The Execution of Berta Caceras, the United Fruit Company and the US Military
A Historical Timeline Identifying Some of the Perpetrators
The following quotes (except as noted) are from: https://newrepublic.com/article/120559/honduras-charter-cities-spearheaded-us-conservatives-libertarians
“In the early 1950s the United Fruit Company hired legendary public relations expert Edward Bernays to carry out an intense misinformation campaign portraying then-Guatamalan president Jacobo Arbenz as a communist threat.” – Scott Price, IC Magazine
“Between the time of the (Honduran) coup (June 2009) and February 2012, there were at least 59 politically motivated assassinations of civilians associated with the resistance movement. This is a low estimate, as intimidation and fear of reprisal prevents communities and family members from reporting many such deaths. There were at least 250 violations of human rights in the military junta’s first three months alone.” – Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), respected human rights organization.
“I’ve seen all sorts of horrific things in my time. but none as detrimental to the country as this.” – Honduran journalist Sandra Maribel Sanchez
“In 2013, the (illegitimate) Honduran government passed a law…which is to create autonomous free-trade zones that are governed by corporations, instead of the countries in which they exist.”
“…the project will allow multinationals to violate labor and environmental rights. It’s unconstitutional and violates national sovereignty. According to the charter city law, Honduras will sell territory to investors, and that territory becomes an autonomous region (that is) no longer governed by Honduran laws or police.”
“This is nothing more than a plan to get rid of the national debt by auctioning off the country,” ex-president Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a US-backed 2009 coup.
“Many fear the ZEDEs (‘Special Economic Development Zones’ [‘Privatized Free Trade Zones’]) in Honduras because they will become a tool for organized crime to strengthen its hold on the country”
“Nine Americans remain key players in the ZEDEs—six of whom served in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan.” (They are Mark Klugmann, Grover Norquist, Richard Rahn, Loren A. Smith, Reagan’s son, Michael and Mark Skousen – see below for more details.)
“US investor-members (of the Honduran Special Economic Development Zone’s so-called Committee for the Application of Best Practices) include Mark Klugmann, speech writer for presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush and image consultant to Honduran post-coup president Lobo; Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform; Richard Rahn, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce during the Reagan administration and senior member of the (Libertarian)Cato Institute; Loren A. Smith, federal judge and chief campaign advisor to Reagan in 1976 and 1980; Reagan’s son, Michael; and Mark Skousen, former CIA economic analyst and Forbes columnist.”
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould, railroad robber baron, as he hired armed Pinkerton detectives (and other goon squad thugs) to brutally break a labor union strike.
This time we can’t just call up the police ‘cause the criminals got all the cops on a leash” – Songwriter Ethan Miller, from his powerful pro-worker song Organized Crime
Last Sunday I attended a vigil at Peace Church here in Duluth, MN that commemorated the life and death of assassinated Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres, a 44 year-old mother of 4.
Caceres has been devoting her life organizing her fellow aboriginal tribal members (the Lenca Indians), fellow Hondurans and other justice-loving citizens of the world in resisting the privatization of their ancestral lands, resources and rivers by foreign investor groups and the traitorous collaborating politicians and businessmen that rule Honduras. Those “traitors” to her homeland’s indigenous rights are being militarily backed-up by the Honduran military, the private corporation’s armed guards, and shadowy “death squads” who have been harassing Berta and other resistors with death threats, intimidation and killings over the years.
The vigil was somber and meditative and a call to some sort of action to those in attendance. To me it was also a call to do something to resist other tyrannical corporations that are forging ahead with their nefarious plans to exploit and extract our precious, irreplaceable resources by any means necessary.
I have long believed that, in order to be effective, it is necessary to name out loud, not just the evil that is being done to the land and it creatures, but also the suspected or proven evil-doers That exercise was effective in my practice of holistic health care, where victims of neglect or psychological, sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual trauma needed to not only identify the signs and symptoms of their mental ill health, but also to name the perpetrators of the violence, which were individuals, groups or cultures. Doing so was very therapeutic and often curative.
So, in addition to commemorating the life and death of another martyr to the cause of peace and environmental justice, I feel that it is important to understand the history of the power-hungry perpetrators of violence to the land, its creatures, whether it be greedy individuals, greedy corporate entities, blinded or co-opted bureaucracies or military or police organizations that solve their problems by inflicting violence on others.
Therefore I offer below the following timeline of historical events in Honduras that led up to Berta’s execution, starting with the gold-obsessed Christopher Columbus and the evil conquistadors that followed him to a new world that was already occupied by First Nations’ peoples who were massacred or otherwise cheated out of their sovereign right to make use of their own land, mineral and water resources as they saw fit. I have obtained the information from a multitude of historically accurate sources.
(Note that this March 30 is the 117th anniversary of the merger of two US banana companies into the United Fruit Company (now called United Brands),that did everything in its power to violently enslave the aboriginal people of Central America by illegally and immorally removing them from their ancestral lands, refusing to pay them livable wages for their work, putting their lives and health at serious risk and by hoarding massive amounts of their land, thus impoverishing the original inhabitants,
Of course this pattern of exploitation should familiar to anybody who is awake. It happened (and is still happening) to aboriginal peoples in our own backyard, whether it is in the United States, Canada or in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Australia, New Zealand or most everywhere else around the world.
Powerful entities like extractive, polluting and otherwise exploitive multinational corporations like PolyMet, Twin Metals, Glencore and Enbridge (just to mention the few companies that are threatening the environmental health of northern Minnesota) need to be resisted. Please offer any help you can give to the Duluth 7 activist group, which is facing criminal trespass charges when they tried to deliver a protest letter to the corporate Duluth offices of Enbridge Energy, a Canadian oil pipeline company on November 2, 2015. Their arraignment is scheduled for April 1.
A Historical Timeline from Columbus to the Berta Caceres Assassination
1502 During 4th voyage Christopher Columbus reaches the coast of Honduras, then travels south to Panama.
1525 Spain conquistadors begin the brutal military assault on Honduras and all of Central and South America, with millions of innocents displaced and executed.
17th century The northern coast of Honduras falls to British buccaneers. British Honduras (now Belize) is established as a British colony, along with many Caribbean island nations.
1860 William Walker, US physician and pro-slavery soldier of fortune from Nashville, TN, leads mercenary soldiers in temporarily “conquering” Nicaragua. He is executed by firing squad by the Honduras government.
1898 April-December: Spanish-American war. Following the war, the US militarily occupies Cuba and Puerto Rico.
1899, March 30 The Boston Fruit Company merges with the Snyder Banana Company, and renames itself the United Fruit Company. The company at one time controlled 75% of the banana market in the US.
1903 November: The United States, with an eye on digging an interoceanic canal, conspires with separatist groups in the Colombian state of Panama to declare independence from Colombia. The US government sends the US Navy to prevent Colombia from recovering its territory. As soon as Panama’s independence is assured, the US obtains control over a strip of land (ultimately called the Canal Zone) through which it plans on building the canal.
1903 The United States invades Honduras.
1903 US invades the Dominican Republic.
1906 The US Army re-invades Cuba. The American occupation remains until 1909.
1907 US troops invade Nicaragua and establish a protectorate in the country.
1907 Due to political violence, US re-invades Honduras during the war with Nicaragua to “protect American lives”.
1909 US Army re-invades Nicaragua.
1911 US helps to overthrow President Miguel Devila of Honduras
1912 The US Army sends troops to Cuba.
1912 US marines land in Panama during the contested presidential elections.
1912 The US Army intervenes again in Honduras.
1914 The US Navy fights against rebels in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
1915 The US Army invades Haiti.
1916 The US Army invades the Dominican Republic.
1917 The US Army invades Cuba. The American occupation lasts until 1933.
1918 The US Army intervenes in Panama and keeps a police force in the country.
1919 The US marines land in Honduras during the presidential campaign.
1920 The US Army lands in Guatemala and fights for two weeks and puts down a peasant union movement against the United Fruit Company.
1924 US military “intervenes” in Honduras to “protect American interests” (ie, the profitability of the United Fruit Company) during a presidential election.
1925 US Army lands in Panama during a general strike against the banana plantation owners.
1932 US Navy intervenes in the Marti Revolt in El Salvador.
1932-49 Honduras suffers under the military dictatorship of General Tiburcio Carias Andino and his right-wing National Party of Honduras (NPH).
1933 First election to the presidency of Honduras of General Carias, who developed close ties with his fellow right-wing, neofascist , military dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, all supported by the US. He remained in office until 1949.
1934 In a military coup, US-backed military dictator Anastasio Somoza takes power in Nicaragua and outlaws political parties that favor the poor and working class. He was assassinated on September 17, 1980.
1945 The United Fruit Company introduces Miss Chiquita Banana as the company’s official symbol.
1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorizes Operation PBSUCCESS, a covert operation in which the CIA funds, arms, and trains 480 men led by Carlos Castillo Armas, the first of many of Guatamala’s (and other Central and South American) military dictators vigorously supported by the US.
1954 After escaping from prison following an abortive military coup attempt (1950) against the Guatemalan government, strongman and dictator-to-be Carlos Castillo established an army in neighboring Honduras. Castillo received financial and military support from the CIA and political support from Republican US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Dulles. The Dulles brothers were once lawyers for the United Fruit Company.
1954 Castillo’s army invades Guatemala in June, 1954, successfully overthrowing the democratically-elected Jacobo Arbenz, who had instituted land reform benefitting the landless peasants (the 99%) – opposed vigorously by the United Fruit Company, its bought-and-paid-for politicians and wealthy landowners (the 1%).
1954 Che Guevara witnesses the CIA-backed coup in Guatemala against Arbenz and is convinced that only armed revolutions can overthrow fascists and wealthy land-owning tyrants.
1956 The Honduras military ousts civilian president Lozano Diaz in a bloodless coup. Honduras was subsequently ruled by a military junta for the next two years.
1957 José Ramón Adolfo Villeda Morales is elected Honduran president. He serves for 6 years.
1963 October 13 The presidential candidate of the Liberal Party of Honduras, campaigning on the platform to abolish the military, is expected to win the election. But Honduran democracy is again thwarted by a military coup d’etat shortly before election day.
1963 General Osvaldo Lopez took power after the coup and served as president until 1971.
1972 General Lopez again takes power in another coup d’etat and serves until 1974.
1974 General Lopez resigns after he was exposed for accepting a bribe of over a million dollars from United Fruit.
1974 Hurricane Fifi devastates Honduras, killing 5,000.
1975 Colonel Juan Alberto Melgar Castro takes power.
1978 General Policarpo Paz Garcia ousts Melgar in a coup.
1981 Roberto Suazo Cordova, of the Centrist Liberal Party of Honduras, is elected president. He leads the first civilian government in more than a century.
1982 Brutal Guatemalan dictator (and fundamentalist Christian) Rios Montt meets with US President Ronald Reagan in Honduras. Reagan dismisses reports of egregious human rights abuses in the region and resumes weapons sales to military rulers.
1986 President Reagan issues an executive order granting emergency aid for Honduran army.
1988 Amnesty International reports increases in human rights violations by Honduran armed forces, and right-wing death squads.
1989 General Alvarez is assassinated.
1990 Rafael Callejas is sworn in as president; last Nicaraguan Contras leave Honduras.
1990-1998 Honduran military death squads kill hundreds.
1995 Compulsory military service is abolished. First military officers charged with human rights abuses.
1997 Carlos Flores, Liberal Party,is elected president, pledging to restructure armed forces.
1998 Hurricane Mitch devastates Honduras. Cholera and malaria epidemics ensues.
1999 Honduran armed forces is placed under civilian control.
2001 Honduran Committee for Defense of Human Rights states that more than 1,000 street children were murdered in 2000 by death squads backed by the Honduran police. A drought ravages Central America, and Honduras loses 80% of its grain crops.
2002 Honduras restores diplomatic ties with Cuba.
2003 Thousands of protestors across Honduras unite to demand that the government revoke debt payment agreements with the IMF. Sadly, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua agree to the terms of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
2004 Honduras signs NAFTA.
2005 Liberal Party’s Manuel Zelaya, a social democrat, wins presidential election. Honduran Congress approves Central American Free Trade Agreement.
2006 Zelaya inaugurated as new president, promises to fight corruption.
2008 Honduras joins Bolivarian Alternative for Americas, headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
2008 Zelaya administration blocks many hydroelectric dam projects, siding with the aboriginal people who would be most affected.
2009 June President Zelaya forced into exile following a US-supported military coup d’etat. Porfirio Lobo of the conservative National Party of Honduras installed as president in a fraudulent election November 2009.
2009 In the first three months of President Lobo’s administration, at least 250 violations of human rights occur and over the first two years, over 59 assassinations of civilians are documented. 2010 President Lobo’s rallying cry was “Honduras is Open for Business.”
2010 September The post-coup nationalist government awards 47 hydroelectric dam concessions in just one law, without consulting the indigenous communities which rely on the rivers for food and water. The law was part of a tsunami of pro-business laws passed by the National Congress led by
2010 President Juan Orlando Hernandez becomes the country’s president in an election marred by allegations of fraud and intimidation. Orlando, a businessman, is a staunch supporter of foreign investments in dams, mining, tourism and oil.
Since the 2009 coup, the US builds up its air base presence in Honduras through the establishment of three forward operating bases, ostensibly for “drug interdiction”.
2011 Honduras receives more than $50 million in Pentagon contracts. 62 percent of all Defense Department funds intended for Central America that year go to Honduras.
2012 January President Orlando is invited to visit the US Military’s Southern Command headquarters in Miami to meet with high-ranking officials.
2012 May At least 4 people are gunned down by Honduran forces firing from a US State Department helicopter, under the supervision of uniformed DEA and US Navy agents.
March 3, 2016 The courageous anti-tyranny activist Berta Cáceres is executed in her sleep by a right-wing death squad connected to those who were issuing the constant death threats. Cáceres was the cofounder of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Movements of Honduras (COPINH). She was an unrelenting activist protecting her Lenca Tribe’s First Nation’s natural resources, lands and rivers against powerful, military-backed, consortiums of US banks, IMF and World Bank predatory lenders, dam construction companies and mining companies that are intent on unethically – and illegally (in violation of international law) - exploiting the indigenous people’s natural resources.