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U.S. Still Supports the Coup!

by Bill Conroy and Narconews Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009 at 12:22 PM

"Agency bankrolling “good governance” programs to ensure the “rule of law in the country” The taxpayer-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation has continued to move millions of dollars into Honduras since the June 28 coup d'état, but it is not alone, Narco News has now confirmed. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is slated to provide Honduras with nearly million in funding in fiscal 2009, which ends Sept. 30, 2009. Nearly all of that money (some million) is scheduled to be delivered as previously planned to Honduras — which is now under the leadership of a putsch regime that President Obama has already described as “not legal.”

U.S. Still Supports the Coup!

Millions of dollars in USAID funding still flowing to Honduras

Posted by Bill Conroy - August 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Agency bankrolling “good governance” programs to ensure the “rule of law in the country”

The taxpayer-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation has continued to move millions of dollars into Honduras since the June 28 coup d'état, but it is not alone, Narco News has now confirmed.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is slated to provide Honduras with nearly million in funding in fiscal 2009, which ends Sept. 30, 2009. Nearly all of that money (some million) is scheduled to be delivered as previously planned to Honduras — which is now under the leadership of a putsch regime that President Obama has already described as “not legal.”

“Following the June 28 events [the coup] in Honduras, USAID suspended previously funded projects and activities totaling .7 million in basic education, family planning, and some environmental activities,” USAID press officer Lisa Hibbert-Simpson told Narco News this week. “USAID is avoiding taking actions that would undermine or interfere with humanitarian programs that directly benefit the people of Honduras and good governance activities with non-governmental organizations that are vital to ensuring stronger rule of law in the country.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Laura Tischler told Narco News recently that State has adopted a policy of “suspending programs we would have to legally terminate” if State declares the situation in Honduras a “military coup” under section 7008 of the US Foreign Operations Law. And she reiterated that the suspension of all such funds is still in place because State has not yet concluded its determination as to whether it will define the coup legally as such.

Section 7008 does not prevent U.S. agencies from continuing to provide assistance that is not directed to the government of the country deemed in violation of the provision, according to the State Department.

“Thus, among other things, all assistance supporting the provision of food aid, HIV/AIDS and other disease prevention, child survival, and disaster assistance, as well as elections assistance to facilitate free and fair presidential elections, is still being provided to the people of Honduras,” a State Department spokesman explained during a July 6 press briefing.

Most of that makes sense, with the exception of the last part about “elections assistance,” given that under the dictatorship of a coup regime, any hope of holding open and free elections would seem to involve stretching the laws of the universe — or at least modern democratic theory.

So where could this USAID “elections assistance/good governance” money actually be going in that case?

Well, the USAID’s Office of Inspector General provides one hint in an audit report released this past June.

The Consortium for Electoral and Political Processes (CEPPS) was awarded a .8 million cooperative agreement [by USAID] that is in effect from September 30, 2008 to January 30, 2010. The purpose of the agreement is to provide technical assistance to (1) the Tribunal Superior Electoral (TSE) to effectively and transparently carry out its new decentralized vote management responsibilities and to mitigate allegations of fraud; and (2) and civil society organizations to provide oversight through campaign finance monitoring, domestic election observation, and parallel vote tabulation. ...

Worth noting is the fact that TSE is the Honduran government entity charged with overseeing the nation’s elections (Honduras’ FEC of sorts) — and it is now under the control of Roberto Micheletti and company’s illegal coup regime. In addition, TSE was one of the government agencies in Honduras that played a key role in setting up the bogus legal justifications that led to the kidnapping and exiling of the democratically elected president of Honduras — Manuel Zelaya.

So it seems that CEPPS is currently providing advice on mitigating fraud to a TSE now controlled by a fraudulent regime.

And adding another layer of Alice in Wonderland plotting to the TSE/CEPPS relationship is the fact that CEPPS is a joint venture partnership involving the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and a nongovernmental agency called IFES — the International Foundation for Election Systems.

The taxpayer-funded IRI, NDI, USAID and their sister organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), have all been in the limelight in the past for allegedly playing roles in funding Hugo Chavez opposition groups linked to the failed 2002 coup d’état in Venezuela.

And along with its fellow acronym organizations, the NED is also a player in the “good governance” game in Honduras as well.

The NED’s Web site lists the following grants made to the IRI to advance “democracy” in Latin America, including Honduras:

International Republican Institute (IRI) 0,000? To promote and enhance the participation of think tanks in Mexico and Honduras as “pressure groups” to impel political parties to develop concrete positions on key issues. Once these positions are developed, IRI will support initiatives to implement said positions into the 2009 campaigns. IRI will place special emphasis on Honduras, which has scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2009.

International Republican Institute (IRI) 0,000? To provide elected officials with practical institutional management skills that will facilitate good governance practices, policies, and initiatives. IRI will partner with municipalities in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras to equip elected officials with practical institutional management skills to foster good governance practices, policies, and initiatives, and improve the quality of service delivery at the municipal level.

But what is most revealing is a “feature story,” dated July 20 (post-coup), that appears on the Web site of IFES, one of the partner organizations in CEPPS — which is now providing “good governance” services to the coup regime in Honduras.

From the story:

… To describe the events of June 28 as nothing more than a modern version of the old-style coup d’état is misguided. The coups that came to characterize much of 20th century Latin American history generally followed a common script in which the military declares martial law, discards the constitution, deposes the executive, shutters congress and the courts, and installs military officers to govern in their stead. However, in Honduras, the military acted on orders from the Supreme Court to detain a president intent on thumbing his nose at the court’s constitutional authority.

And following Zelaya’s removal from power, Honduras’s democratic institutions—its legislature, judiciary, and other government institutions—continued to function as normal. The constitution remained in force and an interim president succeeded Zelaya as the constitution mandated.

That sure sounds like a creed written to justify the usurper regime now ruling over Honduras and not a denouncement of the putsch government that the President of the United States has already publicly denounced as being “not legal.”

More from the Mad Hatters

But CEPPS is not alone in pouring gravy on the cake of democracy. Yet another USAID-funded group shows up in the mix of the coup batter: the Foundation for Investment and Development of Exports (FIDE).

FIDE is a nonprofit organization overseen by a board of directors composed of business leaders in Honduras and its president is Honduran. However, FIDE, was created by USAID some 20 years ago and its operations are funded by a trust fund set up by USAID.

One of the programs operated through FIDE, and financed by USAID, is the Trade, Investment and Competitiveness Policy (TIC). The program, launched in 2005, was slated to sunset in March of this year, according to a USAID OIG audit report released in February 2009. As of that date, a total of some .5 million had been awarded to FIDE for the TIC program.

And here’s what FIDE did with your U.S. tax money, according to the USAID OIG report:

The program has three interrelated components:

• Support for the Center for Economic and Social Research and Proposals (CIPRES), a think tank within FIDE.

• Direct support to the Government of Honduras in implementing free trade agreements — particularly DR-CAFTA.

• Support to a second think tank, the Economic and Social Research Center (CIES), within the Honduras National Business Council (COHEP).

In simple English, TIC was designed to advance free-trade policies in Honduras through the creation and dissemination of think-tank propaganda and by directly lobbying the Honduran government.

More from the February USAID OIG audit report:

FIDE helped draft a telecommunications law and helped garner support for the law. However, the law was subsequently tabled and its prospects are uncertain. Under component 2 of the cooperative agreement, in which FIDE hired consultants to work directly with Government of Honduras counterparts, USAID-financed consultants helped the Government weigh actions to increase competitiveness; helped it identify needed actions to comply with DR-CAFTA [a free-trade pact], especially in the area of labor rights; and drafted sanitary and phyto-sanitary regulations that were implemented by the Government.

So at least up until March of this year, a U.S.-created and -funded Honduran business group was helping to make Honduran law.

And its partner in that endeavor, COHEP, which also received USAID funding through FIDE, according to the USAID OIG report, is no friend of the left-leaning President Zelaya — who was ousted from office in late June after seeking to bring a nonbinding referendum to the people asking them to consider whether a national assembly should be convened to amend the Honduran constitution.

In fact, COHEP, an ardent free-trade advocacy organization representing more than 60 of the largest business organizations in Honduras across a range of industries, issued a statement about the June 28 coup that is remarkably similar in tone and in its flawed legal reasoning to the July 20 story appearing on the IFES Web site.

From the COHEP statement about the coup:

Following the events in the country this day, the Honduran National Business Council (COHEP) states the following:

… President Zelaya's departure comes as a result of a systematic violation, by the government he headed, of the Constitution and Honduran laws despite countless efforts by the major institutions of the country and by the majority of this country’s citizens expressed in the many calls for reflection and massive demonstrations that rejected the efforts of the Executive branch.

… The new authorities headed by President Roberto Micheletti, whose mandate ends on January 27, 2010, are obligated to, during the short duration of their term; seek the general good of the country ahead of any partisan or personal interest. Honduras needs to, today more than ever, care for its democracy with unselfishness, generosity and service.

… What occurred today was the not changing of one president for another; today, framed in national unity, the respect for the Constitution, national laws, and institutionalism was achieved. …

And it is that vision of democracy that led one of COHEP’s member organizations, the Asociacion Hondureña de Maquiladores (AHM), to retain former U.S. Ambassador Roger Noriega as lobbyist to shill for its cause in Washington, D.C. Noriega’s objective, as penned in his firm’s lobbying registration form: “Support the efforts of the Honduran private sector to help consolidate the democratic transition in their country.”

Noriega himself, of course, has a track record with USAID that dates back to the 1980s when, as part of the agency, he played a questionable role in allegedly moving around money in the shadows of the Iran/Contra scandal.

His fingerprints also mark the failed U.S.-backed coup carried out in Venezuela in 2002 and the successful U.S.-sponsored effort to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in Haiti in 2004. Those efforts were undertaken while Noriega served in increasingly powerful roles within the State Department during the Bush administration.

Following the White Rabbit

If there is any clue as to when a push to more forcefully reverse the direction of the Honduran government under Zelaya might have gotten underway within the U.S. bureaucracy, if such an effort was indeed put into play, it seems logical to take a hard look at the waning months of the Bush administration — say in the summer of 2008, when Honduran President Zelaya made it very clear he was moving into the Bolivarian camp and away from the hyper-capitalist model being pushed b y Washington at the time.

And coincidently, at that time, the Department of State convened a major interagency meeting to brainstorm about ideas for developing a five-year Country Assistance Strategy for Honduras. The meeting — dubbed the Washington Interagency Focus Group — was attended by officials from USAID, State, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Treasury and the Millennium Challenge Corp. [the latter chaired by the Secretary of State and which counts among its board members the head of the IRI and USAID].

An Issue Paper that was drafted after that July 2008 interagency meeting, and which was based on what transpired at the meeting, makes specific reference to President Zelaya in a manner clearly characterizing him as a threat to Honduras’ democracy.

From the Issue Paper:

Although Honduras has a long history as a close friend and ally of the United States, it seems to be shifting to the left, along with the rest of Latin America. On August 26, 2008, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales signed an agreement making Honduras a member of the international cooperation organization the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). ALBA is an alternative to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which sought to reduce or eliminate obstacles that would hinder trade. ALBA's mission is not limited to commerce and trade; ALBA is also striving for political, economic and social integration among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Honduras’s democracy remains fragile, due mainly to endemic corruption and the government's failure to deliver on promises of economic and social development for all citizens. Equally damaging, Honduran leaders have failed to develop a truly open, transparent, and fair system of justice and rule of law, leaving the people cynical about the results of a democratic process. …

In the wake of that interagency meeting — beginning in October 2008 through the end of July 2009, as previously reported by Narco News — more than million in Millennium Challenge Corp. funding was delivered to Honduras, including at least .5 million after the June 28 coup. The bulk of that funding was directed toward transportation projects designed to facilitate free-trade objectives in Honduras — including, MCC records show, a .5 million highway contract award to a construction company controlled by Elvin Santos, an alleged coup backer and the current Liberal Party candidate for president in Honduras.

In addition, in September 2008, the USAID’s .8 million contract with CEPPS kicked in — with the objective of advancing “good governance” in Honduras. In fact, USAID's entire budget for Honduras jumped from .3 million in fiscal 2008 to .8 million for fiscal 2009, which began Oct. 1, 2008, according to figures released by the agency. That represents a 25 percent boost in the midst of a national recession.

The .5 million USAID-funded TIC program involving FIDE and COHEP, according to the February USAID OIG report, was already in effect as of the summer of 2008 and was supposed to expire in March of this year — with a possibility for renewal. The OIG Audit report did make clear, however, that USAID/Honduras was not happy with FIDE’s success in pushing free-trade policies on Zelaya’s government.

From the USAID OIG audit report:

FIDE did not perform as well with respect to influencing actions by the Government of Honduras to make needed reforms to comply with DR-CAFTA requirements. … Current USAID/Honduras officials are frustrated that FIDE has not devoted more attention and energy to trying to influence the Government of Honduras to undertake needed reforms, …

The current agreement with FIDE is expected to end in March 2009, but USAID/Honduras expects to continue providing support for DR-CAFTA implementation under a new country assistance strategy that is currently under review. No firm decisions have been made about the form that this assistance will take or the organizations that will receive assistance. …

Narco News did try to determine the status of that program currently through USAID press officer Hibbert-Simpson.

“We are consulting with our Mission [in Honduras] regarding your questions about TIC and FIDE and will get back to you with more information,” she said.

Stay tuned …


More important info to share widely: General Joe

Important interview with the Honduran resistance

See the top article/vedio at

The facts:

1) Wheather the president returns or not is not the issue

2) Hondurans want a new constitution/society

3) The real struggle is on the streets and in the countryside of Honduras not in Washington or Caracus or elsewhere

4) Honduras will never return to it's past status as a "slave state" for multinational capital

Please share this with anyone who is interested in freedom and the human rights of people. jamieAugust

26, 2009

Toppling a Coup, Part VI: Electoral, Armed, or Something Else

Posted by Al Giordano - August 25, 2009 at 11:55 am

By Al Giordano

AUGUST 25, 2009, LA CEIBA, HONDURAS: Over the entrance to the three story building that is headquarters to the Organization for Ethnic and Community Development (ODECO, in its Spanish initials) are these words: “Buscamos voces que acallen el silencio.”

“We Seek Voices that Hush the Silence.”

For seventeen years, ODECO and the man the organization calls its principal strategist, Celeo Alvarez Casildo, have built what is evidently the largest and most advanced project of community organizing anywhere in (and one that reaches across a wide geographical swathe of) Honduras.

As Afro-Hondurans they have self-organized to defend and expand their civil rights and those of indigenous peoples and other minorities, to win proportional representation in Congress and other governmental bodies, to overturn NAFTA-style initiatives that would have opened the door wider to foreign ownership of Honduran property and resources and, among other conquests, to legalize 32,000 hectares of communal lands.

“We had always been invisible,” Alvarez, fifty-years-young, explained to your reporters. A recent reminder of the unapologetic racism rampant in the mindset of the Honduran oligarchy came in the early days after the June 28 coup d’etat when the regime’s make-believe foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, expressed his views about US President Barack Obama: “Ese negrito no sabe nada de Honduras,” or “That little nigger doesn’t know anything about Honduras.” Alvarez and ODECO launched an all-out media offensive that forced the regime’s first defeat: Ortez’s resignation (the regime transferred him to a less visible sinecure in its bureaucracy).

Friday will mark two months of the coup regime’s illegitimate grasp upon the Honduran state, and today a majority of Hondurans of all hues feel that same curse of invisibility imposed upon them. They have been told again and again by the pro-coup media and its mynah birds of the elites that they don’t exist, that “everybody” favors the coup, even when the only public polling data available demonstrates the opposite to be fact. The paltry 30 percent that, according to Gallup, have a favorable view of coup dictator Roberto Micheletti - when coup defenders talk about “everybody” as if the only Hondurans that count are those among the owning class or its aspirants - reveal with their exaggerated and fantastic claims that they, too, are much like Ortez: so blinded by racism and class prejudice that it renders them incapable of rational action, much less democratic governance.

As the US Aid agency – no friend of authentic democracy in Honduras, historically – has noted:

“With a per capita income of US0 per year, Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the region. Overall, 71.1 percent of Hondurans lives in poverty, and 77.7 percent of the rural population is poor. In urban areas, some 63.1 percent are poor. Income inequality is a critical issue. The richest 20 percent of households receive 54.3 percent of the total income of the country, while the poorest 20 percent receive only 3.2 percent. Of the country’s 7 million inhabitants, 41 percent are under age 14. Because the population is fairly young and economic conditions are harsh, a large number of marginalized youths struggle daily to subsist. Youths head 10 percent of Honduran households, and 68 percent of these households are below the poverty line.”

It is that lumpen majority that the elites never include when they make their wild claims about “what everybody thinks” in Honduras. And yet their fear of its democratic participation is so great that it provoked them to resort to a violent anti-democratic coup d'etat.

August 2009 in Honduras

In every corner of Honduras visited by Narco News in recent weeks – from the capital city of Tegucigalpa and its state of Francisco Morazan, through the states of Comayagua, Olancho, Colón, Atlantida, Yoro, Cortez and Copán (more than two thirds of Honduras’ population lives in those seven states) – we interviewed hundreds of voices, perhaps more than a thousand from every walk of life, most of whom told us the same thing: the primary goal for which they struggle is precisely that which provoked the power structure to impose a coup d’etat. They seek, above all other goals, a Constitutional Convention (known here as a Constituent Assembly, elected democratically) to rewrite the nation’s poorly-authored 1982 charter, a document which had enough holes in its flimsy and contradictory protections to allow a wealthy few to think they could ram an unconstitutional coup d’etat through it.

Elections in Honduras are conducted through “urnas,” or ballot boxes. The first urn is for paper ballots for president. The second is to select members of Congress. And the third is for municipal offices. It was the proposal for a “Cuarta Urna,” or fourth ballot box in the scheduled November 29 national election that caused panic among the ruling minority, because it would have - if approved by voters - convened such a Constitutional Convention.

Truth is, there are millions of Hondurans eligible to vote that simply do not. They don’t like the two-party system of the National and Liberal labels. They don’t generally trust the politicians from either of them. And the low voter turnout has allowed, time and time again, a minority of Hondurans to gain a plurality of votes for one or the other. What the oligarchy feared from a ballot question regarding a new constitution – even the nonbinding consultation that had been planned for June 28 – is that, yes they can, the great mass of normally nonparticipating Hondurans would flood the polls, creating a mandate for now-exiled President Manuel Zelaya to successfully push the national Congress to add the Cuarta Urna to the November ballot.

The consequence for those in power, if a plebiscite for a new Constitution were to share the November polling places with those for politicians, was evident to all: Historic voter turnout by sectors of the population that want to rebuild their nation along more authentically democratic lines. There was no question that a “yes” vote on the Cuarta Urna would have won overwhelmingly. Indeed, even in the case of the proposed June 28 nonbinding survey, the coup plotters felt they had to go to the extreme of kidnapping the president to put a stop to it in the hours before it was to happen.

The powerful forces that favor the status quo and offer abusive interpretation of its milquetoast Constitution of 1982 chose not to oppose the ballot question the democratic way – they didn’t organize a “vote no” campaign or anything like that – because they felt, indeed they knew, that it was a foregone conclusion that the people would overwhelmingly opt to convene a Constitutional Convention.

And for the bosses of the traditional parties – Liberal and National – the prospect for such radically increased voter turnout in November brought nightmares that the smaller but feisty Democratic Union Party (UD, in its Spanish initials), which promotes the Cuarta Urna, would become the overnight sensation – Obama style – as a flood of new voters washed the dead wood of the twin oligarch parties from the Congressional seas.

“One thing we never understood is how the Cuarta Urna, something so good, could become the pretext for a coup d’etat,” Celeo Alvarez told your reporters when we first visited him last week at the ODECO headquarters. “The coup was an abortion. It killed the most constructive and democratic hope available to the people.”

Meanwhile, the corporate media – and often too much of what bills itself as “alternative media,” too – has focused more obsessively on the circus up above: Will exiled President Mel Zelaya return to Honduras? If and when he does will he be imprisoned by the coup regime? How long will coup “president” Roberto Micheletti last in power? Will military General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez be scapegoated and prosecuted for the original sin of demonstrating the coup’s illegality by forcibly exiling the President to Costa Rica? Lost in all this mediatic star gazing is the central aspiration that remains down below where the people live and work: the Constituent Assembly and the new Constitution.

As political analyst Ricardo Arturo Salgado wrote last week:

“There are essentially two possible short-term scenarios for what may happen in the country: a) the president returns; and b) the president does not return to his post. No matter the scenario, the struggle will continue because the ultimate goal is the re-founding of our nation, not just the return of President Zelaya.”

Indeed, the two months that have already passed under coup dictatorship leave only five more possible months in Zelaya's tenure, even if he does return briefly to power (a scenario that looks increasingly unlikely), until the scheduled January 29, 2010 inauguration of a new president.

And although Zelaya himself has agreed to the twelve-point deal known as the Arias Plan – one in which he would return as president but with vastly reduced powers – this US-backed “solution,” because it fails to address the popular yearning for a new Constitution, leaves the more-organized-than-ever-before Honduran social movements without an attainable institutional path to accomplish their most coveted grail.

That’s why, increasingly, at the grassroots level, the people and their organizers express that they, too, quietly prefer that the coup regime of the gorilla Micheletti and his Simian Council continues to reject the Arias Plan. “I hope it doesn’t happen,” Padre Fausto Milla of Santa Rosa de Copán told us yesterday (see the related report by Belén Fernández, coming up next on Narco News). A consensus is emerging down below that the more direct paths to revert this abortion of a coup will become clearer once the nonsense cooked up above, via San José and Washington, will be recognized by all as fundamentally flawed since its conception. Plan Arias is already stillborn.

This upcoming Friday, August 28, is therefore cooking up to be a very powerfully symbolic day: the two-month milestone will mark the psychological end of all attempts to resolve the matter institutionally. The various human rights delegations - from the OAS, the Inter American Human Rights Commission and Spanish Judge Balthazar Garzón's international criminal court - are on their way out of town as we type, and the failure of international diplomacy as imposed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give way to the second stage of the struggle to remake the country more in the image of authentic Honduras and its dispossessed majority.

Three Paths: Electoral, Armed or Something Else

The social movements in Honduras find themselves in a dilemma with no ideal solution when it comes to the scheduled November 29 elections, devoid of any Cuarta Urna, and managed by a coup regime that has already demonstrated it cares not a whit for democratic process or such quaint concepts as the will of the people. Monsters that engage in coups d’etat won’t hesitate to utilize electoral fraud if they have to, and everybody knows it. No reasonable observer thinks that such “elections” can possibly be fair or free under a regime that establishes curfews, suspends basic constitutional liberties and pours acid on critical broadcast transmitters any time it feels the slightest bit threatened by nonviolent civil resistance from below.

If the Honduran social movements decide to participate in the November 29 simulation, they risk legitimizing a game that is already fixed against them. At the same time, because of the fracture in the Liberal Party between its golpistas and anti-golpistas, there would certainly be vast gains by the Democratic Union Party, gathering what the Liberals and their hapless standard bearer, former Vice President Elvin Santos, have spilled. And it would lead to a lot more of them in the national Congress, which is the body that can place a Cuarta Urna on the ballot, if not in 2009, then perhaps in 2010.

The opposition electoral forces are also plagued by tactical disagreements in their own ranks: While the UD Party nominated César Ham as its presidential candidate, another opposition personality, labor leader Carlos Reyes, is also on the ballot as the country’s first-ever Independent presidential candidate, one without a political party. UD leaders like Congresswoman Silvia Ayala tell Narco News that they’re suspicious that the country’s Electoral Tribunal put the Independent on the ballot – an unprecedented development in Honduran politics - to divide the opposition vote. Others, like labor movement veteran Pedro Brizuela in the San Pedro Sula region, express positive feelings about both Ham and Reyes but suggest that the somewhat older Reyes might be the stronger possible candidate to unite behind. And, finally, an important sector of the left simply will boycott any election called by the illegitimate coup regime, which makes victory virtually impossible even without the predicted electoral fraud due to suppressed voter turnout by an ambivalent population.

The eight nations that belong to ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas – Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela – have declared they will not recognize the winner of Honduran elections held under a coup regime, and its highly probable that neither will the Organization of American States (OAS).

And so the electoral path, if not fully closed, is littered with enough obstacles and landmines that those that haven’t disregarded it yet will likely come to that conclusion a day late and a dollar short, on November 30 of this year, once its tragedy is fully realized.

Upon collapse of the idea that fixed elections hold a path out of the coup, talk in some corners turns to armed struggle: of mounting a guerrilla war. There are always those of limited imagination who see only two paths possible: electoral or armed. Yet the most basic rule of guerrilla combat is one has to measure the “correlation of forces” before marching out on that highly exposed limb.

That correlation, if objectively analyzed, does not at present contain the successful ingredients that would be necessary to overturn the coup through the barrel of a gun. Unlike neighboring Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala – where well organized guerrilla movements have both won and lost against entrenched oligarchies and coups d’etat – Honduras has little experience in a field that, over recent decades, technology has made even more difficult. Unlike in the 1970s, when the Sandinistas in Nicaragua toppled the Somoza regime and when the FMLN in El Salvador came extremely close to doing the same for its nation, today there are telecommunications satellites orbiting above the earth that make clandestine insurgency, even in jungle terrain, virtually impossible. Ubiquitous cell phones, the Internet and the surveillance they bring with them over their own users add to the impediments.

Advocates for the armed path – they tend to speak in whispers, and certainly have not yet organized wide support for that scenario – accurately point out that there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of Hondurans at present so committed to winning back their country that an armed resistance could conceivably outnumber and even overpower the 9,000 members of the Honduran Armed Forces and the 14,000 National Police, perhaps, maybe if everything went right. True, but that measurement of the correlation of forces omits another powerful sector: that of organized crime.

That narco-traffickers and other crime organizations are heavily armed in Central America is no secret. In the upper echelons of this milieu are the international crime syndicates, including the ex-Cuban supporters of terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles as well as Mexican and Colombian traffickers displaced by the preference by governments in those lands for competing crime organizations. Honduras, under a coup regime that is now cut off from much legal international aid, has put up the “welcome” sign to these bandits in search of a new flag to provide them with safe haven for their activities along the cocaine route between Colombia and the United States in exchange for the vast resources they bring.

And then there are the retail level narcos. As the above-mentioned US AID report notes, “According to police statistics, at the end of 2003, there were 36,000 gang members in Honduras.” Whether that estimate is exaggerated or undercounted its number has surely grown since then, and these must also be measured in the correlation of forces. Confronted with a guerrilla insurgency, the coup regime and its police agencies would have it in their power to bring these notoriously brutal armed sectors of organized crime into the counter-insurgency, and to do so literally overnight. Simply with a promise of impunity for their commerce in contraband, the coup regime can enlist the full weight of such armed organizations, networks and gangs to bring a wave of terror not just against any armed insurgency, but also against all social players that remain peacefully in resistance, and - coup defenders should be careful what they wish for - the vast law abiding civilian population, including middle and upper class coup supporters, expats and tourists, too. The demons would be unleashed upon the entire population, not just those from one political camp.

An honest assessment of the correlation of forces has to conclude that, at present, both the electoral and armed paths that have changed history in other lands are closed, or about to shut, in Honduras.

Which brings us back to the slogan over that building in La Ceiba, Honduras’ third-largest city, that invites: “We Seek Voices that Hush the Silence.”

What Is “Something Else?”

The capital city of Tegucigalpa is the first place that foreign media, human rights observers and solidarity missions go when they visit Honduras, and that is understandable. It is the seat of state power, whether in times of legitimacy or in this hour of illegitimacy. It is also the central headquarters of the national unions and other organizations that have come together in civil resistance.

Yet few international media or observers have taken the time and attention to head beyond Tegucigalpa and out into the provinces to study the dynamics on the ground in the rest of the country. The conditions are not the same as they are in the capital. They are, in fact, better. The civil resistance at the local level in the rest of the country is generally not as tied up in the emergencies du jour that the cycle of marches, repression, more marches, more repression, and the media circus around both, that have characterized much of the resistance in the capital city.

Out in the field, there is simply more air and room to think, to observe calmly, to have lengthier conversations and listening sessions, to ignore the daily scandals and distractions put forward by the dishonest national and international media, and whether along the northern coast, the Olancho breadbasket or the Mayan mountain regions to the west, the outlying grassroots focal points of the resistance are characterized by more mid-to-long-term thinking about strategy and tactics than can occur under the state of siege situation in Tegucigalpa and its constant crises and interruptions. Set and setting will always influence how humans think and act, and among the more than 80 percent of the Honduran population that lives outside the capital’s metropolitan area the current set and setting are simply less bipolar.

“Here, we struggle to become the subjects of our own story and not mere objects of it,” Celeo Alvarez explains while providing a tour of the three-story building that ODECO inaugurated two years ago in La Ceiba as its new central command. Long term planning is the watchword here, where ODECO prepares one hundred and more youths each year, selected at the grassroots level by community organizations, through its Leadership Training Program in Human Rights. The headquarters includes dormitories with 64 beds, kitchen, assembly hall and other resources. It was constructed with funds from Nongovernmental Organizations, mainly from Europe, that support ODECO’s work.

Celeo Alvarez Casildo and his collaborators have some ideas for how Hondurans can replant their struggle and put it back on the path to a new Constitution. We’ve spent various days listening carefully to them, prodding, poking and testing them with questions and antitheses, as well as studying what he and his organization have already accomplished, and how they did so. Those ideas, and the stories behind them, will be the subject of the next chapter of this series on Toppling a Coup. Meanwhile, we invite our readers to think aloud about what “something else” might look and be like in this country of more than seven million Hondurans, where a majority now feel the weight of an imposed silence that they know, too, must be hushed.

Update: Perhaps because it, too, feels its Plan Arias "solution" slipping away, the US State Department today announced that beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, August 26, it is suspending the process for all travel visas not classified as "emergency" for Hondurans that wish to visit the United States. It is a move designed to put maximum pressure on the coup regime to go along with Plan Arias, since it affects the regime's political base: the oligarch class that can afford to travel to the Miami, Disney World, and such. The coming days will tell whether this last-gasp effort comes too little, too late to save the botched diplomacy efforts from Washington. (Here's the statement, in English, from State.)

Update II: Radio Globo reporter Eduardo Maldonado is reporting, live, his eye-witness account of members of the Honduran military brass and the top chiefs of the National Police who recently arrived a building near Morazan Boulevard in Tegucigalpa and are meeting inside "on the third floor." The radio is also reporting that the Catholic Church hierarchy and various Chambers of Commerce have determined to back the San José solution of reinstating Zelaya to the presidency "regardless of the stance of the Micheletti government." Looks like the visa suspension is peeling away some inner layers of the coup onion rather rapidly. Something's up. And we're here monitoring the situation. Developing...


This hemispheric awakening is being fostered by independent media artists/sources who you can easily follow. Some are: Spanish

Join this struggle for justice and true freedom. Our brothers and sisters across the Americas are doing their parts from conditions of extreme hardship and danger. Surely it is time for us to “step up” from here. We may be on the verge of an historic victory. Spread the news everywhere. jamie

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