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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/2/09

USA's Role In the Honduran Coup -- and How We Must Fix It

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"The U.S. Army School of the Americas ... is a school that has run more dictators than any other school in the history of the world." -- Congressman Joseph Kennedy

They're baaaaaa-aaaack! "They" being military dictatorships in Latin America, such as the Reagan administration loved so much and so readily supported with guns and money.

Last weekend, a military coup in Honduras overthrew the democratically elected government of that Central American nation and sent President Manuel Zelaya into exile in Costa Rica. The coup was apparently led by Romeo Vasquez, a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas (SOA), a military/torture school located at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Most Americans have probably never heard of the SOA, which was cleverly renamed a few years ago to "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)", perhaps in an attempt to dodge the stigma surrounding the school's reputation.

But changing the name doesn't change the fact that the school continues to use our tax dollars to train Latin American warlords and dictators in the art of torture and repression. The graduates then use their new skills to violate human rights in their home countries. Like we're seeing now in Honduras.

The United Nations General Assembly has condemned the coup and has called for the peaceful restoration of President Zelaya. So has the Organization of American States.

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, simply provided the following statement in a press release:

"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."
But here I think some outside interference is indeed called for. Because talk is cheap, especially when there is U.S. funding -- more of our tax dollars -- still flowing into Honduras.

If Obama truly wants to break away from the Reagan-Bush legacy, he should do the following:

" Call for the immediate, safe, and unconditional return of President Zelaya the presidency;

" Call for the immediate, safe, and unconditional release of any government officials and activists who may currently be detained as a result of the coup; and

" Suspend all military aid to Honduras. They need to know that we mean business -- literally as well as figuratively. If we do not do this, then we are essentially supporting the coup with our tax dollars.

Then he should close the SOA/WHINSEC for good. Our training has contributed to more than enough human rights violations by SOA graduates.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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