Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beast of the Month - August 2009

Roberto Micheletti
Honduras Coup Leader

"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"

As it's been mentioned on Konformist.com before, it's interesting how democracy really matters to the USA in foreign policy, except of course when it doesn't.

Take Iran, for example. Ever since the elections in June, the mainstream media has repeatedly denounced the official victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the blatant results of fraud. It was done with such passionate insistence, you'd think the story wasn't about democracy in Iran but rather a plot to steal the White House through suppressing minority voters and the usage of electronic voting.

But how does the sales job of the story match up to the reality? On Politico.com, Flynt & Hillary Leverett, both former analyst for the National Security Council, concluded after looking at the dubious evidence that "these irregularities do not, in themselves, amount to electoral fraud even by American legal standards. And, compared with the U.S. presidential election in Florida in 2000, the flaws in Iran’s electoral process seem less significant." This was in an article titled "Ahmadinejad Won. Get Over It." Ms. Mann was chief Iran analyst for George W. Bush in the NSC, for those who may suspect this is some liberal screed defending a member of the axis of evil. Anthony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and George Friedman of the Stratfor intelligence service both also concurred with this opinion, neither of which represent repositories for left-wing diatribes.

Of course, it wasn't merely the right that was cheering against Ahmadinejad. Noted establishment left media outlet The Nation was as relentless as Fox News in denouncing the election. Perhaps that's because Mahmoud's opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was backed by billionaire and "liberal" financier George Soros. In any case, the bipartisan support for Mousavi was in spite of the fact that, contrary to the portrait painted of him as an "outsider" to the Iranian establishment, he was in fact prime minister of the country from 1981-89. While in that position, he personally picked Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-pur as his point man for the Beirut terror campaign against Team USA during the Reagan era. Bob Baer, the CIA agent who inspired George Clooney's Oscar-winning role in Syriana, claims that Mousavi "dealt directly with Imad Mughniyah," the man held directly responsible for terrorist attacks in Lebanon. These include the bloody attacks on the US embassy and Marine Corps barracks that killed 241 US military men. For this, Mousavi has earned "Butcher of Beirut" as his nickname.

Then again, just because Mousavi was Mr. Big twenty years ago in a terrorist war against Great Satan doesn't prove he didn't win the presidential campaign. It does show, however, that while Ahmadinejad may be a creepy dude, this is not the case of "good guy, bad guy" the establishment media pretends it to be.

Meanwhile, if someone was indeed looking for a current case of "good guy, bad guy" in international politics, all you'd need to do is visit the South American country of Honduras. And by "good guy, bad guy" we mean if you think a military coup ousting a democratically elected leader qualifies. In this case, the decided bad guy is Roberto Micheletti, The Konformist Beast of the Month.

On June 28th, the Honduras military forced President Manuel Zelaya from office, who fled to Costa Rica. The official explanation for his removal: to preempt a non-binding referendum on whether or not to have a constitutional convention. The Honduras political establishment feared Zelaya would use the assembly to allow him to run for president another term. Perhaps he was seeking another term, although it doesn't seem the case in the short run: the actual binding referendum would take place in November, the same day as the prez elections, which would therefore not include him. In any case, his critics in Honduras insisted he was planning to return to office at some point, and it would be illegal for him to change the constitution to allow that, hence his removal from power.

While the official explanation of the coup is factually correct, it makes little sense. Chillax, Honduras establishment dudes, why the boner over dumping Zelaya? Certainly if what he was doing was unconstitutional, the military had no need to oust him, as the Parliament (led by Micheletti, who became the de facto president after Zelaya's removal) had already voted that day to dump his ass from power. Clearly, had the Honduras army just let things run their course, he would have been gone soon enough. But apparently, "soon enough" was still too long.

This leads to the real reason for his removal. Honduras, the second poorest country in Central America that has 70% of its population living in poverty, was doing things under Zelaya that are frowned upon by the US State Department. You know, little things like raising the minimum wage 60%, battling the virtual slave labor in sweatshops, regulating the corporate controlled media and calling out the War on Drugs as the fraudulent scam it is. Perhaps worst of all, he had become an ally of Venezuela and Cuba, a foreign policy move that Hugo Chavez rewarded with sorely needed oil subsidies. He had even agreed to have Honduras join the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Chavez alternative to the proposed NAFTA-expanding FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas.) Clearly, these actions were too much.

About right now it'd be good to ask how such a dangerous wannabe Salvador Allende managed to become president of Honduras. Just how did a member of some socialist or communist party become the most powerful man in the country? As it turns out, Zelaya was a member of the Liberal Party, the same party that controlled Congress and that Micheletti is a member of. (The Liberal Party, while claiming to represent the "left" side of the spectrum in Honduras, is actually a corporate centrist party, which means it's the functional equivalent of the Democratic Party.) So was Zelaya just hiding his Che Guevara t-shirt under his businessman's suit when he ran in 2005 on a tough-on-crime, budget-cutting platform? More likely, when given the immense powers of his office, he was personally transformed, especially when seeing the gross injustice that faces the impoverished. Or perhaps more cynically, he just did the math and realized the neoliberal agenda was doomed for failure to quell mass discontent. Either way, he soon began embracing the Chavez model of leadership, which led to his downfall in the Honduras establishment.

In defense of the dubious coup, the acting government insists the removal of Zelaya by the military was entirely legal. They argue it was done after the Attorney General issued a petition to detain and depose Zelaya, which was then approved by a secret order to the armed forces from the Supreme Court. After Zelaya's removal, Micheletti took over in the proper order of succession. That said, Zelaya had this response: "“If I do something illegal, take me to court and give me the right to a defense. But do not use the army to kidnap the president and carry him violently out of the country.” Meanwhile, if the coup excuse was to defend the Honduras Constitution, beyond the lack of due process in his removal, there was immediately a curfew put in place by the Micheletti regime that suspended basic constitutional civil liberties, the illegal detainment of Zelaya supporters by the military, and a shutdown of numerous television and radio stations along with newspapers and websites that didn't toe the anti-Zelaya line. Then there is the more disturbing evidence that the coup leaders have revived the notorious death squads of Honduras. Billy Joya, a leader of the death squads, has become a "security advisor" to Micheletti. This has led to a situation where there are political assassinations, murders of journalists and the torture of citizens. For the most part, these crimes have been censored in the American korporate press.

Despite the distorted news coverage, the "no coup" lie is not being swallowed. The Organization of American States (OAS) has condemned the coup and suspended Honduras as a member. Also condemning the coup were the European Union and the UN. Even the top lawyer for the Honduras military concedes the removal of Zelaya was a criminal act, though argues it was necessary to stop the nation descending into mob rule. Most tellingly, the United States opposed it as well. To his credit, Barack Obama had this to say: "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras." Of course, like most of Obama's smooth-talking speeches, his words should be met with skepticism: as noted by Latin American history professor Greg Grandin on Democracy Now: "The Honduran military is effectively a subsidiary of the United States government. Honduras, as a whole, if any Latin American country is fully owned by the United States, it’s Honduras. Its economy is wholly based on trade, foreign aid and remittances." That being the case, it's hard to believe the coup happened without a green light from Team USA.

Then again, for once, maybe Obama was telling the truth. After all, a military coup is a nasty PR move, especially when a constitutional removal of a leader will do. Perhaps when meeting with the political leadership of Honduras, the White House okayed a removal of Zelaya in a legalistic manner, but this was interpreted as an okay of the military option. Or perhaps the green light was given by those within the CIA who are loyal to the Bushistas, believing Obama won't have the balls to stand up for democracy against their plot.

Of course, looking at the Honduras coup as an isolated incident misses the big picture. Over the past decade, all the political and military revolts around the world (among the more noted: the removal of Joseph Estrada in the Philippines, the failed coup of Chavez in Venezuela, the overthrow of Aristide in Haiti, the Color Revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, and the election fraud coup in Mexico) have centered around two competing groups, one backed by the International Monetary Fund and one opposed to the IMF prescription. Naturally, the side that backs the neoliberal economics of the IMF coincidentally receives funding from foundations backed by George Soros. Tellingly, how the story is reported in the US and Europe had almost nothing to do with quaint issues like democracy or economic justice and everything to do with supporting whatever side the IMF backed. In this context, both Honduras and Iran look just like two more attempted IMF coups, where the side viewed as a threat to democracy (Zelaya and Ahmadinejad) is coincidentally the side opposed to the IMF agenda.

Which is why things don't look good for Zelaya. Ironically, the one thing that may give him a chance to return is the coup itself, which sabotaged the legalistic coup that was set to go. But even if he does return to power, it will likely be under conditions made by the US that he be an impotent lame duck, more ceremonial than actual leader. As Greg Grandin concluded on Democracy Now: "If the U.S. is opposed to this coup going forward, it won’t go forward." That doesn't seem too reassuring.

In any case, we salute Roberto Micheletti as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Bobby!!!

Beastly Update, 2010: Apparently the Obama Administration wasn't opposed to the coup going forward. Despite all the feigned outrage, Zelaya never returned to office.

Sources

Credit must be due to Democracy Now! ( http://www.democracynow.org/ ), FAIR ( http://www.fair.org/ ), Information Clearing House ( http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ ), PrisonPlanet.com ( http://www.prisonplanet.com/ ), Wikipedia ( http://www.wikipedia.org/ ) and the World Socialist Web Site ( http://www.wsws.org/ ) for research help on this article.

Cooper, Helene. "In a Coup in Honduras, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies." New York Times 30 June 2009.

Corbett, James. "Destabilization 2.0." The Corbett Report 23 June 2009 <http://www.corbettreport.com/articles/20090623_destabilization.htm>.

Dangl, Benjamin. "Honduran Leader's Populism Is What Provoked Military Violence." AlterNet 1 July 2009 <http://www.alternet.org/story/141026>.

"Honduran Leader Forced Into Exile." BBC News 28 June 2009 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8123126.stm>.

"Honduras: Zelaya's Jet Denied Entry; Military Admits Coup Was 'Criminal'." World War 4 Report 5 July 2009 <http://ww4report.com/node/7539>.

Lacey, Marc. "Leader’s Ouster Not a Coup, Says the Honduran Military." New York Times 2 July 2009.

Leverett, Flynt and Mann Leverett, Hillary. "Ahmadinejad Won. Get Over It." Politico.com 15 June 2009 <http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=E47D1CF2-18FE-70B2-A8A86265132AF194>.

Nichols, John. "The Nation: In Honduras The Heat Is On." NPR 30 June 2009 <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106084998>.

Nichols, John. "Totalitarian Rightists Put Orwellian Spin on Honduras Coup." The Nation 2 July 2009 <http://www.thenation.com/blogs/thebeat/448140/totalitarian_rightists_put_orwellian_spin_on_honduras_coup>.

Ogg, Chuck. "Resolution Condemning Honduras Coup Ignored by New York Times." TheOggblog 17 July 2009 <http://theoggblog.com/?p=111>.

Parenti, Michael. "The Honduras Coup: Is Obama Innocent?" Michael Parenti Political Archive July 2009 <http://michaelparenti.org/Honduras.html>.

"Police Clash with Demonstrators in Honduran Capital." CNN 29 June 2009 <http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/06/29/honduras.president.arrested/index.html>.

Roberts, Paul Craig. "Ignorance Is Strength." Online Journal 25 June 2009 <http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_4842.shtml>.

Robles, Frances. "Honduras New Government Is Censoring Journalists." Miami Herald 1 July 2009 <http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/1122536.html>.

Robles, Frances. "Top Honduran military lawyer: We broke the law." Miami Herald 3 July 2009 <http://www.miamiherald.com/1506/story/1125872.html>.

Rogers, Tim. "Leftist Leaders Hold Emergency Meeting Over Honduras Coup." The Christian Science Monitor 29 June 2009 <http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2009/0629/p06s01-woam.html>.

Sherwell, Philip. "In Honduras Coup, the Truth Is As Strange As Any 'Banana Republic' Fiction." London Telegraph July 5 2009 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/honduras/5743512/In-Honduras-coup-the-truth-is-as-strange-as-any-banana-republic-fiction.html>.

Stein, Jeff. "Mousavi, Celebrated in Iranian Protests, Was the Butcher of Beirut." CQ Politics 22 June 2009 <http://blogs.cqpolitics.com/spytalk/2009/06/mousavi-celebrated-in-iranian.html>.

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