In the north of Honduras, in the community of San Manuel Cortés, three peasants were killed and two others wounded on Friday, when they tried to enter the lands that were expropriated last year by the Instituto Nacional Agrario (National Agrarian Institute). Valentín Caravantes, Celso Ruiz y Celedonio Avelar, who died at the scene, were members of the Farmers’ Movement of San Manuel Cortés (MOCSAM), located about 200kms from the capital.
The men entered the land because they obtained an order from the Court of Criminal Appeals, which stated that the evictions carried out in February 2012 against MOCSAM were illegal, reports the National Popular Resistance Front of Honduras (FNRP). “Security guards from the Honduran Sugar Company (CAHSA) fired at the three farmers,” FNRP added.
Brothers Aníbal and Adolfo Melgar were also seriously injured in the shooting and were immediately taken to a hospital in the municipality of San Pedro Sula.
For three years now MOCSAM has been demanding more than 3,000 acres of land which is currently possessed by the CAHSA company and exceeds 250 acres, the maximum a person or a firm can own in Valle de Sula under the country’s agrarian law.
The incident is the latest in a long series of clashes, which have ended up with many deaths over the past few years. In February, more than 1,000 peasants took back land after being expelled by British/South African beverages multinational SAB Miller in August 2012. And earlier this year, in March, the ongoing conflict between farmers and the Honduran government has resulted in the eviction of over 1,500 people from their land in the south of the country.
- The New York Times on Venezuela and Honduras: A Case of Journalistic Misconduct
- Senator Menendez Meets with President Lobo to Discuss U.S. Funding for Honduras
- Honduras: Terror in the Aguán
- Will the World Bank Stop Investing in Campesino Assassinations?
- Killings Continue in Bajo Aguán as New Report Documents Abuses by U.S.-Trained Honduran Special Forces Unit
- Honduras: Murdered Lawyer’s Brother Killed in Aguán
- Step by Step: Honduras Walk for Dignity and Sovereignty
- World Bank Must End Support for Honduran Palm Oil Company Implicated in Murder
In the last ten years, the expansion of corporate sugarcane and oil palm plantations in northern Guatemala has encroached on the lands of Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous people—many of whom fled to this region during the country’s 36-year genocidal war. These plantations have already displaced hundreds of families—even entire communities—leading to increased poverty, hunger, unemployment, and landlessness in the region. The companies grabbing land are controlled by European-descendent Guatemalan oligarchs who are benefitting from rising global commodity prices for food, animal feed, and fuel (biodiesel and ethanol). In the face of violent expulsion and incorporation into an exploitative system, peasant families are struggling to access land and defend their resources as the basis of their collective identity as Q’eqchi’ peoples or R’al Ch’och (“sons and daughters of the earth”).
AP Investigation: U.S. Spends $20 Billion Over 10 Years on Increasingly Bloody Drug “War” in Latin America; Rejects Drug Policy Reform
It started in Colombia in 2000, moved on to Mexico in 2008 and now rages in Central America. Since the beginning of the century, the U.S.-backed “war on drugs” has progressively spread throughout the northern part of Latin America, leaving tens of thousands of lost lives in its wake. An in-depth investigative piece published by the Associated Press over the weekend explains how this so-called “war” – which relies on U.S. funding, training, equipment and troops – has grown in recent years to become “the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War.”
The article, authored by Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Martha Mendoza, describes how the U.S. has “spent more than $20 billion in the past decade” and deployed U.S. army, marine and navy troops to support a heavily militarized campaign to fight drug trafficking throughout the region. The fact that the efforts have been accompanied by soaring violence – with, for example, 70,000 Mexican lives lost in the last six years – doesn’t seem to trouble the U.S. officials in charge of implementing U.S. drug policy internationally. In fact, they seem to consider spikes in violence to be a sign that the “strategy is working.”
William Brownfield who heads the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told Mendoza that “the bloodshed tends to occur and increase when these trafficking organizations… come under some degree of pressure.”
For others in Washington, the shocking number of lives lost suggests that the strategy is in fact not working. New York Congressman Elliot Engel, a moderate Democrat who is now the ranking minority member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the AP that he supports a congressional review of counternarcotics programs in the Western Hemisphere.
“Billions upon billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent over the years to combat the drug trade in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said. “In spite of our efforts, the positive results are few and far between.”
Particularly worrying is the fact that the administration seems to be unable to account for enormous sums that have been authorized to be spent on military equipment. The article notes that,
neither the State Department nor the Pentagon could provide details explaining a 2011 $1.3 billion authorization for exports of military electronics to Honduras — although that would amount to almost half of all U.S. arms exports for the entire Western Hemisphere.
The first major militarized anti-drug campaign that the U.S. supported in the region was Plan Colombia in 2000, and the U.S. administration frequently presents that initiative as a shining example for the region given that homicide rates and cocaine production have fallen in that country. But this assessment disregards the tragic “side effects” of the Colombian campaign, including thousands of abuses carried out by the Colombian military and by paramilitary groups, and the displacement of millions of poor Colombians from their lands. Furthermore, Colombia continues to be one of the top cocaine producers in the world and is still the number one exporter of cocaine to the U.S.
Today Central America is increasingly the focus of U.S. militarized counternarcotics programs. As the New York Times revealed in early May of last year, tactics and personnel that were previously used in Iraq and Afghanistan have been transferred to Central America, including the DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) that first operated in Afghanistan.
Only days after the Times article was published, four innocent villagers – including a pregnant woman and a 14-year-old boy — were killed in an anti-drug operation in northeastern Honduras which involved at least ten FAST team agents. The killings were denounced by human rights groups in Honduras and the U.S., particularly after it became clear that the victims had been abandoned by authorities and that the Honduran attorney general’s investigation of the incident was deeply flawed. Consequently human rights groups and 58 members of Congress have called on U.S. authorities to carry out a full investigation of the incident to determine what role may have been played by U.S. agents.
As a result of this and other recent incidents, $30 million in aid to Honduras has been put on hold by Congress, according to Mendoza. Yet, she notes, “there are no plans to rethink the strategy.” Instead, Brick Scoggins, who manages counternarcotics programs at the Defense Department, told Mendoza: “It’s not for me to say if it’s the correct strategy. It’s the strategy we’re using (…) I don’t know what the alternative is.”
President Obama and Vice President Biden cannot pretend to be as unaware of alternatives to the administration’s “war on drugs.” In recent multilateral meetings, both Obama and Biden were asked by regional leaders to reconsider the current militarized approach to fighting drugs and to consider paths toward drug decriminalization or, at the very least, to consider placing a greater focus on reducing demand for drugs in the U.S. and treating the drug problem as a public health issue. Both rejected any change of course in the current war on drugs, and – despite the fact that the president of Colombia himself supported the discussion of alternative policies – both Obama and Biden have insisted that Plan Colombia is the model to follow.
Unidentified men on motorcycles shot Honduran campesino Adelmo Leiva dead the morning of Nov. 25 as he was waiting for a bus with his wife and daughter in Trujillo, in the northern department of Colón. Leiva was a member of the Despertar Cooperative, one of the cooperatives forming the Authentic Claimant Movement of Aguán Campesinos (MARCA). Along with other campesino organizations, MARCA has sponsored occupations of estates in the Lower Aguán River Valley in Colón since December 2009 to regain land that the campesinos say big landowners bought illegally in the 1990s.
Although some of the land disputes have been settled this year, other struggles continue, as has the killing of campesinos [see Update #1151]. According to the French wire service Agence France Presse, the number of dead in the violence over the past three years is now about 90, the great majority of them campesinos. After Leiva’s murder the Honduran branch of the international campesino movement Vía Campesina said that living in the Aguán region involved “high risk.” “The terror appears to be a well thought-out strategy to provoke a mass exodus from the zone with pernicious and dangerous objectives,” the group charged. (Adital (Brazil) 11/26/12; AFP 11/26/12 via La Tribuna (Honduras))
- Stop World Bank Funding Of ‘Death Squads’ In Honduras (intercontinentalcry.org)
- Honduras: Now Open for Political Murder (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Two people have been killed and several others wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting against the cost of electricity in Guatemala.
The demonstration was held in the village of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, west of the capital Guatemala City, on Thursday.
The office of President Otto Perez Molina said the clashes broke out after two army vehicles, carrying troops to support police, faced a blockade set up by protesters on a highway.
The presidential office added that protesters in a truck in front of the army vehicles “opened fire.” However, reports did not clarify whether the shooting killed the two victims.
Meanwhile, Guatemala’s Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Erick Escobedo said seven soldiers were hurt in the clashes.
According to Guatemalan authorities, 34 people were also taken to hospital following the incident.
The first of three phases of a mega project to build Central America’s largest oil refinery is well underway in Nicaragua. The $6 billion plus initiative was given the rubber stamp last week when it was authorized by the National Assembly.
- Nicaragua negotiating satellite purchase with China (spacemart.com)
- Qatar backs investment in major Egypt refinery (kansascity.com)
The US is once again hell bent on establishing death squads in its militarization of Central America. This is a stark reminder of the 1980s when Ronald Reagan and Ollie North were funding the contras with drug money, but now it is reinforced with lessons learned in terrorizing the people of Iraq and Afghanistan through night raids and counterinsurgency tactics. Another tactic that the current US administration has reinvigorated comes from the “War on Drugs” playbook of past administrations: by using the DEA as a front for creating and sustaining havoc, it can attempt to justify the military buildup and control the policies of the host country while manipulating the flow of drugs, all the while appeasing the tax payers back home and the folks in the host country who see the build up as necessary. Not abating by any measure the flow of narcotics into the U.S., the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has actually increased the narcotics industry in Central America and provided a bogus rationale for the increased militarization of yet another Latin American county; this time Honduras.
On May 11th on the Rio Patuca near Ahuas, a small municipality in the Moskitia, a helicopter titled to the US State Department sprayed bullets into a pipante, a long, narrow dugout canoe, which carried sixteen locals. Four people were killed: 28-year-old Juana Jackson (six months pregnant), 48-year-old Candelaria Pratt Nelson (five months pregnant), 14-year-old Hasked Brooks Wood, and 21-year-old Emerson Martínez Henríquez. At least four more were seriously injured. The DEA confirms that its Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) participated in the operation supporting a Honduran National Police Tactical Response Team.
I first heard of the tragedy while in the process of preparing for a human rights delegation to Honduras coordinated by the Alliance for Global Justice and led by Karen Spring from Rights Action. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press have all published stories glorifying the role of the DEA in seizing a huge quantity of drugs in the incident. They not only down played the killing and injuring of innocent people (some reports even questioned if there even were casualties), but also some of the news reports stated that those shot were actually involved in drug trafficking. In typical mainstream media fashion there was over-the-top anonymous quoting of US and Honduran officials and not much fact checking.
I arrived in Honduras on May 18th for the delegation. The original itinerary focused on the struggles of the campesinas and campesinos of the Aguan Valley and their fight to win back the land stolen from them by the oligarchs with the backing of the illegitimate post-coup government of Pepe Lobo. As important as the land rights struggle is to us, it did not take long for the delegation (made up of academics, human rights and labor activists, Canadian and U.S. citizens, several with extensive experience in Honduras) to agree that the massacre in the Moskitia was of a greater urgency especially in light of the contradictory reports coming from the US State Department and the DEA.
We spent our time in Ahuas talking to the survivors of the incident and families of those slaughtered by the US supplied M-60 bullets. We also spoke to several village leaders, the Mayor of Ahuas, and to many locals in order to piece together as best we could the incident and the aftermath. What we got was a startling look into how our government conducts its military adventurism and then obfuscates in order to cover up its crimes. We also witnessed the increased militarization of the region as platoons of masked Honduran soldiers, automatic weapons slung across their chests, patrolled up and down the muddied streets of Ahuas. An older commanding officer, whose Velcro name and rank patches were blank, stated that they would be there “for as long as necessary,” another chilling echo from the Iraq/Afghanistan quagmires.
Getting to Ahuas is no easy feat. We took a small plane from La Ceiba, closer to the Western end of the Caribbean coast of Honduras, to Puerto Lempira, which is on the Laguna Catrasco in the Moskitia on the Eastern side of the country near the Nicaraguan border. Once in Puerto Lempira we hired a small lancha, a motorboat with a capacity of about 15 people, to take us across the Lagunas. It was approximately an hour and a half in the scorching midday sun before we reached the port. Once there, we loaded into a giant pickup truck fastened with wooden planks for seating, which are placed across the truck bed, for the thirty-minute bumpy ride into Ahuas.
After our boat ride across the Laguna and through the rivers, which act as highways for the local people, it became clear to us what one of the survivors had been quoted as saying in the press, and that we were later to hear first hand. The reason that the pipante had been on the river at 2 AM was because they waited until the sun had set to take the boat home in order to avoid the mid-day heat. This is significant in light of the statement by the Honduran foreign minister, Arturo Corrales. He was quoted in the New York Times (05/18/12) as saying “it was totally dark, in a place that is not a fishing spot.” He added, “It’s in the jungle. It is very hard to believe that at 2 a.m., in the jungle, the people in a boat that is beside another boat with 400 kilograms of cocaine were fishing,” the implication being that they, the victims, were drug smugglers.
The ill-fated pipante had disembarked way downstream at the mouth of the river where it runs into the Caribbean, fighting against the current in order to get to Ahuas. Those that we interviewed said that they had been on the river for 8 hours. The owners of the boat had dropped off lobstermen at the opening of the Caribbean earlier in the day and waited for the sun to begin to set before heading back to Ahuas. This is a routine that they have been undertaking daily for 25 years. As they returned, heading into the current, they picked up other passengers along the way, some heading home and some heading toward jobs or to visit relatives. Many of them slept during the journey only to be awakened by the sounds of gunfire and the burning feeling of having M-60 rounds rip through their bodies.
The details of what exactly prompted the occupants of the helicopters to fire on the pipante are murky at best. The reports from the State Dept. and the DEA have not been consistent and leave out many details, which calls into question their depiction of the events of that night. While witness and victim testimonies have been consistent, the U.S. government versions are shrouded in a haze of information that cannot be divulged, parsed statements that are obviously leading, and “facts” that do not shed light on the operation and the role of U.S. government agents in it. COFADEH (Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared), a Honduran human rights group, put it most succinctly in a press release days after the incident, “To keep an act of terror covered up in the midst of media confusion was always a strategy of psychological warfare, a special chapter of state terrorism. We should not accept this.” Audio recordings of communications from the helicopters that evening or surveillance video, if it exists, could potentially clarify many of these issues. The release of such recordings is something that the delegation would like to see Congress demand in any congressional investigation that it conducts. Until such data surfaces, we will never know the true motivation of those in the helicopters who pulled the trigger nor what they were truly doing on the Rio Patuca.
The events of the immediate aftermath became clearer once our delegation took the time to interview numerous witnesses to the shooting and those who rushed to the river upon hearing that loved ones had been shot at. We spoke to Hilda Rosa Lezama Kenreth, 53, laid up in the Ahuas hospital, an underfunded facility run by an evangelical church. She stated that as the shots were being fired from the helicopter she felt a pain across both of her thighs. A bullet had ripped through her left leg and cut across her right leaving huge gaping wounds. She instinctively jumped from the pipante and swam as best she could for cover in the reeds that hugged the bank of the river. She stayed there clinging to the reeds for at least two hours while going in and out of consciousness waiting for help.
Hilda’s son and daughter, Hilder and Elmina, who had been in town when they heard of the shooting, and were awaiting family members to arrive, rushed to the landing, a small sandy area where pipantes and other riverboats were moored. When they got there a helicopter was landing on an open area near were the boats were moored. Before Hilder could begin to search for his mother and brother-in-law he was approached by what he described as three large white men in uniforms who spoke to each other in English. The soldiers ordered him, in broken Spanish, to sit down while pointing guns at his and his sister’s head and chest. They asked him where gasoline was stored. He told them that there was a building nearby that had gas for the boats. They ordered him at gunpoint to take them there often hitting him in the back of the head causing him to fall. When they arrived, the tall white soldiers kicked in the door of the building and stole two 18-gallon barrels of gas. They returned to the landing and ordered Hilder to fill a boat motor with the gas. He did so and then was ordered to get in the boat. They went down river to where the massacre had occurred and Hilder saw a boat with two more tall white soldiers sitting in it. Once they got along side this boat he was further ordered to move bags from it to the boat they had arrived in. He stated that the soldiers told him in broken Spanish to “move the drugs.” Once he was finished he and the five soldiers returned to the landing with the drugs. The soldiers then moved the bags from the boat to the helicopter, not allowing Hilder to look for his mother and brother-in-law. Instead, they hit him again and handcuffed him with plastic zip ties and forced him sit until they left. Once they were gone, another villager cut the ties from his hand. He found the body of his brother-in-law and loaded it onto a boat. He then searched for his mother and was able to find Hilda in the water semi-conscious, but alive several hours after he had gotten there and was detained by the soldiers.
Another survivor, Clara Wood Rivas watched as bullets shattered her fourteen-year-old son Hasked’s skull. As she described the tragedy, she lifted her arm in the air to show the downward trajectory of the bullets, motioning her hand toward the top of her own head and passing it downward mimicking the bullets exiting Hasked’s chin. She stated that he had been shot so many times that she couldn’t recognize his face. Her son slumped over and fell into the water. Ms Wood jumped in to avoid the rain of bullets. Unable to find her son, she swam to shore. When she made it to the landing, “tall gringos” who did not speak Spanish pointed guns at her. She saw her nephew, who had come to the landing to meet her, handcuffed with zip ties and also being held at gunpoint. Through tears she told us, “I thought they were going to kill me. I passed through a war there. I’m blessed to be alive. I’ll never see my son again!”
Traveling with Clara and Hasked was Walter Wilmer, also aged 14. We were unable to meet with him in the hospital in La Ceiba. According to the preliminary report put out by COFADEH, at the time when the bullets began riddling the pipante Wilmer was asleep. He awoke to sounds of screams and blasts of gunfire. He managed to escape the boat unharmed, but the helicopter gunners aimed at him in the water, destroying his left hand. Wilmer managed to swim using only his right until he reached the bank of the river. He could still see the helicopters hovering over the river so he ran through the darkness making it to the hospital in Ahuas. He was later transferred, at great expense to his family, to the hospital in La Ceiba, but it was too late to save his hand.
Members of our delegation were able to meet with Lucio Adnan Nelson, 22, in the hospital at La Ceiba. He had been shot in the back and in his right elbow where he still has bullet fragments. Under sedation he was able to speak to us, but only briefly. Lucio jumped from the boat when it was fired upon. He felt a burning pain in his back as he clung onto a tree branch sticking out of the river. He managed to swim to shore using one hand and ran through the woods until someone found him and helped him to the hospital. Lucio’s father stated that they had to sell some of their livestock in order to pay for the transportation to La Ceiba hospital. He also stated that if his son doesn’t recover fully, which he most likely won’t, he fears that Lucio’s only option in life is to become a beggar in the street.
The AP and the New York Times have revised their reports many times since the incident. The AP in particular has given a clearer picture of the events, but the overarching bent is still on the justification of the DEA and Honduran military’s presence in the Moskitia. They continue to imply that it was simply a tragic mistake in identity, an example of collateral damage in the War on Drugs. I spoke with a Honduran lawyer who represents the interests of the people of the Moskitia. He stated that there have been several reports of US and Honduran military drug interdiction in that region. The common link to these reports is that in all of them the narcotraffickers have gotten away, but the military have seized the drugs. This raises serious questions, not just to the efficacy of the military in drug interdiction, but indeed, what truly is the US and Honduran militaries’ role in the trafficking. In the wake of the DEA’s implication in drug trafficking as related to Plan Colombia and Plan Mexico, as well as the nefarious scheme of the ATF in supplying arms to drug lords in Mexico, plus the rampant corruption of the Honduran military and police and their interrelationship to narcotraffickers, the questions linger as to the true motivations of the US military/DEA presence in Honduras.
The US’s military motivations come under sharper scrutiny when the issue of recently discovered oil reserves in the Moskitia region are brought to light. Texas based Honduras Tejas Oil and Gas Company, which is pursuing an oil and gas concession in La Moskitia, estimate that there are six to eight billion barrels of oil reserves there. Honduras Tejas has lobbying ties to Tea Party nut job Rep. Louis Ghomert (R. TX), who introduced legislation on their behalf, HR 532 (110th): Recognizing the energy and economic partnership between the United States and Honduras. Its ties to the Honduran government as well as the US State Department need to be further investigated.
Many people we spoke with, including representatives of indigenous organizations, are deeply concerned that militarization and violence generated by the “drug war” are negatively impacting their communities and are focused where there are significant natural resources, rivers with hydroelectric potential, petroleum, gold, and forests with many of these natural resources being privatized.
In light of what our delegation observed on our visit and the concerns raised, we demand:
- That the U.S Congress investigate and hold hearings about the U.S. role in the events of May 11, 2012 in La Moskitia.
- That serious and independent investigations take place exploring the role and responsibility of agents of the U.S. government in the May 11 massacre in Ahuas, be they DEA agents, private security contractors under the direction or contracted by agencies of the U.S. government or other security forces. This investigation should include identifying criminal responsibility of specific individuals.
- That the rights and decisions of indigenous communities and popular movements be respected rather than treated as drug traffickers and insurgents with complete disregard to fundamental human rights.
- That the U.S. government speak out publicly against the presence of individuals widely known to have involvement in drug trafficking and death squads within the Honduran justice system today.
- That in light of the abuses we documented, the U.S. government must withdraw all U.S. security forces including DEA and private contractors from Honduras, cease military assistance and training, and stop promoting re-militarization in Central America.
On June 6th the State Dept. was asked to provide an update on the DEA agent investigation in Honduras and on what is being done to assist the victims?
“DEA’s internal investigation is ongoing and should be completed in the next few weeks and we refer you to the Department of Justice for further information. A Honduran special task force conducted an initial investigation and we understand their preliminary conclusion is that the Honduran security forces were justified in firing in self-defense. The Honduran Government referred the investigation to their Attorney General’s office. The U.S. government is working closely with the Government of Honduras and offered transportation for investigators and additional assistance.
All Honduran citizens are eligible to receive care through the Honduran public health system.”
After four weeks of inadequate care in Honduran hospitals where horror stories are common, such as the lack of sutures for routine stitching procedures let alone for major surgery, The International Red Cross and UNICEF have agreed to intervene and pay for the surgeries of Walter Wilmer and Lucio Nelson at La Ceiba Hospital. Meanwhile, the other survivors are left in the care of an inefficient underfunded healthcare system, while the family members of the deceased have not even received so much as an official apology from U.S. or Honduran government officials.
With the ever escalating US military presence in Honduras, we can expect the events described above to become commonplace, just as the horror stories that have come out of Iraq and Afghanistan are never ending. Can drone attacks be far behind?
Greg McClain was a member of the Human Rights Delegation to Ahuas, La Moskitia, Honduras.
- Uniformed US soldiers involved in killing of six Honduran civilians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- DEA Agents Helped Kill Two Pregnant Women in Honduras Last Week (reason.com)
Santarchy | January 15, 2011
This is volume 3 of a three-part documentary series release in 1987 (now out of print).
Series Synopsis (from VHS box):
A chilling documentary on U.S. policy in Central America, this three volume series, which took six years to make, was researched and filmed by Allan Francovich, best known for his award winning film about the CIA, On Company Business.
An astonishing range of characters tell their stories, from soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero to Salvadoran right wing leader Robert D’Aubuisson; from three then-Presidents of the three republics to Guatemala’s impoverished indigenous peoples; from ousted American Ambassador Robert White, CIA operatives, and National Security officials to the founder of El Salvador’s secret police, who speaks directly of the rape and murder of four American missionary women there, from the top death squad officials to remorseful triggermen whose gruesome accounts of kidnapping, torture and killing lend compelling moral urgency to the case against right-wing dogma.
“The issue is really whether the U.S. government instigated, trained and has direct knowledge regarding a whole series of murders – including American citizens plus hundreds of thousands of local people – and has covered it up. What people know about the world is controlled. These issues are crucial to democracy: without information you can’t expect the population to make decisions knowingly.” – Allan Francovich
- Uniformed US soldiers involved in killing of six Honduran civilians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
People protest violence against members of the media with signs that read in Spanish “United for peace and freedom,” left, and “Stop corruption” in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Friday, May 25, 2012.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of many cities across Honduras to protest the killings of journalists in the Central American republic.
The demonstrators, who were chanting “Killing journalists does not kill the truth,” marched past the offices of the president and the human rights commission in the capital Tegucigalpa on Friday, AFP reported.
According to organizers, some 5,000 people attended the demonstration in Tegucigalpa, but protests were also staged in San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, Comayagua and Choluteca.
“No more impunity,” said one sign held by an activist. Another sign read, “United for peace and freedom.”
Since President Manuel Zelaya was toppled on June 28, 2009 in a military coup twenty journalists have been killed in Honduras.
Last week, the body of 47-year-old HRN Radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro Rivera was found blindfolded and with gunshot wounds to his head, a police spokesman said.
A week before Rivera had been kidnapped.
Honduras has been plagued by political turmoil following the 2009 military coup. Military rule, corruption, an enormous wealth gap, crime and natural disasters have turned Honduras into one of the poorest and least secure countries in Central America.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff commander General Martin Dempsey visited Colombia on March 29 to announce that within weeks U.S. military personnel will operate from a military base there with the newly formed Vulcan Task Force.
The Vulcan Task Force, which was established in December 2011, has 10,000 soldiers, three mobile brigades and one fixed brigade, operating from a base in Tibú, in the Catatumbo region (North Santander), just two miles from the Venezuela border.
On April 15, presidents Obama and Santos met during the Americas Summit and agreed on a new military regional action plan that will include training police forces in Central America and beyond. The announcement cited Operation Martillo, by which U.S. and Colombian forces have participated in operations this year against criminal elements on the coasts and interior of Central America.
The presence of U.S. soldiers on the military base in Tibú was presented by General Dempsey as an effort by the United States to support Colombia in its fight against drug trafficking and the insurgency. According to Dempsey, the Pentagon plans by June to send U.S. brigade commanders with practical experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to work with police and army combat units that will be deployed in areas controlled by the rebels. Dempsey said that U.S. military personnel will not participate in combat operations in Colombia.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Colombia has established its own version of U.S. joint special operations commands that carry out hunt-and-kill missions – operations for selective killings that have included U.S. citizens accused of having ties to Al Qaeda. With these special commandos, Colombia hopes to reach its goal of reducing the FARC guerrillas by 50% in two years.
U.S. participation in such an aggressive military campaign would undercut prospective attempts to negotiate a settlement of the armed conflict, which has increasing support in Colombia. The campaign, which apparently does not target successor paramilitary groups, is also likely to benefit those groups, which continue to commit human rights abuses, engage in drug trafficking, and operate in more than 400 municipalities in 31 Colombian states, according to a report by the Institute for Study of Development and Peace, INDEPAZ.
The Journal also cited statements by Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser at a March 12 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressing concern about the strengthening of diplomatic relations between Iran and the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
The expansion of counterinsurgency forces in Africa and Latin America is also part of a new national security strategy released by the White House in February. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the new strategy introduces “innovative methods” for supporting counter-terrorist forces and expanding the United States’ influence on the two continents.
Joint Task Force Vulcan is led by Brigadier General Marcolino Tamayo Tamayo, who in 1985, when he was a lieutenant, participated in the operation to retake the Palace of Justice in Colombia. Similar joint task forces have been created in Tumaco, Nariño; Miranda, Cauca; and Tame, Arauca.
- U.S.’s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- DOD pushing more forces into South America (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Sunday’s edition of the New York Times featured a front page story by Thom Shanker about how the US is waging an “Iraq-style” war on drugs in Honduras.
Shanker, a former Senior Writer in Residence with the Centre for New America Security (which the WSJ called a “farm team” for Obama’s national security advisors), has also been the NYT’s Pentagon correspondent, was embedded in Afghanistan, and has reported from Iraq.
The piece, which ran online as US carries lessons of Iraq into Honduras drug war is your classic bit of embedded journalism. The dateline is a U.S. military base (ahem, forward operating location), the sources are soldiers and marines, and the Hondurans — which are included in photos only — are soldiers.
Hey, world, the U.S. is at war with the bad guys in Honduras! Is the gist of the article, but Shanker’s pro-establishment/embedded bias does little to give readers an informed perspective about what is actually taking place in the Central America.
First off, Shanker does his best to set the story up as being all about drugs, even though it is common knowledge that U.S. militarization doesn’t decrease drug production or trafficking. “Forty years of increasingly violent efforts to stamp out the drug trade haven’t worked,” reads a recent piece in Foreign Policy magazine.
Then Shanker slips into a description that is perhaps a little more indicative of the U.S. role in Honduras:
This new offensive, emerging just as the United States military winds down its conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and is moving to confront emerging threats, also showcases the nation’s new way of war: small-footprint missions with limited numbers of troops, partnerships with foreign military and police forces that take the lead in security operations, and narrowly defined goals, whether aimed at insurgents, terrorists or criminal groups that threaten American interests.
Is this about drugs, or is it about securing U.S. sweatshops in Honduras? Is it about drugs, or is it about seeing the entire population of Honduras as a latent “criminal” group that could, at any moment, become “illegal” immigrants? Is it about drugs, or is it about controlling insurgents (aka rebels or revolutionaries), namely the members of a massive popular movement that has risen up since the illegal coup d’etat in Honduras in 2009?
You’d be forgiven for reading this piece and not knowing about the coup: Shanker left out that, ahem, little detail in his piece. The U.S. media don’t like to talk about how the coup, carried out by the Honduran army and supported by Honduras’ tiny transnational elite, has sparked a massive popular movement all across the country. But acknowledging that there is a huge (and generally peaceful) popular movement in Honduras makes war boosterism more complicated. Better to stick to the fighting drugs and bad guys, you know the quasi criminal terrorist line…
The re-militarization of Honduras isn’t just about Honduras — it is about the entire region.
Shankar mentions that US anti-drug teams developed in Afghanistan are now active in Honduras to “plan interdiction missions in Central America.” He makes passing reference to how Honduras was used for staging the war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, but leaves out the fact that Honduras was also the staging area for the 1954 CIA backed coup in Guatemala, and for US backed wars against the FMLN in El Salvador later on (and on, and on). Looks like the bad old days of the “USS Honduras” are coming back in a big way – this, in a country that already has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
The fact that the New York Times is sending embedded journalists to Central America is gross. Instead of talking to, um, Hondurans, Shanker quotes the Council on Hemispheric Affairs* as a sort of “critical” voice. Check this quote, from Larry Binns of the COHA:
“We know from the Reagan years that the infrastructure of the country of Honduras — both its governance machinery as well as its security forces — simply is not strong enough, is not corruption-proof enough, is not anti-venal enough to be a bastion of democracy.”
The Reagan years!? Excuse me? What about the freaking military coup during Obama’s administration? Sigh.
The implication that what the US did/learned in Iraq was a success alone is obviously beyond problematic for reasons that others can explain far better than I.
Finally, Shanker ends off paraphrasing a money quote from an ex-Navy SEAL, writing “There are ‘insidious’ parallels between regional criminal organizations and terror networks.” I can’t bring myself to unpack this here, but the immediate implication (more war) is obvious, no matter how you understand the world.
Anyhow, some folks might argue that this piece is useful because it reveals the US mission in Honduras. I don’t agree — I think this piece is useful to the Pentagon and the US elite. There’s so little factual, contextual or historical information in here that this piece is near useless even for a critical reader.
- Honduras and the Obama Administration (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Honduras – Journalist and rights activist found dead (en.rsf.org)
On March 24, in the Public Health Workers neighborhood in Guatemala City, community leaders and neighbors chatted in a regular gathering place in front of a local store. The relaxed Saturday night was broken up by gunfire, a massacre that killed health care union leader Ovidio Ortiz, along with Bildave Santos Barco, Fredy Leonel Estrada and Oscar Alexander Rodriguez.
Public health workers unions are a strong force in defense of public services and natural resources, and among the most outspoken critics of the abuses of transnational corporations in Guatemala.
Ovidio Ortiz, a life-long health union leader, community organizer and political activist, was apparently the main target in the massacre; he received 8 bullets.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State’s Visit to Central America and the Return of Repressive States in Central America
The next day, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William Brownfield arrived in Central America on a two day trip, visiting Honduras and Guatemala. Brownfield’s trip is to promote the US’s “drug war” in the Central America, in close coordination with a government born of a military coup in Honduras, and in Guatemala, a government led since January 7, 2012 by President Otto Perez Molina, a former general accused of participation in genocide.
Politically motivated killings apparently by death squads have been growing over the past few years in Central America, and concern in Guatemala is heightened as the new administration has brought back to public office many of the same individuals directly implicated in the State repression and genocide of the 1980s.
Ex-General, now President Perez Molina is no stranger to death squads. According to declassified State Department and CIA documents, in 1994 while head of Military Intelligence, Perez Molina ran a secret torture center with over 300 political prisoners rounded up by military intelligence. An investigative journalist reported that Perez Molina was a CIA asset at the time.
Human rights activists reflect that the Public Health Workers neighborhood massacre appears to be one in a series of incidents indicating the return to the repressive State, what one Guatemala sociologist describes as the return of the three rights, the neoliberal right, the anti-communist right and the counterinsurgency right.
Criminal Network Death Squads Re-enter Politics
Like the death squads in the 1960s-70s, recent crimes in Guatemala appear to employ criminal networks, drug trafficking network hit men, to carry out violence against unions and communities organizing against abuses by transnational corporations, with the collusion or support of the military and police.
The return of the repressive state in Guatemala is part of a regional process that mixes drug war, anti-terrorism and anti-communist rhetoric and partners US security experts and agencies with repressive States, States made up of many of the same individuals responsible for crimes against humanity carried out just one generation ago with the assistance of US military advisors.
In Honduras, death squads targeting anti-coup activists have been operating across the country since the June 2009 military coup; human rights activists denounce over 300 politically motivated killings. In the Bajo Aguan region, since January 2010 death squad killings have been spearheaded by private security forces working for transnational palm oil corporations with the collaboration of police and the same Honduran military units that have received ongoing training from US military forces. As a result over 60 campesinos and journalists have been killed.
Killing Ovidio, Killing Democracy: Counterinsurgency Violence without the Violence
On September 2, 1993 Ovidio Ortiz helped lead public health workers in recovering a tract of land that the then-militarized Health Ministry had purchased in 1982. Though ostensibly purchased to build a hospital, years passed and public health workers worried the property would fall into the hands of military linked businesses, as has happened with other public lands purchased under military governments, such as a now cement mine on the South side of the city. So, they occupied the land and the union negotiated with the Health Ministry to facilitate access to housing lots for health workers.
Ever since Ovidio was elected either president or vice president of the neighborhood development committee; he was vice president when he was killed. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Health Care Workers of Guatemala, and the Conflict Resolution Secretary of the National Front for Struggle in Defense of Public Services and Natural Resources (FNL), an alliance of public health unions and community organizations. And, he was a political activist with the URNG party born from the URNG revolutionary movement.
Over the past decade, health workers have been the most outspoken defenders of public services, with a strong and public political identification with the Latin American “left,” emphasizing the importance of sovereignty, an end to North American hegemony in the region, and popular struggle.
Ovidio was killed just two days after the National Union of Health Workers signed a hard-fought collective agreement with the Health Ministry. The March 22, 2012 agreement was the product of difficult negotiations that involved months of work stops, protests and road blockades. Though most of the struggle took place during the previous presidential administration, on February 24, 2012 the FNL, comprised in large part of the health workers unions, froze the nation for five hours blocking the eight major highway intersections. Public health workers showed their strength, leaving no doubt they are a force to be reckoned with.
Shooting Sprees in Working Class Neighborhoods Spread Fear
Guatemalan human rights organizations observe that the Public Health Neighborhood massacre is also part of a trend of shooting sprees in meeting places like corner stores that began occurring in working class neighborhoods.
On January 15, 2012, in Zone 6 of Guatemala City, young people were reportedly kidnapped by a military patrol. A similar action is reported to have occurred again two weeks later in the El Mezquital settlement, when men dressed in black with ski masks again kidnapped young people.
Six days after the March 24, 2012 Public Health Workers Neighborhood massacre, on March 30, 2012, a passing car sprayed bullets on residents gathered in front of a neighborhood store in Zone 18 in northern Guatemala City, injuring 8.
8 FNL Energy Nationalization Movement Leaders Killed in 6 Months
The National Front for Struggle (FNL), an organization where Ovidio Ortiz held a leadership position, is among the most outspoken opponents of the abuses of transnational corporations in Guatemala, and has been a target of death squad killings. The FNL has led a struggle for the nationalization of electrical services in Guatemala, privatized in 1999, while denouncing illegal surcharges and other abuses by Union Fenosa, a Spanish distribution company that benefitted from the privatization.
Communities organized with the FNL in the Department of San Marcos were part of a movement to withhold payment for electrical services in protest of abuses, including non-compliance with court mandated refunds to clients.
Murders of FNL Members
- On October 24, 2009, Victor Galvez, a local leader in opposition to Union Fenosa and member of the Front in Defense of Natural Resources (FERNA), a San Marcos based organization that belongs to the FNL, was shot 32 times as he left his office in Malacatan, San Marcos.
- On December 15, 2009, Union Fenosa cut electrical services to entire townships of San Marcos, and a State of Emergency was declared in response to the resulting protests. Over the next few months, during the state of emergency, a further seven FNL activists were killed in San Marcos.
- On January 13, 2010 Evelinda Ramirez was shot and killed in the municipality of Ocos while driving to her home in nearby Chiquirines.
- On January 29, 2010, energy nationalization activist, member of the FNL and the Malacatan municipal workers union Pedro Garcia was shot and killed while driving home.
- On February 17, 2010 Octavio Roberlo, a principal leader of the FNL in San Marcos was shot 16 times from a passing car when he was closing up his store in the bus terminal.
- On March 21, 2010, Carlos Noel Maldonado Barrios, Leandro Maldonado, and Ana María Lorenzo Escobar, three community leaders active in the denouncements against Union Fenosa were brutally killed by gunshots and machete wounds in the municipality of Ocos.
- On March 22, 2011, during protests in reaction to Union Fenosa cutting electrical service to the town of Las Brisas in Ocos, Guatemalan soldiers shot and killed Santiago Gamboa, head of the local committee for the nationalization of energy, while injuring six others.
Drug Hitmen Working for Spanish and US Transnational Businesses?
Ocos and Malacatan in the department of San Marcos are towns renowned to be controlled by drug trafficking networks. Reportedly following the December 15, 2009 massive suspension of electrical services, including to medical centers, Union Fenosa moved their San Marcos offices to a building owned by one of San Marcos’ most infamous drug traffickers, which to local residents appeared to be a signal of an alliance between the Spanish electrical company and traffickers.
The 2009-2010 killings of FNL leaders and supporters in San Marcos were carried out in a way characteristic of drug hit men killings.
The municipality of Morales in Izabal is another area dominated by drug traffickers where unionists are being killed in an apparent alliance between transnational corporations and drug traffickers.
Del Monte Fresh Produce banana workers are organized into the SITRABI union. Del Monte Fresh Produce is charged with hiring some of Guatemala’s most important drug traffickers, including Mario Ponce (extradited to the US on drug charges in January 2012), to kidnap SITRABI leaders in 1999, at the same that Marvin Bush, the brother of Jeb and George Bush, sat on the Florida based Del Monte Fresh Produce board of directors.
Over the past year a new round of hit style killings of SITRABI unionists are terrorizing banana workers: Oscar Humberto Gonzalez Vasquez was killed on April 10, 2011; Idar Joel Hernandez Godoy was killed on May 26, 2011; on September 24, 2011 Henry Anibal Marroquin Orellana was killed; on October 16, 2011 Pablino Yaque Cervantes was killed; and most recently, Miguel Angel Gonzalez Ramirez was shot to death while holding his son.
Death Squad Denounced in Cement Plant Conflict with Swiss Investment
In 2007, indigenous communities denounced the emergence of a death squad in San Juan Sacatepequez, Guatemala, where 12 Kaqchiquel Maya communities are resisting the entry of a cement plant which will decimate their territory, a project promoted by a consortium of the Guatemalan cement monopoly Cementos Progreso, owned by the politically powerful Novella and Torrebiarte families, and by the Swiss cement giant Holchim.
Community activists report that the violent group emerged following the May 13, 2007 community consultation that rejected the cement companies’ presence in the municipality, claiming it is run by former military officers and known as El Escuadron (The Squad). It first began extorting local residents, generating a ‘security crisis’ and then began killing accused “gang members” they claimed were responsible for the extortion.
Community leaders resisting the cement plant were subject to constant threats and violent attacks, and subject to flawed and apparently malicious prosecution for killings apparently carried out by El Escuadron.
1960s-1980s Death Squads Grew from Criminal Networks and US Security Advisors
The United Nations sponsored Truth Commission, published in 1999, reported on atrocities committed during Guatemala’s 36 year civil war (1960-1996). US government documents declassified in the 1990s as a contribution to the Truth Commission demonstrate that in the mid-1960s a U.S. public safety advisor to Guatemala, John Longdon, pressed superiors over the need to set up covert operations centers, a safe house for coordination of security intelligence and the designation of a room in the National Palace, the starting point of the infamous “El Archivo” parallel intelligence center and nerve center for death squads.
In mid-1966, US Southern Command forwarded a request from the Guatemalan government to the US government for assistance in setting up kidnapping squads. A surge of death squad killings that began in 1966 resulted in thousands of deaths.
The UN Truth Commission found that the death squads of Guatemala’s ‘internal’ conflict were initially criminal groups made up of civilians whose actions were tolerated and covered up for by State authorities, which received logistical support from the military, responded to decisions made in the military command structure, and eventually incorporated military personnel.
Death squads that incorporated drug traffickers like Arnoldo Vargas, a member of the infamous 1980s ‘Mano Blanco’ squad and the first Guatemalan extradited to the US on drug charges in 1992, carried out politically motivated killings.
The Truth Commission’s description of the origins of Guatemalan death squads is disturbingly similar to the picture emerging in Guatemala and Honduras today.
Post Peace Process Police Forces and One Alleged CIA Asset
The military intelligence networks were restructured after the 1990s peace processes and have continued as criminal networks. They shied away from political killings, likely due to the strong international presence accompanying the peace processes. But these intelligence / criminal networks continued to infiltrate the States on all levels.
With the partial demobilizations of the militaries and creation of new National Civilian Police forces after the signing of the peace accords in El Salvador and Guatemala, which involved the large scale recycling of soldiers as police officers, a new generation of death squads was created in Central America.
In the early 1980s, Victor Rivera, a Venezuelan national and reported Central Intelligence Agency asset, came to the Ilopango Airforce base in El Salvador to work alongside the infamous Cuban American bomber and alleged former CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles in running Oliver North’s National Security Council covert operations that employed former Nicaraguan National Guardsmen who had been operating as criminal gangs in Guatemala in attacking the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, the “Contra supply operation.”
Rivera went on to become a security advisor to El Salvador’s post peace accord Vice Minister of Security, Hugo Barrera. Rivera assisted in the creation of an unofficial police unit that operated out of the office of a business owned by Barrera. When the “Police Analysis Unit” was implicated in the killing of a medical student, he fled to Guatemala in 1996.
In 1996, the same year as the signing of the peace accords, wealthy Guatemalans became concerned about a rash of kidnappings, and organizations like Madres Angustiadas (Anguished Mothers) and Friends Against Extortion and Kidnapping (FADES) were formed. They welcomed Victor Rivera who set up another special parallel police team, this one in Guatemala.
Adela Torrebiarte, a founder of Madres Angustiadas and member of the Novella-Torrebiarte family which owns Cementos Progreso involved in the mining conflict in San Juan Sacatequez, supported Rivera’s entry into Guatemala. The two reportedly were close over 12 years.
The United Nations peace process verification mission MINUGUA reported that in 1996 a covert anti-kidnapping commando operated out of the Presidential Palace, and was involved in the capture of kidnappers of the elderly Isabel Bonifasi de Botran (brutally murdered in the course of the kidnapping), and in the capture and forced disappearance of a member of the ORPA revolutionary movement involved in the kidnapping of Olga Novella of the Novella-Torrebiarte family.
In 1997, when Victor Rivera’s parallel security teams office was raided by police, Madres Angustiadas jumped to his defense claiming that he had helped them resolve kidnapping cases. On May 4, 2001 Adela Torrebiarte’s nephew, Juan Andres Torrebiarte Novella, was kidnapped, but was rescued on May 24. MINUGUA reported that four of his captors were severely tortured.
Social Cleansing or Organized Crime Violence?
While kidnappings were the topic of concern in the late 1990s, from 2001 to 2005 it was murder, gangs and social cleansing. The murder rate grew 40% from 2001 to 2005. A large number of killings of young people, apparently gang related and murder of street children by police and gangs was widely reported.
Investigations by the UN-backed special prosecutors unit CICIG demonstrated in 2010 that in 2004 a network of officials in the Ministry of Governance and Police used their positions to engage in a range of criminal activities, including murder, robbery and drug trafficking. In 2010, arrest warrants were issued for 18 officials involved, including the Director of the National Police Erwin Sperinsen and the Secretary of Governance Carlos Vielmann.
Though reporting focused on their role in the death squad killings of prison inmates and escapees, the breadth of activities that this network was allegedly involved in leads to the conclusion that the inmate killings were not simply about cleaning up society or “social cleansing” but related to other criminal activities the officials were involved in.
This leads one to question what other motives besides “cleaning up” society may have been behind the crisis of killings of young people in the early 2000s.
Guatemalan Death Squads Reemerge in the Public Eye
In 2006, questions about Veilmann’s, Sperinsen’s and Rivera’s activities began to surface after compromising information surfaced in the press that seemed to link them to questionable conduct related to the 2006 killing of three Central American parliamentarians, and the ensuing investigation of the crime. Two fled to Europe in 2007.
Victor Rivera was also suspected to have been in some way involved in the killings of the Central American Parliamentarians. Rivera visited four police officers detained as the material authors of the Parliamentarians’ murders in prison just hours before they were killed in a suspicious prison massacre, and a video was circulated of the officers threatening to bring down Rivera, essentially that they would not be his scapegoats, when they were first detained, illegally, by Rivera.
Then President Oscar Berger named Adela Torrebiarte, founder of Madres Angustiadas, as the new Secretary of Governance after Vielmann, and she kept Rivera on as an advisor.
However, shortly after Torrebiarte left the Ministry of Governance, Rivera was fired on March 30, 2008 and a week later, on April 7, 2008 he was murdered as he drove in Guatemala City.
CICIG’s investigations of Rivera’s murder identified drug kingpin Jorge “El Gordo” Paredes as a suspect. CICIG’s director described Paredes as a long-time associate of Rivera, and described one of two potential motives for Rivera’s murder as the consequence of a collaboration with Paredes that had gone bad. Parades was also implicated in the killing of the Central American Parliamentarians.
Former Police Director Arrested for 2009 Death Squad Killing
The most recent death squad scandal erupted on March 23, 2012 when Marlene Blanco, Director of the National Civil Police in 2008 and Assistant Secretary of Governance for Community Security in 2009, was arrested on charges of running a death squad that tortured and murdered suspects in the extortion and murder of bus drivers. She has been charged with three 2009 killings and is being held in prison.
A dramatic rash of killings of bus drivers began during the 2007 presidential campaign, won by Alvaro Colom, and continued during his presidency to be so dramatic that they were deemed to be a source of political instability.
Marlene Blanco’s brother, Orlando Blanco, was prominent in Colom’s administration as Secretary of Peace and is currently a congressman for Colom’s UNE party. Marlene Blanco’s arrest is the latest in a series of cases initiated against prominent figures or relatives of prominent figures in the outgoing administration, including a sister of the former First Lady in what seem to some to be a political vendetta by the ruling party against the outgoing UNE party, its stiffest competitor.
While some suspect that the case against Marlene Blanco may be politically motivated and promoted by current functionaries, the case has been investigated by CICIG, which has gained a great deal of legitimacy. The public prosecutor in charge of the case requested that the proceedings be reserved from the public
2012: New Police Forces in Central America – Restructuring Death Squads?
Sweeping police reform and the creation of new police forces is planned as part of the Regional Security Strategy backed by the US State Department.
In February 2012, a proposal for the creation of a tri-national police composed of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador emerged, and Brownfield promoted that initiative during his March 2012 tour. The tri-national force would be charged with controlling a 20 mile perimeter around borders of those nations, and would undoubtedly be trained in the Regional Security Strategy’s regional training center in Panama whose focus is training in border security and is run by US and Colombian security forces.
In January 2012, incoming Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina named Adela Torrebiarte as the special commissioner in charge of police reform. Torrebiarte helped bring Victor Rivera to Guatemala in 1996, the reported CIA asset who had created some of the first parallel networks in the El Salvadoran police, and was suspected to be implicated in 2006 and 2007 death squad scandals.
Torrebiarte’s family business is suspected by indigenous rights activists in San Juan Sacatepequez to be implicated in the creation of death squads to facilitate the entry of a controversial cement plant in their communities.
She will now be in charge of reforming the Guatemalan police, and participate in the creation of a regional police force, with extensive US assistance.
We can expect that death squads will weather the reform, and probably even flourish.
(Annie Bird is co-director of Rights Action, since 1995, and has written extensively about Central American human rights issues, about the historic and on-going role of the USA in the region, and about global business and investors interests in the region. email@example.com).
- The roots of Bain Capital in El Salvador’s civil war (blacklistednews.com)