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What Some US Reporters Don't Get About Brazil and the Honduras Crisis

by Al Giordano and General Joe Thursday, Sep. 24, 2009 at 7:15 PM

"The international community demands that Mr Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country and must be alert to ensure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras." The United Nations isn't likely to ignore Lula's plea. As a body, it owes Brazil heavily for its leadership of UN Peacekeeping forces in Haiti, and also for its unique role as a respected organizer and spokes-country of "developing world" states as a force for global social and economic justice. Wealthier nations, meanwhile, from the US to China to Europe, are greatly dependent (or would like to be more so) on the gigantic consumer market that is Brazil. In eight short years, Lula has greatly risen Brazil's status and respect across the globe by playing these factors upon each other very shrewdly."

What Some US Reporters Don't Get About Brazil and the Honduras Crisis

Posted by Al Giordano - September 23, 2009 at 11:17 am

By Al Giordano

D.R. 2009 Latuff.

When Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva addressed this morning's UN General Assembly in New York, he said:

"Without political will, we will see more coups such as the one that toppled Manuel Zelaya in Honduras."

I don't know what is so hard for some observers to understand about that statement, which comes from the elected president of a country that itself was victimized by a military coup d'etat in 1964. Brazil, like every other democracy on the planet, has a legitimate self interest in making sure that no military coup succeeds, especially in its own hemisphere.

Like the 2009 coup in Honduras, the 1964 putsch had a "civilian" gloss when Brazil's vice president ascended to the presidency but under terms dictated by the military. (Much like the top Honduran military lawyer told the Miami Herald in July that "It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible." That was a smoking gun that demonstrated how the Honduras coup regime's claims to be a "democracy" led by civilians are utter rubbish: When the Armed Forces dictate that the people can't elect a government of the left, or it will always risk a violent coup - which is exactly what that military official said - they are dictating the terms. That's where the word dictatorship comes from.)

Fair and free elections are impossible under such a regime. In recent days, the Honduran coup of "president" Roberto Micheletti has demonstrated, again, that it is incapable democratic governance. Peaceful Hondurans came to the Brazilian Embassy to greet their only elected President, Manuel Zelaya, and they were violently driven away with water cannon tanks, tear gas, billy clubs, and rubber bullets. National Police then followed the dispersed crowd into the popular barrios to wound and maim them, and invaded homes that provided them refuge. That led to scenes like this one in the neighborhood of Hato de Enmedio, and in more than 20 heavily populated slums in and around Tegucigalpa yesterday:

Clueless desk editors like those at the New York Times titled these conflicts "Riots in Honduras." But you don't need to be able to understand Spanish to see and hear, in this video, that, distinct from rioters, the young people of the neighborhood that came out and violated the military curfew to defend their neighborhood from this police invasion know and have memorized complicated political slogans and rhymes which they chanted in unison. "Riots" are disorganized explosions. This neighborhood, and others like it, however, have been forced by the realities of the coup to organize themselves to a greater extent than ever before.

In neighborhoods like Hato de Enmedio, where a majority of Honduras' citizens live, you can also see in the video see that not even the main street in the barrio is paved. Many of the homes have dirt floors as well. And if a citizen is harmed by a robber or predator, you can call the police, but they won't come. People who live in neighborhoods like this only see the police when they invade, like they did yesterday, to enforce an unenforceable curfew on people who, if they obeyed the curfew, would starve of hunger. A curfew is unsustainable on a people that live hand to mouth, day to day.

We can also see in that video the revelation that the tear gas canisters shot by the National Police yesterday were stamped as property of the government of Perú, suggesting strongly that Peruvian President Alan García is a participant in smuggling arms to the Honduran coup regime. Something he will now have to answer for to the Organization of American States in general, and his neighbor Brazil in particular.

But back to Lula of Brazil. At the UN today, he said:

"The international community demands that Mr Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country and must be alert to ensure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras."

The United Nations isn't likely to ignore Lula's plea. As a body, it owes Brazil heavily for its leadership of UN Peacekeeping forces in Haiti, and also for its unique role as a respected organizer and spokes-country of "developing world" states as a force for global social and economic justice. Wealthier nations, meanwhile, from the US to China to Europe, are greatly dependent (or would like to be more so) on the gigantic consumer market that is Brazil. In eight short years, Lula has greatly risen Brazil's status and respect across the globe by playing these factors upon each other very shrewdly.

So when Reuters publishes, as it has, what it calls an "analysis" titled "Brazil's risky role in Honduras may backfire," its author, one Raymond Colitt, doesn't know his ass from his elbow. It's a pure propaganda piece, based on the faulty presumption that Brazil's goal is to mediate some kind of negotiated solution in Honduras. "Analysts" like that can only be called such, with a straight face, by adding quotation marks. Any fool can see that the Honduran crisis has moved to a level of dysfunction that is beyond a negotiated solution. It is a raw power struggle now between a coup regime trying desperately to hold on to power and an increasingly organized people that is peeling away the layers of its support.

A similarly clueless "analysis" came from Sara Miller Llana and Andrew Downing of the Christian Science Monitor, titled, "Did Zelaya Snub Hugo Chávez for Brazil?" Here's the first clue: when reporters speak of "snubs" they are merely gossip columnists, not journalists. What is far more likely is that Brazil has emerged as the interlocutor between Venezuela and the United States, whose intelligence agencies would not work together, but could be effectively coordinated so they don't trip all over each other by a party that is friendly with both of them and has, similarly, its own top shelf intelligence agencies, that being Brazil. If that is what we're witnessing here - all sides would deny they had any role in the impressive operation that returned Zelaya to Honduras while fooling the coup regime into thinking he was in Nicaragua, of course - then nobody's feeling "snubbed," except perhaps the leaders of Mexico and Colombia, who in the past had been the interlocutors between Washington and Latin America.

From that perspective, Brazil has already triumphed in this equation. It has emerged as the community organizer among nations in the hemisphere: the one country that has enough trust from so many different sides that don't really trust each other that it can coordinate them effectively.

The Honduras coup regime now has to come to terms with the reality that it can't touch the Brazilian Embassy, or it may become an unwilling host of some of those UN Peacekeeping forces that have Brazil as one of their leading nations.

And as that reality sinks in - that Micheletti and his Simian Council are powerless against this equation - the regime will continue to shed layers of support. The simple presence of President Zelaya, day in, day out, in Tegucigalpa, protected by the Brazilian Embassy, strips the regime of any pretense of inevitability or claim to be the eventual winner.

As with last night's regime press conference - held embarrassingly and hastily in English, as if there wasn't time to translate the incoherent drivel that US lobbyist Lanny Davis wrote for them to recite - the Honduras coup regime is now in flail mode. All it can do is attempt pathetic media stunts like that and turn up the brutality of its repression of its own people: a formula for continued repudiation and total self-destruction.

Update 2:23 p.m. Tegucigalpa (4:23 p.m. ET): Here's a sanction that will have a huge psychological impact in Honduras, where futbol is just about the only respite left from the coup's horrors:

The Oct. 10 World Cup qualifying match between Honduras and the USA may not take place in Honduras. In political turmoil after the military's ousting of President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras is cordoned off to most visitors. It has closed airports, implemented a curfew and set up roadblocks so that a roadway from El Salvador serves as the only entrance into the country. The crisis has raised doubts about the safety of playing the USA's scheduled World Cup qualifying match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras's second largest city and industrial center.

"We are obviously monitoring the situation closely and are in discussions with the appropriate officials with Concacaf and FIFA, who will determine if the location of the match will be moved outside of Honduras," Neil Buethe, a spokesman for the United States Soccer Federation, told the New York Times. A final decision will be made by FIFA and Concacaf officials.

If it decides to move the game, FIFA will likely opt for a neighboring Central American host, perhaps Guatemala. As another possibility, FIFA could move the game to the United States while considering it a home game for the Honduran soccer federation.

Really, what can the coup regime say? That it will close airports and impose martial law but the FIFA should still hold soccer games there?

The bottom line: A country that can't even host a soccer game successfully certainly can't hold a fair or free election.

3:20 p.m.: Another layer of the onion rings around the coup regime begins to cry:

Honduras’s nationwide curfew is costing the Central American nation’s economy million a day, said Jesus Canahuati, vice president of the nation’s chapter of the Business Council of Latin America.

The country’s .1 billion economy has lost up to 0 million in investment since the military ousted Manuel Zelaya from office on June 28, Canahuati said in a telephone interview today.

“Those are numbers that aren’t sustainable in Honduras,” Canahuati said from San Pedro Sula. “We’re a poor country, and many people won’t eat if there’s no work.”

Poor babe. Maybe Canahuati should have thought about that before helping to orchestrate the coup, put Micheletti in power, and then have his organization hire Lanny Davis to screw it all up in Washington! Yo, Sherlock; it's like that old flower child poster: Curfews are not healthy for oligarchs and other living things. If the poor can't go out on the street to slave in your sweatshops or buy the junk produced there, it hits you, too.

5:35 p.m.: The coup regime - after two days of blocking Hondurans from traveling on all the roads to Tegucigalpa, after imposing curfews night and day, after beating up anybody it could lay a nightstick on who came to welcome the legitimate president or redress their grievances - has just called a pro-coup demonstration for tomorrow in the capital. You can bet there won't be any blockades or curfews or repression and the coup soldiers may even encourage the provocation of incidents outside the Brazilian Embassy.

But the resistance isn't stupid. Already the call has gone out via Radio Globo to the nation: Since the coup plotters have urged their protesters to dress in the color red, the members of the resistance should do the same, rent buses, and travel the highways to the capital, telling the cops at the roadblocks - if they even put them up tomorrow - that they're coming to join the pro-coup rally. And that will get them into the capital, for events on the following days once the "march of the perfumados" has gone back home.

This, again, points to how this regime is incapable of holding fair and free elections. When one side assembles, it brings out the blockades, the cops, the tear gas and billy clubs. When the others side does it, the regime rolls out the red carpet and even pays for it. Anybody that claims fair elections can be held in that climate of violence, intimidation and cheating is not really a friend of democracy, no matter how many times they mouth the word.

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It's not just the American

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 12:45 pm by Simeon (not verified)

It's not just the American media that's missing the story here... Globo News in Brasil had a commentary this morning by "political commentator" Alexandre Garcia that recited a number of golpista claims verbatim and tried to make it look like Lula was bungling by allowing Zelaya to remain in the Embassy. And this immediately after an impressively factual straight-news report on the situation in Honduras! Globo's corporate paymasters must have sent orders to start muddying the waters... I guess I should consider it a plus that they aren't openly shilling for the coup leaders like they were from 1964-84.

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Oops - forgot to add to that

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 12:51 pm by Simeon (not verified)

Oops - forgot to add to that last comment that I don't think it's a surprise that Brazil is emerging "as the community organizer among nations in the hemisphere" when you consider Lula's background as a labor organizer.

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Poor Countries

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 1:21 pm by kaleidescope (not verified)

Interesting that you think of China as a wealthier country than Brazil. According to the World Bank, in 2007 Brazil had a per capita income of ,550 and China ,740.

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@ kaleidescope

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 1:30 pm by Al Giordano

Kaleidescope - I said "wealthier countries," not "countries with wealthier people." Multiply that ,740 by every Chinese citizen and the sum total rises way above the ,550 multiplied by every Brazilian citizen. There are about ten times as many Chinese as Brazilians, which makes the overall producer and consumer power of the Chinese government much greater.

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Honduras Coup

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 1:32 pm by Carlos (not verified)

This could be the worst precedent for the fagile democracies of our western hemisphere. Zelaya is no angel but we have tu sopport his restitution and judge him in a fair trial if he ever made and violation of the constitution.

There is also the need to judge all the people that perpetrated this coup, so that everybody knows this is a punishable crime.

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Poor Country/Wealthy Country

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 1:46 pm by kaleidescope (not verified)

I always thought of countries as being rich/poor based on the standard of living of the people living there. It never occurred to me that Brazil would be a wealthier country than, say, Canada, Sweeden, Switzerland or Saudi Arabia simply because Brazil -- with so many more (basically poor) people -- has a bigger GDP (at least according to the CIA World Factbook) than any of those countries. I always thought of Canada and Switzerland as wealthy countries and Brazil as a poor one.

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Zelaya is poltiically smart

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 2:03 pm by elchupacabras (not verified)

Had Zelaya looked for more avert support from Chavez, he would have been handing the Liberal party ammunition. One of the criticisms the golpistas have laid out is that he was overly allied with Chavez. He had to look to other nations within ALBA in order to still accomplish his political goals without committing political suicide. Hence, the only nation left which still had some standing within the international community was Brazil. That does not diminish Lula's progressive changes nor mute his accomplishments, it just shows the political pragmatism of Zelaya.

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That English-language presscon was a big giveaway, wasn't it?

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 2:22 pm by Phoenix Woman (not verified)

Of course, it's one that the corporate US press won't notice, even as every friggin' Honduran understands what it means: That Micheletti's a puppet of moneyed multinational forces, and his stringpullers (the same guys who pay Lanny Davis' salary) don't speak Spanish or Portugese as a first language.

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Can't the media even listen?

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 2:38 pm by Tom W. (not verified)

The perfect "tell" of official U.S. attitude and role was today's State briefing - if you really read/listen to what's being said - and what's not - the foolish Chavez/riot/surprise meme just falls away like so many scales and the Obama Administration's actual position is clear:

QUESTION: Thanks, Ian. A quick question about the secret return of President Zelaya to Honduras. I mean, it was described by Hugo Chavez as courageous. Do you feel that it is helpful, it’s a good thing to have him come back in that way?

MR. KELLY: Well, in foreign policy, we deal with the facts that we have, and the fact that we have is that he’s in Honduras. We do have our concerns about the possible impact it may have on the situation on the ground, especially with the possibilities for clashes. And for this reason, we’ve called on both sides to exercise restraint with this new situation.

?But also, since we are dealing with this fact, you’ve heard Secretary Clinton a couple of days ago say, let’s take this opportunity to open up channels of communication. So, that’s basically – I mean, our efforts are in those two tracks: take advantage of this opportunity for dialogue, but at the same time, urge restraint on both sides.

[Translation: we're not taking the Chavez bait and we're actively involved with all the players]

?QUESTION: Is there any talk of maybe helping him leave if things get really violent, or --?MR. KELLY: No, we’re not at that point. President Zelaya is still in the Embassy, in the Brazilian Embassy. It looks like things have calmed down there. Water and power have been restored. Food and water are being delivered to the Embassy. And also, the staff has been allowed to depart under police – with police coordination. And we’re happy that we were able to play a helpful, facilitative role in helping restore these services and lower the tension around the compound.

[Repeat: active role, most crucially with Brazil - which is a win/win for both nations independent of little Honduras]

?QUESTION: What exactly was the U.S. role??MR. KELLY: Well, I think that we helped as to reinforce the message that the – not Geneva – Vienna Convention had to be respected, the inviolability of the Brazilian Embassy had to be respected. We helped get some of the personnel out. We provided some vehicles. But mostly, it was a liaison role to help restore the power and water, and also get personnel out and back to their homes.

[We played a big role!]

Does anyone at any of these outlets do any reporting any more? Have they ever played wave off? Do they have no sources? Or is it all personality these days. Good lord.

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Submitted September 23, 2009 - 5:40 pm by John Jones (not verified)

What Some US Reporters Don't Get About Brazil and the Honduras Crisis?Posted by Al Giordano - September 23, 2009 at 11:17 am. I might add that it is also something that Canadian reporters do not get; perhaps this is because they are owned by corporate media. Thank the public media for revealing the truth.

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Haha, funny coincidence

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 7:05 pm by Ryan Vaquero (not verified)


It is really ironic that you mention those two articles -- the one from Reuters and the one from the CSM. As we were obsessing over anything new coming out of the corporate media, we noticed both of those articles here and marveled over how far off their "analysis" was.

What these people don't get -- or what they don't want people to know -- is that these Latin American governments are all performing different roles to create a bloc that is powerful enough to overcome the world's greatest superpower. Lula cannot be Chavez. Chavez cannot be Lula. None of them can play the role that Castro & Cuba play. Each of these countries has their own "mission," so to speak .... Brazil as the global player with unquestionable legitimacy. Venezuela & Cuba providing the context of revolutionary social justice. Bolivia doing the same, with more emphasis on the power of the indigenous peoples of Latin America.

Of course, this is a quick and possibly simplistic overview but what has been demonstrated by this incredible action of Zelaya's return is:

1) The undeniable unity of the Latin American left,

2) The undeniable courage of different types -- courage of Zelaya, who risked his life for his people and for social justice (he could have easily melted away into a life of privileged exile) ... the courage of Lula, using Brazil's political muscle to bodyslam the coup regime and even the cunning of Chavez, to change his way of speaking about this crisis in the last week or two,

3) The undeniable strategy that has gone into all of this -- each of these players doing their part as a real team in a disciplined way, for 3 months now, from Kirchner to Correa to Morales to Chavez to Castro to Ortega and, more importantly, the social movements that are the real mechanisms of change behind these leaders.

I couldn't be more proud and impressed! Try as they might, the corporate media cannot spin this away. Latin America, united, has shown the world what they have struggled to create over the last 20 years -- and it is an amazing creation.

All over Latin America this week, everyone can say:

"En mi pais, somos duros! En mi pais, somos miles y miles de lágrimas y de fusiles, un puño y un canto vibrante, una llama encendida, un gigante, que grita, adelante! adelante!"

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We need to learn

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 8:06 pm by Frank Balzer (not verified)

Our corporate elite and their foreign policy henchmen are still the major problem of the Latin America.

We who want social justice in the US, of course, want to see it in Latin America.

However, the people of Latin America many times put their bodies, if not lives, on the line to pursue it.

When are we going to have to stop analyzing the Honduran social movement's strategies and tactics and, instead, start learning from them and putting what we learn into practice?

By the way, the large majority of peoples in Brazil and China live in poverty. They are not wealthy in the sense we still are in the First World.

And China's business and Party elite are at a crossroads. They realize that they have to transform their socioeconomic structure from one based on cheap labor producing goods for export into one where the wages of the average working person are raised high enough to support a large internal market for goods produced in China.

The reason for this transformational imperative? The huge US market for Chinese commodities is rapidly disappearing.

However, this social reconstruction could let all hell break loose. And China may find its economic and global stature plummet.

Remember, under capitalism, "all that is solid turns into air (Marx)."

To present another reminder of the trickiness of history. During the 1930s - 1940s Argentina was one of the top ten industrial nations, globally. However, recently, its economy collapsed and people were forced into a barter economy while, in some instances, workers took over factories and ran them autonomously.

How about those frijoles!

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"the tear gas canisters shot

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 8:56 pm by Brian Bixby (not verified)

"the tear gas canisters shot by the National Police yesterday were stamped as property of the government of Perú, suggesting strongly that Peruvian President Alan García is a participant"

My father-in-law was a member of the APRA party since his late teens, organizing the campisinos at a time when simply possessing APRA literature was punishable by prison. He supported Alan Garcia all through is tragic first term, and would have been elated to see him re-elected.

In Adrian's memory I've tried my best to give Garcia the benefit of the doubt, but it's long past that time. Something awful has happened to Garcia and the APRA, and I'm glad Adrian wasn't here to see it.

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Man, I need to learn Spanish; anyway -

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 9:32 pm by John Slade

@ Ryan Vaquero

"In my country, we're tough!" In my country, there are thousands and thousands of tears and rifles, a fist and a vibrant edge, a flame, a giant, screaming, forward forward! "

This is the googletranslation of the above. I think I get it... duros, I assume, is more 'durable' than tough? Flows very nicely in original tongue.

Don't you think the rifles counter-cuts the statement that this expression of popular will they are sticking to nonviolence?

It is pretty sweet, though, to see not only forces of Empire being thwarted, but the region being cleansed of some of it's authoritarian fascist capitalist goo. If you think of this kind of authoritarian right-neoliberalism as the pollution, the Bush Regime pumped eight years of that pollution, while the Obama administration is closing the pipe, and not rushing to help the coup succeed.

I wonder how much of the coordination of the nation's leaders is mirrored by coordination of the nation's peoples? Are there the same kind of people's movements in these countries? What are their labor unions like? Are there significant indigenous peoples uniformly, or do they vary, and how else does economic discrimination vary from country to country and group to group?

In addition to learning Spanish, I think I need a graduate level 'left political movements in the Americas' course... this blog and some others providing a great introductory level class!

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Se Va a Caer

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 9:49 pm by paul (not verified)

The coup regime has slowly been imploding and with the golpistas calling for a "pro-coup" demonstration tomorrow, they are only solidifying their demise. It is a drawn out version of what happened in Caracas in 2002. No matter how much effort is thrown into the golpistas misinformation campaign, the power is in the people and once again the organizing from below demonstrates the efficacy of the truly Latin American "participatory democracy". A concept that has only recently been validated in US politics.

gente, su lucha no se acaba

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Fantastic article & comments

Submitted September 23, 2009 - 10:04 pm by Nancy Chester

@ Tom W, Ryan Vaquero, John Slade, Al and just everybody.

Thanks for the brilliant analysis & comments. This whole thing has never been "just" about Hondurus. I really appreciated Ryan Vaguero's analysis that the current phase of the struggle demonstrates the incredible "unity of the Latin American left", although I'm a little concerned at Peru's supplying the regime with weapons. What's up with that? I thought the only remaining fascist right wing governments in Latin America were Mexico & Columbia.

Immanuel Wallerstein's July 15th, 2009 essay titled, "The Right Strikes Back" assessed the coup regime had international oligarchic, right wing support from the get go and also viewed the Hondurus coup with grave concern.

I. Wallerstein, 261, "The Right Strikes Back!"

The Honduran right is playing for time, until Zelaya's term ends. If they reach that goal, they will have won. And the Guatemalan, Salvadorian, and Nicaraguan right are watching in the wings, itching to start their own coups against their no longer rightwing governments.


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.

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