The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Panamá City, Panamá, Thursday, July 23, 2009

After my blog yesterday about the Honduran military putsch, I was criticised for supporting the elected government of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. “After all, he tried to extend his term of office without changing the constitution” (which does not allow this).

The truth is that President Zelaya was elected for one term on a reform ticket. He has about six months left in his term of office; the constitution allows only one consecutive term as president. Zelaya, however, was preparing to conduct a non-binding plebiscite, i.e., a straw vote of the people, as to whether they would like to have the constitution re-written by a democratically-elected constitutional convention. As mentioned, whatever the results of the plebiscite, they would be non-binding. This proved to be far too threatening to the old rulers.

The Honduras Army was given the task of carrying out the balloting. The General in command refused and President Zelaya thereupon relieved him of command for disobeying rightful orders. The Supreme Court, strangely, adjudicated the dismissal, though not the reason for his resistance, as unconstitutional. Supported by local and international business interests, i.e., the same old elite that has always run Honduras (if evidence made available in D.C. is to be believed, both in part for the benefit of, and with the active backing and assistance of the U.S. Military, the State Department and the White House. Anyway, the Army then arrested President Zelaya and escorted him to the Costa Rican frontier. When he tried to return, the airport runways were blocked by military vehicles.

Meanwhile, citizens in Honduras went onto the streets to demonstrate for their political and civil rights and ‘their’ president. The Army responded by shooting people, arresting and beating others, imposing night-time curfews, closing down critical media - in other words, the usual panoply of tactics regularly used by putchistas who have no broad support amongst the citizenship. Remember, these officers all attended the infamous School of the Americas which has its campus in their own country.

The Honduras military immediately hired some high-powered lobbyists in Washington, guys with close ties to the Clintons, for example. They have already bamboozled most U.S. readers into thinking that President Zelaya illegally extended his term of office, when all he did was propose a non-binding plebiscite to see if the voters wanted to discuss a new constitution.

American meddling in Honduras and Nicaragua has been documented beyond any doubt. Honduras was the home of the famous School of the America, where military officers were trained to stop worrying about attacks from outside and to focus their violence on their fellow citizens, who were seen to be traitors because they wanted civil rights, social progress, a more equitable distribution of wealth and political power. It is time to correct the misleading information being put about.

More importantly, President Obama’s Administration must quickly condemn this breach of democracy, and if necessary cut the 70% of Honduran trade that is done with the U.S.A. (even if this hurts U.S. commercial interests), freeze Honduran bank accounts, etc. It is time for the U.S.A. finally to come down on the side of democracy, civil rights and the rule of law in Latin America.

Nearly all of Latin America has been becoming more and more truly democratic over the past 15-20 years. Where electorates have spoken, the overall trend nearly everywhere has been to mildly-leftwing governments (i.e., not Castro-ite, soviet-style governments). This has resulted not only in much broader support amongst the heretofore largely disenfranchised populaces. It has also led to much better economic numbers, e.g., a reduction in poverty; more kids in school; better healthcare; much improved housing and infrastructure, etc. etc. Mr. Zelaya, the democratically-elected president of Honduras, is also a leader with such a mandate despite the fact that he has not actually made much headway. He is obviously seen as a threat by the old elites and their military henchmen. The old elites have traditionally maintained excellent contacts to all U.S. administrations; they know how to massage the message.

Nothing in these progressive trends across Latin America should be understood as threatening to the U.S.A. since, indeed, the U.S. electorate itself has asked for just these measures by electing Obama and a Democratic Congress. Despite the democratically driven reform movement across Latin America, the old elites are still there. Unless Washington joins the E.U. and the OAS in demanding an end to the putsch and a return of President Zelaya to Honduras and to office, the forces of darkness will be strengthened and the democratic trend perhaps stifled in its puberty.


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