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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: Americas | International | Police State and Prisons
Honduras: State-Sponsored Death Squad Terror
Honduras: State-Sponsored Death Squad Terror
by Stephen Lendman
Adrienne Pine is American University Professor or Anthropology. She's worked in Honduras. She's written about state-sponsored violence.
Her book "Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras" discusses structural inequality, horrendous human rights abuses, and state-sponsored murder. She calls it "invisible genocide."
Her recent article headlined "Militarization Ramped up in Honduras," saying:
"On February 8, 2013, the Honduran government announced that it would be sending its military to patrol the streets of its two largest cities: San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the capital."
Honduras is Latin America's murder capital. Pine calls it "the most violent country on the planet." Its murder rate is 92 per 100,000.
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), it's 91.6. It's multiples higher than America.
In 2008, it was 61 per 100,000. After Washington's sponsored June 2009 coup, it noticeably increased. Interim leader Roberto Micheletti replaced democratically elected Manuel Zelaya.
In November, sham elections followed. On January 27, 2010, fascist Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo Sosa became president. He's Obama's man in Honduras. Death squad terror is policy.
Tegucigalpa dailies publish "gruesome photos of corpses riddled with bullet holes are blown up and pasted on the walls around town providing a disturbing display of the brutal violence," said Pine.
Honduras is in crisis. It's "on the brink of bankruptcy." Teachers and soldiers haven't been paid in months. Other major problems persist.
In November 2011, legislation changed constitutional law. Doing so lets soldiers perform police functions. America trained Special Forces responsible for murder.
Lt. Coronel Reynel Funes is a School of the Americas graduate. He's accused of covering up murder. Police states operate that way.
Ahead of November's presidential, parliamentary and local elections, Pine expects things to worsen. Democracy's excluded from the ballot.
On April 22, Law Professor Lauren Caraski headlined "US Funds Still Supporting Honduras Death Squads," saying:
"A climate of immunity" persists. It's "solidified (under) generals and others who carried out the coup…." They were rewarded for services rendered. They're part of Lobo's fascist government.
Most violence isn't "random or drug-or gang-related," said Carasik. Some of Honduran society's most vulnerable are targeted.
They include women, human rights workers, trade unionists, independent journalists, opposition party members, other regime opponents, the LGBT community, lawyers and campesinos.
A previous article discussed Bajo Aguan Valley killings and abductions. Death squads linked to Honduras' military, police, and private security firms targeted campesinos.
Dozens perished or disappeared. Death squad terror persists. Honduras is a virtual killing field. Carasik recently visited the Lower Aguan region.
She met with San Isidro collective campesinos. They were occupying land they're entitled to. They have legal title to prove it. "(T)he patina of legitimacy (has) often been wrested (from them) through fraud and coercion," she said.
Their "legal title emanated from a rare victory meted out by the notoriously ineffective judicial system that typically favors the agro-oligarchs engaging in brutal land grabs in the region."
Give credit where it's due. "(I)ntrepid lawyer Antonio Trejo" represented campesinos. He's the only Aguan region attorney to have litigated land rights claims successfully.
In September 2012, he was murdered in cold blood. He attended a wedding. After leaving church, unknown gunmen killed him.
Hours before his death, he participated in a televised debate. He accused corrupt politicians of passing a Charter Cities law.
It divides Honduras into autonomous municipalities. Corporations run them. Foreign investment is encouraged. "Uninhabited," indigenous, ancestral lands are targeted.
"….Trejo's untimely death eliminates the one lawyer who had achieved any relief for the beleaguered campesinos of the Lower Aguan. Each murder statistic rattled off is a real person with a real family that will be forever anguished by the loss of their loved ones," said Caraski.
Washington supports Honduran death squads. Generous funding is provided. Politicians, military officials and police benefit. Concerned US citizens object.
According to Caraski, they "voiced their concerns about US support for Honduras' police and military while (they) continue to kill, kidnap, torture and commit other heinous crimes with impunity."
In March 2012, 94 congressional members addressed the State Department. They wrote then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In part, they said:
"We are concerned with the grave human rights situation in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras and ask the State Department to take effective steps to address it."
"The abuses taking place in this area of the country reflect a larger pattern of human rights violations in which human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders and opposition activists are the subject of death threats, attacks and extrajudicial executions."
"We urge you to continue to pressure the Honduran government to protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens, and to investigate and prosecute abuses."
In January 2013, 58 congressional members voiced concerns about Honduras' Afro-indiginous Garifuna community repression.
They addressed Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder. They called for an "investigation of alleged abuses by Honduran security forces and the possible role DEA agents played in a shooting incident that led to the tragic death of four indigenous villagers on the Patuca River in northeastern Honduras."
"The State Department and the DEA have acknowledged involvement in the May 11, 2012, incident. A pregnant woman and a 14-year-old boy were among the four villagers killed. Several other innocent bystanders were injured."
They also addressed "the worsening human rights situation of Afro-indigenous communities since the June 2009 military coup in Honduras. These communities have been hit particularly hard by drug-related violence from both drug-traffickers and US-backed drug war in Honduras."
Carasik called the State Department's response "tepid at best." State Department spokespersons speak about human rights. In Honduras or elsewhere, they do nothing to protect them.
In 2012, Congress invoked the Leahy Law. It part of the 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (Sec. 8092 of PL 106-259). It states:
"None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to support any training program involving a unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretary of Defense has received credible information from the Department of State that a member of such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights, unless all necessary corrective steps have been taken."
The law prohibits funding foreign security forces that commit gross human rights violations unless its government "is taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice."
Congress halted millions of dollars in Honduran aid money. Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT) and others voiced concerns about National Police Director-General Juan Carlos "El Tigre" Bonilla. He was accused of heading deaths squads for the past decade.
Earlier he was tried and acquitted. At the time, police internal affairs head, Maria Luisa Borjas, said she was threatened. High-level security officials obstructed investigations. Other murder charges against Bonilla haven't been investigated.
Funding Honduras' police continues. State Department officials claim they're for specially "vetted" units. US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield plans millions more dollars in additional security funding.
He said so during a St. Patrick's Day Honduran visit. At the same time, AP headlined "Honduras Police Accused of Death Squad Killings," saying:
"Police have long been accused of operating more like assassins than law enforcement officers in Honduras, but few cases ever have been investigated."
"Despite millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Honduras aimed at professionalizing the country's police, accusations persist."
"In the last three years, the AP has learned, Honduran prosecutors have received as many as 150 formal complaints about death squad-style killings in the capital of Tegucigalpa, and at least 50 more in the economic hub of San Pedro Sula."
"Even the country's top police chief" was charged. Bonilla's linked to numerous deaths. He "was chosen to lead the national police force despite unanswered questions about his past."
Death squad killings don't vary much. "(M)asked men in bulletproof vests, traveling in large vehicles with tinted windows and no plates, roam the city in groups of 10."
Bonilla replaced Gen. Ricardo Ramirez del Cid. He was ousted on charges police murder and kidnapping involvement.
Honduras failed to purge its National Police. Corrupt officials run it. According to Commission to Reform Public Security president Victor Meza:
Honduras' police force "appears to be an institution that is absolutely beyond reform."
State Department officials know what's going on. Congress isn't fully informed. No special "vetted" units exist outside of Bonilla's control. US funding goes to police-run death squads.
Caraski expressed outrage. The State Department "is attempting an end run around Congress to fund shady, questionable security forces in Honduras."
"Such conduct disrespects Congress, and disrespects constituents who have worked hard to have our voices heard regarding what is done in our name, with our taxpayer dollars."
Washington's been involved in Central American human rights abuses for decades. Geopolitical interests alone matter. Crimes against humanity continue.
American complicity facilitates them. It's longstanding policy. It persists globally.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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