Perú Official Threatens “Legal Action” Over Honduran Tear Gas Story
By Al Giordano
On the website of today’s daily La República – an important newspaper in Perú – a YouTube video by Honduras’ Gremio de Cineastas (a filmmaker’s association) that we published on Narco News on Wednesday - and something we reported from that video - has now launched a national polemic in that Andean country, including a threat of “legal action” by the country’s Government Minister against those of us that reported it.
The video shows Honduran coup regime police invading the Hato de Enmedio neighborhood of Tegucigalpa shooting tear gas canisters clearly stamped, “National Police of Perú.”
This is what your servant wrote at the time:
“We can also see in that video the revelation that the tear gas canisters shot by the National Police yesterday were stamped as property of the government of Perú, suggesting strongly that Peruvian President Alan García is a participant in smuggling arms to the Honduran coup regime. Something he will now have to answer for to the Organization of American States in general, and his neighbor Brazil in particular.”
The story then got picked up by the Brazilian national newsweekly Carta Capital and then by Peruvian dailies La Primera and La República, causing the Congress of that country to launch an investigation and demand that the Government Minister appear at a hearing to testify.
La República reported the story and then asked:
How could these gases arrive in Honduras if they belong to the Peruvian police?
A little while later, after Government Minister Octavio Salazar issued his threat of "legal action," the newspaper put a line through that sentence, like this:
How could these gases arrive in Honduras if they belong to the Peruvian police?
And the newspaper's reporter added this text:
I now publish the denials by the Government Minister about tear gas bombs with the seal of the National Police of Perú used by the government of Honduras:
1. The Perú National Police have not sold, nor donated, nor delivered any kind of material in general nor tear gas bombs in particular to the government of Honduras.
2. Through corresponding channels, the Government Minister solicited official information from Honduran authorities about this matter.
3. The Honduras Security Minister, Mr. Jorge A. Rodas Gamero, has responded in writing that, “at no moment was this kind of material obtained, nor donated, nor in error, by the National Police of Perú.”
4. The Honduran official said that the tear gas materials was obtained by its government from the Honduran business “Representaciones Comercio e Inversiones (RCI),” which had obtained it from the business, “Combined Systems, Inc.” of the United States.
5. Rodas Gamero informed that, while reviewing the tear gas grenades found that “on the original wrapping was a banner with the name of the National Police of Perú, but the sale to our country was covered by another with the grenade’s specifications.”
6. The tear gas grenades mentioned with this ribbon had to do with an order that the business Combined Systems was going to send to the National Police of Perú. The contract between them was signed in August 2007. However, in October 2007, the contract we canceled by the Government Ministry due to noncompliance with the norms of public contracts. As a consequence, the PNP never received the tear gas material.
7. The Government Ministry reserves the right to initiate pertinent legal actions to preserve the image of the country and the police institution.
La República also reports:
“The Congress of the Republic has filed a motion for the Interior Minister, Octavio Salazar, to appear at a hearing and explain the presence of Peruvian tear gas bombs in the hands of the de facto government of Honduras.”
The US company, Combined Systems, Inc., that the Honduran regime says is the source of its gas grenades, is based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Through its subsidiary website with the ironic name of less-lethal.com, it deals in chemical munitions, impact munitions, flash-bang devices and multi-effect grenades, arms launchers and other such toys, which, whether through Perú or not, seem to have no problem getting into the hands of a coup dictatorship that has fetishized chemical warfare against its own people and even a foreign embassy.
In the comments section under the La República story, reader Mario Antonio Young Rabines made sure to remind the Minister of whom that legal action would properly be directed toward:
“Spacio Libre, if it has the merit of having posted the video last night, wasn’t the first news organization to report the news. The first, if I’m not mistaken, was The Field, from the pen of Al Giordano of the US-based Narcosphere network. In the article… Giordano made reference to different aspects of recent happenings in Honduras that the mainstream media doesn’t pay much attention to, including the ‘curious’ finding in Honduras of a tear gas bomb with the seal of the Peru National Police…
“Here in Latin America, it was a renowned Brazilian journalist, Antonio Luiz M.C. Costa, editor of the weekly Carta Capital, who first reported the information from The Field… and he posted it on his Facebook page at 15:10 p.m. Later, this writer, Frido Martin, had read the wall of the Brazilian journalist and put a link to The Field on his Facebook wall, too, at 16:20 hours. A few minutes later, a journalist from the Peruvian daily La Primera was put in contact with me and received the link to this information. La Primera is thus the first print daily to publish this information. At 16:49, on my own Facebook wall, I linked also to the YouTube video that shows the ‘Peruvian’ tear gas bomb (this video had been in Al Giordano’s article). Hours later, at night, Spacio Libre put the story on its front page. On its Facebook wall, Spacio Libre hung the information at 22:06 which can be proved at this link. Finally, from Spacio Libre, La República published the information.”
Although that account reads like instructions to the Peruvian Minister about whom such “legal action” should be taken against – that would be us, Sir, and we can hardly contain our excitement at your threat – it also serves as an excellent diagram of how information moves quickly across the Internet and how stories become internationalized: from independent video makers of the Gremio de Cineastas in Honduras to Narco News to Brazil’s major news weekly, to two daily newspapers and some web pages in Peru… all in a matter of hours… And now the Peruvian Congress wants an investigation into how the Honduran regime got its simian mitts on tear gas canisters with National Police logos on them.
That's fútbol, Narco News style, in which the information ball bounces from Honduras through somewhere in América, ricochets through Sao Paulo then Lima then, GOOOOOOLLLL¡
Reporting for the Peruvian daily La Primera, Raúl Weiner wrote:
“The story is very serious, to have clandestine relations between a government that daily proclaims itself democratic and the coup plotters condemned by the world, behind the backs of all Peru. The situation rarifies even more because a country as important as Brazil has taken a decisive role in the current phase of the Honduran crisis, decisively pushing the return of President Zelaya, and Peru appears to be in the opposing camp, providing the weapons to save Micheletti.”
If what the Peruvian government claims is true (and we will continue our journalistic work to find out) – that weapons made by Combined Systems, Inc. found their ways into the hands of the Honduran coup regime without the help of Perú, but still brandishing its National Police force’s name – it would seem that said “legal action” might be better directed toward whomever is responsible for shipping weapons to an illegitimate regime with the Peruvian National Police name still stamped on them. There can't be much love for Perú or its National Police this week in the barrio of Hato de Enmedio, that's for sure.
This would not be the first time that matters of tear gas and crowd control have caused scandals and polemics regarding the National Police of Perú. On June 20, Kristin Bricker reported for Narco News on the June 5 massacre by those same National Police of unarmed Awajún and Wampi indigenous peoples, and how those police were trained in “riot control” with US drug war funds.
The new attention to tear gas canisters in Honduras marked “National Police of Perú” also opens up some not-so-old wounds in Peruvian political and police circles. In 2007, Perú’s Comptroller General did indeed nullify contracts signed by the National Police with Combined Systems, Inc. because they did not follow government procedure for such purchases. That led to revelations that the then-Government Minister Luis Alva Castro had lied when he justified the purchases due to a supposed “imminent” situation in which the National Police would have no tear gas left to beat down the country’s indigenous and social movements. But it turned out that the PNP had, at the time, in storage more than 96,000 such canisters. Furthermore, officials alleged the contract with Combined Systems, Inc. constituted an overpayment of $1.5 million dollars based on prices the company had offered Perú for the same products two years prior.
In the wake of the Peruvian tear gas scandal, twenty public officials were fired, including the Logistics Director of the National Police. Unpaid for the gas grenades it did ship to Perú, Combined Systems, Inc. reportedly attempted to pressure the Peruvian government through Washington and the negotiations over a trade agreement between the two countries.
During that scandal, current Government Minister Octavio Salazar – the man who yesterday threatened “legal action” against those who report on the tear gas canisters marked “Perú” in Honduras – was himself an official in the National Police, and at the end of 2007 was promoted by President Alan García as its national police chief. This summer, he was promoted again, to be Government Minister, the top non-elected official in the land, which a former government minister, Remigio Hernani, called a “disgrace” due to open investigations regarding Salazar and 41 vehicles assigned to the National Police and alleged embezzlement of funds.
So, bring on the Congressional investigation. And if Salazar wishes to file a “legal action” against this newspaper, bring that on, too. So much interesting information about Perú and its National Police and its own use of chemical weapons against its own people – as well as how it procures those arms and what happens to them after that - would come out during the discovery process to make Peruvians and people all over the hemisphere and the world better informed about all of it.
Still, it is interesting to note the speed with which Honduran coup officials came to the defense of Salazar and the García government in Perú yesterday to confirm their claims that Perú isn’t helping the coup regime. One wonders whether Honduran coup officials would have been so quick to jump to the aid of governments from Brasilia to San Salvador to Managua to Buenos Aires to Quito to Caracas to La Paz to Santiago to Asunción that nobody suspects could be playing footsie under the table with the Honduran coup regime. It's modus operandi has been, rather, to seek to expel diplomats of those countries, or keep them from entering Honduras, or to engage in chemical warfare against one of their embassies. That the coup mongers in Tegucigalpa so quickly lent themselves to Salazar’s public relations defensive is perhaps a matter that the Peruvian Congressional investigation underway will help sort out. Where there is smoke, there is often tear gas, too.
(Narco News staff reporter Kristin Bricker assisted with the reporting of this story.)