he Obama administration is coming under fire for its role in arming and funding murderous Honduran police, in violation of US law. Under the Leahy Law, named after Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the US government is not allowed to fund foreign military units who have commit gross human rights violations with impunity. The director general of Honduras’ national police force, Juan Carlos Bonilla, has been investigated in connection with death squad killings; and members of the US Congress have been complaining about it since Bonilla was appointed last May. Thanks to some excellent investigative reporting by the Associated Press in the last couple of weeks – showing that all police units are, in fact, under Bonilla’s command – it has become clear that the US is illegally funding the Honduran police.
So, now we’ll see if “rule of law” or “separation of powers” means very much in a country that likes to lecture “less developed” nations about these principles…
The government of Honduran President Pepe Lobo was “elected” after a military coup overthrew the democratically elected government of President Mel Zelaya in June of 2009. Zelaya later told the press that Washington was involved in the coup; this is very believable, given the circumstantial evidence. But what we know for sure is that the Obama administration was heavily involved in helping the new regime survive and legitimize itself. Washington supported Lobo’s election in 2009, against the opposition of almost the entire hemisphere. The Organization of American States and the European Union refused to send observers to an election that most of the world viewed as obviously illegitimate.
The coup unleashed a wave of violence against political dissent that continues to this day. Even Honduras’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission – established by the coup government itself – found that it had “undertaken political persecution … and that it was responsible for a number of killings committed by state agents and those acting at their behest, in addition to the widespread and violent repression of rights to speech, assembly, association.”
Which brings us the elections scheduled for later this year. Once again, a social-democratic party is in the race, including people who courageously defended democracy against 2009’s military coup. Its presidential candidate is Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of the president whom Washington worked so hard to get rid of. This party is among the victims of the government’s political repression: in November, LIBRE mayoral candidate Edgardo Adalid Motiño was gunned down after attending a rally for Xiomara Zelaya.
So there you have it. A death squad government may not be the Obama administration’s first choice, but it prefers it to a leftist government that Hondurans might elect if they were to have a free election. The current government belongs to Washington, just like the US military base that the Pentagon would like to keep in Honduras indefinitely.
If all that sounds disgusting, and reminiscent of President Reagan’s death squad governments in Central America, it’s because it is both. The question right now, as in the 1980s, is what will members of Congress in Washington do about it?
Gee, what do you think President Obama will say and do? What do you think Congress will do?
Mothers and families of El Salvador’s assassinated, disappeared 40,000 citizens
Mike Goldwater photo
An immigration judge in Florida has cleared the way for the deportation from the United States of Gen. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, a former defense minister of El Salvador, finding that he assisted in acts of torture and murder committed by soldiers under his command during the civil war there, including several notorious killings of Americans.
The decision by Judge James Grim of immigration court in Orlando is the first time that federal immigration prosecutors have established that a top-ranking foreign military commander can be deported based on human rights violations under a law passed in 2004, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, intended to bar human rights violators from coming to or living in the United States.
Judge Grim found that General Vides assisted in the killings of four American churchwomen on a rural road in El Salvador in 1980, a crime that caused shock there and in Washington and presaged the bloody violence that would engulf the Central American nation for the next decade. The immigration judge’s ruling is the first time General Vides has been held responsible for those deaths in a court of law.
Five soldiers from the Salvadoran National Guard were eventually convicted of the killings and served long prison sentences. General Vides was the commander of the National Guard at the time of the murders.
The effort by Department of Homeland Security officials to seek the deportation of General Vides, who was El Salvador’s defense minister from 1983 to 1989, is a turnabout in American foreign policy. He was a close ally of Washington throughout the war against leftist guerrillas in the 1980s, and was embraced as a reformer despite rampant rights violations by the armed forces under his command.
Judge Grim also determined that General Vides had assisted in the torture of two Salvadorans, Juan Romagoza and Daniel Alvarado, who testified against him in hearings last spring in the immigration court in Orlando.
“This is the first case where the Department of Homeland Security has taken this relatively new law and applied it to the highest military commander of their country to seek their removal,” said Carolyn Patty Blum, senior legal adviser for the Center for Justice and Accountability, a nonprofit legal group in San Francisco that represented several torture victims in the case. She called the decision “hugely significant” for future efforts to bring immigration cases for human rights abuses against the highest-level military commanders and government officials.
Republicans and Democrats alike have always justified the Murder, Incorporated style of American foreign policy as expedient during the Cold War. The ending of the Cold War has done nothing to change the style and substance of those policies. And, frankly, this case is surprising in its challenge to established strategy.
I have to wonder if the DOJ/DHS managed to offer a conscience separate from the White House or if Obama has cracked the door open to legitimate human rights concerns?
I presume you know that Congress as presently constituted will offer no such change. In fact, I imagine some of the most fascist-minded creeps will call for committee hearings on “America growing soft on terrorism” or something reflecting the corruption of what passes for conservatism in America.
They could recall Dick Cheney, secretary of War under Bush the Elder – who declared no involvement of the United States or Salvadoran political thugs in any of these murders.