"In [the country] right now there is a military-business regime, with a little bit of democratic makeup."
This sounds like an excellent -- indeed, near-perfect -- description of the true state of the United States in these degraded days of ours. While the sinister comic opera of factional in-fighting amongst the elite provides an increasingly thin and cracked patina of democracy, the militarist-corporatist machines continue their ravenous devouring of the fat of the land and the flesh of the weak.
But, as it happens, the quote comes not from an observer of the American scene, but from a Honduran activist -- one of many trying to fight off the depredations being visited upon their land by the repressive, coup-born regime now backed to the hilt by the progressive champion of human rights and world peace in the White House.
The National Front of Popular Resistance, a coalition of hundreds of diverse civil society groups, was born out of last year's coup d'état – when the military kidnapped then president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales [whose heinous crimes included raising the pitiable minimum wage to a slightly less pitiable level], and forcibly exiled him and his family from the country. The rupture of the constitutional order in Honduras, Latin America's first and only 21st century coup, unleashed a violent campaign of repression across the country under the coup government of Roberto Micheletti. That wave of violence and generalised impunity, largely directed against opponents of the coup regime, continues to this day under the government of president Porfirio Lobo, elected last November while the country was under a state of siege, in an election to which the UN and the OAS didn't even bother to send observers, and which a plurality of Latin American governments have refused to acknowledge.
"In Honduras right now there is a military-business regime, with a little bit of democratic makeup," Gerardo Torres, a Honduran activist visiting the United States Social Forum last week, told me. "But what people need to know is that more assassinations are happening now during the 'democratic' rule of President Lobo than during the era of Micheletti. When Micheletti ran the coup government, killings of students or resistance members were at least controversial, they made the international news. But the international news media has moved on – which is sad since now they're killing journalists."
Indeed, in 2010 at least eight journalists have been killed in mysterious circumstances in Honduras, all of them critics of the coup and/or of powerful business interests in the country. None of those murders have been solved ... Dozens of anti-coup activists, members of the National Resistance Front, and union activists have also been murdered in the last year, often in broad daylight by men wearing masks or dressed in fatigues. The era of the death squad, that ignominious feature of Latin American state terrorism of the 70s and the 80s, appears to have made a come back in Honduras.
Yes, Barack Obama's famed "continuity" with his predecessors goes far beyond his avid, almost erotic embrace of George W. Bush's Terror War atrocities (foreign and domestic). In Latin America, it goes back to the glory days of Ronald Reagan, when American-backed, American-trained death squads and military juntas slaughtered thousands of people and stripped their people to the bone with the scorched-earth economics of oligarchy. (An ancient, barbaric system now being energetically imposed throughout the "developed" world, under the cover of "deficit reduction.") But of course, Reagan himself was standing on the shoulders of giants when it came to his Latin America policies, simply soldiering on in the proud tradition of Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, James K. Polk and other paragons now chiseled in history's alabaster.
When the coup struck, the Obama Administration, in a passing nod to the progressive peanut gallery, made a few disapproving noises, and even went so far as to suspend overt military aid for awhile. But after the coupsters rigged up its Potemkin election, it was back to business as usual for the avatars of hope and change:
[S]adly, but predictably, the US appears to have sided with the death squads. "Now it's time for the hemisphere as a whole to move forward and welcome Honduras back into the inter-American community," the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said earlier this month, imploring other members of the Organisation of American States to re-admit Honduras to the organisation.
And while hypocrisy in foreign policy is hardly news, it's worth noting here that the US state department released a harshly worded statement earlier this month chastising the Venezuelan government's "continuing assault on the freedom of the press" following that country's issuance of an arrest warrant for a media tycoon. A week later, with no fanfare and not a word about press freedoms, the US resumed military aid to the pariah government of Honduras.
That aid will doubtless come in handy as the new, Obama-backed death squads face down a burgeoning resistance, which has moved beyond the single issue of Zelaya's overthrow:
"A lot of people can't quite understand a movement that doesn't revolve around a caudillo," Gerardo tells me. "This resistance movement is wide and complex. We have feminists working with Christian activists, who are working with labour activists. Zelaya is important, but the popular movement more so. And we think the repression has built up because those who have always run the country are scared, and this is their desperate response. Them with their arms, us with our ideas."
Desperate they may be; but with the full-throated support of the world-straddling military-business regime to the north, and its hoary tradition of throttling any ideas that might threaten the feudal privileges of oligarchy, the Honduran coup caudillos will likely have a good, long -- and bloody -- run.