Friday, January 27, 2012

Dana Frank Tells it Like it is in Honduras the New York Times.

Frank is among a group of scholars specializing in Honduras who have tried to get the mainstream English language media to cover what is actually happening in Honduras, during and after the coup d'etat of 2009. Even when the coup itself was fresh, we found little interest by US media in a complex story that didn't fit existing simple narratives.

As the US role in Honduras slipped from an initial stance that seemed strongly to oppose the breakdown in the rule of law, to more ambiguous statements that treated the legally elected president and self-appointed dictator as equal parties who should negotiate a settlement, to the final position of claiming an election held under a de facto regime engaging in repression of free speech and assembly was somehow a path back to legitimacy, US media showed ever less interest in publishing work that critiqued the US role.

So it is a landmark event to see such a prominent news outlet publish these words:
Mr. Lobo’s government is, in fact, a child of the coup. It retains most of the military figures who perpetrated the coup, and no one has gone to jail for starting it... the Lobo government cannot reform itself.

There is much more of substance in this extraordinary Op-ed. Among the most important: a summary of little publicized congressional actions within the last year taken once congress members understood what has happened and is happening in Honduras. To quote Frank:
Last May, 87 members signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling for a suspension of military and police aid to Honduras. Representative Howard L. Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to her on Nov. 28, asking whether the United States was arming a dangerous regime. And in December, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others obtained conditions on a small portion of the 2012 police and military aid appropriated for Honduras.

These actions are important because they shine light on the actors who need to be held responsible for the situation in Honduras today. Frank deserves immense credit for tenacity in bringing these issues to the attention of policy makers and the public through her tireless work. We can hope that this NY Times piece sets a target that other media start to emulate.

For the record: Frank is a historian at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the author of Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America. Honduras represents only a small part of her impressive publication record, focused on labor history. She has contributed multiple articles of The Nation describing the political and economic forces that led to the Honduran coup, and the effects it has had.

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