Prison Fire Merely Latest in Hondurans' Continuing Catastrophe

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This past Tuesday, a comical response to Frank’s piece appeared at Foreign Policy, written by former Bush administration official José Cárdenas. It was humorous in that it included an understated disclaimer at the end. Cárdenas wrote, “Full disclosure: In July 2009, I helped to advise a Honduran business delegation that came to Washington during their presidential crisis to defend Manuel Zelaya’s removal from power.”

Not surprisingly, given his qualifications, Cárdenas frames Honduras’s current problems as solely the product of drug trafficking, and he encourages the United States to recognize that “Honduras’s war on drugs is ours too.”

Frank did a good job preemptively responding to this notion. She wrote, “Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression.”

Backing up Frank’s point, Human Rights Watch notes in its World Report 2012: Honduras that the country;
failed in 2011 to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations under the de facto government that took power after the 2009 military coup....Violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, political activists, and transgender people continued. Those responsible for these abuses are rarely held to account.
Whether or not you recognize political violence as part of the problem (Cárdenas neglects to mention it) goes far in determining your view of appropriate policy remedies. Cárdenas recommends working closely with the Honduran government and supporting its military with continued aid. Frank, in contrast, quotes the rector whose son was murdered: “Stop feeding the beast,” Julieta Castellanos says. “She, like other human rights advocates, insists that the Lobo government cannot reform itself,” Frank adds.
Cárdenas complains that Lobo is not a strong enough anti-drug leader. Yet, in a final sad statement, he reveals that his model of an appropriately serious drug warrior is Colombia’s former president Álvaro Uribe. Of course, Colombia is an excellent case of a country in which political violence and the drug trade have long gone hand in hand. On that topic, Human Rights Watch’s Daniel Wilkinson, writing in the New York Review of Books, offers a recommended read on the not-pretty connections between Uribe and narco-trafficking paramilitaries. Armed right-wing groups, Wilkinson reports;
continue to kill trade unionists and, increasingly, leaders of displaced communities seeking to reclaim their lands. These groups no longer present themselves as a national counterinsurgency movement, but they do continue to traffic illegal drugs and terrorize civilians the way the AUC [the paramilitary group that Uribe’s government ostensibly disbanded] once did. They are the legacy of Uribe’s approach to “justice and peace.”
If this is the model for Honduras, the country is sure to remain a Washington-abetted human rights catastrophe for a long time to come.


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