Sunday, June 28, 2009

COUP IN HONDURAS

The following is an article I wrote for Narco News. I will not be actively updating this blog today as I focus all of my energies on covering the coup for Narco News. For up-to-the-minute information on the coup in Honduras, go to narconews.com

School of the Americas-Trained Military Detains and Expels Democratically-Elected President Zelaya

Early this morning approximately 200 Honduran soldiers arrived at President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya's residence, reportedly fired four shots, and detained the President. Zelaya told TeleSUR that the soldiers took him to an air force base and put him on a plane to Costa Rica.

Zelaya told TeleSUR from San Jose, Costa Rica, "They threatened to shoot me." Honduras' ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Sosa Coello, reports that the president has been beaten up.

Zelaya told TeleSUR that he doesn't believe it was regular soldiers who kidnapped him. "I have been the victim of a kidnapping carried out by a group of Honduran soldiers. I don't think the Army is supporting this sort of action. I think this is a vicious plot planned by elites. Elite who only want to keep the country isolated and in extreme poverty."

Zelaya fears for the safety of his family, who remains in Honduras. He pleaded with TeleSUR viewers to seek a way to "have a dialogue with these soldiers so that they don't harm my family, so that they don't shoot anybody. We can settle our differences through dialogue."

The anti-Zelaya President of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, has declared himself interim president of Honduras. On the Friday before the coup, Zelaya called Micheletti "a pathetic, second-class congressman who got that job because of me, because I gave you space within my political current."

Zelaya informed TeleSUR that he has not requested asylum in Costa Rica, and that he will return to Honduras as its president to complete his term, which expires in 2010.

Honduran Media Shut Down

Radio Es Lo De Menos, an independent radio station reporting from Honduras, issued a press release before its power was cut. The press release states that several cabinet members have been detained, and there are arrest warrants out for other cabinet members as well as leaders of social organizations. It calls on the international community to hold protests outside Honduran embassies and consulates.

TeleSUR reports that the soldiers have also arrested the Cuban, Venezuelan, and Nicaraguan ambassadors to Honduras, as well as Chancellor Patricia Rodas. The Venezuelan ambassador told TeleSUR that the soldiers beat him during the kidnapping. La Prena reports that soldiers have detained at least one pro-Zelaya mayor, San Pedro Sula's Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri.

Cell phones are reportedly no longer working in Honduras. The power has been cut in at least some parts of the country, disabling independent media and state television stations for the time being. Before the state televisions went off the air, Channel 8 managed to communicate to its viewers, "It appears as though the soldiers are coming here." Seconds before it went off the air, Channel 8 told citizens to gather in the Plaza de la Libertad. Channel 8 appears to have been taken over by the military, but it is still not transmitting.

Honduras' privately owned Channel 12 and Channel 11 are showing classic soccer clips.

Soldiers Block Opinion Poll

Soldiers have also moved to block the opinion poll that sparked the coup. Today Hondurans were supposed to register their opinion in a non-binding poll that asked them, "Do you think that the November 2009 general elections should include a fourth ballot box in order to make a decision about the creation of a National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a new Constitution?" The poll would have had no legal weight.

In the town of Trujillo, soldiers have taken the streets and are not allowing citizens to vote in the opinion poll.

In Santa Rosa, soldiers reportedly under the orders of the Federal Prosecutors Office have seized ballot boxes from schools and public places.

Soldiers seized ballot boxes in Dulce Nombre Copan as well, but citizens have gone to the military base to take them back again.

In Santa Barbara, La Prensa reports that the opinion poll is going on as planned, with no interference thus far from the military.

Soldiers are also carrying out operations on the country's major highways, according to La Prensa. The situation could get ugly on the highways, as La Prensa reports that peasants from the Guadalupe Carney community have taken over some highways.

School of the Americas Connection

The crisis in Honduras began when the military refused to distribute ballot boxes for the opinion poll in a new Constitution. President Zelaya fired the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, who refused to step down. The heads of all branches of the Honduran armed forces quit in solidarity with Vasquez. Vasquez, however, refused to step down, bolstered by support in Congress and a Supreme Court ruling that reinstated him. Vasquez remains in control of the armed forces.

Vasquez, along with other military leaders, graduated from the United States' infamous School of the Americas (SOA). According to a School of the Americas Watch database compiled from information obtained from the US government, Vasquez studied in the SOA at least twice: once in 1976 and again in 1984.

The head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, studied in the School of the Americas in 1996. The Air Force has been a central protagonist in the Honduran crisis. When the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes for the opinion poll, the ballot boxes were stored on an Air Force base until citizens accompanied by Zelaya rescued them. Zelaya reports that after soldiers kidnapped him, they took him to an Air Force base, where he was put on a plane and sent to Costa Rica.

Congressman Joseph Kennedy has stated, "The U.S. Army School of the Americas...is a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world."

The School of the Americas has a long, tortured history in Honduras. According to School of the Americas Watch, "In 1975, SOA Graduate General Juan Melgar Castro became the military dictator of Honduras. From 1980-1982 the dictatorial Honduran regime was headed by yet another SOA graduate, Policarpo Paz Garcia, who intensified repression and murder by Battalion 3-16, one of the most feared death squads in all of Latin America (founded by Honduran SOA graduates with the help of Argentine SOA graduates)."

Honduran Gen. Humberto Regalado Hernandez was inducted into the SOA's Hall of Fame. School of the Americas Watch notes that he was a four-time graduate. As head of the armed forces, he refused to take action against soldiers invovled in the Battalion 3-16 death squad.

School of the Americas Watch points out that this is not the first time the SOA has been involved in Latin American coups. "In April 2002, the democratically elected Chavez government of Venezuela was briefly overthrown, and the School of the Americas-trained [soldiers] Efrain Vasquez Velasco, ex-army commander, and Gen. Ramirez Poveda, were key players in the coup attempt."

According to School of the Americas Watch, "Over its 58 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counter-insurgency techniques, sniper skills, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Colombia, with over 10,000 troops trained at the school, is the SOA's largest customer. Colombia currently has the worst human rights record in Latin America."
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coup Fears in Honduras

Civil society organizations and UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto have warned of a possible coup attempt by the Honduran military. D'Escoto's spokesperson said that the Assembly President “clearly and strongly condemns the attempted coup d’etat that is currently unfolding against the democratically elected Government of President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras.” Fears of a coup stem from a military deploymentaround the Presidential Palace and the Toncontín airport on Thursday.

The military and President Zelaya have been at odds over the President's initiative to hold a popular consultation on June 28 to decide if November's presidential elections should include a referendum where citizens would vote on whether or not Honduras should write a new constitution.

Mexico's El Financiero claims that President Zelaya's problems stem from his decision to join the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's alternative to the US-supported Free Trade Area of the Americas.

However, Venezuela's TeleSUR reports that Honduras' current problems stem from that country's free trade agreement with the United States:

Carlos Reyes, an independent Honduran presidential candidate, reported on Thursday that s ince 2005, when the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States was approved, popular movements "said that that was the final blow to the Constitution, and therefore a new Constitutional Assembly was necessary."

For that reason, President Manuel Zelaya has taken up the cause and has rallied Hondurans around the necessity of holding a referendum during the upcoming elections, explained Reyes in a telephone interview with TeleSUR.

"This has unleashed the wrath of powerful groups, of the dominant classes that have been waging a terrible campaign.  Yesterday they were even talking about a coup," he noted.

Honduras' Supreme Court ruled the June 28 consultation illegal.  Following the Supreme Court's decision, Honduras' Congress unanimously voted to ask the Organization of American States (OAS) to withdraw the three observers it had sent to observe the consultation.  Congress argued that the OAS observers' presence legitimated a process that had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

Honduras' La Tribuna reports that following the Supreme Court decision, the military refused to distribute the ballot boxes as originally planned.

High-ranking military officials have refused to distribute the ballot boxes and the rest of the materials necessary for carrying out the consultation.

In retaliation, Zelaya fired the head of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and accepted the resignation of Minister of Defense Edmundo Orellana.

Likewise, the commanders of the other branches of the Armed Forces, Military, Navy, and Air Force, quit in solidarity.

La Tribuna reported that the military deployment around the Presidential Palace and the airport immediately followed the firing and resignations.

President Zelaya has called for mass mobilizations in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa "to make decisions in favor of Honduran democracy and development."  Peasant leader Rafael Alegría told TeleSUR that peasants, indigenous people, and workers from around the country have set out from around the country towards the capital to support the president, and that some have already arrived.

Today President Zelaya and a caravan of supporters entered the Hernán Acosta Mejía air force base to recover the ballot boxes for the June 28 consultation that the military had refused to distribute.  The president and his supporters loaded the ballot boxes into trucks and removed them from the base so that they can be used for the Sunday consultation.

A correspondent from Radio Es Lo De Menos who travelled with the caravan to the air force base reports that 25,000-30,000 people participated.  The Associated Press, on the other hand, reports that only "dozens" of people entered the base to recover the ballot boxes.  

One caravan participant, interviewed by Radio Es Lo De Menos on a bus on his way to the military base, called for international solidarity in the form of actions at Honduran consulates and embassies: "This is a call to the people and unions of the world to plan actions in solidarity with the Honduran people at consulates and embassies so that this coup doesn't happen."

Meanwhile, the Honduran Congress has convened an investigation into the president's "mental health" to determine if he is still capable of governing the country.


Reposted from Narco News.  More updates will be posted at Narco News.

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US Drug War Money Funded Peru Indigenous Massacre

US Government Trained the Police Department that Participated in the Operation and Invested "Heavily" in the Killer Helicopters

On June 5, the Peruvian National Police (PNP) massacred up to fifty unarmed Awajún and Wampi indigenous people in Bagua who had blockaded roads in protest of land reforms related to a recently implemented US-Peru free trade agreement. Witnesses report that the PNP shot live ammunition from the ground, rooftops, and police helicopters.  Anywhere between 61-400 people are reported missing following the attack.

Narco News has discovered that US drug war money is all over the massacre.  The US government has not only spent the past two decades funding the helicopters used in the massacre, it also trained the PNP in "riot control."

The Peruvian National Police

The Peruvian National Police is a militarized police force and Peru's only national police force, meaning that Peru lacks a civilian federal police force.  For this reason, the militarized PNP carries out regular policing functions in Peru, such as maintaining the peace and providing public security.  Furthermore, "Counternarcotics operations in Peru are implemented primarily through the Ministry of the Interior by the Peruvian National Police," according to the US Government Accounting Office (GAO, now known as the Government Accountability Office).  For this reason, the PNP receives a significant chunk of US drug war aid to Peru.

Basic details of the Bagua massacre such as exactly which police departments participated and how many indigenous protesters died remain unavailable two weeks after the massacre.  Peru's La Primera newspaper--the only news outlet to provide information on specific police departments that participated in the massacre--writes, "The police operation was carried out by about 600 armed police from the Dinoes [Special Operations Department] and from the Anti-Drugs Department (DINANDRO), who shot head-on at protesters' bodies."  Dinoes and DINANDRO are two forces within the Peruvian National Police. 

Of particular interest is the participation of the anti-drugs police force, known as DINANDRO in its Spanish abbreviation.  Between 2002 and 2007, the United States spent over $79 million on the PNP.   2002-2004 funds were for "training and field exercises to enhance the capabilities of DIRANDRO to conduct basic road and riverine exercises, as well as to provide security for eradication teams in outlying areas. These enhanced law enforcement efforts will require additional vehicles, communications, field gear, emergency/safety reaction gear, and drug detector canines."  In 2007, the US government's funding for the DIRANDRO was expanded to "enhance the capabilities of DIRANDRO to conduct advanced road interdiction, riot control, greater security for eradication teams, and interdiction in hard-core areas." [emphasis added].  In 2007 the US government also debuted the first of at least four "Pre-Police Schools" for students that have completed secondary school education (that is, these schools are an alternative to high school). The "Pre-Police Schools" are free and designed to recruit and train young people to be members of the PNP.

Counterinsurgency

As Peru became further militarized under the pretense of the drug war, the US State Department justified its 2008 budget request for Peru by noting, "The major change in the FY 2008 police program will be the requirement to support a much-enlarged presence of the Peruvian National Police anti-drug police (DIRANDRO) in the coca growing valleys."  While the region in which the massacre occurred is not by any means a major coca-growing region, it is certainly on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) map (PDF file--see page 192).

The US government has a propensity to fund "anti-narcotics" operations in rebellious territory, which is then used, either overtly (note the DIRANDRO's US-provided training in riot control) or covertly, to fund counterinsurgency operations. The mere mention of the region on the UNODC's coca cultivation map combined with the presence of indigenous resistance organizations practically assures a military-police build-up in the region.  In fact, a 1991 GAO report stated, "The [Peruvian] executive branch policy is to use counternarcotics aid against drug traffickers and insurgent groups linked to the drug trade....we believe the policy is reasonable."  The GAO report goes on to say:

"Of the 702 police trained for counternarcotics purposes since 1989, only about 56 per cent were from units having a counternarcotics mission. The remaining 44 per cent were from police units having a primary mission of counterinsurgency. These units include the Sinchis and the Departamento de Operaciones Especiales [Dinoes, who also participated in the massacre]....In December 1990, the State Department instructed the Embassy that it could not train certain types of units, including the Departamento de Operaciones Especiales, because they were not directly involved in counternarcotics missions. Despite this notification, the Narcotics Affairs Section provided training to 32 personnel who should not have been trained; these 32 made up almost 14 per cent of the total number of police trained after the instruction was issued. According to section officials, providing special operations forces with training would help US efforts to solicit their support for future operations.... Although police from the Sinchis and the Departamento de Operaciones Especiales may perform some counternarcotics operations, their primary mission is recognized to be counterinsurgency."

While the GAO report is from the Fujimori era, the right wing presidents that followed him have done little to rectify past wrongs.  One of the more blatant examples of this fact is Peru's amnesty law that protects dirty war criminals.  Furthermore, current Peruvian President Alan Garcia is currently serving his second non-consecutive term; he served his first term in 1985-1990, when Peru's dirty war was in full swing.  The Garcia administration has always been characterized by massacres in the face of social unrest: the current president presided over the Accomarca massacre in August 1985 (47-74 dead peasants), the Cayara massacre in May 1988 (about thirty dead and more disappeared), and various prison riots in which over 200 inmates were executed.

Unfortunately, Garcia's massacre of the Awajún and Wampi indigenous peoples at the Bagua blockade is only the latest in a series.  Garcia himself seems entirely unrepentant regarding the latest massacre, reportedly calling the indigenous organizations that participated in the Bagua blockade "ignorant" and relying on typical racist arguments to downplay the indigenous movement.  Implying that indigenous people are incapable of thinking for themselves and making their own decisions regarding their well-being, he told press that the indigenous organizations were being manipulated by foreign leftist forces.

Helicopters

Witnesses to the Bagua massacre claim that police fired tear gas and live ammunition from police helicopters. The helicopters, Russian-made Mi-17s, were not purchased with US dollars, but US drug war money has maintained them for years.

As part of the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, a George H.W. Bush program that spawned the infamous Plan Colombia, the US government undertook the task of upgrading Peru's fleet of police aircraft.  Peru's La Republica reported that the US government aimed to upgrade the PNP's entire fleet. The US began providing funds for Peru's aircraft under the auspices of counternarcotics efforts in 1988. In 2004, the US government provided "funding for pilots, aircrews, and support personnel for 15 USG-owned UH-1H helicopters and 14 Peruvian Mi-17 helicopters," the latter being the same type of helicopter used in the Bagua massacre.  Given that US foreign aid can be delayed for several years before it arrives in the recipient country, it is within the realm of possibility that the US government funded the pilots and crew that were in the Mi-17s that were allegedly used to murder indigenous Peruvians in Bagua.

In 2007, the State Department mentioned the Mi-17s amongst other PNP aircraft in its budget justification, writing that "FY 2007 funds will also cover fuel, maintenance, hangars and warehousing, aircraft rental when needed, and operational support for PNP Aviation (DIRAVPOL) personnel." A year later, the State Department wrote, "FY 2008 will continue heavy investment of funds in training and career development of PNP aviation personnel in addition to budgeting for increased flight hours."

In addition to funding Peru's existing Mi-17 helicopters, the United States has donated about 24 armed Huey II (UH-II) helicopters to the PNP.  Hueys were not used in the Bagua massacre, but the massacre should make the US government think twice about donating combat helicopters with multiple guns and rocket launchers mounted all over the aircraft.  The donated Huey II's came with the M16 armament system, which includes a combination of M6 flexible quad M60C 7.62mm machine guns and two seven-tube 2.75 inch MK-40 rocket launchers.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Update on Plan Mexico and Plan Colombia

From Witness for Peace: available online at witnessforpeace.org/endthedrugwar

Do Not Resuscitate: Plan Colombia
In deciding how much and what kind of aid to give Colombia this next year, Congress will be starting with the Obama Administration's 2010 foreign aid budget request, released last month. While the request takes baby steps away from the military-heavy, fumigations-happy mentality dominating U.S. funding since 2000, it remains a far cry from the "change" mandate upon which the President and much of Congress were elected. To abandon our trajectory of failure, Congress will need to do much more. Here's the quick synopsis of the Administration's request:
The good: $19 million was cut from counternarcotics funding, which includes the coca fumigations program that has utterly failed to curtail coca production but succeeded in destroying farmers' livelihoods. While it is difficult to applaud a $19 million dent in a program that should be wholly scrapped, this cut at least provides a start.
The bad: the overall ratio of military to social aid remains untouched: about two military dollars for every one non-military dollar. Hundreds of millions more in military aid would continue to arm and train a military that continues to kill innocent civilians and collude with illegal armed groups. Also, the Administration's request would inexplicably diminish aid for Colombia's displaced, those most in need of urgent assistance. Please set up a meeting with your representative today to highlight these serious concerns.
Do Not Resuscitate:
Plan Mexico
A big thanks to the 3,091 of you who have asked Congress through our online action to halt the $470 million of additional Merida Initiative funding proposed for 2009. The good news is that $50 million worth of military financing for Mexico was just extracted from the House version of the bill. The bad news is that $420 million remains in the final bill, most of it for military aircraft to amplify Mexico's "war on drugs." That bill now will likely pass both the House and Senate to become law, bringing total U.S. spending on the Merida Initiative to an incredible $1.3 billion, all approved within one year's time. The new aid would actually cause Mexico to eclipse Colombia as 2009's number one recipient of military/police assistance in the Western Hemisphere, a position Colombia has continuously held since the early 90's.
What is the Obama Administration doing to prevent further embroilment in this failed counternarcotics strategy in Mexico and Central America? Nada. Instead, the Administration's foreign aid budget request to Congress includes yet another $550 million for Merida in 2010, much of which appears to simply fund more helicopters. Congress apparently needs to hear loud and clear that by failing to address the poverty and domestic demand fueling the drug trade, tossing millions more at military hardware will again prove tragically ineffective in stemming the flow of drugs or degree of drug-related violence. Please set up a meeting with your representative to ask that they steer us away from this futile path and definitively abandon the antiquated "war on drugs" model.

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Oaxacan Political Prisoners Find New Hope in Zapatistas' Other Campaign

Subcomandante Marcos' 2006 Visit to Imprisoned Loxichas Inspired a New Movement; One Prisoner is Already Free

On February 9, 2006, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos entered Oaxaca's Santa María Ixcotel jail to visit indigenous political prisoners from the state's Loxicha region. When he left the prison, he called upon Other Campaign adherents in Oaxaca to launch a national campaign to demand freedom for the political prisoners.

That national campaign never happened.

However, a Oaxacan group called the Zapatista Collective stepped up. As adherents to the Other Campaign, they took Marcos' words to heart and made political prisoner accompaniment a central focus of their organization's work. Soon after Marcos' prison visit, the collective approached one of the Loxicha political prisoners, a woman named Isabel Almaraz, and asked her how they could help her fight for her freedom. They worked with her for over two years, with her fighting from within the prison walls and the Zapatista Collective fighting from outside. On July 17, 2008, Almaraz won her freedom.

Throughout Almaraz's fight for her freedom, other Loxicha political prisoners and their families watched with interest. They'd had more than enough experience with outsiders wishing to "help." Outsiders tended to begin campaigns without properly consulting with the prisoners. Even worse, they would use the prisoners for their own political gains, such as securing a letter from the infamous Loxicha political prisoners to be read aloud at a conference or event.

But the Zapatista Collective was different. Their political prisoner work is guided by the principle of, "Don't struggle for [political prisoners]; struggle with them." The collective accompanied Almaraz in her fight for freedom rather than launching a campaign on her behalf--and it worked.

When Almaraz was released, other Loxicha political prisoners invited the Zapatista Collective to collaborate with them on their fight for freedom. After years of initial struggle following their arrests in 1996, the movement had grown quiet. The Loxichas were ready to fight again, but this time it would be them leading the struggle for their freedom.

The Loxichas have begun this new phase of struggle with a protest caravan from the Loxicha region to Mexico City. Along the way, they march though towns in Oaxaca and Puebla. The caravan, comprised of approximately 70 Loxichas, made a stop in Ocotlan, Oaxaca, the site of an ongoing battle between Canadian mining company Fortuna Silver Mines and the autonomous town of San Jose del Progreso in the Ocotlan municipality. The Loxicha caravan arrives in Mexico City for a protest in front of the Ministry of the Interior on June 15.

Struggle and Repression

The Loxicha struggle, like most indigenous struggles, has been a long and constant one. Up until 1984, the Loxicha region was dominated by caciques--outsider mestizo political bosses who ruled the majority indigenous region through repression and corruption. The region was (and still is) horribly underdeveloped. The twelve Loxicha political prisoners told supporters in an open letter written for the caravan, "The Loxicha region is one of the poorest regions in the state of Oaxaca. It is in a state of complete marginalization and extreme poverty, and [the people] have been totally abandoned. Malnutrition and hunger are widespread. Adults and children die of curable diseases because of a lack of economic resources... This situation forced us as residents to organize ourselves in a peaceful and civil manner."

To improve their standard of living, the Loxichas ousted the undemocratic and unresponsive political bosses. In 1984, for the first time in recent history, the president of the San Augustin Loxicha municipality, Alberto Antonio Antonio, was a Loxicha, not a cacique. Residents elected him through traditional governance mechanisms called usos y costumbres ("uses and customs"), not the corrupt government electoral process that had been used to impose caciques upon them for decades. For ten years, Loxichas controlled their own destiny through usos y costumbres, electing authorities who responded to their needs.

Then the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) made its first public appearance. On June 28, 1996, during the commemoration of the first anniversary of a massacre in Aguas Blancas, Guerrero, where the Mexican military murdered 17 peasants, armed members of the EPR arrived unexpectedly and presented the group's first declaration. They told those gathered at the ceremony, "We have sprung forth from the sorrow of orphans and widows, from the absence of loved ones disappeared, from the pain of the tortured, from the anger of those unjustly incarcerated, from those who suffer from political and social persecution, from the situation which daily kills with repression, misery, hunger and disease, such as the abandoned children on the streets."

A month later, the EPR carried out its first armed attack in the neighboring state of Oaxaca. On August 29, the EPR took over the town of La Crucecita and engaged in a battle with the military and federal and local police. Eleven government agents died, as well as one or two members of the EPR. The government claims that one of the EPR casualties was Loxicha. "And that was the pretext for all of the repression that followed," Erika Sebastian Luis, the daughter of Loxicha political prisoner Alvaro Sebastian Ramirez, told Narco News.

On September 25, 1996, then-president Ernesto Zedillo sent police and federal soldiers to invade San Augustin Loxicha. They arrested over 500 residents, including the entire city council, without an arrest warrant, claiming that they were members of the EPR. The majority of the detainees were released after 72 hours of questioning, but 130-155 Loxichas remained imprisoned. Their wives and other family members formed a plantón, or protest encampment, outside of the governor's office to demand the prisoners' release. After over four years of the women's plantón, the government released all but twelve prisoners.

Other Loxicha political prisoners have entered and left Oaxacan prisons since the September 25 repression because the government aggressions against San Augustin Loxicha never ended. 1996 and 1997 were particularly difficult years full of human rights abuses, disappearances, and politically motivated arrests. The government attacked San Augustin Loxicha with numerous joint operations--that is, operations that included the military and police from various levels of the government, just like today's joint operations in the drug war. Sebastian Luis told Narco News that many of these operations were led by members of the caciques' private armies, known as "white guards." The white guards told the police and soldiers where organizers lived so that they could be arrested. In 1997, Lucio Vasquez, a cacique whose family is full of prominent white guards, took advantage of the constant government raids on San Augustin Loxicha and the detention of community leaders and authorities. He declared himself municipal president, and cacique rule returned to San Augustin Loxicha.

Stigmatization and Hope

The Loxicha case is filled with irregularities and abuses. Many of the prisoners, including Sebastian Luis' father Alvaro, were tortured. Sebastian Luis says the torture included the tehuacanazo (squirting mineral water mixed with chile up the victim's nose), beatings, and sexual abuse. Through torture, many prisoners were forced to sign blank pieces of paper (in Sebastian Ramirez's case, over 200 pages) that were later filled with confessions invented by the authorities. All of the remaining twelve Loxicha prisoners are accused of homicide.

Despite the painfully obvious injustices and abuses in the Loxicha case, the political prisoners have not enjoyed the national or international support that other political prisoners and indigenous groups do. The lack of solidarity is likely due to the government's accusation that the Loxicha prisoners belong to the EPR, according to a member of the Zapatista Collective. The EPR has not enjoyed the civil society support that the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has. On the contrary, it has been thoroughly demonized, thanks in large part to former president Zedillo's creation of a "good guerilla, bad guerrilla" paradigm. Following the appearance of the EPR in 1996, Zedillo stated that while the EZLN had a social base, did not resort to terror, and agreed to dialogue with government, the EPR lacked a social base and used terrorist means to achieve its goals. Zedillo never elaborated on the difference he saw between the EZLN's armed uprising, in which it attacked military and police targets and threatened to overthrow the federal government, and the EPR's attacks on military and police targets. The demonization of the EPR has given the government a permanent pretext for repression: it can accuse any social organization or organizers that oppose it of being "EPR terrorists" and unleash unthinkable violence upon them.

Even though the Loxichas deny that they belong to the EPR, the damage has been done. Throughout most of their struggle, they've been largely abandoned by civil society. They hope that with Subcomandante Marcos' statement that they have a place within the Other Campaign, they can overcome the stigmatization caused by the government's allegations that they belong to the EPR. Marcos has gone so far as to say that when Oaxacan organizations do present a proposal for a national campaign for the Loxicha prisoners' freedom, the Zapatistas will promote the campaign. This is exactly what the Loxichas want. They hope to receive support and solidarity at a level that they've never before enjoyed, relying upon the international network of indigenous rights supporters created by the Other Campaign.

The Loxicha caravan, a first step towards a national campaign, comes at a critical time for the Loxicha prisoners. Four of them are scheduled to complete their 13-year sentences within the coming months. The other eight have been sentenced to 32 years. Sebastian Luis told Narco News that if the four prisoners are left to serve their full sentences, it will be much more difficult to argue that the other eight shouldn't serve their full 32-year sentences.

Despite the odds against them, the Loxichas are hopeful. By choosing to lead the campaign themselves rather than allowing non-prisoners to direct a campaign on their behalf, the prisoners have chosen a tried-and-true political prisoner solidarity model. Over a year ago, the Chiapas state government released over forty political prisoners, including many Zapatistas, after the prisoners kicked off a campaign for their freedom with an indefinite hunger strike. The Chiapan prisoners led the campaign throughout the hunger strike, using phone cards to call members of civil society and instructing them on how to plan marches and what to paint on banners that called for their release.

So far, the Loxicha caravan has been met with support from Mexican civil society. Oaxaca's Section 22 teachers union has declared its open support for the Loxichas and has joined them in the demand for the prisoners' freedom. Likewise, Omar Esparza from the Network of Community and Indigenous Radios of the Mexican Southeast reports that teachers from Puebla's Section 23 and Section 51 unions have received the Loxichas with open arms in that state. On June 11--just two days before the Loxicha's arrival--Puebla governor Mario Marin ordered a brutal police operation against Section 23, resulting the arrest of 15 teachers and human rights observers.

The Loxichas say that the caravan is only a first step in their renewed campaign for freedom for their political prisoners. They are expected to announce more actions in the coming days.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We Are All Camero, Radio is Our Voice

En Español: http://juntosconradiotyl.wordpress.com/

Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. June 2, 2009

To all national and international communications media.

To all national and international alternative and independent media.

To all national and international non-governmental human rights organizations.

To all adherents to the Other Campaign.

To national and international civil society.


Compañeros:

Freedom of expression, expressed in the Constitution, is a weapon for those who struggle against the power and the bad government. The bourgeoisie's laws are used in full rigor against organized working people, while the real criminals extort people to fund their costly electoral campaigns of defamation and visual, audio, and mental pollution. How much longer will this go on?

Individuals and collectives in Nuevo Leon issue the following communique in solidarity with the community Radio Tierra y Libertad, "The ultimate in working-class consciousness," and specifically con Dr. Hector Camero Haro. An arrest warrant could be issued against this compañero for the simple crime of participating in a dignified effort to provide information to working people and their families. The investigation against Camero for the crime of utilizing national assets, began as a result of the June 2008 operation were approximately 120 heavily armed agents from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) violently barged into the building to dismantle the radio. It had been on air seven years and government institutions closed its doors over a permit.

The community radio Tierra y Libertad was a low-frequency radio on 90.9 FM that provided its listeners with cultural and educational content, and even children's programs, from Monday to Saturday. It was work carried out by volunteer support and without profit for the people who ran it, who are activists and members of the Tierra y Libertad Civil Association.

It should be pointed out that days after this raid, Governor Jose Natividad Gonzalez Paras unveiled a sculpture in the Fundidora Park called "Broadcasting," inspired by the Chamber of the Radio and Television Industry's logo. Said act demonstrates the cynicism with which all levels of government authorities operate. While the groups who monopolize and make money off of information and pollute our culture are congratulated, those who give microphones to the voice of the people and provide information with truth and commitment are punished.

From 2006 to date, over 100 community radios that operated without official permission have been closed in various states: Mexico State, Sonora, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla, Chiapas, Coahuila, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Campeche, Guanajuato, Yucatán, Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Distrito Federal, Guerrero, San Luís Potosí, Tabasco, and Nuevo León.

The above demonstrates the Federal Government's intention to criminalize freedom of expression and delegitimize the right to information and popular organization, based in the laws that go against international treaties such as the Human Rights Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica, which Mexico signed in 1981 and which specifically establishes in Article 13: "The right to expression through indirect means, as well as the abuse of official or private regulations regarding paper for newspapers, radio-electric frequencies, or apparatuses or property used in the diffusion of information or by any other such methods designed to impede communication and the circulation of ideas or opinions is prohibited."

This repressive campaign against community radios has been growing immensely during the Calderon administration. We consider it to be of the utmost importance to denounce one by one the actions used to beat back the power of the people and to not permit that even one of these abuses be hidden behind smokescreens imposed by the commercial and pro-government media, calling them clandestine, pirate, and criminal radios. In the end these companies are in collusion with the government, closing the paths to the voice of the people, publishing incomplete information or disinformation regarding the situation.

Community radios represent the need and ability of the people to exercise their right to free speech. They contribute to community development and collaborate with their participants and listeners in the construction of solutions and alternatives to the problems that each locality experiences. Through them, the country's and world's problems are openly discussed, and there is dialogue between communities to spread and listen to the most vulnerable population. To consider this a crime is the most obvious sign that in this country democracy is not respected by the authorities at all levels of government. In other words, it is nonexistent.

On June 2 we launch the Brigade in Support of the Community Radio Tierra y Libertad in solidarity with its members and in resistance against the blow that the government strikes against the efforts of those who participate in this honest labor.

For this reason we demand that the judge not begin criminal proceedings against Hector Camero and Radio Tierra y Libertad, "The ultimate in working-class consciousness," as well as the return of all of the broadcasting equipment, and that the necessary permit be granted so that all community radios can operate regularly.

Stop the repression against community radios.

Stop the persecution of popular and independent communicators.

For the right to the people's free speech in the world.

Freedom for the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

We are all Camero, the radio is our voice.

We invite you to sign this communique if you agree with what we say above, and if you are truly in favor of free expression. Send signatures to: juntosconradiotyl@gmail.com

“Viviendo la Utopía” Popular Library

Frontera Cero Collective

“La internacional” Grassroots Youth Collective - Communist Youth of México

“Clara Zetkin” Grassroots Youth Collective - Communist Youth of México

Kasakomunitaria Political-Cultural Space

Antonio Hernandez – Biologist and defender of the Sierra Cerro de la Silla against the Arco Vial Sureste

nonself – musician and performance activist, adherent to the Other Campaign

Members of the Tierra y Libertad Civil Association
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