By School of the Americas Watch
Latin America awoke yesterday to two extraordinary announcements that will impact the region for years to come; one in Honduras producing tentative hope, and the other in Colombia, sowing widespread concern and fear. Together they reflect the dual nature of the Obama Administration´s approach to Latin America.
Hope arrived in the form of a decision that opens the door to the return of President Manuel Zelaya to office, heralding an end to the brutal four-month coup that was orchestrated by SOA graduate Romeo Vasquez. After a visit by Assistant Secretary of State, Tom Shannon, an agreement was brokered that will allow Honduran Congress to return Zelaya to power, something that both parties see as forthcoming.
Latin Americans celebrated the decision as a victory for democracy, people power, and the growing solidarity among Latin American nations. Immediately after the forced removal of President Zelaya on June 28th, a resistance movement took to the streets of Honduras with two demands: the immediate return of Zelaya and a call for a constitutional assembly. They remained there for the next 125 days, in spite of brutal repression and the loss of at least 21 lives. All Latin American nations immediately repudiated the coup, and raised a unanimous voice, calling for Zelaya´s return.
According to Bertha Oliva, Director of COFADEH, many concerns remain. The international community is likely to interpret this as a conclusion to the Honduran problem, and turn their attention away at a crucial time. Elections are scheduled to take place on November 29th. The majority of the international community had refused to acknowledge the victor unless Zelaya was previously returned to office, prodding the State Department to go all out to broker an accord. But Oliva fears that election results are already compromised, as the majority of campaigning has taken place under an atmosphere of repression, detentions, torture, deaths and even the beating of one of the key independent candidates.
The Honduran National Resistance Front to the Coup D’etat has reiterated that their demand for a national constituent assembly is non-negotiable.
The U.S. Gains Access to 7 Military Bases in Colombia
Within hours of the likely restitution of democratic order in Honduras, Colombia announced that it has signed an agreement with the United States, granting them use of at least seven of its military bases for ten years and putting no limits on the number of US personnel to be deployed in Colombia.
The announcement of the use of the Colombian bases was immediately rejected throughout Latin America, especially by neighboring countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela, who have experienced recent incursions by the Colombian military into their territory. At a recent gathering of UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) South American presidents strongly criticized the deal.Concern was expressed that the Obama administration has taken one step further than the Bush administration in isolating several South American nations, sending a message with a a military muscle.
The escalation of a U.S. presence in South America highlights the importance of uniting in resistance this November. Join usNovember 20-22 in Columbus, GA as we remember the victims of U.S. interference in Latin America and protest against a foreign policy of militarization.