June 10, 2013 - No. 71
Important By-Election in British
Christy Clark Can Be Defeated in
in British Columbia
• Christy Clark Can Be Defeated in
Westside-Kelowna - Charles Boylan
• Merchant of Death Secures Interests of
• Neo-Liberal Hooks Sink Deeper into Peru
• Harper in Colombia
• Peddling "Security" Equipment in Guatemala
• Between Heaven and Hell -
Declaration of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- People's
of Coup in Honduras
• Call for Coordinated Actions -
Honduras Solidarity Network
• Parliamentary Hearings on
Rights Situation in Honduras - Rights Action
Important By-Election in British Columbia
Christy Clark Can Be Defeated in Westside-Kelowna
All out to mobilize
opposition to neo-liberal retrogression!
NDP candidate David Eby defeated BC Liberal leader
Clark in the Vancouver Point Grey riding by 1063 votes in the recent
provincial election. Eby's victory was a great blow to neo-liberal
politics. It showed that with mass political mobilization, the people
can become motivated to act politically and work in their own interests
and in the public interest to defeat the anti-social private monopoly
interests pushing the Liberal Party's neo-liberal politics in BC.
For Clark to act as neo-liberal Premier within the
she needs to win a seat in a by-election. With the June 5 resignation
of Liberal MLA Ben Stewart, the Liberal Party is organizing a July
by-election in Westside-Kelowna in the hopes of an easy Clark win.
Clark and the mass media suggest her election is a
mainly because the region has returned mainly Liberal and Social Credit
MLAs in the past. But when the people intervene in their own interests,
history and politics do not necessarily conform to the wishes of the
neo-liberals. Otherwise, Clark would have won in Point Grey and the
hated neo-liberal HST would not have been defeated, in large measure
with the energetic work of many in the Okanagan.
The forces opposed to Clark's neo-liberal retrogressive
can with maximum effort, upset the plans of the real estate monopolies
entrenched in the Lower Mainland and the energy, mining and forestry
monopolies in the interior and along the coast. The people of the
Okanagan can send a loud message that they do not agree with the
destructive neo-liberal politics and agenda of the powerful global
monopolies and their political representative Christy Clark.
employees in Kelowna,
September 5, 2012.
Westside-Kelowna is a large riding with over half its
population situated in the municipality of West Kelowna. The working
class makes up the largest section of West Kelowna's population.
Twenty-six per cent of the labour force is engaged in the goods
producing sector, which is a higher percentage than for the rest of the
Okanagan Valley and BC as a whole. The two largest goods producing
sectors are construction and manufacturing. Specialty building trade
contractors employ the largest number of construction workers. The
manufacturing sector consists mainly of wood processing and
transportation equipment manufacturing alongside other manufacturing
workers. Gorman Brothers sawmill is a major employer in the town.
The largest proportion of West Kelowna workers, 73 per
is in the service producing sector. The majority work in retail
services, health care and social services, consistent with the rest of
BC. The percentage of administrative office workers is only about half
the BC average. A majority of workers living in the community of
Westbank commute to Kelowna and even farther to go to work. Farms and
wineries are common beyond the town limits.
The riding includes the highly organized,
Westbank First Nation with 9,000 people living on its territory, of
whom 8,000 are non-Indigenous. The First Nation runs its local
government in the manner of a small municipality.
Objectively the majority of the polity in
every reason to oppose the over-all neo-liberal agenda pushed by Clark.
The people stand to suffer from further retrogressive cuts to public
education and health care, and the wrecking of BC Hydro, which is
poised to increase drastically its rates in the coming period. While
Clark and the media say the community is in the camp of the energy and
other monopolies, a strong case can be made by a well-organized and
thought-out opposition that rational development of resources,
processed mostly within the province, generating a strong manufacturing
base along with a vibrant public sector will provide more secure
employment and a prosperous future.
Mass political mobilization of the working class
the importance of defeating the Clark neo-liberal agenda in practice
could encourage more to vote than normal for a by-election, which on
average is a third less than in regular elections. Clark is counting on
less than 15,000 voters casting a ballot in a summer by-election. The
working class must prove her wrong again with organization and
conviction to get the vote out.
Serious political arguments have to be put forward by
opposition to persuade citizens, especially workers, youth and First
Nations people, that they can make a difference and can defeat Clark.
It will be an affirmation of the people's desire to have a rational
alternative to Clark's retrogressive attack on social programs, public
services, BC Hydro, and the sell-out of the province to the mostly
foreign energy, resource, real estate and financial monopolies.
The entire shameful neo-liberal
wrecking legacy of the Campbell/Clark governments and the wrong
direction of the economy putting the province into the hands of the
global monopolies and away from local manufacturing, social programs
and public services can be opposed by providing the people with a
convincing alternative and mobilizing them where they work and live,
approaching them through their organizations as well as person to
person and house to house just as many in the area did during the
successful anti-HST referendum. Activists must engage the voters in
discussion and mobilize them against the undermining of public K-12
education, the indebting of post-secondary students, the cut-backs in
health and seniors' care, destruction of the public oversight of the
forest industry, the wrecking of BC Hydro, not to mention the
corruption of the sale of BC Rail in which Clark is personally
The people of the Westside-Kelowna riding have proven
have every interest to become empowered so that decision-making is in
their own hands and not centred in the board rooms of the global
monopolies, where the local interests of the people are furthest from
their minds, which are consumed with their private interests.
For all of Clark's mantra about "jobs, jobs, jobs," over
per cent of the workers in the riding are unemployed. Measures are
required to strengthen manufacturing and to enhance the natural
benefits of local agriculture. New employment could also be created by
increasing investments in social programs and public services, as well
as improving the social and cultural facilities and public
infrastructure required by the community.
The by-election should summon to the electoral
teachers, health care workers, trade unionists from every sector,
people concerned with the environment and the direction of society,
small business owners and operators, as well as the professional
organizers. Let the lessons from the defeat of Clark and her
neo-liberal agenda in Point Grey be applied in Westside-Kelowna! Adding
one more seat to the opposition and chasing off her anti-social
entourage of global monopoly agents to another "safe" riding will be a
great victory for the people and an alternative pro-social agenda. Let
us show the mettle of the BC working people as we did in the anti-HST
referendum and in Point Grey.
BC for the people and renewal, not the
their political agents and retrogression!
All out to defeat Christy Clark in Westside-Kelowna!
Harper Government's Americas Strategy
Merchant of Death Secures Interests of
From May 21-23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled
Latin America to help secure the interests of Canadian mining and other
monopolies at the expense of the peoples of Latin America. Time and
time again, Canadian mining monopolies have been implicated in the
worst human rights abuses against the peoples, including the killing of
mining activists by their armed security forces.
On May 21, Harper made the first ever visit by a
Canadian Prime Minister to Peru, following which he travelled to Cali,
Colombia on May 22-23 for meetings of the Pacific Alliance which is
made up of Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile.
Throughout Harper's current and past visits to the
common thread has emerged. The Government of Canada continues to push
and further cement the interests of Canadian mining monopolies and
other industries through free trade agreements or other means. This
includes activities to undermine democratically elected governments to
promote neo-liberal trade and the interests of the monopolies.
Following the 2009 military-led coup in Honduras, Canada's response was
to decry the coup in the mildest possible terms, continue providing
military and security "aid" to Honduras, and blame President Manuel
Zelaya for the coup and the violence instigated by the coup forces. In
2011, it concluded a neo-liberal free trade agreement with that
anti-national government. Most notorious is of course Canada's
participation in the 2004 coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
of Haiti to install a regime of death-squad democracy. For years,
Canadian monopolies have brutally exploited the Haitian people and are
now looking to pillage its mineral wealth. This is Canada's new
contribution to peace and democracy in the Americas. It is no wonder
most countries of the Americas see Canada and its partner the U.S. as a
block to Latin American development and progress.
Neo-Liberal Hooks Sink Deeper into Peru
On May 21 Harper met with Peruvian
President Ollanta Humala. In a joint statement following the meetings,
the two leaders noted that since 2009, when the bilateral Free Trade,
Labour Cooperation and Environment Agreements between the two countries
came into effect, two-way merchandise trade has increased 48.8 per
cent, reaching more than $4.2 billion in 2012.
In the context of Peru's position in the Pacific
the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Canadian monopolies want in on,
Prime Minister Harper announced "support to Peru's efforts to improve
the environmental impact assessment process for mining and energy
projects as well as support to natural resource governance." The Harper
government's moves at home to usurp control over the regulation-making
authority for environmental assessments -- to streamline projects
demanded by the monopolies by disempowering First Nations -- gives a
good indication of its intentions in Peru.
Harper also announced "support to small businesses in
extractive regions to encourage economic diversification." Both leaders
also discussed the recently launched Canadian International Institute
for Extractive Industries and Development. For his part, President
Humala "recognized the importance of this Institute and the potential
of partnering with it in the future."
In this way aid to the countries of the Americas is
being used to facilitate the role of mining and other resource
extraction monopolies in these countries so that they can reap maximum
capitalist profit. The notion of providing assistance to developing
countries based on mutual benefit is anathema to the Harperites, as
their dominionist outlook does not permit them to see other countries
as being made of peoples striving to affirm their rights, but instead
as sources of wealth and human and natural resources to be exploited on
the world market.
Another focus of the visit was strengthening Canada's
as a merchant of military and security merchandise to certain regimes
in Latin America, likely to assist them in "securing" Canadian
investments in those countries. The joint release states the two
leaders "stressed the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding
signed between the Ministry of Defence of Peru and the Canadian
Commercial Corporation (CCC), a Crown corporation of the Government of
Canada, that will facilitate transactions for services, or military and
defence requirements for the Government of Peru, through a
Also a subject of the meetings was the push to shore up
Organization of American States and its scheme for interfering in the
affairs of Latin American countries, namely the Inter-American
Democratic Charter: "The leaders shared their common vision of the role
they assign to the Organization of American States and the importance
of strengthening the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The leaders
committed to strengthening the Organization of American States, the
Summit process and Inter-American human rights system to enhance their
The Context of Harper's Visit to Peru
Peru has become Canada's second largest trading partner
Latin America and the Caribbean. Last year, Canadian direct investment
in Peru was $6.9 billion, most of this in he mining, oil and gas
industries. Peru is a leading producer of copper, silver and gold.
Peru has also been a country of focus for Canadian
aid since 2009, receiving more than $28 million through the Canadian
International Development Agency in 2011-12 alone. Much of the funds
given in aid must be used to promote development projects linked to
mining and education.
Canadian companies like Pan American Silver Corp. and
Gold Corp. operate mines in Peru. According to Jose de Echave, former
vice-minister of the Environment in President Humala's first cabinet,
"Many of Peru's historic and current mining conflicts are related to
One of the most recent involves Vancouver-based Candente
Copper, which hopes to build a copper mine in northern Peru's tropical
forests. Leaders from the indigenous community of Cañaris say
the proposed mine would destroy their source of water and livelihood.
Last year the community held a referendum in which 95 per cent voted
against the mine, but the company and government have ignored the
results and are pushing ahead with the project. Peru's government is
currently trying to deny the community's indigenous status, despite the
fact that Cañaris holds official government certification as an
indigenous community. This may well be what Canada's latest aid slated
for "natural resource governance" will be used to sort out.
Violence broke out this past January when a peaceful
demonstration against the mine was attacked by Peruvian police. About
400 farmers were attacked using tear gas. According to reports at least
25 people were injured, four of them with serious wounds from gunshots
and rubber bullets. A dialogue process was set up to resolve the
dispute, made up of representatives from the company, the Peruvian
government and local communities. However, representatives from
Cañaris say they were not allowed to participate in the latest
Another Canadian mining company involved in a conflict
the Peruvian people involves the country's first uranium project, owned
by Macusani Yellowcake, a Toronto-based mining company. The proposed
mine was given approval this April. "The government is treating the
project as though it were an ordinary mine, without any special
provisions regarding uranium mining," says Jose de Echave, adding, "And
the local community is completely unaware of the possible impacts." The
project is located in Peru's Puno Department, where Quechua-speaking
farmers have a subsistence livelihood based on herding llamas and
Harper in Colombia
On May 23, Prime Minister attended a meeting of the
Alliance for the first time. This Latin American bloc, focused on free
trade and economic integration, includes Colombia, Peru, Mexico and
Chile. According to the World Trade Organization, the members of the
Alliance exported about $534 billion in 2011. It was formally
established in 2012. Presently, Canada has free trade agreements with
Mexico, Colombia and Chile and is negotiating one with Peru. It has
observer status in the Alliance.
Giving a sense of the political nature of Canada's use
is called "free trade," bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and
the four alliance countries totalled $39 billion in 2012. This compares
with only $9.7 billion the year before in trade with the MERCOSUR trade
bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and
While in Colombia for the Pacific Alliance meeting,
announced Canadian support to help children in the Colombian
departments of Cauca and Nariño gain better access to quality
education. "One of Canada's development priorities in Colombia and the
broader Americas is to help young people go to school and stay in
school so that they can secure brighter futures," said Prime Minister
Harper. "The project announced today will help vulnerable children and
youth in southwest Colombia receive the education they need to
succeed." The idea that this aid is simply to help young people go to
school beggars belief in light of the Harper government's refusal to
provide education for First Nations youth in Canada's north who are
forced to leave their communities to go to school.
Alberto Acevedo writing for the Voz newspaper
out that the Cauca region "is a strategic corridor that allows the
quickest possible connection with the Pacific Coast of the country and
with Ecuador. Its geological location in the Andes means it is rich in
a variety of ground minerals and natural resources.
"In Cauca this means that there are
all types of mineral ores that have been detected and studied
sufficiently by development agencies and United States intelligence via
satellite, who are interested in delivering this inside information to
large corporations, who are interested in plundering our natural
"[...] we know that under the surface of the land sacred
the indigenous there is gold, oil, platinum, copper, coltan and other
strategic materials. Large transnational corporations, particularly
U.S. ones, have had their eyes, on the agricultural areas of Cauca,
Putumayo, Caquetá and Nariño, for a long time, since
these make up one geological unit."
This is another example of the Harper government's use
to try and undermine the resistance of local communities to the
destructive actions of Canadian mining monopolies. The Cauca and
Nariño departments contain large proportions of indigenous
Colombians, many living in areas that are virtually autonomous. There
are also large numbers of Afro-Colombians with a tradition of artisanal
mining. Canada's so-called aid is likely aimed at utilizing various
NGOs to undermine the coherence of these regions.
The initiative, which is supported by the Canadian
International Development Agency and the Government of Colombia, will
be implemented over five years (2013-2018) by a consortium comprised of
Save the Children Canada and the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Peddling "Security" Equipment in Guatemala
On June 3, Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign
Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), announced the delivery of
Canadian-funded equipment to "improve security and stability in
Guatemala and throughout the region."
The equipment, including digital cameras, radios,
and computers, is going to be used to "bolster investigations into
major crimes, including transnational criminal activity and
narco-trafficking. The project is delivered through Canada's Anti-Crime
Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) and directly supports special methods
of investigation by the Office of the Attorney General in Guatemala."
Are the kind of special methods Canada supports in
in line with the Harper government's "special methods" of giving the
state all sorts of powers to violate rights in the name of fighting
crime, terrorism or child pornography? Is the notion of security it
promotes in Guatemala in keeping with its so-called Canadian values
used to justify violations of rights domestically and so-called
universal values of justice, democracy and human rights to justify
violations of the laws and norms of international relations abroad?
Extending the Harper government's bogus "tough on crime
our own" to the Americas, a government news release states: "As part of
our engagement in the Americas, Canada is committed to working with our
neighbours throughout the region to improve safety and security for the
people who call the Americas home," said Minister Ablonczy. "Canada's
support will help the Guatemalan authorities address transnational
crime, bring its perpetrators to justice and improve security for the
The projects come under the Canadian Initiative for
in Central America launched by the Harper government at last year's
Organization of American States Assembly in Cartagena, Colombia.
The announcement came on the eve of the meeting of the
General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Guatemala
from June 4-6. The General Assembly was attended by Minister Ablonczy
on behalf of Canada and Secretary of State John Kerry on behalf of the
United States, along with the foreign ministers from 32 Caribbean and
Latin American states -- all of the countries of the Americas except
Cuba. Security and drug trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean
were both topics dealt with by the OAS despite the experience of the
peoples of the Americas that the greatest consumer of drugs is the U.S.
itself which is also the centre of the drug cartels that cause death
and destruction in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
For Canada to join the U.S. in providing military hardware to
Guatemala, where the U.S. sponsored violent human rights abuses which
led to a decade-long dirty war, is unacceptable.
Colombian Peace Negotiations
Between Heaven and Hell
The dialogues in Havana are in limbo because of the man
wants to go down in history as the president who made peace in Colombia.
Echoes of the government of the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela's just protest over [President Juan Manuel] Santos receiving
the opposition leader Capriles in Nariño Palace are
Not a few believe that the visit to Bogota of Joe Biden,
President of the United States, was the origin of Santos' outburst. And
they link it to a plan of Washington headed up by a Trojan horse named
the "Pacific Alliance" which, managed by Washington, aims to
destabilize and derail popular governments like those of Venezuela,
Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay, among others. What would prompt Santos to
announce Colombia's fanciful entry into NATO? To threaten Venezuela,
Don't believe those who attribute the president's
ingenuousness, because Santos is no fool. As a statesman he is obliged
to measure the effect of his actions.
Juan Manuel Santos knew his provocation against the
government of Venezuela would go off like a firecracker on the dialogue
table in Havana, because the issue of Venezuela, the companion and
facilitator of the process, is a very sensitive one to the FARC, who
see the Venezuelans as the main generators of confidence, and
consequently, the main drivers of the peace process.
For all these reasons and because it comes precisely
enthusiasm for peace planted its flag on the Everest of Colombians'
reconciliation, encouraged by the partial agreement on the land issue
-- the heart of the conflict, Santos' invitation to Capriles has been
so perplexing. The attitude of Santos deflated the optimism, the
atmosphere conducive to peace that had been built with such effort in
Havana. It all boils down to the fact that were it not for Venezuela
the peace talks in the Cuban capital would not be taking place.
It is contradictory, abysmally contradictory, to aspire
down in history as the president who made peace, while at the same time
launching a string of attacks against peace. The cold blooded murder of
Alfonso Cano, the commander and champion of reconciliation, is now an
indelible stain. On the other hand no one can understand why the
government rejects the necessary bilateral ceasefire proposed by the
FARC since the beginning of the talks, if what we are dealing with is
stopping the war. During the last six months the Minister of Defence
has acted like a sectarian sniper against the process, giving the
impression that there is no unity of purpose on the part of the
government. And even the President himself does not miss an opportunity
to discredit his counterparts with unfounded accusations and threats to
break off [the dialogues].
There are other elements as well affecting the dialogue
the construction of an agreement like the government's annoying
cracking of the whip over time and rhythm. What is the rush? To
precipitate a bad deal, a botched peace? The progression of such a
momentous agreement should not be interfered with either by the timing
of an election or legislative deadlines. Parallel with the sessions at
the table someone is orchestrating a media campaign from on high,
spreading with a certain perfidy the notion of the guerrilla as
victimizer on one side and on the other, the State as an angel,
fluttering innocently with no historical responsibility for the
institutional violence and terrorism.
A government that really wants peace is not always
red lines of its intransigence, of its non-negotiables, but rather acts
with magnanimity to facilitate understanding. Where is the goodwill,
where the good judgment? What can be seen here is a big inconsistency.
And also great stinginess when one's defence is based on stubborn
arguments [and] outrageous privileges. These attitudes contribute
little to building an atmosphere of peace. So what are the dialogues
Understand that this is not a process of submission, but
peacebuilding. It is not about incorporating the insurgency into the
current political system, as it is, without any changes to favour the
excluded majorities. Then what would the fight have been for? The best
epilogue of this war must be sealed with structural changes of a
political, economic and social nature that will give rise to overcoming
poverty and inequality.
We must defend this peace process, this hope. After
military confrontation we should combine our wills resolutely,
everyone, the government, the FARC guerrillas and the social and
political organizations of the country, to reach the yearned for
reconciliation with social justice. What do Uribe and FEDEGAN
[Colombian Cattlemen's Federation] matter if we are resolved to achieve
Secretariat of the General Staff of the FARC-EP
Mountains of Colombia, June 7, 2013
4th Anniversary of Coup in Honduras
Call for Coordinated Actions
The Honduras Solidarity Network, a network of over 30
organizations, calls for local actions on June 28 to commemorate the
coup and in solidarity with the resistance movement.
Why we are calling for these actions:
- June 28, 2013 will be the fourth anniversary of the
coup that toppled elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.
- The coup government then held false elections under a
of Emergency which selected de facto
President Porfirio Lobo.
- Since the 2009 coup Honduras has fallen into a state
lawlessness and impunity. It now has the highest murder rate in the
world and has become the second poorest country in the hemisphere after
- There have been 206 politically motivated murders of
Resistance activists by the military, police, and private armies
employed by the largest landowners such as Miguel Facusse, including
104 peasant cooperative leaders in the Aguan Valley, 59 lawyers, 33
journalists and dozens of unionists, teachers, and LGBTQ activists.
The heroic response to the repression in Honduras:
- In spite of the repression, popular sectors continue
struggle peacefully for democracy under the banner of the National
Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP).
- The FNRP has registered a political party, the
and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), and democratically elected candidates
for president, congress, and mayors to contest in the Nov. 24, 2013
- The LIBRE ticket headed by Xiomara Castro, wife of
President Zelaya Castro, holds a firm lead in all opinion polls since
To be in solidarity with the people of Honduras, the HSN
calling for local actions to make the following coordinated demands:
- Cut U.S. aid and training to the Honduran military and
- Withdraw U.S. troops and armed Drug Enforcement agents
- No U.S. intervention in Honduras' election,
under the guise of "democracy promotion" funding by USAID, the National
Endowment for Democracy, and its core groups.
If your organization is planning an action on June 28 or
this date, please send the details to email@example.com so we
can add it to the HSN web page.
Parliamentary Hearings on Human Rights Situation
in Honduras' industrial city, San Pedro Sula, where Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper was signing a Free Trade Agreement with
post-coup Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, August 12, 2011. A
representative of the Honduran Women's Collective reports to the
international press the human rights concerns of Honduran women
sweatshop workers and detrimental working conditions of the
Montreal-based apparel company, Gildan Activewear. Harper visited one
of Gildan's factory in Honduras immediately after signing the FTA. (Karen Spring)
From February to April 2013, the Sub-Committee on
International Human Rights of the Canadian House of Commons heard from
various witnesses regarding the human rights situation in Honduras. The
hearings were scheduled as a result of the severely deteriorated human
rights situation in the country but also in anticipation of future
hearings related to the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
In August 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper traveled
Honduras to sign the FTA with the post-coup regime of President Lobo.
Ignoring countless reports of human rights abuses documented by
national and international organizations like Rights Action, Canada
decided to utilize the violent and repressive post-coup environment to
advance its economic interests in Honduras. These include mining,
tourism, and the textile and apparel or sweatshop industry, each of
which are industries that have greatly benefitted from the neoliberal
policies approved by the Honduran National Congress since the June 28,
2009 military coup. Each of these has benefitted directly or indirectly
from the repression of the post-coup regime.
Although the FTA has been signed, it has not been passed
the Canadian Parliament. NOW IS THE TIME to get in touch with
Government representatives and express outrage for Canada's clear
decision to promote its economic interests over human rights.
Why Is Canada Friendly with Repressive Honduran
- Rachel Warden, Barbara
Brittany Lambert, Embassy Magazine,
Opinion Section, May 22, 2013, Issue #453 -
rights and good governance rhetoric
seems to be subordinated in practice, to business interests
The Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human
decision to study Honduras was well-founded. The situation there has
been called a "human rights emergency" and is widely recognized as one
of the worst in the hemisphere. The hearings have painted a dismal
picture of extreme violence against rights activists and political
opponents, of widespread impunity and police corruption, of judicial
politicization, and of institutional decay.
Why then, is Canada treating the current Honduran
like a friendly partner rather than denouncing its human rights abuses
and the lack of rule of law?
Honduras took a turn for the worst in 2009, when a
coup deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. There were
elections after the coup, but they were deeply flawed. Hondurans who
opposed the coup were systematically threatened and assassinated, and
the main opposition candidate spent much of the campaign recovering
from a severe beating by security forces. Although voting is mandatory
in Honduras, close to half of the population boycotted the election, as
did major international observers. The election of Porfirio Lobo Sosa,
Honduras' current president, was therefore widely regarded as an
extension of the post-coup regime.
Since then, human rights abuses in Honduras have
the words of Teresa Lopez, a Honduran community organizer who visited
Canada last month: "We all know, theoretically, that a coup will impact
the economic and human rights situation of a country, but I never
imagined it would be this bad."
Honduras now has the highest murder rate in the world --
similar to a nation at war. There have been 206 politically motivated
assassinations in the past three years, and the country is considered
the most dangerous in the world for journalists. Most crimes are met
with impunity by an inadequate justice system and a largely corrupt
police force -- one that has deep ties to organized crime and has been
accused of running death squads.
Last month, the attorney general of Honduras was
failing to prosecute homicide cases: only 20 per cent of the cases in
the past four years have even been investigated. These incredible
levels of impunity leave Hondurans, especially those who challenge the
status quo, vulnerable to the escalating levels of violence.
In December 2012, the Honduran Congress illegally
members of the Supreme Court, swearing in new justices within hours.
Congress then quickly proceeded to review a series of laws that had
been overruled by the court.
Canada Boosting Ties
Instead of denouncing the human rights situation and the
Honduran government's blatant disregard for the rule of law, Canada is
rapidly expanding its presence in, and relationship with, Honduras.
Canada's official human rights and good governance theoretic seems to
be subordinated, in practice, to business interests.
In January 2013, the Honduran Congress passed a new
law. This law, developed with support from CIDA (the Canadian
International Development Agency), creates a more favourable
environment for large-scale mining, an industry in which Canada is a
global leader. Many sectors of Honduran society rejected the new law
and there is significant community opposition to large-scale mining.
Canadian investors have also backed Honduras' plan to
"Model Cities," even thought they were ruled unconstitutional by
Honduras' Supreme Court. The plan would allow private entities to
create and enforce their own laws within these cities, ignoring labour,
environmental, and other protections enshrined in Honduran law. The
proposed cities would also violate laws that prevent foreign ownership
of land within 40 kilometres of the coast -- land currently claimed by
indigenous groups. The imposition of these "Model Cities" seems
antithetical to democracy and the rule of law, pillars of Canada's
foreign policy in the Americas. Tragically, Honduran lawyer Antonio
Trejo Cabrera was gunned down shortly after presenting a legal
challenge to the "Model Cities" project, in September 2012.
Canada and Honduras recently concluded free trade
negotiations, including parallel agreements on labour and environmental
co-operation. This deal, which will reportedly be finalized within the
next few months, is consistent with our governments' recent free trade
agreement model which includes human rights and labour protections only
in unenforceable side agreements. The FTA will protect and promote
Canadian investments, but there is no corresponding guarantee that it
will protect Honduras' most vulnerable.
Canada's involvement in Honduras demonstrates that while
Canada's Americas Strategy promised engagement along three major
pillars -- security, prosperity, and democratic governance -- the
record of action to date has been narrowly focused on the prosperity
pillar. In a country like Honduras, where corruption, violence and
impunity are widespread, this prosperity will only benefit a small
Canada should signal a more genuine commitment to
to the hemisphere, engaging deeply on issues such as development,
security, corporate accountability, democratic governance, and human
rights. This could go a long way towards rebuilding Canada's
deteriorating reputation in the region, which is increasingly defined
by mining controversies rather than by its traditional leadership in
peacebuilding and human rights.
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