Honduran Coup; Mission Creep at Homeland Security; Columbia’s Spy Scandal; Health Risks From Monsanto Herbicide; Interview with Nestor Stancanelli; Accountability in Mexican Government Spending

This Week in the Americas

Dear friends,

Since before the June 28 coup d’etat in Honduras, we have been working overtime to bring the latest news and analysis of events to our readers (see complete list below). Our readership has grown over those weeks, as mainstream media has provided only spotty and erratic coverage of the event that could mark a crossroads for Latin America. In struggling to keep up with the news coming out of Honduras and international forums, I’ve also seen how the networks we’ve been part of building over the past years have become key to the rapid response of international solidarity and informing the public through alternative media.

The Honduran coup has broad implications. It poses a head-on challenge to the new Obama administration to live up to the new foreign policy toward Latin America he outlined at the Americas Summit. It also has obvious geopolitical implications. The international criminal right clearly picked off Honduras as the "weakest lamb in the flock" in its campaign against the ALBA countries and the tendency in Latin America for the poor to demand greater justice and equality that it sees as threatening its vested interests.

But it is also, and mostly, about Honduras. Nine months ago I met leaders of the Honduran social movements, many for the first time, at the Second Hemispheric Meeting against Militarization in La Esperanza, near the Soto Cano military base. I was impressed by their level of organization, their commitment, and clarity. I also recall the guarded hope they expressed in President Zelaya, but even more in the possibility for changes in their country that would at last favor their indigenous, Afro-Honduran, and campesino and women members.

In these past days, I’ve seen those same people on television marching in the streets to rescue democracy in their country. I’ve read their words as they fly out over the Internet even as planes are turned back from the coup-held Tegucigalpa airport. Many of our U.S. partner organizations have sent delegations to Honduras, organized protests and written and spoken out against the coup.

The challenge posed by the coup is personal for many of us. For some, it’s because we know the faces on the screens. For others, it’s because after years of working in Central American solidarity we swore we would never allow a return to the dark days of military rule, violence and murder in countries we at first could barely locate on a map and which later came to touch our own lives deeply. For others, it is simply a matter of justice.

So much is happening in the world today and every battle can seem to be the one to crest the hill. Honduras is small, poor, and far away. Over these next crucial days we urge all readers to keep up the pressure to support the Honduran people and pressure the U.S. government to act in a timely and decisive manner to end the coup.

On another note, what is happening on the U.S. border and within Mexico is more and more ominous. Tom Barry has completed a detailed policy report on the "Secure Communities" program concluding that it not only does not make us more secure, but weakens the crime-fighting capacity of local police and deepens the criminalization of all immigrants.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has poured more money into Mexico’s failed drug war by offering up to $50 million in rewards for leaders of the Gulf Cartel, only to provoke the inevitable cycle of internal replacements and turf wars between cartels. The fourth and final appropriation for the Merida initiative is currently before Congress. As the original package ends, we will be working with other organizations to evaluate the results and suggest major changes in orientation of security aid and cooperation. But more about that in our next issue.

Laura Carlsen


New from the Americas Program

Twenty-first Century Coups d’Etat
By Laura Carlsen

The consolidation of power through brute force represents a serious step backward for the region. How is it possible that a coup d’etat could take place and survive in the 21st century? This is the question that the international community faces after the coup d’etat that Honduras suffered on June 28. On that day, the Honduran Armed Forces kidnapped the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, and forced him onto a flight bound for Costa Rica. The Organization of American States (OAS), the UN General Assembly, the U.S. government and every Latin American nation have denounced the coup and demanded the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya.

The Honduran people have shown their willingness to take the personal risks of demonstrating in the streets against the coup and enduring the consequences of more sanctions. The rest of the world should follow their example in the fight for democracy and demand that their governments implement stronger measures to restore Honduras’ constitutional order. Only then will it be possible to send a message once and for all that military coups are unacceptable in the 21st century.

(Translation of Laura Carlsen’s column for the Panamanian daily La Estrella.)

See full article at:


No Going Back: Why the Coup in Honduras Won’t—and Shouldn’t—Succeed
By Robert E. White

Honduras has suffered a coup d’état at the hands of congressional leaders and the commanding officers of the armed forces. Provided that the United States stands firmly with its partners in Latin America, this revolt against the constitutional order will certainly fall apart. To fail to restore President Manuel Zelaya to power in Honduras would risk reviving in Central America that dark era when the rights of free speech and assembly were curtailed and civilians could govern only within limits set by military leaders.

The crisis in Honduras should remind the Obama administration that it has inherited an inadequate policy toward Central America. While President Chavez supplies cheap oil to favored regional allies, the United States supplies funding for the war on drugs and military assistance. Civilian leaders are understandably skeptical of a drug war that only seems to have increased corruption and violence in their countries. Elected presidents also worry that Washington’s counter-narcotics program gives the militaries of Central America a license to intervene in the internal affairs of their nations—a role expressly forbidden by the constitutions of all countries in the region. Recent events in Honduras confirm that these fears are well founded.

See full article at:


Honduran Coup Tests Mexico’s Refugee Policy and Resolve
By Frontera NorteSur

The military coup in Honduras is providing an unexpected test of Mexico’s immigration and refugee policies.

The Honduran political crisis could aggravate an already conflictive situation in Mexico’s southern border region. Despite the international economic crisis, thousands of Central Americans and other Latin migrants continue to cross the country’s southern border en route to the United States. Along the way, migrants are a favorite target of corrupt Mexican officials and bands of organized criminals.

See full article at:


"Community Security" Mission Creep at Homeland Security
By Tom Barry

The Department of Homeland Security has a bad case of mission creep. Created in the wake of Sept. 11 to better protect the country against attacks by foreign terrorists, DHS now believes it is also responsible for community security.

This new Americas Program policy report concludes that the Secure Communities program embodies the four fundamental thrusts of the enforcement-first immigration policy initiated by the Bush administration and institutionalized by the Obama administration. The policy report examines the dangerous features of the program and recommends policy alternatives.

The Mission Creep policy report is the third in a series of policy reports on immigration policy in the Obama administration.

See the Policy Report online at:


Far Worse than Watergate
By Lisa Haugaard and Millie Moon

According to Colombia’s attorney general, over the last seven years the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) systematically and without warrants tapped the phones and email of Colombia’s major human rights groups, prominent journalists, members of the Supreme Court (including the chief justice and the judge in charge of the parapolitics investigation), opposition politicians, and the main labor federation. Not only did DAS personnel spy on their targets, they spied on their families. This includes taking photos of their children, investigating their homes, their finances, and their daily routines. DAS even wrote a detailed manual of spying methods for personnel to follow.

The systematic illegal surveillance by the DAS acted as a significant brake to freedom of expression. The United States must end any assistance to the DAS and call on President Uribe to protect freedom of expression in Colombia.

See full article at:


Monsanto Soy Herbicide Could Pose Health Risks
By Marie Trigona

Argentina has seen an explosion in genetically modified (GM) soy bean production with soy exports topping $16.5 billion in 2008. The fertile South American nation is now the world’s third largest producer of soy, trailing behind the United States and Brazil. However, this lucrative industrial form of farming has come under fire with environmental groups, local residents, and traditional farmers reporting that GM soy threatens biodiversity, the nation’s ability to feed itself, and health in rural communities.

Criticism of the soy farming model intensified recently when research released by Argentina’s top medical school showed that a leading chemical used in soy farming may be harmful to human health. The study has alarmed policymakers in the South American nation.

See full article at:


Americas Program Interview with Nestor Stancanelli
By Tony Phillips

A discussion on the G-192 Summit "Anatomy of a Crisis," world economic imbalances, and the Stiglitz Commission. A commission of experts set up by the president of the UN General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, June 24-26.

See full article at:


FUNDAR: New Models to Confront New Challenges to Democracy
By Alicia Athié

In a democracy, the federal public budget should reflect the priorities of the people. In Mexico this is not the case. The Civil Association "Fundar" has been working for 10 years to make Mexico’s public funding transparent by conducting a detailed analysis of fund distribution, from a funding proposal going from the Executive branch to the Legislative, until the monies are spent, reported, and audited by the appropriate government body.

See full article at:


Americas Program Blog on Honduras:

Breakdown of Mediation Means More Pressure for United States to Act

As Arias Proposes Coalition Government, National Front against the Coup Vows to Keep Up Resistance

The Criminal Right and the Obama Ultimatum

Mediation Hopes Slip as Coup Leader Returns to Honduras

Clinton Announces Mediation of Honduras Conflict, Zelaya Says Talks to "Plan Withdrawal of the Coup"

Military Coup Blocks President´s Return, Time for United States to Act

Near Convergence Point: Marchers, President, Armed Forces Move toward Airport

Statement of Pres. Zelaya on his Return Tomorrow, Calls for Non-violent Demonstrations

High Noon in Honduras

Honduran Rural Leader Rafael Alegria: "Some Battalions Are Refusing to Repress the Population"

Text of UN Resolution and Call for International Support from Popular Resistance Front of Honduras

Zelaya Postpones Return, Mass Mobilization in the Country

ALBA and Via Campesina Issue New Declarations against the Honduran Coup

Honduran Coup Moves from Failed Arguments to Repression, International Sanctions Imposed

Resolution from the OAS Diplomatically Isolates Honduran Leaders

Declarations from Via Campesina, Honduran Grassroots Organization

Pres. Zelaya Calls for the Military to Correct its Actions

OAS Countries Back Zelaya, Calls for Ultimatum on Reinstatement, No Negotiation with Coup Leaders

Extreme Alert: Military Coup in Honduras, President Zelaya in Costa Rica, Minister, and Ambassadors Reported Kidnapped

Honduran Crisis Tests Commitment to Democracy

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