Thursday, July 09, 2009

Canada's "shock doctrine" in Honduras

On June 28th, 200 soldiers of the Honduran military kidnapped the president, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, and flew him to Costa Rica. His attempted return 4 days ago was unsuccessful.
The coup d'eat was roundly condemned by the UN, the EU, the Organization of American States, and rather more tepidly by the USA; the EU pulled its diplomats; the World Bank suspended aid; and all called for the return and reinstatement of Zelaya.

Amidst this near-universal condemnation, on Saturday Canada's Minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, recommended that ousted President Manuel Zelaya delay his planned return to the country, saying the "time is not right". When 2 of 100,000 Zelaya supporters waiting for his plane to land at the airport were shot by the military, Kent went on national tv to blame Zelaya for their deaths.

What is he on about?
Corporate interests and the fear of united social reform in Latin America.
After a devastating hurricane destroyed most of Honduras' crops and infrastructure in 1998, Canada offered millions in aid in return for opening up the country to Canadian mining interests.
Canada and the US also took advantage of this disaster/opportunity, as they did in Colombia, to rewrite Honduras mining laws, granting Canadian corporations tax breaks and land rights to mineral extraction over the rights of local communities. Canada is now the second largest "foreign investor" in the country.

Ashley Holly at The Tyee : Shame on Canada :

"Currently, Canadian companies own 33 per cent of mineral investments in Latin America, accumulating to the ownership of over 100 properties. Export Development Canada contributes 50 per cent of Canadian Pension Plan money to mining companies, which offered upwards of $50 billion in 2003. Goldcorp alone has received nearly one billion dollars from CPP subsidies.

Although EDC is responsible for regulating Canadian industry abroad, it has been accused of failing to apply regulatory standards to 24 of 26 mining projects that it has funded.

In February 2003, nearly five hundred gallons of cyanide spilled into the Rio Lara, killing 18,000 fish. The mine in San Andres uses more water in one hour than an average Honduran family uses in one year. In that same year, mining companies earned $44.4 million, while the average income per capita in Honduras in 2004 was just $1,126USD."

Zelaya has been moving steadily left ever since his election : doubling minimum wage from $132 per month to $290 ; proposing nationalization of energy production and reforms to make government more transparent and accessible; joining Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela in the left-leaning ALBA, formed to counter imperialism in the region; and - oh yeah - banning new mining concessions.

Canada's training of Honduran military personnel through its Military Training Assistance Programme is really paying off for Canadian mining corporations here. According to the MTAP Directorate, officials from DFAIT, DND, and CIDA combine to "promote Canadian foreign and defence policy interests," using "the mechanism of military training assistance to develop and enhance bilateral and defence relationships with countries of strategic interest to Canada."

As this Guatemalan newspaper asks : Will President Colom of Guatemala, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, or President Funes in El Salvador be next?

Zelaya discusses the coup with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now today.


Unknown said...

Hi, Alison... As a Latin American (and centre-left sympathizer) I must say that the situation in Latin America is far more complex than this.

First of all, let me be clear some issues: 1) I don't support the coup in Honduras; 2) I do believe the big corporations have interest in the region, and more or less try to influence the political climate of the region.

That said, I must clarify that what Zelaya was trying to make in Honduras was pretty much a presidenial coup d'etat. He was trying to promote a referendum that was inconstitutional, not allowed by the hondurean Supreme Court. He fired the Chief of the Army because he refused to go on with the referendum and when the Congress told Zelaya that he could not fire him for following the law, Zelaya replied with a gentil "f**k you" to the Congress. Then, all hell broke loose when the military threw the coup, but to try to simplify this as a "Progressist governments in Latin America are trying to develope the region but evil north americans corporations don't let them" is very shallow, and not true.

Actually, if you do a research on Zelaya, quickly you will find that he was an (extremeley) right-wing conservative that just started to switch to the left when that granted him support (and money) from presidents like Chavez and Correa. Also, what he was starting in Honduras was a script that we have seen already in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia: big charismatic leader plays Messiah, makes a constitutional referendum (legality optional), introduces a law to allow him to be re-elected for life and All Hail Chavez/Correa/Morales/Zelaya!

Now, one might wonder if Zelaya movement from right to left was caused for his beliefs in progressive ideals or just for his thirst for power. Well, the fact that even the left-wing parties at the congress have not supported Zelaya even today, should be a hint. Even his own partisans believed that he was turning into a sort of Emperor-like figure. In the days before the coup, he did questioned the legality of the Supreme Court and the Congress, even though the senator were ellected in the same democratic terms as he was.

You make fun of "Emperor Harper" down there, and you should. But what about Emperor Zelaya, Chávez, Correa, Morales and company? Is it ok because they're left-wing emperors?

Alison said...

Harold, thank you for your response.
All your points taken on Zelaya's "converso" politics - save one I'll get to in a minute - plus I'm sure it's at least mildly annoying for a Venezuelan to read internal Honduran politics being so facilely reduced entirely to foreign influences.
That said, Harold, I blog here about Canadian issues not covered in Canadian media, and believe me Canadian newspapers are loathe to puncture the popular fantasy that Canadian interests abroad could ever be anything but benign. We're "peacekeepers", dontcha know? - and the various uses of our Canadian Pension Fund to prop up Canadian corporate abuses in foreign countries is never mentioned. It was certainly not my intention to address the very complicated internal politics of Honduras past a narrow focus on our Minister of the Americas' continuing endorsement of those abuses.

To your points about Zelaya :
This was to be a non-binding referendum, was it not?
If he was as roundly unpopular as you suggest, why was it necessary to whisk him out of the country an hour before the vote? Why not just let it fail?
I've read the Honduran Supreme Court's documents regarding Zelaya's ousting and, my abysmal Spanish notwithstanding, I can find nothing in them to suggest that Zelaya was attempting to change the constitution to ensure he could run another term, much less declare himself some kind of emperor. Indeed he has since confirmed he will not attempt to run again.
Could you clarify this for me?

Re emperors. As a lefty myself I have more confidence in other lefties curtailing the power of lefty emperors than I do in righties curtailing theirs, so, yes, that's my bias.

Anonymous said...

The Honduras constitution has been changed 30 times but somehow a referendum asking whether people want a further change is legitimate grounds for a coup.
Yeah, right.

Miami Herald:
" army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza acknowledged that top military brass made the call to forcibly remove Zelaya -- and they circumvented laws when they did it:
"It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible. I personally would have retired, because my thinking, my principles, would not have allowed me to participate in that."


Unknown said...

"If he was as roundly unpopular as you suggest, why was it necessary to whisk him out of the country an hour before the vote? Why not just let it fail?"

That's a question for the hondurean military, not me. All kinds of polls we're projecting a fail to Zelaya's intent to the referendum. Actually, the coup has triggered a reaction in foreign (and shallow) analysts, trying to portray Zelaya as a highly popular president, something that he's not, unlike Chávez, Lula or Uribe. Those 3 have 40% support in their worst, while Zelaya has 40% in his best.

The guy didn't need to declare himself as an emperor because he was already behaving like one. He refused to pay attention to both Congress and Supreme Court... Actually what trigged the infamus coup was the fact that Zelaya didn't follow the order of the Congress not to fire the General of the Army.

"As a lefty myself I have more confidence in other lefties curtailing the power of lefty emperors"

As I said before, even the left-wing parties at Honduras have refused to support Zelaya during this crisis. Also, although is true that Zelaya did say that he was not going to run for another term, is also true that Chávez, Correa, Evo Morales and Uribe have all said so... And they all broke their promises to the point that amended their constitutions to be able to be re-elected. The fact that he said that wanted to follow the steps of Chávez and Correa didn't help him either.

Let me emphasize the fact that I'm putting Chávez (left) and Uribe (right) in that list up there, because I'm not worried about left-wing leaders, but ALL leaders in Latin America promoting messianism in the region. That hunger for power and to make the government a one-man show, is not going to benefit Latin America at all, whether they're lefties, righties, freemasons, lizards, aliens or douchebags (most are from the latter).

I just started following your blog, and I'm very interested in Canadian politics. I have family and friends living there... Also, as the situation in Latin America is becoming more and more difficult, I'm applying to emigrate to Canada.

True that your government might not be a bed of roses, but when one looks to what's going on in the world, it's probably one of the most democratic and stable. And when I say government, I don't mean Harper or the Conservatives (or the corporations behind them), but all the forces that conform the political spectrum. The fact that there's a permanent seat for the "leader of the opossition" in the Parliament, shows that there's the intention to hear all the voices. What's going on in Latin America is very dangerous, because all the charismatic leaders tend to criminalize, suppress and basically destroy any kind of opposition. Yes, left-wing presidents can do that too. =(


Alison said...

Harold, I haven't found either support for Zelaya or any dubious claims of his popular support in NA media - Reuters, NYT, BBC, Al Jazeera - although WaPo ran a story about how MSM coverage has been slanted due to the Honduran military shutting down tv and radio stations, and even that article pegged popular support for the coup :
"41 percent of Hondurans think the ouster was justified, with 28 opposed to it."
I think people are just hoping that it will not get bloody.

Yes, we do indeed have a very stable government up here. At last count our other corporate "opposition party" had voted with the government 79 times in a row, and faced with defeat in December, Fat Steve just shut down the government altogether with the help of the Governor General, the Queen of England's representative in Canada. Enormous public pressure is also required to force the government to comply with the courts.
That said, what we do have is a tradition of law and a strong public service wherein the silencing of our already complicit media or a coup would be unthinkable. So far. Also unthinkable however would be 100,000 people turning out to protest anything.
Yes, I know, it's because most of us are so fortunate.

We will continue to be rewarded with messianic leaders, both left and right, as long as we continue to ask for them.
Good luck with your emigration.

Anonymous said...

Alison :
"The general who overthrew the democratically elected president of Honduras is a two-time graduate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, an institution that has trained hundreds of coup leaders and human rights abusers in Latin America."


votetheday said...

What is your opinion on the situation in Honduras? Give your vote either for or against Zelaya -

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