In her latest pro bono public relations initiative on behalf of right-wing Latin American regimes, The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady interviews a former commander of the 5th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—Daniel Sierra Martínez, alias “Samir”— who deserted the organization in 2008 and is now serving as a primary accomplice in Colombian government efforts to prove campesinos are terrorists. In her Dec. 13 article entitled “The FARC and the ‘Peace Community’,” O’Grady announces that “[l]ast week Colombian authorities agreed to let [Samir] sit down with me and talk about his rebel experience,” an arrangement which presumably did not require much twisting of authorities’ arms.
The peace community in question is that of San José de Apartadó, which was founded in 1997 in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia near the Panamanian border and is a network of geographically-proximate villages and outposts that have renounced cooperation with the military, paramilitaries, and guerrillas alike. The unilateral rejection of armed conflict had not prevented the community from suffering 184 assassinations—out of a population of approximately 1500—as of its 12th anniversary this year, however, as nonviolent philosophies do not appear to be compatible with efforts to clear territory of inhabitants in order to exploit coal mines and other local resources. (more…)
First published in Upside Down World, 21 December 2009
I was surprised to discover at the end of October while reading the newspaper in Honduras that a coup d’état had been detected in Nicaragua. According to the 21 October edition of the Honduran daily La Tribuna, former Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Alemán had applied the term golpe de estado to the recent ruling by the Nicaraguan Supreme Court of Justice that Article 147 of the national Constitution prohibiting the immediate reelection of presidents was “inapplicable” in the case of current President Daniel Ortega’s proposed candidature in 2011.
Alemán refrained from applying such terminology to the behavior of courts of other nationalities, such as the June order by the Honduran Supreme Court of Justice that the Honduran armed forces remove President Mel Zelaya from power—which seemed to be more in line with the traditional definition of “coup” as it had involved a change of government. The Honduran coup regime of Roberto Micheletti meanwhile missed the opportunity to capitalize on conceptual adaptations by Alemán and to concede that there had in fact been a coup in Honduras but that it had been carried out by Zelaya. (more…)
A 12 December The Washington Post article entitled “Arrests suggest U.S. Muslims, like those in Europe, can be radicalized abroad” by Mary Beth Sheridan and Spencer S. Hsu begins:
A spike in terrorism cases involving U.S. citizens is challenging long-held assumptions that Muslims in Europe are more susceptible to radicalization than their better-assimilated counterparts in the United States.”
The limited scope of Sheridan and Hsu’s anthropological breakthrough is suggested by the fact that they neglect to explain whether the rape of Iraqis by US soldiers would not also qualify as “radicalization abroad”; as for “long-held assumptions,” these had apparently been bolstered by “British domestic intelligence chiefs [who had] warned in 2006 and 2007 of 200 terrorist networks [in Britain], at least 2,000 individuals who posed a direct security threat and perhaps 2,000 as-yet unknown would-be terrorists.”
A few days prior to the November 29 elections in Honduras, Francisco Varela—the homeless man regularly stationed outside the drive-through of one of the ubiquitous Espresso Americano establishments in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa—acquired a campaign T-shirt for National Party presidential candidate and soon-to-be victor Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo. The shirt boasted a slogan associating Lobo with immediate change; prospects for such things in Honduras were however called into doubt by the fact that the recent attempt by Honduran President Manuel (Mel) Zelaya to hold a nonbinding public opinion survey in order to gauge popular desire to rewrite the Constitution had been met with a coup d’état.
Presumably in order to avoid having to discuss why popular consultations could not be reconciled with the interests of the Honduran elite, the golpista regime transformed the survey issue into a bid by Zelaya to install himself as eternal president of Honduras in violation of Constitutional articles prohibiting leaders from serving more than one 4-year term. These articles had appeared less important in 1985 when current coup president Roberto Micheletti, then a member of Congress, attempted to prolong the presidency of Roberto Suazo Córdova; other neglected articles included Article 102 prohibiting the expatriation of any Honduran—which did not prevent the armed forces from depositing the elected Honduran president in Costa Rica on the morning of June 28—and Article 2 establishing the Honduran people as the true rulers of Honduras, an honor which still did not enable public opinion surveys.
First published in Upside Down World, 1 December 2009
On the evening of November 29, the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced that a technical error had impeded the “second verification of data” in the tallying of the day’s election results. The error had occurred despite repeated TSE claims that the efficiency of its tallying process would enable Honduras and the world to become acquainted with the country’s next president within hours of the closing of the polls; not explained was the reason for urgency, as Honduras and the world already had two Honduran presidents to keep track of—one elected (Mel Zelaya) and the other the product of the June 28 coup (Roberto Micheletti).
In a televised presentation at the Marriott Hotel in Tegucigalpa, TSE President Saúl Escobar declared that, instead of concealing the day’s technical error, the institution had “made the decision to [reveal] exactly what had happened.” Whether this triumph in TSE transparency was intended to serve as compensation for the lack of transparent election results was not clear, nor was why transparency did not extend to a revelation of what exactly the “second verification of data” consisted of or why it was not possible.