Honduran scholar Lety Elvir Lazo, anti-dictatorship refugee

This Spanish language video says about itself (translated):

Interview with Vida Luz Meneses, Lety Elvir and Laura Zavaleta, participants in the Voces de mujer [Voices of women] cycle in Central American literature, which was held in Casa de América on November 15-17, 2011.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands, 23 September 2019:

Scholar at Risk Lety Elvir Lazo: ‘My university intimidated me too’

The proceeds of the Leiden University Science Run on 28 September will go to Scholars at Risk, a section of the UAF that assists refugee scholars. One such scholar is Leiden PhD candidate Lety Elvir Lazo from Honduras.

Lety Elvir Lazo spent 20 years working as a lecturer and author in Honduras. She now has a PhD scholarship from Scholars at Risk (SAR) and works at the Leiden University Centre for Arts in Society. She is conducting research into Central-American literature written by women in the period 1992-2002. That is one of the many post-war periods that Honduras has known; in Honduras, democracy and dictatorship have been following each other in succession for a long time already. Elvir also looks at how women are depicted in the context of failed revolutions and uprisings and increasing neoliberalism and globalisation in Central America.

Why did you flee Honduras?

‘There was a coup in June 2009, which resulted in a dictatorship. This dictatorship is involved in corruption, drug trafficking, election fraud and giving away natural resources to multinationals. I left Honduras because I was threatened, persecuted and monitored by groups and people who were part of the repressive state apparatus and/or paramilitaries.

‘In Honduras, there are death squads that abduct, torture and murder people if they are suspected of belonging to the opposition. The same is true for environmental and human rights activists. Even more painful was that I also fell victim to political persecution at the university where I had worked for 20 years. A few months before I left Honduras, my colleague Héctor Martínez Motiño, who like me was harassed and intimidated by the university administration, was killed with 12 bullets at the entrance to the university.’

How did you come into contact with SAR and how did you end up in the Netherlands and then Leiden?

‘I came to the Netherlands at the end of 2015, as writer in residence at the invitation of the city of Amsterdam and the Dutch Foundation for Literature. I write stories, poems and literary essays.

Then somebody told me about the UAF programme that helps threatened university lecturers and academics: SAR. SAR protects researchers whose life, freedom and wellbeing are under severe threat. It is a place of refuge for threatened academics, and an international network of higher education institutions that arrange for temporary research and teaching positions within this network as well as offering advice.

‘Later on, the UAF-SAR provided me with a scholarship, and Leiden University gave me the opportunity to do PhD research at the Faculty of Humanities. To be closer to the University, I moved to Leiden in 2019.

‘I have now experienced what the UAF-SAR can mean. You feel solidarity within the network of supporting universities – such as Leiden University, which opens its doors to people who need space to work, write, think and express ourselves in freedom. Space in which we can keep in touch with our subject and can continue to be of use by sharing our experience and above all living out our passion for free scholarship.’

Do you hold out any hope of returning to your own country?

‘At the moment it’s really dangerous. There’s no guarantee that you’ll survive under the present dictatorship, which, unfortunately, is supported by governments such as that of Trump. They prefer to see my country being governed by politicians who are involved in drug trafficking than by governments that are truly democratic. Of course I, like birds, turtles and most refugees, want to return to my homeland: I miss my family; I miss everything, except the violence. Luckily, I can develop in peace here, in freedom and without fear. That’s a real relief. I wish it were like that in my homeland.’

What is it like doing research in Leiden in comparison with in your homeland? And how do you find the Dutch?

‘The main difference is that can devote myself almost fulltime to my research in an environment in which there is no bullying. In Honduras, it was difficult to obtain a research budget if you didn’t say what the university administration wanted to hear. In practice, there is no freedom of education in Honduras, no freedom of expression and no freedom of research.

‘Having lived in the Netherlands for a number of years, I still can’t say with any certainty what the people are really like here. I have the general impression that they are open and very sociable, although they sometimes face the dilemma of whether they should be open to immigration. After all, we stand for the other, and that is often seen as something different, disruptive and even threatening.

‘However, there are two things that I know without a shadow of a doubt: first, you don’t leave your homeland if you are being treated decently and your human rights are being respected. Second, there is a complicit silence among governments and international organisations about the neocolonial genocide against the population of Honduras. And also about how Hondurans, who, under threat of violence, flee to survive only to come up against walls of stone, water and documents. They often have to take perilous routes that are controlled by criminals or they end up in the immense prisons and cemeteries that the countries in the funnel of Central to North America have become. If you invest money or have economic interests in the area, from an ethical, moral and humanitarian perspective you bear a big responsibility to contribute to a solution and to end the war, the foreign interventions plundering our assets and the suffering of our courageous peoples who continue to fight for their health and happiness.’

Why should people take part in the Leiden Science Run or donate to the Scholars at Risk programme?

‘Because people who are critical thinkers and democratically minded are entitled to express their thoughts everywhere, not just on campus, without being intimidated, persecuted, vilified, imprisoned or murdered. If the academic world says nothing, if universities are not a place for free speech, research and solutions to national and international problems, universities don’t serve a single purpose. Then they are neglecting their duty. And if we allow voices of protest to be stifled or punished, we allow hope to fade and democracy to die. Then the world, of which we only have one, becomes a hell instead of our home. And happiness is possible for no one. That is why we need to rise up for the freedom of expression and freedom of thought of everyone.’


Honduras coup, prelude to Trump’s border crisis

This 12 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Ousted Honduran President Zelaya: The 2009 U.S.-Backed Coup Helped Cause Today’s Migrant Crisis

Since the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup in Honduras, extreme poverty and violence has skyrocketed in the country, forcing tens of thousands of Hondurans to flee to the U.S. with the hope of receiving political asylum. We speak with ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in the capital of Tegucigalpa about the 10th anniversary of the coup in Honduras, U.S. intervention in Central America and its link to today’s migration crisis.

Dengue epidemic in Honduras: here.

BORDER HORROR: MOM BEGS FOR ENTRY WITH SON The plight of a mother and son who had traveled some 1,500 miles from Guatemala to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, only to be stopped mere feet from the United States by a Mexican National Guard soldier, was captured by photographer Jose Luis Gonzalez. [Reuters]

BORDER CONTROL CHIEF WAS IN RACIST FACEBOOK GROUP The head of the U.S. Border Patrol said she joined a Facebook group whose members mocked migrants and lawmakers so she could read what her personnel thought about her. She said she knew little about the group. [AP]

Military coup in Honduras, ten years ago

This 1 October 2016 video says about itself:

It’s well known where Hillary Clinton stood on regime change in Iraq and Libya, but what often gets forgotten is that she threw her support behind the 2009 Honduran coup that ousted democratically-elected Manuel Zelaya.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Ten years since the US-backed coup in Honduras

28 June 2019

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the US-backed coup that overthrow the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, who was dragged out of the presidential palace in his pajamas by armed troops, bundled onto an airplane and flown out of the country.

This event ushered in a decade of unending repression by a succession of extreme right-wing and deeply corrupt governments. They have ruled the country with a ruthless determination to defend the interests of the national oligarchy—the so-called “ten families” of multi-millionaires and billionaires—and of foreign finance capital.

For the masses of Honduran workers and rural poor, the policies implemented by the right-wing regimes that followed the ouster of Zelaya have proven disastrous. Honduras is today the most unequal country in Latin America, itself the most unequal region in the world. Nearly 70 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty, while over 60 percent lack formal employment. The murder rate, which soared to the highest in the world, still remains nine times that in the United States.

One result has been a mass exodus. The US government has reported detaining 175,000 Hondurans on the US-Mexican border in the last eight months. The country accounts for by far the largest share of migrants and refugees fleeing to the US border—30 percent of the total. This is nearly double the 16 percent share recorded just three years ago.

These masses of workers and their families fleeing their own country because of intolerable conditions created by imperialism and the native ruling class confront the same horrific circumstances that have shocked the population of the US and the world with the recent publication of the photograph of a Salvadoran father and his daughter who drowned together in the Rio Grande.

Just last April, an adult and three children from Honduras drowned in the same river when their raft capsized. On Thursday, Mexican authorities reported that a young Honduran woman traveling north with her family fell from a train and was crushed beneath its wheels.

Now these refugees are confronting the combined repression, detention and abuse from the governments of the United States, Mexico and Guatemala, which have united in the use of naked force in an attempt to prevent them from escaping poverty, state terror and rampant violence.

Democratic Party candidates and congressional leaders have shed crocodile tears over the deaths in the Rio Grande and postured as defenders of immigrants. These sentiments are belied, however, by the fact that … then secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, presided over the coup that devastated Honduras, driving its people in desperation to flee the country despite the threats of death, persecution and being thrown into a US concentration camp.

After Zelaya’s overthrow, kidnapping and expulsion from the country, the Obama administration sought to preserve a veneer of commitment to “democracy” in Latin America—and deniability for its military, intelligence and diplomatic operatives—by publicly deploring the ouster of Zelaya.

Clinton, however, pointedly refused to describe the military’s seizure and deportation of an elected president as a “coup”, a designation that under the US Foreign Assistance Act, would have required the Obama administration to cut off aid and ties to the coup regime.

The administration likewise failed to demand Zelaya’s reinstatement. Given that the US accounted for 70 percent of Honduran export earnings and provided the guns and aid upon which the country’s military depended, it had unquestioned power to force a reversal of the coup.

Its formal reservations notwithstanding, however, it was soon revealed that top US officials had been in discussions with the military commanders and right-wing politicians who organized the coup shortly before Zelaya’s overthrow.

… Zelaya earned Washington’s enmity by becoming swept up by Latin America’s so-called “Pink Tide”. …

For Zelaya, the clear attraction was cheap Venezuelan oil and loans. However, US imperialism, which had sought seven years earlier to overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a civilian-military coup, was determined to eliminate a government aligned with Venezuela and Cuba in Honduras.

The Central American country has longed served as a staging ground for counterrevolutionary operations in the region, from the 1954 CIA overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala through to the CIA-organized “contra” war against Nicaragua in the 1980s. The civil wars and counter-insurgency campaigns carried out by US imperialism in the region, using Honduras as its base, would claim the lives of hundreds of thousands. It remains the site of the largest US military base in Latin America at Soto Cano.

Much the same US personnel involved in the 2002 coup against Chavez in Venezuela under George W. Bush were involved in the 2009 coup against Zelaya in Honduras … . And the same strategic policy guides the Trump administration’s present regime change operation against the government of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

Underlying this clear continuity in Washington’s foreign policy, under both Democratic and Republican administrations alike, is the drive by US imperialism to reverse the decline of its global economic hegemony by military means, particularly in the region that it has so long regarded as its “own backyard”.

The Honduran working class responded to the 2009 coup with immense heroism. It staged continuous demonstrations and strikes in the teeth of savage repression. This included the arbitrary detention of thousands, the shooting of protesters, the gang rape of women detained at protests and the organization of death squads to assassinate journalists and opponents of the coup regime.

Washington ignored this savage brutality, and the US corporate media largely passed over it in silence.

Honduras is today confronting its most severe crisis since the coup of ten years ago. For over a month, mass protests and strikes by teachers and doctors against sweeping IMF-dictated cuts and threats of privatization of education and healthcare have rocked the country. Students have joined these mass protests, occupying their schools and confronting riot police and troops.

Today will see mass demonstrations throughout Honduras marking the coup anniversary. These protests will pay homage to the 136 killed during the repression of the protests against the coup, as well as the 14 murdered by death squads and the 13 disappeared. Since then, many more have been slain, including four killed in just the most recent protests.

They will undoubtedly also advance the demand for the bringing down of the government of Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH), the corrupt president and overseer for the International Monetary Fund, who is kept in power by the Honduran military and US Marines.

Zelaya, now the leader of the Partido Libertad y Refundación, is advancing this demand.

United States-Mexico border refugees interviewed

This March 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Did The US Fund Honduran Death Squads?

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The U.S. State Department, which spends millions of taxpayer dollars a year on the Honduran National Police, has assured Congress that money only goes to specially vetted and trained units that don’t operate under the direct supervision of a police chief once accused of extrajudicial killings and “social cleansing”.

But The Associated Press has found that all police units are under the control of Director General Juan Carlos Bonilla, nicknamed the “Tiger”, who in 2002 was accused of three extrajudicial killings and links to 11 more deaths and disappearances. He was tried on one killing and acquitted. The rest of the cases were never fully investigated.

Read more here.

And here.

By Norisa Diaz in Mexico:

Central American asylum seekers forced to wait for months at US-Mexico border

19 December 2018

WSWS reporters spoke last weekend to members of the Central American caravan who have been waiting in a queue for months, at the West pedestrian entrance of the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, for US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to begin processing their asylum claims.

Just last month the US military and CBP agents fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bang grenades at desperate workers and their families at the San Ysidro Port of entry. It is estimated that between six and seven thousand immigrants from Mexico and Central America are currently in Tijuana.

Most of the caravan members spoke of feared repercussions from gangs they had fled and asked that their faces not be photographed.

Guillermo, 30, left Honduras with his wife, 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, following a death threat from a local gang that had been extorting him and recently murdered two of his cousins.

The gangs had been extorting increasing amounts of money from his convenience store, so much so that very little was left for his family. “I could not give them what they wanted.” One day in June, Guillermo received notice that if he did not pay the amount demanded, he would be killed. He went home and told his wife and children they were leaving that day.

Guillermo explained that two of his first cousins, who lived just two blocks away from him, were killed by “las maras”, members of the MS-13 gang, within a month of one another. They both worked for a taxi service and the gang that was extorting them demanded more payment.

Guillermo showed WSWS reporters the photos of the mutilated bodies of his cousins, which he hoped would assist with his family’s asylum claim. One man had a long cross cut through his abdomen, from which his intestines had been removed, and another had been hogtied and left in an alley to rot, where authorities found him.

He told reporters that he was fortunate to have been given a warning, one that his cousins had not received. “They were very close family, we are lucky that we got out”, Guillermo said.

The family has been in Mexico for nearly six months and only arrived in Tijuana in the last month. While running low on food and supplies, Guillermo had to find work in Chiapas for a while before the family could make their way to Tijuana.

Guillermo and his family have joined a list of thousands, and have been waiting for their number to be called on the West Port of Entry from Tijuana into Southern California. He expressed frustration over receiving conflicting and contradictory information from legal counselors. “There are some that give us hope and some that make it seem impossible.”

“I want people in the US to know there are many good and hard-working people here, that one person’s actions do not represent the whole.”

Manuel, a 52-year-old Honduran man, told reporters that he and his 10-year-old son had been in Tijuana for a little over a month and had seen immigration officials service just a few hundred people in that time. “When we arrived on November 12, they were at number 1025, and a month later they are only at 1308,” he said. Manuel, who did not wish to be photographed, said he sold hot dogs at a cart in Honduras and was also being extorted and threatened by “las maras”, which prompted their journey.

A small tent outside the San Ysidro port of entry has been taking names and distributing queue numbers to new arrivals, who must continually check on the numbers being serviced daily. However, with the recent change in venue to “El Barretal”, an abandoned nightclub turned into a makeshift shelter, a 35-minute drive away from the port of entry, constant check-ins are difficult.

Interactions between US Customs and Border Patrol and new arrivals are facilitated by Grupo Beta, which consists of volunteers who are themselves asylum seekers waiting for their own numbers to be called by immigration officials. Once their number is called a separate volunteer will step up to replace them.

Immigration volunteers working with Al Otro Lado and other agencies, who provide legal advice to the caravan in Tijuana, stated that the entire number ledger system being used by CBP is in violation of international asylum and refugee law and that it is illegal for the US to decide it is only going to process a certain number, now 200-300 per month.

“Asylum seekers should be able to present themselves at a port of entry and have their asylum claim processed and be granted entry—it is irrelevant if in the end their case is accepted or denied. By law, they must be granted safe entry while they await proceedings”, one attorney explained to a group of volunteers.

“We help them navigate through hell… we tell them they will be stripped down, separated from their children, kept in Hielera (Icebox) for its freezing temperatures, fed two small frozen burritos a day; if your children were healthy, expect them to get sick in there.”

Just last week, seven-year-old Jackeline Caal died in the custody of CBP. Antelope Wells, the CBP facility where she had become extremely ill, had no medical personnel and was entirely unprepared to receive refugees in family groups. Her death was a direct consequence of the punishing and ruthless repression of immigrants by the Trump administration.

Separated from parents and thrown into immigration prisons where temperatures are freezing, the conditions faced by migrants and their children are deliberately calibrated for the purpose of maximizing their suffering.

… Washington and Mexico City are currently negotiating a deal that would force Central Americans applying for asylum with the US to remain in Mexico during the process, also known as “Remain in Mexico.”

Advocates and legal counselors warn that a “Remain in Mexico” policy would allow Mexico to becoming what is known by asylum law as a “safe third country”. Such a designation would allow US immigration officials to argue in the future that asylum in the United States is no longer necessary if they have “safety” in Mexico.

During the first three months of the year alone in Mexico, 7,667 murders were reported, an average of 85 a day, according the Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Security (SESNESP).

Nearly 28 million people live in extreme poverty in Mexico, the majority of whom are concentrated in rural areas. Half of Mexico’s 127 million residents do not earn enough to meet basic needs, and one in five suffers from hunger. Over half of Mexico’s children live in poverty, and a United Nations study found that 14 percent of children suffer from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition.

The stark reality that is avoided in all the coverage of the Central American caravan is that there are thousands of Mexicans, particularly from rural areas, who are seeking asylum in the United States, fleeing the same conditions as their Central American counterparts, and they have also spent endless months in Tijuana.

The migrants and their supporters worldwide must reject entirely whatever “deal” is being worked out by Trump … which will only exacerbate the violent repression of immigrants at Mexico’s southern border.

Only a movement by the international working class can defend the rights of the asylum seekers. Among the demands of such a movement must be the safe passage and legal entry for all caravan participants into the United States, the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the dismantling of the militarized border region, the immediate liberation of all immigrants detained in the United States, the provision of jobs, homes, health care and educational opportunities to the caravan participants and all immigrants, and a multi-trillion-dollar program to rebuild Central America, to be paid for by expropriating the wealth of America’s billionaires.

The author also recommends:

Mexican immigrants seek asylum amidst growing social inequality and crime
[20 June 2018]

TEAR GAS FIRED AT BORDER MIGRANTS U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents fired tear gas and pepper spray into Mexico early Tuesday after 150 migrants attempted to cross a fence along the southwestern border, the agency said in a statement. [HuffPost]

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents began the new year early Tuesday with a barrage of tear gas, smoke bombs, pepper spray and plastic pellets fired at a group of migrants, including children, trying to cross from Mexico to apply for asylum in the United States at the border between Tijuana and San Ysidro: here.

Trump to deploy more troops to US-Mexico border on semi-permanent basis: here.

“If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?” Four “No More Deaths” volunteers convicted for providing humanitarian aid to migrants crossing US border: here.

THOUSANDS MORE U.S. TROOPS HEADING TO MEXICAN BORDER The Pentagon is sending 3,750 U.S. forces to the southwest border with Mexico for three months to provide additional support to border agents. [Reuters]

Rebellion in Matamoros, Mexico. 70,000 workers strike at US-Mexico border sweatshops: here.

Mexican strikers show working class answer to capitalist reaction at US-Mexico border: here.