Dear President Obama,
Today is a blurry day for those of us with eyes on Central America, mister president. It’s blurry because we’ve watched herman@s suffering day and night over the last four months in that small country in the waist of America, Honduras, and now, after all the blood and toil, you throw salt in their wounds.
Though it is a mighty responsibility to take on, I dare say that I’m writing this evening on behalf of millions of people around the world, yes, people around the world, but most of all in the countries that form Latin America. I dare say that I speak for hundreds of millions when I say that we expected better of you.
We rejoiced when you declared your opposition to the coup that overthrew that gentle, mustachioed man, the president of Honduras and your counterpart, Mel Zelaya. You stated wisely that we could not allow this to set a precedent for the would-be coup-plotters of the world. Hearing this, from the mouth of the leader of the country that has overturned 42 governments in Latin America, was uncanny yet strangely beautiful, like hearing the Star Spangled Banner from the stratocaster of Jimi Hendrix.
But it seemed you were alone in your lament for Honduran democracy, brother president, for every time one of your people mentioned Honduras, it seemed they were capitulating to the golpistas. In spite of thousands of documented human rights violations — rapes, targeted assassinations, illegal detentions, the shutting down of opposition media outlets, curfews, the suspension of constitutional rights, the maiming of a presidential candidate — your people said not a word. In spite of the tear-gassing of peaceful demonstrations, in spite of the use of high-powered water cannons against non-violent resistors, the same weapons of repression used against the movement that paved the way for your ascendency to the throne of the land, your people said nothing. So, Mr. Community Organizer, Mr. Agent of Change, Mr. Mixed Race Immigrant Halfie Identity — which side are you on? The side of your roots, the truth, the ideal that brought you to power? Or that side’s antithesis?
We knew the Pentagon supported the coup, and we knew the Republicans supported the coup, and we knew that most Democrats were indifferent at best. But we had the suspicion, quixotic now it seems to have been, that you would hold your own against the Jim DeMints of the nation. You’re a swell guy, Barack, we all know that. So of course you’d side with the underdog! But when you sent Tommy Shannon to make the final negotiation in Tegucigalpa, and when it became clear that Zelaya had been duped and would not be restored to the presidency, and when Shannon assured DeMint that you would recognize today’s elections in spite of thousands of human rights violations, and when we heard DeMint say that he would lift his hold on Shannon’s aspirations to the ambassadorship of Brazil, and when you wrote the Brazilian president to, among other things, reaffirm your decision to recognize these farce elections, we realized we were wrong.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Your rubber-stamping of the coup in Honduras has established a new model for the anti-democratic forces of Latin America — that’s the worst of it. Have you heard of the rumors of a coup in Paraguay? Have you caught wind of the statements of the ARENA death-squad party in El Salvador? Did they tell you when your fellow Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchu warned of a coup in Guatemala? Have they briefed you on the “separatist movements” in Venezuela and Bolivia and Ecuador? Now these rumors, which until today have been nothing more than that, become grave threats to the sovereignty of our continent, and it’s because you’ve shown them that you won’t interfere. Pin that one in your hat!
We wonder how this bodes for your own future, Mr. President, or if it bodes at all. Not that you pose any threat to the oligarchs who control this country, but the cynic in us wishes Beck & Boehner would hijack the four branches, order them to invade the White House with guns blazing, kidnap you in your peejays, then whisk you off to Newfoundland. Let Murdoch and Cheney decide your fate. Something tells me you wouldn’t have the gall to sneak back into the capital like Zelaya did, a move that your OAS rep characterized as “irresponsible and foolish.” This is the same guy, Lewis Anselm, who would go on to degrade the solidarity of the Latin American countries with Honduras as “magical realism,” simultaneously degrading that great contribution to the history of world literature. Quite frankly, the implications of that comment outdo anything the Bush folks ever said with regards to our America.
Speaking of literature, I wonder if you ever got around to reading Galeano‘s The Open Veins of Latin America, the book Hugo Chavez gave you. I know you shrugged off the reporters by saying that just because someone gives you a book doesn’t mean you have to read it. That was quite the witty remark, but you should keep in mind that this is a book that many of us hold very dearly to our hearts, as it captures poetically the five-century exploitation by the western powers of our continent, and the tremendous resistance our people have expressed. The coup in Honduras is certainly worthy of an addendum to Galeano’s great work, though I’m afraid you will end up on the wrong side of the history.
For many of us this coup in Honduras is the coup de grace for our hopes that you would improve the Latin America policy of the empire. At first we had hopes, but failure after failure led us to the biggest failure of all. Let’s connect the dots:
- When you were campaigning for the presidency you spoke of the failure of the Cuban embargo and how you’d put an end to it. But you flopped, and now you support the embargo, saying that you can use it as “leverage” to push democratic reforms on the island. (For all its flaws, let it be known that Cuba will not bow to such leverage.)
- Then you quickly appointed Eric Holder as the Attorney General, the very lawyer who represented Chiquita‘s financing of the paramilitaries who slaughtered thousands in Uraba, the department home to the company’s plantations.
- And then you kept silent when several hundred indigenous people were killed by the Peruvian government. They’d risen up to protest plans to extract minerals from their ancestral land, in Amazonia, and this plan was prompted by the US/Peru free trade agreement that you voted for. I recall your indignation at the death of the brave protestors in Iran, but with the massacre of Peruvian Indians you didn’t seem to care; this in spite of that fact that your country is largely responsible.
- And then your people in the Pentagon introduced plans to build/occupy seven military bases in Colombia. We were assured that the bases were to fight terrorists and narcos, but our doubts were confirmed with the release of an Air Force document explaining that this “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere. . . .” Exactly as Chavez had warned, it was admitted in this document that the bases would allow the US to combat “anti-US governments” in the region! Did you know that Colombia has the highest rate of assassinated unionists in the world? The highest rate of internal displacement outside of Sudan? A state controlled in large part by paramilitaries, certified terrorists per your State Department’s own list? Are these things considered when deciding to send hundreds of millions in military aid to the country with the worst human rights abuses in the hemisphere?
- Finally, today, you and Colombia and the extreme right of Latin America recognize the farce elections in Honduras.
As we connect the dots — keeping in mind that your predecessor reactivated the Navy’s Fourth Fleet and that the full realization of this will take place under your watch — we being to see the outline of what the empire has in store for Latin America. Will you recede from Central Asia and the Middle East and refocus your weapons on the vast resources of the Andes, Amazonia, and the Orinoco Basin? Are there more coups in store for the progressive governments of the region? More attempts to fragment the nations trying to unite in favor of deeper democracy and social justice? Some say Honduras was the testing ground for a fresh wave of fascism in Latin America, attacking the ALBA countries at the weakest link. We ask respectfully and in deference to the Knight’s Code of Chivalry, which has it that you must at all times speak the truth: Is it so?
Regardless or whether you’re aware of these shiftings, for us they are as real as death. Regardless of your seemingly good intentions, with every handshake, lyrical flourish, and glance of your righteous eyes, you are tampering with our destiny. Indeed, today a tyranny was vindicated in Honduras. But lest your handlers become too optimistic, in that other little Latin American republic that held elections on the same day, one more leftist was elected to the presidency of Uruguay. Like Manuel Zelaya, Pepe Mujica has a mustache. But unlike his Honduran counterpart, who was a wealthy logger before coming to power, el Pepe was a founder of the Tupamaro guerilla movement. We hope that this sets more of a precedent than your coup in Honduras, Brother Barack, and we shall fight to the death to ensure this is so.
En la Resistencia,