Republican House members used taxpayer money to boost de facto government as it was criminalizing dissent, shutting down media outlets
Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives spent nearly $25,000 in taxpayer funds to support the coup in Honduras. An analysis of Congressional travel reports shows four far-right legislators— Rep. Connie Mack (Fla.), Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (Calif.), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)—used the money to fly themselves and their GOP staff members to Honduras during the critical months following the violent ousting of democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. Those trips were then used by coup plotters and supporters to create a false sense of legitimacy towards their tactics of criminalizing civil resistance and shutting down the country's media outlets.
On June 28, 2009 Zelaya was forcibly removed from office and exiled to Costa Rica, in a coup d'état orchestrated by the country's oligarchy. Roberto Micheletti, then leader of the National Congress in Honduras, was appointed to be the new president of the de facto government that was created after the coup. The majority of countries throughout the world condemned the coup, and the next day President Barack Obama told reporters that, “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there.”
Less than a month later, after the de facto coup government in the country had passed an emergency law banning basic liberties like the right to protest and due process, Reps. Bilbray and Mack traveled to the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras on July 25 to show support for the Micheletti regime. During the taxpayer-funded expedition, which was labeled a “congressional delegation trip,” the two lawmakers met with Micheletti, businessmen and lawmakers responsible for the coup. Mack, who lead the trip and had already voiced support for the coup government before arriving in Honduras, parroted the lies used by the coup plotters that removing Zelaya at gun point was legal and constitutional. After the visit, Bilbray disseminated those distortions to the US media and encouraged the Obama administration to negotiate with Micheletti. The total cost billed to taxpayers was $7,684.80, according to Congressional foreign travel reports.
On October 5 later that year, a few weeks after the de facto government had used the military to shut down and censor opposition media outlets, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, a ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, organized another visit to Honduras that was financed with $9,562.68 in public funds. Ros-Lehtinen used the trip to boost the de facto regime, which had suffered a significant blow in late September when Zelaya had managed to return to the country and was trapped inside the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa. During the visit, Ros-Lehtinen denounced the US government's decision to withhold financial aid and visas to the coup government, and later Tweeted from the country that the Honduran people “don't want [Zelaya] back!”
Days before Ros-Lehtinen arrived in Tegucigalpa, Republican coup supporter and Senator Jim DeMint (N.C.) had a public scuffle with Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, over travel to Honduras. When Kerry blocked DeMint from using taxpayer funds to finance his own coup-boosting trip to Honduras, DeMint arranged for the US military to fly him there with three other House members. Ros-Lehtinen's travel was not a part of the DeMint trip, according to Bradley Goehner, the Republican communications director for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The last taxpayer-funded trip to boost the Honduran coup backers was after the country's November presidential elections, which were held amid a climate of “intimidation, torture, illegal detentions and in extreme cases, assassinations.” After documented electoral fraud, National Party candidate and coup supporter Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo was announced the winner, with the State Department endorsing the election results. Once Lobo had been inaugurated, Republican Rep. Rohrabacher, who had written a letter of support for Micheletti, traveled to the country on Jan. 31 to meet with Lobo. “After the new president was elected, he traveled to Honduras to let the newly elected government know that Republicans supported them,” says Tara Olivia Setmayer, a media representative for Rohrabacher. The trip cost $7,473.40, bringing the total spent on coup-boosting trips in Honduras to $24,720.88.
When compared to the federal government's multi-trillion dollar budget, the money may seem trivial. However, there's no denying that those funds—which could make up a small annual salary for one person in the United States—went towards Republican efforts to support a regime that continues to censor opposition media, criminalize dissent, and commit numerous human rights violations in Honduras.
Contracts show School of the Americas, Special Ops Group, Working Inside The Country
Procurement data from the Federal Procurement Data System shows that in September the US Embassy in Mexico City paid Sheraton Hotels more than $15,000 for an event featuring the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formerly the School of the Americas), a Department of Defense school that specializes in training students from Latin America and has a notorious history of contributing to human rights abuses abroad.
The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), a military school that teaches special operations tactics, is also listed as being involved. The State Department has not disclosed which Sheraton hotels were used, but the procurement data states the contract work was performed in Mexico. Sheraton lists hotel locations in the historic center of Mexico City, the city's wealthy suburb of Santa Fe, the beach resort city of Cancún, and city of Monterrey.
When asked about the procurement data, embassy spokesman Alexander Featherstone first stated that the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), a military unit created in 2002 for homeland defense missions, is involved in training the Mexican military with help from the State Department.
“At the request of the Mexican government and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, USNORTHCOM conducts information exchanges and training across a number of broad areas and disciplines,” Featherstone said. “These trainings take place both in Mexico and the U.S.”
“These training opportunities and exchanges have helped the militaries of Mexico and the United States to build a relationship based on trust, confidence, mutual benefit and mutual respect for sovereignty,” Featherstone added.
Regarding the hotel payments, Featherstone then said that the Department of Defense, through the Office of Defense Coordination at the U.S. Embassy, uses meeting rooms for “seminars, conferences, and meeting venues,” including for events that focus on “counternarcotics efforts.”
When asked if the funds used by the embassy were part of the Mérida Initiative, a 2008 security pact in which the United States provides training and equipment to Mexican law enforcement and the armed forces to wage the drug war, Featherstone stated that they were not.
“While this military training is not funded with Merida Initiative funds, the expenditure is in the spirit of the Merida Initiative objectives and fully supports the U.S. whole-of-government effort to work closely with Mexico,” Featherstone said.
President announces that he will be unwavering with his principles
Quito (Pichincha) – The president, Rafael Correa, who stands against a seditious attempt by some members of the National Police against the democratic and constitutional regime lead by the president, announced that despite attempts to attack the government and even him as a person, he would be unwavering with his principles.
“I'm not going to back down, if you want to come here and look for me, shoot me and the Republic will move forward, kill me, but as Pablo Neruda said, 'You can cut all the flowers but you cannot stop the Spring from coming,'” he told Radio Pública.
From the Police Hospital, where he came after being attacked during a visit to Quito Regiment # 1—after being hit by a tear gas canister—the president expressed his profound rejection of the actions taken by a sector of the police who hope to destabilize the regime based on their opposition to the vetoes announced to the Public Service Act.
According to the President, this attempt at destabilization is the result of a strategy that has been brewing for quite some time. A barrage of messages and misinformation have been given to the National Police, which today has been realized through violent actions from a conspiracy attempt.
“A while ago they came looking for a coup, because they can't win at the polls and there are compañerosof ours who do not understand that this is part of a political mission,” he said, in relation to the serious possibility of a “muerte cruzada”* with the National Congress.
He announced that he would return to Carondelet Palace when the security conditions allowed, as there is a possibility that the hospital was affected by this morning's actions.
*The constitutionally-granted power of the president to dissolve Congress and hold pending immediate elections, when there is a deadlocked Congress.
September 10, 2010.
Yesterday we read the report from the Good Government Junta of Oventic, which tells of the attacks and acts of provocation that people affiliated with the PRD, PRI and the Green Party, financed by the three levels of government, have committed against our companer@ Zapatista Support Bases (BAZ) from the community of San Marcos in the official municipality of Chilon, and on the person of our companero, Manuel Vázquez, from Pamala community, located in the official municipality of Citala.
The illegal detention of Manuel Vázquez and Pedro Gómez Cruz, deprived of their liberty for being Zapatistas and for not giving in to to the pressures of the attackers to destroy a school, where Zapatista children receive an autonomous education which allows them to know and understand their own reality, as well as the national and international situation. In addition, if it were not for our Zapatistas companer@s, they would have no schools in these communities.
This barbaric action of wanting to destroy an autonomous school was followed by direct aggression and the displacement of 170 Zapatista Support Base companer@s from their homes and their dispossession from their lands, which they acquired ten years ago, and have worked continually ever since.
Attorney General Cites Dubious Evidence to Fire Senator Piedad Cordoba, Opposition Leader
Colombia's Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado today announced he was firing opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba from the nation's Congress, barring her from public service for 18 years.
Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a member of the country's Liberal Party and an outspoken critic of the government's drug war policies, was dismissed for allegedly aiding members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group (FARC in Spanish initials).
Piedad Cordoba has not been charged with a crime, and the only evidence against her comes from dubious electronic documents that were allegedly found by the government after it raided a FARC camp in 2008. At the time the Colombian government claimed that it had found laptops belonging to FARC leader Raul Reyes.
Soon after the supposed discovery of the electronic equipment, the government's official line on the raid kept changing. The number of computer disks found fluctuated. Colombian law enforcement authorities admitted to handling the disks before they were given to INTERPOL for inspection. There was no actual proof of where the computers came from, who they belonged to, or who put the documents on to the disks.
For years Piedad Cordoba has continued to criticize US-backed anti-drug operations, which she says have only contributed to countless murders and human rights abuses at the hands of paramilitary and police forces in the country. In a 2004 interview with Narco News, Piedad Cordoba said “Every day the crisis gets deeper. There are people who have made the decision to look for a military solution for a problem that is connected, inarguably, to the drug trade, but also to misery and poverty.”
Colombian Government’s RICO Litigation Alleges Global Booze Companies Are Doing Business with Narco-Traffickers
Occasionally, the U.S. justice system opens a window into the true nature of the drug-war pretense, despite the political rhetoric employed to conceal the hypocrisy.
That is the case with respect to a pending lawsuit that pits the government of Colombia, and its various departments (or states) against two of the world’s largest liquor producers, England-based Diageo Plc and France-based Pernod Ricard SA — both of which have major U.S. operations and produce well-known brands such as Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan Chivas Regal and Martell.
In the litigation, a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act case filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, the government of Colombia accuses the giant liquor companies and their co-conspirators, including distributors based in Aruba (a Caribbean island nation just northeast of Colombia), of having “engaged in and facilitated organized crime by laundering the proceeds of narcotics trafficking,” among other acts, according to the court pleadings.
In what can only be described as a real head-scratcher, the government of Colombia is continuing to wage this legal battle against the liquor makers even while it presses for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States that, by the terms of the proposed pact (now awaiting approval from the U.S. Congress), would actually make it easier for liquor makers and distributors to expand their business activities in Colombia.
Sunday, September 26, Venezuelans will elect the members of their national assembly for the next five years. No one can foretell the outcome of the elections. The stakes are high.
If the opposition can win one third of the seats, they will be able to effectively put brakes on many of the Chávez government’s proposals. But, whatever the outcome, there are some things to keep in mind.
One: the electoral process in Venezuela is one of the finest in the world. I am not able to vote in these national elections because I am not a Venezuelan citizen. But, as a person who has more than ten years residency in the country, Venezuela does give me the right to vote in local and state elections and so I can personally describe the process.
First, one has to be registered to vote. Upon arriving at the proper election place, there is a list indicating which of the voting tables has your personal information and the voting machine you will use. You are required to show proper identification, sign that you have come to vote, and put a thumb print alongside your signature.
All voting is then done electronically, but when you have touched the button to register your vote, you also receive a printout of your choices which you then deposit in a ballot box. (After the elections, 54% of these are checked to verify that they conform to the results of the electronic results). Finally you are required to dip the small finger of your right hand in a cleansing solution to remove any oils before dipping it in a bottle of indelible ink that is impossible to remove for several days, thus preventing a person from returning to vote more than once.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to test iris scanning technology on undocumented immigrants in the border town of McAllen, Texas, according to a report from a Mexican news service.
In a story that has gained little media attention in the United States, DHS representative Amy Kudwa confirmed to Notimex that the agency will be conducting a preliminary test of the technology in October on undocumented immigrants who have been detained in southern Texas. The eye scanners being tested are reported to have the ability to track up to 50 people a minute from several feet away.
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have already warned against the potential for the technology to be used by the government to abuse the civil rights of citizens and foreigners traveling in the country. The scanners record the biometric information and store it in a database for identification at a later time.
The report quoted Kudwa, saying that “This is a preliminary test of how the technology works. At this point we have no specific plans to acquire or deploy this technology.” However, the test raises the possibility that the technology will be adopted by the agency to replace the collection of finger prints that is normally done when immigrants are locked up.
DHS manages the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies, which detain thousands of immigrants each year.
By Brenda Norrell
Photo: President Evo Morales at traditional feast after playing soccer in the mountains of Bolivia. Photo Brenda Norrell.
Bolivian President Evo Morales and Palestine Authorities will speak in New York on Wednesday, on "The Right to Water of Occupied Palestine," as President Morales presses the nations of the world to guarantee the right to water for humanity.
The right to water is one of the fundamental rights stated in the declarations produced by those attending the World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April. Of the 35,000 people attending, the majority were Indigenous Peoples.
President Morales has carried those standards to the United Nations, as the governments of the world prepare to negotiate at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun, Nov. 29—Dec. 10.
President Morales announced that he would join high-level Palestinian Authorities in New York to speak on the Right to Water, while in New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Tech Firm Wants Faulty Pirated Software Taken Out of Circulation
An East Coast software development company is seeking a court order from a judge in Boston that, if granted, could require the CIA to return “hacked” software it acquired for use in the agency’s Predator Drone program.
The software firm, Intelligent Integration Systems Inc., or IISI, filed a motion recently for a preliminary injunction in Suffolk County Superior Court, where it has been engaged since last November in a heated legal battle with Marlborough, Mass.-based computer maker Netezza Corp.
Should the motion be granted, Netezza would be forced to round up all IISI software programs that it allegedly pirated, re-engineered for a new computer product, and then sold to various customers, including the CIA. That so-called “hacked” software, in the case of the CIA, is now being used to guide killer drones to their targets, according to IISI’s legal pleadings, despite the fact that the modified software doesn’t function properly.
The IISI/Netezza litigation revolves around a series of claims and counterclaims related to a sophisticated, analytical software program, known as Geospatial, that was developed by IISI and is capable of high-speed integration of spatial data (such as maps and visual images) with non-visual data — such as names and phone numbers.
Federal Agency Investigates Itself and, “Surprise,” Finds No Wrongdoing, FOIA Records Show
The internal affairs unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, whitewashed an investigation into an act of intimidation carried out by two of its agents against a journalist, according to an analysis of Freedom of Information Act documents obtained recently by Narco News.
The offending agents worked for ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (internal affairs), which, like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, turns out to be the very same unit that was charged with investigating the agents' intimidating actions, the FOIA records reveal.
So, OPR was essentially investigating itself.
In addition, the OPR agents who “investigated” the offense failed to interview any of the witnesses to the intimidation or even the complaining party — the president of the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association (FHLEOA), Sandalio Gonzalez, a former high-ranking DEA commander.
By Brenda Norrell
A joint report for the UN Periodic Review from the US Human Rights Network has been released. Unlike the US State Department's watered-down version of the testimony presented at the Listening Conferences, this 423-page report documents the US human rights abuses of Native Americans and migrants.
The Human Rights Network report includes Indigenous Peoples Rights, US torture in violation of Geneva Conventions and the systematic racial discrimination in the US, in regards to race and gender in housing, employment and elsewhere.
The new report describes the shocking and inhumane treatment of migrants by ICE and Homeland Security and the militarization of the US/Mexico border.
The report states how migrants are held behind barbed wire, subjected to strip searches and denied basic human rights during imprisonment.
"Depending upon where they are detained, they may not be permitted contact visits with family, may be subject to degrading conditions including strip searches, and may face barriers to communicating with their family, counsel, or other support systems. Immigrants in detention may be held for prolonged periods of time without access to the outdoors.
El organismo gubernamental recorta USD$26 millones al programa debido a preocupaciones en materia de derechos humanos
En una acción sin precedentes, el Departamento de Estado de los EEUU decidió recortar USD$26 millones de un total de USD$175 millones que sería usado para la guerra contra las drogas en México.
El dinero es parte de la Iniciativa Mérida (Plan México), un acuerdo de seguridad por USD$1.4 billones aprobado en 2008, en donde los Estados Unidos proporcionan entrenamiento y equipo a las fuerzas de seguridad mexicanas, incluyendo a las Fuerzas Armadas.
Esta es la primera vez que el Departamento de Estado retiene fondos para un acuerdo de seguridad por cuestiones de derechos humanos. El organismo gubernamental afirma que tomó esa decisión basado en los abusos a los derechos humanos cometidos por el Ejército Mexicano.
El diario Arizona Republic, que publicó la nota por primera vez este fin de semana, escribe que:
El gobierno de Obama quiere que México juzgue a los soldados acusados de abusos en los tribunales civiles, fortalezca sus leyes en contra de las violaciones a los derechos humanos y establezca formas para que los grupos de ciudadanos tengan mayor participación en las estrategias de la lucha contra las drogas, dijo Harry Edwards, vocero del Departamento de Estado.
... Bajo los términos de la Iniciativa Mérida, se supone que el Departamento de Estado retendrá 15 porciento de la ayuda antidrogas a menos que México cumpla cuatro condiciones: asegurar que los soldados acusados de abusos a los derechos humanos sean procesados en tribunales civiles, mejorar la rendición de cuentas de la Policía Federal, hacer cumplir la prohibición a la tortura, y consultar con grupos civiles las estrategias antidrogas.
Como Narco News ha reportado, durante la administración de Felipe Calderón ha habido más quejas por abusos a los derechos humanos en contra de militares que nunca antes. De las 4,305 quejas reportadas desde 2006, 56 miembros del ejército han sido sancionados desde entonces.
Citing human rights concerns, agency cuts $26 million from drug war program
In an unprecedented move, the US State Department has decided to cut $26 million from a $175 million payment that will be used to wage the drug war Mexico.
The money is part of the Mérida Initiative (Plan Mexico), a $1.4 billion security agreement passed in 2008, in which the United States provides training and equipment to Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.
It is the first time that the State Department has denied funds from the security pact due to human rights concerns. The agency claims it made the decision based on human rights abuses committed by the Mexican military.
The Arizona Republic, which broke the story over Labor Day weekend, writes that: