A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Posts tagged ‘Honduras’


Photo courtesy of NBC news.

Photo courtesy of NBC news .

As we move toward November 4th and head to the polls I wanted to share a perspective that is often left out of the mainstream media. Jerry Large, columnist for the Seattle Times, drawing on the work of Professor Dana Frank, offers another look at the more than 68,000 children that fled to our border just this year. Professor Frank and Jerry Large offer us a glimpse into the worlds edited from our nightly news. As we get ready to select a new group of leaders who will make decision on issues like immigration, it can be helpful to hear the voices typically left out of the conversation.

“U.S. Has Hand in Honduran Mess” (Reprinted from the Seattle Times)

Things have gotten much worse since Dana Frank had an opinion piece published in The New York Times with this headline: “In Honduras, a Mess Made in the U.S.

This year, more than 68,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended after crossing the southwestern border of the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The vast majority are from three Central American countries, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Frank, a history professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, says the U.S. is partly to blame for the flood of youngsters.

I spoke with Frank last week before she spoke about the situation at the University of Washington. She lived in Seattle in the 1980s when the headlines about Central America were about wars that raged between U.S.-supported right-wing forces and leftists backed by the Soviets and Cubans.

She thought we’d learned some things from our involvement there in the 1980s, but we are back. Last time the Cold War was the justification and this time it’s the War on Drugs, and it seems, she said, that the more we support a government, the worse conditions get. Not surprising because we always seem to be in bed with the worst sort.

Her research focus has been on Honduras, which she said has been most tied to U.S. influence. The U.S. is particularly intent on preserving that relationship, she said, because in recent years some countries in Central America have elected left-center governments that are exercising more independence from U.S. influence.

Frank was researching a book on Honduras in 2009 when the elected government was overthrown in a military coup. The current president is Juan Orlando Hernandez, whom she calls “a dangerous Machiavellian thug.”

Frank said the coup changed her life and the direction of her work. People she knew were being arrested and mistreated. “I asked myself, what can I do? What powers do I have? What is my moral responsibility?”

Before the coup, Frank had researched labor issues. Her first book was “Purchasing Power: Consumer Organizing, Gender, and the Seattle Labor Movement.” She’d first gone to Central America at the invitation of women in banana-worker unions.

But after the coup she started paying attention to U.S. policy in the region, studying it in detail and building expertise. She knew how to gather and analyze facts, and how to present them in academic papers, books, newspaper articles and public testimony. She put all of her skills to use.

In recent years she has testified before Congress, the Canadian Parliament and the California Assembly about human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras.

She told me those children at the border aren’t coming in search of economic gain or in pursuit of the American dream. They are fleeing the brutality of their homelands. The numbers of children and adults fleeing grew rapidly as Honduras became the murder capital of the world, she said.

Their well-being is threatened by drug gangs, by the police and the military. The U.S. sends at least $25 million a year in aid to the government and yet, she said, drug dealers are present at every level of government.

Most of the people fleeing are coming from Honduras, and the Obama administration’s response has been to offer the government there more help and to try harder to seal our own borders.

Frank says we shouldn’t see the children as a threat to us, but ask instead whether we have helped disrupt their lives.

She believes Congress can be persuaded to push for change in our Central America policies if people here become aware of the situation there, and the role the U.S. plays in it, and then press their representatives to act.

Hondurans wouldn’t leave in droves if their country were economically stable and more humane. U.S. trade policies and financial support for the police and military are part of the problem.

And, she said, we could more effectively deal with drugs though legalization and treatment here.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com




Honduras: the struggle continues

An action to help Honduras and a chance to listen to one of its top human rights defenders, Bertha Oliva !

Help is urgently needed to encourage more Members of Congress to sign the Dear Colleague letter being circulated in the House of Representatives by Rep. Farr (CA).  Only 10 Members of Congress have signed as of this morning.

It’s a strong letter registering concern for human rights and calling for suspension of US aid to Honduras, particularly police and military assistance. Deadline for signing is Wed., Oct. 13th.  Given the holiday weekend, the time for a full court press would be Tuesday morning.

Signers so far:  Reps. Farr, Woolsey, Schakowsky, Jesse Jackson, Jr.;  Danny Davis, Stark, Oberstar, Rush, Hank Johnson; Kucinich

Members to pursue:  all Members could be contacted, but the following represent a priority as they signed a June 2010 Dear Colleague but have not yet signed the current one:  McGovern, Honda, Lee, Grijalva, Payne, Conyers, Pingree, Olver, Miller, Neal, Gwen Moore, Baldwin, Edwards, Capuano, Lynch, James Moran, Markey, Delahunt, DeLauro, Tierney, Serrano, McCollum, and Rush.

It may be that the supportive Representatives mentioned above and their key staff are back in local districts focused on the upcoming election—but calling them could make all the difference in elevating the letter for their sign on.  As indicated below, to sign on they should contact Caitie Whelen in Rep. Farr’s office.

Below is a link to an action alert by U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project:

USLEAP Action Alert: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1618/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4943
USLEAP website article on Honduras (includes more details): http://usleap.org/action-alert-strengthen-congressional-opposition-us-policy-honduras-0

Whitewashing a coup…elections in Honduras

Dear All – This past week 8th Day Center for Justice staff member Erin Cox went with a delegation to Honduras to serve as a protective international presence for the Honduran people wishing to peacefully boycott the elections held this past Sunday.

Honduran civil society has called for a boycott on elections for several important reasons.

One: The coup that unseated the democratically elected Zelaya has not been addressed – the Honduran government has refused to follow requests made by international bodies – including the U.S. – most importantly to recognize Zelaya as the legal leader of Honduras.

Two: A high level of repression by military and police forces has erupted in Honduras since the coup. This has included the enforcing of a curfew, detainment, arrests, torture, and the death of 22 peaceful protesters at the hands of the military and police. How can a democratic election take place when people are being arrested for exercising their right to dissent?

Three: The country has existed in such chaos for the past several months there has been no ability for a normal campaign process to happen. Citizens have not been given a chance to educate themselves and choose between a diversity of candidates.

The reports we have received from Erin have been serious and heart breaking. The police and military were out in huge numbers. They used rubber bullets, tear gas and physical intimidation to prevent peaceful protests. They forcibly arrested leaders of social movements before the day of election on trumped-up charges as well as asking  mayors for “lists” of organizers in their communities so these individuals could be “targeted” before Sunday’s elections. And in communities where people were boycotting the vote they used intimidation and threats to force people to the polls.

Democratic? Transparent? Legal? Why is the United States recognizing these elections? Please check out the link below (it is a cartoon story that depicts the lead up to the coup…very useful tool!) and an action to call the White House and State Department and demand we do not recognize this election.

Remember, if the election is seen as legal then all of our military aid will once again flow to Honduras. Do we want to fund a regime that disappears social leaders, tear gasses peaceful assembly, intimidates voters and flies their legally elected President out in the middle of the night? I am thinking no…Much Peace Liz


Action:  At April’s Summit of the Americas, President Obama promised Latin America’s leaders a new relationship with Latin America. However, instead of a new direction, President Obama has deeply undercut his promise by failing to take timely, effective action in concert with the OAS to reverse the illegal coup in Honduras.

Equally cynical is the promised U.S. recognition of scheduled coup-regime elections, despite opposition by the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), the 23-member Rio Group, and an active national coup resistance movement within Honduras .

Add to this mix the placement of seven (that’s 7!) new military bases in Colombia and certification that Mexico and Colombia have complied with human rights conditions to receive U.S. military aid despite comprehensive evidence to the contrary. Change we can believe in? Sadly, it does not even appear on the horizon.


Through these actions, President Obama and his top advisors risk driving a whole new generation of Latin Americans to become mistrustful of and hostile to the United States.



For this reason, each of us must give voice in the USA to the courageous civilian coup resistance in Honduras, and human rights defenders in Colombia and Mexico!

To start, please contact President Obama and the State Department this week urging them to reject these coup regime-sponsored elections and their results, and to instead encourage constitutional reform in Honduras to make more inclusive participatory democracy a reality.

Call the White House: (202)-456-1111 or (202)-456-1414   (to email go to www.whitehouse.gov )

Call the State Department: (202) 647-4000 (to email go to www.state.gov)


Standing with the people of Honduras…

Dear All – I am including below an action alert from the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America. It describes the situation in Honduras and a simple action to take to support the people of Honduras to ensure the democratic process is up held.

The situation in Honduras is very fragile and will require active engagement from the international community to ensure that this coup does not stand. The United States bears a special responsibility because we trained the General that led the coup at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. A military training “school” that has been behind some of the worst dictators and human rights violations in Latin American history.

While we stand with the people of Honduras we can ask our own government how a school that claims a “human rights” curriculum continues to graduate dictators. Much Peace Liz

CRLN Action Alert

Early Sunday morning democratically-elected Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya was ousted from the Presidential palace in a military coup orchestrated by Honduran General and SOA graduate Romeo Vasquez. The coup took place after several weeks of tension within the country between President Zelaya and other branches of government over a referendum planned for Sunday. Yesterday at 5 a.m. the Honduran military, under General Vasquez’s direction, stormed the Presidential Palace and forced President Zelaya onto a plane which landed in Costa Rica. CRLN received reports that the military has set up curfews and roadblocks throughout the country, cut off public television and community radio, and limited electricity supply to the capital Tegucigalpa.

Later on Sunday, the right-wing Honduran Congress voted the head of Congress, Roberto Michelleti into the presidency. Meanwhile, the Organization of American States (OAS) has stated that: “no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized.” The OAS, the European Union (EU), several Latin American governments and U.S. State Department have all publicly condemned the coup. For statements from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the OAS and U.S. human rights organizations, click here: http://www.lawg.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=447


Call the State Department & the White House! CRLN urges the U.S. government to take immediate action and make their condemnation of the coup loud and clear. When you call, say that you are deeply concerned about the recent military coup in Honduras and that you want the U.S. government to take the following three positions:

  1. Refuse to recognize the new, unconstitutional government;
  2. Call for the immediate re-instatement of Honduran President Zelaya to office; and
  3. End all U.S. military aid as a result of the Honduran military’s serious violation of the country’s democratic order.

State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339
White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414

For decades, the Honduran military has been a heavy recipient of U.S. aid. Since 1998 Honduras has been the fourth largest feeder of students to the School of the Americas/WHINSEC. Just days before Sunday’s coup, our U.S. Representatives voted yes on an amendment to release the names of graduates and instructors of the SOA/WHINSEC. Thank your representative if they voted for this important amendment! The fact that General Vasquez, the leader of Honduras’ military coup was an SOA graduate is yet one more reason why transparency in U.S. government institutions, as well as the closure of the SOA/WHINSEC, is critical. For the full results of the vote, click here http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll454.xml

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