Is Micheletti being backstabbed?

It may be time to ask if Honduras president Roberto Micheletti is being backstabbed by people who mean to support him, but do it in a way that seriously hurts both him and the Republic of Honduras. The reason is that in spite of express support for Human Rights from the government of Honduras, there are reports of disappearances and murders of rank and file political opponents who consider that the arrest of the elected president Manuel Zelaya by the military as ordered by the Supreme Court of Justice for having violated an express court-issued cease and desist order, constituted a military coup. Having talked to a number of people connected with the government of Honduras I feel convinced that there is no tolerance for Human Rights violations from the top.

Before speculating about who did it, first one must consider what actually happened. It is a sad fact that Honduras led the world in murder statistics in 2008, and already the rate for 2009 is higher, even though the year has not yet ended. Over 60 murders per 100,000 inhabitants and year. It is approaching the rate in Iraq at the peak of the insurgency (101). In Scandinavia, as a comparison, the rate is around 1. Unlike the situation in Iraq these are criminal, not political, murders, related to drug gangs, kidnappings, armed robbery, and family feuds. Since there have been close to 5,000 murders in the country, most of which unrelated to politics, it is not so easy to deduce if a random person supporting Zelaya that turns up in a ditch was murdered for political reasons or not. These cases are classified differently by different groups, which is why the statistics of suspected human rights violations differ so widely (the range being about 7 to 150). It should be said that no case has yet been brought from investigation to prosecution, typically for lack of evidence.

However, if we assume for a moment that there are political murders being committed by people who want to help Micheletti, then they are really stabbing him and their country in the back. (The possibility that it is done by provocateurs I will disregard; it belongs in the same category as the suggestion that it was the government that placed the bombs and threw the grenades in the run-up to the elections.)

If, and I say if, there are people who do this, then their strategy is to disassemble the “resistencia” by going after its rank and file members. This would be a strategy that has been used in Honduras before, and that people are familiar with. If I am not mistaken, it is a method that they learned by the U.S., in that infamous School of the Americas (SOA) [read comments!]. It is effective for what it sets out to do: Get rid of the opposition. However, let us think one step further.

The goal of Honduras is peace, liberty, democracy, and prosperity. If you disagree, use the comment space below. Note that the goal is not to get rid of the opposition, so where did they get that from? I’d say SOA. The old-school goal was not democracy, not liberty, not prosperity for the natives, it was just peace – so that the U.S. companies could make money in the banana republics. If peace is the one and only goal, then one could arguably end up with “disappearances” being an effective strategy.

However, as we know, human rights abuses lead to tremendous social stress in the country. It leads to different groups having different agendas. It makes it impossible to create a functioning democracy. Instead revolution will be an ever-present threat. The peace will be quite superficial, with a high level of violence underneath – exactly what we see in Honduras.

Therefore, if there are people in Honduras who carry out this old strategy from the 70’s, then they are stabbing president Micheletti in the back.

If, and again, IF, there are persons or groups doing this, then every decent Honduran must shout with one voice, “STOP! You are hurting your country!”

Let them know that to get prosperity there has to be a social pact, an understanding between all different groups that everyone has the right to his stake in the nation, to his piece of the cake (although not all pieces will always be equal), and that there must be some healthy degree of nationalism, meaning solidarity with countrymen.

For president Micheletti, I would advice him to strengthen the police, the investigating power, and the entire judicial system (especially against corruption). As a president and politician he cannot intervene in the judicial system, but he can send a strong signal by allocating resources to it (or rather, asking Congress to do so, since it is Congress that holds the purse).

Media: DN.

14 thoughts on “Is Micheletti being backstabbed?”

  1. Sir, you are mistaken–the US Army’s School of the Americas never taught anyone to do anything illegal, immoral or unethical. There is not a single example that would support that belief. The school had nothing to do with political activities or support for corporations; it taught US approved military doctrine on a variety of subjects, simply to make people of Latin American militaries more professional (i.e., more legal, moral and ethical) in what they did. I work at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, GA–the successor to the school. You are welcome to come here any time, stay as long as you wish, talk with anyone you wish, and review instructional materials. I think you will see the benefits of offering a platform for professionals to improve their own knowledge and skills, and develop relationships with their neighboring nations.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I have of course no solid information to back up the claim, it is just accusations that – as you know – are well known. But accusations are not proof. If what you say is correct, which I will assume, then the worst that can be said is, I guess, that the school might have failed in some cases in instilling ethics etc. Then again, all schools fail some of the time.

      Thank you for the invitation, maybe I’ll take you up on it one day 🙂

  2. Lee… What can I say? I´ve heard the “we don´t do that anymore” claim, but I´ve never heard anyone have the guts to claim that no one EVER taught anyone to do anything illegal, immoral or unethical at the SOA. You mean to say that the manuals released by the US defense department in 1996 were forged? Or do you mean that advocating executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion, telling counterinsurgency agents to use “fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum” is legal, moral and ethical? You´ve got me dumbfounded here. It must be one or the other. Either the defense department is lying to us (to their own disadvantage) or these methods are not illegal immoral or unethical in your book.

    Oh! Also the manual on “Terrorism and the Urban Guerrilla” says that “another function of the CI agents is recommending CI targets for neutralizing. The CI targets can include personalities, installations, organizations, documents and materials . . . the personality targets prove to be valuable sources of intelligence. Some examples of these targets are governmental officials, political leaders, and members of the infrastructure.”

    (Washington Post, September 21, 1996; Page A1)

    Maybe these pro-Micheletti guys in Honduras got the message?

  3. Ola, most countries in Latin America have military personnel that attended the School of the Americas, correlation does not imply causation. Latin America has been a hotspot in the struggle between left and right since World War II.

    Leftists often view any military who oppose them are “human rights violators and butcherers”. Sometimes they are right. But are the FMLN, FSLN, FARC and others any better? Why are human rights organizations silent about them?

  4. Aaron, I would never defend FARC or similar groups, and I wasn´t discussing who committed the worsed crimes or in the name of what ideology. If there was a military school in China that had trained a lot of FARC officers responsible for many of their worst atrocities, I would criticize that as well.

    But my comment wasn´t really discussing to what extent SOA/WHINSEC is or was a part of some larger political strategy in latin america, it was a response to Lee Rials initial comment, where he wrote “the US Army’s School of the Americas never taught anyone to do anything illegal, immoral or unethical. There is not a single example that would support that belief”.

    I find that statement strange since in 1996 the US defense department themselves confessed to having used manuals that taught torture, abductions and targeted killings as good methods to achieve your goals (see link to Washington Post article above).

    Latin america was (is) seen by the US as its “backyard” where it could do as it pleased to further it´s own interests. Dictators and mass murderers were supported as long as they did the bidding of the US and disposed of if they did not. Trujillo in the Dominican republic is a good example of that. And this is not an ideological, leftist or anti-US “claim”, great regional powers everywhere tend to act in that way towards smaller neighbours. China, Russia, India, Iran, they all do it, to different degrees depending on their relative power. It´s not surprising, but I still oppose it, regardless of who the bullying power is.

  5. For Ola Hakefelt, I’ll just say show the evidence that whatever was in those manuals was actually taught, and that someone used what was in them later. The entire opposition to the school and to the institute that replaced it is based on the idea that any association is proof that the training caused the later act. Go to the database on the SOAW website and just see what real connection you can make. I’ll give you a recent absurd example: Gen Vasquez of Honduras, who was in charge when Pres. Zelaya was removed on Jun 28, is called an “SOA graduate.” So when did he go and what did he study? In 1976 (a third of a century ago) he took a basic officer course of about 22 weeks, when he was a lieutenant. In 1984 (a quarter century ago), as a captain he learned how to manage training in small units, a course of five weeks. What possible relevance does that have with his actions this year? As I said before, no one has shown one example of anyone using what he learned in these schools to commit a crime. If you can do so, you’ll be the very first.

    1. Lee, while I always appreciate a good argument, the one you are making doesn’t quite meet the “laugh test”… If the manuals were not used, then why were they printed? For your argument to be even remotely credible you would have to present documentary proof that they were not used, since the manuals themselves are documents. That proof could for instance be protocols (signed!) from all the meetings that outline the process by which it was decided to write the manuals and then not to use them. Or something similarly convincing. Good luck with that.

  6. Mr. Erlingsson, four of seven manuals created by another Army unit for use in working with Latin American countries were brought to the school by a person who had been serving in that other unit. They were never part of the curriculum, but were used, I suppose, as reference material in a course or two before they were recalled in 1991 by the Army. They were NOT written at the school, according to the head of our translation division, who has been working in that division since 1953! My major point was that, no matter what teaching materials were ever used, not one person has ever been found to have used what he learned at the school to commit any crime. The entire accusations against the the school are baseless, because no one makes any effort to do a cause-effect allegation. I made the point (I thought) with Gen. Vasquez of Honduras, but check it out yourself.

  7. Lee, with all due respect, you have to live up to your own standards when making an argument. First you say that any “opposition to the school and to the institute that replaced it is based on the idea that any association is proof”, then you pick ONE example out of a hundred on the SOAW website, where the connection to SOA is irrelevant and claim that “I made the point [that the accusations against the SOA are baseless] (I thought) with Gen. Vasquez of Honduras”. So, because not every single example of human rights abusers association with the SOA is relevant, none of them are?

    Allow me to quote from the article in Washington Post I referred to above:

    “U.S. Army intelligence manuals used to train Latin American military officers at an Army school from 1982 to 1991 advocated executions, torture, blackmail and other forms of coercion against insurgents, Pentagon documents released yesterday show. Used in courses at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, the manual says that to recruit and control informants, counterintelligence agents could use “fear, payment of bounties for enemy dead, beatings, false imprisonment, executions and the use of truth serum,” according to a secret Defense Department summary of the manuals compiled during a 1992 investigation of the instructional material and also released yesterday.”

    And, again, not to be disrespectful, but someone who has been working for the SOA since 1953 isn´t exactly what I would call an unbiased source in this matter…

    Finally, you write: “no matter what teaching materials were ever used, not one person has ever been found to have used what he learned at the school to commit any crime.”

    It´s a fact that the US supported and propped up several murderous, undemocratic regimes in latin america during the 20th century, regimes known for supressing all opposition. It´s a fact that the US in many cases knew about the atrocities of these regimes and still kept on supporting them (in some cases, like Pinochet in Chile, or the military junta in Guatemala in 1954, the US made it possible for them to grab power in the first place) AND that military personnel from several of these states were trained at the SOA. Now, it´s also a fact that these manuals referred to in the WP article WERE found at the SOA, the US Defense Department has never denied that they were found or that they were used. Military personnel from several undemocratic regimes went home after attending the SOA and practised the same techniques described in the manuals in order to supress domestic opposition.

    Still you would have us believe that there is no connection what so ever between them using these techniques, and manuals describing exactly the same techniques being found at the SOA. Well… the FBI has said they have no hard evidence connectiong Osama bin-Laden to 9/11 – some people claim that is proof that he had nothing to do with it. I think that is about as good an argument as you make here…

  8. As the murders keep accumulating, on both sides, I’m inclined to believe that it is a case of the strategy “divide and conquer”, executed (pardon the pun) by the drug cartels. Nobody has more to win on these murders than the drug cartels that smuggle huge amounts of cocaine through Honduras – probably about 50% of the U.S. consumption. They stand to benefit when the police gets overwhelmed, and the people lose confidence in the police. It must be like a gift from heaven that they can kill people and pass the blame to the state.
    Although I have no evidence that it is they who are behind it, it is undeniable that they have the by far strongest motive.

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