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December 1, 2009 - No. 222

CN's Unilateral Alteration of Collective Agreement
and Government's Back-to-Work Legislation

All Out against the Criminalization of CN Workers and Their Struggle! An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!

Striking CN locomotive engineers in Prince George, BC, November 28, 2009. (Photo: Opinion250.com)

All Out against the Criminalization of CN Workers and Their Struggle! An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!
CN Working Conditions Inextricably Linked to Safety of Entire People
CN Locomotive Engineers Forced to Initiate Strike Action - Teamsters Canada Rail Conference
Criminalizing the CN Workers - Pierre Chénier and Sandra L. Smith

Canada's Disgraceful Position in Favour of a New Kind of Totalitarian Democracy
Honduran Resistance Rejects Dialogue with Lobo and Calls for Permanent Mobilization - Telesur
Zelaya Will Not Accept His Return to Legitimize Elections - Telesur
Bogus Honduran Elections - Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution

CN's Unilateral Alteration of Collective Agreement
and Government's Back-to-Work Legislation

All Out against the Criminalization of CN Workers and Their Struggle! An Injury to One Is an Injury to All!

On Saturday at midnight, 1,700 CN locomotive engineers organized by the Teamsters Union went on strike in response to their employer's announcement that it would be unilaterally altering their working conditions. TML denounces this attack on the locomotive engineers. It is an attempt by CN to smash the union as an organization that engages in collective bargaining for its members and fights for their rights. CN's provocation left the CN workers with no other option than to go on strike in defence of their rights. Furthermore, instead of defending Canada's rule of law and passing legislation to rein CN in, on Monday the federal government tabled back-to-work legislation against the engineers.

TML denounces the Harper government's criminal social irresponsibility on this matter. Not only is the Harper government siding with the monopoly against the engineers without even investigating the kind of working conditions CN is imposing, it is making the issue CN's "right" to do so. In this way the Harper government will be contributing greatly to harm which these working conditions will cause to the safety of rail travel. Every Liberal or other MP who is going to justify voting for this legislation should think about the shortsighted self-serving policy it serves. The CN workers will be blamed for the consequences of deteriorating working conditions and Canadians will suffer the consequences of derailments and other accidents caused by the already untenable working conditions facing railway workers.

The second matter of great concern to workers across the country is that the monopolies and government agencies are adopting a policy of unilaterally imposing conditions and criminalizing those whose only crime is to abide by a century-old tradition of collective bargaining. The employer uses "shock and awe" tactics and then governments and the courts defend their "right" to do so. The workers are seriously asking the question "What's next?" If the method for sorting out different interests is to be taken away, what should people do? It is a very legitimate question. The monopolies and governments are suggesting that people should agree to become abject slaves in the name of the alleged greater good. The workers will not do this. So, Harper government, Liberals, NDP and Bloc -- how about tackling that issue? Vote No!

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CN Working Conditions Inextricably Linked
to Safety of Entire People

For years, the CN workers have been fighting against the deterioration of their working conditions which are inextricably connected with the security of the Canadian people. These workers are responsible for moving huge loads of freight across Canada, which often includes hazardous industrial materials, traversing bodies of water and populated areas. In spite of the workers' demands for changes to ensure their safety and well-being and that of Canadians, injuries, accidents, derailments and spills are occurring with greater frequency. With utter callousness, CN is now demanding still more mileage per month from the engineers, offering a wage increase below what the workers are demanding. Together with the federal government, CN is participating in a campaign of disinformation while criminalizing the struggle of the workers with "discipline" on the shop floor, refusal to negotiate, unilateral alteration of their working conditions and now crushing the strike with back-to-work legislation.

CN only has to declare that the workers' demands are excessive, negotiations are impossible and that gives them the "right" to impose their demands on the workers. The Harper government is acting on the same narrow basis. By declaring that the strike is a "threat to economic recovery" it is helping CN to achieve its aim. It is unacceptable.

All workers must speak out against this alarming anti-union, anti-worker and anti-social trend which uses provocation as its method in order to deploy the power of the state against the workers and make the will of the monopolies the law of the country. The fact that this is happening less than a month after the Ontario Colleges Employer's Council also tried to unilaterally impose working conditions on their full-time teachers and the same activity is occurring in BC indicates that there is a concerted attempt on the part of the monopolies and their governments to make this the new normal.

TML calls on all workers and Canadians to defend the CN engineers and mobilize the collective strength of the workers' movement to take up the challenge and defeat this intensified assault on the working class.

All Out against the Criminalization of CN Workers and Their Struggle!
An Injury to One Is an Injury to All! All for One and One for All!

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CN Locomotive Engineers Forced
to Initiate Strike Action

Late yesterday, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), served notice to initiate strike action at Canadian National Railways (CN) effective 00:01 local time, Saturday, November 28, 2009.

The decision to service strike notice came after CN notified the Union they planned to arbitrarily alter the terms and conditions of the working conditions for approximately 1700 locomotive engineers.

CN advised the TCRC that it plans to incorporate a 1.5% wage increase coupled with the requirement to have locomotive engineers work an additional 500 miles per month over the amount required by the present Collective Agreement. This change would require some of the locomotive engineers to work 7 days a week with no time off and cause layoffs within the ranks of the conductors, trainmen and yardmen.

The parties have been assisted by Federal Mediators since August in the hope of renewing their Collective Agreement, which expired on December 31, 2008, but stalled after CN declined to continue negotiations during their last bargaining session. The TCRC has offered CN, through the mediators, to withdraw/suspend their strike notice if CN would withdraw/suspend their notice of the change to the Collective Agreement and get back to the table to negotiate.

"Canadian National Railways has forced us to service strike notice after they informed us of the unilateral change to the terms and conditions of the Collective Agreement effectively locking out our members" said Daniel J. Shewchuk President of TCRC, which represents CN locomotive engineers, conductors, trainmen and yardmen, "It is obvious to us that CN is counting on the Federal Government intervention to settle the issues rather exploring solutions to a negotiated agreement."

"As advised by the company, these changes are the tip of the iceberg and we cannot sit idly by while CN simply changes the terms and conditions of the Collective Agreement. Our members deserve much better than that," said Shewchuk.

The TCRC is also in the process of filing a complaint of bargaining in bad faith against CN as the situation continues to deteriorate.

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference represents 12,000 railway workers with major railroads and shortline railroads across Canada and affiliated with the 125,000 members in Teamsters Canada and 1.4 million members in North America with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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Criminalizing the CN Workers

CN Rail, the federal government through its Labour Minister Rona Ambrose and the monopoly media are waging a campaign of disinformation to justify criminalizing the struggle of the locomotive engineers on strike since November 28. The impression is given that the CN owners and the federal government are very reasonable people interested in the public good in tough economic times. The workers are the selfish ones mainly interested in defending "privileges." They are so selfish they are even willing to cause economic disruption during these hard times.

Upon hearing that the CN engineers had gone on strike last Saturday, a CN spokesperson said: "A TCRC [Teamsters Canada Rail Conference] strike is particularly unfortunate because CN has repeatedly offered, and the union has refused, to submit the contract disagreements to binding arbitration in order to avoid a labour disruption. A labour strike at this time is in no one's interest, as it will hurt CN's customers, its employees and the Canadian economy."

CN communications director Mark Hallman said: "The company could not accept the excessive wage demands of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. We feel this is a hugely missed opportunity that the union did not agree to CN's repeated requests to submit the issues in this dispute to binding arbitration. It's very unfortunate that the union has decided to (strike) because this will have an impact on our customers and on the Canadian economy."

The main point here is how the CN officials are avoiding discussion on what gave them the right to unilaterally alter the working conditions of the CN engineers. The union reports that on Monday, November 23, CN sent a notice that starting November 28, it was unilaterally implementing its wage offer of a 1.5 percent yearly raise and the increase of the mileage that engineers currently work each month from 3,800 to 4,300 miles (approximately 6,120 to 6,900 kilometres). Workers have repeatedly said that such an increase would mean both a significant increase in their working hours and layoffs for a section of them. This was done in the midst of the negotiation for a new contract.

Labour laws recognize the legal right of the unions to collective bargaining of their working conditions, but the CN owners, on the basis of their opinion that negotiations were going nowhere (i.e. that the workers were rejecting CN demands for concessions) decided to go for a coup. They decided to impose their demands and totally ignore the bargaining regime. Imagine if the CN workers decided that tomorrow they would not work their 3,800 miles next month but only 3,000 miles for the same wage. CN would be screaming and yelling that they can't do that and fire them for not abiding by their contract.

The CN owners are covering up their aim to de facto wipe out the union as an organization that engages in collective bargaining. The fact is that the union offered to take the wage issue to binding arbitration but not the increased workload which is a life and death issue for the workers. How can this serious difference of opinion over the significance of working conditions be resolved by the monopoly smashing the negotiations regime and using force to settle differences?

To justify back-to-work legislation, Ambrose said: "My preference has always been for the two sides to resolve their own labour dispute but since this has proven impossible, our Government must act to protect the public interest. We cannot allow a major disruption of our transportation system. CN is a vital component of Canada's economic infrastructure and we will do what is necessary to protect Canadians' jobs and the country's prosperity. We will not impose a settlement on the employer and union, but we will introduce legislation to end the strike... This is more than a private dispute between CN Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. It has serious repercussions for the national economy at a time when Canada's recovery from the global recession is still fragile."

The monopoly media have also quoted her as saying that she was "disappointed" by the fact that the two parties could not reach an agreement and that at least CN was ready to send everything to binding arbitration while the workers were not as cooperative.

It is irrelevant whether or not Minister Ambrose prefers the two sides come to a negotiated agreement. The workers have the legal right to negotiate their working conditions and the government is intervening to permit its negation. If Minister Ambrose was serious about the issue of her "preference" for negotiations she should demand that the CN owners back off from their provocation and immediately stop any plan to unilaterally alter the working conditions of the CN workers. Clearly the government and the monopolies have decided to raise the bar of what they can get away with it in attacking workers' rights. They are opening new territory where it becomes a pattern that the owners of capital simply impose the working conditions and de facto make the unions redundant.

What path for the rule of law is the allegedly very moral Harper government setting for Canada? In Harper's Canada, are the workers no longer allowed to disagree on their own working conditions and if they do the employers will be legally entitled to bypass the negotiations and make their will the new contractual agreement without a contract?

We are talking here about a huge step backward in terms of workers' rights. It is a step towards a totalitarian regime which the Harper government, employers and media call a democracy -- a new totalitarian democracy. And to boot, it is justified by saying that the workers brought it on themselves because of bad behaviour, intransigent insistence to "stick to privileges," etc. Now there's a novel definition of democracy for you: The workers have participated in making the decision because they refused to cooperate!!!

Minister Ambrose contributes to the establishment of this totalitarian democracy by adding to the lies. Her statement that the strike is more than a private dispute between a private employer and a union because it affects the economy is a hypocritical double standard. For years, workers lost their jobs and livelihoods en masse and this is still happening. This is not considered a disruption to the economy! Clearly what makes it "more than a private dispute" is when workers say No! and take action to defend their interests. If working conditions, the well-being of the producers of the social wealth and providers of services are not at the heart of the economy and of the economic recovery, what is?

Workers can see the unprincipled manner in which any and every excuse is invoked to impose the concept that the workers have no rights that belong to them by virtue of being workers and that anything goes in terms of violating their rights.

This must not be allowed to pass. Workers of all sectors of the economy must speak out in defence of all those who are targets of attack by the rich and their governments.

* Pierre Chénier is the Secretary of the Workers' Centre of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and Sandra L. Smith is the First Secretary of the Party.

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Canada's Disgraceful Position in Favour of a
New Kind of Totalitarian Democracy

July 2, 2009: Demonstrations in Toronto (left) and Montreal demand restitution of
President Manuel Zelaya and constitutional order in Honduras.

On December 1, Canada's Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), Peter Kent, issued a disgraceful statement congratulating "the people of Honduras on the country's presidential and legislative elections last Sunday."

"Canada congratulates the Honduran people for the relatively peaceful and orderly manner in which the country's elections were conducted," a press release says. Admitting that the elections "were not monitored by international organizations such as the Organization of American States," Kent dismisses the significance of this fact. Through sleight of hand he declares an altogether spurious method for legitimization of an election by elements which would never pass muster under any conceivable legitimate circumstances. "We are encouraged by reports from civil society organizations that there was a strong turnout for the elections, that they appear to have been run freely and fairly, and that there was no major violence," Kent says. He totally ignores verdicts rendered by President Zelaya and the Honduran resistance. Why such a prejudice against the people of Honduras, Mr. Kent?

The stand of the government of Stephen Harper is revealing the lengths it is willing to go to establish a new self-serving definition of democracy -- a new kind of totalitarian democracy. Just because it controls the levers of power in Canada at a time there is no viable opposition to replace it does not mean Canadians will tolerate this totalitarian notion of democracy. Peter Kent's undisguised promotion of the U.S. agenda for Honduras is disgraceful as well. Here is what he says:

"The election results make it more important than ever for the parties to refocus their attention on implementing the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord. We call for strong political leadership on the part of Porfirio Lobo in forming a government of national unity to help Honduras move out of this lengthy political impasse and enable a speedy return to democratic rule and constitutional order.

"Canada calls on all Honduran stakeholders, including all branches of government, the private sector and civil society, to work together in a spirit of constructive reconciliation."

It will not succeed, Mr. Kent. It will not happen.

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Honduran Resistance Rejects Dialogue with Lobo
and Calls for Permanent Mobilization

The National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d'Etat in Honduras this Monday rejected any kind of dialogue with Porfirio Lobo, the winner of Sunday's disputed elections and announced that its members will maintain their street actions until the constitutional order of the nation is re-established, beginning with the return to power of Manuel Zelaya.

Speaking from the headquarters of STIBYS (Union of Beverage and Related Industry Workers) in Tegucigalpa, the former presidential candidate, Carlos Reyes, said at a press conference that "we will continue rejecting any dialogue with the coup participants."

Reyes pointed out that the road to take against the coup is "resistance" and that the objectives now are to restore constitutional order and return Manuel Zelaya, the legitimate head of state, to power and "in case we don't succeed in this, to try and establish a constituent assembly."

Rafael Alegria, a peasant leader and one of the leaders of the Front, for his part called on the Honduran people "to maintain its permanent mobilization" in the streets, rejecting the electoral fraud and demanding a constituent assembly.

"The Resistance is growing stronger and is being consolidated while the regime that arose from [Sunday's] elections is spurious and completely debilitated and for this reason we have nothing to discuss with this regime," the leader pointed out, asserting, as well, that the abstention rate in this Sunday's elections was over 60 percent.

The Resistance declared its rejection following declarations by Lobo after his "triumph" when he called on the Honduran people to maintain a national dialogue that is "open, without dismissing anybody."

At the same time, Alegria pointed out that the confrontations that took place during the illegal electoral process in San Pedro Sula in the north between the police and demonstrating supporters of Zelaya left a total of 48 arrested, a young girl missing and six wounded who needed to be hospitalized.

The controversial general elections that were held November 29 took place without the support of a large part of the international community, which considered that they occurred within a framework of a constitutional breakdown.

(Translated from the original Spanish by TML Daily.)

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Zelaya Will Not Accept His Return
to Legitimize Elections

The constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, announced this Monday that he will not accept his return to power in order to legalize the disputed elections that took place Sunday and he insisted that the process must be declared void in order to return to institutional legitimacy in the country.

"I will neither to return to legitimize the coup nor to endorse a process that is totally null and void," Zelaya stressed in declarations to Radio Globo.

Zelaya aded that "neither can a return under the conditions of legalizing this electoral fraud be accepted by somebody like myself who is fighting for principles." He likewise reiterated his allegations that the abstention rate was higher than 60 percent versus the 61.3 percent participation rate that the de facto electoral authorities of Honduras are claiming.

The legitimate head of state pointed out that "even with the adjustment the technicians of the TSE [Supreme Electoral Tribunal] committed a serious mistake" because "if 1.7 million votes corresponds to 61.3 percent [correction TML], what would be 100 percent? That would be 2.8 million votes." The TSE indicated that the participation rate in the elections was 61.3 percent, with a total of 1,716,027 votes cast out of a total of 2,598,600 registered voters. "I am going to look after getting the data municipality by municipality," said Zelaya, emphasizing that "the entire people know that voter participation dropped" yet "nevertheless they say that there were 600,000 more votes in this election."

The elections that took place under a regime that was put in place through a coup d'etat in June were characterized by a low participation rate that, according to estimates from local pollsters, was somewhere around 40 percent.

The constitutional president indicated earlier that the de facto government, led by Roberto Micheletti, inflated the electoral results and he expressed his surprise at the exaggeration of the data announced by the Electoral Tribunal of Honduras, which according to figures from the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d'Etat are not true. "We are extremely surprised at the way this election was blown up to convert it into a lie for the Hondurans," Zelaya stated from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa [...] Zelaya reiterated that the electoral activities proceeded in a Honduras whose population was "terrorized" and without "freedom to express itself" because of the military presence throughout the country, and said that the review of the data will demonstrate that the elections were "flawed by fraud, illegality and motive."

President Zelaya who has been sheltered in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa since September 21, declared that "I will not surrender although they are threatening me, although they want to humiliate me because I'm defending a cause (...), the cause of the people of Honduras."

(Translated from the original Spanish by TML Daily.)

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Bogus Honduran Elections

"What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?" - A senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, to reporters in Washington.

The true divides in Latin America -- between justice and injustice, democracy and dictatorship, human rights and corporate rights, people's power and imperial domination -- have never been more visible than today. People's movements throughout the region to revolutionize corrupt, unequal systems that have isolated and excluded the vast majority in Latin American nations, are successfully taking power democratically and building new models of economic and social justice. Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador are the vanguard of these movements, with other nations such as Uruguay and Argentina moving at a slower pace towards change.

The region has historically been plagued by brutal U.S. intervention, seeking at all costs to dominate the natural and strategic resources contained in this vast, abundant territory. With the exception of the defiant Cuban Revolution, Washington achieved control over puppet regimes placed throughout Latin America by the end of the twentieth century. When Hugo Chávez won the presidency in 1998 and the Bolivarian Revolution began to [take] root, the balance of power and imperial control over the region started to weaken. Eight years of Bush/Cheney brought coup d'etats back to the region, in Venezuela in 2002 against President Chávez and Haiti in 2004 against President Aristide. The former was defeated by a mass popular uprising, the latter succeeded in ousting a president no longer convenient to Washington's interests.

Despite the Bush administration's efforts to neutralize the spread of revolution in Latin America through coups, economic sabotages, media warfare, psychological operations, electoral interventions and an increasing military presence, nations right across the border such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala elected leftist-leaning presidents. Latin American integration solidified with UNASUR (the union of South American nations) and ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas), and Washington's grip on power began to slip away.

Henry Kissinger said in the seventies, "if we can't control Latin America, how can we dominate the world?" This imperial vision is more evident today than ever before. Obama's presence in the White House was erroneously viewed by many in the region as a sign of an end to U.S. aggression in the world, and especially here, in Latin America. At least, many believed, Obama would downscale the growing tensions with its neighbors to the south. In fact, he himself, the new President of the United States, made allusion to such changes.

But now, the Obama administration's "Smart Power" strategy has been unmasked. The handshakes, smiles, gifts and promises of "no intervention" and "a new era" made by President Obama himself to leaders of Latin American nations last spring at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad have unraveled and turned into cynical gestures of hypocrisy. When Obama came to power, Washington's reputation in the region was at an all-time low. The meager attempts to "change" the North-South relationship in the Americas have made things worse and reaffirmed that Kissinger's vision of control over this region is a state policy, irrespective of party affiliation or public discourse.

Washington's role in the coup in Honduras against President Zelaya has been evident from day one. The continual funding of coup leaders, the U.S. military presence at the Soto Cano base in Honduras, the ongoing meetings between State Department officials and the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, with coup leaders, and the cynical attempts to force "mediation" and "negotiation" between the coup leaders and the legitimate government of Honduras, have provided clear evidence of Washington's intentions to consolidate this new form of "smart coup." The Obama administration's initial public insistence on Zelaya's legitimacy as president of Honduras quickly faded after the first weeks of the coup. Calls for "restitution of democratic and constitutional order" became weak whispers repeated by the monotone voices of State Department spokesmen.

The imposition of Costan Rican president Oscar Arias -- a staunch ally of neoliberalism and imperialism -- to "mediate" the negotiation ordered by Washington between coup leaders and President Zelaya was a circus. At the time, it was apparent that Washington was engaging in a "buying time" strategy, pandering to the coup leaders while publicly "working" to resolve the conflict in Honduras. Arias' insincerity and complicity in the coup was evident from the very morning of Zelaya's violent kidnapping and forced exile. The Pentagon, State Department and CIA officials present on the Soto Cano base, which is controlled by Washington, arranged for Zelaya's transport to Costa Rica. Arias had subserviently agreed to refuge the illegally ousted president and to not detain those who kidnapped him and piloted the plane that -- in violation of international law -- landed in Costa Rican territority.

Today, Oscar Arias has called on all nations to "recognize" the illegal and illegitimate elections occurring in Honduras. Why not? he says, if there is no fraud or irregularity, "why not recognize the newly elected president?" The State Department and even President Obama himself have said the same thing, and are calling on all nations -- pressuring -- to recognize a regime that will be elected under a dictatorship. Seems that fraud and irregularity are already present, considering that today, no democracy exists in Honduras that would permit proper conditions for an electoral process. Not to mention that the State Department admitted to funding the elections and campaigns in Honduras weeks ago. And the "international observers" sent to witness and provide "credibility" to the illegal process are all agencies and agents of empire. The International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, both agencies created to filter funding from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to political parties abroad in order to promote U.S. agenda, not only funded those groups involved in the Honduran coup, but now are "observing" the elections. Terrorist groups such as UnoAmerica, led by Venezuelan coup leader Alejando Peña Esclusa, have also sent "observers" to Honduras. Miami-Cuban terrorist and criminal Adolfo Franco, former USAID director, is another "heavyweight" on the list of electoral observers in Honduras today.

But the Organization of American States (OAS) and Carter Center, hardly "leftist" entities, have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate and refused to send observers. So has the United Nations and the European Union, as well as UNASUR and ALBA.

Washington stands alone, with its right-wing puppet states in Colombia, Panamá, Perú, Costa Rica and Israel [and Canada -- TML Ed. Note], as the only nations to have publicly indicated recognition of the electoral process in Honduras and the future regime. A high-level State Department official cynically declared to the Washington Post, "What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?" Well, Washington has sat for 50 years and refused to recognize the Cuban government. But that's because the Cuban government is not convenient for Washington. The Honduran dictatorship is.

The Honduran resistance movement is boycotting the elections, calling on people to abstain from participating in an illegal process. The streets of Honduras have been taken over by thousands of military forces, under control of the coup regime and the Pentagon. With advanced weapons technology from Israel, the coup regime is prepared to massively repress and brutalize any who attempt to resist the electoral process. We must remain vigilant and stand with the people of Honduras in the face of the immense danger surrounding them. Today's elections are a second coup d'etat against the Honduran people, this time openly designed, promoted, funded and supported by Washington. Whatever the result, no justice will be brought to Honduras until Washington's intervention ceases.

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