ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento
“Thug”: It's the vandals's fault
Words have meaning and specific uses depending upon the context, the historical moment, ideological intent, political position and social class.
Following the June 28, 2009 military coup the words vandals, vagrants, rebels—and others that were leveled at the population as insults by those in power—became parte of the everyday slang of the oligarchy, the military and religious hierarchy, the "white shirts" and sectors of the Latin American, U.S., and European ultra right wing with their ad hoc representation in Honduras.
The aim has been to delegitimize the opposition sectors: the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP) and, particularly, the teachers' organizations that make up one of the most important oppositional forces of the nation.
Nonetheless, in legal language, in order to justify detention, jailing, torture and assassination they use the terms: seditious, terrorist, and "destroyers of private property."
That is why, in the hell of injustice that Honduras suffers, to mask the situation and present a symbolic image of democracy it has been necessary to "blame the vandals." It's worth mentioning that this has been done through presenting soldiers and golpista civilians as "national heroes" and scapegoating the nation's teachers for the failures of education.
The announcement that the Armed Forces of Honduras will be responsible for the education of 75 thousand socially vulnerable boys and girls for three years is no coincidence. Now the military (to justify its arms expenditures) is not just doctors and nurses in civilian-military brigades but also taking over the role of teachers in education.
These forces brutalize and shoot teargas at human bodies; they torture and commit crimes with complete impunity in the Garifuna, indigenous and campesino regions and against educators; they assault universities, pursuing and terrorizing students and at the same time are ironically given the mission to try to educate the victims of an unjust and oppressive capitalist system.
This language of "vandals or rebels" is part of a national and international media war against any stratum of society that wishes to exercise its constitutional right to protest against injustice.
The machinery of manipulation and propaganda has a multi-million dollar cost that instead of lining the pockets of the rich should be destined to the education and nutrition of the pauperized boys and girls of Honduras.
In a letter written by Jeremy D. Spector, Human Rights and Labor Attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, on March 29, 2011 at 2:30pm, he uses the word "thug" (which in Spanish means “criminal, sanguinario, gamberro, bruto”) a term that stigmatizes and labels the protest of the teachers' movement.
Mr. Spector reduces the problems of violence and education to the teachers' union and implies that the Honduran army and police aren't violent. According to his own words [arguing that the demonstrators themselves are to blame for the injuries], "Other reports of demonstrator injuries are a cause of great concern for the Embassy."
We don't know who Spectors aid/interpreter is; but we do know that trying to insult the intelligence of Hondurans by using highly offensive and insulting terms like the aforementioned "thug" with the belief that we won't know what it means does nothing more than reflect an imperialist arrogance that we had thought the current governing style of the United States eschewed.
That said, now [according to Spector] it appears that the majority of reported injuries are among the security agents. "Four soldiers are currently in the hospital with second- and third-degree burns after being hit by Molotov cocktails thrown by demonstrators on March 24. There have been many more injuries from rocks and clubs."
Above all we declare that we do not wish trauma, terror or torture upon any human being on the planet earth—civilian, military or police—nonetheless it is necessary to remind Mr. Spector that the intellectual and material authors of the military coup and systematic violation of human rights were trained at the School of the Americas and that many of them have participated in war exercises organized by the Pentagon on our territory, militarily occupied by the U.S. army.
The leadership of the teachers' union and the National Popular Resistance Front have maintained a position of non-violence and if events of aggression have occurred they are not part of their strategy. To the contrary, in the marches numerous police and military provocateurs have been captured. In the teachers' process of pain and suffering, hundreds of them have been beaten, attacked, exposed to toxic gases and nearly two dozen have been murdered.
The teachers' protests could never be compared with police and military brutality, the presence of hired assassins, the more than sixty thousand armed subjects in the private security industry and the operation of the Colombian military forces [in Honduras]. These forces, equipped with an ample supply of high-caliber weapons can be seen daily terrorizing the people and act with cowardice against oppositional forces.
The claim of Mr. Spector: "The death of striking teacher and demonstrator Ivania Velásquez, who was run over by a press vehicle, was a tragedy" deserves critical reflection: teargas canisters shot directly at people's bodies are not dispersal techniques but rather toxic, lethal weapons. They don't only produce tears; they burn, disorient, cause motor discoordination, irritate the respiratory tract, produce bronquial spasms, breathing difficulty, asphyxiation and death.
The professor Velásquez fell from the impact of the canister, lost coordination and consciousness. Only afterwards was she further traumatized by the automobile!
The disciples of the School of the Americas order soldiers of low rank to shoot teargas canisters at the head, thorax, and abdomen [of protestors], and into closed spaces where the gases accumulate as has happened in the universities and in the teachers union buildings.
Finally, we point out to Mr. Spector that he doesn't mention in his unclassified declaration the labor rights of the teachers nor the systematic violations of their human rights.
The teachers' protest is historic and the ruling, dominant class has satanized it. Nonetheless it has become clear that it has the support of fathers and mothers of students, as well as of the Honduran people.
The protest is in defense of their labor rights, of the teachers' contract, of public education and of their retirement funds and social rights.
Governments have tried to privatize education to the detriment of public education. When they say they will not privatize nor harm the teachers' contract they are engaging in a massive lie, because the programs of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund say the opposite.
Education and health must not be a commodity and as such must not be privatized. We the Honduran people are neither vandals nor "thugs". The real vandals are those who carry out coups d'etat and promote and feed the arms trade. The real "thugs" are those who impose their interests through blood and fire on defenseless peoples and nations.
No to weapons, yes to education! Tegucigalpa April 2011
(Translation Adrienne Pine)
- Juan Almendares, a Honduran medical doctor, ex-Rector of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (UNAH), was presidential candidate for the Unificación Democrática (UD) party.
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