On June 28th, 200 soldiers of the Honduran military kidnapped the president, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, and flew him to Costa Rica. His attempted return five days ago was unsuccessful.
The coup d’etat was roundly condemned by the UN, the EU, the Organization of American States, and rather more tepidly by the USA. The EU pulled its diplomats, the World Bank suspended aid, and all called for the return and reinstatement of Zelaya.
Amidst this near-universal condemnation, Canada’s Minister for the Americas, Peter Kent, recommended that ousted President Manuel Zelaya delay his planned return to the country, saying the “time is not right.” When two of 100,000 Zelaya supporters waiting for his plane to land at the airport were shot by the military, Kent went on national TV to blame Zelaya for their deaths.
What is he on about?
Corporate interests and the fear of united social reform in Latin America.
After a devastating hurricane destroyed most of Honduras’s crops and infrastructure in 1998, Canada offered millions in aid in return for opening up the country to Canadian mining interests.
Canada and the US also took advantage of this disaster/opportunity, as they did in Colombia, to rewrite Honduras mining laws, granting Canadian corporations tax breaks and land rights to mineral extraction over the rights of local communities. Canada is now the second largest “foreign investor” in the country.
Ashley Holly at The Tyee: Shame on Canada :
“Currently, Canadian companies own 33 per cent of mineral investments in Latin America, accumulating to the ownership of over 100 properties. Export Development Canada contributes 50 per cent of Canadian Pension Plan money to mining companies, which offered upwards of $50 billion in 2003. Goldcorp alone has received nearly one billion dollars from CPP subsidies.
Although EDC is responsible for regulating Canadian industry abroad, it has been accused of failing to apply regulatory standards to 24 of 26 mining projects that it has funded.
In February 2003, nearly 500 gallons of cyanide spilled into the Rio Lara, killing 18,000 fish. The mine in San Andres uses more water in one hour than an average Honduran family uses in one year. In that same year, mining companies earned $44.4 million, while the average income per capita in Honduras in 2004 was just $1,126USD.”
Zelaya has been moving steadily left ever since his election: doubling minimum wage from $132 per month to $290; proposing nationalization of energy production and reforms to make government more transparent and accessible; joining Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela in the left-leaning ALBA, formed to counter imperialism in the region; and — oh yeah — banning new mining concessions.
Canada’s training of Honduran military personnel through its Military Training Assistance Programme is really paying off for Canadian mining corporations here. According to the MTAP Directorate, officials from DFAIT, DND, and CIDA combine to “promote Canadian foreign and defence policy interests,” using “the mechanism of military training assistance to develop and enhance bilateral and defence relationships with countries of strategic interest to Canada.”
As this Guatemalan newspaper asks : Will President Colom of Guatemala, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, or President Funes in El Salvador be next?
Zelaya discusses the coup with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now today.