Sunday, July 12, 2015

Clinton campaign undermined on the streets of Tegucigalpa

HONDURANS denounce corruption.  

WITH all eyes on Greece, and how far its people can defy the bankers, the IMF, the European Union's commissioners, and those Germans who insensitively forget how their occupation robbed Greece blind during World War II, and how the Federal Republic was rewarded with massive aid when it began re-armament in 1953....I wonder if I might be forgiven for trying to catch up on some events on the other side of the world?

The Greeks, of course, have experienced the limits of Western democratic tolerance before. In 1944, before the Nazis had finally been defeated, the Allies turned their guns on the main Greek Resistance movement, ELAS, because it was Communist-led, and Greece had to endure four years of civil war. Then in 1967 the colonels staged their coup, in accordance with a NATO contingency plan -though they might not have been the intended military group - rounded up opponents, and ruled for the next seven years.

If that was a shock for Europe, people in Latin America have been used to such interventions over the years, from US marines landing on their shores in the earlier half of the 20th century to recoup the bankers' losses, to the coup which overthrew Salvador Allende's government in Chile in 1973, and the US-armed Contra terror against Nicaragua through the 1980s and early 1990s.

So it is all the more remarkable today that not only are a number of countries refusing to be bullied by the great power to the north, and attempting policies of independence and social reform, but even people in some of the little 'banana republics' are gaining confidence, and getting results. Here's a report from a week ago: 

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – After weeks of thousands of people marching against the corruption in Honduras arrest warrant has been issued for vice-president of Congress, Lena Gutierrez, by the supreme court of Honduras. Gutierrez, along with 16 others, including her father and two brothers, have been charged with fraud, crimes against public health, and falsification of documents.
According to UPI: “Gutierrez and her family are linked to the AstroPharma Company that allegedly embezzled and defrauded the government out of about $120 million by selling poor-quality medicine at inflated prices.”

Gutierrez, who is a member of the governing National Party, has of course claimed innocence. She had previously made the statement that she will prove her and her family are not guilty of the accusations, however now that proceedings are underway, she has been advised to remain silent. Hernandez has also been accused in a corruption scandal dealing with social security. During his 2013 election campaign, he allegedly received about $90 million out $300 million that was skimmed from Honduras’s public health system. It is not yet known if President Hernandez will resign despite the protests.

An earlier report from Associated Press carried in the Guardian had said that "The protesters are upset over a scandal involving a purported multimillion-dollar embezzlement of social security funds, with some of the money allegedly going to finance the governing political party. Among other things, they are calling for President Juan Orlando Hernandez to resign.
"Organized via Twitter with hashtags including one that translates as “resign JOH” – a reference to the president’s initials – the movement began recently as just a couple of dozen people at a torchlight vigil in the capital.

"It gradually picked up steam, and thousands marched through Tegucigalpa on Friday with similarly large protests in San Pedro Sula, Siguatepeque, Choluteca and Comayagua during the weekend.
The Honduran Public Ministry has said a network led by the then director of the Social Security Institute, Mario Zelaya, fraudulently misspent at least $120m during the 2010-14 presidency of Porfirio Lobo.

"The scheme allegedly relied on mark-ups topping 100% on goods and services such as medicines and pensions, with kickbacks then being paid by businesses that benefited. At least part of the money purportedly ended up in the hands of the National Party, which counts both Lobo and Hernandez as members."

The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and others this week circulated a message saying "
 Honduras' people are currently marching in the largest protests their country has ever seen, demanding an end to corruption in their country. These demands are growing week on week, but they need international support to pressure their government to acquiesce".

James Watson, a member of the very small UK-based NGO the Environmental Network for Central America, who is in Honduras at the moment, writes:
"Our press is increasingly reporting on this issue, but it is still receiving little attention. Honduras has been suffering repression since 2009 when a military coup brought its current National Party to power. The country is known as the murder, repression and corruption capital of the Americas. This year, Honduran press revealed evidence of millions of dollars stolen from their social security institute, and used partially to fund the last National Party election campaign. They have demonstrated that at least 3,000 people have died as a result, from lack of health care. This has ignited the "Indignados" movement, which represents a call from the people of Honduras for change. They are demanding a UN-backed International Commission against Corruption, but the corrupt president Juan Orlando Hernández is refusing calls. The UN has responded with a fact finding mission, but international pressure is required to press the National Party to listen to the protests, and to end the scandalous financial and military support that the UK, Europe, the US and Canada provide Juan Orlando.

In the background to what is happening in Honduras now are the circumstances in which the government came to power.

In the 5 a.m. darkness of June 28, 2009, more than two hundred armed, masked soldiers stormed the house of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.  (no relation to the fraud accused Mario Zelaya - CP) Within minutes Zelaya, still in his pajamas, was thrown into a van and taken to a military base used by the U.S., where he was flown out of the country.
It was a military coup, said the UN General Assembly and the Organization of American States (OAS). The entire EU recalled its countries’ ambassadors, as did Latin American nations. The United States did not, making it virtually the only nation of note to maintain diplomatic relations with the coup government. Though the White House and the Clinton State Department denounced only the second such coup in the Western Hemisphere since the Cold War, Washington hedged in a way that other governments did not.
“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is, you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis,” said Robert White, former ambassador to El Salvador, just a month after the coup. Speaking to Roberto Lovato for the American Prospect, Davis revealed who that was: “My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America.”

President Zelaya had been promising measures to assist the poor in Honduras. He had also been moving too close to states like Bolivia and Venezuela for the US liking. Nevertheless the official US position was against the coup.

Press Statement
Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 27, 2009
The United States remains committed to help restore the democratic and constitutional order in Honduras in the wake of the June 28 coup d’état that removed President Zelaya and led to the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States. As part of that effort, we expect the parties in Honduras to implement the measures they agreed to in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, including steps toward national reconciliation and the December 2 Congressional consideration of President Zelaya's restitution. We look forward to the Congressional deliberations getting underway as announced. 

But e-mails obtained between top Washington officials reveal a different picture. In the run-up to Honduras elections in 2009, with Zelaya exiled, anti-coup opponents were murdered, rallies and newspapers suppressed, and there was suspicion of widespread rigging. But here was then Assistant US Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, who had been in Honduras before the coup, in an email to Hilary Clinton just after the November 29 election results were announced, which brought Porfirio Loba Sosa's National Party into office.

    The turnout (probably a record) and the clear rejection of the Liberal Party shows our approach was the right one, and puts Brazil and others who would not recognize the election in an impossible position. As we think about what to say, I would strongly recommend that we not be shy. We should congratulate the Honduran people, we should connect today's vote to the deep democratic vocation of the Honduran people, and we should call on the community of democratic nations (and especially those of the Americas) to recognize, respect, and respond to this accomplishment of the Honduran people.
   Finally, this Administration, which worked so hard to manage and resolve this crisis, should be the one who defines the results and perceptions of today's vote, and not our critics on the Hill (who had no clear pathway to elections) or our adversaries in the region (who never wanted this day to happen).
In her book “Hard Choices,” Clinton admits that she used the power of her office to make sure that Zelaya would not return to office. “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere, including Secretary [Patricia] Espinosa in Mexico,” Clinton writes. “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

Clinton reports that Zelaya was arrested amid “fears that he was preparing to circumvent the constitution and extend his term in office.”  But others say this was simply not true. As Clinton must know, when Zelaya was kidnapped by the military and flown out of the country in his pajamas on June 28, 2009, he was trying to put a consultative, nonbinding poll on the ballot to ask voters whether they wanted to have a real referendum on reforming the constitution during the scheduled election in November. It is important to note that Zelaya was not eligible to run in that election. Even if he had gotten everything he wanted, it was impossible for Zelaya to extend his term in office. But this did not stop the extreme right in Honduras and the United States from using false charges of tampering with the constitution to justify the coup.

More details of Hilary Clinton's role in Honduras have come out.
 A new round of emails from Hillary Clinton’s time as U.S. Secretary of State released last week, reveals her connection with backers of the 2009 military coup that toppled Honduran president Manuel Zelaya. According to an email exchange in the aftermath of the coup, Clinton requested the assistance of a prominent PR advisor Lanny Davis as a back-channel to Roberto Micheletti, the interim president after the coup. Davis was also an adviser to a group of Honduran businessmen who had supported Zelaya's ouster . The request came a week before Clinton brokered a deal to reinstall Zelaya through a national unity government. According to the Intercept, this was an attempt at undermining the democratically elected left-wing president while not explicitly endorsing the coup. The plan failed however as the legal vacuum left by the coup made the return of Manuel Zelaya impossible. The U.S. State Department continued to support and recognize what many considered fraudulent elections by the post-coup government, saying they were “free, fair and transparent.”
The renewed wave of popular demonstrations in Honduras have caused the first crack in the regime just as Thomas Shannon, now a Counsellor to Secretary of State John Kerry, was starting a visit to Central America, including Honduras.

And though too late to affect former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in a post she no longer holds, the latest revelations of her duplicity, as well as the signs that what she helped put together is starting to crumble, should surely damage her campaign to run as the Democrats nomination for President?.  Of course she would not be the first liar in the White House. But the others were elected before they were found out.


By way of  a personal confession

BACK in the mid-Seventies, when I was briefly employed as a journalist on the "Foreign"(sic) Desk at News Line, I was instructed to always put datelines at the head of any story, just as they came in from Reuters or Interpress. Having seen my by-line "Charles Parkins" apparently reporting from ADDIS ABABA, TOKYO or PARIS, a comrade visiting from Up North complimented me on the amount of travel I was getting in, so soon after joining the paper. I expected to see a bigger than normal twinkle in her eye, thinking she must have noticed how the day before I seemed to be filing reports from two distant locations on the opposite sides of the world, on the same day. Not even Phineas Fogg could have managed it.
In reality, unlike my senior comrade Jack Gale who was dodging bullets in the hills of Lebanon at the time, I rarely got out of the Clapham office, and the nearest I got to exotic parts was when I was despatched to rural Ayrshire to find a bunch of Glasgow lads on a jobs march, and join them on the road to London.
I did on one occasion decide to use a story about Honduras, and confidently datelined it TEGUCIGALPA.  Alas our editor, a no-nonsense Aussie called Alex Mitchell (well, except when he was fed nonsense by Gerry Healy, which he pretended to almost believe), spotted it, and shook his head. I suppose the Vimto book, from which we educated Manchester and Salford lads had learned world capitals as boys, never penetrated his remote corner of Queensland. So out it came, and I was supposedly filing my story from MEXICO CITY.  Which was probably safer in those days.
Having reached a ripe old age without ever visiting Tegucigalpa, and not having an editor to tell me what I can and cannot put in my blog, I can at least fulfil an ambition, by quoting an item datelined TEGUCIGALPA, and putting it in my headline. Ah, freedom!  

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home