February 4, 2011

Honduras Wikileaks, January 29, and Egypt

US Amb Hugo Llorens and Honduran President Pepe LoboCo-leaders of Honduras,
US Ambassador Hugo Llorens (r)

with Honduran President Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo (l)

Fellow blogger Aaron Ortíz wrote a good article on the latest January 29 Honduran Wikileaks from the viewpoint of a Honduran:

President Llorens

He ends his article with these sad statements:

While Micheletti was president, many Hondurans, for the first time, felt that Honduras was a democracy, and that the people had actual power. For once we were proud of our Constitution and our President. But Lobo, in recognition of who is really presiding over Honduras, extinguished the nationalism that had very briefly shone in our eyes.

I cannot be proud of Lobo nor admire him. I understand what he is doing, I even agree with some things, and would not like to be in his shoes. But his complete spineless submission to the US tempts me toward bitterness. Because of him, it is business as usual in Honduras; the Banana Republic has more than ever become a parody of democracy.

Wikileaks has made very clear that the US micromanages the Honduran government up to and including trying to force the removal of President Micheletti and suggesting, selecting and/or approving cabinet members while at the same time the US's public announcements proclaim something totally different. (I told you so.)

Recently the US removed Honduras from the Millennium Challenge aid program reportedly due to corruption — which had to have been during the Zelaya administration since that was the period covered by the review. Makes you think corruption is a bad thing, huh? The timing more likely indicates that it was punishment for Lobo's failure to get the Supreme Court to reverse their decision to try Zelaya on corruption charges, despite Lobo's and the Congress' numerous heavy handed attempts. Separate but equal powers of state? Not important when the US government has its boot on your neck.

Ambassador Llorens and the US government have continued to hammer Honduras for a year and a half to drop all corruption charges against Zelaya. Most of the original charges have already been dropped due to that pressure but still remaining are the minor difficulties of the well documented L.40 million cash withdrawal from the Central Bank of Honduras four days before the planned election, the L.10 million check paid to the order of the presidency cashed at the Central Bank two days later, and the L.30 million that Zelaya diverted from FHIS (aid money for social investment) to use for cuarta urna campaign publicity. How can those be explained away as being politically motivated charges? There is also the question of US bank accounts in the names of Zelaya's friends and family which might offer additional evidence of corruption, if the US government would share that information, which apparently they will not.

I found it incredible that Llorens says that Lobo hadn't thought of the international reaction to General Romeo Vasquez continuing as head of the Honduran military forces. If true, it's not a good sign of the political savvy of the Honduran president. On the other hand, Lobo eventually selected a general who was neither his nor the US's first choice.

In an interview on the noon news the day after the cables came out, former President Roberto Micheletti responded to the accusation made by Llorens in the cable. Micheletti categorically denied that he is a partner in the Italian-Honduran hydroelectric dam company and demanded that the Ministerio Publico investigate to clear his name. Micheletti went on to say (paraphrased):
Hugo Llorens is a chismoso (gossiper, scandalmonger). He repeats everything he hears like a parrot without any proof whatsoever. He is an example of the class of person the US sends to our country.
Llorens pointed out the scandal of the duplicate printing of the official government Gaceta, one version with the decree approving the contract (which the congress initially denied approving) and one without. It was a big scandal....for a few days, and then — incredibly — was explained away by the current congress as a proofreading error. I'm not sure whether the contract was actually approved or not. I don't recall that President Lobo had a word to say about it. I think there was going to be an investigation and then it just faded from memory. Or maybe I'm confusing it with the other Gaceta scandals there have been during this administration.

That scandal and many more during Zelaya's administration and continuing in Lobo's administration were handled just as former US Ambassador Charles Ford described in referring to the 2006 passport scandal:
The scandal has the hallmarks of all Honduran scandals, i.e. several days of outraged newspaper articles, with intimations of private interests at stake, followed by grandstanding by law enforcement officials and, finally, no meaningful action or change.
Oh, so true! In the end, nothing ever happens, ever. We see the "shows" over and over again, but we never see an ending to the stories.

You can find all of the Honduran Wikileaks cables here.


Game over ... or is it?
Image credit: Monasosh

I have been closely watching the events in Egypt for the past several days and I can't help but make a comparison to Honduras. It's a very different situation but I keep hearing and reading many of the exact same statements from the US State Department. The hypocrisy of the USA is shining through for me once again, as it has during each of the several coups that have occurred throughout the world since June 28, 2009, all of which basically received the blessing of the USA, even when they were bloody military coups.

Rather than being a beacon of freedom and democracy throughout the world, as the government constantly tells us, the USA has been fully supportive of ruthless dictators and oppression of the people, as long as it fits into US business and political interests, as it has in Egypt for 30 years.

Oh, sure, you say, isn't every country looking out for their personal interests? Yes, but not every country is going around the world claiming to stand for democracy for people everywhere. The hypocrisy is clear to the people of Honduras and Egypt. And not every country has the political and economic clout to crush countries if they don't cooperate. If you wonder why there is so much anti-America sentiment around the world, take a closer look at what the USA actually does in those other countries, not what they and the media tell you that they do. Here in Honduras and so far in Egypt, the US government has managed to anger and/or disappoint both sides of the issues.

The US supported the Mubarak government for 30 years, knowing full well the repression that was occurring. With the exception of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, did you know that Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of foreign aid, second only to Israel? The Mubarak regime has received more than US $1 billion (as high as US $3 billion in 2000) in primarily military aid each year for the past decade. Could Mubarak have stayed in power for 30 years without that money and the support of the Egyptian military? CNN estimates Mubarak and his family's personal wealth at US $40 to $70 Billion.

When I read and hear US government spokespersons say that it should be up to the people of Egypt to choose their president, that the US supports democracy in Egypt, I am sure as I can be that the US is currently picking the next president of Egypt. My only question is whether the next president will be good for the people of Egypt or only good for American interests.

We heard US representatives say dozens of time that they would support a Honduran Accord and a Honduran decision regarding the return of Mel Zelaya and that they support the people of Honduras. The behind-the-scenes truth is that the US did not and still does not support the Honduran Accord because it wasn't the accord that they wanted. The US has not only ignored the responsibilities of the "international community" but has imposed several new requirements not included in the Accord, most notably amnesty and pressuring the Supreme Court of Honduras to drop all corruption charges against Zelaya. The only two reasons that I can think of are that a) appeasing Hugo Chávez and his minions was more important than doing the right thing for its ally Honduras, and/or b) that Zelaya has some dirt on Ambassador Llorens or the US that he is threatening to expose if he doesn't get his way.

Here is another oddity: Proportionately, the pro-government, pro-democracy, pro-Micheletti, anti-Zelaya demonstrations were much larger than those in Egypt. Honduras has a population of about 8 million, with about 1.5 million living in Tegucigalpa. Egypt has a population of about 80 million, with Cairo having a population of about 8 million. The Honduran pro-government protests were estimated to be as much as 70,000 protesters and occurred in every major city in the country, while today (February 4) Cairo's largest protest to date was estimated by CNN to be approximately 30-40,000 people. Yet the US and the international media choose to ignore those peaceful Honduran protesters and focused on the few hundred, often paid, violent pro-Zelaya protesters. Apparently, the mistake that Hondurans made was that they didn't stay on the streets long enough.

Tonight I heard the latest buzzwords: "This has to be an Egyptian solution." Awwk! Deja vu. Beware Egypt! Don't let the US be involved in your Egyptian solution. They do not keep their word and you will not end up with an Egyptian solution.

Thanks to Wikileaks, it will be harder and harder for the US to continue to say one thing in public and do something entirely different in secret. Playing both sides of the fence will be exposed. I think that is a very good thing both for the USA and countries all around the world. All governments need to be accountable to their people.


Here are a few words from an Egyptian protester:
I have lived to see the uprise of the Egyptian people and the downfall of Mobarak. I can dream about having kids and me telling them proudly that I was part of this extraordinary moment.
This is my place.

These are my people,

and we just seized our country back.
You can read of her protest experience here: Long Live the Revolution of The Egyptian people and view her photos on Flickr.
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