Archive for Honduras
An associate of six US men detained for weeks in Honduras has said they were working on a project to aid local lobster divers, and denied that they violated weapons laws by failing to declare a gun. Stephen Mayne said Aqua Quest International has been working to win the release of the six, aided by the US embassy and others. Mayne’s brother is captain of the detained ship and head of the company based in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The State Department has confirmed the men’s 5 May detention, but calls to Honduran prosecutors have gone unanswered and Honduran navy officials declined to comment. Aqua Quest salvages material from shipwrecks, but says it was working on a project to provide alternate work for Honduran lobster collectors who can suffer permanent injuries from dives as deep as 150ft. The State department said that the US embassy in Tegucigalpa had been closely monitoring the case of the captain and crew of the Aqua Quest. It said US consular officials visited the crew on 19 May. A press release posted on Aqua Quest’s Facebook page said Captain Robert Mayne and five members of his crew were detained in Puerto Lempiras, Honduras. It said the team arrived there to work on a project to aid “the struggling peoples” in the municipality of Ahuas. The press release added the men were ordered detained for firearms violations “on the false claim that a weapon they were carrying was an AK-47”.
On Monday October 14 Honduras will open an embassy in Moscow according to a press statement by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. The Foreign Minister of Honduras Mireya Aguero Trejo de Corrales will be present at the inauguration ceremony during an official visit to the Russian Federation that will take place from October the 12th to the 16th. This will be the first time that a Honduran foreign minister has ever visited Russia. The talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will focus on “prospects for stepping up cooperation, mainly in trade and economy, and strengthening the legal framework,” the spokesman said, adding “the officials will exchange opinions on key problems of the international and regional agenda and plan to sign a joint statement.”
Colombian police say a lack of cooperation from embassy personnel is frustrating the search for two suspected prostitutes who allegedly stole computers from the Honduran embassy during a Christmas party. Bogota police Col. Jose Elias Baquero tells The Associated Press that the assistant to the Honduran ambassador who allegedly granted the women entry has refused to cooperate. Baquero says the man, Jorge Mendoza, also told police the embassy has no intention of filing a police report on the theft of the two computers. The Dec. 20 incident cost Ambassador Carlos Rodriguez his job. He was fired after it was exposed Jan. 4 by the Honduran newspaper El Heraldo.
Newsline: Honduras fires ambassador in scandal over thefts at embassy party with possible prostitutes
Honduras’ Foreign Ministry says it has fired its ambassador to Colombia after officials said two computers were stolen from the Honduran embassy in Bogota during a party that involved at least two presumed prostitutes. The Foreign Ministry says that it demanded Ambassador Carlos Humberto Rodríguez Andino’s immediate resignation and he submitted it on Saturday. Colombian Police Col. Jose Elias Baquero said police are searching for what he describes as two “contracted women” who attended the Dec. 20 party. He said Honduran officials have confirmed that there was a party in which the portable computers were stolen, but that they prefer to handle the matter internally.
The embassy of Honduras in Bogota has been robbed after an employee used the office to throw a party involving prostitutes and an abundance of alcohol. According to Honduran newspaper El Heraldo the embassy was robbed of computers and cell phones and invitees to the extra-official party defecated in the ambassador’s private office and on the military attache’s desk. The newspaper said the party and subsequent robbery put Honduran national security, joint efforts to fight crime, and the diplomatic mission in Bogota at risk. According to the newspaper, the December 20 party had been thrown by an assistant of the ambassador who, in contravention of the rules, was allowed to live in the embassy and was even given the keys to the building. The employee reportedly felt “lonely” and invited Colombian friends over, with whom the Honduran left the embassy, got “completely drunk” and returned with an unknown number of prostitutes. Instead of firing the embassy employee, Ambassador Carlos Humberto Rodriguez took the party organizer into his home while trying to stop the scandal from going public.
The United States says it is sending a former ambassador to help advise Honduras on tackling violent crime. Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world, and crime there recently led the US government to withdraw Peace Corps volunteers from the country. The US Embassy says it is dispatching Oliver P Garza to advise President Porfirio Lobo on developing a national security strategy aimed at protecting citizens, assuring human rights, fighting drugs and attracting more international aid. Garza was formerly ambassador to Nicaragua. He arrived Tuesday in Tegucigalpa.
Since 2009, beneath the radar of the international media, the coup government ruling Honduras has been collaborating with wealthy landowners in a violent crackdown on small farmers struggling for land rights in theAguánValleyin the northeastern region of the country. More than forty-six campesinos have been killed or disappeared. Human rights groups charge that many of the killings have been perpetrated by the private army of security guards employed by Miguel Facussé, a biofuels magnate. Facussé’s guards work closely with the Honduran military and police, which receive generous funding from the United States to fight the war on drugs in the region. New Wikileaks cables now reveal that the US embassy in Honduras—and therefore the State Department—has known since 2004 that Miguel Facussé is a cocaine importer. US “drug war” funds and training, in other words, are being used to support a known drug trafficker’s war against campesinos. Miguel Facussé Barjum, in the embassy’s words, is “the wealthiest, most powerful businessman in the country,” one of the country’s “political heavyweights.” Facussé’s nephew, Carlos Flores Facussé, served as president of Honduras from 1998 to 2002. Miguel Facussé’s Dinant corporation is a major producer of palm oil, snack foods, and other agricultural products. He was one of the key supporters of the military coup that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009. Miguel Facussé’s power base lies in the lower Aguán Valley, where campesinos originally settled in the 1970s as part of an agrarian reform strategy by the Honduran government, which encouraged hundreds of successful campesino cooperatives and collectives in the region. Beginning in 1992, though, new neoliberal governments began promoting the transfer of their lands to wealthy elites, who were quick to take advantage of state support to intimidate and coerce campesinos into selling, and in some cases to acquire land through outright fraud. Facussé, the biggest beneficiary by far of these state policies, now claims at least 22,000 acres in the lower Aguán, at least one-fifth of the entire area, much of which he has planted in African palms for an expanding biofuel empire. Campesino living standards in the region, meanwhile, have eroded dramatically. In December 2009 thousands of organized campesinos began staging collective recuperations of lands in the lower Aguán that they argue were stolen from them, or else legally promised to them by the government through previous agreements or edicts. The campesinos’ efforts have been met with swift and brutal retaliation. According to Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), the independent, highly respected human rights group, at least forty-four have been killed, at least sixteen this past summer alone. Many of these killings and related attacks have been attributed to Miguel Facussé’s private security guards, as well those of his associates. Known locally as sicarios or hired assassins, they wear either plainclothes or Grupo Dinant uniforms and are reported to number between 200 and 300. Facussé himself admits that on November 15, 2010, his guards shot and killed five campesinos from the MUCA at the El Tumbador community. Now cables released by Wikileaks suddenly shed light on the US military and State Department’s role in the Aguán Valley conflict and in Honduras more broadly. A March 19, 2004, cable from the US embassy in Tegucigalpa, entitled “Drug Plane Burned on Prominent Honduran’s Property,” reports that “a known drug trafficking flight with a 1,000 kilo cocaine shipment from Colombia…successfully landed March 14 on the private property of Miguel Facusse.” According to the cable’s author, Ambassador Larry Palmer, sources informed police that “its cargo was off-loaded onto a convoy of vehicles that was guarded by about 30 heavily armed men.” One source “claimed that Facusse was present on the property at the time of the incident.” Other cables released by Wikileaks establish that embassy officials met with Miguel Facussé in June 2006 and on September 7, 2009, ten weeks into the coup, when the embassy had lunch with Facussé and Rafael Callejas, another of the coup government’s powerful backers. A new US ambassador, Lisa Kusbiske, arrived in Honduras this August. She is an expert on biofuels—the center of Miguel Facussé’s African palm empire. How does this all add up, then? First, the US embassy met at least twice with a known, prominent drug trafficker. Second, it was aware that he was a backer of the coup and met with him as it was playing out, as if he were merely a “prominent businessman.” Third, most importantly, the United States is funding and training Honduran military and police that are conducting joint operations with the security guards of a known drug trafficker, to violently repress a campesino movement on behalf of Facusse’s dubious claims to vast swathes of the Aguán Valley, in order to support his African palm biofuels empire. Current Honduran President Porfirio Lobo was in Washington, DC, the first week in October, trumpeting his commitment to defending human rights and fighting drug wars—with President Obama’s full blessing. In reality, both are providing cover and support for a war against impoverished campesinos, to promote the economic interests of Honduras’ richest and most powerful man.