Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Son and Afghanistan

Well most of you know that my son is in the National Guard and has been training to go to Afghanistan.  He has marching orders for July 9, 2010.  I am terrified for him.  I don´t quite know how to act right now.  I can´t really sleep well and I am scared for him beyond all belief.  He is my oldest son and the fear grows inside me as each day passes.  I never thought I would find myself in a battle of my patriotic feelings for my country, the US and the pride that he went into the service and my downright fear for him being sent to this war that I have long ago lost belief in.  I at first believed in this war, but long ago it lost meaning for me.  I understand that we had tragic events in 2001 and at that time it was the right thing to go after Bin Laden, but I am not sure what is right or wrong anymore now that it is nine years later and we are still there. 

I ask readers who have children there, or children who went or are just following along to please pray for him and his safe return. I know that prayer in numbers works.  I have placed some pictures of him here that are both military and non military so that you can see the me he is still just a kid even at almost 20...that you are praying for.  May our voices be heard...

The History of a De facto President and Two Real Military Coups

Many international communities and even people inside Honduras, that are too young to remember who Oswaldo Enrique Lopez Arellano is call what happened on June 28, 2009 a military coup.  What happened that day was anything but a military coup.  I am going to concentrate on the life of the late Oswaldo Lopez Arellano.

Today Oswaldo Lopez Arellano passed away during surgery for prostate cancer.  He was born June 30, 1921 and passed away today May 16, 2010 at the age of 89.  He first attained power through a coup in 1963 ruling until 1971 and then again from 1972 to 1975.  The current constitution was written in 1982. 

Oswaldo Lopez was fluent in English and had attended an affluent school in Tegucigalpa known as the American school.  At the age of 18 like most young Honduran men he joined the military.  He then became a pilot in the Honduran Air Force.  Lopez eventually became a Coronel and then became a General. He married and had five children. 

Lopez also served in the interim presidency briefly during a 1957 coup, but resigned after elections were held.  He actually served as a de facto president after a coup that removed Ramon Villeda Morales. Villeda was a Liberal president that wanted to oversee the democratization of Honduras and was elected by the General Assembly(not free elections).  Just ten days before an election that would have reelected Villeda, a then very popular president, Lopez committed a coup de tat against Villeda and removed him to Costa Rica.  Villeda relocated to New York and died there in 1971. San Pedro Sula´s international airport is named after him.  His son was in the truth commission that defended Micheletti in Costa Rica this past year.

Looking back at 1956 and the first Military Junta.  Julio Lozano Diaz was removed by a military junta October 21, 1956. During this administration for a brief period Lopez was named as part of the military junta.

Military General Lopez took control after a coup October 3, 1963 and remained in control until June 5, 1965 during a very unstable political era. On June 6, 1965 he was elected president by the Constitutional Assembly(remember what I said about Americans not understanding the word Constitutional Assembly? Well here you have it, the assembly names the president, he isn´t elected and the entire constitution is rewritten to his and his supporters liking, not to the liking of the public, during this time all rights are suspended). 

Not everything about Lopez Arellano´s government was bad, in fact there were quite a few good things that came out of his government.  However, Lopez was a populist president, not a liberal or nationalist president. 

Among improvements that occurred during his government are:

Improvements to the roads of the litoral Atlantic, North and Occidental areas.
Construction of marketplaces, centers and subcenters of health, public office buildings, school rooms
Creation of the Technical Center Honduran-German
Completion of the Hospital in Tegucigalpa known as School Hospital.
Founding of Workers Bank
Founding of National school of Forest Sciences in Siguatapeque, National School of Agriculture, and others.
Decree of a law guarantee of education, retirement for elderly, magestrate pensions
Creation of the Anthropology and History institute, and agricutural reform.
Creation of the Port Entry
Finished the Second level of the hydroelectric plant at Yajoa Rio Lindo

Lopez was in control during the war between El Salvador and Honduras known as the Soccer War. (Football is what Hispanics call it). 

The war was a little more complicated than that.  During this period about 300,000 Salvadorans lived in Honduras, most of them in Honduras illegally.  Most of the Salvadorans had come in search of fresh lands to cultivate.  Lopez initiated a massive deportation campaign of Salvadorans and turn over those lands to Hondurans. There was also a huge problem at the border between both countries and border disputes were at a boiling point.

On July 14, 1969 Honduras was invaded by the National Guard of El Salvador. They bombed several sections of Honduras including Tegucigalpa, Choluteca, Juticalpa, Sta Rosa de Copan, and Catacamas.  For a short time El Salvador managed to take control of Ocotepeque, San Marcos de Ocotepeque, and a few other bordering towns like Goascaran, Alianza, La Virtud, and Aramancina.  The attack was reported to the Organization of American States. Eventually the agression was propelled and El Salvador was pushed back into its borders and the Treaty of Lima was signed.  In it though, Arellano agreed to allow elections in Honduras.

On July 4, 1972 Lopez again created a coup against the government. This time removed was Dr Ramon Ernesto Cruz. During this period he took a reformist line. He also affirmed his divorce from the traditional red (liberal) and blue (nationalist) parties. 

One of his first acts was to contain the invasions by campesinos into public and private property.  During this period he created the organization INFOP (institute of Professional Formation by decree 10.) This organization was created to improve the quality of workers and their education to the benefit of the businesses in Honduras.

Lopez also was in control during the famous Bananagate.  Most Americans recognize the Bananagate term in fact, it is from this act that Banana republic became a term against countries like Honduras. In 1974, Standard Fruit Company and the government came head to head.  Lopez raised the price of tariffs on Standard Fruit and Standard Fruit did not wait to react...they came full force with their economic strength, they began the destruction of 100 thousand boxes of bananas a week and reduced exports. Eventually the government relented and reduced the export tariff also in effect was the bribe that was paid to the government to reduce that tariff.  Standard Fruit Company paid 2.5 million in exchange for the removal of tariffs. The day after all of this came to a head Lopez Arellano was destituted from his charge as president and General Juan Alberto Melgar Castro took his place.

However, before Bananagate brought down Lopez he was faced with Hurricane Fifi on the 14th of September 1974 Hurricane Fifi came ashore. This hurricane devastated extensive zones of Honduras and caused the death of at least 10,000 people especially in Choloma a suburban area of San Pedro Sula. The neighborhood where I live was completely under water during Hurricane Fifi, but was not flooded during Hurricane Mitch of 1998. During Fifi almost 40% of exported products were completely destroyed and over 15,000k2 were destroyed.  Eventually it took 600 million dollars to rebuild the infrastructure in Honduras and two years for agricultural exports to be replaced.

Manuel Zelaya Running Around Like a Stuck Pig

Manuel Zelaya is back to traveling everywhere again trying to get support to make Pepe give him amnesty for his crimes. He is complaining that he should not only receive immunity from prosecution, but that he should also be allowed to hold a political position in Honduras and move politics including a Constitutional Assembly. 

Americans mostly do not understand what a Constitutional Assembly is, because they have never faced one in their lifetime.  It is a complete rewrite of the Constitution in which every guarantee is suspended for a period of two years and there are no elections.  During the time of Lopez Orellano when the Constitutional rewrite occurred here and a military coup in 1963 there were 3,000 deaths. A bit of irony is that Lopez Orellano died today from Prostate Cancer, but I will discuss his life and the politics surrounding him in another article later today, since I am depending on my father in law to give me vivid details since he lived the two coups that occurred then.

What is interesting is that Zelaya has traveled to Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc to try to get support for his plan of reconciliation.  What he has failed to understand is the entire world understands he is no longer president and that Pepe Lobo is the Constitutionally elected president of Honduras.  He also has failed miserably in understanding the laws of his own country.  In Honduras, due to abuse, several years ago all immunity for political leaders was suspended.  No political leader has any immunity from prosecution for common crimes they commit.  They can receive via Congressional decree immunity for political crimes, this has already occurred for Zelaya.  He insists that he is innocent, so if he is innocent why doesn´t he just come face the music as his ministers have done?

He claims that he will suffer persecution and not receive a fair trial, but to date only 1 is actually convicted and he is out while he appeals, the others are out on bail while they defend themselves of the charges they face.  So how is it that he is not going to receive fair treatment if all of his ministers have received fair treatment? What does he base this accusation on? Pepe is not affiliated with the former interim government and he was elected.  He has no reason to offer Zelaya anything other than a fair trial...he isn´t going to lose his presidential spot, there is nothing at stake here. If Zelaya wants to return he can at any time return, he must however face trial...just like any other citizen in Honduras that is accused of a crime. 

Zelaya is accustomed to being able to buy his way out of trouble.  Many wealthy citizens are able to attain this via ´mordidas´that they give to officials.  Normal citizens are not able to obtain this type of escape which is nothing but corruption anyway.  For once a rich man understands what it is like to be treated like a normal citizen and evidently he doesn´t like it.  His father killed a priest, nuns, and several environmental protesters in Olancho and was liberated of his crimes along with a powerful general in the military, he thought this would be the case with him too...but he was sadly mistaken.