HONDURAS - N.P.R. radio reports on most violent country in the world
"Despite the call for Zelaya's return by nearly every other country in the hemisphere, Washington chose to back new elections, which were condemned internationally because of widespread violence and repression."
NPR radio report, part 1:
IN HONDURAS, POLICE ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION, KILLINGS
February 11, 2012
To listen: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/11/146668852/in-honduras-police-accused-of-corruption-killings
(This is the first of a two-part series about the roots of violence in Honduras)
Honduras is hot, mountainous and about the size of the state of Louisiana. According to the United Nations, the Central American nation is also the world's most violent country. A mix of drug trafficking, political instability and history has contributed to a murder rate that is now four times that of Mexico. The Peace Corps has withdrawn its volunteers. Contributing to the volatility are the police themselves.
NPR radio report, part 2:
'WHO RULES IN HONDURAS?': A COUP'S LASTING IMPACT
by Annie Murphy, February 12, 2012
To listen: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/12/146758628/who-rules-in-honduras-a-coups-lasting-impact
(This is the second of a two-part series about the roots of violence in Honduras)
Honduras is a major stop for drug traffickers, and corruption is rampant. Many experts say things got markedly worse after the 2009 coup that ousted democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. The fallout of that coup continues today.
'What Is This?'
When it comes to coups and dictators, Latin America has a difficult past. Today the region is largely democratic. Dictators and coups are supposed to be a thing of the past.
In Honduras, the last dictatorship ended in 1982, so the June 2009 coup that ousted Zelaya was a shock to the region and a surprise to world leaders, including Zelaya himself.
"The shooting started around 5:20 am. I went downstairs, and there were about 250 masked soldiers around my house," he says from his home in Honduras' capital, Tegucigalpa. "All you could see were their eyes. I said, 'My God, what is this?'"
The military whisked Zelaya out of the country on a tiny plane and left him in Costa Rica. "They took off, and there I was. The democratically elected president of Honduras, standing in my pajamas in the middle of a runway in Costa Rica," Zelaya says. "I said to myself, 'So this is that great new future everyone is talking about for Latin America?'"
After two years spent in forced exile, he returned home last year as part of negotiations for Honduras's re-entry into the Organization of American States, which it had been kicked out of after the coup.
The military coup that ousted Zelaya was ordered by members of the Supreme Court and carried out by the military. Zelaya had been pushing for a poll to gauge public interest in rewriting the constitution, and the court ruled that it was illegal.
After ousting Zelaya, the coup government sent the army and police into the streets. They began arresting, beating and even killing anyone who protested against the new government. According to an official truth commission, they were responsible for at least 20 deaths in the immediate aftermath.
Edgardo Valeriano is a medical doctor and researcher. He'd never been political, but after the coup, he joined protests demanding democracy and Zelaya's return. Like many protesters, he was beaten. His skull was split open by batons, and police lashed him with chains. Valeriano says he feels like Honduras went back to the 1980s.
"I remember those years well. I was a student in medical school back then, and I remember how some students would show up tortured by the police," he says, "stories on the news about other young people that had been brutally tortured, whose bodies would turn up at different spots in the capital. There was an atmosphere of strong repression."
Former President Rafael Callejas ruled from 1990 to 1994, and his election marked the first time in 60 years that power was transferred peacefully between two major parties. He believes Zelaya is too brash, but says illegally ousting him has had huge repercussions.
"We're in a crisis. We went back 20 years. We lost again the issue of democracy," Callejas says. "Who rules in Honduras now? Really? Who rules? The people? The system? Or strength? I mean, that's the question that has to be solved."
U.S. Reaction To The Coup
For over a century, the U.S. government has had significant influence in Honduras, from the era of U.S.-owned banana plantations, to military and economic ties that endure today. Because of that history, the U.S. response carried a lot of weight.
Fulton Armstrong is a former CIA analyst and was working as a senior staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the coup. He watched the U.S. response unfold.
"After the coup, a lot of the line taken here by pro-coup people was that the coup was the restoration of democracy, and they sold that in Washington," he says, "but when you look at what was actually happening in Honduras, he really was a continuation of a halting but definitely forward-moving consolidation of democracy."
Despite the call for Zelaya's return by nearly every other country in the hemisphere, Washington chose to back new elections, which were condemned internationally because of widespread violence and repression. Polls were held, and five months after Zelaya's ouster, Porfirio Lobo was elected president. Eventually, the crisis was declared over, but violence has only increased.
Cresencio Arcos was ambassador to Honduras in the early '90s and has been involved in the country for decades. He says the Obama administration failed to take a firm position regarding the coup.
"And I think this stems from the following: that Latin America is an orphan in our foreign policy. I don't think we have a defined policy," Arcos says. "We had one during the Cold War, they were our allies. After the Cold War ended, we never redefined, we never retooled."
Defining The State Of Affairs
Many here say the outcome of the coup is what pushed Honduras to where it is today: the world's most violent nation, according to the United Nations.
Valeriano says it was shocking that in the 21st century, they could pull off a coup. If the president can be taken out of a country and have his rights taken away, the doctor says, without a trial or anything, then what becomes of your average citizen?
(Annie Murphy is a fellow in the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.)
NO MORE POLITICS AND BUSINESS AS USUAL
Keep on sending copies of this information, and your own letters, to your own elected Canadian and American politicians and government officials, ... and to your local media. Since the June 2009 military coup, that ousted the democratically elected government of President Zelaya in Honduras, the governments of the USA and Canada are the governments that have most supported and legitimized the post-coup, repressive regimes of Honduras. North American companies and investors have increased their business activities (mining, tourism, maquiladoras, bananas, etc) in Honduras since the coup. In no small part, this illegitimate, repressive regime remains in power due to its political, economic and military relations with the USA and Canada.
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