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Monthly Archives: March 2010


Honduras considers whether UN Convention on the Rights of the Child still applies to Honduran children

Honduran Minister of Public Security Oscar Alvarez.

Earlier this month, Honduran newspapers reported that the Supreme Court of Justice was set to hear a proposal to reduce the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16. The proposal, which the Court would then have the option of forwarding to the national Congress, was said to be the work of a group composed of members of the Association of Judges and Magistrates, the Association of Judicial Employees and Functionaries, and the Association of Judges for Democracy.

A La Tribuna article of March 10 relates that support for the initiative has also reportedly been expressed by the College of Lawyers and the National Police, and quotes Honduran judge Oscar Genauer as saying:

The incidence of crimes is more frequent among people younger than 18, which is why they must be tried as adults.”

Judge Genauer refrains from expanding his legal equation to explain why adults committing politically-motivated crimes do not have to be tried at all, as in the case of the continued assassination of civilians opposed to last year’s coup d’état against President Mel Zelaya. The most recent victim, anti-coup Honduran high school teacher José Manuel Flores, was killed in the company of his students on the afternoon of March 23; Judge Genauer has thus far failed to speculate on whether Mr. Flores’ students will be more or less likely than adults to engage in criminal behavior after viewing their teacher’s murder.



Colombian Peace Community Photographs by Amelia Opalinska

March 23, 2010 marks the thirteenth anniversary of the peace community of San José de Apartadó in the Colombian department of Antioquia. Despite the community’s renunciation of violence and refusal to side with any of the parties to Colombia’s armed conflict, it continues to be a target of the army, paramilitary groups, and guerrilla organizations alike.

Click here to read an article I wrote after attending last year’s anniversary with Amelia Opalinska, whose photo series on the community appears below. Click here to read my response to a December 2009 article on the peace community by Wall Street Journal editorial board member and aspiring paramilitary Mary Anastasia O’Grady.

Click on each of the photos below to view a larger image.


Berlusconi mistook statuette of Milan’s Duomo for monument in Africa

(Image from Reuters Oddly Enough blog.)

An Italian friend recently used a scene he had witnessed in a crowded piazza in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Rome to explain the current political leadership of Italy. According to my friend, his usual Saturday night consumption of beer in said piazza had been interrupted when a Moroccan began breaking bottles and threatening bystanders with the jagged edges before eventually being toppled by other Moroccans.

What was most disturbing about the scene in my friend’s view was that the Moroccan had not been toppled by Italians, who had failed to react. When I asked my friend why the man’s nationality was central to the event, he protested that the real issue was why the Italian nation was senza palle—“without balls”—a deficiency that enabled fascist politicians to install themselves in power. My suggestion that perceptions of national weakness were also conducive to fascist takeovers was met with the response that brief ethnic takeovers of Roman piazzas were merely indicative of a larger pattern of territorial conquest, something Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had confirmed with the following quote in a June 2009 article in Corriere della Sera: “Some people want a multicolored and multiethnic society. We do not share this opinion.”


Israeli Behavior does not Endanger Turkish Lives

Israeli-manufactured drones will help maintain Turkish hillside slogans proclaiming that the homeland will never be partitioned.

A Haaretz article entitled “Ashkenazi visits Ankara as ties with Turkey warm up,” concerning yesterday’s attendance by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi at the NATO-sponsored International Symposium on Global Terrorism and International Cooperation, explains the present need for warming as follows:

Relations were damaged six months ago after Turkey’s decision to cancel Israel’s participation in international exercises in which Israeli planes were due to take part.”

The extent of the damage is called into question by an Al Jazeera English article from two months ago entitled “Barak in Turkey to repair ties,” which additionally reports that “Turkish officials are currently in Israel to test unmanned drone aircraft that Israeli companies have manufactured for Turkey’s army.” The article acknowledges that “[t]he project has been long delayed over technical problems and political tensions” and goes on to explain that the January 17 visit to Ankara of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was “the highest-level bilateral visit since a diplomatic feud erupted over Israel’s recent treatment of the Turkish ambassador,” Oğuz Çelikkol.


U.S. Congress to be Tried under Article 301 of Turkish Penal Code

I arrived to Istanbul last week to find the Turkish national soccer team engaged in a friendly match with the Honduran national soccer team. My first thought was that it had occurred to someone in the newly inaugurated Honduran administration of Pepe Lobo, product of last year’s coup d’état against Mel Zelaya, that friendly soccer games might be an effective way of boosting Honduras’ international image—an endeavor that would have been facilitated by the pro-coup orientation of the team’s owners as well as the fact that Turkey had been one of a smattering of countries to attend the Lobo inauguration.

Turkish attendance at such an event may seem counterintuitive given the current probe into purported coup plots against Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and continuing arrests of military and other officials. However, chances that Turkish coup plotters will learn from their Honduran counterparts diminish if we consider that the Turkish military sees itself as the safeguard of the state’s secular identity while the former head of the Honduran armed forces has claimed that the coup against Zelaya was part of God’s plan. Other differences between the two nations include that opponents of a coup in Turkey presumably do not have the following slogan at their disposal: “Haga patria, mate un turco”—“Do something patriotic, kill a Turk.”


FARC Number 2 had Plasma TV

Raúl Reyes.

March 1 marked the second anniversary of the Colombian military attack on a camp belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Angostura, Ecuador, which killed the organization’s second-in-command Raúl Reyes. A commemorative link on the website of Ecuadorian daily El Comercio acquaints visitors with pertinent details of the event, such as the location and layout of the camp, the characteristics of the Blackhawk helicopters used, and an approximation of fatalities—which in addition to 21 guerrillas and 1 soldier includes 5 civilians, who are nonetheless represented on the tally sheet by 5 small grey figures with guns.

Also provided is a diagram of Reyes’ sleeping quarters, which is depicted as consisting of wooden planks, a plastic tarp, and a plasma television set. The diagram does not specify the location of the laptop computers that were allegedly found to contain evidence of Ecuadorian and Venezuelan ties to the FARC—laptops that had then spontaneously produced guerrilla ties to an anti-coup political party in the aftermath of last summer’s coup d’état in Honduras, where the employment of Colombian paramilitaries in the private security sector has not prompted the Colombian armed forces to bombard them using U.S. satellite technology.


Chileans loot but do not maraud or swarm

Might swarm at any moment.

Let us compare the introductory paragraphs of Reuters news articles concerning the Haitian and Chilean earthquakes of January and February 2010, respectively.

First, a Jan. 18 article on Haiti:

U.S. troops protected aid handouts and the United Nations sought extra peacekeepers in earthquake-shattered Haiti on Monday as marauding looters emptied wrecked shops and desperate survivors began to receive medical care and air-dropped food.”

Now, a Feb. 28 article on Chile:

Chilean rescuers used shovels and sledgehammers on Sunday to find survivors of a huge earthquake in Chile that unleashed a Pacific tsunami and triggered looting by desperate and hungry residents.”

Despite covering the same general topics, the introductions differ in the provenance of their protagonists—which in the case of Chile are Chilean and in the case of Haiti are U.S. troops and the U.N.—and in the fact that desperate Haitian survivors are an afterthought to marauding looters while Chilean looters themselves are merely desperate, hungry, residential and above all a product of the earthquake rather than of any sort of anthropological flaw.