Friday, May 18, 2012

Outrage Over Honduras Drug Op Spreads

The backlash surrounding US involvement in a controversial drug operation in Honduras continues to grow. The AP reports that residents of the country’s northeastern Mosquito Coast, where the operation took place earlier this month in the municipality of Ahuas, have burned down government buildings in protest and demand that DEA agents leave the area. Locals, including Ahuas mayor Lucio Baquedano, claim that DEA and Honduran law enforcement fired on innocent civilians on a boat in the May 11 incident and ultimately killed four civilians, two of whom were pregnant women.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch, has called on US and Honduran authorities to investigate the use of lethal force in the incident, saying “If evidence demonstrates that security forces violated international standards, they must be held accountable.”  

According to the Washington Post, relatives of the victims claim that the victims were on board the boat in order spend Mother’s Day in town.

Both the US and Honduran governments deny any wrongdoing, claiming that the two traffickers were killed and that the operation yielded 1,000 pounds of cocaine.  American officials also maintain that the DEA agents involved never fired their weapons.

But community leaders in the predominantly indigenous region dispute that claim. The BBC claims that several indigenous groups have released a joint statement, declaring “For centuries we have been a peaceful people who live in harmony with nature, but today we declared these Americans to be persona non grata in our territory.”

Honduras Culture and Politics offers a more in-depth look at these organizations, and also provides a highly critical analysis of the coverage presented by the New York Times, which puts a good deal of faith in the testimony of an anonymous US official who insinuates that local villagers may have been paid to facilitate the drug trade. According the blog, however, “The difference between our reaction and that of the Times is this: if you are likely to be shooting at people from a "poor village", you shouldn't be shooting. Period.”

News Briefs
  • Elsewhere in Honduras, inmates at a prison in San Pedro Sula have taken rioted and taken over control of the facility from guards, reports the BBC. The AP says that at least one inmate has been killed and 11 others are wounded. Police say they are refraining from entering the prison “in order to avoid a bloodbath.”
  • Mariela Castro, Cuban gay rights advocate and daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, has been granted a US visa in order to attend a conference in San Franciso organized by the Latin American Studies Association. Although members of the Cuban-American community in Miami have criticized the move, the AP notes that Castro was granted a visa in 2002 under the Bush administration. The bigger scandal, as detailed by the Washington Post, is the denial of visas to other prominent Cubans invited to the conference.
  • A judge has ordered the two Mexican generals arrested on suspicion of colluding with drug traffickers to be detained for forty days, according to El Universal. A statement issued by the Attorney General’s Office said that several witnesses, fellow military officers included, have already given testimony against the two.
  • The Wall Street Journal looks at the drop in the price of Venezuelan bonds after a recent spike, due mostly to the fact that Chavez seems unlikely to succumb to his cancer before the upcoming elections, which he is likely to win. Reuters, however, notes that the country’s economy is growing briskly, mostly due to pre-election public spending.
  • Violence in El Salvador continues to decrease, with 76 homicides registered in the first half of this month. National police claim that this number is less than half of the total murders that occurred during the same period last year. Meanwhile Guatemalan President Otto Perez has announced that the homicide rate in that country is down 18 percent, while Prensa Libre puts the decline around 2.15 percent.
  • Colombian lawmaker Sigifredo Lopez has been arrested for allegedly assisting the FARC to kidnap several other legislators (including himself) in 2002, 11 of whom were later executed. His motives are still unclear, reports the AP.
  • Some 70 students were arrested by police in Chile on Wednesday, as education reform rallies again rocked the capital city of Santiago.
  • Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto has an interesting overview of the shift in the hemisphere’s drug policy debate at the Summit of the Americas, which she refers to as “the rebellion in Cartagena.”

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