Monday, September 12, 2011

WNU #1096: Cable Links Honduran Landowner to Drug Flights

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #1096, September 11, 2011

1. Honduras: Cable Links Aguán Landowner to Drug Flights
2. Honduras: Two Resistance Activists Murdered
3. Chile: Thousands Commemorate 9/11 Coup
4. Haiti: Neoliberal Cabal Will “Advise” on Economic Policy
5. Mexico: 71 Unions Demand Probe of 2007 Murder
6. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

ISSN#: 1084 922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Honduras: Cable Links Aguán Landowner to Drug Flights
US diplomats suspected in 2004 that Honduran business owner Miguel Facussé Barjum may have been involved in three drug-related incidents at one of his properties, according to a secret US diplomatic cable released by the Wikileaks group on Aug. 30 of this year. The founder of the Grupo Dinant food product and cooking oil corporation and a member of a powerful family that includes media magnate and former Honduran president Carlos Roberto Flores Facussé (1998-2002), Miguel Facussé has been at the center of land disputes in the Lower Aguán Valley in the north of the country that have reportedly left 51 campesinos dead in the last two years [see Update #1094].

In the Mar. 19, 2004 partial cable--Wikileaks says the full text “is not available”--the US embassy in Tegucigalpa reported on a “known drug trafficking flight with a 1,000 kilo cocaine shipment from Colombia” and “a fruitless air interdiction attempt” by the Honduran Air Force on Mar. 14. Unidentified sources told the embassy that the plane landed on an estate belonging to Facussé at Farallones in Colón department on the northern coast. “[I]ts cargo was off-loaded onto a convoy of vehicles that was guarded by about 30 heavily armed men… The aircraft was then burned on Mar. 14 during daylight hours near the runway.” A “bulldozer/front-end loader buried the wreckage on the evening of Mar. 15,” according to a source.

The diplomats found it suspicious that Facussé didn’t report the incident until Mar. 17; they said he gave the police information that “obviously contradicts other information” the embassy had received. “Facussé’s property is heavily guarded,” the cable noted, “and the prospect that individuals were able to access the property and, without authorization, use the airstrip is questionable.” One source “also claimed that Facussé was present on the property at the time of the incident.”

“Of additional interest,” the cable concludes, “is that this incident marks the third time in the last 15 months that drug traffickers have been linked to this property owned by Mr. Facussé. In July 2003, a go-fast boat crashed into a sea wall on the same property and engaged in a firefight with National Police forces. Two known drug traffickers were arrested in this incident and 420 kilos of cocaine were recovered.” Earlier in 2003 another suspected drug flight “terminated at the same property and appeared to have used the same airstrip.” (Vos el Soberano (Honduras) 9/2/11)

*2. Honduras: Two Resistance Activists Murdered
An unidentified man shot and killed Honduran activist Mahadeo (“Emo”) Sadloo on Sept. 7 at his small automobile tire shop in eastern Tegucigalpa. Sadloo had been active in the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) from the time when the grassroots coalition was founded to oppose the June 2009 military coup against former president José Manuel (“Mel”) Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009); he was also a strong supporter of teacher and student demonstrations in defense of public education. Zelaya called Sadloo’s death a “political assassination” and a “declaration of war” against him and his supporters; the FNRP said it was “a political crime intended to demobilize and demoralize the Popular Resistance.”

Current president Porfirio (“Pepe”) Lobo Sosa promised a thorough investigation of the murder. “There is no interest in persecuting anyone politically,” he insisted at a press conference on Sept. 7, “much less in taking anyone’s life.” However, in August 2010 Lobo’s government reportedly considered deporting Sadloo as a foreigner who meddled in Honduran politics. Sadloo, a naturalized Honduran citizen of Indian origin, immigrated to Honduras from Suriname more than 35 years ago. (EFE 9/8/11 via (Spain); Latinoamérica de Hoy blog 9/7/11)

On the night of Sept. 8, the day after the Sadloo murder, a group of gunmen killed activist and journalist Medardo Flores in an ambush near his farm outside Puerto Cortés, the country’s main port, in the northern department of Cortés. In addition to running his farm, Flores was active in the resistance movement and worked for the Uno radio station in nearby San Pedro Sula, the second largest Honduran city. He spent the 1980s in exile to avoid being targeted in the “low-intensity war” then being carried out against alleged leftist rebels.

Flores is the 16th journalist murdered in Honduras since February 2010; the most recent victim before Flores was Nery Orellana, the director of a rural radio station who was shot dead on July 19 at the border between Honduras and El Salvador. None of the cases have been solved. The Security Ministry claims the murders are all for personal reasons, but most of the victims were opponents of the 2009 coup. (AFP 9/9/11 via El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula))

*3. Chile: Thousands Commemorate 9/11 Coup
On Sept. 11 Chileans marked the 38th anniversary of the coup d’état that overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973 and installed the 17-year dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Thousands of people gathered in the center of Santiago for a march to a memorial in the General Cemetery for the 3,225 people known to have have been killed by the Pinochet regime. The mobilization was organized by the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees and the National Assembly for Human Rights.

Many marchers carried Chilean flags; some had signs calling for restoration of public education, the demand of a student movement that has closed down universities and secondary schools in a three-month strike [see Update #1094]. Camila Vallejo, president of the Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH), participated, along with other student leaders. As often happens at Chilean demonstrations, the event was peaceful until the end, when a small group of hooded youths confronted the police and agents dispersed them with tear gas and water cannons. Organizers estimated that 10,000 people took part in the march. (AFP 9/11/11 via Terra (Peru); Radio Universidad de Chile 9/11/11)

Plans for a dialogue between student strike leaders and rightwing president Sebastián Piñera remained stalled as of Sept. 10. The students insisted that before talks start, the government should withdraw bills on education reform it sent to the National Congress. “At this point there’s no real interest in finding solutions,” according to Camilo Ballesteros, president of the Federation of Santiago de Chile University Students (FEUSACH). The government is just trying to “diminish the mobilizations, diminish their profile by sending bills to the legislature,” he said. (TeleSUR 9/10/11, some from EFE)

*4. Haiti: Neoliberal Cabal Will “Advise” on Economic Policy
On Sept. 8 Haitian president Michel Martelly announced the formation of a Presidential Advisory Council for Economic Development and Investment as part of a “strategic vision” that he claims will create 500,000 jobs over the next three years. The council is to help his administration “remove the brakes on investment to free up Haitian growth,” Martelly said.

The council’s two co-directors will be former US president Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and Laurent Lamothe, the president of the South Africa-based telecommunications company Global Voice Group. Three former heads of state are on the council in addition to Clinton: former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar (1996-2004), former Jamaican prime minister Percival Patterson (1992-2006) and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010). Aznar and Uribe are both rightists who, like Clinton, are strong proponents of neoliberal economic policies; Patterson is a moderate social democrat.

The council also includes Haitian American hip-hop star Wyclef Jean; Haitian Canadian Michaelle Jean, Canada’s governor general from 2005 to 2010; and Irish telecommunications magnate Dennis O’Brien, who owns the Haiti-based Digicel cell phone company.

Clinton already has a remarkable degree of influence over Haiti’s economic policies: in the country’s political circles he is referred to as the “governor of Haiti.” In addition to being the United Nations’ special envoy for the country, he is co-president of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, or CIRH in French and Spanish), which was established to monitor international aid for reconstruction after a January 2010 earthquake. (The other co-president is acting prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive, a holdover from the previous administration serving because so far the Parliament has refused to approve any of Martelly’s choices for prime minister.) The CIRH has received much of the blame for the slow pace of reconstruction, and its mandate expires in October. The position on Martelly’s advisory council seems to guarantee Clinton a leading role in Haiti even if the CIRH is closed down. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 9/8/11; Haïti Libre (Haiti) 9/9/11 (French), (English))

In other news, the newly formed Defense Council of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), representing 12 South American defense ministries, decided during a meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Sept. 8 to begin the gradual withdrawal of South American troops from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a military and police force that has occupied the country since June 2004. The force has been the target of protests in Haiti, especially after poor sanitary practices at a MINUSTAH base started a cholera epidemic last October that has killed some 6,000 people to date. Opposition swelled in the past month because of allegations that Uruguayan soldiers sexually abused Haitian youths in the southern town of Port-Salut [see Update #1095].

In its first stage, the withdrawal would lower the troop levels by 2,000 or more, bringing the force closer to the 9,000 members it had before the 2010 earthquake; since then the number has been about 12,200—some 8,700 soldiers and 3,500 police agents. MINUSTAH’s mandate comes up for renewal by the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 15. The Security Council is expected to approve a renewal, but probably with a reduced force in line with the UNASUR Defense Council’s decision. (TeleSUR 9/8/11, some from EFE, AFP, Prensa Latina; AlterPresse 9/9/11)

*5. Mexico: 71 Unions Demand Probe of 2007 Murder
Leaders of 71 unions in 18 countries have signed a letter to Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa expressing “grave concern for the lack of progress in the investigation” of the April 2007 murder of an organizer for the Ohio-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in Monterrey, in the northern state of Nuevo León [see Update #902]. After holding a press conference in Mexico City on Sept. 8, FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez delivered the letter to the Mexican president’s official residence, Los Pinos.

FLOC organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz was tied up and beaten to death in the union’s Monterrey office, where he worked educating and organizing farm laborers who were to be employed in the US under the H-2A visa temporary worker program. The FLOC won an unprecedented victory in 2004 when a North Carolina employers’ association signed a contract protecting the rights of guest workers in these programs. A year later, FLOC opened the Monterrey office to advise the workers on their labor rights even before they left for the US, and to protect them from corrupt recruiters demanding exorbitant fees.

One suspect in Cruz’s murder is in jail, but Nuevo León prosecutors failed to move against three other suspects. According to FLOC attorney Leonel Rivero Rodriguez, the state authorities have said at various times that Cruz was killed in a dispute over a woman, in a “drunken fight,” or because he himself was engaged in human trafficking. “I think if the investigation deepened, [the state authorities] were evidently going to touch sensitive issues within the government,” Rodriguez told the Toledo Blade. The unionists’ letter to President Calderón calls for the federal government to take over the investigation. (Toledo (Ohio) Blade 9/8/11; La Jornada (Mexico) 9/10/11; FLOC website, accessed 9/11/11)

*6. Links to alternative sources on: South America, Chile, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti, Puerto Rico

South American Nations Create Defense Council, Bank of the South

September 11 and 'The Story Behind the Coup' (Chile)

Brazilian Indians Demand Shell Leave Their Land

Bolivia: credit agencies hail resource boom; rainforest burns

Peru: strike closes Freeport McMoRan copper mine

Peru: World Bank explores indigenous self-sufficiency as adaptation to climate change

Climate Change Poses Challenge For Peru

Peru: Humala brother gets reduced sentence

Colombian teachers, students protest education reforms

Colombian high court re-legalizes drug possession

Colombian Music Festival Keeps Afro-Colombian Culture Alive

Colombia: Santos Shakes Up Military Leadership

The Santos Government Revises Military Strategy

The Pending US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: False Claims Versus Hard Realities

U.S. Sanctions Venezuelan Officials For Alleged FARC Ties

Missing the Point: Media Speculations Over Venezuela

Wikileaks Cables Reveal U.S. Embassy Works with Venezuelan Private Media

Nicaragua's Antidote to Violent Crime

Dying for Land in Honduras

Medical & Military Malpractice: The U.S. Public Health Service in Guatemala

Riding “The Beast” (Mexico)

Drug War Madness (Mexico)

Justice Department condemns unconstitutional conduct of Puerto Rico police

U.N. Troops Accused of Exploiting Local Women in Haiti

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