Sunday, August 30, 2009

Links related to the Aug. 31st episode of Labor Express Radio...

For more info on the strike at SK Hand Tools and how you can support the workers, go here...

For more info on NNOC's efforts to fight for a single payer, non-profit, national health care program, go here...

Here is the info on the health care town hall meeting in Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky district...

Schakowsky Town Hall
Time: 6:30PM (Doors open at 5:00pm)
Monday, August 31st
Niles West High School - Auditorium
5701 Oakton St
Skokie, IL.

For more info on the workers at Kraft in Argentina, go here...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Teamsters on Strike Need Your Support!

A message from Temsters Local 743...
The strikers at SK Hand Tools need community support to maintain the strike lines - please forward this e-mail widely!

Workers at SK Hand Tools began an unfair labor practice strike at 5:30am on August 25, 2009 after trying for months to get their health care reinstated. The workers are being forced to either forego important medical check-ups and treatment or to go into debt putting the bills on their credit cards.

The strike lines are 24/7 at both locations and the strikers need people to join the lines in solidarity and to bring food, coffee, soda and water.

Chicago location: 3535 W. 47th St. Click here for the map.
Suburban location: 9500 W. 55th St. (McCook, near Brookfield and LaGrange) Click here for the map.

Please visit the Teamsters 743 website ( for more information.

In Solidarity, Sarah

You can download audio of my interviews with two of the strikers here...
Listen to Labor Express Radio this Monday at 10:00 AM on 88.7 FM for an update on the situation.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Alliance for Global Justice Urgent Action Alert on Honduras...

Honduras: Attack on Peaceful Protestors Escalates!

Please take action again to stop the Repression!

[This action alert comes to you from the Alliance for Global Justice and its member projects, the Nicaragua Network, the Campaign for Labor Rights, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign, and the Respect for Democracy Campaign.]

We have received this important alert from the Quixote Center. We urge you to take action! For more information, visit: and

Thank you for your calls to the U.S. State Department - please call again! The repression is escalating. Crackdowns are occurring in San Pedro Sula as well as Tegucigalpa. Police attacked the demonstrations with water cannons and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people in San Pedro Sula alone. Among those arrested were SITRATERCO union officials. The gathering places where people who have walked from across the country are staying are being militarized. Tear gas bombs have been dropped from helicopters. Our delegation [in Tegucigalpa] is accounted for and unharmed. They are now accompanying Honduran human rights workers and sending alarming reports. Police and military are rounding up people and taking them to places used for torture in the 1980's. Ambulances full of people with their faces smashed in and bodies beaten are racing to hospitals - among them is Marvin Ponce, a Honduran member of Congress who just met with State Department officials in Washington to denounce to coup. The Universidad Pedagogica and the STIBYS union hall (a private building which has served as the organizing center for the Anti-Coup resistance front) have been taken by the military and large numbers of people are reported detained. Human rights organizations fear they are being tortured.

Please call the State Department (202-647-4000) and the U.S. Ambassador Llorens in Tegucigalpa - 011- 504-236-9320 ext. # 4268.

You can also send the message below to your Senators and US Representative!

Give them this message: Violence is escalating and members of our International Delegation, including U.S. citizens, are currently accompanying human rights workers to locations where people are being detained. The US should denounce the extreme and widespread human rights violations being commited by the coup government in Honduras. The US should also freeze bank accounts and cancel ALL travel visas of those involved in the coup. The US should join UNASUR (the organization to which many South American countries belong) in declaring it will not recognize any election in Honduras unless Zelaya is previously reinstated as president. While some aid to Honduras has been cut off, Honduran human rights advocates say the US should cut off all aid to the coup government, including money for democracy building, elections, poverty reduction, road building, and HIV-AIDS, .
Alliance for Global Justice has, for two years in a row, received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America's largest independent evaluator of charities.

Garifuna medical doctor Luther Castillo still in exile, hospital closed...

I received word last night that Luther Castillo, one of the four human rights activists who visited Chicago last weekend remains in exile, elsewhere in Central America, because of threats of arrest by the military. Meanwhile, his hospital, the first to serve Honduras' Garifuna community, has been shut down by the coup regime.

For last Sunday's Labor Express Radio episode including an interview with the visiting Honduran human rights activists, go here...

Editorial on situation in Honduras from Organizer newspaper...

Honduras Resistance Deepens,
With Working Class at the Helm
International Labor Solidarity
Needed Urgently to Defeat the Coup

The Honduran people -- with the working class and their trade unions playing an increasing leadership role -- are on the move. Their revolutionary upsurge is shaking the fragile edifice of corporate-dominated politics across the continent and creating frictions within the U.S. ruling establishment itself.

As we go to press, a week-long nationwide general strike of teachers and public sector workers is under way. It is a political strike to press for the resistance movement's three central demands: (1) the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as the sole and legitimate president of Honduras, (2) a referendum on convening a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution, and (3) the immediate punishment of all the perpetrators of the June 28 coup for their crimes against the people.

Up till now, there had been three two-day strikes (all on Thursdays and Fridays) called by the three main trade union federations in Honduras, all of which are part of the National Front Against the Coup. All the main decisions regarding what to do next in the struggle are made by a weekly Delegates Assembly of the Front, which is held at the hall of the Beverage Industry Workers Union (STIBYS). The Delegates Assembly -- which brings together more than 800 mandated representatives from unions and popular organizations throughout Honduras -- has become the nerve center and coordinating body of the resistance movement.
The recent strike has been more widely followed than the previous two-day strikes. In addition to the teachers and State office workers, the workers and students at the National Autonomous University of Honduras hit the bricks, as did the workers at the National Agrarian Institute, the electrical workers of the Empresa Nacional de Energía, some private-sector workers, and the workers at the National Weather Service.

Also, on August 11, tens of thousands of people converged from all corners of the country into Honduras' two main cities -- Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. Most of the participants in this National March of Popular Resistance had left their villages and towns on August 6, the day that the unlimited general strike began, in response to the call from the National Front Against the Coup. Most of the marchers pledged to remain in these two cities throughout the week to participate in the planned demonstrations, roadblocks and plant/campus occupations.
In Tegucigalpa, a mass march of 20,000 people -- with union banners displayed prominently -- buoyed people's determination to continue the struggle. One of the chants throughout the march was, "No Somos Cuatro Gatos!" -- or, we are not just a small handful of people (literally we are not four cats) -- a reply to the Micheletti media machine, which keeps trying to convince the world that 45 days after the coup things have "returned to normal," with only a handful of discontents -- four cats -- stirring up trouble.

Washington's Conundrum:
It is now public knowledge that a wing of the Republican Party helped in one form or another to prepare the June 28 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya -- with hawks like John Negroponte, Otto Reich and current U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens in the forefront of this effort. Meetings between Llorens and the high military command took place throughout the entire week leading up to the coup.

The mass public outrage that swept the Americas in the aftermath of the coup compelled the Organization of American States (OAS) to call for the "immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras." Having military coups break out in a continent marked by growing revolutionary upheavals -- especially after President Barack Obama's public pledge to "turn the page" on the era of military dictatorship of past decades -- posed a serious risk to the overall position of U.S. imperialism in the region. Obama and all the heads of state in the Western Hemisphere voted in favor of the OAS resolution.

No sooner had those votes been taken, however, than the U.S. State Department, under Hillary Clinton, set out to subvert the OAS resolution by drafting a script for a "mediated settlement" in Honduras that legitimized the perpetrators of the June 28 coup. One week later, Clinton anointed a credible regional leader to serve as the mediator for this U.S.-initiated plan: President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. (Two of Clinton's associates, Lanny Davis and Bennet Ratcliff are, in fact, running strategy for the coup government.)

The Arias Plan calls for the return of Zelaya to Honduras BUT only if he accepts to form a "government of national reconciliation" with the perpetrators of the coup, if he renounces his effort to poll the Honduran people on convening a Constituent Assembly that would draft a new Constitution, and if he drops his call to bring the coup leadership to trial for their crimes.

Zelaya accepted this plan, while emphasizing that the central question for him was point no. 1 of the seven points -- that is, his immediate return to Honduras. But the de-facto government of Roberto Micheletti -- better known in Honduras as "Pinocheletti" -- rejected the Arias Plan and even went so far as to deny visas to a delegation from the OAS sent to discuss the plan. The top military brass no doubt fear that a return of Zelaya, no matter how conditioned and politically hamstrung, would be seized upon by millions of mobilized people in Honduras and throughout the region as a blow to the de-facto government.

This rejection of the Arias Plan by Micheletti has posed a conundrum for Washington -- and for Obama, in particular. Getting Zelaya on board with the Arias Plan did not do the trick. The National Front Against the Coup, which is the voice of the fighting resistance movement, categorically rejected the Arias Plan, as did many governments in the Americas, following the lead of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. There is widespread awareness in Honduras that the U.S. government -- one wing of which was implicated in the coup -- has no right to violate the Honduran people's right to self-determination by imposing unacceptable conditions for the return of Zelaya.

This did not, however, prevent U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens from personally requesting over the weekend of August 8-9 that the National Front Against the Coup get on board with the Arias Plan "as the sole means of preventing more violence and ensuring a peaceful outcome" ( No doubt Llorens was hoping to find at least one taker within the Front leadership who could be bought off and wielded to show that there is now a "reasonable" wing of the movement that approves a negotiated settlement with Micheletti.

But here, too, Llorens was rebuffed. On August 11, the National Front issued a new declaration rejecting Llorens' overtures and reaffirming the call for the unconditional and immediate reinstatement of Zelaya as president and the convening of a Constituent Assembly to draft a Constitution that would replace the 1982 Constitution, drafted by a previous military dictatorship to protect the oligarchy and enshrine the monopoly of political power in the two parties of the ruling class: the Liberals and Conservatives.

Stalling and buying time for the de-facto regime, with the hope that the movement would slowly wither on the vine, has been another tactic deployed by U.S. imperialism. The desired goal is to weather the storm until November 2009, when new presidential elections will be held. But not only has the resistance movement not ebbed, it has grown by the day. And now the National Front Against the Coup has issued a statement announcing that if Zelaya is not properly reinstated as the sole legitimate president of Honduras, they will call for a boycott of the coup-organized November elections.

Yet another option is to begin the wholesale repression of the resistance movement. But this, too, is backfiring. On August 6, for example, the National Guard attacked a peaceful demonstration in Tegucigalpa, killing one teacher: Roger Abraham Vallejo. The following day, the mass protests were more than twice the size. And with all the international attention focused on Honduras, such repression cannot go under the radar -- nor can it be easily justified. After all, Obama is still on record calling for the return of Zelaya to Honduras.

International Labor Solidarity Needed Urgently

The growing class confrontation in Honduras requires the immediate, visible and effective solidarity of the international workers' movement, particularly of the international trade union movement. The workers, peasants, youth and indigenous people of Honduran are putting their lives on the line in this struggle for democracy, workers' rights, and economic and social justice. They need the active support of working people the world over, particularly in the United States, to help them carry forth and win their struggle.

In response to the "Appeal from the National Front Against the Coup to Working People the World Over," the 9-million-member Unified Workers Central (CUT) of Brazil voted on August 7 to call for Continental Days of Mobilizations on August 10-14 in solidarity with the people of Honduras. This appeal has been heeded widely across the continent, with mass demonstrations in most major cities demanding that their respective governments sever all diplomatic ties with the military regime in Honduras and insist on the implementation of the initial OAS resolution.

In the United States, we have perhaps the most critical role to play. An August 8 solidarity message from the Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice to the Honduran trade union movement lays out our tasks in the United States in precise terms:
"We are painfully aware that the U.S. government, by its refusal to cut off all aid and arms to the Honduran military and coup plotters, becomes complicit in this attack on the constitutional order and democratic rights of the people of Honduras. Words by the Obama administration that are not matched by strong actions to cut off all funds and guns to the conspirators are empty gestures.

"We demand that our government cut off all aid and arms to and all commerce with the perpetrators of this criminal coup and the oligarchs, corporations and other forces that conspire with them directly or collude with them by their silence. The coup would not last a week if the U.S. did this, froze all the assets of the plotters and called upon the international community to do the same. Corporations that continue to do business in Honduras should be barred from doing business in the United States.

"President Zelaya must be returned to office in Honduras immediately and without conditions. The conspirators against him should be arrested and brought to trial for their crimes against the people. We pledge to support you in any way we can until such time as the president, the constitutional order and democracy are restored in Honduras. The working class and labor movement of Honduras shall prevail. You shall consign the forces of darkness and reaction to the past."

Indeed. With the aid of the international labor movement, beginning with that of the U.S. labor movement, the Honduran working class and labor movement of Honduras can and shall prevail!
Why the Deep Aspiration to a Constituent Assembly
[Note: Following are excerpts from an article by internationally recognized Honduran writer Helen Umaña. The article appeared under the title "The Fear of a Two-Letter Word," referring to a "Sí" vote -- Spanish for "Yes" -- in the June 28 non-binding opinion poll on whether or not a Constituent Assembly should be convened to draft a new Constitution. The excerpts have been translated by The Organizer.]

On June 28, I had hoped to cast my ballot for a "Sí" -- or "yes" -- vote on the "fourth ballot box," or "Cuarta Urna." Like so many others, I saw this referendum on convening a Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution as a path for a change that would collectively benefit the historically marginalized sectors of our society: the peasants, workers, and ethnic minorities. ...
It was finally time to modify a Constitution whose deficiencies are glaring, with the endorsement of a majority of our citizens and following a full public discussion.

To state, as the perpetrators of the coup have done (only to be echoed by a servile media), that what Mel [President Manuel Zelaya] wanted to accomplish with this "fourth ballot" was to secure his re-election on November 29, 2009, is without a doubt the greatest lie and distortion in the political history of our country. The hypothetical Constitution -- as it depended on whether the people would vote "Sí" -- would not have been drafted and approved until newly elected deputies had convened as a National Constituent Assembly to undertake this task. And this could not have taken place until next year, well after Mel had left office.

When I first learned of the coup, I was sickened. The powers that be had resorted to military force, with the assistance, or at the very least the tacit approval, of the empire to the North, to abort what could have been a journey to a more just and equitable society, to deal a death blow to the possibility of realizing our long-held dream: that we could begin the building a new society where the most urgent needs of the population -- food, healthcare, education, housing, jobs -- could be met.

The very idea that the people could be consulted about something of this import, and that a new Constitution could be drafted to remedy the grave injustices enshrined in the current magna carta, was met with great enthusiasm by the people.

Never before had our humble but proud people -- those who live in shantytowns or on the edges of precipices in forgotten canyons -- been told they could express themselves on such a significant issue. Never before.

The coup was the awkward response by the ruling elite, by the twin parties of the landowners and oligarchs, to this human wave that was becoming conscious of its true interests. ... But the last word hasn't been said. Not by a long shot.

Eyewitness Report - Tegucigalpa - Wednesday, August 12th...

(Translated from a telephone report filed by Alexy Lanza at 9:35 pm Chicago time - translation by La Voz de los de Abajo).

Tear gas was fired directly into the crowds of protesters, rubber bullets and truncheons were used to disperse the thousands of Hondurans who had marched through the city to the National Congress today to protest against the coup and demand restitution of the constitutional government of Mel Zelaya.

There were many injuries and arrests - The soldiers and police, heavily armed and in full combat gear acting against unarmed men and women of all ages. In an unforgettable moment, I watched as a congressional Deputy from the anti-coup leftist party the Democratic Unification (UD), Marvin Ponce was attacked by at least 12 policemen and brutally beaten. He was seriously injured and was taken to the hospital; witnesses reported that at the hospital the police continued to beat and torment Ponce, interfering with his medical treatment.

As the police increased their violent sweep of the area I joined the rest of the protesters in fleeing the area; trying to avoid arrest or beatings or worse. I made my way to the Francisco Morazan National Autonomous University, which has been held by the students as part of the anti-coup resistance for weeks. The University has also been an organizing center and has provided shelter for people coming in from the rural areas to join in the protest movement. When I got to the University, people were trickling in from the downtown area. I saw one of the leaders from the Garifuna organization (OFRAHNI) who told me almost that a large number of compañeros from their organization were detained in the repression at the Congress.

Suddenly a large number of heavily armed soldiers arrived and attacked with tear gas, and rubber bullets forcing their way into university. They began arresting and beating the students and were able to seize control of at least a large part of the university. As the attack continued, I was forced to run from the troops and got away.

Today’s mobilizations were the second day of massive peaceful marches that began yesterday. Thousands of Hondurans responded to the call for increased mobilization by walking for as many as 5 days from the farthest corners of rural Honduras in order to get to one of the two major cities, Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Zula. Yesterday’s protests were not repressed but today was another story. There have also been increasing attacks of the death-squad type. Today, I spoke with Rafael Alegria from Via Campesina in Honduras who told me that last night (August 11th) after the day of mobilizations, at about 11:30 pm, the Via Campesina center was riddled with bullets fired by men who pulled up in front of the center in a civilian SUV. No one was injured, but the message is clear. Via Campesina is another organization that has offered its offices as an organizing center and shelter and Alegria has been detained and released and now has another threat of detention against him.

The defacto coup government and its military are increasing the violence again to try and do away with the resistance movement of the Honduran people who are the only real obstacle standing in the way of the oligarchy's plans. The National Front for Resistance Against the Coup has called for the mobilizations to continue tomorrow beginning at 8 am.

Everyone from the social organizations to the people in the streets who don’t belong to any organization, are calling for international solidarity to come to their aid in any way possible. They have been in the struggle for more than 40 days and need all of our help to continue.

(Alexy Lanza lives in Chicago and is a member of La Voz de los de Abajo, Casa Morazan and Producciones EN EL OJO-independent media)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

PERRO Art show opens Friday...

Pollution in Pilsen
Student Fellowship Art Show
Friday, August 14 – September 8

Pollution in Pilsen: The work of local Students documenting the pollution in their neighborhood.

Art show Opening at the Casa Aztlan Gallery, 1831 S Racine, 2nd Floor Friday, Aug 14, 6 PM

All are welcome to learn about the sources of pollution that are affecting everyone in Pilsen!

For more information contact PERRO at 312 502 7867 or or visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Photos from today's marches in Honduras against the coup...

Excellent article on U.S. links to Honduran coup...

This article by Conn Hallinan at Foreign Policy in Focus lays out the details of the various U.S. operatives connected to the coup in Honduras which the Honduran human rights activists I interviewed for last Sunday's episode of Labor Express mentioned in that interview. For an mp3 of last sunday's Labor Express Radio program, go here...

Honduran Coup: The U.S. Connection
Conn Hallinan August 6, 2009

Editor: Jen Doak

Foreign Policy In Focus

While the Obama administration was careful to distance itself from the recent coup in Honduras — condemning the expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya to Costa Rica, revoking Honduran officials' visas, and shutting off aid — that doesn't mean influential Americans aren't involved, and that both sides of the aisle don't have some explaining to do.

The story most U.S. readers are getting about the coup is that Zelaya — an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — was deposed because he tried to change the constitution to keep himself in power.

That story is a massive distortion of the facts…

For the rest of the article go here…

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Friends and family of J-Def hold anti-violence march in Pilsen...

Pictures of repression in Honduras...

The four Honduran human rights activists who visited Chicago this weekend brought with them disturbing photos of the deteriorating human rights situation in Honduras following the June 28th coup...

International Human Rights Mission releases a report on the worsening human rights situation in Honduras...

International Observation Mission for the Human Rights Situation in Honduras Preliminary Report
Written by International Observation Mission, Translation by Laura Jung, Lena Mortensen, and Adrienne Pine

Thursday, 06 August 2009

Confirmed systematic human rights violations in Honduras since the coup d’etat


i. Introduction
An International Human Rights Commission composed of fifteen independent professionals (legal experts, journalists, anthropologists, political scientists, sociologists, and human rights experts) from Germany, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Spain, Nicaragua, Peru, Sweden, and Uruguay, was formed in Honduras on July 17 to verify human rights violations that have occurred in Honduras during and since the coup d'état of June 28, with the aim of presenting observations and recommendations concerning the situation to the OAS, the UN the European Union and their member States.
Divided into four working groups, the mission has received testimony concerning human rights abuses in various parts of the Honduran territory: Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Olancho and Colón. With this aim, interviews have been carried out with different human rights organizations and experts; representatives of social movements, unions and media organizations, journalists, members of the National Congress, representatives from political parties, the General State Prosecutor, the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights, General Director of the National Police, international aid agencies, representatives from the United Nations, from the diplomatic corps, the President of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Public Defender, the Department of Immigration, and relatives of President Manuel Zelaya.
The International Mission is made up of fifteen individuals from the following human rights organizations and networks: International Human Rights Federation (FIDH), the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), Copenhagen Initiative for Central America and Mexico (CIFCA), FIAN International, the Inter-American Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES-Colombia), Austria-Suedwind, Human Rights Institute of the Universidad Centroamericana Jose Simeon Cañas (IDHUCA -El Salvador), Association Pro-Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH), the Institute for Policy Studies on Latin America and Africa (IEPALA, Spain), National Coordinator for Human Rights of Peru, Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ-Uruguay), Solidarity World (Belgium), and IBIS (Denmark), Continental Social Alliance, Alternative Connections, and the Center for Tricontinental Studies.

ii. Facts Confirmed by the Mission
1. On June 28, 2009 at 5:15 am, after violently overpowering the presidential guard charged with his protection, soldiers from the armed forces invaded the Presidential House and kidnapped the Constitutional President of Honduras, Mr. Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The capture of the president took place without the presentation of the corresponding court order. Immediately afterward he was transferred to an air base and then taken to Costa Rica, according to testimony taken from the President himself, by means of an airplane that took off at 6:10 am from Honduras.
The attack on the Presidential House was carried out using violence against the goods and occupants of the house. The facts described were reported by members of the guard of the overthrown Constitutional President, as well as by relatives of the President who were present in the Presidential House on the day of the coup.
2. On the morning of June 28, the Congress of the Republic issued a "condemnation of the conduct of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales for repeated violations of the Constitution and the law and failure to observe the resolutions and decisions issued by the relevant administrative bodies," removing him from his charge as President despite the lack of a constitutional or legal norm that would permit such a removal, and designating Roberto Micheletti Baín as "Constitutional President of the Republic" (Congressional Decree No. 141-09).
3. On June 30 of 2009, although it was dated June 30 of 2008, Executive Decree No. 011-2009 was issued, signed by Mr. Micheletti, suspending the following constitutional rights: personal liberty, "detention and confinement for more than 24 hours" (sic), freedom of association and assembly, the right to freedom of movement, to leave, enter, and stay within the national territory. The aforementioned rights are detailed in articles 69, 71,72, 78, 79, 81, 84, 99 of the Constitution. The Decree established that these rights would be suspended from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am throughout the country – in accordance with a State of Emergency - for a period of seventy-two hours from the passage of the Decree.
The indicated rule, - which as of today and 23 days after it was enacted continues in force – not only does not include a mechanism to extend the suspension of said rights, but also to date the Decree has not been published in the official newspaper of the Honduran Republic. It should also be noted that article 211 of the Constitution of Honduras stipulates that regulations must be published in order to be valid. The Honduran Constitution (art 187) contemplates the restriction or suspension of rights exclusively in the case of invasion of national territory, serious disturbance of the peace, epidemics or other disasters.
4. The order for the suspension of these fundamental rights of the Honduran people continues to be applied despite their expiration after the 72 hours originally stipulated in the decree that issued these restrictions. No subsequent decree exists that has formally extended the suspension of these rights. Furthermore, the hours for the curfew imposed in the capital and in the interior of the country are changed randomly on a daily basis. These changes are communicated via announcements in various media.
5. There is uncertainty about the schedule of the curfew and the scope of the suspension of rights. In questioning people about the curfew, officials interviewed by the Mission reported varying hours and expressed differences about the content.
6. The Mission was puzzled by the attitude of support for the coup demonstrated by the highest ranks of the Honduran Catholic church and by representatives of various evangelical churches, as well as by the implication of their active involvement in organizing demonstrations of support convened by and for the de facto government.
7. The International Mission for Human Rights in Honduras has identified the existence of grave violations of human rights since the coup d’etat. It has also confirmed the lack of protection for numerous individuals as a result of the inadequate response from the institutions that are constitutionally responsible for monitoring respect for the fundamental human rights of Hondurans. In particular, the Mission calls attention to grave omissions in the fulfillment of the functional obligations of the National Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Ramón Custodio.
8. The fundamental rights violations reported to the Mission included a significant number of extrajudicial executions, hundreds of arbitrary detentions, multiple threats, curtailment of freedom of expression and information, as well as undue restrictions on the freedom of movement, altogether signaling a clear context of political persecution that especially affects political and union leaders, human rights defenders, social activists, journalists, foreign citizens, and others.
9. Indeed, since the coup d’etat took place, and in relation to it, several distinct sources confirmed by the Mission have reported the following individual deaths: ISIS OBED MURILLO MENCIAS, 19 years old, killed by shots fired by the Armed Forces during the July 5 march on the Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa by supporters of the ousted president; GABRIEL FINO NORIEGA, journalist with Radio Estelar in the Department of Atlántida, assassinated by seven bullet wounds on July 3 when he was leaving his place of work; RAMON GARCIA, a leader in the Democratic Unification party (UD), who was forced off a public transport vehicle upon returning from a demonstration and then riddled with bullets by unknown persons in the area of Santa Barbara; ROGER IVAN BADOS, ex-chairman of the textile worker union and current activist in the UD and the Popular Resistence Front (BP), who received death threats following the coup and was shot to death after being taken by force from his home on July 11 in San Pedro Sula; VICKY HERNANDEZ CASTILLO (SONNY EMELSON HERNANDEZ) , member of the LGTB community, killed in San Pedro Sula during the curfew by a bullet wound to the eye and displaying signs of strangulation, and an unidentified individual, wearing a t-shirt imprinted with the so called "cuarta urna," was found dead on July 3 in the "La Montañita" sector of Tegucigalpa, a place where a clandestine cemetery for extrajudicial executions during the 80’s was located. The Mission is continuing to verify other reports of extrajudicial executions.
10. From the Center for Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights (CIPRODEH), the Mission has received related reports of forced disappearances of: ANASTASIO BARRERA, 55 years old, affiliated w/ith the National Union of Rural Workers, kidnapped in San Juan Pueblo, Atlántida, on July 5, 2009 by four individuals wearing police vests. It was also reported that MANUEL SEVILLA, 19 years old, was disappeared in San Pedro Sula on July 12 after returning from a demonstration.
11. In terms of violations of personal integrity, the Mission took note of threats taking place since the coup affecting diverse sectors of Honduran society: journalists critical of the de facto government, mayors, union members, leaders of popular organizations, human rights defenders, teachers, and congressional representatives. We have documented more than a hundred individuals in this situation.
12. We have received information relating to politically motivated uses of the legitimate State capacity to investigate and sanction individuals linked to criminal acts. A case that illustrates this tendency is the father of Isis Obed Murillo, DON JOSÉ DAVID MURILLO SÁNCHEZ, who was captured after giving testimony to the Prosecutor for Human Rights concerning the murder of his son. His capture and subsequent detention was justified on the basis of an old legal process that had been discontinued, and which was reactivated after Murillo turned to the justice system to report the murder of his son. From a reading of the dossier and interviews with judges, witnesses, lawyers and Mr. Murillo himself, a series of violations were deduced regarding the right to due process, defense, liberty, etc. Other reports received by the Mission concern legal proceedings related to officials of the deposed government.
13. According to information given to the Mission by the General Director of National Police, Mr. Escoto Salinas, at this time 1275 arrests related to curfew violations and other reasons related to the anti-coup protests have been registered.
14. With regard to the arbitrary arrests of foreigners, it bears mention that these have risen significantly in recent weeks; in partcular, the arrests of Nicaraguans who have been affected disproportionately by arbitrary and irregular detentions. During this week alone there have been warrantless forceful home entries and arbitrary detentions of at least 20 Nicaraguans.
15. On the 20th and 21st of July, members of the Mission confirmed that the human rights of the following Nicaraguan youths had been violated: JARLEN MANUEL TORRES TORRES, NOE EMILIO AVELLAN RUIZ, TULIO RAFAEL BENDAÑA MEJÍA, ALEJANDRO JOSÉ GARCÍA OBREGÓN, PABLO YASE BENOARIA, JORGE DANILO FLORES, FRANCISCO ISRAEL CONNOR, CARLOS DAVID BENDAÑA MEJÍA, JOSE GONZÁLEZ, DARWIN ANTONIO REYES LAZO, MIGUEL ÁNGEL AGUILAR FERNÁNDEZ, HENRY GEOVANY MARTÍNEZ LÓPEZ and DAVID JIRÓN. They were arbitrarily detained, accused of administrative visa-related infractions, were subject to bad treatment, were not offered consular assistance, nor were they held in adequate conditions of detention. In some cases they were held in police cells with other people accused of common crimes, and had access to neither a judge nor to a public defender. These acts were carried out by members of the National Civilian Police.
16. The authorities justify these arrests citing the existence of "external threats" to the de facto regime. To date, the arrests have not provided any evidence whatsoever that the more than 100 people affected were engaged in actions that could have compromised national security. To the contrary, many of the arrested are businesspeople, workers and migrant, some of them with solid family ties, deeply and legally rooted in Honduras.
17. Numerous local media outlets contribute to this xenophobic policy and practice by providing sensationalist coverage of the detention of Nicaraguans and asking the population to denounce the presence of foreign citizens engaged in suspicious activities.
18. The Mission has received multiple complaints related to the forced conscription of youths by the Army in rural zones, with the aim of integrating them into the reserves.
19. In terms of freedom of expression, we have confirmed grave restrictions on freedom of expression following the coup d’etat. In Tegucigalpa, Channel 36, Radio TV Maya and Radio Globo were militarized as part of the operation of silencing the media that took place along with the coup. Transmission of Channel 36 was temporarily suspended and we have received reports, which we have confirmed, of assaults on various media stations and death threats against journalists, as well as the blocking of transmission, phone tapping, and blocking internet access to media stations.
20. The Mission was informed of the machine gunning, after the coup, of the studio of Radio Juticalpa in Olancho, and of the death threats made against journalists like the director of the newspaper El Libertador, Mr. JHONNY JOSÉ LAGOS ENRIQUEZ, and LUIS GALDANES, host of the radio program "Tras la Verdad" ["Going After the Truth"]. Mr. Lagos is also being subjected to a judicial lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of Honduras Dr. Luis Rubi, based on article 349 of the Penal Code of Honduras which only applies to those employed as public servants, and Mr. Lagos Enríquez is not a public servant.
21. In the city of Progreso, on the other hand, the armed forces are occupying Radio PROGRESO and silencing their broadcasts, harassment of the Jesuit priest ISMAEL MORENO, temporarily detaining the journalist ROMELL ALEXANDER GÓMEZ MEJÍA, and in the case of the journalist ROMEL ROMERO, have made death threats via the cell phone of his wife, Mrs. MIRIAM ESPINAL. Likewise, the Reflection and Communication Team (Equipo de Reflexión y Comunicación - ERIC) , the collaborative arm of Radio Progreso, has been the target of threats and harassment on behalf of the armed forces that have permanently placed themselves outside their headquarters in the Casa San Ignacio, Canán Boulevard, in Progreso.
22. OSMAN DANILO COREA, journalist of Channel 26 TV Atlántica, in the Department (like a state) of Colón is experiencing a similar situation as the aforementioned cases. He told Mission International that the military has indicated to the communication department that they may not transmit alternate versions or information from those of the de facto president Micheletti. Mr. Corea explained that he received a call from the Captain Tercero, Chief of the Castilla Naval Base near Trujillo, prohibiting him from broadcasting information regarding the various marches of the "white shirts" (supporters of the de facto government), threatening him with decommission of the station if he refuses, adding "because we have ordered it, the armed forces have the power." Mission International also received a formal complaint of harassment and persecution suffered by the journalist of the television program "La Cumbre" [The Summit], Mr. JORGE ORLANDO ANDERSON of the town Bonito Oriental, on behalf of the soldiers of the previously referenced Castilla Naval Base.
23. The journalist NAHUM PALACIOS of Tocoa, related that he has been threatened by the same Captain Tercero of the Castilla Naval Base on 28 June 2009, who subsequently ordered the detention of 4 members of Aguan Television, Channel 5. Mr. Wilfredo Paz, journalist, President of the Teachers Union of Tocoa and Director of the news program at the Center for News of Colón, has received anonymous threats to burn down the station if he continues to broadcast, and the same Captain Tercero ordered the cable company to cut off transmission of Mr. Palacios’s program.
24. The Mission has also received concrete reports of the intervention of paramilitary groups composed of civilian allegedly linked to drug-trafficking cartels and to private security firms providing services to certain businesses. They wear camouflage uniforms and operate in conjunction with members of Battalion XV of the army Honduran Army in the Department of Colón.
25.The Mission has confirmed, as well, threats and coercion of workers in their places of work in response to their attendance of marches against the coup; They have also experiences coercive action to guarantee their obligatory attendance in marches called together by the de facto government and private businesses.

iii. Conclusions
The International Mission confirms the existence of grave and systematic violations of human rights in Honduras subsequent to the coup d’état. Some of these violations originate from the application of norms in open violation of the international agreements for the protection of human rights, the militarization of security functions and state institutions, abuses on the part of the State security forces, and lack of response from the guaranteed mechanisms of the State.
One of the fundamental conclusions of this visit consist of the determination that Decree 11-2009, the suspension of guarantees, establishes restrictions of a wide gamut of fundamental rights, including personal freedoms, mobility, among others, such that its application would substantively violate international obligations of the State as it is written.
The faults of Decree 11-2009 render illegitimate the methods adopted on the basis of the decree, for example, the detention centers for curfew, unlawful entry of homes by armed forces, and restrictions on freedoms of mobility on the highways.
The International Mission considers that one of their fundamental observations consists in the disestablishment of protection for the numerous persons affected by the grave violations perpetrated before the inadequate response of the institutions that are responsible for overseeing the guarantees of fundamental human rights of the Hondurans. This is evidenced by the obvious lack of resources of the Special Budget for Human Rights, as well as the ineffectiveness of the Supreme Court to decide the legality of the decree for the suspension of guarantees and other protections regarding the violations of fundamental rights occurring in relation to the coup, and the negligence of the National Commission for Human Rights.
Moreover, it is possible to maintain that certain institutions of the right have assumed an open role complicit with the de facto authorities, making the case for the omission of their constitutional and legal functions.
The coup has culminated in a highly precarious situation in the guardianship of the rights of various collectives that were considered vulnerable since before 28 June 2009, as has occurred with the LGTB community.
We have confirmed serious limitations on freedom of expression and intimidations intended to restrict the circulation of information criticizing the de facto regime. At this time, we consider a portion of the mass communication intermediaries of the country have had an attitude inconsistent with the plurality of ideas and democracy. On occasion, these intermediaries have echoed the openly repressive positions and incited violence against the supporters of the deposed government.
We wish to emphasize the outstanding role that various defenders of human rights have played and continued to play at this moment, who despite adversity, lack of resources, and the risk to their integrity and lives, have lifted their voices to renounce the abuses, protect victims, and defend the institution of democracy.
iv. Recommendations
To the International Community of Nation States
1- Take all action necessary to guarantee the pleasure and enjoyment of the human right of the Honduran population;
2- Maintain a firm position condemning the coup d’état, demanding the restitution of President Zelaya, and the reestablishment of constitutional order;
3- Maintain the suspension of diplomatic relations with the de facto regime, as well as any economic support or financing managed by the institutions of the State involved in the coup;
4- Refuse recognition of the results of elections called by the de facto government, as was also expressed by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, in addition to refusing recognition of any decision adopted by said government;
Concerning bilateral relations with Honduras
5- The ambassadors present in the country should continue and reinforce the appropriate methods to contribute to the protection of the defenders of human rights, civil society activists, among others, by means of visits to the offices of the people and organizations at risk
Constant invitations and exchanges with the same
Logistic support that is pertinent to their security
Implementation of an Alert and Emergency System immediately accessible to persons at risk
In conjunction with international NGOs, open additional support to Honduran civil society, to reinforce their capacity to protect and monitor human rights. In particular, it is important to increase the human and financial resources so that they can tend to the needs within the country
6- International cooperation should maintain suspension of budgetary and programmatic support to State Institutions that have been involved in the coup d’état; maintain humanitarian aid , cooperation con the municipalities and with the Honduran civil society organizations;
7- The Unites States should take action against those actors principally responsible for the coup, such as the suspension of visas and freezing overseas bank accounts.
Relations between the European Union and Honduras
8- With respect to the relationship between Honduras and the European Union, they should initiate the following actions:
The democratic clause as articulated in Article 1 of the Marco Accord of Cooperation between the European Union and Central America of 1993, that calls for the suspension of cooperation in the case of serious interruption of constitutional order
Abstention of diplomatic relations at the level of vice-ministers of the illegitimate government, as well as with all of the diplomatic representatives of Honduras in the European Union that support the de facto government
Suspension, most importantly of budgetary support, of all of the programs directed at support of the State institutions that have been involved in the coup d’état
Maintain the decision to suspend negotiations of the Association Accord between the European Union and Central America until constitutional order is restored in Honduras
Suspension of Honduras from the General System of Preference (SGP plus) of the European Union
To the International Organizations
9- The Interamerican Commission for Human Rights should continue to monitor the human rights situation in Honduras and submit recommendations to protect the population in Honduras, in this sense we urge the following actions:
Continue to execute cautionary measures to protect the persons in at-risk situations
Briefly visit the situation in the country and submit a report with the recommendations the ICHR finds advisable
10- The Security Council of the United Nations Organization (UN) should denounce the coup d’état in Honduras and should take measures that will contribute to the reestablishment of constitutional order
11- The UN should activate the appropriate mechanisms within their systems of protection of Human Rights to confront the Human Rights situation in Honduras, in particular the should consider the pertinence of:
Adopting a resolution at the level of the Human Rights Council
Establishment of permanent office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Honduras
Make visits to verify the especially compelling accounts concerning the freedom of expression, human rights defenders, and the independence of judges and lawyers
12- The International Criminal Court (ICC) should act preemptively. Accordingly, we solicit the General Prosecutor of the ICC to take immediate steps leading to a possible criminal investigation according to regulation of Article 7, Number g of the Rome Statute, which outlines the standards for the crime of political persecution.
In light of the gravity of the human rights situation, the national and international organizations involved in Mission International have decided to create a Human Rights Observatory in Honduras as a follow-up to this mission.
The members of the Observation Mission concerning the Human Rights situation in Honduras have been the following people:
Luis Guillermo Pérez (CIFCA)
Marcia Aguiluz (CEJIL)
Viviana Krsticevic (CEJIL)
Martin Wolpold-Bosien (FIAN International)
Jorge Rojas (CODHES)
Benjamín Cuellar (IDHUCA)
Miguel Jugo (National Coordinator of Human Rights Perú)
Javier Mujica (FIDH)
Efraín Olivera (PIDHDD, SERPAJ)
Enrique Santiago (IEPALA, The Federation of Association for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights Spain)
Ellen Verryt (World Solidarity)
Hans Peter Dejgaard (IBIS – Denmark)
Katrin Erlingsen (Presidential Assessor for the Commission for
Development and Economic Cooperation of the German Parliament)
Leo Gabriel (Institute of Cooperative and Intercultural Research - Austria)
Katia Nouten (CIFCA)
Dolores Jarquín (Alianza Social Continental)
Francois Houtart (Center for Tricontinental Studies)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Honduran Civil Society Leaders Visit Chicago, Advocate for Restoration of the Constitutional Government and an End to Human Rights Violations...

Honduran Civil Society Leaders Visit Chicago, Advocate for Restoration of the Constitutional Government and an End to Human Rights Violations

La Voz de los de Abajo, Casa Morazán and NALACC invite you to panel discussions and community forums in Chicago with leaders of Honduran civil society touring U.S. with immigrant leaders to advocate for the restoration of the constitutional government and an end to the escalating human rights violations.

One month after the interruption of constitutional order in Honduras through a military coup d’état and in the wake of widespread reports of human rights violations harkening back to events of the 1980s, the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) is bringing a delegation of civil society representatives from that country to the U.S. to participate in a speaking tour and to advocate for the restoration of constitutional order and respect for human rights. U.S. based Latino immigrant leaders will also join this delegation. The tour began in Washington D.C. with visits to Congressional offices and will be followed by press and speaking events in New York , Boston , and, on August 7-8, Chicago .

The delegation from Honduras consists of well known leaders from non-governmental, human rights and community organizations. The program in Chicago will consist of several public events (details below). In addition, the delegates are available for interviews as scheduling permits. Translators can be provided for interviews if needed.

Events in Chicago
Friday, August 7 10:30 – 12:00 pm
Honduran Civil Society and Human Rights Leaders to Speak in Chicago
Casa Michoacán, 1638 S. Blue Island Ave.

Friday, August 7 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
“We Are All Honduras” Community Forum on the coup d’état in Honduras .
DePaul University, Schmidt Academic Center (SAC) Auditorium (room #154)
2320 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago

Saturday, August 8 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Honduran Civil Society Community Forum
Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission , 3442 W. 26th St. , Chicago

Saturday, August 8 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Reception y presentations on the coup d’état in Honduras
Casa Michoacán, 1638 S. Blue Island Ave. , Chicago

Oscar Chacón serves currently as Executive Director of the National Alliance of Latin American & Caribbean Communities (NALACC). Until December, 2006, Mr. Chacón served as director of Enlaces América, a project of the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. Mr. Chacón served for most of the 1990’s as executive director of Centro Presente, Inc, in Cambridge , Massachusetts . Mr. Chacón served for many years as president of the Salvadoran American National Network (SANN). Mr. Chacón is a frequent lecturer in national and international conferences, as well as a media spokesperson on Latino immigrant issues in the U.S.

Abencio Fernández Pineda is the coordinator of the non-governmental organization Center for the Investigation and Defense of Human Rights in Honduras (CIPRODEH, by its Spanish initials) for the western region of Honduras . Mr. Pineda was previously an attorney for the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CODEH) and the Committee of the Relatives of Disappeared Detainees of Honduras (COFADEH).

Maria Luisa Jimenez, a former police officer in Honduras , denounced the widespread corruption in the police force and is now an activist for transparency in government and women's rights. She is currently a candidate for Honduran Congress with the Democratic Union party (UD).

Dr. Luther Castillo. Dr. Castillo is a young Garifuna medical doctor and community organizer who directs the Luaga Hatuadi Waduheñu Foundation ("For the Health of our People" in Garifuna), dedicated to bringing vital health services to isolated indigenous coastal communities. After his 2005 graduation from the Latin American Medical School in Havana , Dr. Castillo returned to the Honduran coast, where he led the Foundation's construction of Honduras ' first Garifuna Rural Hospital , now serving some 20,000 in the surrounding communities. The hospital opened in December 2007, a few months after Dr. Castillo was named "Honduran Doctor of the Year" by Rotary International's Tegucigalpa chapter.

Gerardo Torres is a young Honduran journalist who is part of the social organization Bloque Popular, in which he is part of the national coordination. Torres is part of the Politic Commission of the Organization Los Necios that works permanently in the political formation of workers, peasants, student federations, feminist organizations, and that have the responsibility of the coordination of the communication and propaganda matters of the Honduran Popular Movement. He is an active member of the National Front Against the Coup de Etat in Honduras .


Líderes de la Sociedad Civil de Honduras visitan Chicago, Abogan por la Restauración del Orden Constitucional y Poner el Fin a la Violación de Derechos

Líderes de la Sociedad Civil de Honduras visitan Chicago, para conjuntamente con líderes de organizaciones inmigrantes basadas en EEUU abogar por la restauración del orden constitucional de Honduras y poner un fin inmediato a la creciente escala de violaciones de los derechos humanos. Esta visita a Chicago es parte de una gira nacional que comenzó en Washington D.C. con audiencias a congresistas.

La delegación de representantes de la sociedad civil hondureña es posible gracias al auspicio de la Alianza Nacional de las Comunidades Latinoamericanas y Caribeñas (NALACC).
La Voz de los de Abajo, Casa Morazán y NALACC los invitan a los foros de discusión sobre la situación actual en Honduras.

Eventos en Chicago

Viernes, 7 de Agosto a las 10:30am
Conferencia de Prensa
Casa Michoacán, 1638 S. Blue Island Ave., Chicago

Viernes, 7 de Agosto a las 6:30 -9:30 pm
Foro publico Todos Somos Honduras
Universidad de DePaul, Schmidt Academic Center, Salón 154, 2320 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago

Sábado 8 de Agosto a las 10 am – 12 del medio día
Foro Comunitario
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Misión Anglicana (Our Lady Of Guadalupe Anglican Mission),
3442 W. 26th St., Chicago
Sábado 8 de Agosto a las 7pm
Recepción y presentación
Casa Michoacán, 1638 S. Blue Island Ave. , Chicago

Hay oportunidades para la prensa de entrevistar los participantes de la delegación sobre los eventos en Honduras.

Oscar Chacón es el actual director ejecutivo de la Alianza Nacional de Comunidades Latino Americanas y Caribeñas (NALACC, por sus siglas en inglés). Hasta diciembre de 2006 se desempeñó en el cargo de director de Enlaces América, un proyecto de “Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights”. Durante la mayor parte de los años 90 el Sr. Chacón fue director ejecutivo de Centro Presente, en Cambridge, Massachussets. También fue director ejecutivo de la Coalición Pro-Derechos de Inmigrantes del Norte de California y Presidente de la Red Nacional Salvadoreña Americana (SANN).

Abencio Fernández Pineda es el coordinador de la organización no-gubernamental, Centro para la Investigación y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (CIPRODEH) para la región oeste de Honduras, el señor Pineda también a trabajado como abogado para CODEH y COFADEH.
Maria Luisa Jiménez antes era una policía que denuncio la corrupción profunda en la fuerza policíaca y ahora es una activista a favor de la transparencia en el gobierno y también para los derechos de las mujeres.. En la actualidad es candidata para deputada en el Congreso nacional por el Partido de Unificación Democrática (UD).

Dr. Luther Castillo es un joven Garifuna, medico y organizador comunitaria y también es el director de la fundación, Luaga Hatuadi Waduheno ("Para la Salud de Nuestro Pueblo",en el lenguaje garifuna). La fundación esta dedicado a traer los servicios de salud mas importantes a las comunidades indígenas aisladas en la costa Atlántica del país. Después de graduarse de la Escuela de Medicina América Latina en Cuba en 2005, el doctor regreso a la costa de Honduras y dirigió la construcción del primer "hospital garifuna rural" lo cual ahora da servicio a 20,000 personas en el area. El hospital abrió en Diciembre 2007. Dr. Castillo fue nombrado el “Doctor Hondureño. del año” en el 2007 por los clubes Rotarios Internacionales de Tegucigalpa.

Gerardo Torres es un joven Hondureño que forma parte del Bloque Popular del cual es uno de los organizadores nacionales es a la vez periodista independiente y miembro del grupo Los Necios, que es una organización comunitaria en Honduras que trabajando con Obreros, Campesinos, federaciones de estudiantes y organizaciones feministas, el forma parte de la comisión política de dicha organización, con la que realiza comunicación y propaganda, finalmente es un miembro activo del Frente Nacional contra el golpe de Estado en Honduras.

Saludos Cordiales

Claudia Lucero
Regional Coordinator Mid West
National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)
1638 South Blue Island Avenue
Chicago, IL. 60608
Ph/fx 877-683-2908 ext.3
Cell 773-858-5345

Fiesta del Sol 2009 a real success from this humble observers opinion…

Ever since Aldermen Danny Solis forced festival organizers in 1997 to move the Fiesta from its traditional location along Blue Island Ave. to Cermak, it seemed that ever year I would hear more people complain the Fiesta “just wasn't what it used to be.” Indeed the wide open straight away of Cermak is probably better in terms of pedestrian traffic flow for a festival that draws over a million attendees ever year, but the move certainly diminished the neighborhood feel of the event.

I remembering attending the Fiesta in the early 90’s before I became a Pilsen resident, and getting lost in what seemed an overcrowded labyrinth of booths, food stalls and music stages. There was a unique frenetic energy about the festival in those days, and often art galleries and business along the route, some on the second or third floor of classic Pilsen tenement buildings, would open their doors to Fiesta visitors. But what bothered me most about the Fiesta in recent years is how many booths were snatched up by chain grocery stores, banks, cell phone providers and drug companies handing out samples. It seemed every year, more and more of the festival was turned over to corporate advertising booths. On top of that these booths often went un-manned for much of the festival, almost like vacant, abandon buildings, providing no purpose but creating a sense of emptiness. At the same time that commercial advertising took over more and more festival ground, local community organizations found it harder to participate. Last I checked (about 3 years ago) the price for a booth for a non-profit was $800, well beyond the budget of organizations like PERRO (Pilsen Environmental Rights & Reform Organization) and NALACC (National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities).

But somehow this year seemed a bit different. Sure, the corporate advertising booths were still there, but it seemed to me there were less of them and they somehow seemed a bit less noticeable. Some, like the State Farm sponsored batting cages, at least had a purpose beyond purely advertising. What I really noticed were the number of areas set aside (or at least taken over for) dancing. The most successful being the “House of Sol” at the west end of the Fiesta near Loomis. On Sunday night there were dozens packed together dancing and sweating to some of the best house beats I have heard in years. The local artist’s booth with Casa Aztlán’s resident artist Roberto Valadez and his work featured prominently at its center was another big draw for passersby and seemed to bring back the true spirit of the Fiesta. Their also seemed to be more activities for children than I remember in recent years.

I still think the festival organizers could do a better job encouraging local community organizations to participate. The most obvious way to do this would be to lower the fees charged to non-profits. I know that the Fiesta is ultimately a fundraiser for the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council and that the organization of the Fiesta is quite costly. I understand that is why booths have to be rented for big money to corporate sponsors (though they should NOT be used to advertise for corporations which harm the community like Midwest Generation – operator of the Fisk coal fired power plant on Cermak). But I think festival organizers could create a better balance between local community groups and corporate interest. All that aside, I found the 2009 Fiesta to be the best I have experienced in a number of years.

Below are some pics from the festival. The rest of the collection (70 photos in all) can be found at the following link...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Opposition of the labor movement in Honduras to the coup continues, despite increasing repression...

ILC Interview with Honduran Labor & Resistance Leader Carlos H. Reyes:

[Note: Following is an interview conducted by the ILC International Newsletter with Carlos H. Reyes, general secretary of the Beverage Industry Workers Union (STIBYS), leader of the Bloque Popular and member of the Coordinating Committee for the National Front Against the Coup. The interview took place on Monday, July 27, 2009 -- three days before Brother Reyes was badly beaten at a peaceful march of striking public-sector workers demanding the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of President Manuel Zelaya. At this writing, Brother Reyes is still hospitalized. -- A.B.]

ILC: On Sunday [July 26] there was an attack on the union headquarters. What happened?

Reyes: The assembly of the National Front had finished 15 minutes before the attack occurred. The participants had gathered for a memorial to the young man, Pedro Muñoz, who was killed by the Honduran army on the border with Nicaragua. There were no victims from the attack on our headquarters.

ILC: Was this a warning to your union and to the Front?
Reyes: No question about it.

ILC: Who makes up the Front, and what are its objectives?

Reyes: The resistance is composed of popular organizations from around the country. To begin with, there are three union federations: the CUTH, the CTH and the CGT. There are organizations of campesinos, students, women, and indigenous peoples. There are also churches and human rights groups. There is the Party for Democratic Unification (UD), a small party on the left, as well as a section of the Liberal Party that supports Zelaya. The main objective of the Front is to ensure the return to institutional legality, the reinstatement of President Mel Zelaya, and the continuation of the process toward the Constituent Assembly.

ILC: What did the assembly of the Front decide on July 26?

Reyes: We decided to continue the resistance movement, issue a new call for a national work stoppage on Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31, and continue with the sit-ins and highway roadblocks.

ILC; What is your position on the Arias Plan? (1)

Reyes: Our position has been crystal clear from the beginning. We are against this so-called mediation. We cannot accept the recognition of a de-facto government established by a coup d'etat. This is a military dictatorship. We reaffirm our demand for the immediate and unconditional return of institutional legality and the continuation of the process toward a Constituent Assembly.

We are also opposed to the two-track position of the U.S. administration. On one hand, Obama condemns the coup but on the other hand the U.S. military-industrial complex supports it. Besides, it is clear that the Honduran dictatorship is not willing to accept the Arias Plan.

ILC: What is the present situation on the border with Nicaragua?

Reyes: Thousands of people mobilized to the border to escort their present back to the capital, but they were blocked by the army, which had cordoned off entire regions and instituted a state of siege. Hundreds of activists were detained, and there has already been the first assassination -- that of compañero Pedro Muñoz. The situation is intolerable.

ILC; How did this entire struggle begin? What prompted it?

Reyes: At the root of it all is the undemocratic 1982 Constitution, which allowed the large businessmen and the multinationals to monopolize all the power. (2) It promoted "free trade" and sweatshop pass-though industries, which have destroyed the national production of our country and our jobs. They, the oligarchy, are the ones who have benefited from the 1982 Constitution and who organized the June 28 coup to preserve their interests.

ILC: What should the international labor movement do on your behalf?

Reyes: We need the broadest possible solidarity from the international labor movement. Through you, we call on all the workers' organizations worldwide to organize the most powerful solidarity effort with our resistance movement.
Our union, the Beverage Industry Workers Union (STIBYS), has issued an appeal to the International Union of Food Workers (IUF). We especially call on the dockworkers and their unions to block the ports and boycott all cargo bound for Honduras. And we call on you to demand of your governments that they act decisively to promote the return of institutional legality in our country, just as the main international institutions have demanded.
(1) Seven-point "mediation" plan put together by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias at the behest of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary that would permit Zelaya to return to Honduras but on the condition that he form a "national unity government" with the coup plotters and that he explicitly renounce the effort to promote a Constitution Assembly and a new constitution.
(2) The 1982 Constitution in Honduras, the country's 15th Constitution, was drafted by a 71-member "Constituent Assembly" selected by the brutal and pro-oligarchy military junta headed by Policarpio Paz García. It is so undemocratic that even the U.S. State Department report on human rights in 1992 had to acknowledge that there are no safeguards in the document that protect basic democratic and human rights. The demand to draft a new Constitution in the interest of the workers and peasants of Honduras has been a long-held demand of the workers' and popular movement in that country.