“Officers must place the protection of human life above all other considerations.”
Detroit, MI — Or so says the official policy of the Detroit Police Department. Yet, on Wednesday, Detroit police continued a high-speed chase into a busy neighborhood, resulting in two small children being killed and others injured.
Brother and sister Michaelangelo and Makiah Jackson, ages 6 and 3 respectively, were playing in front of their home when a police car appeared, chasing what appeared to be a red Challenger. According to eyewitnesses, the police car bumped the Challenger, and the car “flew up in the air.” Witnesses heard tire squeals, as if the car was attempting to stop, but by then it was going too fast and had lost control and hit the two small children, killing them instantly.
A friend of the family described the horrible scene:
“[The police] were right on their rear, the police car bumped their tail a little bit, and the car flew up in the air,” the friend said. “There was no need for the police to be that close. I yelled ‘WATCH OUT’ but it was too late. When the car hit them, both of them just looked at me. They screamed. It just keeps re-playing in my head. … I ran down there, I yelled out their names, but they were gone. Makiah’s eyes were wide open, they died on impact.”
“I’m the last one they talked to. They looked at me, they were here, I saw their faces. L’il Mama (Makiah) thought I was going to take them to the park, so she came with me to the sidewalk. I told her I promise I’ll take you to the park tomorrow.”
Even after the car had dragged the children a distance down the street, the police did not stop their pursuit. They continued to chase the car across one front lawn after another, finally crashing, critically injuring three more children including three year old Darius Andrews, Jr., Isaiah Williams, 5, and Zyaire Gardner, 7. Twenty-two-year-old LaKendra Hill sustained injuries. The father of the youngest called seven-year-old Zaire “the real hero,” adding, “He saved my son’s life. He grabbed him and tried to hold him.”
Police report that the driver of the car they were chasing was 29 year old Lorenzo Harris, who was on parole but had not been reporting in to his parole officer. An unidentified passenger in the car was also in serious condition.
As to other details of the event, police reports are conflicting. On the night of the incident, police Chief James Craig said that the police car had already stopped the chase after they “lost sight of the car.” After many eyewitnesses had refuted that claim, Craig said that a supervisor had ordered a stop to the pursuit.
Furthermore, in an early report, Craig claimed that police saw an occupant of the car holding a gun. The next day the chief said there was no gun, and that the case started when the police “made eye contact” with the occupants of the car.
Two small children being killed while playing in their own front yard and several more being injured during a pursuit over what may have been nothing more than a parole violation shows a drastic imbalance in police judgment and in police priorities. For the police to create such a horribly dangerous situation – a situation that proved tragically fatal – sends a very clear message. Those with badges are far more concerned with having control and gaining compliance by any means necessary than they are with actually protecting the innocent.
On paper, the official policy of the Detroit Police Department includes this:
“Members involved in a pursuit must question whether the seriousness of the violation warrants continuation of the pursuit. A pursuit shall be discontinued when, in the judgment of the primary unit, there is a clear and present danger to the public which outweighs the need for immediate apprehension of the violator. Officers must keep in mind that a vehicle pursuit has the same potential for serious injury or death as the use of fatal force. … Officers must place the protection of human life above all other considerations.”
Their true attitude, priorities, “policy” is written in the blood of small children on those front lawns. Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrible tragedy.
The family of Mikiah and Michael Angelo Jackson has set up a GoFundMe account to help with their funeral expenses, which they said they cannot afford.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that exposure to the insecticide lindane, which is still used extensively in the United States, can cause cancer.
Formulated but no longer produced in the U.S., lindane is used for livestock, pet and seed treatment, in forestry, and on fruit and vegetable crops. It is also used topically for the treatment of head and body lice, as well as scabies. Small quantities of the chemical (1%) are used in certain lotions, cream, and shampoos.
WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) focused on lindane as an insecticide, and found it to be carcinogenic to humans. The IARC also said the chemical DDT, which was widely used in the U.S. until the 1970s, also causes cancer. (It can still be produced in the U.S. but only sold to foreign buyers.) Both chemicals have been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, testicular cancer and liver cancer, according to TIME.
“Exposure to lindane can increase one’s risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 60%,” TIME’s Jacob Koffler wrote.
Although the chemical has been detected in groundwater near hazardous waste sites and in the air during its formulation process, the most likely exposure in humans is oral ingestion of food that contains traces of the insecticide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lindane-based shampoo and lotion have been on the market since the early 1950s. Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC, said no studies have been done yet on the risk of these types of exposure.
To Learn More:
DDT, Lindane Can Cause Cancer, WHO Says (by Jacob Koffler, TIME)
Carcinogenicity of lindane, DDT, and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (by Dana Loomis, Kathryn Guyton, Yann Grosse, Fatiha El Ghissasi, Véronique Bouvard, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, Neela Guha, Heidi Mattock, and Kurt Straif, The Lancet Oncology)
Lindane (Gamma-Hexachlorocyclohexane) (Environmental Protection Agency)
When Saudi Arabia launched its war against Yemen in March 2015, it presumed that a short, quick, and clean air war would be enough to degrade the alliance of Houthi forces and those loyal to former President Saleh, thereby giving the Saudi-backed government of former President Hadi the necessary space to regain control of the country. However, that simply has not been the case. In fact, not only has the Saudi campaign not achieved these objectives, it has instead precipitated a much more dangerous war which has now spread to Saudi Arabia itself.
Reports from Yemeni sources have confirmed that the Houthis and their allies have launched a number of rockets into Saudi Arabia’s Jizan province while also launching an assault on three military bases in various parts of the country. Of course, the attacks have sent an unmistakable message to Riyadh that there will be a price to pay for the continued bombardment of Yemen; that the Saudis cannot simply act with impunity.
War Spreads Beyond Yemen’s Borders
The fact that Houthi and Saleh forces are able to successfully attack key Saudi military installations has undoubtedly rattled a few nerves in Riyadh. While the recent assaults have not been the first, they have been perhaps the most open demonstration of the military capacity of the Yemeni forces to strike at Saudi assets.
It has been reported that the Houthi-Saleh combined forces have attacked and possibly taken control of a military base in the Southwestern province of Jizan, strategically located on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. While of course embarrassing for the Saudi government, this development is far more than simply a public relations nightmare; it is a strategic disaster. While Yemeni forces have pounded the base in Jizan, there have been scattered reports of Yemeni attacks against other Saudi military installations, including in the East of the country, as well as in the Northwest. If these reports are to be believed, then nearly the entirety of Saudi Arabian territory is within the range and capability of Yemeni rockets.
There is clear progress from the perspective of the Ansarullah movement (aka the Houthis) and their military allies if one compares the attacks they launched back in April, and those they are carrying out today. While there were a number of high profile attempts to break through Saudi defenses on the borders and make significant gains at the time, all such attacks were either entirely repelled or were mostly unsuccessful; however today, less than two months later, Houthi offensives are becoming increasingly sophisticated and, quite predictably, increasingly effective. Although Ansarullah has fired rockets and made offensive moves towards a number of key Saudi installations throughout the country, their major breakthroughs have come in the strategic Jizan province, right near the Yemeni border.
And it remains the areas closest to the border with Yemen where the real concrete gains have been made by the anti-Saudi coalition. Whether the Houthis and their allies are able to take operational control of the Saudi bases, or merely to attack them and flee is somewhat secondary. What is of primary importance is the simple fact that essentially the entire southwestern portion of Saudi Arabia is now under direct threat from the combined Houthi-Saleh forces, in addition to newly formed militias quietly developing inside Saudi Arabia in the area near the Saudi-Yemeni border.
A Saudi Civil War?
The formation of militias committed to waging war against the House of Saud may be the single most troubling development for Riyadh. Perhaps the most significant of these is the so called ‘Ahrar al-Najran’ Movement, a coalition of regional tribes in the southwest of the country that have combined forces with anti-Riyadh Saudi political activists to create an independence movement that has taken up arms against the Saudi government.
Ahrar al-Najran presents a complex problem for the Saudis because it is comprised primarily of tribes whose lands were originally within Yemeni territory until they were occupied by Saudi forces in 1934. According to Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) :
[The] Ahrar al-Najran Movement [is] calling for independence from Saudi Arabia…Abu Bakr Abi Ahmed al-Salami, a leader of Ahrar al-Najran, says the movement which brings together different tribal groups is set to launch its first battle in parts of south Najran occupied by the Saudi army… There are four main reasons why the movement wants to declare independence from Saudi Arabia:
1. General dissatisfaction in Saudi Arabia with the way officials in Riyadh handle day-to-day administration of affairs,
2. Riyadh’s policy to keep the south impoverished,
3. Aggression against Yemen and the massacre of defenseless people there by the Saudi regime,
4. Failure of the Saudi government to view the residents of the south as first-class citizens, thus violation [sic] of their legitimate rights.
Needless to say, from the perspective of the Saudis, a nascent independence movement within their borders is just about the worst possible outcome of their decision to wage war on Yemen. And considering the already tense situation in the majority Shia province of Qatif, it seems Saudi Arabia has become a political powder keg just waiting for a spark. Undoubtedly the Ansarullah Movement understands this perfectly well, and is now preparing to make its move, matches in hand.
Indeed, while the Saudis will likely move quickly to assert control over the southwestern regions, the Shias of the east – undoubtedly with a bit of tacit and/or overt support from the Houthis – might find this an opportune moment to begin organizing themselves into more than just periodic demonstrations and upsurges of righteous indignation to be quickly met with vicious force.
It should be remembered that recent months have seen violent raids and clashes between Saudi security forces and residents throughout the Qatif province of Eastern Saudi Arabia, the most violent of which having taken place in the town of Awamiyah. In response to protests against Riyadh’s war on Yemen, the regime’s security forces unleashed a brutal crackdown that perhaps most accurately could be called violent suppression. As one activist and resident of Awamiyah told the Middle East Eye back in April, “From 4pm until 9pm the gunfire didn’t stop… Security forces shot randomly at people’s homes, and closed all but one of the roads leading in and out of the village… It is like a war here – we are under siege.” A number of videos uploaded to YouTube seem to confirm the accounts of activists, though all eyewitness accounts remain anonymous for fear of government retribution.
Such actions as those described by activists in Awamiyah, and throughout Qatif, are nothing new. Over the last few years, the province has repeatedly seen upsurges of protests against the draconian policies of the government in Riyadh. Were such protests to once again erupt, and were they to coincide with the burgeoning Sunni independence movement in the Southwest, one could then rightly characterize the unrest as a general uprising: truly a nightmare scenario for the Saudi government.
Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has taken a tremendous toll on that impoverished country, with untold thousands of casualties, countless families displaced, infrastructure devastated, and the delivery of basic services slowed to a trickle, if not cut off altogether. The Saudis have perpetrated a flagrantly illegal aggression against the nation and people of Yemen, committing a laundry list of war crimes that the world has, by and large, completely ignored. But the Saudis may have to pay a price for this crime, a price far higher than they likely ever imagined.
The House of Saud may have control over the oil, and thereby control over the peninsula, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it does not have total control over its people. And, while no one knows whether a true general uprising in Saudi Arabia will come to pass, the war in Yemen might possibly be the spark that finally sets the oil drum ablaze.
A onetime aide to the Ukrainian defense minister has defected to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, taking along his entire family and a wealth of classified information, Russian media reported Monday.
“I am Alexander Kolomiyets, a Major-General of the Ukrainian armed forces… My latest position was that of an advisor to the Ukrainian Defense Minister and a senior defense analyst,” the General said during a news conference at the Donetsk News Agency headquarters on Monday.
Alexander Kolomiyets said that he had spent 19 years serving as the military commandant of Donetsk Region.
He also said that many of his fellow commanders were ready to join the pro-independence militia in Donbass.
The General added that Ukrainian army morale was extremely low with “all Generals and officers realizing the criminal nature of Kiev’s actions and refusing to fight any longer.”
Alexander Kolomiyets is not the first senior Ukrainian military officer to have sided with the independence supporters in Donetsk and Lugansk. Earlier, Oleh Chernousov, the onetime head of the Lugansk customs service, and brothers Alexei and Yuri Miroshnichenko, both Ukrainian intelligence service operatives stationed in Paris, moved to Lugansk over their opposition to the policy pursued by the Kiev authorities.
Tuareg rebels and the Malian government have vowed to honor a peace deal devolving more power to northern communities
A coalition of Tuareg-led rebels signed a historic peace deal with the Malian government Saturday, after securing more autonomy from Bamako.
“Hand in hand, let us make Mali better, more brotherly, more united than ever,” said President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in an official ceremony in the Malian capital. Cheers erupted in the ceremony when the peace deal was signed by Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a representative of the predominantly Tuareg militia alliance, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).
Under the peace deal, the Malian government agreed to allow the formation of democratically elected regional councils in the country’s war-torn north, and dropped arrest warrants for a number of militant leaders. The deal is a far cry from long-standing Tuareg demands for an independent state in the northern desert, but has already been hailed as a major step forward in resolving long standing tensions between the ethnic group and the central government.
A spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the deal, but urged both sides to ensure its implementation.
“The ultimate responsibility for peace lies with Mali and the Malians,” they stated.
For decades Mali’s Tuareg minority has complained of marginalization, and accused the government of neglecting them and the country’s far north. The Malian ethnic group has repeatedly revolted against the government, with the latest insurrection taking place amid a 2012 coup in Bamako. For nearly 10 months vast swathes of the north were wrestled from government control.
A French-led military intervention was launched in 2013 amid allegations the uprising had been hijacked by al-Qaida linked militants, leading to the return of government rule in the fractured north. Since then, the region has been mired in instability, with many Tuareg remaining frustrated with the central government.
A version of the peace deal was rejected by Tauregs earlier this year.
One CMA spokesperson, Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, told AFP the peace deal was just the start of a long road towards ensuring the agreement with the government is honored. “We are for peace, but what we want is that the agreement is actually implemented on the ground,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Western countries against making “unfulfillable” demands during nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2015) on Friday, Putin said that Iran and the P5+1 group of counties are able to reach an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program in the near future, cautioning the West against putting excessive, unfeasible demands on the Middle Eastern country.
The Russian leader also anticipated that it would take almost six months to implement a possible nuclear accord between Tehran and the six world powers.
“I think the signing should take place in the near future… the process of implementing these agreements will begin afterwards. It will require about six months,” the Sputnik news agency quoted him as saying.
The Russian president further stressed that the only counterproductive issue that jeopardizes Iran’s prospective nuclear deal is a deliberate effort on the part of Washington to undermine any such agreement.
“It is no less important [than signing the agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program] that the United States treat this positively, [that they] support it, [that] the Congress support it,” Putin noted, adding that it is Washington’s responsibility to settle the internal disputes over Tehran’s nuclear deal.
“This is not our problem… We cannot solve Washington’s problems,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said that it is possible for Iran and the P5+1 group to secure a final deal before the deadline.
“There are less problems in [this] round [of talks], and reaching the agreement before June 30 is possible,” he stated.
Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, the UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – are currently holding talks in the Austrian capital city of Vienna to finalize the text of a possible deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Meanwhile, reports also said that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is set to head to Luxemburg on Monday to hold talks with his European counterparts and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The two sides seek to reach a comprehensive final deal based on a mutual understanding on the key parameters agreed upon in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.
A Sudanese diplomat revealed on Friday that Russia and China are supporting the demand for the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to be withdrawn from the area, Quds Press has reported.
According to Sudanese Radio, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour met with the Russian and Chinese ambassadors in Khartoum separately. After discussing the latest developments in the issue he told the ambassadors that the Sudanese, US and African committee had reached “positive understandings” regarding the UNAMID exit from Darfur.
Ghandour criticised the statement about Sudan presented by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council on Thursday. He said that Ban’s report sought to confuse the issue by mentioning irrelevant incidents and conflicts that have little bearing on international peace and security.
Ban, added Ghandour, also referred to the battle with the Justice and Equality movement, without referring to the fact that these rebel forces entered from a neighbouring country which has provided all types of assistance to them, in violation of international law. Positive developments like the general amnesty declared by the president of Sudan, who welcomes anyone to join the peace process and negotiations, were omitted by the UN chief, he added.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Thursday cancelled a trip to South Africa to attend the African Union Summit after a group of lawyers filed an official legal request for his arrest.
The Egyptian president was supposed to arrive Friday in Johannesburg to lead his country’s delegation in the African summit titled “Enabling African Women,” which will take place on June 14 and 15.
“We believe Al-Sisi committed war crimes and crimes against humanity for the horrendous killings that resulted from the (2013) coup in Egypt,” attorney Yousha Tayoub, a member of the South African Muslim Lawyers Association, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
A well-informed African diplomatic source told Anadolu Agency that Al-Sisi would not participate. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that Egypt had officially informed the host country that Al-Sisi would not participate in the summit, and that PM Ibrahim Mehleb will lead the Egyptian delegation instead.
A former military commander, Al-Sisi is widely seen as the architect of the 2013 coup against President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Muslim Brotherhood leader.
At the time, the South African government had vocally criticized Morsi’s ouster and the subsequent crackdown on political dissent waged by Egypt’s army-backed government.
Kiev will nationalize Russian overseas property as compensation for the losses over Crimea’s reunification with Russia, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Justice Natalia Sevostyanova said. The decision is now up to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ukraine will be able to use this effective instrument if the European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of Kiev, Sevostyanova told “Channel 5,” Ukraine’s National News (UNN) reported on Tuesday.
“There will be a stage of satisfaction, when we’ll determine the amount by which the compensation will be directly paid to… The tool of property seizure is very effective abroad. Russia currently has a lot of such property in other countries,” Sevostyanova said.
More than 400 Ukrainian companies and 18 gas fields have been nationalized in Crimea, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice.
Crimea rejoined Russia in March 2014 after a referendum where the majority of people voted for secession from Ukraine and for joining Russia. Ukraine then called the result of the referendum Russia’s “illegal annexation” of the peninsula and filed its first lawsuit against Moscow to the European Court of Human Rights. Kiev estimated its losses at over 1 trillion hryvnia ($47 billion). Later, the country filed another lawsuit, related to the Donbass, over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the military conflict in southeastern Ukraine.
Honduran military police on patrol in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo: Karen Spring)
The 1980s saw widespread political violence and countless forced disappearances in many countries in Latin America, and Honduras was no exception.
Hundreds of political opponents of the 1980s U.S.-backed regime were kidnapped, tortured, and assassinated by the CIA-trained secret army unit Battalion 316, while at the same time Honduras served as a military base and training ground for U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in the region, especially in neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua.
With the Reagan Administration turning a blind eye to the brutality of Battalion 316, intentionally downplaying or denying its violence in order to continue backing Honduras financially and using the country as a key U.S. military outpost, the details of this death squad’s operations did not become clear until years later. A historic expose published in the Baltimore Sun in 1995, which included interviews with ex-Battalion 316 torturers and details from declassified U.S. government documents, revealed the full extent of the secret unit’s atrocities and its close links to Washington.
However, torture and disappearances aren’t just a tragic reality of the past in Honduras. Human rights defenders have drawn disturbing parallels between Battalion 316 and the present day situation in Honduras, saying the current level of human rights abuses and political repression is just as bad, if not worse than the era of forced disappearances in the 1980s.
In the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed coup ousting democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, forced disappearance, torture, and targeted assassinations re-emerged as state terror tactics to intimidate and repress a broad-based resistance. Conspicuous and even conscious links to 1980s tactics since the 2009 coup, as well as ongoing U.S. complicity, show a continuity of state sponsored terror, with new elements for the post-coup context.
Cold War Anti-Communism, Battalion 316, and Spreading Terror with U.S. Support
As U.S. President Ronald Reagan took office in January 1980, the Sandinista revolutionary government was in power in Nicaragua and revolutionary forces were struggling for political control in El Salvador. Honduras was undergoing its so-called transition to democracy with a return to civilian rule. The U.S., already supporting the Guatemalan military’s bloody counterinsurgency efforts for over a decade, played a key role in backing the counter-revolutionary factions of the political struggles gripping the region in civil war, namely Salvadoran government forces and the Nicaraguan Contras.
While Honduras did not have a mass revolutionary guerrilla movement like its neighboring Central American countries, political opposition was criminalized to contain the threat of an armed, popular uprising. Much of this violent work was carried out through forced disappearances by the death squad Battalion 316, the special unit of the Honduran military responsible for political torture and assassinations, with the collaboration of other military branches, special forces, and police.
According to the Honduran human rights organization COFADEH, formed in the 1980s by family members of the disappeared, Battalion 316 was responsible over 180 forced disappearances between 1980 and 1988, and many more were kidnapped and tortured.
Forced disappearance refers to the practice of secretly abducting and murdering victims, making them disappear from society without a trace. Bodies of the disappeared are often carefully hidden, or rendered unrecognizable, to instil fear without the identity of the victim or the perpetrator becoming known..
Battalion 316’s terror was simultaneously covert and public, carried out by disguised agents at times in broad daylight, intended to instill fear and make an example of their victims. Suspected political dissidents were kidnapped, detained in secret jails, and tortured. Sometimes remains of victims were found in ditches. According to the Baltimore Sun expose, torture techniques included electric shock, suffocation, freezing temperatures, and psychological torture as part of interrogation, which sometimes involved CIA agents. Berta Oliva, director of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), has said that at least one prisoner was skinned alive in a clandestine Battalion 316 jail.
While the numbers of people disappeared in Honduras was considerably less than in many other Latin American countries during the same period, the hundreds killed and disappeared created a broader fear and terror campaign that had the intended outcome of disempowering the Honduran left.
According to Adrienne Pine, Professor of Anthropology at American University, it’s hard to overstate Battalion 316’s impact.
“The highly publicized disappearance, torture and murder of just under 200 activists, students, journalists and professors in the early 1980s created an atmosphere of terror, effectively crushing any possibility for civic or democratic engagement in Honduras,” she told teleSUR. “As such, it laid the groundwork for the implementation of U.S.-led neoliberal economic policies, of which the Honduran military itself was a primary beneficiary.”
Battalion 316, led in its most brutal years from 1982-1984 by School of the Americas and Argentine-trained head of the Honduran armed forces General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, was a right-wing project designed to aid the Cold War fight against the alleged threat of communism in the region. Many Battalion agents were graduates of the U.S. School of the Americas (renamed in 2001 to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) military training center for U.S. allies in Latin America, specializing in Cold War counterinsurgency training. The Battalion itself was trained and financed by the CIA. Meanwhile, Honduras received tens of millions of dollars in U.S. funding throughout the decade, reaching its height of US$77.4 million in 1984.
The secret military unit also received training in Chile under dictator General Augusto Pinochet, as well as from Argentine counterinsurgency forces, at the time deep in their own dirty war against leftist dissidents that claimed some 30,000 victims in Argentina by early the 1980s.
U.S. Ambassador under the Reagan Administration, John Negroponte, is documented to have met frequently with Battalion 316 leader Alvarez Martinez. However, the violence and human rights abuses perpetrated by Alvarez Martinez’s forces are conspicuously absent from the hundreds of cables of records of their correspondence. In 1983, the U.S. awarded Alvarez Martinez the Legion of Merit for “encouraging the success of democratic processes in Honduras,” exposing the true face of U.S. hypocrisy.
U.S. denial of the violent situation in Honduras enabled the ongoing use of the country as a strategic U.S. military base from which to execute counterinsurgency strategy in the region, while the supposed threat of an armed insurgency in Honduras justified the existence of Battalion 316 and its terror.
State Terror Returns: Post-Coup Fear Tactics and Forced Disappearances
After the 2009 military coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president said in an exclusive interview with Democracy Now! that Battalion 316 was “already operating” in Honduras under a different name and using “torture to create fear.”
“There was a tremendous resurgence (after the coup) of death squad activity and assassinations of human rights defenders, trade unionists, campesinos, activists of the resistance of all sorts including journalists, lawyers,” Dana Frank, professor of History at the University of California Santa Cruz, told teleSUR. “It was very rare in the 20 years before the coup for these kinds of assassinations to happen … but it shot up dramatically after the coup.”
The post-coup links to Battalion 316 terror were palpable, both in the vast increase in human rights abuses, including torture, assassinations, and forced disappearances, as well as the direct connections of Battalion 316 personnel offering their expertise to the coup regime.
Former head of the Battalion 316, School of the Americas graduate Billy Joya, became a prominent coup regime spokesperson, advisor, and aide to de facto president Roberto Micheletti. According to COFADEH, many other retired Battalion 316 agents also became government advisors.
Pine, author of “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras,” said that the numbers of state-sponsored disappearances, tortures, and extrajudicial killings since the coup have far exceeded those of the 1980s.
With striking similarity to the fear campaign of the 1980s, COFADEH documented in 2010, along with dozens of other death threats and assassinations, that a former Battalion 316 agent publicly threatened resistance activist Candelario Reyes with forced disappearance and death, saying that killing such a “communist dog” would make the “best example” for other resistance activists.
“You can see the continuity with some of these individuals including the references to the 80s that are conscious references,” said Frank. “It’s terror, it’s deliberately spreading terror.”
Harkening back to 1980s terror was a deliberate strategy to instil fear in perceived political threats. In 2012, COFADEH human rights defender Dina Meza received a series of threats of death and sexual violence by text message signed with the initials CAM, standing for Comando Alvarez Martinez, early 1980s head of Battalion 316 responsible for grave human rights abuses. According to Amnesty International, CAM was used as a pseudonym in numerous death threats against journalists and activists in the wake of the coup.
According to Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. foreign policy in Honduras, the clearest and most alarming examples of post-coup strategies that follow the model of Battalion 316 are the TIGRES special units of the police force and FUSINA inter-agency task forces that bring together military, police, military police, prosecutors, and other government officials under military control.
FUSINA was initially headed by School of the Americas graduate Colonel German Alfaro, former commander of Battalion 15, the military unit in the Aguan Valley region implicated in dozens of post-coup murders of campesino activists. Trained by the FBI, DEA, and U.S. Marines, FUSINA is not only troubling for its conglomeration of agency functions under a military mandate, but also for its U.S.-enhanced intelligence capacities.
COFADEH denounced TIGRES as a “crude resurrection” of Battalion 316’s political disappearances, murder, and “criminal behaviour.”
These new constellations of state and military power, designed and deployed to create fear and contain political dissent, have again had a deep social and political impact in Honduras.
“A combination of the ‘soft power’ of USAID and NED-funded (so-called pro-democracy) programs on the one hand, and death squads within the police, the military, and now the military police have succeeded in destroying the post-coup resistance movement,” explained Pine. “This is what makes possible the neoliberal plunder of the country currently underway.”
A Different Pretext for Familiar Terror Tactics
But while there are clear continuities between the 1980s and post-coup strategies, there are also important differences.
Despite the fact that the armed left was a very small faction in Honduras, particularly in comparison to the revolutionary uprising in neighboring countries, Battalion 316’s violence was committed in the name of counterinsurgency. As Frank explains, the broad based nature of the post-coup popular resistance means that the victims of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances have been from a more diverse cross-section of society than the 1980s campaign against suspected revolutionary leftists.
Now, with the pretext of an alleged communist armed struggle no longer relevant, post-coup repression, including use of these historical counterinsurgency tactics, and U.S.-backing of a violent regime is framed in different terms.
“The pretext now is drug trafficking,” said Frank. “The drug war has been the frame within which the United States government has legitimated support for repression by state security forces in Honduras and increased funding for them.”
And while the U.S. goal of maintaining a regional base of power amidst the threat of emerging or consolidating leftist alternatives remains much the same, the political context in the region has significantly changed.
“The larger context is the many democratically elected center and center-left governments all over Latin America that the United States is threatened by because they aren’t going to pay obeisance to United States power,” said Frank. “The United States wanted to lock down its power in Honduras so that it can maintain what has long been the most captive nation in Latin America.”
In the process, the U.S. also promotes the interests of transnational corporations that are making a killing from state-sponsored death squads that suppress resistance and pave the way for capitalist exploitation of land, labor, and indigenous and campesino resources.
“With the consolidation of neoliberal corporate capital, Honduran and U.S. politicians are more beholden to their sponsors than they were three decades ago,” explained Pine. “Hondurans today suffer not just from the terror of death squads but from the ravages of three decades of the implementation of neoliberal policy made possible by death squads, which makes them that much more vulnerable.”
COFADEH: Seeking Justice, Truth, and Respect for Human Rights
Bertha Oliva, director of COFADEH, lost her husband Tomas Nativi to forced disappearance by Battalion 316. Nativi was taken from their home by masked agents in 1981 and has never been seen again.
Over the year after Nativi’s disappearance, Oliva came to realize that she was not alone, and others had similar experiences of family members being disappeared. In 1982, 12 of these families came together to form COFADEH with the clear objective of bringing back alive family members who had been disappeared. In the majority of cases throughout the 1980s while Battalion 316 was operating, COFADEH did not succeed in their goal.
After the 1980s, COFADEH broadened its scope as an organization not only committed to seeking justice for the families of the disappeared and truth for Honduran society, but also representing and defending victims of human rights abuses, documenting cases, and providing training to raise awareness about human rights.
The creation of COFADEH was, in its own words, a “concrete action” in the face of the inactivity of the state to ensure “the right of victims to live and to have due process, among other rights that have been violated.”
COFADEH has continued to play a key role in documenting and denouncing human rights abuses and demanding justice, particularly once again in the years since the coup.
Every moment of every day, all of humanity is held hostage by the nuclear nine. The nine nuclear nations are made up of the P5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and their illegitimate nuclear wannabes Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan, spawned by the mythological theory of deterrence. This theory has fueled the nuclear arms race since its inception wherein if one nation has one nuclear weapon, its adversary needs two and so on to the point that the world now has 15,700 nuclear weapons wired for immediate use and planetary destruction with no end in sight. This inaction continues despite the 45-year legal commitment of the nuclear nations to work toward complete nuclear abolition. In fact just the opposite is happening with the U.S. proposing to spend $1 Trillion on nuclear weapons “modernization” over the next 30 years, fueling the “deterrent” response of every other nuclear state to do likewise.
This critical state of affairs comes as the 189 signatory nations to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded the month long Review Conference at the U.N. in New York. The conference was officially a failure due to the refusal of the nuclear weapons states to present or even support real steps toward disarmament. The nuclear gang demonstrates an unwillingness to recognize the peril that the planet faces at the end of their nuclear gun; they continue to gamble on the future of humanity. Presenting a charade of concern, they blamed each other and bogged down in discussions over a glossary of terms while the hand of the nuclear Armageddon clock continues to move ever forward.
The nuclear weapons states have chosen to live in a vacuum, one void of leadership. They hoard suicidal nuclear weapons stockpiles and ignore recent scientific evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons that we now realize makes these weapons even more dangerous than we thought before. They fail to recognize that this evidence must be the basis for prohibiting and eliminating them.
Fortunately there is one powerful and positive response coming out of the NPT Review Conference. The Non-Nuclear Weapons States, representing a majority of people living on the planet, frustrated and threatened by the nuclear nations, have come together and demanded a legal ban on nuclear weapons like the ban on every other weapon of mass destruction from chemical to biologic and landmines. Their voices are rising up. Following a pledge by Austria in December 2014 to fill the legal gap necessary to ban these weapons, 107 nations have joined them at the U.N. this month. That commitment means finding a legal instrument that would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. Such a ban will make these weapons illegal and will stigmatize any nation that continues to have these weapons as being outside of international law.
Costa Rica’s closing NPT remarks noted, ”Democracy has not come to the NPT but Democracy has come to nuclear weapons disarmament.” The nuclear weapons states have failed to demonstrate any leadership toward total disarmament and in fact have no intention of doing so. They must now step aside and allow the majority of the nations to come together and work collectively for their future and the future of humanity. John Loretz of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said, “The nuclear-armed states are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of the future. The ban treaty is coming, and then they will be indisputably on the wrong side of the law. And they have no one to blame but themselves.”
“History honors only the brave,” declared Costa Rica. “Now is the time to work for what is to come, the world we want and deserve.”
Ray Acheson of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom says, “Those who reject nuclear weapons must have the courage of their convictions to move ahead without the nuclear-armed states, to take back ground from the violent few who purport to run the world, and build a new reality of human security and global justice.”
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., is a practicing family physician, writes for PeaceVoice, and serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions.
A senior Iranian official has described as “successful” negotiations on the delivery of Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.
“Negotiations on the delivery of the S-300 [missile system] to Iran has been successful”, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Monday during a press conference after a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in the Russian capital, Moscow.
Amir-Abdollahian also stressed that all issues surrounding the delivery of the system to Iran are progressing well.
He further noted that the delivery of S-300 to Iran will happen at the soonest opportunity possible.
On April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree paving the way for the long-overdue delivery of the missile system to Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
The decision to deliver the missile system came after Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – reached a mutual understanding on Tehran’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.
Moscow had banned the delivery of the S-300 system to Tehran in 2010 under the pretext that the agreement it signed with Iran in 2007 was covered by the fourth round of the Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The resolution bars hi-tech weapons sales to the Islamic Republic.
The Russian president defended Moscow’s decision on S-300 supply to Iran, saying the system is meant for deterrence amid ongoing developments in war-torn Yemen.
The UN says since March, nearly 2,000 people have been killed and 7,330 others injured due to the conflict in Yemen. However, according to Yemen’s Freedom House Foundation, the Saudi airstrikes have claimed the lives of about 4,000 Yemeni people.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Russia over its decision to lift the ban on the delivery of S-300 missile system to Iran, saying Tel Aviv sees the plan with “utmost gravity.”