Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WNU #1215 : Kennedy Backed Plan for 1964 Brazil Coup

Issue #1215, April 6, 2014

1. Brazil: Kennedy Backed Plan for 1964 Coup
2. Cuba: USAID’s “Cuban Twitter” Flops
3. Mexico: Four Die in Chiapas Land Dispute
4. Honduras: Three Convicted in Reporter's Murder
5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin Amercia, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/policy

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. It is archived at http://weeklynewsupdate.blogspot.com. For a subscription, write to weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WeeklyNewsUpdat.

*1. Brazil: Kennedy Backed Plan for 1964 Coup
On Apr. 1, the 50th anniversary of the military coup that removed left-leaning Brazilian president João Goulart (1961-64) from office, the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive posted 16 Brazil-related documents from the administration of US president John Kennedy (1961-1963) on its website. The documents—which include declassified National Security Council (NSC) records and recently transcribed tapes of White House conversations—detail the administration’s efforts to bring President Goulart into line, and its plans for dealing with him if he continued to implement social reforms and to oppose US policy on Cuba.

President Kennedy and his advisers were considering a military coup as early as July 1962, according to a tape Kennedy made secretly of a July 30 meeting in the Oval Office. “We may very well want [the Brazilian military] to take over at the end of the year, if they can,” then-deputy assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs Richard Goodwin advised. Lincoln Gordon, the US ambassador to Brazil, said that “one of our important jobs is to strengthen the spine of the military. To make clear, discreetly, that we are not necessarily hostile to any kind of military action whatsoever if it’s clear that the reason for the military action is…[Goulart’s] giving the country away to the...” “Communists,” Kennedy interrupted, finishing the sentence.

On Dec. 11, 1962, a meeting of the NSC’s Executive Committee considered three options on Brazil: “do nothing and allow the present drift to continue”; “collaborate with Brazilian elements hostile to Goulart with a view to bringing about his overthrow”; and “seek to change the political and economic orientation of Goulart and his government.” The committee decided on the third option, saying that Goulart’s opponents lacked the “capacity and will to overthrow” him and that there wasn’t “a near-future US capability to stimulate [a coup] operation successfully.” But the NSC felt that the coup option “must be kept under active and continuous consideration.”

President Kennedy sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to talk to Goulart on Dec. 17, but the Brazilian president continued with his reforms and his independent foreign policy. By October 1963 the US president felt he’d had enough. “Do you see a situation where we might be—find it desirable to intervene militarily ourselves?” he asked at an Oct. 7 meeting. “I would not want us to close our minds to the possibility of some kind of discreet intervention which would help see the right side win,” Ambassador Gordon said, and called for contingency plans to get ammunition or fuel to pro-US factions of the military. After the meeting, Gordon returned to Brazil and supervised the preparation of these plans at the US embassy. The plans had what a Nov. 22 transmission memorandum described as “a heavy emphasis on armed intervention.”

Kennedy never read the Nov. 22 memo; he was assassinated that day. It was left to the administration of his successor, President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969), to back the Brazilian military when it overthrew Goulart in April 1964. (National Security Archive 4/2/14; La Jornada (Mexico) 4/3/14 from correspondent)

As the center-left government of current Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff marked the coup anniversary this month, a grassroots organization, the Xingu Alive Forever Movement (MXVPS), charged that old policies of spying on activists were continuing despite the restoration of democracy in 1985. MXVPS coordinator Antonia Melo has filed a complaint against the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) and the Belo Monte Construction Consortium (CCBM) charging that they spied on the group during its annual planning meeting in February 2013. The MXVPS is a collective of organizations opposing the building of the giant Belo Monte dam in Vitória do Xingu municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará [see Update #1189]. (Adital (Brazil) 4/3/14)

*2. Cuba: USAID’s “Cuban Twitter” Flops
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), a US government foreign aid agency, secretly ran a cell phone-based imitation of the Twitter social networking service in Cuba from 2010 to 2012, according to an Apr. 3 report by the Associated Press (AP) wire service. The service—named “ZunZuneo,” Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet—was developed in conjunction with two private contractors, the Washington, DC-based Creative Associates International and the Denver-based Mobile Accord. ZunZuneo was popular with young Cubans, who were unaware of its origin; by 2012 the service had some 40,000 subscribers.

The Cuban government restricts internet access but encourages the use of cell phones, provided by the state-owned enterprise Cubacel. Starting in 2009 and using 500,000 phone numbers supplied secretly by a “key contact” at Cubacel, USAID and Creative Associates began constructing a messaging service similar to Twitter but based on cell phone text messages rather than the internet. ZunZuneo went public in February 2010, with nonpolitical messages on subjects like music and sports.

But providing Cubans with a social network was apparently not USAID’s main goal. The agency eventually planned to use ZunZuneo to create what it called “smart mobs” in “critical/opportunistic situations,” according to USAID documents, with the strategic objective of “push[ing Cuba] out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get[ting] the transition process going again towards democratic change.” Planning for ZunZuneo started about a year after USAID officials discussed “between five to seven different transition plans” for “hastening a peaceful transition to a democratic, market-oriented society” in Cuba, according to documents filed in federal court in Washington in January 2013 [see Update #1160]. USAID also used the service to construct what AP described as “a vast database about the Cuban subscribers, including gender, age, ‘receptiveness’ and ‘political tendencies’”; the agency said it could use this information to “maximize our possibilities to extend our reach.”

The “Cuban Twitter” project eventually unraveled because of the difficulty of keeping ZunZuneo’s origins secret and the cost of running it—including the large payments USAID’s front companies had to make to Cubacel for the text messages. By the end of 2012 ZunZuneo had collapsed--to the disappointment of many Cuban users—without ever being used to promote “smart mobs.” (AP 4/3/14)

The Cuban government quickly denounced the project after the AP story’s publication. “The US should respect international law and the intentions and principles of the United Nation’s Charter,” Cuban Foreign Ministry North American division director Josefina Vidal said on Apr. 4. She called for the US to “end its illegal and covert actions against Cuba.” (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/5/14 from AFP, DPA) Reaction was not much more favorable in Washington, where USAID head Rajiv Shah is scheduled to testify on Apr. 8 before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. In a television appearance on Apr. 3, the subcommittee’s chair, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), described the project as “dumb, dumb, dumb.” (AP 4/4/14)

*3. Mexico: Four Die in Chiapas Land Dispute
Four people died the morning of Apr. 5 in a confrontation between indigenous Mexicans over land in Chilón municipality in the highland region of the southeastern state of Chiapas. The violence broke out when some 25 people tried to remove members of the Regional Organization of Autonomous Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO) from a 84-hectare ranch; sources differ on whether the ranch is called San Luis or Luis Irineo. The attackers were apparently egged on by the former owner of the ranch, which a group of ORCAO members took over in 1994. On Apr. 6 the state attorney general’s office announced that four people had been arrested in the incident. (La Jornada (Mexico) 4/6/14; SDP Noticias (Mexico) 4/6/14)

The Jan. 1, 1994 uprising of the Chiapas-based Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) sparked land occupations throughout the state’s highlands, but not all the occupying groups were sympathetic to the Zapatistas; disputes continue to this day. Zapatista supporters in the Apr. 10 Ejido (communal farm), located between Altamirano and Las Margaritas in the highlands, say ORCAO members joined some 300 people from the “Democratic faction” of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC) in a Jan. 30 attack on the ejido with stones, clubs and machetes that left six people injured [see World War 4 Report 2/19/14]. Medical workers from Altamirano’s San Carlos Hospital were reportedly attacked when they attempted to help the injured. EZLN supporters accuse the Las Margaritas municipal government as well as the state and federal governments of inciting the violence. (Proceso (Mexico) 2/19/14)

Zapatista sympathizers report that Juan Carlos Gómez Silvano, the regional coordinator of the pro-EZLN Ejido San Sebastián Bachajón, was murdered on Mar. 21 while in Chilón municipality, a little less than one year after the murder of another member of the ejido, Juan Vázquez Guzmán. The sources are not clear on the motives for the killings, but they point to Chilón mayor Leonardo Guirao Aguilar, of the small centrist Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), and mention a possible connection of the violence to the Florida-based Norton Consulting real estate company and plans for the development of tourism in the region, which includes the Palenque archeological site. (Koman Ilel (Mexico) 3/22/14; Enlace Zapatista (Mexico) 4/2/14)

*4. Honduras: Three Convicted in Reporter's Murder
On Mar. 25 a Tegucigalpa court convicted three men in the May 2012 murder of Honduran journalist Angel Alfredo Villatoro Rivera [see Update #1130]. Marvin Alonso Gómez and the brothers Osman Fernando and Edgar Francisco Osorio Argujo are scheduled to be sentenced on Apr. 25; prison terms could range from 40 years to life. At least 40 Honduran journalists have been murdered in the past decade, with few convictions. Cases include the July 2013 kidnapping and murder of television journalist Aníbal Barrow [see Update #1184] and the October 2013 shooting death of Globo TV camera operator Manuel Murillo Varela [see Update #1199]. The French-based organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Honduras 129th out of 180 countries in its 2014 press freedom index. (Thomas Reuters Foundation 3/28/14; IFEX 3/31/14)

In related news, there have still been no arrests in the August 2013 shooting deaths of three members of the Tolupan indigenous group near an anti-mining and anti-logging protest in the community of Locomapa in the northern department of Yoro [see Update #1190]. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, or CIDH in Spanish), an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), issued precautionary measures for the protection of 38 Locomapa residents on Dec. 19, but the suspects in the killings remain free. On Mar. 27 Selvin Matute, one of the two main suspects, warned an anti-mining activist that if the protesters continued to make declarations on Radio Progreso, they would be dragged from their houses and their tongues would be cut off. (América Latina en Movimiento (ALAI) 4/4/14)

*5. Links to alternative sources on: Latin Amercia, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, US/policy

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In Bolivia, Being a Journalist and Organizer go Together

Colombia: gains against Buenaventura butchers?

Venezuela: A Call for Peace

Where is Venezuela’s Political Violence Coming From? A Complete List of Fatalities from the Disturbances

Lessons from the Costa Rican Elections

One Year Later: Rio Blanco Still Holds Strong Against Damming and Death (Honduras)

One Year of Resistance in Rio Blanco (Honduras)

Tolupan Land Defenders Subject to More Threats in Honduras

Where Does the Left Stand in Guatemala?

Tell Secretary Kerry: No US Funds to the Guatemalan Army!

On Mexican Isthmus, Indigenous Communities Oppose Massive Energy Projects

Fracking, Seismic Activity Grow Hand in Hand in Mexico

Mexican Peace Activist Says Focus Must Be More on Justice than Peace

Va Por Kuy: Deadly "Non-Lethal" Weapons and Disappearance Under Peña-Nieto's Reign (Mexico)

NAFTA Linked to Massive Human Rights Violations in Mexico

Canada Arms Mexico

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba (US/policy)

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