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CMM Alert: The Canadian Press Disappears Honduras

#1 Guest_Emersberger_*

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Posted 08 December 2009 - 04:05 PM

The Canadian Press Disappears Honduras

Even the Canadian press noticed when, on June 28, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was driven out of his house at gunpoint by soldiers and forced onto a plane to Costa Rica. The Honduran Congress promptly read out a forged letter of resignation and named Roberto Micheletti as the new president. These crimes were perpetrated because Zelaya attempted to conduct a non binding poll that would have established how the public felt about initiating constitutional reform. The Supreme Court ruled that the opinion poll was illegal and ordered Zelaya's arrest after he refused to obey its preposterous ruling.

Various Canadian newspapers wrote editorials about the coup, but, as noted in a previous CMM alert, there was something very odd about them. [1] None denounced the Supreme Court for making it a illegal to ask Hondurans the following question

"Do you agree that in the general elections of November 2009 a fourth ballot box should be installed to decide whether to convene a National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a political Constitution?" [2]

It is worth repeating that this was a non binding poll. Regardless what was asked, or how the public voted, no laws would have been changed. Even if it had been binding, it would only have led to another question being put to the public at the same time as Zelaya's successor was elected.

The Toronto Star, whose editorial was the most sympathetic to Zelaya, lashed out at him for being "reckless and divisive". The Star's editors, like numerous others, repeated the lie that Zelaya's opinion poll was really a "referendum" on abolishing the one term limit on the presidency. Numerous journalists and pundits working for the corporate press never bothered to learn the basic facts about the poll - even though it was crucial to understanding the coup. Unfortunately, the Star's editorial was one of the high points in the Canadian media's coverage of the coup. Others openly applauded it. [3]

If the elected president of Honduras, a wealthy and well connected man, could have his basic rights so flagrantly and violently disregarded, it was easy to predict what would happen to opponents of the coup, especially those among the impoverished majority of Hondurans.

The regime has blocked efforts to thoroughly investigate its crimes, but reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have made its record abundantly clear to anyone who cares to look. As of late October, COFADEH, a Honduran human rights group reported 21 coup related assassinations and over 3000 cases of arbitrary detention. The National Front Against the Coup in Honduras (FNR) estimated more than 100 coup fatalities. Rape and torture have also been used against protestors. [4]

In September, after two failed attempts by Zelaya to return to Honduras, he succeeded in sneaking into his country and taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy. The regime responded with intensified repression. Security forces drove protesters away from the embassy. A nationwide curfew was imposed and eventually followed up with an (official) state of siege. [5]

The Two Faced Front - Canada and the US

Condemnation of the coup was near universal, and it included the US - the country that mattered most to the Honduran elite thanks to decades of close military and economic ties. However, it became obvious that the Obama administration had tremendous sympathy for the Micheletti regime. The US State Department refused to officially designate Zelaya's ouster as a military coup. Officials from Micheletti's regime traveled in and out of US at will - at least once invited by Republican politicians who openly supported them.[6] The Obama administration refrained from freezing billions of dollars in assets that perpetrators of the coup have in the US. Lanny Davis, Hilary Clinton's former campaign manager and a paid lobbyist for a Honduran business group that backed the coup, dishonestly defended the regime's actions in the US media. [7]

Hilary Clinton called Zelaya's efforts to return to Honduras "reckless". In contrast , she referred approvingly to a nationwide curfew the regime imposed when Zelaya took refuge in the Brazilian embassy. Obama himself declined to meet publicly with Zelaya while he was in the US. The mixed signals from Obama's government could not have been missed by the regime. [8]

Canada also found ways to wink at Micheletti's government. Shortly after the coup, at a special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Canada's minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, urged Zelaya not to return to Honduras. Kent also advised that the context of Zelaya's ouster (i.e. the bogus constitutional arguments the regime and its apologists were making) be taken into account. Apparently the context - for Kent - has never included the regime's human rights abuses about which he has been disgracefully silent. [9]

After the coup, Ottawa did not exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Programme - a sanction that would only target the perpetrators of the coup. Peter Kent justified this by saying that the program was "not a major issue" - thereby offering some major encouragement to the regime. [10]

By early November, a US brokered accord between Zeleya and Michellti was signed. It called for a unity government to be formed by November 5, and for Congress to vote on Zelaya's reinstatement. [11] After the accord was signed, Micheletti - with the backing of the US - interpreted it to mean that Congress could vote on Zelaya's reinstatement after the elections on November 29 (weeks after the deadline for forming a unity government). In fact, according to this cynical "interpretation", Congress could vote on Zelaya's reinstatement years later. US Sub Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas Shannon, then announced that the US would recognize the results of the elections whether or not Zeleya was reinstated. [12]

US complicity with the regime was now so transparent that people who had claimed that it was "Obama's first coup" found their arguments greatly bolstered. [13] The Obama administration unmasked itself further when it stated that the elections of November 29 met "international standards for fairness and transparency". [14]

On election day, Amnesty International put out a statement calling on the regime to disclose the whereabouts of people it had illegally detained. Honduran soldiers and police attacked peaceful protesters in San Pedro Sula. Independent candidate Carlos Reyes spent weeks in hiding because of death threats - and then in the hospital after being attacked at an anti-coup protest. Reyes eventually heeded the call of the FRN and withdrew from the elections in protest. The Honduran electoral council initially announced a record turnout of over 60% - a fraudulent claim that it has since recanted. The regime's official number is now 49%. The FRN has estimated (much more creditably according to an investigation by the Real News Network) 30 to 35% turnout. [15]

Peter Kent congratulated the Honduran regime on the elections and stated

"While Sunday's elections were not monitored by international organizations such as the Organization of American States, we are encouraged by reports from civil society organizations that there was a strong turnout for the elections, that they appear to have been run freely and fairly, and that there was no major violence." [16]

Peter Kent could praise the sham elections without fear of ridicule because the corporate press has buried the coup and Canada's complicity.

In Search of Canadian Coverage

It would be a great challenge, to put it mildly, to learn much about the struggle for democracy in Honduras by reading the Canadian press during the months that followed the coup. Fortunately, independent journalists such as Grahame Russell (of Rights Action) and Al Giordano (of Narco News) among others have been in Honduras reporting about the pro-democracy movement. They uncovered an inspiring movement fighting for much more than the restoration of Zelaya. Constitutional reform is the rallying cry of the resistance to the coup.

Rights Action pointed out in their response to Peter Kent's praise for the elections

"Since the June 28 military coup against the government of President Zelaya, Rights Action (Canada & USA) have published over 100 'Honduras Coup Alerts' documenting systematic repression and human rights violations used by the coup regime to try (unsuccessfully) to quell and silence the pro-democracy, anti-coup movement. Other Canadian civil society organizations and media outlets (Common Frontiers -, CoDevelopment Canada -, The Dominion - have been active and reporting on the same."

The corporate press has been considerably less interested.

According to a Lexis Nexis search for "Zelaya" and "Honduras", Canada's five major newspapers combined for only 77 articles since the coup took place over five months ago. By comparison, in only one week, they combined for 103 articles about the Tiger Woods scandal.

Anthony Fenton put the search terms "Zelaya" and "Honduras" through the Canadian Newsstand Database. [17] His search covered two months and included five days after the election. Excluding articles that were "briefs" of only a few sentences, he found 72 articles. Only 9 of the 72 articles (12.7%) mentioned Canadian policy or officials like Peter Kent; only thirty were written by a Canadian journalist or pundit and, of those thirty, half were reprints of an op-ed by Gwynne Dyer.

Gwynne Dyer's Game

On his website, Dyer's two articles about Honduras are entitled Zelaya's Game I and II. Both were published in newspapers across Canada.

Dyer depicts Zelaya as an opportunist with minimal popular support who has orchestrated events in Honduras to make a power grab. [18] In his first article, Dyer accused Zelaya or provoking confrontation in an attempt to extend his term, the same charge made by the perpetrators of the coup. In his second article, after perhaps becoming a bit more familiar with the facts, Dyer made the more vague claim that Zelaya was seeking to "destroy the existing constitutional order". Dyer accuses Zeleya's opponents of "stupidity" for over reacting to Zelaya's machinations and thereby creating conditions under which Zelaya "could win" - a possibility that Dyer clearly dreads.

Dyer does not produce the lunatic right wing ravings of a writer like David Warren (who called Zelaya a "totalitarian maniac"). I did not think it would be a waste of time to send Dyer an email urging him to look at the work done by independent journalists on the ground in Honduras.[19] In fact, Grahame Russsell of Rights Action also sent an email to Dyer. He never replied to either of us, but he wrote an article a month later that was not much better informed than his first and, if anything, even more supportive of Micheltti's regime (despite deploring its supposed tactical "stupidity").

Dyer claimed that the coup was "all done quite legally" This would mean that expelling Zelaya from his country at gun point and reading a forged letter of resignation in Congress was legal - to say nothing of the illegal (and very well documented) acts of repression committed against the population which Dyer wrote nothing about.

Incredibly, he takes Zelaya's opponents at their word when they claim that protecting the one term limit on the presidency was their motive for overthrowing Zelaya. He says nothing about US and Canadian complicity with the coup. He does not quote or consider anything said by the Hondurans organizing resistance against the regime at tremendous personal risk.

Dyer refers vaguely to polls that claimed that Zelaya's support among Hondurans was at about 25% at the time of the coup. He ignores polls done since the coup (some of which I forwarded to him weeks before his second article appeared). Recent polls have found that roughly 2/3 of Hondurans assess Zelaya's presidency positively - an equal proportion assess Micheletti harshly. According to one recent poll the majority of Hondurans would like to change the "existing constitutional order" which has kept Honduras among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. [20] Only two countries in Latin America (Guatemala and Bolivia) rank lower in child mortality than Honduras. [21] The existing "constitutional order" has, of course, worked very well for the perpetrators of the coup.

According to Dyer, the use of direct democracy was a strategy Zelaya dreamed up near the end of his term as part of his "game" to extend his power. In fact, Zelaya had campaigned promising to increase direct citizen participation and Congress has passed a law to facilitate it in 2006. Dyer also overstates Zelaya's shift to the left during his presidency. Dyer presents closer relations with Venezuela as part of Zelaya's unilateral shift to the left, but joining the Venezuelan initiated trade block, ALBA, was a decision ratified by Congress. Zelaya did issue a decree raising the minimum wage by 60%, hardly uncalled for in a nation as poor as Honduras. [22]

Helmut and Janet Enns, two Canadians who have been to Honduras since the coup, wrote a reply to Dyer. Two newspapers published it. In contrast, Dyer's second article on Honduras was published in twelve Canadian newspapers. The Enns clearly identified the interests served and the people hurt by the smokescreen Dyer throws up his articles:

"....Any voices opposing the coup will continue to be silenced with killings, torture, rape, disappearances. Any small improvements made during Zelaya's term will be wiped out. Multi-national, like Canada's T-shirt giant, Gildan, and mining companies, including Goldcorp will have free rein to do whatever they want, at immeasurable costs to the Honduran people and the environment. The Honduras of today, since June 28, is eerily similar to the era of the military death squads 30 years ago. And, should this coup be successful in Honduras, which Central American country will be next?"


1) Send polite, non-abusive emails to the following
( copy all letters and replies to )

Gwynne Dyer

National Post:

Toronto Sun:

Montreal Gazette:

Toronto Star

Public Editor (
Editor (
Lynda Hurst (
Letters (

Toronto Globe & Mail

Editor (
Letters (

2) Check out the Rights Action website and consider participating in their alerts

3) Write to the Canadian Prime Minister and copy your MP

4) Forward this alert far and wide



[2] see June 29 entry
see also IPS;"Honduras: Coup d'Etat - What's In a Name?" by Diana Cariboni]

[3] See note 1

[4] Http://











[11] The accord stipulated the following timeline:
" October 30, 2009

1. Signing and entrance of the Accord into effect.
2. Formal delivery of the Accord to Congress for the effects of Point 5, "Regarding the Executive Power."
November 2, 2009
1. Formation of the Verification Commission.
After the signing of this Accord and no later than November 5
1. Formation and installation of the National Unity and Reconciliation Government."






[15] On election say repression see

MEDIA RELEASE, December 4, 2009
Rights Action (Canada) disputes misleading statements made by Canadian Minister Peter Kent concerning repression during Honduras' undemocratic elections on November 29th.

On turnout for the election see



[16] see note 15 - Rights Action response to Peter Kent





[20] Recent Polls:


Poll below found majority support reforming the constitution




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