The democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has just been ovethrown in a military coup. The New York Times reminds us - ever so gently - that "The United States has long had strong ties to the Honduras military and helps train Honduran military forces. Those close ties have put the Obama administration in a difficult position, opening it up to accusations that it may have turned a blind eye to the pending coup. Administration officials strongly deny the charges, and Mr Obama's quick response to the Honduran president's removal has differed sharply from the actions of the Bush administration, which in 2002 offered a rapid, tacit endorsement of a short-lived coup against Mr Chavez." (In a coup in Honduras, ghosts of past US policies, Helene Cooper, 30/6/09)
But someone else has also had very close ties to the Honduran military:-
"Mention any trouble spot in the Third World over the past 10 years, and, inevitably, you will find smiling Israeli officers and shiny Israeli weapons on the news pages. The images have become familiar: the Uzi submachine gun or the Galil assault rifle, with Israeli officers named Uzi and Galil, or Golan, for good measure. We have seen them in South Africa, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, from Seoul to Tegucigalpa, from Walvis Bay to Guatemala City, from Taipei to Port-au-Prince, Israeli citizens and military men have been helping, in their own words, in 'the defense of the West'." (The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms & Why, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, 1987, p xii)
That's right, Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. Here are some of the pre-1987 details:-
"Honduras has the distinction of being the poorest country in one of the poorest regions of the world. This lack of resources does have its positive aspects, though; for instance, it has sometimes prevented the Honduran generals and their Israeli friends from carrying out grand designs for spending on new and sophisticated weapons. Honduran ground forces have been equipped with Israeli Galil rifles and Uzi submachine guns, and both the air force and ground forces have had Israeli advisors. Israel has played a crucial role in making the Honduran air force the strongest in Central America, by sending Israelis to train Honduran pilots, and by selling rebuilt French Dassault Super-Mystere B2 jets equipped with American engines. These jets, originally built in the 1950s and considered obsolete anywhere else today, are considered sophisticated in Central America - they were the first supersonic jet fighters in the region. Since 1977, Israel has sold twelve Super-Mysteres, three Arava transports, and a Westwind jet transport to Honduras, making it the leading air power in the region. (Israel wanted to sell its Kfir jet fighters to Honduras, but since their engines are made by General Eletric, the United States used its authority to block the sale.)
"The December 1982 visit to Honduras by Defence Minister Ariel Sharon received much attention. 'During my brief stay, I could take advantage of the opportunity to sign agreements on agriculture, health, and cultural assistance', he said at a news conference in Tegucigalpa. Sharon came only two days after President Ronald Reagan left - and according to a Honduran functionary, 'Sharon's trip was more positive. He sold us arms. Reagan only uttered platitudes, explaining that Congress was preventing him from doing more'. The Sharon entourage included General David Ivri, commander of the air force, and General Aharon Beit-Hallahmi, then director-general of the Defense Ministry. Besides signing a military accord, including weapons deliveries and training by Israeli advisors, Sharon visited miltary bases - and contra units based in Honduras.
"Interestingly, Sharon was invited not by the Honduran government, but by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and strongman General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, who had told the world about his admiration for two great modern generals: Irwin Rommel and Ariel Sharon. The Sharon visit reciprocated Alvarez Martinez's secret visit to Israel in July. The major arms deal envisioned by Sharon did not materialize, apparently because of the Hondurans' lack of hard currency. Sharon's aides had proposed a rearmament program worth $200 million, while impoverished Honduras could offer only $1 million. Three years later, in August 1985, Honduran foreign minster Edgardo Paz Barnica visited Israel and announced that his country was interested in Israeli civilian aid, but not in arms or military advisers. He acknowledged that Israel had sent military aid and advisers in the past." (ibid, pp 88-89)
So what was Honduras like when Sharon admirer General Martinez was strutting his stuff? Did any of that alleged 'Light unto the nations' shine on Honduras?
"With the ascension of Ronald Reagan to the White House... US pressure to democratise ended, and the military strengthened its stranglehold over the economy... Tens of millions in military aid poured into the generals' coffers, and the country was used as a base for US covert actions in the region... The president was reduced to a figurehead, while the army chief, General Martinez, a fanatical anti-Communist, wielded the real power. Under General Martinez, a comprehensive 'anti-subversive' pogrom was carried out, and death squads roamed the land. Labor organizers, dissidents of every stripe, even Catholic priests were rounded up, jailed, tortured, and murdered. Trained in Argentina in the tactics of the 'dirty war', Martinez was unrelenting in his ferocity, and his reign of terror effectively shut down Honduran civil society - with the enthusiastic approval of the American embassy." (History haunts Honduras, Justin Raimondo, antiwar.com, 30/6/09)
That was then. This is right now: "A Latin American expert sent me this from a major newspaper in Honduras: "Buena noticia. Embajadas de Taiwan e Israel reconocen al nuevo gobierno de Roberto Micheletti." (Good news. The embassies of Taiwan and Israel recognize the new government of Roberto Micheletti.) (The Angry Arab News Service, 1/7/09)
Will death squads be roaming the land once more?