Surreal Honduras

Published on Counterpunch, by CLIFTON ROSS, July 24-26, 2009.

… There’s a significant difference between El Salvador under the FMLN where power in the media is actively being contested, and Honduras where there is a blackout of the opposition perspective. Another difference is that the ARENA party has lost control of the military and has to rely on “maras” to do its dirty work while in Honduras the government hasn’t yet had to consider recruiting “civilian contractors” from the 100,000 or so “maras” operating in Central America. Thus far the military has been quite happy to do the job of eliminating or terrorizing opponents under the “golpista” Honduran government (coup government) of Micheletti. On July 5, for example, the military fired with machine guns on a crowd numbering in the thousands. This is the unofficial story, of course. The papers, including El Heraldo, claimed that the military had fired on the crowd with rubber bullets. Officially, also, only one person died. Protestors say that there were eight or nine victims who died on the way to the hospital, and whose bodies were disappeared. Given the machine gun fire, it’s only surprising that more didn’t die. 

The Honduran government of the 1980s found it had no need to replicate the widespread massacres being carried out in El Salvador and Guatemala. It was able to selectively eliminate a couple hundred leaders of the opposition and take care of its problem with the “subversives.” But in order to maintain control over the rest of the population and assure its docility and compliance, like anywhere else, it required a press willing and able to cloak a damning reality in a less threatening myth.

Once again Honduran reporters are being called in to do overtime in psyops. Granted, the press in Honduras under the “golpista” government isn’t any worse than Fox News. That being said, everything having to do with the news around the recent “golpe” (coup) has a quality that ranges from surreal interpretation to black propaganda. It would seem that the journalists of the major papers of Honduras really were frustrated writers of dystopian science fiction.

One Honduran tells me she saw a murder in her neighborhood that was multiplied in the journalistic alchemy of the Honduran press by six the following day. I keep that in mind as I sit here in my hotel room in Tegucigalpa, leafing through what my wife back home would call “the daily pack of lies.”

As I try to discern the Honduran narrative of the “golpe” I recall the copy of the article I left behind in El Salvador, printed in a right wing paper – and, unfortunately, the newspapers are all right wing in El Salvador, with the exception of the Diario Co-Latino, the latter a blessing not bestowed upon Honduras. The Salvadoran article was based on a piece that appeared in Honduras’ El Heraldo. The author claimed to have in possession secret documents that indicated that President Hugo Chavez was working with a large number of “maras” who he was arming and paying, and also infiltrating his own military to do a lightning attack and kill high-ranking officials of the Micheletti government. Supposedly residents have seen armed men in inaccessible regions of the country. Does that sound like the narrative of “Al Qaeda sleeper cells” doped up on the Koran ready to attack Bush’s America? Only the names, places and drugs of choice have changed.

I’m looking here at a full page ad in La Tribuna from Tuesday, the 21st, paid for by “Hondurans for Democracy.” There is a photo, in the top half, of Chavez aiming a gun. Beside the photo is the caption “Chavez calls for violence and wants bloodshed in Honduras” Beneath that picture is a crowd shot of Hondurans dressed in white (the color of the Conservative Nationalist Party) and holding the blue flags of Honduras. The caption reads, “But Hondurans want peace, unity, democracy and freedom.” Ah, behold the foreign devil who has brought death to our peaceful little country. It’s a variation on the diabolic gringo myth, but in reverse, since Chavez has been a counterforce to the “deadly gringo” … (full long text).

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