Friday, December 18, 2009

Denise Stanley's Letter regarding the Abstention Rate Controversy in Honduras

Thanks so much for continuing to cover the events in Honduras! It has dropped out of the mainstream press, yet the problems remain. Many people in California remain outraged with the State Department's policy on this issue, and it is only through follow-up research that the true underlying problems in Honduras will be revealed.

As I mentioned in my earlier email I was always concerned about the survey results reported in the press about Zelaya having no support in Honduras. I remain convinced that a serious rural-urban split underlies Honduran politics and this has not been picked up in survey efforts or reporting. I hope that further analysis of the election results and absenteeism will be done.

Finally I did want to congratulate Michaela D'Ambrosio for her excellent piece on the economic backdrop to the coup and the subsequent effects. The populism model advocated by Zelaya clearly scared the Honduran elite, and apart from a few sentences in the LA Times I don't think the US press mentioned economics much. The country's future economic picture does not look bright as Michaela mentions. The Washington Post seemed to say that since remittances have continued to Honduras the country should be fine. But ECLAC just reported on Monday that Honduras will have the worst (negative) growth outcomes in all of Latin America in 2010.

Well since the postings on your blog have been so strident I just wanted to send this email to say thanks again for your work.


Denise Stanley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Economics
California State University-Fullerton

We thank Dr. Stanley for her observations and want to take this opportunity to proudly announce that she has just been appointed a COHA Senior Research Fellow.


COHA Staff

Friday, December 11, 2009

Loveman Speaks

Con todo respeto, and after years of admiring COHA's efforts, the piece on Correa was not acceptable.

I do not admire "radical populism," whatever that means (to SOUTHCOM or Congress -- and Obama has no clue) just as I did not admire Peron or Ibanez or even Haya de la Torre. But basic historical accuracy is important for credibility over the long-term.

My suggestion, for what it is worth, is that before such opinion pieces go out over the web some more senior person review the work of younger colleagues. Or, without compromising COHA independence, maybe country specialist could take a look? Most of what you send out is not highly time sensitive. The Correa piece (though it really was not mostly about Correa) could have gone out a week or two weeks later without diminishing its timeliness. In the case of the Correa piece, almost anyone at FLACSO Ecuador (and especially Adrian Bonilla, the director) could have helped with the historical errors.

In my opinion, there is no sense compromising the efforts to change U.S. policy toward the region by allowing obvious errors to go out under/over COHA imprimatur. I realize that you have already begun to deal with the fallout of this particular piece, but my concern is about longer-term credibility and also the internal vetting of such pieces which, once released, are not only read by the old selective audiences of professional journals and remain on the web as for a long time. The political implications of shotgun "research" may have longer-term consequences.

Saludos Cordiales,
Brian Loveman

COHA Bravely Follows the Leader


It is a measure of COHA's moral cowardice and leftist bias that it grants Long's huffilly indignant letter its special distribution status. His enthusiasm for Latin America's self-impoverishing left wing revolution identifies him as a shill for increasing and centralizing governmental power. How many experiments of that sort must be observed before the failure of the model is finally acknowledged? It has been pointed out countlesss times, but here it is, again: the movement of millions of immigrants across the globe is from more heavily regulated economies to less heavily regulated ones. When the people vote with their feet, they vote for a smaller central government.Long's incidental defense of FARC seals the case against his standing as an honest critic. He hides behind an incomplete factoid, to wit, that a number of Latin American countries have not classified FARC as a terrorist organization, in order to legitimize that criminal gang. But one need not await the leadership of the Venezuelan government or its bought and paid-for lapdogs, the Argentine ruling family, to note that FARC has kidnapped and currently holds over seven hundred civilian hostages, that it is a drug dealer of considerable scale, and that the government against which it wars is the most honestly elected, broadly supported in South America. FARC is a terrorist organization; everyone knows it, even if not everyone has the courage to say it.My criticism is not aimed at Long; everyone knows what he is. I write to chastise COHA, which so slavishly kowtows to its ideological masters.

Bernard McElhone, Penseur Extraordinaire

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ecuador's Flirtations with Democracy: Correa Does it Somewhat Differently

Ecuador Today: How Does Correa Do It?

Latin America is watching another of its popular presidents, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, lead his country into the 21st century. The fact that he enjoys such high esteem among the population reflects a string of artful campaign strategies and a largely successful attempt to remove the political constraints to his strategic goals. Not alone in his ambition to grant himself unrestricted power, he joins the ranks of regional leaders like Hugo Chávez, who have embarked on a radical and nationalist leadership effort. Correa has pledged economic relief to the poor, renewed political sovereignty to the indigenous, and regional integration. However, in doing so, civil liberties have at times been treated as privileges rather than guaranteed rights. Correa may appeal to the masses, but after fears of haphazard attempts to experiment with democracy in Ecuador, the country lingers in a political limbo, with many unsure as to which direction it will ultimately go.

In comparison to a number of other Latin American countries, Ecuador boasts a relatively stable, mostly-tranquil history that has been free of Pinochet-like military dictatorships, Batista-like presidential coups, and Salvadoran-like civil wars. However, such comparative stability cannot hide the formidable obstacles that face Ecuador today. In the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which rates countries on a ten-point scale (10 being the least corrupt) according to civilian perceptions, Ecuador received a low 2.2, denoting “rampant corruption.” Furthermore, in recent months under the rule of democratically-elected President Rafael Correa, Ecuador has been accused of harboring terrorists operating against Colombia, threatening to shut down the independent TV station Teleamazonas, and seizing oil fields owned by the Anglo-French company Perenco Corp. Whether or not these actions will directly effect the future of Ecuador’s democratic institutions remains to be seen; however, President Correa’s continuous drift to the left is sure to ignite significant instability, both domestically and in the Andean region.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is Uribe Pro-stability or Merely Anti-Guerrilla?: Colombia Stays Soft on Paramilitaries

Though it hardly constitutes breaking news, Colombian newsweekly Semana’s interview with Luis Jorge Garay makes for sobering reading. Garay has a lot to say about the evolution of the “new” paramilitary armies in Colombia and their links to what he calls the Colombian “narco-state,” none of which is very comforting for American policymakers. Garay’s basic insight is that while the Uribe government has weakened the FARC and other left-wing guerrilla groups, new drug-trafficking paramilitary groups have emerged and infiltrated the Colombian state, particularly at the local and regional level. These paramilitaries keep a low profile, but they are quite busy extending their influence across Colombia and subverting the state to meet their ends. Trials for top paramilitary leaders aside, Uribe has done little to uproot the long-term threat paramilitary groups pose to governance, and instead appears willing to sanction tacit cooperation between government officials and the new narco-paramilitaries.

In the mean time, the killings and violations of human rights just keep happening. Much has been made of the murder of trade unionists in Colombia, but the real scandal is the overbearing persecution of journalists and other defenders of human rights by paramilitaries and the government institutions aligned with them. Consider the chilling remarks by Defense Minister Gabriel de Silva to assembled military officers on August 12th:

“May a colonel not tremble, may he have no fear before the codes [of justice], may a general or a soldier not tremble in the face of a [human rights] complaint, may their will to fight not be stopped by a judicial action by the enemies of the fatherland.”

When a Defense Minister tells his military chiefs that they need have no fear of the justice system, it’s usually considered a Bad Thing. And when he goes on to label those who would have it otherwise “enemies of the fatherland,” donor governments generally start making for the exits as fast as diplomatically possible. Yet the U.S. government went on to certify Colombia's human rights record in September, paving the way for continued military aid to Colombia under Plan Colombia.

This explains a lot about the current uproar over the base agreement signed on October 30th. When the U.S. announces a policy to combat narco-trafficking in Colombia, you expect to see funds go to narco-trafficking operations. When most of the money instead funds the Colombian military, and when that military appears to sanction the narco-trafficking operations of new paramilitary groups, regional powers begin to distrust U.S. intentions. And when the U.S. announces a plan to expand its military presence in Colombia, and then admits that its stated objectives in doing so weren’t entirely true…well, you get a regional backlash.

It’s handy to have a friendly government willing to host bases in the region, sure, but it undermines any potential benefit when policymakers fail to take seriously the conditions for aid stipulated in Plan Colombia. A lot of the sturm und drang over the base agreement could have been avoided if the State Department had stuck to the letter of the law and shown it was serious about human rights in Colombia. Instead, we find ourselves in a regional diplomatic conflagration.

Extra Credit: On Saturday Venezuelan authorities reported capturing Magaly Janeth Moreno Vega, a Colombian ex-prosecutor who confessed to aiding paramilitaries and was convicted as an accomplice to murder several years ago, before she fled while on temporary parole. Further evidence of rampant paramilitarism, or Venezuelan showmanship? Your comments are appreciated.

Research Associate Robert Banick

Monday, November 02, 2009

'Fordlandia' by COHA Senior Research Fellow Greg Grandin

BOOK REVIEW: 'Fordlandia' by Greg Grandin

Greg Grandin is a COHA Senior Research Fellow and a former intern from the 1980's. He is also currently a Professor of History at New York University. Below is a review of his recent book, Fordlandia, by Tim Rutten of the LA Times

The fascinating story of Henry Ford's venture to build an American utopia in the Brazilian rain forest.

By Tim Rutten
LA Times

June 24, 2009

From the moment restive medieval scribes began to jot their own thoughts and feelings into the spaces alongside the texts and chronicles they'd been assigned to copy, much that's most fascinating about Western history has seemed, at first, simply marginalia.

Historian Greg Grandin has taken what heretofore seemed just such a marginal event -- Henry Ford's failed attempt to establish a gigantic agricultural industrial complex in the heart of Brazil's Amazon Basin -- and turned it into a fascinating historical narrative that illuminates the auto industry's contemporary crisis, the problems of globalization and the contradictions of contemporary consumerism. For all of that, this is not, however, history freighted with political pedantry. Grandin is one of a blessedly expanding group of gifted American historians who assume that whatever moral the story of the past may yield, it must be a story well told.

"Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City" is precisely that -- a genuinely readable history recounted with a novelist's sense of pace and an eye for character. It's a significant contribution to our understanding of ourselves and engrossingly enjoyable.

In 1927, Ford was America's richest man and (in most "respectable" circles) one of its most admired. He was also in a protean sense our first industrial celebrity, forerunner of figures like David Packard, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, who would be celebrated for organizing transforming technologies. The assembly line obviously was Ford's greatest innovation and the affordable personal auto its great transforming product, but his ambitions hardly stopped there.

'A relentless system'

Social reformers who visited Ford's first auto plants were horrified by what they saw. The British journalist Julian Street called the Model T assembly line in Highland Park "a relentless system" producing "terrible efficiency. . . . Like a river and its tributaries." Ford saw other problems -- high absenteeism and worker turnover. Later that year, Grandin writes, "Ford made an announcement that sent seismic shocks across the globe. . . . [T]he Ford Motor Company would pay an incentive wage of $5 for an eight-hour day, nearly double the average industrial standard. The Wall Street Journal charged Henry Ford with class treason, with 'economic blunders if not crimes.' Yet his absentee and turnover rate plummeted and Ford was jolted into the ranks of the world's most admired men, 'an international symbol of the new industrialism.' "

Ford followed up the raise with a system of educational, health and other benefits and set up a vast network of spies and home visitors to ensure the new wages were spent on "a wholesome life" rather than on "gambling, drinking or whoring." Workers were prodded into spending on houses, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and, of course, Ford cars. The mogul and the cadre of farsighted executives around him "understood that high wages and decent benefits would do more than create a dependable and thus more productive workforce; they would also stabilize and stimulate demand for industrial products by turning workers into consumers."

Thus was born "Fordism," which many at the time embraced as a kind of "third way" between unrestrained capitalism and Marxism. Ford and his astonishingly -- indeed, tragically -- contradictory character stand at the center of "Fordlandia." Grandin has, in essence, given us a bracing new angle on this strange man's biography. He was a lifelong admirer of Emerson, firm in the "Transcendentalists' belief in human perfectibility," yet he instinctively distrusted every individual's choice but his own -- and more so, as the years went on. He was a pacifist and opponent of capital punishment who ultimately unleashed brutal thugs to terrorize his own workers. He so loathed the farm life of his boyhood that he thought cow's milk should be replaced by soy and wool by linen, but went around founding utopian communities that mixed farming and industry. He was a bitter, vulgar, lifelong anti-Semite.

Ford was, in other words, perhaps that greatest example of a peculiarly American type in which the line between crank and genius is so ephemeral as to be all but invisible. Grandin has said he was drawn to the story of Fordlandia because it "captures the essence of Ford, tying together all the many threads of his life."

By the late 1920s, Ford was feeling many kinds of pressure: Socially, America was closing in on him. The long boom was tottering toward the abyss of 1929; his various social experiments were increasingly rejected, including a plan that in many respects anticipated the Tennessee Valley Authority; at the same time, an Anglo-Dutch attempt to monopolize the production of rubber in Southeast Asia seemed to directly threaten Ford Motor's future.

Rubber plantations

The Southeast Asian plantations were founded with seeds stolen from the Brazilian rain forest, where rubber trees grew wild. Thus, Ford was persuaded to put up $125,000 to acquire 2.5 million acres along an Amazon tributary 500 miles from the Atlantic. There he envisioned a vast plantation in which carefully selected seedlings would be raised scientifically and the latex harvested by local workers under the supervision of American executives. Ford decreed the construction of a model upper Michigan/New England village complete with Cape Cod-style bungalows, a state-of-the-art hospital, company cafeterias, schools, a cinema with American films and -- believe it or not -- nightly square dancing, of which the mogul approved. The local workers, who previously had lived in a kind of debt peonage to their buyers, were to be paid American wages.

Good intentions notwithstanding, it was a disaster from the start. Ford was a supporter of Prohibition and insisted that his workers refrain from alcohol and smoking, which didn't fly with anybody in the rain forest. A floating red-light district soon emerged, and the company hospital did a brisk business treating venereal disease. Most of all, consumerism failed because there was nothing to buy. Ford compensated by opening subsidized shoe stores and ice cream parlors. Similarly, concentrating the rubber trees in plantations made them more prone to the pests indigenous to the rain forest. Production never amounted to much. In 1930, the most serious of a series of riots erupted with chants of "kill all the Americans" after a manager did away with cafeteria table service and made workers line up for alien brown rice and whole wheat bread, which Ford regarded as "healthy."

Ford never visited Fordlandia, but he poured money into it and another nearby village, perhaps imagining that projects his fellow Americans had rejected might come to fruition there. By the time Ford Motor sold Fordlandia back to the Brazilian government in 1945 for $244,200, the company had spent, in inflation-adjusted figures, roughly $1 billion on the project.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Honduras: Guaranteeing the elections

Paolo Luers, a commentator of El diario de Hoy of El Salvador sent us one of his articles regarding the current situation in Honduras. We would like to re-publish it in order to enhance the discussion regarding the current situation in Honduras and also to help identify and clarify different positions taken in the current debate.

The opinions expressed here correspond solely to the author and do not reflect the views of COHA.

The English synopsis of this article was prepared by COHA Research Associate Andres Ochoa

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Letter to the editor The Miami Herald "Let the Haitians Stay"

Read the original article here

Dear Editor,

Your editorial “Let the Haitians stay”, makes a strong case for the necessity to grant a protected status to the thousands of Haitians that have fled to the United States. Refusing to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians has only furthered the long standing discrimination that they have been forced to face in the region, whether it be the systematic discrimination of citizenship rights for Haitian-Dominicans in the Dominican Republic, or the internationally overlooked upheaval following food shortages in 2008. Haitians, like past TPS groups, should be entitled to the same human dignity which international instruments and agreements seek to protect. By recognizing a protected status for the Haitians in the U.S., the calamities of their failed nation, Haiti, which has confronted unremitting natural and man-caused disasters, can be acknowledged. Furthermore, the promotion of human rights and international solidarity for a people who have been dealt a poor hand throughout their history would be clearly recorded. The U.S., as it seeks to champion human rights in the region, must take the critical first step by granting the Haitians greater dignity, which can only reward all concerned.

Andres Ochoa
Research Associate, Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Washington D.C.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Response to "Venezuela's Polarized Society Split by Another Issue"

Read the original article here

The latest polls show significant erosion in Chavez’ popular support. One problem he faces is his reliance on cash disbursements and other transfers to the population, which are based on high oil prices and a reasonably efficient oil industry. This, alas, isn’t what it used to be. Both oil prices and oil industry efficiency are down, and therefore the government is increasingly unable to disburse the cash. The problem is compounded because the rest of the economy is slowly dying as he continues nationalizing portions of the economy using a fairly adhoc method. As the cash flow ceases, the masses don’t support him the way they did, so it’s going to get very interesting in the next few years.

Comment by Braulio Perez

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

Read the original article here

Articles like this, in which critical links are based on “may” and “it is said” are what characterizes Fox News and other neocon publications. Sadly, it also means they carry little credibility.

Comment by Braulio Perez

Response to "What the Drug War Needs is a Debate"

Read the original article here

Adequate management of drugs requires a worldwide permanent dialoque. There is no permanent solution. And any balancing point will be dynamic. It is like pushing on water.
A string of treaties would be the best framework but is difficult to achieve. Second best is each country working towards a solution model of the same structure. The good news is that such model can be built to handle any type of drug.
At least some LA countries seem to be convinced now that one should not penalize drug consumers. This appears to be close to the Dutch “coffeeshop” model for drugs. By the way, the Dutch are top drugproducers, close to Colombia and Afghanistan. Further, one should not forget alcohol and tobacco. These produce heavier damage than the drugs we talk about here. But they are “accepted” to a certain degree. This shows the way to better management. Demand can only be reduced by information and education. Treatment of health damage can be financed by excise-duties.
Supply follows demand. So, it is not efficient to fight the problem in the production countries. The battle must be won in the consumer markets. We can manage it by making it a state monopoly. This will guarantee quality and control prices.
May be it would be even better to hand out licences to a limited number of private dealers. Their market behavior can be tightly controlled. It is even worthwhile to consider some of the large actual traders. Let them apply and pay for the licence. They are so rich and powerful that pushing them back will be very difficult and costly. Moreover, if we would succeed, they will shift their huge resources to other illegal activities like prostitution, armstrade and slavelabour. That will be the day! Thanks to God these criminals have a propensity to legalize their business if we allow it.
As for the remaining illegal traders, we must be merciless.
Even capital punishment may be involved.

Comment by Charles Janssen

Response to "What the Drug War Needs is a Debate"

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Marijuana Legalization does not require ANY more debate. Polls are showing time and time again that the majority of Americans support legalizing pot. What we need is the Ability to prosecute out Representatives for KNOWINGLY disobeying the will of the people. A law like this would be Good to preserve OUR democracy from lobbyists and crooked politicians.

Comment by Todd

Response to "What the Drug War Needs is a Debate"

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Debaters debate the two wars as if Nixon’s civil war on Woodstock Nation didn’t yet run amok. One need not travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights or to Cuba for political prisoners. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to ongoing persecution of hippies, radicals, and non-whites under banner of the war on drugs. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance global credibility.

The drug czar’s Rx for prison fodder costs dearly, as lives are flushed down expensive tubes. There’s trouble on the border. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. God didn’t screw up. Canadian Marc Emery sold seeds that enable American farmers to outcompete cartels with superior domestic herb. He is being extradited to prison, for doing what government wishes it could do, reduce demand for Mexican.

The constitutionality of the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) derives from an interstate commerce clause. Only by this authority does it reincarnate Al Capone, endanger homeland security, and throw good money after bad. Official policy is to eradicate, not tax, the number-one cash crop in the land. America rejected prohibition, but it’s back. Apparently, SWAT teams don’t need no stinking amendment. Father, forgive those who make it their business to know not what they do.

Nixon promised that the Schafer Commission would support the criminalization of his enemies, but it didn’t. No matter, the witch-hunt was on. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA halted all research and pronounced that marijuana has no medical use, period.

The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote, which functions like LSD. Americans shouldn’t need a specific church membership to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. Denial of entheogen sacrament to any American, for mediation of communion with his or her maker, precludes free exercise of religious liberty.

Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

Common-law must hold that adults are the legal owners of their own bodies. The Founding Fathers decreed that the right to the pursuit of happiness is inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. Mortal lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration.

Comment by Bill Harris

Response to "What the Drug War Needs is a Debate"

Read the original article here

The current focus of the drug war in the Americas must change. The existing direction, one held for the previous forty plus years has been ineffective and wasteful for all economies involved. While hundreds of billions of dollars have been dumped into this black hole of a policy, Hundreds of billions more are directed in profit towards gangs and cartels in every country. This improvident policy ignored all of the lessons of the prohibition of Alcohol in the United States during the period from 1920 to 1933. What the U.S. learned from their failed attempt at prohibiting their citizens’ access to a vice was the vice would multiply many times over previous levels. Second the emergence of gangs and organized crime syndicates would flourish and profit from filling the supply chain disrupted by laws and restrictions. This current policy does little more than create alternative methods for people to obtain their drugs. Without draconian measures, most in violation of the tenets of the United States Constitution, it will be impossible to eradicate drug use in this country.
In contrast a managed narcotic distribution program would supply the product to those who desire, tax revenue to those countries producing and selling, and withhold from the cartels the life blood of their crime families. It has taken well over six decades to weaken the stranglehold organized crime had over the political process of the U.S., and it will take several decades more to unseat the crime cartels of Latin America from their positions of political control, both within and outside of their countries. One quick method is to restrict their flow of hard currency. By legalizing possession, and licensing distribution and point of sale with methods currently used for the sale of alcohol, a system can quickly be put in place. One large requirement would be to ensure that the product has an equal profit distribution chain as well as providing medical support for those addicts who wish to end their addiction.
Too little thought has been given to the policies desired by the people of the Americas, and too much to the desires of those who profit from warfare and bloodshed. This isn’t a simple problem to fix, but dialogue on the subject is the best place to begin.

Comment by Mario Minichino

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Response to "Washington's Double Standard on Cuba"

Read the original article here

Double standards exemplified:Air Cubana flight 455, see,inter alia:

(Although not mentioned in the description on this site, it is reputed that Captain Perez ditched the airliner in Payne’s bay on the West coast of the island rather than landing at Barbados’ airport in order to spare the lives of Barbadians on the ground.)

Comment from Clive Lewis

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

Read the original article here

The Arcadia Foundation has been a champion of democracy and an advocate for rule of law. When the President of any nation illegally attempts to prolong their executive position, it is a clear indicator of someone disregarding constitutional law and in this case, symbolizes corruption at the highest level of government. Robert Carmona-Borjas and the Arcadia Foundation believe that democracy is crucial for the effective exercise of fundamental freedoms and human rights in their universality. The OAS charter indeed states that ‘ representative democracy is an indispensable condition for stability, peace and development ‘ within the regions of the Americas.

The Arcadia Foundation will be building an open forum where we look forward to regularly engaging with those interested in the processes of combating corruption and promoting the values of democracy.

Comment by The Arcadia Foundation

Response to "Obama Wrong on Latin America, Wrong on Cuba"

Read the original article here

Obama is doing something as possible , George W did what we have now.

Comment by Jose

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

Read the original article here

I see nothing wrong with well informed speculation, especially given the recent history of US-American involvement in Central America and of those people mentioned in this article.

Whoever claims that Zelaya violated the Honduran constitution is either promoting the coup maker’s agenda, or has swallowed the propaganda of the de facto government, and the people that support Michelettis illegitimate government.

The policies Zelaya was implementing before the coup were perfectly legal. He was not trying to get reelected. He was trying to perform a non-binding survey, with the intention of finding out if Hondurans wanted a fourth ballot-box in November’s elections. This fourth ballot-box would have to be approved by Congress and it would decide on the establishment of a National Constituent Assembly, like the one suggested by de facto president Micheletti in 1985 to reelect president Suazo, and the one set up by the Honduran military and the Americans in 1982 to write a new Constitution as a part of their counter-insurgency programs (Honduras’ 12th constitution). It is a perfectly legal and democratic procedure to write a new constitution, which is not equivalent to reforming the current constitution. The reason is that according to the constitution, Honduran people and their will are above the constitution itself. Zelaya was trying to legally open up for citizen participation in a rigid and undemocratic political system that Hondurans have not created themselves. His opponents violated the law to get rid of him. Colonel Bayardo Inestroza, the legal advisor of the military has accepted this in interviews with The Miami Herald and El Faro. A very good analysis made by a Spanish lawyer Enrique Santiago is available here: The decrees that support Zelaya’s policies are also available in the Internet: PCM- 05-2009, PCM 019-2009, PCM 20-2009, PCM 27-2009. None of those decrees speak about reelection. I am all for well informed speculation, and we can speculate about Zelaya’s intention, but there this does not mean we can legally convict him for his actions. By the way, there hasn’t been a due process to establish guilt. He was kidnapped and flown off. Why?

Another interesting fact that is not mentioned here is that this coup parallels what happened in Haiti in 2004, when President Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted after being kidnapped and flown out of the country.

There has also been a lot of speculation about the involvement of American right wing extremists in the 2004 coup against Aristide.

According to an article by Naomi Klein, published in The Nation Magazine in 2005, Jean Bertrand Aristide told her in person that the reason there was a coup against him was that he told Washington he would not privatize TeleCo, Haiti’s telecommunications company. Just as Arcadia Foundation and among others Otto Reich staged a propaganda campaign against president Zelaya in Honduras before the coup, accusing him of corruption in Hondutel, there had been a propaganda campaign that accused Aristide of corruption before the coup in Haiti.

Answering a comment above, companies are privatized because investors are always after more profit.

It is important to remember that in 1987 the Comptroller General of the United States found that public funds had been misused by the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean to finance a “white propaganda” campaign against the government of Nicaragua. The House Foreign Affairs Committee called this office a propaganda operation against the Sandinistas. This office was led by Mr. Otto Reich, who is mentioned in this analysis.

Arcadia Foundation is run by a Venezuelan exile, involved in the 2002 coup against Venezuela. He had bee campaigning in Honduras against Zelaya before the coup.

These are all important facts and they raise relevant and legitimate questions. It doesn’t have to do with being from the right or the left (the democratic and peaceful versions, that is).

Hopefully the resolution of events in Honduras will eventually answer these questions. In the meantime there will always be short minded people that are afraid to speculate and brush off this information and confuse foreign policy and geopolitical interests with “conspiracy theories”. Such a naïve view of politics has no historical conscience.

Comment by Alberto Valiente Thoresen

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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IRI’s work is not focused on privatization or the telecommunications industry. IRI, as does the National Democratic Institute, supports the strengthening of democratic institutions and processes. The bulk of IRI’s programming in Honduras is concentrated on helping city governments better serve their citizens. Our program and record is very clear and transparent there. We encourage those who are interested to learn more about our governance programming at: The other aspect to our program in Honduras seeks to help encourage political parties and civil society focus on substantive issues such as healthcare, roads, education and economic development. IRI stands by that work as well.

Comment by Lisa

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

Read the original article here

So finally the IRI’s cover has been blown and it is glaringly clear that once again the U.S. will protect its interests, meaning business interests who are friendly with U.S. Senators. Could just have well been the National Endowment for Democracy – same agenda. The first respondent is correct, in a way this is old news because the U.S. State Dept cannot resist demands from big business, never has, never will. The third respondent throws in the straw man of Hugo Chavez. So let me get this right, either Latin American countries have to turn over ALL state assets to someone like Mexico’s Carlos Slim who immediately buys out the competition to create a monopoly – or they are Chavezistas or Fidelistas and deserve to be ousted by the military? Give me a break. I wonder whether on the CNN program tonight anyone will ask a question concerning Otto Reich – McCain’s handmaiden – and his role in getting the terrorist Orlando Bosch released from a Venezuelan jail where he was incarcerated for blowing up 73 people in an airliner in 1976. Bosch now lives in Florida, a location to which the “war on terror” doesn’t extend.

Comment by Jonathan

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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My comment referred to the second from “A.B.” I want to add and to tell him that the credibility of U.S. policy is since long at stake and so is the coverage by U.S. mainstream medias. Thanks to Internet everybody can research by him- or herself when honestly searching for the facts and compare them to each other.
I am a German woman engaged in the campaign to free the Cuban Five which is shared by millions all over the globe.
As Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban Parliament, recently and complete correctly said: “Many Americans do not know about the Cuban Five because they have not been permitted to know.
Not only was the long trial of the Five maintained in the dark, Americans have not even been allowed to know that this case has been very much in the minds of many millions around the globe. The big corporate media that didn’t report their legal battle threw a similar curtain of silence around the wide, ever growing, movement of solidarity that the Cuban Five have received practically everywhere from Ireland to Tasmania, from Canada to Namibia. Churches, parliaments, human rights organizations, labor unions, writers, lawyers and peoples from all walks of life have expressed their concern and interest in all languages, English included.
But the Supreme Court did not bother to listen.” Neither do the U.S. mainstream medias, so far.

Comment by Josie Michel-Brüning

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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All of COHA’s “investigations” on Honduras since June 28 have been so blatantly partialized and they have spread so much false information that they would have made Joseph Goebbels proud. Zelaya was altering the Constitution by summoning a Constituent Assembly that very same day by an exuctive decree that would have dissolved Congress and the Political Parties. Apart from all the violations Zelaya did in three years, he planned to dismantle the Constitution. It was not a coup. It was a legitimmate Constitutional Succession based on Article 239 of the Constitution that states that any attempt to modify articles of the Constitution relating to form and duration of government is high treason and the leader who does it ceases in office. Is Noam Chomsky dictating U.S. foreign policy and writing for COHA? I never thought I’d see the day that the Republican Party would be more democratic, legal and informed than the Democrats.

Comment by Victor Vallejo

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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Dear Michaela D’Ambrosio,
I am appreciating your article very much! However, the last comments show very clear to me how difficult it must be in “God’s own land”, the USA, to tell the truth or even to ask such challenging questions for people with respective, from generation to generation transmitted views, because of the profit of few, the “elite”. Thank you for your courage to do so! And thanks to Larry Burns for having posted it.
May be, Obama needs such support by your information when wanting to keep to his promise of “change”.
I want to add a quotation of one of the political prisoners in the USA, apart from the Cuban 5 having fought against the US Mafia, there is the Indian one, Leonard Peltier (perhaps he is right?):
“September 11-13, 2009
A CounterPunch Exclusive
The Denial of My Parole
I am Barack Obama’s political prisoner now, and I hope and pray that he will adhere to the ideals that impelled him to run for president. But as Obama himself would acknowledge, if we are expecting him to solve our problems, we missed the point of his campaign. Only by organizing in our own communities and pressuring our supposed leaders can we bring about the changes that we all so desperately need. Please support the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee in our effort to hold the United States government to its own words.
I thank you all who have stood by me all these years, but to name anyone would be to exclude many more. We must never lose hope in our struggle for freedom.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
US Penitentiary
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837
For more information on Leonard Peltier visit the Leonard Peltier Defense-Offense Committee website.”
Best wishes for Obama and all of us!

Comment by Josie Michel-Brüning

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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Wow! Yet another Conspiracy Theory.

How about this one? Zelaya wanted to stay in power as he himself stated on national TV. He was warned by Hondurans that he would be arrested but he continued, so the Honduran Supreme Court arrested him.

There is a National Telephone Company plus 3 private mega companies and about 20 other minor ones. Who needs to nationalize an outdated phone company when you can start up a new one, if you have the cash for any of this?

But those courts in Florida, USA must have it wrong that Zelaya’s cousin and buddies had been payed off. Justice in the States sucks I guess is what you mean.

So, yeah. Venezuelan justice must have it right, so let’s follow their lead.

Where do you people in COHA find these guys? At least, they should get complete facts.

Comment by J Gallardo

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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COHA nevers ceases to amaze me with their claims about “non-partisanship.” Have we defined the word “Coup” all of a sudden? The military is NOT in power in Honduras. The Honduran Supreme Court ordered Zelaya outsted and his VICE-PRESIDENT placed in his place, according to the Honduran Constitution. Zelaya attempted to install a Chavez-like rule about the president running for life and the Honduran people, legislators, and Supreme Court would not hear of it.

What is it that makes this a “coup”??? The same political party is still in power.

Is it perhaps because Zelaya is a leftist like Chavez and Obama, that he’s getting all this support from COHA and the State Department????


Comment from A.B.

Response to "The Honduran Coup: Was it a Matter of Behind the Scenes Finagling?"

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Whilst your article contains a certain amount of speculation it is uncanny how the US relationships with Central America seem to repeat themselves. Arbenz in 1954; the Contra business, etc. One wonders if the Israelis were involved in some way in the recent Honduras mess as they were in the late 1970s/early 1980s in Guatemala when they armed the military and the associated death squads.

Comment from John Carnegie

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Response to "A Constructive Engagement with Cuba"

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Dear Mr. Hayes,
where do you get your information about Cuba from?
Your comment seems to be the repetition of
the so-called “public diplomacy” of somebody like Otto Reich is.
Have you ever been in Cuba, I guess you were not, because you were not allowed to travel to Cuba until now?
“Cuba is the hell,” they tell you, “but you’re not allowed to see yourself, what it is about in such propaganda.
Being a German woman, I am allowed to travel to Cuba, and I did so since more than 10 years frequently. I found out, circumstances are much different there than I was told by our mass medias at home also.
Did you ever read the reports by the UNESCO about Cuban health care, education and about its agricultural sustainable achievements?
And of course you never read reports by your own international well-known and appreciated compatriots, authors and scientists. – Did you ever read John Dinges, “The Condor years – How Pinochet and his Allies brought Terrorism to three Continents”? The manipulators had been within your successive governments, promoting the coups and the tortures …
Did you ever read declassified information about those events?
Apart from that, terrorism was carried out against Cuba by the exile Cubans in Miami causing 3.478 deaths and 2099 invalid people …
For having tried to prevent those acts, 5 Cubans are incarcerated in your country since 11 years. …

Post by Josie Michel-Brüning

Response to "Washington's Double Standard on Cuba"

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Dear Brandon Bloch,

thank you very much for your interesting, comprehensive and well-founded article including at the same time a listing up, what Washington is blaming Cuba for.
In response and to confirm your explanations, I would like to quote another one of your international well-known and appreciated U.S. authors, William Blum. He wrote in 1999 the following:
“Cuba 1959 to present: Fidel Castro came to power at the beginning of 1959. A U.S. National Security Council meeting of 10 March 1959 included on its agenda the feasibility of bringing “another government to power in Cuba.” There followed 40 years of terrorist attacks, bombings, full-scale military invasion, sanctions, embargos, isolation, assassinations … Cuba had carried out The Unforgivable Revolution, a very serious threat of setting a “good example” in Latin America.
The saddest part of this is that the world will never know what kind of society Cuba could have produced if left alone, if not constantly under the gun and the threat of invasion, if allowed to relax its control at home. The idealism, the vision, the talent, the internationalism were all there. But we’ll never know. And that of course was the idea.”
Cuba had had and has still, as your article shows, much more reasons for defending itself, than the USA ever had.
Within all these years, Cuba, nevertheless, tried to support the suppressed people – Nelson Mandela is in his own words still grateful to Fidel Castro for having helped him to come out of his imprisonment on Robin Island after 27 years. Referring to your mentioning that “the Cuban government provides refuge to Joanne Chesimard, who was a member of the Black Liberation Army wanted for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey State Trooper and viewed as notorious by U.S. authorities.” Until now she claims being innocent, not guilty for having committed murder nor even trying to kill a policeman. There is another famous case for example: Mimi Abu Jamul, although the alleged witness of the murder revoke his former testifying after 10 years. Mumia has – after about 30 years – still to fear his execution. Therefore, Cuba does not extradite its refugee on humanitarian grounds.
In addition, another quotation from an article by Leonard Peltier CounterPunch (090912): “The truth is the government wants me to falsely confess in order to validate a rather sloppy frame-up operation, one whose exposure would open the door to an investigation of the United States’ role in training and equipping goon squads to suppress a grassroots movement on Pine Ridge against a puppet dictatorship.
In America, there can by definition be no political prisoners, only those duly judged guilty in a court of law. It is deemed too controversial to even publicly contemplate that the federal government might fabricate and suppress evidence to defeat those deemed political enemies. But it is a demonstrable fact at every stage of my case.”

Being very grateful for your explanations I am going to copy your article and would like to translate it for my friends.

Comment from Josie Michel-Brüning

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Response to "A Constructive Engagement with Cuba"

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Dear Mr. Katz,
I agree it is healthy that the US is moving to become reengaged diplomatically with other nations in this hemisphere, and the broader world. When other nations are truly open to a meaningful dialogue and to reciprocal learning, that is.
In the case of Cuba, there are grave reasons to doubt that there is any intention to reciprocate, let alone to learn. Our nation’s record on human rights, while admittedly not perfect, has been improving over that last fifty years to a point that many nations were disappointed and outraged by the conduct of the Bush Administration, as well as its’ prevalent attitude when contrasted with that of former Presidents, including Mr.Bush’s own father. There must be many reasons so many choose to immigrate to the US, by legal or by other means.
Regarding Cuba, the Human and Civil Rights record for all but the Castro family, its’ chums, and the Communist Part elite is dismal, and factually, deteriorating on the whole. There are no signs that Raul Castro has any intention of doing more than paying lip service to this value, and the state of freedom of the press, personal expression, freedom to worship or to not participate in independant religion, the economy, and the infreedom of the political process itself in a single party state where only one candidate runs for a given office…there are no signs that the region’s teeming masses are struggling to immigrate to Cuba for any reason. Twenty million Mexicans can’t be wrong, perhaps many of us here in the US need to get back to our humb;er forbear’s immigrant roots and learn some lessons from more recent immigrants about other intransigent neighboring countries?

The condition of medical care in Cuba is one area in which the government has made some positive effort to care for the well being literally- of the people. arguably, more effectively than we have caused our government to help us care for ourselves.

Education, sadly, is not a laudable public service in Cuba, since government bureaucrats directly choose for each young person what they may study, and for what career, vocation, or job they must train. You, sir, are a journalist of some stead. How would you feel had the George Bush Admin. told you it was mandatory that you train to work in municipal sanitation, and only that being a garbageman would help you truly serve the Revolution and the People, and that you’d beimprisoned if you disagreed and attempted to pursue other studies and a different career?

A Response to "Venezuela's Polarized Society Split by Another Issue"

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The language prohibited in schools now includes things such as Jesus’ admonition that money-changers must leave the temple, the Beatitudes–feed the hungry, clothe the poor, clothe the naked, love thy neighbor as you seek to be loved yourself, etc., as well as factual reporting of floods, seismic events, etc..
All one has to do is watch any of the Government Controlled TV stations, basically all but Globovision, to learn the language of violence and schadenfreude.
Indoctrination a la Fidelismo is replacing all of this, much for the worse. We’ll probably be seeing this person who says he or she grew up in Barquisimeto here in the US in several years when Chavez has finally managed to totally collapse the economy and has sown widespread civil strife and unrest, whihc is all part of the Dialectic Programme to create a new human being free of the alleged taint of pre-socialist-worker society, just as we have seen formerly fervid pro-Fidel Cubans emigrate to Miami, a number of Fidel’s siblings and his own kids among them.

Here is a telling socio-economic fact. Before Chavez, Venezuela had mostly inept and corrupt presidents, but a few very good and effective ones, as well. Among the masses of self-serving bureaucrats, there were also a vew effective and dedicated public servants who were visionary. After the nationalization of the petroleum indiustry, the country, despite all its’ problems and faults, reduced poverty to under thirty percent, and was develpping plans and institutions to help that thirty percent. Evidently, that was not rapid enough to help poor people like this commentor. No percentage of pverty is acceptible, unless one happens to not be among that percentage, to borrow from Harry Truman. Post Chavez’ glorious Bolivarian Revolution, the actual poverty rate is now climbing past 65%, public hospitals have no medicines, inflation is now over 3% per month, even basic foodstuffs such as rice and beans are frequently not available and alwyas priced too high for most working consumers, and so on. There was a huge protest in Venezuela last week before Labor Day in the US, over the new Education Law, the Law for Protection of Minors, and a few others that are interwoven. Basically, all children are now wards of the satate, and parents have no right to teach traditional values, customs, ideas to their own kids, and kids now have incentives to rat out mom and dad if they do. Big Brother is alive and well in Cubazuela.

A Response to "Plan Ecuador"

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Necesito recursos, soy una madre ciudadana ecuatoriana que luego de haber REALIZADO EL ENCUENTRO INTERNACIONAL “La Educación Holística es Posible”, siento que necesito ser PROTEGIDA porque evidencié que LA CALIDAD MORAL DE LOS FUNCIONARIOS PÚBLICOS está afectando la integridad de los ciudadanos que no creemos en la violencia ni en la FRAGMENTACIÓN. Este pueblo ecuatoriano está muy CONTAMINADO y se han perdido ciertos valores como EL RESPETO Y LA LEALTAD. Los funcionarios publicos son UNO DE LOS PRINCIPALES PROBLEMAS PARA EL PRESIDENTE él y sus MINISTROS no tienen gente en quién confiar. Para el 28 de septiembre estoy coordinano una “Jornada por la Paz y la No violencia” pero necesito un respaldo de gente conciente que entiende la necesidad de VIVIR EN ARMONÌA CON LA NATURALEZA y CON EL PLANETA TIERRA. Aquí no hay ese nivel de conciencia…

Cuenca y la Región 6
“Hacia Una Cultura de Paz”

“La Marcha Mundial por la Paz”
Marlon Ovando

Saludos cordiales,

Es un motivo de mucha satisfacción hacerte llegar este testimonio de adhesión a la Marcha Mundial por la Paz:

La Fundación Holos es una institución sin fines de lucro, establecida en Cuenca-Ecuador, con el objeto de promover el desarrollo humano integral a través de la aplicación de las teorías, métodos y prácticas educativas de naturaleza holística, alternativa e inclusiva, para el beneficio de la comunidad educativa del país y la región, para así fomentar el diálogo interdisciplinario y el establecimiento de una ciudadanía global de paz.


Nosotros creemos en que sí es posible alcanzar la paz y la armonía universales, vemos a la educación holística como un mecanismo que prepara al ser humano “completo” para mejorar el mundo. Deseamos contagiar la necesidad de desarrollar una mirada interior que permita a cada adulto ser responsable de su existencia y así contribuir desde cada uno en la construcción de “un mundo mejor”, que las interrelaciones sociales no se basen más en el separatismo y orgullo propio sino en la unión y confianza mutua.

Cualquier civilización que se fundamenta en dividir a las personas, lleva la semilla de su propia destrucción en sí misma. La educación apropiada dentro de un sistema de valores correcto abrirá la mirada interior y hará que las personas vean la verdad.

“La Marcha Mundial por la Paz” es una gran iniciativa que hace de cada adulto y de cada persona que adhiera un EDUCADOR ACTIVO, la infancia aprende de lo que ve no de lo que le dicen. Juntos por UN MUNDO MEJOR unidos somos UNO.

María Rosa Darquea
Cuenca – Ecuador

Thursday, September 10, 2009


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A Response to "Obama and the Honduran Crisis"

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I was in Honduras for two weeks immediately after Zelaya's removal and kept close watch on the country through my job both before and after the removal. I had close personal access to the best information about most of what was happening in the country at the time. I expected to get down there and see exactly what all the media stereotypes portrayed in the first few days' aftermath: lots of violence, rioting, repression, etc. I could not have been more mistaken, and it was the shock of my life, to be honest.

Things were so normal that you wouldn't believe it. The city was not on lock-down, and life as usual continued. Yes there was a curfew, but Hondurans I spoke to at great length were completely fine with this- it reduced criminal violence for the period it was in place, a nice respite from the heightening crescendo of delinquency during the Zelaya years. In fact, I saw very, very few military or police personnel anywhere on the streets, even in nicer areas where you'd expect them to be omnipresent to prevent problems for the privileged folks that supposedly all back Michelletti once he assumed the presidency.

And the country was not/is not on the verge of civil war, and anyone who says that is not spending enough time on the ground there AND is not owning up to the fact that Central America is no longer in the 1980s. And even if Honduras did somehow devolve into civil conflict, it would have nada to do with Zelaya- he's called for an insurrection how many times, and it hasn't happened yet, has it? That'e because they don't like Zelaya, he has few supporters, and he's a political has-been who Hondurans are perfectly content to have out of country and no longer directly involved in their domestic politics. They felt he was a national embarrassment- his cheap antics with Honduran melons, his whole-family photo ops with former Pres Bush, his naming of a 29-year old model as ambassador to Mexico, the cowboy hat and boots, the popular vernacular and outdated anti-imperialist catch phrases all marked Zelaya as an anachronism for the times, and Hondurans knew it. Add to that his total inconsistency in domestic and foreign policy, his total personal unpredictability, and other stunts that befuddled and embarrassed Hondurans all over. I'm not just talking about rich Hondurans- I traveled around and spoke to poor ones, too. The ones who allegedly all support Zelaya in some folk's antiguated view of polarized Latin America from the Cold War. The poor ones I did meet who liked Zelaya had really bizarre reasons for it: they thought Michelletti was an Arab, for example, and that as president he would allow Iran (?!) to take over Honduras, for instance. So I don't have a lot of faith in Zelaya supporters and if they're any reflection of the man himself, then he's truly poorly suited to lead anything, let alone a country.

There were protests, but for the most part they were all bluster. The protestors- nearly all of which were Zelayistas and a large number of which were paid to protest- did a lot of wrecking of private property and public infrastructure, but generally did not attack the military/police and the security forces, in turn, seldom had any reason to act against the protesters. Most of the pro-Zelaya camp were exceedingly lazy at protests and usually left after getting their free food, a benefit of showing up for demonstrations. I have videos of this as evidence. Thus there was no repression becuase there was no one to repress. I used to sit and watch the CNN and Fox reports moments after something happened in front of me, and they were almost invariably wrong and draped in more drama than actually occurred on the streets. Those military or police personnel who got out of hand were isolated and did not represent a state-sponsored strategy. I happen to know for a fact that military and police personnel who got out of hand during the July 5 riots at the airport and subsequent ones were held to account by the interim government. The military are not thugs, the military is not the government, the government is not using the military to keep order any more than Zelaya tried using it to suit his own personal agenda at various moments. In fact, though I know Michelletti is no saint, he's done a far more admirable job of using the military keep public order during the crisis than Zelaya did his entire time in office, during which crime spiralled out of control and security forces were generally used not to keep order but to promote aspects of Zelaya's personal agenda- like paying protesters to surge against the legislature building, then pay cops to storm in threatenign violence, then Zelaya would show up and resolve the "crisis" and seem like a hero- even though he had personally orchestrated it.

The police are not torturing people who they detain for being out after the curfew, and there are no vast and widespread violations of human rights. The police, actually, detain people out after the curfew, hold them over night (they are not arrested in the formal sense- so no permanent criminal record), and report detainees to the local human rights ombudsman so that records are kept for liability purposes, since they know they'll be shrilly accused of abuses, et al.

The US did not instigate a coup or back it, and had zilch to do with most of what happened in the country after the fact. In fact, I can personanly vouch for the fact that the US was just as surprised and confused as anyone else when Zelaya was removed from country. The US did not see a coup coming- and the US line to any Honduran who ever remotely hinted at removing Zelaya was that whatever was done by Honduras, was be done by Hondurans... But if they expected the US to even consider supporting them, it had to be done legally and constitutionally. Hondurans opposed to Zelaya in high levels of government seemed contact to leave it at that. The idea that the US has some sort of special control over Honduras is erroneous- that ended quite a while ago, and even at its height it was never as all-consuming as people think it was. The US does not have magical power over other countries, even poor and otherwise powerless ones like Honduras. The US does not have most of the power so frequently attributed to it on this site's articles or on any other site. Hondurans are perfectly capable of messing themselves up without CIA or Pentagon authorization or instigation. Hillary Clinton is not serving Chiquita Banana and while the buck does stop with Obama, Honduras isn't Obama's responsibility and, at any rate, he has his plate full with other pressing issues.


Friday, September 04, 2009

A Reponse to "Haiti's Minimum Wage Battle"

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Hello good folks at COHA,

I'm writing concerning one bit in an otherwise quite excellent analysis of the recent struggle over Haiti's minimum wage. What got stuck in my craw was this line:

"Préval’s supporters, despite his calls for nonviolence and respect for the rule of law, took to the streets of Port-au-Prince in large and violent protests against evidence of voting fraud."

The article goes on to state that the CEP aimed to "quell the violence" of Preval's supporters, etc. My problem is that, having followed rather closely the elections in February 2006, I don't recall coming across any evidence of violence on the part of the protesters. There were huge marches and flaming barricades that virtually paralyzed the capital, but the only violence I read about was on two separate occasions where UN troops shot dead protestors manning a barricade.

The protests were militant but incredibly disciplined; one account by a priest travelling with Desmond Tutu who was at the Hotel Montana (the election HQ of the CEP) when it was stormed by Preval supporters, and was impressed by the fact that there was no looting or vandalism by the demonstrators. The mood was clearly one of jubilation, judging by the images of the protestors swimming in the hotel's pool, enjoying a privilege usually reserved for the elite and their foreign accomplices.

Now, it's possible I missed some real incidents in my monitoring of the media at the time, but the only sources that claimed any "violence" were those elite Haitians like Lannec Hurbon (who was in France at the time) expressing their horror at how the country was being given over to "mob rule". In my opinion, the accusations of "violence" are nothing more than pure elite hysteria of the sort typically provoked by popular mobilizations in highly class-divided societies such as Haiti.

These kinds of delusions are all too common in the mainstream media concerning the Lavalas movement, and indeed for over 200 years the Haitian masses have been slandered as "violent" . But COHA has been one of the few consistently critical voices on Haiti, which makes me doubt the error was intentional on the part of COHA's researcher and is why I opted to point it out, hoping for an explanation, or failing that, a correction. Thanks for your attention to this matter.


Nik Barry-Shaw
Haiti Action Montreal, of the Canada-Haiti Action Network

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Response to Nidya Sarria's Small Arms in Latin America Piece

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Thanks very much for that. The part of the book you referred me to clarified what you were saying. As it turned out the weapons came from an unexpected source: the Honduran military officials, hoping to cash in on the debris of Nicaragua's civil war, had raided weapons caches left over by the CIA in their country. These arms originally were intended for the Contras as Congress was preparing to cut off funding. When the Contras faded from the scene, the weapons lay unused but secured. With the assistance of professional arms dealers, they found their way to left-wing rebels in El Salvador.)

I have added what I think were some missing bits in what you wrote that now make more sense. Sorry to be a pain, but the Honduran military being helpful by supplying arms to the FMLN is beyond imagining. The Honduran military being corrupt and selling weapons in the black market is more realistic. The Honduran military were in no way "supplying" the FMLN and really I think it is politically ludicrous and even offensive to link the two structures. Or to link the CIA to supplying Nicaragua when they were in fact attacking Nicaragua.

Linda Seaborn
Tasmania, Australia

Friday, August 28, 2009

Concerning Rachel Wood's Costa Rica Piece

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This is an excellent corrective, much appreciated, so don’t take the following comments as scholarly nit-pickings. But a few points.

One, the NEF study actually put Costa Rica’s ecological footprint–not its carbon footprint–above the sustainable level in terms of global per-capita hectares. In their study, the NEF researchers themselves admit that the measuring system is probably overly-generous to humanity [perversely, then, anti-generous in a funny way], not allowing for how much of the biosphere needs to be totally fallow in order for it to re-generate. I don’t mean to suggest that you wrote the contrary, but someone could get that impression.

Two, tree-farming construed in its most generous terms is a variant of carbon-farming, e.g. taking carbon out of atmospheric circulation and placing it into the biosphere. As part of a systematic approach to carbon draw-down, such efforts can be effective. Planting trees is less effective than building up carbon reserves in the soil through agro-ecological practices, but one thing you seem to miss is that planting trees can actually allay or stop desertification–the most extreme form of soil destruction. I can’t cite chapter and verse, but as an integrated approach, converting a given patch of land from, say, an input-heavy agricultural production unit ["farm" is the euphemism we use for such chemical food factories, I think] or brown-lot to forested land or pasture saps a great deal of carbon from the atmosphere and locks it in both biomass above ground–where it may be vulnerable–or below-ground, where it often isn’t. Soil’s total carbon-storage capacity is unknown, but far higher than the amount of carbon it currently holds. The issue isn’t merely “soil quality,” as you put it, but soil’s ability to draw-down carbon from the atmosphere.

Three, obviously, this shouldn’t be taken to mean industrial trash-tree plantations are defensible. They’re ecologically indefensible, and I’ve seen nothing to the contrary. In a similar vein, the REDD programs are enormously flawed, often privatizing indigenous or communal land for the purposes of carbon “offsets.”

Four, the amount of carbon the industrial revolution added to the atmosphere is usually measured starting at c. 1750, and you’re correct when you note that the majority of that carbon is the result of the burning of fossil fuels. However, there’s a bit more to the story. It’s not clear to what extent massive desertification is a “natural” occurrence; the destruction of Mesopotamia’s fertility essentially ripped the carbon from the soil and dumped it into the atmosphere. This may be the case in many deserts across the world. Merely restoring as much carbon as we can to the ground through re-vegetation or re-forestation schemes could put a great deal of that carbon back where it belongs. While that wouldn’t have an effect on the fossil-fuel-based carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, it would draw down carbon. I’m unaware of efforts to measure the effects of desertification or pre-industrial but-intensive farming practices on ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but I’m sure there’s some effort to do so.

Five, I expect you’ll respond, rightly, that this is a dangerous path to go down–because such reversals of what are effectively pre-industrial carbon emissions [but remember the Dust Bowl] can be used to offset current industrial carbon emissions, thereby staving off the point at which we need to make fundamental changes in the political economy of energy consumption in Western industrialized countries. That’s correct–it’s a dangerous path to go down. But we will need to both draw-down current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide as well as radically reduce emissions levels to avoid the worst. I don’t think it’s either/or. The offset issue is in that sense a red-herring. Perhaps offsets can be made to work, perhaps not. Personally, I suspect the latter. But simply because carbon offsets are used to avoid necessary changes in our energy and industrial systems doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create incentives to pull carbon from the atmosphere via bio-mass. Such incentives shouldn’t be the “offset” systems. Pulling carbon into soil or soil-based biomass has excellent effects for soil fertility and productivity, and can massively add to farmers’ outputs–agro-ecology is then its own incentive, which is as it should be.

I don’t mean to suggest that you’re unaware of all this. You write, “the idea of offsets could be telling society a dangerous lie: that current consumption patterns are sustainable, and that businesses can continue more or less normally. This idea is highly contrary to the real goal, which should be to permanently shift the world economy away from its addiction to fossil fuels,” which I agree with. But as a fellow young writer, you’ll agree, too that we’re running out of time. The permanent shift has to go hand-in-hand with an effort to turn the biosphere into a carbon-farm. That idea is getting short-shrift, and it looks like Costa Rica’s efforts are a pretty pallid version of the more substantive effort that I’d like to see, perhaps so much so as to be worse-than-useless. But the idea behind bio-mass based carbon cultivation shouldn’t be thrown out along with Costa Rica’s misrepresentations of its own efforts.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ad Hoc Memorandum by Honduran Human Rights Activists

Attorney General of Honduras August 7, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Luis Alberto Rubi
Attorney General

As the fourth consecutive International Human Rights delegation present in the country since the coup d’état, we are writing to express our deep concern regarding the grave and rapidly deteriorating situation of human rights in Honduras, beginning with the events which occurred early in the morning of June 28th. In the name of the human rights observation groups which have visited (The Bi-Regional European Network Linking Alternatives in Latin America and the Caribbean, The Human Rights Delegation Headed by Rigoberta Menchu, The Center for Justice and International Law, and the Quixote Center/Quest for Peace), we ask that you provide us information about the following cases, and indicate what your office has been doing regarding the troubling human rights situation in Honduras.

We are arranging a continuing presence of delegations for the foreseeable future, and among their principal roles will be following up on these cases on the national level with your office, as well as on the international level. They will monitor your response to this communication, as well as new cases of human rights abuses which may occur.

· What are the investigations which you have initiated and at what stage are the cases of the kidnapping and expatriation of José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, President of the Republic, and the Foreign Minister, Patricia Rodas? What have you done to investigate and hold accountable the military and the intellectual authors of these illegal actions?

· We are concerned about the multitude of reports of violations of the right to information which we have heard about. What is the state of investigation of who ordered the temporary cancellation of the program of Hedras Amado Lopez on channel 36, Edgardo Castro from channel 27 as well as the suspension of the radio program “Voices to assure we don’t forget”? Who gave the order for the suspension of Radio Global? We ask you to clarify who is behind the shooting of Radio Juticalpa and Channel 23 in Olanchito. We are also interested in what you have discovered related to the threats being received by journalists in Santa Rosa de Copan. We would encourage you to begin an investigation of these cases if you have not already done so.

· We are also concerned about the suspension of freedom of movement and other constitutionally guaranteed liberties.

· What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate and prosecute the police and the military given their serious violation of the sovereignty and autonomy of the National University of Honduras, and physical aggression of the rector of the university on August 5th 2009? Police also threatened students, saying that “for every visa that gets revoked, one of you will die.”

· What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate the forced disappearances of civilians, especially the case of Samuel David Flores Murillo, age 24, of San Pedro Sula?

· What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate the deaths of, and prosecute those responsible for the deaths of the following nine people:

1. Isis Obed Murillo Mencias, 19 years old
2. Gabriel Fino Noriega, journalist from Radio Estelar, in the department of Atlántida, killed by 7 bullets on July 3rd, as he left his work.
3. Ramón García, leader in the Democratic Union (UD), forced off of public transport when he was coming back from a protest, and riddled with bullets in the area of Santa Bárbara
4. Roger Iván Bados, former unión leader of the textile sector and current member of the UD and Popular Bloque (BP), threatened with death immediately after the coup, and shot to death after being pulled from his own house on July 11 in San Pedro Sula.
5. Vicky Hernández Castillo (Sonny Emelson Hernández), member of the LGTB community, dead in San Pedro Sula from a gunshot to the eye.
6. Alexis Fernando Amador, dressed in a “4th Urn” T-shirt, found dead on Saturday July 3 in the “Agua Blanca” area of Tegucigalpa
7. Roger Abraham Vallejo Soriano, killed on Julio 29, 2009
8. Martin Florencio Rivera Barrientes
9. Pedro Magdiel, killed in El Paraíso

· We’re concerned about the case of Osman Fajardo, the judge assigned to follow up with the writs of habeus corpus filed on behalf of those detained illegally in San Pedro Sula on August 3rd 2009, who was threatened and assaulted by police when he appeared at the police station. What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate this case and to ensure the safety of all public officials, especially those working to see that the rule of law is upheld in Honduras?

· We are concerned about the case of David Murillo, who was detained after leaving the COFADEH office where he was filing a legal denunciation of the murder of his son at an anti-coup demonstration (listed above). Mr. Murillo is imprisoned in Juticalpa, which he believes is for political reasons. What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate this case and to ensure that all citizens have access to an efficient and effective justice system?

· A teacher in San Pedro Sula showed us eight anonymous death threats received on his cell phone, including threats against his children. These threats mentioned his past and present political work. He and others believe their names to be on a “death list,” and believe that they are targets for disappearance or assassination. We understand that the staff of the Honduran Institute for Rural Development (IHDER) has also been threatened. What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate and prosecute those making these threats, as well as to ensure the safety of those threatened for their nonviolent work?

· What actions will the public ministry undertake to investigate and prosecute the police and the military for their attack on the life of Carlos H. Reyes, especially given that he was under preventive measures under the Interamerican Human Rights Commission with its headquarters in DC?

· Have you begun investigations into the various people who have received death threats, like Xenia Sagrado Flores Hernández, who is publicly known, of the teacher Sergio Rivera, who is also publicly known, of the youth Ricardo Antonio Medida, as well as Osman Montecino, to mention just a few.

· What has the Public Ministry done with respect to the torturous treatment suffered by those detained at the 3rd Cell of the Comoyagua Regional Police headquarters and who will be held responsible for the violent eviction?

Thus, Attorney General Luis Alberto, we will be very attentive to your actions regarding the investigations which you undertake in accordance with the pertinent legal requirements should you find sufficient evidence. We are giving you an enormous opportunity for proving your capacity to do your job with objectivity and Independence.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Additional Commentary on Microsoft and Its Abandonment of Cuba

While I'm no Microsoft apologist, when you factor in that Google also yanked services (and they're in direct competition with Microsoft for everything now that they've announced they're building an operating system and very pro open source), and that the ban extended to Iran, Syria, Sudan, etc., it makes it seem more about government intervention. Also the few tech blogs I've read about on this subject and I don't know if these are all interlinked or what say it's a result of Export Administration Regulations, i.e.:

While Cuba is listed as an American "Enemy," it is more to the point about exporting software to "evil" countries and less about Microsoft or the US government specifically targeting Cuba. I have also read rumors that Skype may be following suit too.

Of course it very well may be the other way around as well, it really wouldn't surprise me since Microsoft has used those tactics before, it is just a bit odd that Google would follow suit considering they're directly directly in competition now and I can't imagine them working on anything together.

Interesting as well:

David Birns

**For revised version of this article:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Timerman's commitment to democracy

Perhaps you do not see Ambassador Timerman clearly while sitting in his lap. Or perhaps it was the free food. In any case, your aria in the service of the ambassador omitted details that might have helped the reader to form a more accurate picture of those with whom you courageously ate and drank in support of Honduran democracy.

The Argentine government so faithfully served by Timerman is led by a woman who made every effort to accept an $800,000 “contribution” from the leader of another country that was attempting to the influence the electoral outcome in her country. While accepting such funds might be within the cultural bounds for the Latin American left, it is illegal, and is generally considered a disqualifier for leaders who wave the democratic flag. Of course, the case could be made that an ambassador is meta-political, that he serves his country despite the bought-and-paid-for aspect of the national leader. Fair enough.

Fair enough, that is, until the ambassador goes political by defending the transparently dishonest economic data produced by Argentina’s INDEC, as Ambassador Timerman has done. A government that so vigorously and consistently attempts to hide the effects of its policies from the electorate must be seen as anti-democratic. When a putatively meta-political figure such as Ambassador Timerman goes out of his way to defend the government’s systematic lies – even after the electorate has so roundly rejected them – he must be seen as increasingly meta-democratic rather than meta-political. Surely, even you can see past a tray of canapés, however well stacked, to notice his diminished stature as a democrat.

Of course, you might have been distracted by the presence of that other great democrat, Venezuelan ambassador, Alvarez. His employer is stands guilty – and proven so repeatedly -- for its active hostility toward free speech and democratic governance, both at home and abroad. Free speech advocates throughout the world have watched in outrage as the Venezuelan government has seized offending radio and TV stations, barred opposition expression, and as the head of that government has commandeered hundreds of broadcast hours per year to promote his “revolution”.

Neighboring nations that do not satisfy Venezuelan standards of socialist devotion have found that anti-democratic criminal gangs within their borders receive financial and military support from Venezuela.

Surely, if countries with records such as Venezuela’s are democratic champions, the concept of democracy is infinitely elastic.

Bernard McElhone

Readership Dissent on COHA's Piece, "Nicaragua Under Daniel Ortega's Second Presidency: Daniel-style Politics as Usual?"

What is going on with COHA regarding Nicaragua and Honduras? You have recently published some very shabby articles. I critiqued an earlier article by Frank Kendricks about Nicaragua and now fee the need to critique the most recent by Nidy Sarria.

I am going to lift up some quote from the article and comment on them. The quotes are in italics as follows:

“A close examination of Ortega’s second presidency also reveals crude manipulations of the Nicaraguan electorate, shameless seizures of power and under-the-table deal-making”

No such close examination has been made by COHA. What are you talking about?

“(The first Sandinista government [1979-1990] was also marked by corruption and controversy, including human rights violations and numerous scandals”

Those were allegations that came from the Reagan administration, but independent observers found much less corruption in the Sandinista government than in Costa Rica or the other countries of Central America. Human rights violations of the period were almost exclusively by the Reagan-sponsored (illegally) contras.

“Ortega lost the 1990 presidential election to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, with some help from the CIA”.

The Bush administration put more than $10 million into Violeta’s campaign, in violation of both US and Nicaraguan law. President Bush declared in a press conference after his invasion of Panama and shortly before the 1990 elections in February: I hope the people of Nicaragua are paying attention. A clear threat to the people of Nicaragua about what they could expect if they did not vote correctly.

“Ortega came up with the devious scheme to devote his efforts to lowering the minimum percentage of votes required to win an election””

The scheme was originated by Aleman and accepted by Ortega. While all Sandinista supporters would have preferred that Ortega not even speak to a slimebag like Aleman, his strategy worked, as, much to the dismay of Aleman, it provided the Sandinistas with a victory in 2006. Without the pact, Ortega would have won the first round of the election and lost the second, as the Embassy would have, as it did in every election since 1984, forced all of the opposition parties into a coalition to defeat the Sandinistas.

“The breakaway Sandinista faction MRS, directly suggested that Ortega’s pact with former President Aleman manipulate the election by gaining control of the electoral council responsible for conducting the election”.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which supervises all elections as an independent entity, had exactly the same makeup in 2006 when Ortega was declared the victor, as it had in 2000, when Bolaños won for the Liberals. The pact did not change that at all.

“Consistent with Marxist ideals, social spending in Nicaragua is under the control of the Sandinista party”.

Why is the ruling party’s control of social spending a “Marxist ideal”? The Republicans and Democrats have done that for generations in the US.

“this has infuriated Nicaraguan voters who had been convinced that Ortega had made significant shifts to the right”

None of these folks voted for Ortega. His 38% of the vote was from the very solid block of Sandinista voters. None of the Liberals or Conservatives voted for him.

“This emphasis on state control of public finances was espoused by the Sandinistas in the 1980s”

In what country does the state not control public finances? What is the point here?

“Many Nicaraguans, most notably swing voters, recall Ortega’s past history of distributing private property among loyal Sandinistas and now fear that they will be witnessing future nationalization of privately held businesses and property

There are virtually no swing voters in Nicaragua. What is Orgega’s “past history of distributing private property among loyal Sandinistas”? From 1990 to 2006, Nicaragua witnessed a shameless sellout of publicly-held entities, like the power company, to private and foreign corporations for virtually nothing, which resulted in major increases in the cost of electricity. Most Nicaraguans would deeply appreciate the nationalization of such formerly-owned utilities.

“His grab for power is most evident through the massive allegations of voter fraud in the 2008 municipal elections”

This could have been written by the American Embassy. The “massive allegations” were just that. Massive allegations are not evidence. No evidence has been presented to date to support such allegations. How can COHA simply repeat these allegations as though they were fact?

“Some parties were not allowed to field their candidates, creating a situation in which many voters were forced to choose between parties they did not necessarily support”

This is the allegation made by the MRS, a dissident group led by former Sandinista Vice President Sergio Ramirez. He tried to take over the Frente Sandinista in 1993 and was soundly trounced by the rank and file. He formed the MRS to support his candidacy for the presidency ever since. The MRS has never managed to get more than 7% of the popular vote. The Electoral Law that was passed by the Bolaños government in 2004 has a requirement that in order to be on the national ballot, any party has to field a majority number of candidates in every part of the country. The Supreme Electoral Council gave the MRS an extra year to meet that requirement, but they never did, so by the law that was passed before the Sandinistas came to power, the MRS was blocked from fielding candidates, for lack of candidates, not by any political manipulation by Daniel Ortega. And it was Wilfredo Navarro, the Liberal Party’s legal representative, who made the denunciation about the illegal activities of MRS, which led to their exclusion. The Sandinitas were only spectators in this activity.

“the FSLN decided not to accredit independent local observers as well as most international monitors, including observers from the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Carter Center, preventing them from effectively overseeing the actual election process”.

Having watched many of these international groups give approval to openly fraudulent elections in 1995 and 2000, the Sandinistas were rightly skeptical about allowing them to observe again. Around 150 election observers monitored the elections and agreed they were well-organized, free and fair. These were professional electoral specialists from the Protocolo de Tikal group, the Protocolo de Quito group and the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts. Together they represented observers from the electoral authorities of around a dozen Latin American countries.

“The opposition claims that marked ballots were dumped after the November 9 election, that non-FSLN party members were refused access to some of the vote counting sessions, and that some of the tallies from polling places could have been altered”.

Such allegations without any evidence ever being presented are totally specious and should not be repeated by a group that professes to be somewhat objective, like COHA.

a segment of the Nicaraguan media has been a steadfast critic of the Ortega administration, criticizing the shortcomings of his government by exposing the government’s multiple acts of corruption as well as frequently condemning the administration through other means. Students, too, represent a significant segment of the anti-Ortega opposition, organizing through online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and assembling through marches, protests, and other forms of recalcitrant behavior”” .

Virtually all of the Nicaraguan media, with the exception of the Sandinista TV channel, is engaged in what can only be called pamphleteering. Very little of their publications could come anywhere near the basic standards for journalism. Unfounded allegations and outrageous “spins” are the mainstay of La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario. So-called scandals are frontpage news, without any evidence ever being presented. In the USA these papers would have gone broke years ago from lawsuits for libel and slander. In so-called dictatorial Nicaragua, they publish such junk daily.

The students who oppose the Sandinista government are nearly all from middle and upper-middle class groups. What else is new?

“it seems that for the moment, his (Ortega’s) hold on power is firm. Bolstered by his core base of supporters, as well as his proclivity for matching broad social moves with shameless political manipulations

What are these “shameless political manipulations”? More allegations without evidence.

“Ortega has even called for changes in the constitution in order to extend term limits and eventually allow him to run for reelection

At the 30th Anniversary celebration of the Sandinista victory over Somoza, Daniel Ortega suggested that the Constitution be changed to allow reelection (as in the US, for instance; or in France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Brazil, etc., etc.), with the addition of a Recall Referendum mechanism that would allow the people to recall a president if they became dissatisfied with his/her performance in office. Sounds pretty good. We could have used something like that around 2005 in the US.

Throughout the article the use of the terms “Marxist”, “Marxist-inspired”, etc., is sprinkled, without any suggestion of what they mean. This is normally called yellow journalism, and is not worthy of publication by COHA.

“This public appeal has been condemned by Nicaraguan opposition lawmakers, although this initiative is the least of his malfeasances.”

When COHA refers to “the least of his malfeasances” without reference to anything specific, I fear you are leaving yourselves open to a lawsuit for libel under US law. Out of respect for your more-than-thirty years of excellent work, I suggest you be more careful about editing such articles.

Fred Morris