Thursday, November 03, 2011

WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Ties to Honduran Drug Dealer

By William Fisher

U.S. `drug war' funds and training are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos, a Latin American expert at the University of California at Santa Cruz charged today.

Prof. Dana Frank said today, "New Wikileaks cables reveal that the U.S. embassy in Honduras -- and therefore the State Department -- has known since 2004 that Miguel Facussé, the richest man in Honduras, who is allegedly responsible for the deaths of campesino activists in the Aguan Valley, is a cocaine importer.

“The U.S. is funding and training Honduran military and police that are conducting joint operations with the security guards of a known drug trafficker to violently repress a campesino movement on behalf of Miguel Facussé’s dubious claims to vast swathes of the Aguán Valley, in order to support his African palm biofuels empire.”

She added, "Despite strong anti-drug rhetoric from U.S. officials, State Department cables recently made available by Wikileaks show that the U.S. has been aware of the drug ties of one of Honduras’ most powerful and wealthy individuals since 2004, yet has continued to support him.”

She charged that “U.S. military and police assistance is also aiding the businessman, landowner and coup-backer Miguel Facussé, in a campaign of repression targeted at the campesinos whose land Facussé wants for production of palm oil,” adding:

“Despite the objections of 87 members of Congress, U.S. funding for the Honduran military and police continues, even though reports continue to emerge of police involvement in killings, such as in the recent case of the son of a university rector, and journalists and human rights activists continue to be targeted, with impunity."

The U.S. funds numerous programs in Latin America. One of them is known as The Central America Regional Security Initiative. Its goals are to create safe streets for the citizens in the region; disrupt the movement of criminals and contraband within and between the nations of Central America; support the development of strong, capable and accountable Central American Governments; Re-establish effective state presence and security in communities at risk; and foster enhanced levels of security and rule of law coordination and cooperation between the nations of the region.

The Public Record has so far been unsuccessful in asking the State Department to confirm this story and estimate the amount of money being used for these activities.

Frank is the author of several books including Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America, which focuses on Honduras. Since the coup she has spoken widely on Honduras for National Public Radio, Al-Jazeera English TV, Free Speech Radio News, and radio throughout the US, Honduras, and elsewhere, and published op-eds in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News,,, The, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, and the Huffington Post, and multiple articles for The Nation and its website. She recently wrote "WikiLeaks Honduras: U.S. Linked to Brutal Businessman." (

Campesinos are Latin American peasants, usually farmers.

Egypt’s Democracy: A Sometime Thing?

By William Fisher

As Egypt’s military rulers were pardoning 334 of the thousands being held for military trials, the generals may be preparing to administer the coup de grâce to Egypt’s nascent democracy.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has drafted a set of "supra-constitutional" principles that would grant the military outsized influence in writing a new constitution, including the power to object to any article in the new constitution, and keep the armed forces' budget confidential.

Messages of strong condemnation have greeted the move from numerous political forces. The April 6 Youth Movement, Al Wasat Party, Mohammed ElBaradei and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) of the Muslim Brotherhood, all have attacked the new proposals as a way for the SCAF to avoid accountability.

The drafting of the “supra-constitutional” amendments is seen as simply one more instance of the Army’s inability to govern in a democratic context. After a honeymoon period brought on because the Army declined to attack the protesters in Tahrir Square last January, the military’s credibility has fallen precipitously.

That downward trajectory has been hastened by a series of SCAF’s self-inflicted wounds. It arrested an estimated 12,000 demonstrators and brought them to trial before military courts. It has also been vilified for failing to lift the so-called Emergency Laws in effect for 30 years under Mubarak. These laws give the police and the security services wide latitude to arrest and detain without probable (or any) cause, and to try lawyerless defendants who are often unaware of the charges against them,

The use of military courts – harkening back to the dark years of the Mubarak regime –has brought noisy and continuous opposition from political parties and social movements of all persuasions.

In the period preceding and following the fall of Mubarak on Febrnary 11, army military police rounded up thousands of peaceful demonstrators and threw them into prisons. There is ample credible testimony regarding their treatment in custody: The women were given “virginity” tests; the men were tortured and there were a number of deaths in detention.

This week’s pardon of a few hundred prisoners seems bizarre, given the total in custody. No explanation was forthcoming regarding how these prisoners were selected to be freed.

On the council's Facebook page, it said the decision reflects its belief in the importance of communication with Egyptian people and the revolution youth. The names of the detainees to be pardoned will be announced later, the statement added.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s “other” government – civilians who have zero independent power and merely put a civilian face on military decisions – have been trying to make the generals look as good as possible.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali Al Selmi held a meeting with over 500 political figures to discuss the constitutional draft. However a number of parties, including the FJP and Salafi groups, boycotted the meeting to protest its inclusion of many former National Democratic Party members.

Responding to the new amendments, the Muslim Brotherhood demanded the dismissal of the entire government if it "continues on this course of action."

Criticism of the SCAF grew even more heated recently after the council
detained activist Alaa Abd El Fattah for 15 days pending investigations into
charges he humiliated the armed forces. The young blogger has refused to speak to military prosecutors or stand trial on the grounds he should be tried in a civilian court, according to the newspaper, “Al-Masry Al-Youm.”

The Project on Middle East Democracy, ordinarily a reliable source, reported that “Thousands gathered on Tuesday in Cairo and Alexandria to demonstrate against the detainment of prominent blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah as well as on going military trials to which civilians are subjected. They also expressed support for Abdel Fattah's decision to refuse questioning by the military prosecution.

Protests in Cairo arrived at the prison where Abdel Fattah is currently being held, while in Alexandria demonstrations were held outside a military headquarters where chants condemning military trials could be heard.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, as well as presidential hopeful Mohammed Saleem Al Awaa, have all denounced the arrest and demanded Abdel Fattah's immediate release.”

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said in a conference address that the armed forces are trying to transfer power to an elected civilian administration. The armed forces are protecting the current transition period, Sharaf added.

“Egypt is undergoing political developments that aim to achieve more democracy, transparency, and an improved standard of living.”

He said the government is working to make structural reforms to provide more work opportunities, particularly for low-income people. Rights groups and activists have accused SCAF of mismanaging the transition period and making unilateral decisions without consulting political forces.

Farid Zahran, member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said, "The main issue that triggered heated argument was the secrecy clause protecting the military's budget. It would have been acceptable if they suggested that some items are confidential, but the military budget must be made public."