Monday, November 29, 2010

Ecuador, Colombia Reestablish Diplomatic Ties

GEORGETOWN – Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador announced here Friday the reestablishing of full diplomatic relations between their two countries that were broken off in March 2008.

“We have taken the decision to fully reestablish diplomatic relations between Ecuador and Colombia, and to that end we will name ambassadors who will be posted, with all certainty, before Christmas,” Santos said in a joint statement with Correa.

The two leaders talked to reporters after taking part in the summit of the 12-member Union of South American Nations, or Unasur.

In that meeting they decided to renew the diplomatic ties that Ecuador broke off in March 2008 after Colombia bombed a camp of the FARC guerrilla group on Ecuadorian territory.

Killed in the bombing raid were 26 people including the No. 2 of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Raul Reyes.

“We have decided to normalize diplomatic relations,” Correa told the press. Also present were Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño and Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin.

The ministers have been negotiating the renewal of full diplomatic ties for several months and took a key step recently with Holguin’s visit to Quito, during which Colombia handed over to Ecuador all the information it had requested.

The Quito government received additional classified information about the bombing of the FARC base.

Honduran Military Forces to Expel Farmers

TEGUCIGALPA - Honduran armed forces begin a military campaign Saturday in the Bajo Aguan rural area to expel farmers from their lands, with the pretext of stopping alleged armed groups.

Deputy Security Minister Armando Calidonio made the announcement Friday in San Pedro Sula, and as a pretext for the operations he showed some photos of armed minors.

The El Aguan Farmers Movement (MCA) and the National People's Resistance Front (FNRP) have denied the existence of such groups and the occurrence of armed clashes. There have been murders, massacres, but farmers have been the only victims, the FNRP denounced on its website.

The military actions will continue in the area, and any person carrying a gun will be detained, Calidonio warned.

The actions are part of the second phase of a plan that includes the eviction of farms in dispute, said Rene Maradiaga Panchame, the second director of the National Police.

The World Rainforest Movement (WRM) yesterday joined the denunciation by the regional office of the International Union of Food Workers of the assassination of Honduran farmers.

The WRM asked all the mass media in Honduras and the rest of Latin America to publish the regional office's denunciation, in which it demands the end of the killings of farmers and that the murderers be punished.

Venezuelan Parliament Holds Special Session

By James Suggett

The Venezuelan government held a special event in the National Assembly on Tuesday to express its opposition to a recent meeting held in the U.S. Congress between U.S. legislators and members of Latin America's right-wing elite.

The November 17th meeting in question was titled "Danger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights and Inter-American Security" and was held at the U.S. Congressional Visitors Center in Washington.

The agenda included a discussion of whether Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua "constitute a threat to U.S. interests and inter-American security," and whether the U.S. is "equipped to respond." Venezuela's "21st Century Socialism" and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a fair trade bloc based on solidarity and social development, were highlighted as examples of the "erosion of democracy" in the region.

In Tuesday's event in Caracas, which was titled an "Act in Defense of National Sovereignty," President Hugo Chavez called the Washington meeting an act of imperialist aggression against Venezuela. "We are here to defend our homeland as humans. We are defending our right to follow our own path," Chavez told the National Assembly.

The president's Council of Ministers, the heads of all five branches of the government, legislators, the high military command, and several state and local officials, ambassadors, and community representatives attended Tuesday's event.

U.S.-Venezuelan lawyer and investigative journalist Eva Golinger also spoke about the U.S. government's funneling of millions of dollars to "psychological operations," or propaganda campaigns to slander governments with policies that are not in line with U.S. interests.

Golinger said these campaigns are designed primarily by the Pentagon and the State Department with the collaboration of local media outlets, journalists, and other parties. According to Golinger, in 2011 the Pentagon slotted U.S.$384.8 million for psychological operations through the U.S. Southern Command and the Congress approved U.S.$768.8 million for the State Department to create a special propaganda division. Funds are also channeled through the U.S. government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Organization for International Development (USAID), reported Golinger.

President Chavez called on the National Assembly to pass a law to stop this money from reaching Venezuelan civil society groups. "It is beyond belief, even though we have our constitution, that we allow political parties, non-governmental organizations, and counter-revolutionary individuals to continue to be financed with millions from the [United States] empire and that they make use of it with full freedom to violate and destabilize," said Chavez.

"I am sure that the Venezuelan government I head -- under the constitution -- is not going to continue allowing this," he said. "A very severe law should be passed to impede Yankee financing."

Legislator Saúl Ortega, from the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly, said on Tuesday that two law proposals are already in the works with the aim of "putting controls on these non-governmental organizations that receive financing for destabilizing actions," and for the "control of foreign agents."

Several Venezuelan opposition groups including Súmate, which has acknowledged receiving NED funding, are suspected of involvement in subversive actions, including demonstrations that culminated in the military coup d'état that temporarily ousted Chavez from power in April 2002.

Some domestic organizations that are not explicitly aligned with any political party or movement have expressed concern that if a new law bans all foreign funding without distinguishing the origin or the purpose of the funds, groups providing social services and engaging in human rights advocacy could have their efforts weakened.

Another point of discussion during Tuesday's special session was Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of opposition television station Globovision that aided the April 2002 coup d'état by broadcasting manipulated images and suppressing news before, during and after the coup events.

Zuloaga, who is wanted in Venezuela for money laundering and hoarding of marketable vehicles at his private residence, attended the Washington meeting. He told reporters outside the U.S. Congressional Visitors Center that Venezuela is a "threat to the United States."

Chavez referred to Zuloaga during Tuesday's event, saying, "Venezuela's bourgeoisie has to learn that it won't just get away with having one of its representatives go off to the U.S. Congress to attack Venezuela, while keeping a TV station here."

Also during the event, Chavez told the National Assembly that in order to "defeat the imperial threat," it must "radicalize the revolution" by embracing "extreme left" policies in order to counter the "extreme right" policies of legislators who were newly elected in September and will be sworn in early next year.

National Assembly President Cilia Flores called on Venezuelans to organize similar events around the country to express opposition to U.S. interference in Venezuelan affairs.

In a related event this week, President Chavez said he would welcome U.S. President Barack Obama to Caracas for a diplomatic visit. "We would sit, talk, and eat arepas [a Venezuelan staple food]; I would take you to the streets of Caracas," he said. "I would give you my hand one more time and suggest that you honor your promises to your people," said Chavez.

He also urged Obama to "ignore the stereotype. Don't pay attention to the lie-filled reports that say we are a threat."

In April 2009, during Obama's first trip to Latin America as president, Chavez gave him Eduardo Galeano's book, Open Veins of Latin America, and the two countries expressed their willingness to revamp previously severed diplomatic relations. But relations currently remain stalled, as Venezuela has rejected Washington's ambassador nominee Larry Palmer.

Palmer heads the U.S. government-funded Inter-American Foundation, which specializes in channeling money to non-governmental organizations. He also made controversial remarks in a Senate hearing earlier this year in which he alluded to Venezuela's alleged ties to armed insurgent groups that the U.S. deems "terrorists," prompting the nominee's rejection by Venezuelan authorities.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Media Distortions Legitimize Honduras Regime

by: Michael Corcoran, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Honduras held elections on November 29, 2009, that were deemed illegitimate by most of the international community and resulted in the presidency of Porfirio Lobo, a conservative politician and agricultural landowner. [I] The election occurred just months after the illegal coup overthrowing President Manuel Zelaya and, as a result of a significant boycott, only included candidates who supported the coup. [II]

At the time of the elections, the US mainstream media had an atrocious record of reporting on the coup itself, as well as on the elections that followed, helping to legitimize a startling attack on Honduran democracy. [III]Despite the illegal nature of the coup and numerous accounts of human rights abuses against supporters of Manuel Zelaya - including violence against protesters, mass arrests and crackdowns on press freedom - the US media portrayed the events in a way that painted Zelaya as a villainous follower of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and legitimized those who ousted him, in part by ignoring their many crimes and abuses. [IV]

Unfortunately, in the year that has followed these two troubling events, little has changed: the Lobo regime has continued the human rights abuses that have plagued the country for more than a year, while the media has downplayed, distorted or ignored the crimes of his regime. The press also continues to amplify calls for the international acceptance of the new leadership, despite continuing reports of abuse. As a result, the US media remains an active participant in an attack on Honduran democracy that has continued for almost a year and a half.

Ignoring the Documentary Record

Since the June 2009 coup and throughout Lobo's tenure, widespread human rights abuses such as the targeted killings of journalists, the removal of opposition judges, mass arrests, beatings and torture have been thoroughly documented by human rights organizations. Amnesty International's finding indicated the extent and brutality of abuses against opposition forces in the country:

"Hundreds of people opposed to the coup were beaten and detained by the security forces as protests erupted during the following months [after the coup]. More than 10 people were reportedly killed during the unrest. The police and military also widely misused tear gas and other crowd control equipment. Human rights activists, opposition leaders and judges suffered threats and intimidation, media outlets closed and journalists were censored. There were also reports of security force personnel committing acts of sexual violence against women and girls. Judges viewed as critical of the coup suffered a series of arbitrary transferrals and unfair disciplinary proceedings. Members of the organization Judges for Democracy, which promotes principles of fairness and transparency, formed the vast majority of those targeted." [V]

"President Lobo has publicly committed to human rights, but has failed to take action to protect them, which is unacceptable. He needs to show he is serious about ending the climate of repression and insecurity in Honduras - otherwise the future stability of the country will remain in jeopardy," said Guadalupe Marengo, Amnesty International's Americas deputy director, in a statement released in June 2010. [VI]

These serious accusations have been largely ignored by the United States mainstream press, leaving the American public in the dark about the true color of a regime that now has the support of US diplomats. Amnesty International released three reports about various abuses to the public and to journalists between August 2009 and June 2010, yet none received any notable mainstream media attention in the United States. [VII] One such report, written by a delegation sent to the country, even gave chilling firsthand testimony from those who were abused; nonetheless, the US press still did not take notice. "We were demonstrating peacefully. Suddenly, the police came towards us, and I started running," said a 52-year-old teacher named "Fernando," who was quoted in an August 2009 report. "They grabbed me and shouted 'Why do you [all] support Zelaya's government? Whether it's by choice or by force, you have to be with this government.' They beat me. I have not yet been informed as to why I am here detained."[VIII]

Human Rights Watch, the largest human rights organization based in the United States, has released 20 publications — a variety of reports, press releases and statements — documenting a wide range of abuses in Honduras between the date of the coup and September 10, 2010. [IX]

Amazingly, elite national publications in the United States have paid no attention to these reports. The New York Times has published 53 articles about Honduras since the coup in mid-2009, and Human Rights Watch was only mentioned in one of them — a September 29, 2009 article about two media stations being closed down. In the entire year since Lobo was elected, the Times has not issued an article about a single one of the 20 Human Rights Watch publications about abuses by the regime.[X] Amnesty International, likewise, has only been written about once in the Times, where it was briefly mentioned in a September 3, 2009 article. [XI]

The reason for ignoring the reports cannot possibly be because the Times editors consider Human Rights Watch reports about Latin American leaders to lack news value. When Human Rights Watch issued a report about Venezuela president Hugo Chavez – who, unlike Lobo, is opposed to the favored neoliberal economic policies of the US government - the Times dutifully published a full article about the report, titled "Report Accuses Chavez of Abusing Rights." [XII]

But the Times, it seems, is rather selective when it comes to reporting on the alleged abuses of world leaders - ignoring them when they are done by allies who share the economic worldview of the United States, and amplifying accusations against those who oppose the Washington Consensus. In fact, even when the Times did manage to mention the accusations against Lobo, they did so in the softest possible terms. Since Lobo's presidency began, the Times has mentioned human rights abuses in Honduras twice on their news pages. Once was in a June 6 article titled, "Latin America Still Divided Over a Coup in Honduras."[XIII] The only direct mention of human rights abuses was buried 20 paragraphs deep into a 25-paragraph story and merely said, "Human rights groups complain of arbitrary arrests, beatings and killings of government opponents over the past year. And seven journalists have been killed in the country in recent months, although it has not yet been determined how many of those attacks have political links." It is interesting that the Times chose to emphasize how politically divided the nation is without mentioning the harrowing data about post-coup Honduras - such as the more than 600 cases of cruel and unusual punishment, at least 23 politically motivated killings and the removal of judges critical of the coup - all of which could help provide readers important context to political realities in the country. [XIV]

The other mention was on July 27, 2010, when the Times covered a report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which expressed concern over journalists' deaths. But this report also failed to document the extent of the ongoing troubles in Honduras.[XV] Tellingly, in the online version of the article, the term "human rights violations" was hyperlinked to a previous Times article. The link takes readers to a nine-month-old article about abuses following the coup that took place before Lobo's presidency, as if to underscore how little attention the Paper of Record has paid to Lobo's abuses in the last year. [XVI]

The Washington Post likewise painted the massive violence, not as an egregious abuse of power, but rather as an example of "how difficult it is to bridge regional divisions." [XVII]

The Times' editorial page has failed to publish any editorials or op-eds condemning the human rights abuses, (as they do when Iran or Venezuela are accused of abuses), though opponents of Zelaya were given ample space in op-ed pages when the political crisis first began. [XVIII]

Pushing for International Legitimacy

While critics of the Lobo regime have been largely ignored by the media, those who wish to see the regime granted international legitimacy have been given a considerable platform in the US press. The Washington Post, for example, quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the Organization of American States (OAS) to recognize the new regime in Honduras, citing "strong and consistent commitment to democratic governance and constitutional order," from President Lobo. [XIX] The Post article, amazingly, did not bother to mention Lobo's human rights record at all, and only acknowledged that within the OAS "a majority of ministers opposed even adding the question of Honduras to the agenda." Readers were left to figure out for themselves why there was opposition to accepting Honduras into the OAS.

In fact, when the Unites States publicly came out in favor of the return of Honduras to the OAS, the mainstream media gave the development a massive degree of coverage. In addition to the Post, Reuters, the Miami Herald, The New York Times and CNN all covered US expressions of support for the new Honduran government. [XX] Readers in the U.S. were able to read plenty of praise and support for Lobo's government, but almost no substantial critiques.

The push to recognize the fraudulent regime was not surprising to those who followed the US media coverage of the November 2009 elections, which, despite voting irregularities, reports of voter intimidation and a lack of any monitoring or recognition by the bulk of the international community, were portrayed as a triumph for democracy in the country.

Despite numerous reports of widespread abuses on election day, The Washington Post called the election "mostly peaceful." [XXI] Bloomberg reported that Lobo was "elected president in a peaceful vote," to "overcome a five-month political crisis" and quoted political analyst Heather Berkman: "Honduras is definitely getting toward the end of the crisis." [XXII]The New York Times said in an editorial that there was "wide agreement" that the election "was clean and fair," despite having declared weeks earlier that "an election run by the coup plotters won't be credible to Hondurans - and it shouldn't be to anyone else." [XXIII]

This glowing portrayal of events, propagated by virtually all mainstream US media outlets, conflicted dramatically with reality. Amnesty International released several reports of voter intimidation and other problems during the elections. Almost every foreign government and election-monitoring agency in the world refused to accept the results of the election.[XXIV] Many media also misreported the turnout figures, relying on the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal's grossly exaggerated numbers of about 61 percent when in fact turnout was actually below 50 percent.[XXV] But by the time the truth came out, these false numbers had already been used to justify recognition of the sham elections by the United States and the US media. The "turnout appears to have exceeded that of the last presidential election," the US State Department said in a statement. "This shows that given the opportunity to express themselves, the Honduran people have viewed the election as an important part of the solution to the political crisis in their country."[XXVI]

In fact, US media coverage has served to help legitimize the plotters and beneficiaries of the 2009 coup from the very start. When Zelaya was forced out of office, the US media painted him as a "a leftist aligned with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela," who was ousted by the US-backed Honduran military, which was "acting to defend the law" after "months of tensions over [Zelaya's] efforts to lift presidential term limits" - efforts that "critics said [were] part of an illegal attempt by Mr. Zelaya to defy the constitution's limit of a single four-year term for the president."[XXVII] Opinion writers asked, "Who Cares About Zelaya?" who was merely a "a typical Honduran politician" with a "lust for power," whose "goal seemed to be a change from our democratic system into a kind of 21st-century socialism … a Hugo Chavez-type of government."[XXVIII]

Erasing the Coup

Since the toppling of Zelaya and now throughout Lobo's presidency, the US media has provided a narrative that has helped enable the democratic crisis in Honduras. An article in Reuters from earlier this year recently observed, quite accurately, that "Honduras is trying to erase memories of the coup," citing how "a Supreme Court judge cleared military leaders of any wrongdoing … after prosecutors accused them of abuse of power for rousting Zelaya from his bed at gunpoint." [XXIX]

Indeed, if the illegitimate Honduran government is trying to erase memories of the illegal coup and further tighten its control over the nation, it has no stronger ally than the US media.


[I] "Nations Divided on Recognizing Honduran Elections,", November 30, 2009; "Carter Center Statement on the Honduran Elections" The Carter Center, November 25, 2009.

[II] "Obama says coup in Honduras is illegal," Reuters, June 29, 2009.

[III] Michael Corcoran. "A Tale of Two Elections: Iran and Honduras," NACLA Report on the Americas 43, no. 1 (March/April 2010).

[IV] Ibid

[V] "New Honduras President must order investigation into rights abuses," Amnesty International. January 26, 2010.

[VI] Ibid

[VII] Data is from a search on

[VIII] "Honduras: Photos and testimony of protestors shows extent of police violence," Amnesty International, August 19, 2010.

[IX] Data is from a search of

[X] Data is from a Lexis-Nexis search

[XI] Ibid

[XII] Simon Romero. "Report Accuses Chavez of Abusing Rights," The New York Times, September 18, 2010.

[XIII] Marc Lacey. "Latin America Still Divided Over a Coup in Honduras," The New York Times, June 6 2010.

[XIV] Data on cruel and unusual punishment is from the Center for Prevention and Treatment of Torture, as cited by Adrienne Pine. "Honduras: 'Reconciliation' vs. Reality," NACLA Report on the Americas 43, no. 1 (March/April 2010).

[XV] Elizabeth Kaplan, "Honduras Faces Criticism Over Journalist Killings After a Coup," The New York Times, July 27, 2010.

[XVI] Article links to Elizabeth Kaplan, "Honduran Security Forces Accused of Abuse," The New York Times, October 5, 2010.

[XVII] Glenn Kessler. "Clinton Urges OAS to Let Honduras Rejoin," The Washington Post, June 7, 2010.

[XVIII] For examples of anti-Zelaya op-eds see: Roger Marin Neda, "Who Cares About Zelaya?," The New York Times, July 7, 2009.

[XIX] As quoted in: Glenn Kessler. "Clinton Urges OAS to Let Honduras Rejoin," The Washington Post, June 7, 2010.

[XX] "U.S. says time for OAS to readmit Honduras," Reuters, May 6, 2010, Mark Landler; "Clinton pleads case for Honduras," The New York Times. June 7, 2010, Jim Wyss; "OAS inches toward readmitting Honduras," Miami Herald, June 9, 2010; "Latin leaders seek unity in regional summit," CNN World. February 22, 2010.

[XXI] Mary Beth Sheridan, "Hondurans Go to Polls, Hoping to End Crisis," The Washington Post, November 30, 2009.

[XXII] Helen Murphy and Eric Sabo, "Lobo Wins Honduran Presidency After Peaceful Vote,", November 30, 2009.

[XXIII] "The Honduran Conundrum," The New York Times (editorial), December 5, 2009; "Coup, Uninterrupted," The New York Times (editorial), November 7, 2009.

[XXIV] For abuses in election see: "Independent Investigation Needed Into Honduras Human Rights Abuses," Amnesty International, December 3, 2009; for lack of acceptance from international agencies see: Alyssa Figueroa "Honduras Down the Memory Hole," Extra!, August 2010.

[XXV] Mariano Castillo, "Honduran Election Turnout Lower Than First Estimated,", December 22, 2009.

[XXVI] Ian Kelly, "Honduran Election," U.S. Department of State, November 29, 2009.

[XXVII] Elizabeth Malkin, "Honduran President Is Ousted in Coup," The New York Times, June 29, 2009.

[XXVIII] Roger Marin Neda, "Who Cares About Zelaya?" The New York Times, July 7, 2009.

[XXIX] Sean Mattson and Gustavo Palencia, "Honduran Zelaya flies into exile, ending crisis," Reuters. January 27, 2010.

The Snakes Sleep: Attacks against the Media and Impunity in Honduras

Written by Sandra Cuffe

In Honduras, there is a particular quote by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano that has been adopted into the country's rich lexicon of idioms: “Justice is like snakes. They only bite the barefoot.”

Of the thousands of human rights violations committed in Honduras since the coup in June 2009, in most cases the only serious investigations have been carried out by the grassroots organizations involved with the Human Rights Platform and the resistance movement. Very few charges have been laid against the human rights violators who ordered and carried out illegal detentions, kidnappings, beatings, torture, rape, and extrajudicial executions.

At the international level, however, there have recently been positive signals that spark the hope that justice may one day be served. Last week, the International Criminal Court announced that preliminary investigations are underway to determine whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over a case related to Honduras. Essentially, the Court is investigating whether or not war crimes and/or crimes against humanity have been committed in Honduras since the coup on June 28, 2009.

Also earlier this month, Honduras faced its Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations, a process that each UN member State undergoes every four years. Tellingly, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia did not attend because they do not recognize the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who was elected President in November 2009 in highly controversial elections that many contend were simply the prolongation of the illegitimate rule of the civic and military authorities that coordinated the overthrow of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya Rosales. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, El Salvador and Ecuador explicitly clarified that they do not recognize the government of Honduras, but intervened in the Review process nonetheless in order to support the human rights of the Honduran people.

At the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, several concerns were voiced about the impunity surrounding human rights violations in general, and the murder of journalists in particular. Nine journalists have been murdered in Honduras in 2010 to date. According to the “Death Watch” compiled by the International Press Institute (IPI), Honduras is now the second most dangerous country for journalists, second only to Mexico. Prior to 2010, the countries with the most murders of journalists were mainly countries officially deemed to be in conflict, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Somalia. When the Honduran population of less than eight million is taken into account, the statistics are exponentially more serious.

According to the IPI's research, from 1997 when the Institute started the “Death Watch” until the coup, only seven journalists were killed. At the Universal Periodic Review, UN member States demanded investigations and justice in the cases of the nine journalists killed in 2010 alone. While the final report will not be adopted until the Human Rights Council meets again to discuss the case in March 2011, the Honduran government stated its acceptance of the 129 recommendations during the Review process earlier this month. In the case of the journalists, however, the promise to investigate and to prosecute those responsible did not come without a rebuttal.

“In none of the cases investigated have the victims or their families alleged political motivations, nor have the investigations turned up evidence that such a pattern exists,” said Honduran Vice President Maria Antoineta Guillen de Bogran during the Review.

Earlier this year, in an interview with the Tribuna newspaper on May 3rd, Honduran Minister of Security Oscar Alvarez went even further, stating: “I guarantee that in all of the cases [of the journalists' murders], there is no connection to indicate that it is due to their work as journalists. That is to say that there is no person or people trying to silence journalists; it is simply that, just as other people, after their work as reporters, journalists spend their time on their own personal situations.”

Of course, as murdered journalists themselves, Gabriel Fino Noriega, Joseph Hernandez Ochoa, David Meza Montesinos, Nahum Palacios, Jose Bayardo Mayrena, Manuel Juarez, Jorge Alberto Orellana, Luis Arturo Mondragon, and Israel Zelaya Diaz are not able to contest the statements by Vice President Guillen and Security Minister Alvarez. In most cases, however, journalists who have been threatened, kidnapped, beaten, and tortured have demonstrated the clear connection between their work as critical journalists supporting or reporting on the resistance movement and the human rights violations they have endured.

In the case of direct attacks against media outlets, the evidence is clear. Most of the violent assaults against radio stations and the confiscation of equipment took place either on June 28th, 2009, the morning of the coup, or three months later, on September 28th, 2009, after a specific executive decree including more curfews and martial law also addressed media outlets. The decree established a State of Emergency and restricted several basic rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, giving authorities the green light to “halt the coverage or discussion through any media, be it verbal or printed, of demonstrations that threaten peace and public order” or that compromised the “dignity” of government authorities or decisions.

“The decree [defined] the framework of a military dictatorship,” asserted well-known radio journalist Felix Molina.

"Honduras had not seen - not even during the dirty war of the 1980s, when the military governed with a civilian facade - something like what we saw the morning of June 28th 2009, which was repeated the morning of September 28th 2009, exactly three months later. The arrival in person of soldiers to a media outlet. Confiscation. Well, on June 28th, there was no confiscation of equipment, but in September, Channel 36's equipment was destroyed and confiscated and completely confiscated from Radio Globo," explained Molina after the military assault on Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur, the only radio and television stations, respectively, with nation-wide coverage to clearly identify with the resistance movement against the coup.

"In the 24 hours after the publication of the decree in the official newspaper, the army invoked it to take away equipment and take two media outlets off the air... And we could have expected anything to happen, but as a journalist, I would have never expected that a media outlet be physically dismantled by the army, and yet that is what we saw at dawn on September 28th," said Molina.

On June 28th, in the hours after the Honduran army sprayed the house of elected President Zelaya with bullets and forced him onto a flight to Costa Rica, several radio stations around the country reporting the urgent news were targeted by the armed forces and forced off the air. That same morning, a nation-wide consultation was to have taken place for people to express their support or opposition for a fourth ballot box in the 2010 elections concerning a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. The initiative was supported and coordinated both by Zelaya and much of the Honduran social movement. Many of the media outlets that would later support the coup either simply did not report anything that morning, or reported the official version of events involving Zelaya's resignation and voluntary departure. Electrical power blackouts also occurred in much of the country.

One of the radio stations attacked and forced to stop broadcasting on June 28th 2009 was Radio Juticalpa, located in the state of Olancho, home to both ousted President Zelaya and current controversial President Lobo. When station director Martha Elena Rubi arrived before dawn, she found the windows and walls of the studio shot up from outside. The shells inside the studio were all from M-16s, the assault rifles assigned to the Honduran army. Witnesses also identified the armed forces as responsible for the violent attack, but Rubi went ahead and broadcast the news of the coup.

“We thought that this time, if we informed the people of what was really going on, we would help neutralize it. So, knowing that I was going to do this work, what they did was that when I got here, at about five thirty or five o'clock in the morning, [they thought that] I would realize that they had shot up the station and that I would be afraid and not even go on air,” said Rubi.

“I knew they were going to come,” added Rubi, “so I had little time to tell people the truth, and for the town to realize the way in which they were trying to silence what we were, in an impartial way, saying: the truth. So I knew that I was racing against the clock and I committed to getting people to wake up to reality. About two or three hours later, they came with orders for me to shut down the station.”

There was a power blackout in Juticalpa, but Radio Juticalpa had a solar plant and therefore became the only radio station on the air in the entire region. When the heavily armed soldiers were approaching, Rubi stopped her news coverage and switched to music. However, the station was forced off the air for the rest of the day. Luckily, Rubi and her colleague Andres Molina were able to prevent the army from confiscating their equipment.

Likely due in large part to the persistence of Honduran human rights organizations and mounting international pressure, Colonel Rene Javier Palao Torres and sub-official Juan Alfredo Acosta Acosta were charged with Abuse of Authority for the assault on Radio Juticalpa and sentenced to prison in Juticalpa, Olancho. The military officials appealed the verdict, however, and the sentence was overturned earlier this month by the Court of Appeals.

The number of cases in which charges have not even been laid is unfortunately far greater than those that have at least made it to court. Flying in the face of the statements by Vice President Guillen and Security Minister Alvarez, one such case is the kidnapping and torture of 29-year-old Delmer Membreno on September 28th 2009, the same day as the military attacks on Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur. A former photographer for the Tribuna newspaper and the Spanish News Agency, the resistance-supporting El Libertador newspaper photographer Membreno was forced into a vehicle by armed men in Tegucigalpa.

"They put a balaclava over my head, they handcuffed me, and they burned my body. They hit me, and they uttered threats against the newspaper I work for: El Libertador," said Membreno, with the bruises and burn marks still visible on his face and body.

"They beat me. They burned my body with cigarettes. Here [on my arm], my face, and my chest. They ripped my shirt and left me without shoes... 'Cry, cry! Why aren't you crying, you commie?' That's what they said... They said that the director better be careful, that they were following him, and that what they had done to me was nothing in comparison to what they were going to do to him," narrated the wounded photographer.

When the torture of Membreno took place, there had already been so many cases of human rights violations against journalists and media outlets that the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH) had petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for precautionary measures specifically for a long list of journalists and media outlets that had been attacked. From July 2009 on, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to a long list of journalists and media outlets; however, during two separate IACHR hearings that took place one month ago in Washington DC, evidence began to pile up that Honduras had not been carrying out the measures.

On July 24th, 2009, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to television journalist Nahun Palacios, the news director of Aguan Television on channel 5 in Tocoa, Colon, in the Aguan Valley. Palacios had immediately and publicly voiced his opposition to the coup and reported on the mobilizations against the coup and in support of the fourth ballot box and the Constituent Assembly. Only two days after the coup, on June 30th, soldiers raided Palacios' home, intimidated his family, held his children at gunpoint, and seized his vehicle and some work-related equipment.

Despite the IACHR precautionary measures granted the following month, Palacios never received any communication from the State, let alone any effective protection. Eight months later, on March 14th, 2010, 34-year-old Nahun Palacios was traveling home when his vehicle was intercepted and gunned down with AK47s, automatic weapons that are illegal but easily acquired in Honduras. Two unknown men fled the scene, leaving Palacios dead in the street, his body and vehicle riddled with dozens of bullets. Another passenger in the car was seriously injured and died later in the hospital.

As in many of the other murders of journalists this year, all of which remain unsolved, police did not carry out a proper investigation at the scene of Palacios' murder. After failing to gather sufficient evidence from the body back in March, the police exhumed Palacios' body in August, further upsetting his distraught relatives who still wait for justice eight months later, despite the State's international assurances that they are carrying out investigations and precautionary measures.

Nahun Palacios' murder in March 2010 was only one of five journalists killed that month. Due to the overwhelming impunity in the country, others have been forced to flee into exile. Many have also remained in Honduras, carrying out their vital work despite the ongoing threats and attacks.

"They can intimidate. You know, yes, of course there is fear, but I don't think that it will stop us from informing the people of the truth," said Delmer Membreno after his kidnapping and torture.

The announcement of the International Criminal Court about its preliminary investigations into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity in Honduras, as well as the ongoing pressure within the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, would not be possible without the work of the innumerable committed Honduran journalists, media outlets, and human rights organizations from day one.

For now, back in Honduras, however, the snakes of justice are far from trying their fangs out on the high-ranking military, police and political leaders behind both the coup and outrageous human rights violations. Justice may simply be sleeping like so many court cases in the country. Or perhaps Zelaya and democracy were not the only ones forced into exile at gunpoint on June 28th, 2009.

Sandra Cuffe is a writer and activist of no fixed address. After living and working in Honduras for four years from 2003 to 2007, she returned five days after the coup, and stayed through April 2010, collaborating with COFADEH and other local organizations.

Monday, November 22, 2010

World Bank-Funded Biofuel Corporation Massacres Six Honduran Campesinos

By Annie Bird

Approximately six months ago, campesino farmers in Trujillo, Colon organized in the Campesino Movement of the Aguan, the MCA, were awarded provisional title to a farm which neighbors their community, as part of a long standing negotiation with Dinant Corporation, a biofuel company, whose land claims are illegitimate.

Since that time, the small farmers worked the land. In recent weeks they had noticed incursions into their land by armed security forces employed by the biofuel company, Dinant.

On Monday, November 15, the farmers went to their fields but were then attacked by Dinant security. Six were killed in the massacre and two more are in critical condition.

The massacre occurred the same day that the de facto Honduran president Pepe Lobo had planned to meet with the director of the US government development fund, the Millennium Challenge, in Denver to ask for funding for so called "renewable energy" - in Honduras, principally biofuels and dams.

World Bank And Other "Development" Groups Share Responsibility for the Massacre

The "renewable energy" plan Lobo is shopping around may be the result of an Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) funded technical support grant (T-1101) to the de facto government ushered in after the June 28 military coup. In November 2009, under a coup government and amidst grave human rights violations, the World Bank's (WB) International Finance Corporation gave Dinant Corporation a $30 million loan for biofuel production, and now shares responsibility in the massacre.

Policies supposedly intended to stop climate change are in reality fueling climate change. The world must invest in a renewable way of life, not destructive "renewable energy". Scientists have analyzed that biofuel industry together with the climate change prevention mechanisms currently promoted could actually result in the destruction of half of the planets forests.

In the same way that massacres cannot be stopped when justice systems are destroyed by military coups, the destruction of our planet cannot be stopped when the systems of governance have been hijacked by corporations who can buy off, or that failing, militarily intervene in nations attempting to build just forms of governance. Human rights and the environment cannot be separated.

US Military Base Bought for Agrarian Reform And Stolen for Agribusiness

During the past decade, campesinos in Honduras have challenged a series of illegitimate land titles obtained by agro-businessmen in a massive former US military training center known as the CREM.

On this land, over 5,000 hectares, the US military trained military forces from across Central America, particularly the Contra paramilitary forces attacking the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Once the CREM center's operations ended, the Honduran government bought the land from a US citizen through the Honduran land reform program.

However, instead of being sold to small farmers, as the government was obligated by law to do, the land was illegally divided up between several large landholders as a result of corruption and fraudulent titling processes. A coalition of land rights organizations in Honduras organized in the Campesino Movement of the Aguan, the MCA, to challenge the illegal titles. Little by little the land titles were awarded to groups of campesinos organized in the MCA.

The titling process has been slow and marked by violent attacks by the large landholders who have influence in the government, police and military forces. Among the last of the CREM lands to remain in the hands of agribusiness interests is the farm called El Tumbador, approximately 700 hectares controlled by the Dinant Corporation, property of Honduras' most powerful agro-businessman, Miguel Facusse.

A biofuel businessman with interests in several corporations, Miguel Facusse is infamous for the use of fraudulent methods, including intimidation and violence, to obtain lands throughout the country.

The World Bank Backs The Corrupt And Violent Dinant Corporation

Since the military coup in June 2009, Honduras has been ruled by illegitimate, repressive regimes.

In November 2009, the WB extended a loan of $30 million to Dinant for its biofuel production in that region, despite a widely documented history of violence and corruption by the biofuel company. The WB failed in its human rights obligations in this case and shares responsibility for this massacre.

Given the conditions in Honduras, the WB must suspend both private and public sector funding to Honduras, and freeze funding of biofuels in the region. The biofuel industry in Central and South America violently displaces small farmers and contributes to global warming.

Another multinational public fund that finances international private investment, the Interamerican Investment Corporation, has also recently funded Dinant.

"Greenwashing" And Corporate Welfare - the Hijacking of Climate Change Funds

Biofuels are one of the fastest growing industries, a sector that sees high levels of investment from venture capitalists. This massive growth has been stimulated by taxpayer dollars pouring into renewable energy through many funding agencies, but particularly the IADB, the WB, and carbon emissions trading markets.

The trade in carbon credits was created as an element of the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997. It attempts to implement a market based system to curb global warming by levying penalties against heavy polluting industries that produce high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon burning energy generation plants. But those penalties can be paid off, or offset, by the purchase of carbon credits.

Carbon credits are given to industries that undertake activities that reduce emission of gases that generate climate change, and those can then be sold on the market to companies that generate global warming.

The system is riddled with problems, beginning with the fact that the big money to be made in "green" industry creates a big incentive to greenwash, to disguise polluting activities as activities that do not pollute in order to cash in on climate change funds.

This is the case with biofuels.

Biofuels Could Destroy Half the World's Forests

Even as governments pour taxpayer money into biofuels, it is being demonstrated that biofuel production contributes significantly to global warming, through the destruction of wetlands, displacement of small farmers and food production, often to cut forests, direct clear cutting of forests for biofuel production, and even cutting forests to generate wood pellets that make ethanol.

One study published in Science magazine in October 2009 analyzed regulation set up in the Kyoto Accords which promotes the use of biofuels, but finds that these measures could result in the loss of up to half of the world's forests.

As the negative impacts were beginning to be felt, though the extent is only beginning to be understood, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and others committed to market incentives for polluters, set up the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil.

This body certifies palm oil as having been 'sustainably' produced. In May 2010, WWF signed an agreement with Miguel Facusse's Dinant Corporation to begin the process of certifying Dinant palm oil. The WB, in November 2009, shortly after disbursing Dinant's loan, froze palm oil funding while it created its palm oil strategy, expected to be completed in March 2011.

US Corporations Could Make $27 Trillion Off "Lesser Developed Countries" Conversion to Biofuels

By the time these impacts were being seen, big corporations, with their lobbies, were drooling over the potential profits. The WWF is strongly committed to paying off big business to reduce emissions. A recent WWF study urges taxpayer money be poured into renewable energy in "lesser developed countries" (LDCs) in order to stimulate job growth in the United States.

Governments are committing to insuring that a certain percentage of fuel consumption be converted to biofuel consumption around the world but especially in "LDCs." This will generate a huge market for technology to convert engines and other existing infrastructure, which according to WWF could represent a $27 trillion dollar market for US corporations.

Faced with the powerful corporate lobby corrupting and pressuring governments around the globe, and sometimes promoting military interventions to back their interests, changing policies to really fight climate change as opposed to subsidizing corporations seems a quixotic dream, as was seen in the failed summit on climate change in Copenhagen last year.

At the 16th international summit on climate change in Copenhagan, nations agreed to set up an, as yet, unclear mechanism called the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), which would focus on curbing deforestation. Paradoxically, incentives for forest preservation are still banned, and the potential for biofuel stimulated deforestation of half of the world's forests is still not addressed.

It is important to remember that the WWF and others who believe in and promote environmental market economics have promoted a system of biosphere privatization which allows degrading activities to be carried out by private companies that subsidize non-governmental organizations that manage the biospheres, while ignoring the rights of campesino communities and indigenous peoples.

Governments Should Invest in the Poor, Not in the Super Rich

The international community's failure to substantively address climate change is a result the unwillingness to acknowledge and name the economic and political policies and actors that are responsible for climate harm.

The "free" market cannot correct the damage it has done, further investing in the same actors and under the same policy framework that generated climate change cannot reverse it.

To reverse climate change, the wealthiest nations and people of the world must change how they live. Indigenous and campesino communities have more sustainable ways of life, have learned to live in a sustainable way with the resources they produce. But they are being displaced and massacred to usher in the concentration of land and wealth, the genocide of a sustainable way of life.

Rather than subsidizing corporate mass destruction, the nations of the world must invest in a different way of life, and hold accountable those that destroy human life and destroy our only and irreplaceable, planet.

(Annie Bird is co-director of Rights Action,, Feel free to re-publish this article, citing author & source)

UN Worries Its Troops Caused Cholera in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Nov. 19, 2010

It began as a rumor that farmers saw waste from a U.N. peacekeeping base flow into a

Within days of the talk, hundreds downstream had died from cholera. The mounting
circumstantial evidence that U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal brought cholera to Haiti was
largely dismissed by U.N. officials.

Haitians who asked about it were called political or paranoid.

Foreigners were accused of playing "the blame game." The World Health
Organization said the question was simply "not a priority." But this week,
after anti-U.N. riots and inquiries from health experts, the top U.N. representative in
Haiti said he is taking the allegations very seriously.

Haiti: The Road to Recovery

"It is very important to know if it came from (the Nepalese base) or not, and
someday I hope we will find out," U.N. envoy Edmond Mulet told The Associated Press.
The answer would have implications for U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world, he
said. It would affect the relationship between the U.N. and Haiti: If its peacekeepers
misled, it could lose credibility for tasks such as helping oversee next week's election.
It could affect the job of U.N. humanitarian workers, who work separately from the
peacekeepers. It would help answer scientific questions: Is the source still out there?
How does this cholera strain spread? Does it pose a threat to the region, including the
southern United States? When riots broke out across northern Haiti this week, the U.N.
blamed them on politicians trying to disrupt the upcoming vote.

But observers say the U.N.'s early stance fanned the flames. "If the U.N. had said
from the beginning, 'We're going to look into this' ... I think that, in fact, would have
been the best way in reducing public anger," said Brian Concannon, director of the
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti. "The way to contribute to public anger
is to lie."

Before last month, there had never been a confirmed case of cholera in Haiti, and now
there are more than 1,100 dead and experts say hundreds of thousands will ultimately fall
ill as the disease haunts Haiti for years. In March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention said cholera was "extremely unlikely to occur" in Haiti.

There were no cholera bacteria there. Most foreigners were relief workers with good
sanitation who come from countries where cholera is not an issue.

Then it did happen. Even more surprisingly, it did not first appear in a major port, an
earthquake tent camp or an area where foreigners are concentrated, but instead along the
rural Artibonite River. Speculation keeps returning to that river and a base home to 454
U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal. They are perched on a babbling waterway called the Boukan
Kanni, part of the Meille River that feeds into the Artibonite.

People living nearby have long complained about the stink in the back of the base and
sewage in the river. Before the outbreak began they had stopped drinking from that
section of the river, depending instead on a source farther up the mountain. The latest
Nepalese deployment came in October, after a summer of cholera outbreaks in Nepal.

The changeover at the base, which guards the area south of the central plateau town of
Mirebalais, was done in three shifts on Oct. 9, 12 and 16.

The U.N. says none of the peacekeepers showed symptoms of the disease. But 75 percent of
people infected with cholera never show symptoms but can still pass on the disease for
two weeks - especially in countries like Nepal where people have developed immunity. The
CDC has said the strain of cholera in Haiti matches one found most prevalently in South
Asia. "It very much likely did come either with peacekeepers or other relief
personnel," said John Mekalanos, Harvard University microbiology chair. "I
don't see there is any way to avoid the conclusion that an unfortunate and presumably
accidental introduction of the organism occurred."

Haiti runs on rumors, like a 10 million-player game of broken telephone.

Last year it was the local woman said to have given birth to a fish. This year it was
cholera - all too true, even if the news came from the same places: in a group taxi, from
a cousin, from the guy on the next farm over.

On Oct. 20, the news crackled over Haitian radio: 19 people had died after fever,
vomiting and severe diarrhea at a hospital in St. Marc near the mouth of the Artibonite
River. Most were children.

A day later, the disease was confirmed to be cholera. Tele-djol - "the mouth
channel" - lit up. Some said helicopters had dropped a black powder in the river, or
that they heard poison was poured into a dam in the Dominican Republic. Others said the
epidemic was linked to the Nepalese base. The rumors were easy to ignore. Mulet said the
U.N. did not address them right away because it did not know the situation would turn
into a crisis. "It was such a minor thing, like we have every day," Mulet said.
"We didn't know this was going to be an epidemic." But the rumors got stronger
in the mouths of politicians.

Even the health minister, whose government depends on the U.N. for protection, told the
nation it was suffering from an "imported disease." On Oct. 26, U.N. spokesman
Vincenzo Pugliese put out a short statement saying that the base's septic tanks are built
to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, that the waste is dumped 820 feet (250
meters) from the river, and that the U.N. unit for environmental compliance periodically
checks waste management.

Sanitation at the base is handled by a private company, Sanco Enterprises SA, which won
the contract over the summer by underbidding a rival.

The U.N. said the septic tanks were to be emptied once a week. But when the AP visited on
Oct. 27, a tank was clearly overflowing. The back of the base smelled like a toilet had
exploded. Reeking, dark liquid flowed out of a broken pipe, toward the river, from next
to what the soldiers said were latrines.

U.N. military police were taking samples in clear jars with sky-blue U.N. lids, clearly

At the shovel-dug waste pits across the street sat yellow-brown pools of feces where
ducks and pigs swam in the overflow. The path to the river ran straight downhill.

The U.N. acknowledged the black fluid was overflow from the base, but said it contained
kitchen and shower waste, not excrement.
The U.N. said it is up to the private contractor and local mayor to ensure its dump sites
are safe.

Sanco Vice President Marguerite Jean-Louis said it is up to the mayor and the U.N.
Mirebalais Mayor Laguerre Lochard,
who is running for Senate on Sunday, said he complained several times to the U.N. that
the site was not safe but never received a response.

Jean-Louis said her company emptied the septic tanks
on Oct. 11, after the first shift of Nepalese troops arrived, and did not return again
until after the outbreak began.

At some point in mid-October, neighbors said a new Sanco driver they did not recognize
came one day and dumped outside of the usual pits.

Sanco returned to the base after the AP had been there for hours. There was more waste
than usual, Jean-Louis said, possibly because the soldiers overlapped during their

Following protests at the base days later, the U.N. opened the compound to the AP. The
Nepalese soldiers acknowledged, after repeated questions and revised statements, that the
base had undergone an extensive clean-up and that they had replaced the broken pipe.

Aboveground pipes from uphill latrines ran over a drainage canal to the river. The U.N.
spokesman acknowledged what looked like human waste at the bottom. The U.N. is now
reviewing all sanitation systems at its military, police and civilian installations,
officials told the AP this week. The U.N. said none of the Nepalese soldiers had shown
signs of cholera, which some news outlets misreported as saying the soldiers had
specifically tested negative for it. Pugliese confirmed on Oct. 30 that they had not been
tested for the disease. The U.N. also tested environmental samples the soldiers took from
the base. It says they came out negative at an independent laboratory in Santo Domingo.
But the Santo Domingo lab, Cedimat, has been under contract to MINUSTAH, the U.N.
mission's name in French, since 2004, said Dr. Maximo Rodriguez, the doctor whose name
appears on the tests.

Rodriguez is a general medicine doctor whose specialty is treating obesity. Cedimat is a
patient-treatment facility.

In fact, the test results were written on forms meant for people: The results provided to
the AP by the U.N. had the "patient's" name listed as "Minustha Minustha
(sic)" - age 40, male.

Rodriguez said "any well-equipped laboratory" can do tests for cholera.

But epidemiologists say examining environmental samples for cholera takes extra
expertise, because the disease can be hard to isolate.

"A positive test is informative, a negative test doesn't really prove
anything," said Dr. Arthur Reingold, chairman of Global Public Health and Infectious
Diseases at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health.

He is an adviser to the World Health Organization and a former CDC epidemiologist.

The idea that cholera was imported to Haiti by the U.N. carries unique implications.

For decades, and especially since the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti has depended on foreign
aid groups and the U.N. for everything from rebuilding to basic services. The U.N. has
had five peacekeeping missions in Haiti since 1993, the current one arriving six years
ago. Some Haitians see the peacekeepers as the only hope for security in a nation where
towns are ruled by drug lords and coups d'etat are more common than elections. Others
resent heavily armed foreign armies on their soil and see the soldiers as a threat to
national sovereignty and pride. The peacekeepers have saved lives in floods and defeated
kidnapping gangs.

They have also killed people in protests and accidents and had an entire unit dismissed
for paying for sex, many with underage Haitian girls.

Earlier this month, Dr. Paul Farmer, who founded the medical aid group Partners in Health
and is U.N. deputy special envoy for Haiti, called for an aggressive investigation into
the source of the cholera, saying the refusal to look into the matter publicly was
"politics to me, not science."

The CDC acknowledges politics played a role in how the investigation unfolded.
"We're going to be really cautious about the Nepal thing because it's a politically
sensitive issue for our partners in Haiti," said CDC commander Dr. Scott Dowell. The
CDC agrees that the movement of pathogens from one part of the world to another is an
important public health issue. Its scientists are working on samples of bacteria from 13
infected Haitians to sequence the cholera strain's genome, the results of which will be
posted on a public database.

But the U.S. government agency has several caveats. First, it has not taken environmental
samples or tested the Nepalese soldiers. Second, it will not go public with its analysis
until all its studies are complete. And third, it may not get enough information to say
exactly how cholera got into the country. "The bottom line is we may never
know," Dowell said. The WHO has repeatedly said the same. "At some time we will
do further investigation, but it's not a priority right now," WHO spokeswoman Fadela
Chaib said this week. But Mulet now says Farmer was right all along, and that he is
consulting with experts, including a French epidemiologist who met with him this week to
discuss how to investigate the Nepalese base. "We agree with him there has to be a
thorough investigation of how it came, how it happened and how it spread. ... There's no
differences there with Dr. Paul Farmer at all." As recently as Nov. 10, the
mission's spokesman told Haitian reporters that the U.N. was not undertaking any other
investigations because the concerns were not "well-founded." The head of the
mission said that is not the case today. "One thing I can assure you: There has been
no cover up - there has been no cover up from our side - and we have done everything we
can to investigate," Mulet said. "Eventually we will find out what happened and
how it happened."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

US Congress to Increase Aggression against Venezuela, ALBA Countries

By EVA GOLINGER, November 19th 2010

Members of the extreme Latin American rightwing, many of whom have participated in coups d’état and acts of destabilization and terrorism, held a meeting last Wednesday in Washington with high-level representatives of the US Congress. The event is evidence of an escalation in US aggression toward the region.

The new conference room in the US Congressional Visitors Center hosted a meeting titled “Danger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights, and Inter-American Security,” last Wednesday, November 17.

The subjects discussed during this spectacle hosted by the US Congress evidence an escalation in aggression against countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua – all members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) – and included “debates” centered around three primary questions:

Are democracy and human rights in danger under the “21st Century Socialism” of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia?
Does the ALBA Alliance of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua constitute a threat to US interests and inter-American security?
Is current US policy toward the region equipped to respond to the erosion of democracy and the pernicious influence of such hostile actors as Iran, foreign and domestic terrorist groups, and narcotics traffickers?
The event was sponsored by the US Congress and counted on the participation of those who head the House Foreign Affairs Committees, including Elliot Engel, New York democrat and current chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere; Connie Mack, Florida republican and incoming chairman of the same committee; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida republican and soon to be chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Ron Klein, Florida democrat and member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

The presence of democrats as well as republicans at this event opposing ALBA nations is clear evidence that Washington’s aggressive policies towards Latin America are bipartisan and official state policy of the United States government.

Members of the Latin American extreme rightwing participated in Wednesday’s event, alongside these congressional representatives, as “experts” on what they consider to be a “threat” to their regional influence and power.

From Venezuela, Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Venezuela’s Fox News affiliate, Globovision, a rabid anti-Chavez television station, gave a speech calling on Washington to respond to the “threat” posed against US interests by the government of Hugo Chavez. Zuloaga fled justice earlier this year after he was indicted by a Venezuelan court for money laundering, fraud, and illegal speculation of consumer goods. He has since requested refuge in the US and has stated he will not return to Venezuela to face the charges against him.

From Bolivia, members of the separatist terrorist groups in Santa Cruz, such as Luis Nuñez, the president of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee and Javier El-Hage, representing the nefarious Human Rights Foundation, Bolivia Chapter, participated in the event, calling for a more strident policy against the government of Evo Morales. Despite its noble name, The Human Rights Foundation is an organization created by a Venezuelan anti-Chavez activist, Thor Halvorssen, which is dedicated to attacking the government of Hugo Chávez and has called for US military intervention in Venezuela.

Alejandro Aguirre, president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), an entity run by media owners from Latin America, also participated in the event, reinforcing ties between mass media and right-wing politics in the region. Other notable participants included former USAID director for Latin America, Jose Cardenas; ex-US Drug Czar, John Walters; Joel Hirst from the powerful Council on Foreign Relations, a “shadow” government in Washington; Otto Reich, former US Ambassador to Venezuela (who freed terrorist Orlando Bosch from a Venezuelan prison cell in 1989) and ex-Sub-Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs during the 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela; and Roger Noriega, also a former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs under the George W. Bush government and a former US Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS).

All of these people have a history of hostility and aggression against the government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and have promoted, supported, and financed coups d’etats in Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras and Ecuador over the past decade, as well as perpetual attempts to undermine peace and stability in Cuba.

Representatives from neocon parties and organizations in Ecuador were also present, such as rightwing attorney Edgar Teran, and congressional representative Enrique Herreria. Former president and coup leader Lucio Guitierrez, implicated in last month’s attempt to overthrow and assassinate Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, was a star guest at Wednesday’s political gala. Guitierrez also called on US officials to take a firmer stance against the “threat of socialism of the 21st Century in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela.”

Additional sponsors of this hostile event included FUNDAPREFC, a Venezuelan organization based in Miami, created by a self-exiled Venezuelan lawyer, Yuri Lopez Perez, who defends the Caracas police commissioners sentenced for multiple homicides that occurred during the April 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela.

Several conservative think tanks from Washington and Miami also were present at the gathering.

The InterAmerican Institute for Democracy, founded in Miami by Argentine Guillermo Lousteau Heguy, whose board members include the Cuban terrorists Carlos Alberto Montaner and Armando Valladares, was another sponsor. Curiously, this Institute held an event titled “Breakfast with Lucio Guitierrez” on September 23, 2010, just one week before the attempted coup d’etat against President Rafael Correa in Ecuador that was led by Guitierrez himself.

Other hosts included US organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Center for Security Policy and the Hudson Institute; four right-wing “think tanks” which have dedicated themselves to attacking Venezuela during most recent years, publishing “reports” on the alleged “threats” from the Hugo Chevez government, and channeling millions of dollars to destabilizing sectors within the Venezuelan opposition.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen declared that Washington “should work closer with regional allies to confront the danger against democracy in Venezuela” and other countries, such as Bolivia and Ecuador. Representative Connie Mack went further in his call to action, remarking, “Now that republicans have a majority in Congress…we should confront Hugo Chavez directly.”

This event is proof that following the US legislative elections of November 2, during which reactionary republicans obtained a resounding congressional majority, Washington’s policies toward Latin America will be far more aggressive and dangerous in the months to come.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Terrorists and coup-plotters from all over Latin America to meet at U.S. Capitol building in Washington

By Jean-Guy Allard

Translation: Machetera

Almost all those scheduled to attend a meeting that will take place this Wednesday, November 17th, in a hearing room at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., have been linked with terrorism and in many cases coups d’etat and assassination attempts in Latin America.

Apparently this news was not meant to be revealed and was accidentally leaked to the Argentinean news agency Télam last Friday. The details were later confirmed by some Bolivian participants as well as other sources.

The list of the main participants whose names were leaked comprise a real who’s who of those who want to manipulate the destiny of Latin America according to the ideas that fit their neo-fascist profile.

Here they are:

1. The Cuban-American congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, whom House Republicans have chosen to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Everyone knows how this Miami daughter of an old apologist for the dictator Fulgencio Batista was elected years ago after a noisy campaign to free the Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch, and how she has shown her solidarity with other murderers of the same stripe; Luis Posada Carriles and Eduardo Arocena. Ros-Lehtinen has gone so far as to call publicly for the assassination of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and to turn Cuba into “another Iraq.”

2. Connie Mack, another Miami scorpion, who for his part controls all Latin American policy for the Republicans. Among other misdeeds, Mack also was a furious defender of Bosch, at the side of Ros-Lehtinen and George Bush’s son, Jeb Bush, now being proposed by his father to succeed Barack Obama.

3. Otto Reich, the former U.S. Ambassador in Caracas, where he managed to get Bosch out of prison in order to later “insert” him into the United States despite his long terrorist history. In addition to having been sent as a Special Envoy for Latin America by the ex-President George W. Bush, Reich is notorious for his behind the curtain manipulations of not only the 2002 coup d’etat in Venezuela but the 2009 coup in Honduras, doing more than anyone else to legitimize it. Recall that this same Reich managed the misleading office of “public diplomacy” during Ronald Reagan’s regime, fighting the Sandinistas with a battery of lies.

4. Roger Noriega, the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs during the W. Bush regime, and an eminent member of the Cuban American mafia. Noriega is so tied to the ultra-rightwing Bushes that he was also the U.S. representative before the Organization of American States. Not only a friend of Reich’s, but also of Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte and Roger Pardo-Maurer, he was part of the “team” that managed Oliver North during the badly named “Iran-Contra” operation. This “super-agent” for the CIA has even been suspected in the murder of the Maryknoll missionaries William Woods, Yado Ite Ford, Maura Clarke, and Dorothy Kazel, in El Salvador, along with Cuban Americans located in Miami and the then CIA ambassador for Venezuela in El Salvador, Leopoldo Castillo.

5. Surprise! Amongst such eminent specimens of Washington’s ultra-rightwing fauna, Alejandro Aguirre, no less, will appear! The departing president of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) and son of an admitted CIA agent, Aguirre heads the Diario Las Américas in Miami, and preaches “freedom of the press” while leading this cartel of communications moguls who jealously guard the informationa monopoly they impose on the entire continent. He was one of those who, along with Ros-Lehtinen, approved most highly of the Roberto Micheletti coup in Honduras and who repeated more than anyone else that there was NO attempted coup d’etat in Ecuador.

6. Then we have the Venezuelan camp, headed by Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of the Venezuelan television network, Globovision, putschist extraordinaire, involved in every kind of conspiracy, a fugitive from Venezuelan justice for a long list of crimes and a guest of the Obama administration in Miami, sanctuary of terrorists, corrupt politicians, murderers and torturers from all over Latin America. No doubt he will be accompanied by several examples of this squalid kind of refugee now making their homes in Florida.

7. José Cardenas, the former assistant administrator for USAID (fronting for the CIA) in Latin America, where he succeeded the Cuban American swindler Adolfo Franco, who forcefully diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars to an entire group of parasites in the “Anti-Castro” industry.

8. From Bolivia, the president of the opposition Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, Luis Núñez, and from the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), Javier El-Hage, both part of a conspiracy to assassinate the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, in April, 2009, through a terrorist commando operation led by the mercenary Bolivian-Hungarian Eduardo Rózsa Flores. The HRF was directed from New York by the Cuban American terrorist Armando Valladares, the same who later showed up in Tegucigalpa and who will surely be on hand this week at the Capitol.

A Long Guest List That Leads All the Way to Peña Esclusa

According to the Télam notice, the ex-U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Jaime Daremblum will also be on hand, now from the Hudson Institute; Joseph Humire, of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation; Jon Perdue, from the Fund for American Studies; and John Walters, the former director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy.

All are identified in Washington as part of the most recalcitrant extreme rightwing. Perdue, the pseudo-intellectual was a defense witness for the Argentine lieutenant Roberto Guillermo “El Ñato” Bravo, the author of the Trelew Massacre, who was freed from an Argentinean extradition request thanks to a judge in Miami.

Upon analyzing the brief published notice, observers note that in light of the web of names already on the list, many other names ought to be there as well; logically these would even include people linked to Alejandro Peña Esclusa, the head of the fascist brotherhood UnoAmérica, currently under arrest in Caracas for possession of 900 grams of military-grade C-4 explosive.

Still unknown are which participants will come from Ecuador, from mutilated Honduras, from Nicaragua. And from Costa Rica, where what may turn out to be the first act in another plot is already underway. Topping off the aberrant proceedings, the meeting will be held under the title “Anger in the Andes: Threats to Democracy, Human Rights and Inter-American Security.”

Meetings of those who partake in the use of violence against the progressive leaders and countries on the continent have taken place on various occasions in Miami, but this appears to be the first time that such a large number of individuals linked with the use of terror will come together on U.S. territory. Even more incredibly, within Washington itself, news of the meeting was held in the highest secrecy despite the fact that it will take place in the very meeting rooms of the House of Representatives for a country that every year, publishes an official list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism” as a means to sanction whoever opposes its attempts to dominate the world.

Jean-Guy Allard (1948, Shawinigan, Quebec) is a French Canadian journalist who as editor and reporter worked for Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec from 1971 to 2000. He retired to Cuba, and now who writes for Granma. He has written several books, including one on Robert Ménard and Reporters without Borders, and one on Luis Posada Carriles. He lives in Havana and is an expert on the Miami Mafia. Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Haiti cholera toll at 800, U.S. risk seen low

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - The death toll in Haiti's cholera epidemic climbed on Thursday to 800, according to an American medical expert, but U.S. health authorities said the risk of widespread transmission to the United States was low, given good sanitation there.

Fatalities from the diarrheal disease have risen steadily since the start of the outbreak more than three weeks ago in the poor Caribbean nation, which is struggling to recover from the effects of a devastating January 12 earthquake.

Ezra Barzilay, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the emergency in Haiti created by the epidemic was worsening.

"As of November 8, we had about 640 deaths. Today we are at 800," he said in a call from Haiti to participants at a medical conference in Biloxi, Mississippi.

"The situation here is more dire every day. Haitians are in line (for treatment). Hospital beds are gone. Hospitals are completely overrun," he said, adding local medical staff were being forced into choices over which patients they treated.

Haiti's health ministry said on Thursday that up to Tuesday, November 9, confirmed deaths from cholera totalled 724, with 11,125 hospitalized cases registered. Ten deaths had been recorded in the capital Port-au-Prince, where authorities fear contagion in crowded camps housing earthquake survivors.

Neighbouring Dominican Republic was on high alert to prevent possible transmission. In the United States, just two hours flying time away from Haiti, authorities said there was a possibility of a few cholera cases emerging through travel links. But the risk of widespread transmission was low.

"Good sanitation which includes plumbing, separation of fecal wastes and similar measures, and access to safe drinking water in the United States would work against widespread transmission," CDC spokesman David Daigle told Reuters.

On its website, the Florida Department of Health said travel to and from Haiti had increased since the Haitian earthquake with travellers including relief workers and local Haitian residents visiting family in Haiti.

"Cholera does not spread easily in developed countries such as the U.S., but we want to be sure we do not miss any high-risk situations, like cholera in a food-handler, or clusters or outbreaks," the department said.

Florida has some 241,000 Haitian-born residents, 46 percent of the Haitian-born population in the United States.

Haiti's epidemic, which experts believe was worsened by flooding caused by Hurricane Tomas this month, has piled another humanitarian emergency on the Western Hemisphere's poorest state, whose capital was wrecked by the January earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people.

Presidential and legislative elections scheduled for November 28 in the Caribbean nation are set to go ahead.

(Reporting by Joseph Guyler Delva in Port-au-Prince, Leigh Coleman in Biloxi, Maggie Fox in Washington; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Xavier Briand)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Certified Right-Wing Extremists Set to Take Control of House Foreign Affairs Panels

By Alexander Main.

In the early years of the past decade, two hard-line Cold Warriors, closely associated with radical Cuban exile groups in Florida, occupied strategic positions in the U.S. foreign policy machine. Otto Reich, former head of the Reagan administration’s covert propaganda operations in Central America, and Roger Noriega, co-author of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, took turns running the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and held other influential administration posts such as ambassador to the Organization of American States and White House Special Envoy to the Western Hemisphere.

During their years of tenure in the George W. Bush Administration, they led a zealous crusade against left-leaning governments in the region and, among other things, actively supported a short-lived coup d’Etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 and a successful coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti in 2004. Ultimately, their extreme views and outrageous antics on the international stage proved to be too much of an embarrassment even for the Bush Administration, and they both eventually were relieved of their government jobs well before the end of Bush’s term.

Now, as a result of the Nov. 2 elections, another duo of a similar ilk is poised to re-set the legislative agenda on Latin America in the House of Representatives. Cuban-American representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is expected to replace Howard Berman as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and eternally tanned Congressman Cornelius McGillicuddy IV -- otherwise known as Connie Mack -- is slated to take the reins of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere.

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl has enthusiastically celebrated the ascension of these two South Florida legislators, heralding Ros-Lehtinen as a “champion of Cuban human rights” and stating triumphantly that “one big un-American loser” of the US legislative elections will be Cuban president “Raul Castro.” To see whether there is in fact cause to celebrate, let’s have a closer look at the track records of our two protagonists.

Let’s start with human rights “champion” Ros-Lehtinen who, as her web page biography explains, was “forced to flee with [her] family from the oppressive communist regime of Fidel Castro…” On certain issues – such as gay rights and immigration reform – she comes across as fairly levelheaded. When it comes to Latin America, however, she rarely fails to take a precipitous dive into the deep end.

She is, as one might expect given her background and Miami-Dade constituency, a staunch opponent of any relaxation of sanctions against Cuba, as are a number of her Cuban-American and cold warrior colleagues. But her deep hostility towards the Latin American Left has led her to take much more disturbing positions, including the defense of terrorists and coup d’Etats. If you think I’m exaggerating, please examine some of the evidence, all of which is on the public record:

* As the New York Times noted in July 1990, Ros-Lehtinen, together with Senator Connie Mack (Rep. Mack’s father) and Jeb Bush “lobbied hard” in favor of the release of rightwing Cuban Orlando Bosch, a convicted terrorist that US officials believe to be responsible for dozens of bombings including the 1976 bombing of an airliner that killed 76 civilians. In a reversal of prior policy, the U.S. Justice Department released Bosch in Miami, where he remains free to this day.

* In April 2002, as a coup was unfolding in Venezuela, she referred to air force colonel Pedro Soto, who had been among the first officers to call for a coup against the democratically-elected government of Hugo Chavez, as a “great patriot.” Colonel Soto remains exiled in Miami.

* As the Miami Herald reported in 2005, Ros-Lehtinen and two of her Florida colleagues lobbied on behalf of another Cuban terrorist – Luis Posada Carriles – who was imprisoned in Panama for his role in a plot to kill Fidel Castro. Carriles, who is also believed to have been the mastermind of the 1976 airliner bombing, was released by the Panamanian government and is now in exile in… Miami.

* In 2006, she openly called for the assassination of Fidel Castro in an interview. Her exact words: "I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro…”

* Three days after the military coup that overthrew the democratic government of Honduras, Ros-Lehtinen delivered a letter to President Obama expressing support for the coup regime and criticizing the administration for endorsing OAS and UN resolutions condemning the coup “all for the sake of consensus.”

* Ros-Lehtinen has continued to lobby tirelessly for the Honduran regime, hosting coup government delegations in Washington and standing in solidarity with 2009 coup leader Roberto Micheletti[i]. When, to the disappointment of progressives in Congress, the Obama administration decided to support the coup regime and throw its weight behind the controversial government of Porfirio Lobo, Ros-Lehtinen continued to lobby the State Department to do more to defend Lobo internationally.

Connie Mack is relatively young and has only been in office since 2005. Consequently, he has had less time to cozy up to terrorists and coup regimes. However, he has made impressive efforts to prove his extreme right-wing credentials. He has focused in particular on the grave “threat Venezuela’s Communist President Hugo Chavez poses to the U.S. and our allies in the region.”

* In March 2008, Mack and Ros-Lehtinen introduced House Resolution 1049 calling on the U.S. administration “to add Venezuela to the list of states which sponsor terrorism…” Realizing that such an initiative would have disastrous consequences for U.S. relations throughout the region, Republican Senator Richard Lugar put out a report criticizing the measure. In the end, Mack managed to muster the support of only 8 other representatives and the resolution was quickly shelved.

* Eager to outdo Ros-Lehtinen on Honduras, Mack engaged in his own intense campaign to support the coup regime, starting with a July 2009 resolution condemning the recently ousted democratic president Manuel Zelaya for having “trampled” his country’s constitution. He went on to write a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her not to accept Zelaya’s return to power and then led a Congressional delegation to Honduras and subsequently criticized the U.S. administration’s official condemnation of the coup.

* Never one to call it quits, in October of 2009 Mack introduced another resolution calling for Venezuela to be placed on the state sponsor of terrorism list and this time collected the co-sponsorship of 37 other Congressional members. It was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and promptly shelved by the Democratic Committee chair.

* Mack has also growled at Bolivia’s indigenous president Evo Morales who, he says, has, together with Chavez, “sought and won constitutional changers (sic) which quash their opposition and concentrate their power.” Similarly he put out a press release on Ecuador’s independence day last year that referred to Ecuadorian President Correa as “nothing more than a pawn for his fellow friend and thugocrat, Hugo Chavez.”

Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Mack and Ros-Lehtinen’s extremism isn’t limited to this hemisphere. Both representatives have warm relations with Israel’s right wing and are among Congress’ most strident hawks on Iran. Unsurprisingly, therefore, they have depicted the deepening of relations between Iran and various Latin American countries – in particular Venezuela – as a threat to “our critical security interests”. Last year Ros-Lehtinen introduced a 45-page bill “to enhance the security of the Western Hemisphere” that cited Iran 24 times. Mack, meanwhile, has said that "the growing influence of Iran in the Western Hemisphere reminds me of the relationship between Russia and Cuba when we dealt with the Cuban missile crisis." Indeed, if you replace “Iran” with “the Soviet Union” in the statements of the two Florida legislators you can quickly be transported to the Cold War era.

The real question, of course, is whether having these certified right-wing extremists heading up the Foreign Affairs Committee and Western Hemisphere Subcommittee will necessarily set U.S. policy towards Latin America on a more aggressive course. Without a doubt, Ros-Lehtinen and Mack will use their new powers as committee chairs to hold an increased number of Congressional hearings that target Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and other left-leaning countries. They will make certain that legislation that aims to ease travel restrictions to Cuba is stopped dead in its tracks. They are also likely to promote resolutions and legislation that seek to impose sanctions and interventionist measures against these countries to punish them for their alleged anti-democratic or anti-American actions. However, though moves such as these may make a lot of noise, more extreme legislative proposals will surely run into the brick wall of the Democratically-controlled Senate and, failing that, President Obama’s veto. Or will they?

Democratic leaders may have more nuanced rhetoric when it comes to relations with the rest of the region, but they have often stood idly by while the Obama administration has carried out aggressive, unilateralist policies reminiscent of the Bush era. Only two Congress members, Senators Patrick Leahy and Christopher Dodd (who is retiring from the Senate this year), voiced concern regarding an agreement with Colombia that would increase the U.S. military presence there and sparked outrage throughout the governments of South America. On the hemisphere’s most contentious issue of the past two years – the coup in Honduras – they have by and large not spoken out against the administration’s weak response to the coup, despite the alarm raised by their more progressive Democratic colleagues. The administration, meanwhile, was equipped with the convenient excuse that Republican hardliners were bearing down on them with relentless pressure and forcing their hand.

The danger therefore, more than the direct threat posed by Ros-Lehtinen or Mack’s legislative powers, may be the fact that their noisy rhetoric and zany capers will provide additional cover for both the administration and moderate Democrats to plow ahead with a hemispheric agenda which merely recycles the failed policies of the past administration. The Post’s Jackson Diehl can sleep soundly knowing that the South Florida pair will play an important role in keeping US relations with Latin America as poisoned as ever.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

We Must Stop Climate Change and We Can Do it in Cancun

By Claudia Salerno

Article published by AlterNet on November 3, 2010. If anyone wants to reprint it, please visit original Web site.

Venezuela’s lead negotiator on climate change writes that protecting the earth’s climate is quite achievable if there is the political will to do so.

As Venezuela’s lead negotiator on climate change, I recently participated in a preparatory round of negotiations in China leading up to the global summit in December in Cancun, Mexico. This summit will take up where the 2009 Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change left off.

Much has been said in the media about the meeting, and one thing is certainly true – there is plenty of frustration and uncertainty about the possibility of achieving an agreement on climate change by year’s end. But this does not mean it is impossible.

In fact, it is quite achievable if there is the political will to do so. Developed countries need only to commit to fulfilling their existing first period reduction obligations established by the Kyoto Protocol and pledge to substantially reduce and reabsorb their domestic greenhouse gas emissions in accordance to a second commitment period to be established in Cancun.

According to almost all scientific studies, we know that entire nation states like Tuvalu are destined to literally sink into the sea as a result of global warming. In South America, mountain tops where snow used to fall and glaciers form have gone barren. Even U.S. governmental agencies report that this past decade is the warmest one ever experienced by mankind.

We are approaching a critical time in human history, one where we can either move forward to reverse the effects of climate change or continue down a path that will soon become irreversible and destroy our planet. If global warming increases by more than two degrees Celsius in coming years, as will surely happen if no reasonable and fair agreement is reached quickly, there is a 50 percent chance that the damage caused will be irreversible.

Unlike what many suggest, China is not the problem. China, along with India and others, have made considerable commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are already working to realize them. Other developing countries have done the same, although we only generate a virtual drop in the bucket of global carbon emissions. The key player missing here is the U.S.

I had the great opportunity this week to spend time with U.S.-based environmentalists, climate experts and policy makers while speaking at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C. and participating in a panel discussion at Boston College. It seems clear to me that the American people do not want a repeat of the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, where a proposal made by a small number of powerful countries would have allowed for a disastrous 3-4 degree rise in temperature over the next 30 years. (Fortunately, Venezuela and some other countries opposed this proposal).

The American people want progress and they want action – and they want it this year. “How many climate catastrophes are acceptable before we act?” I asked during my talk. One responded, “Hurricane Katrina was already too much. We are still suffering from that.”

In the world of global negotiations, I can tell you, one more round of talks without real commitments will also be one beyond what our planet can afford. While it is absurd for us to believe that all the nations of the world will agree on everything, we must act on what we already agreed on in 1992 at the Framework Convention: developed countries’ greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced. As President Obama said last year in Copenhagen, “It’s better for us to choose action over inaction.”

I truly hope the U.S. will act upon this sentiment in Cancun and join the rest of the world in fully committing to aggressive action to stop climate change. For the sake of humanity and our planet, nothing less will do.

Claudia Salerno is Venezuela’s Presidential Envoy for Climate Change.