanistan is 32 provinces – they are not going to wait for what Kandahar is going to do."
Asked whether the Taliban were concerned at the prospect of low-voter turnout in the south letting a non-Pashtun win the election, he said: "Absolutely, they are saying this, they understand this. How can it be that in the ‘war on terror’ the frontline is the Pashtun? How can the Pashtun become an opposition in this war? What will happen if there is a Pashtun civilian casuality? Right now we have a president who will take the matter up."
[…] Taliban ceasefires allowing voters to turn out in the Pashtun heartland will be a big boost to the re-election plans. The official line from Taliban spokesmen based in Pakistan is that Afghans should not participate in the election. There have also been threats to disrupt election day by blocking roads leading to the polling centre and intimidating voters.
Taliban commanders are reported to have threatened to kill anyone they find with a finger marked with indelible ink – a stain meant to prevent people from voting more than once.
However, a western expert in Kandahar, with extensive knowledge of the security situation in the south, said that Taliban threats to disrupt the election had been half-hearted. "I don’t see a well articulated mass of oppositions to the electoral process – we have seen incidents in recent weeks, but it is not systematic."
[…] Many analysts believe one of the reasons the elections in 2004 went relatively smoothly was because of international pressure on Pakistan to rein in militants operating in Afghanistan with links to the Pakistani intelligence service. "I hope that happens again – last time it was like someone just pressed a button to stop these people coming in from over the border," Wali Karzai said.
5) President Obama’s Latin Challenge
Tim Padgett, Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009
Few things have peeved Latin America more than Washington’s hypocrisy regarding coups. Overthrowing our friends at gunpoint is bad, the traditional U.S. line seemed to go, but toppling our foes – even the democratically elected ones – is O.K. So it surprised Latin Americans when U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the June 28 military ouster of leftist Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a critic of the U.S., and called for his return to office. "We respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders," Obama said, "whether they are leaders we agree with or not."
Obama got off to a good start in Latin America, engaging leaders and promising a new attitude from Washington. The problem with the shift on coups is that Latin America now expects action to back it up. Honduras is Obama’s first hemispheric crisis. There are obviously higher White House priorities right now, and Obama insists he’s diligently working for a negotiated solution. But diplomats from Brasília to Mexico City say they fear he’s only half-heartedly pressuring Honduras’ new government to let Zelaya back in to finish his term, a perception that could squander the trust he’s built. That might create problems down the road – for America and the Americas alike.
[…] As a result, any perceived indifference to Honduras on Obama’s part could sour his start and make it harder to engage the region on matters Washington cares about, like drugs and trade. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who tacitly backed a failed coup attempt against Chávez in 2002, promised a new relationship with Latin America, but saw his free-trade plan for the hemisphere die and drug production soar. Now even moderate Latin leaders are decrying Washington’s quiet efforts to use military bases in Colombia for U.S. antidrug operations; their pique will increase if they decide Honduras’ military chiefs are getting a pass from Obama.
The broader risk is the signal a successful coup would send to other restless armies, from Guatemala to Bolivia. Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias, who is mediating talks between Zelaya and the coup leaders, has noted that Latin American military spending is almost double what it was five years ago, and that the region "continues to view armed forces as the final arbiter of social conflicts." For all the progress Latin Americans have made in electing their Presidents, they often fall back on old habits when removing them – whether it’s oligarchies bidding soldiers do the job in Central America or populists galvanizing street mobs in the Andes. Allowing the Honduran putsch to prevail won’t exactly strengthen a caudillo-prone continent’s democracies.
So what should Obama be doing? The U.S. and Europe have each suspended almost $100 million in aid to Honduras, while the U.S. has canceled diplomatic visas for a few officials tied to the coup. But Honduras’ provisional President, Roberto Micheletti, still insists that Zelaya’s return is "impossible." To raise the heat, the U.S. needs to impose tougher economic sanctions (while remaining mindful of the 70% of Hondurans living in poverty), or enforce visa bans for a broader swath of the élite behind the coup.
6) U.S. Military Base Plan Puts Colombia in Hot Water
John Otis, Time Magazine, Wed Aug 12, 6:05 pm ET
Bogota – As one of the few surviving pro-U.S. conservative heads of state in a continent that has swung left, Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, is used to being at odds with his neighbors. But accustomed though he may be to swimming against Latin America’s political tide, Uribe is scrambling to explain his less-than-transparent decision to allow the U.S. military to use air bases on Colombian soil to track drug traffickers and even rebels.
Although the pact has yet to be signed, officials in Bogota say the U.S. will be given basing rights on at least seven Colombian army, navy and air force facilities. The intention is for the U.S. to fly P-3 Orion and AWACS surveillance planes from these bases to monitor Colombia and the eastern Pacific for aircraft and boats transporting cocaine and heroin. But confusion surrounding the proposed base agreement, deep-seated anti-American sentiment in the region and a botched rollout this summer have produced a diplomatic firestorm that has caught Uribe’s government by surprise.
[…] One of the biggest concerns is the issue of mission creep. In Ecuador, U.S. flights were exclusively counternarcotics operations. But Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez says that under the new covenant, targets would include terrorists – by which he meant Colombian guerrillas who kidnap civilians and run drugs to fund their war. "Planes and a slightly bigger U.S. footprint will mean far more intelligence-gathering missions over Colombia than ever before," says Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy in Washington. "That may bring a notable increase in intelligence gathered about guerrilla locations and movements."
But the prospect of the U.S. having permission to use Colombian bases for more military-oriented counterinsurgency activities has unnerved even the centrist government of Brazil, which often parts ways with South America’s pro-Chavez bloc. At a South American summit meeting in Quito on Aug. 10, from which Uribe stayed away, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva joined Chavez in expressing concerns and said, "I think we should directly discuss our discontent with the American government."
The Obama Administration’s 2010 defense budget request includes $46 million for upgrading one of the Colombian installations that the Americans would use, a base north of Bogota known as Palanquero. Arlene Tickner, a political science professor at the University of the Andes in Bogota, says U.S. government documents suggest that Palanquero could eventually launch missions far beyond Colombia. "One of the interests of the U.S. Air Force in particular," she notes, "is to use the base in Palanquero to do surveillance activities from the air outside of Colombia and throughout the continent, eventually using the base to reach even Africa."
7) Honduras protests continue, as Zelaya visits Chile
Kathia Martinez, Associated Press, Friday, August 14, 2009 1:33 AM
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Honduras’ interim president appeared to reverse course Thursday and reject any official visit by the head of the Organization of American States, days after his government said OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza could come as an observer with a diplomatic delegation.
The delegation initially intended to visit Honduras this week in a bid to resolve the dispute over the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
But the mission was postponed as the interim government publicly questioned Insulza’s objectivity and said he could participate only as an observer.
Micheletti on Thursday told reporters Insulza was not welcome except as a tourist.
[…] In the Honduran capital Thursday, about 5,000 Zelaya supporters gathered in front of the heavily guarded offices of federal investigators, demanding information about the whereabouts of 27 pro-Zelaya demonstrators arrested the previous day.
[…] Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet received Zelaya with head-of-state honors and reiterated her government’s recognition of him as the democratically elected president of Honduras. "We will continue to support all actions" aimed at restoring Zelaya to the presidency, said Bachelet, whose country saw a CIA-backed coup in 1973 that ushered in the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Chile and Argentina this week cut off relations with Honduran ambassadors tied to the Micheletti’s interim government.
8) Battle for Honduras-and the Region
Greg Grandin, The Nation, August 12, 2009
Roberto Micheletti, who took power in Honduras following the June 28 coup, has come under intense criticism from the international community for rejecting a compromise, negotiated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, that would allow Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president forced into exile by the military, to return as head of a reconciliation government. But Micheletti’s obstinacy is encouraged by those who see the crisis as a chance to halt the advance of the Latin American left. A month and a half after Zelaya’s overthrow, the small, desperately poor Central American country has become the site of a larger battle that could shape hemispheric politics, including Barack Obama’s foreign policy, for years to come.
In the 1980s Honduras served as a staging ground for Ronald Reagan’s anticommunist operations in neighboring Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala and as a portal for New Right Christians to roll back liberation theology. Central America’s anticommunist crusade became something of a death-squad Da Vinci Code, pulling together a carnivalesque cast that included first-generation neocons, Latin American torturers, local oligarchs, anti-Castro Cubans, mercenaries, Opus Dei ideologues and pulpit-thumping evangelicals.
The campaign to oust Zelaya and prevent his restoration has reunited old comrades from that struggle, including shadowy figures like Fernando "Billy" Joya (who in the 1980s was a member of Battalion 316, a Honduran paramilitary unit responsible for the disappearance of hundreds, and who now works as Micheletti’s security adviser) and Iran/Contra veterans like Otto Reich (who ran Reagan’s Office of Public Diplomacy, which misused public money to manipulate public opinion to support the Contra war against Nicaragua). The Honduran generals who deposed Zelaya received their military training at the height of the region’s dirty wars, including courses at the notorious School of the Americas. And the current crisis reveals a familiar schism between conservative Catholic hierarchs and evangelical Protestants who back the coup, on the one hand, and progressive Christians who are being hounded by security forces, on the other.
Joining the coup coalition are new actors like Venezuelan Robert Carmona-Borjas, who was involved in the 2002 attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. According to Latin American analyst Laura Carlsen, Carmona, working closely with Reich, turned his attentions to Honduras after having failed to halt the electoral success of the left in Venezuela. Starting in 2007, Carmona’s Arcadia Foundation launched a press campaign to discredit Zelaya by accusing his government of widespread graft. As Carlsen writes, the "politicized nature of Arcadia’s anti-corruption offensive was clear from the start. Carmona, along with Otto Reich, charged President Zelaya of complicity" in assorted misdeeds. The crusade was similar to the way International Republican Institute-linked "democracy promotion" groups destabilized the government of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, resulting in his overthrow in 2004.
[…] Three years ago the region, locked into the US sphere of influence by the Central American Free Trade Agreement, seemed immune to the changes taking place in South America, which had brought leftists to power in a majority of countries. But then the Sandinistas returned to office in Nicaragua in 2006. Recently, the FMLN won the presidency in El Salvador, and Guatemala, led by center-left President Álvaro Colom, is witnessing a resurgence of peasant activism, much of it against transnational mining and biofuel corporations.
In Honduras, Zelaya shook things up by raising the minimum wage and apologizing for the executions of street children and gang members carried out by security forces in the 1990s. He moved to reduce the US military presence and refused to privatize Hondutel, the state-owned telecommunications firm, a deal that Micheletti, as president of Congress, pushed. Zelaya also vetoed legislation, likewise supported by Micheletti, that would have banned sale of the morning-after pill. Considering Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s shameful support of the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, which resulted in legislation mandating up to thirty-year jail terms for women who receive them, this was perhaps Zelaya’s most courageous move. He also accepted foreign aid, in the form of low-cost petroleum, from Venezuela. It would be impossible to overstate the Central American ruling class’s hatred of Chávez, whose hand is seen behind every peasant protest and every call to democratize the region’s politics and economics. The president of a Honduran business council recently said Chávez "had Honduras in his mouth. He was a cat with a mouse that got away."
The fixation on Chávez usefully diverts attention from the gnawing poverty in the region, as well as from the failure of the neoliberal economic model promoted by Washington in recent decades. Forty percent of Central Americans, and more than 50 percent of Hondurans, live in poverty. The Chávez mania also distracts from the fact that under Washington’s equally disastrous "war on drugs," crime cartels, deeply rooted in the military and traditional oligarchic families, have rendered much of Central America into what the Washington Office on Latin America calls "captive states."
For the White House, Honduras is proving to be an unexpectedly difficult foreign-policy test. After condemning the coup, Obama handed the crisis to the State Department. Rather than working with the Organization of American States (OAS), Secretary of State Clinton unilaterally charged Oscar Arias with brokering a compromise, ignoring the concerns of most other Latin American governments that negotiations would grant too much legitimacy to the coup. Clinton has so far been unwilling to apply a range of possible sanctions, including freezing the bank accounts of those who carried out the coup, to force Micheletti to accept the Arias plan. And for those who see Micheletti as the last line against the spread of Chavismo-be it in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or elsewhere in the Americas-the return of Zelaya, even just to finish the few months left in his term, is unacceptable.
In the late 1970s the Sandinista revolution revealed the limits of Jimmy Carter’s tolerance of Third World nationalism. The more Carter tried to appease hawks in his administration, the more he was accused of vacillating, thus paving the way for neoconservatives, under Reagan, to use Central America to showcase their hard line.
A similar dynamic is taking place today. Republicans have rallied around Micheletti, sending a Congressional delegation led by Connie Mack to visit Tegucigalpa. Taking a page out of the Latin American right’s playbook, they have redbaited Obama by associating him with Chávez. Obama, said Texas Senator John Cornyn, "must stand with the Honduran people, not with Hugo Chávez." It’s the kind of grandstanding that Republicans, absent a domestic agenda, have come to rely on. Venezuela’s position on Honduras is identical to that of Brazil and Chile-and, for that matter, the European Union. But the right-wing attacks are effective, largely because self-described liberals repeatedly indulge in the demonization not just of Chávez, as Lanny Davis recently did, but of leftists like Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
[…] In the meantime, Zelaya is rallying supporters from abroad to press for his return. In Honduras, protests continue and the body count climbs. At least eleven Zelaya supporters have been killed since the coup took place. The latest, Martín Florencio Rivera, was stabbed to death as he left a wake held for another victim. Micheletti, for his part, is hunkered down in Tegucigalpa, betting he can leverage international support to last until regularly scheduled presidential elections in November. The future course of Latin American politics may hang in the balance.
9) Poll: Pakistanis oppose Taliban, still revile US
Kay Johnson, Associated Press, Thursday, August 13, 2009 11:48 PM
Islamabad – Pakistanis’ views on the Taliban have shifted dramatically in the past year, with 70 percent now opposing the militants, according to a new poll. The United States doesn’t fare well either, with 64 percent of Pakistanis seeing Washington as an enemy.
The mounting unpopularity of the Taliban coincides with an explosion of militant violence in Pakistan – attacks have killed more than 2,500 people since the start of 2008 – and the extremists’ attempts to expand their reach and impose a harsh interpretation of Islam in new parts of the country.
Pew Global Attitudes, a project of a nonpartisan research center based in Washington, released the poll Thursday. It conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,254 adult Pakistanis in late May and early June, mostly in urban areas. It conducts a similar poll each year.
In 2008, 27 percent of Pakistanis surveyed had a favorable view of the Taliban, and 33 percent saw them unfavorably. The rest had no opinion.
A year later, only 10 percent approved of the Taliban. Some 70 percent disapproved – more than double than in 2008. The numbers for al-Qaida followed a similar sinking trajectory, with support for the terrorist network at just 9 percent.
However, the U.S. was only slightly more popular than the Taliban. Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, viewed America as an enemy while only 9 percent described it as a partner, even though the U.S. is impoverished Pakistan’s biggest donor and the two countries appear to be increasingly coordinating in anti-terrorist operations along the Afghan border.
Pakistan was one of only four countries among 20 recently surveyed by Pew that did not show sharply improved views of the U.S. since President Barack Obama took office. In Pakistan, opinion had not changed, and it had the lowest confidence rating in the new president of any of the 20 countries, at 13 percent.
One bright note for Washington: 53 percent want relations with the U.S. to improve.
Several Pakistanis interviewed Thursday by The Associated Press said they saw no change in U.S. policy toward Pakistan under the new administration. "Obama is like an old wine in a new bottle," said Mohammed Zaman, 45, a lawyer in the eastern city of Lahore.
[…] But [the] poll showed 58 percent of respondents oppose U.S. missile attacks on militant targets inside Pakistan as a violation of national sovereignty. The poll was taken before the CIA missile strike believed to have killed Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Aug. 5.
10) Indigenous People Troubled by US Military Presence in Colombia
Gustavo Capdevila, Inter Press Service, Aug 13
Geneva – The head of Colombia’s biggest association of indigenous people is concerned that allowing U.S. troops to use military bases in his country will signal a regression to former times when the United States exercised control over Latin America, while a native activist warned of an increase in the number of cases of sexual abuse of young indigenous women by foreign soldiers.
[…] The agreement between the two countries provides greater access to Colombian territory for the U.S. military, which will operate small stations known as Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) or Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs).
This will create changed circumstances and greater difficulties for Colombian, especially indigenous, women. "I think that, directly or indirectly, this generates violence, and obviously its most immediate effects are on Colombian women," said Ramírez Boscán.
The indigenous leader recalled cases that have been investigated of young single mothers in which "the fathers had been stationed at Colombian military bases. They became pregnant by foreign soldiers, not Colombians," Ramírez Boscán told IPS. "I believe the greater presence of U.S. troops will definitely bring changes to the local areas near the bases," she said.
[…] U.S. forces at the bases will have immunity from the Colombian justice system, and facilities for operating C-17 Globemasters, large transport planes for troops and weapons with a range that extends to half the South American continent. With refuelling and provisioning, these aircraft can reach every part of the Americas except Cape Horn, at the southernmost tip of Chile.
Andrade remarked that the Colombian government acts as if the agreement with the United States had implications only for Colombia. But experts and other governments are well aware that the aircraft and technology involved have implications far beyond the borders of Colombia, and can be used to spy on other countries, he said.
"We’re already sick and tired of the internal armed conflict. We think (U.S. access to) these bases should not be implemented, because we believe it will damage relations with bordering countries," he added.
For example, deteriorating relations between Colombia and Ecuador and between Colombia and Venezuela have repercussions on health care and food security for more than 20 indigenous villages along the Ecuadorean and Venezuelan borders.
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