June 8, 2009

Top 10 things that happened during the OAS meeting

Top 10 during the OAS
Organization of American States delegates, June 2, 2009
Front and center: Mel Zelaya with red tie, Daniel Ortega, and Patricia Rodas in white
Image courtesy: OAS

While the dignitaries of the Organization of American States (OAS or OEA in Spanish) were meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with the slogan of 'No Violence', these are just ten of the criminal events that were happening in Honduras during four days that week:

10. 'El Compita', leader of an organized car theft ring, was captured by the police in Comayagua for the fifth time according to La Prensa. In each of the prior arrests, Honduran judges granted him substitute measures rather than holding him in jail. According to La Tribuna, he has been granted provisional release seven times because the victims withdraw their complaints because they fear for their lives.

9. Manager of Fiber Optics of the state-run telephone company, Hondutel, was murdered in a drive-by shooting.

8. While talking on the phone to her husband, a woman heard her 58-year-old businessman and engineer husband being murdered by gunmen. His body was later discarded in a field in a municipality ironically called Protección, in Santa Barbara, Honduras.

7. Two decapitated women were found in two separate locations in Chamelecón. One was identified by a mother who thinks the body is her 16-year-old daughter.

6. Three San Francisco, Atlántida, police officers were attacked by gunfire while on a routine patrol. The vehicle suffered more than 50 bullet holes while only one leg injury was incurred by the police. Speculation is that they are being convinced to cooperate with narcotraffickers.

5. In less than 24 hours, three taxi drivers were killed in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, for not paying the so-called the "war tax," money extorted by gang members for the right to do business. One taxista stated that the gang members have more power than the police. Mareros arrive at the taxi stations in luxury SUVs and operate with impunity, sometimes collecting as much as L. 10-20,000 at a time.

4. Three members of a San Pedro Sula family, including a 9-month-old baby were murdered in their sleep during the night. Police found 70 bullet shells in their house.

3. Four narco planes crashed in Honduras over four days time. One crashed in Colon and another somewhere in the sea off Guanaja. The third crashed in El Negrito, Yoro, and the fourth drug plane crashed and burned in La Mosquitia, bringing the 2009 total of crashed drug planes to 13 so far. La Prensa calls Honduras, with at least 10 clandestine runways, "The runway of the Venezuelan drug traffickers".

2. Eight robber-kidnappers invaded a business in the small town of Victoria, Yoro, Honduras, where they abducted and badly beat the owner and his wife. Fed up with crime, lack of justice, and having no faith in their two lone police officers, citizens along with neighbors of two nearby villages took matters into their own hands. They gathered rifles and pistols and searched for the perpetrators. A gunfight ensued with the criminals who were armed with AK-47's and 9 mm guns. The victims were successfully rescued and six of the suspects were murdered. Citizens proudly told Channel 10 news that they want to lynch the other two as well.

1. Nine people were murdered in a massacre in Sabá, Colon, Honduras. The nine were reported to be security employees. The former businessman homeowner had been murdered a month and a half earlier and it was assumed that the assassins' target was the son who was not at home at the time.


During this same period, in an excellent use of the Honduran police force, 50 police elements armed with riot gear detained the brother and 15 other friends of kidnap victim Bernardo Rivera, an ex-congressman who has been missing for 80 days. San Pedro Sula's Central Park was the meeting place for Jacobo Rivera and friends and family members who were planning a peaceful protest to ask for justice and the safe return of Bernardo. The 50 police elements used violence to prevent them from disturbing the OAS delegates.

In contrast, protesters and marches supporting Cuba's readmission to OAS (a pet project of Honduran President Mel Zelaya and his right-hand woman, Patricia Rodas) were permitted. Some of the protesters were from Nicaragua and El Salvador and some were thought to have been paid to protest.

Some 3,000 Honduran police and military were assigned to keep order and protect the delegates to the OAS, who additionally brought in their own security.

At other times and in all parts of the country, hundreds of thousands of Hondurans of all classes have marched for peace, including a recent large protest in Choluteca, Honduras. "We are marching for peace, liberty, and security," they told the media. They denounced that they can no longer tolerate the high levels of crime in which the country lives and the apathy of the authorities.

(Victim: And the security that we had a few days ago? Robber: You aren't with the OAS, little guy! Cartoon: Dario Banegas, La Prensa, Honduras)

Though "No violence" was the OAS theme, much more attention and emphasis was placed on the proposed re-admittance of Cuba to the OAS. In his opening speech, President Zelaya even twisted the topic of violence to his own political benefit, characterizing popular objection to his 'fourth ballot box' proposal as another type of violence, an insult to all of the Hondurans who have been crime victims and live with insecurity and real violence every day.

Similarly, in the closing speeches, both Patricia Rodas, Honduras' Foreign Affairs Minister,
and Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, also preferred to discuss political, cultural and economic violence rather than individual violence. Rodas proclaimed that each of the OAS states had committed violence against Cuba. (Videos of the proceedings and speeches are available at the above links.) La Prensa quoted President Zelaya as saying that "it will depend upon each country to develop a culture of nonviolence," which La Prensa stated "demonstrates that the theme has no importance for the chancellors and heads of state."

Cartoon: Dario Banegas, La Prensa, Honduras

Ultimately, the OAS members approved a 'no violence' document which had been drafted back in May. It contains a lot of nice words.

¡Hechos y no palabras!

Actions, not words!

That's what we want in Honduras.
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