Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Last Scream of Globalisation

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Openning Ceremony

Last night the International Human Rights Gathering here in Tocoa Honduras was officially launched with a lively cultural evening with music, motivational speeches and dancing. We had folk musicians and dancers take to the stage.  But my favourite was always going to be the Garifuna drums and dancing.  There’s just no denying it…Africa just owns planetary rhythm, and their more recent descendents have the fab physique to pull off those ass-shaking manouvers!

But all was not rosy.  When ex-President Zelaya walked into the the auditorium last night there was definitely a mixed reaction from folk.  Many of the anti-coup organisations support their x-president and his party, but some definitely don’t.  You gotta remember that Zelaya used to belong to a right-wing party so it’s not so long ago that his ways of thinking were quite different. But it also serves to highlight just how radically right the right-wingers here are, with ample support from their pals up north in Washinton.  Just an inkling of lefty-ness from Zelaya was enough to merit a swift coup in 2009.  He took to the stage and gave a speech in solidarity with all the communities that have been struggling for their lands and against repression.  I actually missed that part, so I can’t say exactly how well received it was.

Victims of the Honduran rsistance

This morning things kicked off with a homage paid to the victims of the repression with many family members coming up on stage with large printed photos of their murdered loved ones.  They were mostly men murdered, which burdens so many women left behind to mourn them, and raise families alone.  I took some photos and then stopped.  Seeing the tears in their eyes, brought tears to mine and I just wanted to stand their in silence in sympathy with their terrible losses, some of them being children holding placards.  I couldn’t be a proper photographer I don’t think….despite the power of an image to bring the world’s attention to something, it doesn’t always feel right to take a photo or video….not sure. I suppose just remembering not to loose your humanity along the way is important.

With over 600 present delegates from all over the world including El Salvador, Argentina, Germany, the USA, Mexico, Australia, Brazil and others, we gathered this morning in the main auditorium to hear some openning speeches from international and national participants.  One of speakers was Camille Charlmers a Haitian activist, economist and intelectual, from the organisation PAPDA-Haiti (Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif), and from the coordinating committee of the COMPA (Foundation for the Convergence of Movements of American Peoples), Jubilee South and other continental movements.  Camille gave us a brief synopsis of the general world crisis we’re in from the obvious world recession, to climate change, peak oil, and food crises, all pointing to one big fat blatant fact….that capitalism is not only in crisis,  but all of humanity is facing the biggest challenges of this era. And as capitalism bases itself on destruction, then it cannot offer any solutions from within its framework. He warned us not to buy into any green capitalism false solutions, but to create our own alternatives and spaces of hope.

Camille spoke passionately about Haiti’s solidarity with the people of Honduras, as they too have suffered two coups over the past number of decades and are still fighting for their basic human rights.  With many new US military bases all over the Caribbean, it’s easy to see that the US has no immediate plans to allow these peoples to live peacefully without their interference to help out the local oligarchies to take over the maximum number of lands.  He warned that the G20, in trying to bring in the new emerging leading economies like Brazil into the big boy’s club, will change nothing because they are still pushing the same neoliberal accords which aren’t really accords but more imposed upon the poorer countries and peoples.

I liked Camillle’s suggestions to move forward towards building the world we want ,citing practical examples to look into.  He applauded the Ecuadorian process towards carrying out full environmental audits of ecological debt owed to that country for damages incurred by oil companies etc, as well as them being the first country in the world to champion the concept of  “Leave it in the Ground” in terms of fossil fuels,  arguing that they should be paid to not pollute and conserve the Amazon.  Another example he mentioned was participating and studying “El Banco del Sur” (Bank of the South), an alternative global bank managed by Latin American countries which is trying out a different basis of operation to the World Bank and IMF.

Next Miriam Miranda, National Director of  the Garifuna people told us about the national situation in Honduras at the moment. She spoke about the latest crazy plans to try out ‘charter cities’ in Honduras which I explain below. She also spoke of the high levels of corruption in the national media and in the police as well, making it impossible to even report any crimes for fear of it getting back to the perpatrators.

Miranda also spoke about local farmers in the Aguán region, that are being murdered, tortured and forcefully evicted from their lands, which large land owners want to plant with African Palm (among other things) to sell palm oil to the developed world so the ‘white folk’ can pretend to be eco-saints and preach to those in the developing world about how they should be saving the planet, and solve the problems that the first world created.  But it’s not a new struggle for these farmers.  These lands are some of the most fertile lands in Central America and have been highly coveted for over 200 years by various foreign companies, notoriously the fruit companies, such as Chiquita.

It’s definitely giving me a much better perspective of how all these ridiculous supposed eco-solutions proposed by the technologified First World just don’t work, and in principle are completely unjust from their inception. The first thing is that it’s still focused on the developing world picking up the pieces of the developed world which doesn’t want to stop consuming. Very much like Irish banks saying “Woops, shit, we fucked up…eh, would you mind paying our huge debts small tax-payers? “. And just like people are starting to speak out in Ireland and Europe saying “How dumb do you think I am?”, people here have been saying it for decades…well, in terms of general exploitation of an entire continent, some would argue it’s been over 500 years.

But the dastardly neoliberal project doesn’t end with biofuels.  Why aim only to pillage the land when you can have it all? The craziest thing I’ve heard in ages has been the idea of Charter Cities (‘Ciudades Modelos’ in Spanish), or “How to live the American Dream in Honduras” as one article I read, referred to them.  Once again, a third world country could fall prey to being the latest guinea pig to a whole new level of Western capitalist imperialism.  In a nutshell, massive expanses of territory within Honduras would function like independent territories, where they can create their own labour laws (no workers rights Im sure!), have their own security forces and courts, their own financial regulations such as tax-exceptions, and any other neoliberal policies they want.  Hondurans would even need passports to enter these territories. This might sound something similar to the extensive tax-free zones created in Asia with dire consequences for workers slaving in the infamous Nike sweatshops among many other well-known brands. However, it ain’t. It takes things to a whole new horrific level. Team up charter cities with plans to build a private inter-oceanic new train link (not useable by locals) totting up at 14 billion US dollars, and you start getting the picture about how determined the powers-that-be are about overriding any democratic processes whatsoever to get their hands on what they like best…múla (as we say in Ireland…money).

The afternoon sessions at the gathering consisted of 3 split groups baring witness to individual testimonies of Hondurans from around the country and their stories of what they’ve had to bare in defending their lands and basic human rights.  Some spoke of their loved ones who have been murdered, tortured, disappeared or up for trial and facing sentences of up to 250 years in prison with no hard evidence against them for supposed killings or property damage. Others won’t leave their houses during the day for fear for the landowner’s private security who have already shot at them.  Some spoke of eternally watching their backs, even while at this gathering not knowing when they may become the next statistic.  And many, it seems, were too afraid even to come here. Two locals were already picked up last night after they left the gathering by the police, but luckily they were let go this afternoon.  But we’ve all be asked to be careful and not leave the gathering alone or without telling someone where we are going and when we’ll be back as the Lobo Government and their eyes are watching this gathering closely.

An exiled priest Fausto Milla, from Santa Rosa de Copán, who has openly spoken against the atrocities concluded the testimonials with a captivating short speech pleading all the internationals present to distribute all the testimonials and stories as far and wide as possible and to continue participating in the International Observatory to accompany local communities with peace brigades in Honduras. A man of the cloth who inspired me. That doesn’t happen often.  I don’t believe that the Church does any good really….I think people do. And here, there’s an incredible gathering of such admirable simple people of valour with spirit and determination that give me the courage to be a little braver every day.

 

Honduras – the forgotten coup

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Ive been neglecting my blog but I figure this was a good reason to make a come-back. I don’t think I’m a natural-born journalist but after going to a talk last week on the political situation in Honduras at present and hearing from the horses mouth (via skype-call during the talk) how their community campaigns rely mainly on independent media to get their message out, due to the massive censorship in mainstream media in the country, I figured I better step up and do what I can. As I had a lift to Honduras to an International Human Rights Gathering being hosted in Tocoa (just inland from Santa Fe…see map) this weekend, I decided to jump at the chance, get my indymedia skates on and oil my rusty writing brain.

I’ve also been going through a bit of an activist-existentialist crisis of sorts on this side of the Atlantic, trying to find my niche, my role, my new purpose in these movements. How can I best use my talents and take things at my own pace as it’s definitely a different ball-game here, and I’m not quite prepared to jump in at the deep end. So, I figure getting info out to the wider world is something I can do, even if I’m not the most stylish writer as yet!

 

A quick recent history lesson…..

So, I’ve set myself the task of reading up some old news articles to summarise (and plagarising with references!) the most important points for those of you out there, who like me, know very little about recent political history in Honduras.

As some of you may well remember, Honduras made world headlines back on June 28th 2009, when democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya was ousted from power in the first successful military coup d’etat in Latin America in decades. The Honduran Congress had just issued the trumped-up charge that Zelaya, of the Liberal Party, had violated the law by attempting to carry out a poll of the general population to gauge interest in potentially rewriting the outdated Constitution to include new progressive reforms. Hondurans were scheduled to vote that day in a non-binding referendum.

Instead, the president was flown out of the country by military troops under the orders of Congressional head Roberto Micheletti (of the same party), who then became de-facto president. The people took to the streets in protest. The police and military, acting under Micheletti’s command, responded with violence, and a saga began which continues to this day, despite a new administration.

It quickly became apparent that many of the leaders of the military establishment which seized Zelaya and have spent the past 3 years ensuring that Hondurans live in perpetual fear, had been trained at the infamous School of the Americas. And as I’m sure you’re thinking, the links with the US don’t end there. The US mainstream media has worked hard to discredit Zelaya supporters and any protestors, making them out to be crazy thugs, and/or lefties in bed with Cuba commies, and Chavez and his satanic possy. Zelaya has also been accused by the media of having links with narco-drug trafficking with no hard evidence. (original article from upsidedownworld ) In fact that the most prominent drug trafficker in Honduran history, Juan Ramon Matta, was a business ally of the CIA in the 1980s. So, the USA’s usual drug-trafficking excuse to increase militarisation in the area is just the usual cover-up to stick their claws in.

But why was Zelaya such a threat to the US? He wasn’t even that radical when he first started out, but between uping the minimum wage in some sectors, rejecting IMF agreements at the time, and wanting a bit of agrarian reform, the large land owners in Honduras saw red and wanted him out ASAP. Zelaya basically wasn’t playing ball with the regional neoliberal project, and the elite Opus Dei in the country wanted to ban the morning-after pill.

When Zelaya was forced out, Obama barely gave a verbal wrist-slapping to the golpistas, but stopped short of using any legal language which would require any drastic measures against the coup government, such as economic sanctions, freezing assets, or withdrawing his ambassador, as so many other countries did immediately. Considering Obama is supposed to be some sort of shining beacon of hope in the US, this illegal coup has not only happened under his watch but has been endorsed by his government.

When happened next was also to be expected. The popular uprising from a truly grassroots movement was formed based on the premise that the electoral process which brought Zelaya to power by popular support must be respected and defended to its legal end. This uprising has been met with brutal repression and violence since its inception. The amount of recorded evidence of illegal abuses in the form of murders, torture cases and disappearances carried out by the Micheletti and Lobo governments is undeniable. Many protestors that have been violently killed by the police have even been blamed in the national media for their own deaths, because they supposedly just got in the way of the police !! (Ref. Aljazeera.com)

There’s so much more I could tell even of just recent events, but Im gonna leave it as yer homework to look up some good sites like the ones I’ve just quoted http://www.upsideworld.org and http://www.aljazeera.com and do searches there. For those with Spanish, don’t forget to do the equivalent spanish searches for personal blogs etc. There’s a lot of good reporting on this out there.

Community radio reps and video folks preparing for the gathering

16-02-2012 Communications workshop

And here I find myself in the Aguán region, in Tocoa on the carribbean coast where the international human rights gathering is taking place. Folks from all corners of Honduras have come to participate in a communications workshop which I’m helping out with. Some are learning about radio techniques while others are doing video. The idea is that all these semi-experienced community indymedia folks are going to take on the actual transmission of the gathering itself from Friday to Sunday, with the help of some experts. I really like this idea, because it’s incredibly empowering, participative and practical. It may not have perfect results, but it’s real-time education which they’ll walk away with to use in their communities.

These community activists have it real clear in their heads that even the sympathetic stations, that have somewhat favoured the transmission of objective news, are still commercial stations. One minute they are trasmitting the news of the land evictions and tortures, and the next minute they transmit propaganda for one of the companies owned by Miguel Faccuse, a big business tycoon and landowner who is closely linked with the autrocities being commited. Everyone here at the gathering knows the links between certain national products and these terrible abuses, but maybe many people in the rest of the country don’t know. As one lady said during the workshop, “We don´t want these products coming in and sweet-talking us and buying us up. No, we don´t want to loose ourselves, our identity, our culture. That´s one of the aims of our radio stations – to protect our culture. And they are also bad for our health!”.

Today there was also a women’s group session and a Honduran indigenous group’s meeting to prepare for the gathering. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be everywhere at once, and I was helping out with the video stuff a wee bit. But tomorrow I hope to get to the children’s meeting. I’ve never been to any event where there’s been a formal children’s meeting so I’m really interested in seeing how this will work, the format, the facilitation etc. All I know is that the reason for having this meeting with children is because so many of them have been witnesses to atrocities in their communities and have even witnesses their own parent’s or familiy members being killed or kidnapped.

17-02-2012

Net connection is turning out to be a trying business during this event, so if i´m lucky I may get to stick up something later this evening…at least more photos. Not even gonna try for video! eeek.

Today the communications teams are getting their last panics on. The gathering kicks off tonight with a cultural event. Can´t wait for a bit of Garifuna drums and beats! God I love (well-played) afro-rhthyms! Registration is underway and it looks to be good numbers. They expect about 500. Hopefully Ill be back online soon with more. If not, keep an eye on other web sources, although it looks to be few enough journalists…mostly indymedia.Glad I came to spread it round a bit.