What Some US Reporters Don't Get About Brazil and the Honduras Crisis

By Al Giordano

D.R. 2009 Latuff.

When Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva addressed this morning's UN General Assembly in New York, he said:

"Without political will, we will see more coups such as the one that toppled Manuel Zelaya in Honduras."

I don't know what is so hard for some observers to understand about that statement, which comes from the elected president of a country that itself was victimized by a military coup d'etat in 1964. Brazil, like every other democracy on the planet, has a legitimate self interest in making sure that no military coup succeeds, especially in its own hemisphere.

Like the 2009 coup in Honduras, the 1964 putsch had a "civilian" gloss when Brazil's vice president ascended to the presidency but under terms dictated by the military. (Much like the top Honduran military lawyer told the Miami Herald in July that "It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible." That was a smoking gun that demonstrated how the Honduras coup regime's claims to be a "democracy" led by civilians are utter rubbish: When the Armed Forces dictate that the people can't elect a government of the left, or it will always risk a violent coup - which is exactly what that military official said - they are dictating the terms. That's where the word dictatorship comes from.)

Fair and free elections are impossible under such a regime. In recent days, the Honduran coup of "president" Roberto Micheletti has demonstrated, again, that it is incapable democratic governance. Peaceful Hondurans came to the Brazilian Embassy to greet their only elected President, Manuel Zelaya, and they were violently driven away with water cannon tanks, tear gas, billy clubs, and rubber bullets. National Police then followed the dispersed crowd into the popular barrios to wound and maim them, and invaded homes that provided them refuge. That led to scenes like this one in the neighborhood of Hato de Enmedio, and in more than 20 heavily populated slums in and around Tegucigalpa yesterday:

Clueless desk editors like those at the New York Times titled these conflicts "Riots in Honduras." But you don't need to be able to understand Spanish to see and hear, in this video, that, distinct from rioters, the young people of the neighborhood that came out and violated the military curfew to defend their neighborhood from this police invasion know and have memorized complicated political slogans and rhymes which they chanted in unison. "Riots" are disorganized explosions. This neighborhood, and others like it, however, have been forced by the realities of the coup to organize themselves to a greater extent than ever before.

In neighborhoods like Hato de Enmedio, where a majority of Honduras' citizens live, you can also see in the video see that not even the main street in the barrio is paved. Many of the homes have dirt floors as well. And if a citizen is harmed by a robber or predator, you can call the police, but they won't come. People who live in neighborhoods like this only see the police when they invade, like they did yesterday, to enforce an unenforceable curfew on people who, if they obeyed the curfew, would starve of hunger. A curfew is unsustainable on a people that live hand to mouth, day to day.

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.

But back to Lula of Brazil. At the UN today, he said:

"The international community demands that Mr Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country and must be alert to ensure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras."

The United Nations isn't likely to ignore Lula's plea. As a body, it owes Brazil heavily for its leadership of UN Peacekeeping forces in Haiti, and also for its unique role as a respected organizer and spokes-country of "developing world" states as a force for global social and economic justice. Wealthier nations, meanwhile, from the US to China to Europe, are greatly dependent (or would like to be more so) on the gigantic consumer market that is Brazil. In eight short years, Lula has greatly risen Brazil's status and respect across the globe by playing these factors upon each other very shrewdly.

So when Reuters publishes, as it has, what it calls an "analysis" titled "Brazil's risky role in Honduras may backfire," its author, one Raymond Colitt, doesn't know his ass from his elbow. It's a pure propaganda piece, based on the faulty presumption that Brazil's goal is to mediate some kind of negotiated solution in Honduras. "Analysts" like that can only be called such, with a straight face, by adding quotation marks. Any fool can see that the Honduran crisis has moved to a level of dysfunction that is beyond a negotiated solution. It is a raw power struggle now between a coup regime trying desperately to hold on to power and an increasingly organized people that is peeling away the layers of its support.

A similarly clueless "analysis" came from Sara Miller Llana and Andrew Downing of the Christian Science Monitor, titled, "Did Zelaya Snub Hugo Chávez for Brazil?" Here's the first clue: when reporters speak of "snubs" they are merely gossip columnists, not journalists. What is far more likely is that Brazil has emerged as the interlocutor between Venezuela and the United States, whose intelligence agencies would not work together, but could be effectively coordinated so they don't trip all over each other by a party that is friendly with both of them and has, similarly, its own top shelf intelligence agencies, that being Brazil. If that is what we're witnessing here - all sides would deny they had any role in the impressive operation that returned Zelaya to Honduras while fooling the coup regime into thinking he was in Nicaragua, of course - then nobody's feeling "snubbed," except perhaps the leaders of Mexico and Colombia, who in the past had been the interlocutors between Washington and Latin America.

From that perspective, Brazil has already triumphed in this equation. It has emerged as the community organizer among nations in the hemisphere: the one country that has enough trust from so many different sides that don't really trust each other that it can coordinate them effectively.

The Honduras coup regime now has to come to terms with the reality that it can't touch the Brazilian Embassy, or it may become an unwilling host of some of those UN Peacekeeping forces that have Brazil as one of their leading nations.

And as that reality sinks in - that Micheletti and his Simian Council are powerless against this equation - the regime will continue to shed layers of support. The simple presence of President Zelaya, day in, day out, in Tegucigalpa, protected by the Brazilian Embassy, strips the regime of any pretense of inevitability or claim to be the eventual winner.

As with last night's regime press conference - held embarrassingly and hastily in English, as if there wasn't time to translate the incoherent drivel that US lobbyist Lanny Davis wrote for them to recite - the Honduras coup regime is now in flail mode. All it can do is attempt pathetic media stunts like that and turn up the brutality of its repression of its own people: a formula for continued repudiation and total self-destruction.

Update 2:23 p.m. Tegucigalpa (4:23 p.m. ET): Here's a sanction that will have a huge psychological impact in Honduras, where futbol is just about the only respite left from the coup's horrors:

The Oct. 10 World Cup qualifying match between Honduras and the USA may not take place in Honduras. In political turmoil after the military's ousting of President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras is cordoned off to most visitors. It has closed airports, implemented a curfew and set up roadblocks so that a roadway from El Salvador serves as the only entrance into the country. The crisis has raised doubts about the safety of playing the USA's scheduled World Cup qualifying match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras's second largest city and industrial center.

"We are obviously monitoring the situation closely and are in discussions with the appropriate officials with Concacaf and FIFA, who will determine if the location of the match will be moved outside of Honduras," Neil Buethe, a spokesman for the United States Soccer Federation, told the New York Times. A final decision will be made by FIFA  and Concacaf officials.

If it decides to move the game, FIFA will likely opt for a neighboring Central American host, perhaps Guatemala. As another possibility, FIFA could move the game to the United States while considering it a home game for the Honduran soccer federation.

Really, what can the coup regime say? That it will close airports and impose martial law but the FIFA should still hold soccer games there?

The bottom line: A country that can't even host a soccer game successfully certainly can't hold a fair or free election.

3:20 p.m.: Another layer of the onion rings around the coup regime begins to cry:

Honduras’s nationwide curfew is costing the Central American nation’s economy $50 million a day, said Jesus Canahuati, vice president of the nation’s chapter of the Business Council of Latin America.

The country’s $14.1 billion economy has lost up to $200 million in investment since the military ousted Manuel Zelaya from office on June 28, Canahuati said in a telephone interview today.

“Those are numbers that aren’t sustainable in Honduras,” Canahuati said from San Pedro Sula. “We’re a poor country, and many people won’t eat if there’s no work.”

Poor babe. Maybe Canahuati should have thought about that before helping to orchestrate the coup, put Micheletti in power, and then have his organization hire Lanny Davis to screw it all up in Washington! Yo, Sherlock; it's like that old flower child poster: Curfews are not healthy for oligarchs and other living things. If the poor can't go out on the street to slave in your sweatshops or buy the junk produced there, it hits you, too.

5:35 p.m.: The coup regime - after two days of blocking Hondurans from traveling on all the roads to Tegucigalpa, after imposing curfews night and day, after beating up anybody it could lay a nightstick on who came to welcome the legitimate president or redress their grievances - has just called a pro-coup demonstration for tomorrow in the capital. You can bet there won't be any blockades or curfews or repression and the coup soldiers may even encourage the provocation of incidents outside the Brazilian Embassy.

But the resistance isn't stupid. Already the call has gone out via Radio Globo to the nation: Since the coup plotters have urged their protesters to dress in the color red, the members of the resistance should do the same, rent buses, and travel the highways to the capital, telling the cops at the roadblocks - if they even put them up tomorrow - that they're coming to join the pro-coup rally. And that will get them into the capital, for events on the following days once the "march of the perfumados" has gone back home.

This, again, points to how this regime is incapable of holding fair and free elections. When one side assembles, it brings out the blockades, the cops, the tear gas and billy clubs. When the others side does it, the regime rolls out the red carpet and even pays for it. Anybody that claims fair elections can be held in that climate of violence, intimidation and cheating is not really a friend of democracy, no matter how many times they mouth the word.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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