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January 19, 1989 - Image 4

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Page 4

Thursday, January 19, 1989

The Michigan Daily

e iriguu DaiIyj
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Bush and U.S.imperialism in Central America:
Business as

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Vol. IC, No.78

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
What's next George.

inaugurated as the 41st President of the
United States. Already he has plans
which indicate that the relationship his
predecessors have established with the
countries of Central America will not
In the third week of February, Bush
will authorize the deployment of
10,000 National Guard reservists -
1,200 at a time - for military exercises
in Honduras. Though the U.S. gov-
ernment consistently claims to be aid-
ing developing countries, it is apparent
that they are motivated by their own
economic and military agendas.
According to United Nations statis-
tics, a child under the age of five dies
every five minutes in Honduras. In the
six year period from 1980 to 1985
U.S. economic aid to Honduras totaled
$599 million. This amount is more than
twice that of the thirty-four year period
from 1946 to 1979. There is a direct
relationship between increasing U.S.
aid and increasing poverty for the ma-
jority of the people in Honduras: it is
not in spite of increased U.S. aid that
conditions have grown worse for the
people of Honduras, it is because of it.
United States intervention in the two-
thirds world is not motivated by the
needs of the recipient countries. It is
motivated by the "needs" of the United
Military intervention
In the early 1980s the United States
needed Honduras to be the center piece
of U.S. policy in Central America and
it secured Honduras' compliance by
increasing military and economic aid.
The U.S. has clearly benefitted while
Honduras has suffered.
In response to the triumph of the
Nicaraguan revolution in July, 1979,
Uonduras became a base for aggres-
sion against Nicaragua and a bulwark
against the Salvadoran revolution.
Twelve U.S. military bases now oc-
cupy Honduras. They supply support
services to the contras, are used as
bases for reconnaissance flights over
Nicaragua and El Salvador, and pro-
vide support for tens of thousands of
US. army and national guard troops
that train in Honduras for possible de-
ployment in Nicaragua or El Salvador.
Additionally, Honduras is home to
12,000 armed contras. Between contra
camps and U.S. bases, 350,000 acres
of land have been destroyed and more
than 10,000 people displaced. The
acreage available for food production
has decreased while the same number.
of people still need to be fed.
Moreover, with the war in Nicaragua
winding down, the contra army,
roughly equal in size to the Honduran
army, is destabilizing Honduras by at-
tacking rural populations for food and
In an interview last November,
Manuel Acosta Bonilla, lawyer and
member of the Central Committee of
the conservative ruling Nationalist
Party, stated that Nicaragua has never
been a threat to Honduras, but that the
contras are a very real threat.

Economic intervention
Honduras has suffered from U.S.
economic policy as well. The U.S. at-
tempted to temper resentment over
U.S. bases and contra camps by in-
creasing economic aid. In the six year
period between 1980 and 1985 aid to-
talled nearly $600 million. In 1986
alone total aid was $129 million and in
1987 increased to nearly $200 million.
Money from the Agency for Interna-
tional Development (AID) has not
helped Honduras to develop. It has,
however, strengthened the orientation
of Honduras' economy away from
Honduras and toward production for
the United States.
In 1981 Honduras was unable to
meet payments for its international
debt. AID linked economic aid to Hon-
duras' compliance with International
Monetary Fund austerity measures.
These measures, designed to increase
exports and earn foreign currency, in-
cluded higher taxes, devaluation of the
local currency, social (but not military)
budget cuts, tax incentives for foreign
investors, and an end to price restric-
tions on basic foods. The result was
increased suffering for the poorest sec-
tors of Honduran society. Devaluation
hurt those who had the least money.
Cuts in education and health services
denied all but the richest access to
schools and hospitals. And foreign in-
vestment, focused on exports, ex-
ploited cheap labor and took more land
for export crops, reducing the amount
available for food staples.
In rural areas, 40 percent of the peo-
ple are landless and 80 percent suffer
rrom malnutrition. At the same time,
65 percent of the richest land is used
for cattle grazing for export to U.S. fast
food chains, 50 percent of all arable
land is used for pasture and another 26
percent lies fallow..
In urban areas, cheap labor and tax
incentives have brought more than 300
U.S. firms to Honduras. U.S. trans-
national corporations (TNCs) own
100percent of the five largest busi-
nesses in Honduras, 88 percent of the
twenty largest and 82 percent of the
fifty largest. Ann Arbor's Tom Mona-
hagn, owner of Dominoes Farms, has
not ignored this favorable investment
climate, having established a factory to
assemble men's slacks for export in
San Pedro Sula.
Since 1980, Honduras, like most of
the two-thirds world, has suffered
economic decline. U.S. aid has not
stopped or reversed this trend. Rather,
it has exacerbated it by exploiting
Honduras militarily and economically.
Hondurans of all political orientations
are realizing close ties with the U.S.
have hurt, not helped, Honduras. A
child dies every five minutes in Hon-
duras because U.S. aid is for the
benefit of the U.S. government and
U.S. businesses, not for the benefit of
the people of Honduras.
The United States supports political,
economic and military structures con-
trolled by and benefitting few Hon-
durans, while excluding and exploiting
many. Real development will come
only when these structures change.

By Mike Fischer
On December 23, 1988, three new
right-wing death squads announced their
appearance in El Salvador with a hit list of
political opponents "marked for death."
The list included Guillermo Ungo and
Ruben Zamora, two of the leaders of the
Democratic Convergence, a coalition of
left-center opposition parties trying to
participate in El Salvador's impending
presidential elections.
On December 23,1988, El Salvador's
First Infantry Brigade responded to student
demands that the government increase the
budget for the University of El Salvador
by lobbing six bombs into the Biology
Department, killing a University em-
ployee. The Brigade has since cordoned off
the University and searches all who leave
or enter the campus.
On December 23,1988, Ronald Reagan
announced that he was sending 1900 U.S.
active duty troops to the Salvador-Hon-
duras border in January for participation in
the Big Pine V military "exercises" there.
And in the third week of February, George
Bush will authorize the deployment of
10,000 National Guard reservists - 1200
at a time - for similar "exercises" in
The current situation in El Salvador -
and the U.S. government's all-too pre-
dictable response to it - is a microcosm
of the crises Bush will face and the re-
sponses he will likely adopt throughout a
region that has become a veritable hell of
oppression and a damning indictment of
U.S. foreign policy. The last ten years of
U.S. "assistance" to Central America -
more specifically, to the region's elites
- have intensified already horrifying pat-
terns of ecological devastation, malnutri-
tion, bankrupt economies, and scandalous
human rights abuses on the part of U.S.
sponsored and trained military and security
In Honduras, three-fourths of the chil-
dren are malnourished. This is in a country
that once fed itself but whose best lands
Mike Fischer is the Ann Arbor
coordinator of Solidarity and a
member of the Latin America Solidarity
Committee .

and used to produce cash crops like ba-
nanas for export.
Since 1979, between 150,000 and
200,000 campesinos have been murdered
by U.S. backed governments in El Sal-
vador and Guatemala.
In Nicaragua, the U.S sponsored contra
war and economic boycott have devastated
the economy, for which, in a typical ex-
ample of how the U.S. government's chief
lackeys - the media - operate, the San-
dinistas are blamed. And yet with Reagan
leaving, the Sandinista Revolution lives
on, an inspiring model for indigenous re-
sistance movements throughout the re-
The strongest of those movements is
in next-door El Salvador, where George
Bush is the lucky heir of the whirlwind
his predecessors have sown. The
Farabundo Marti National Liberation
Front (FMLN) is on the threshold of vic-
tory. Despite $1.5 million of U.S. aid to
the Salvadoran military a day, the popular

only way that makes sense given the
twisted logic of U.S. foreign policy: when
low intensity warfare fails to "stabilize" a
situation, send in the troops. Questions as
to why they are sent - let alone why the
U.S. government continues to thwart the
democratic aspirations of the world's peo-
ples of color - can be asked later if at all.
Protesting such policies from within
the belly of the imperialist beast that per-
petrates them is vital. Attendance at the
Inauguration Day protest beginning at the
Federal Building Friday afternoon at 4:30
P.M. is a way to voice opposition to the
policies carried out in the name of U.S.
citizens. It is important to remember as
we protest the changing of the guard in
Washington that Bush's predecessors are
responsible for composing the Central
American script he inherits at such a dra-
matic moment.
Democrats as well as Republicans
have shaped this drama. It was Jimmy
Carter who congratulated Somoza for his

'Since 1979, between 150,000 and 200,000 campesinos
have been murdered by U.S. backed governments in El Sal-
vador and Guatemala.'


insurgency has expanded into all fourteen
provinces of El Salvador. In the urban ar-
eas, the people have overcome their fear
following the state-sponsored massacres of
1979-1982 and again have taken to the
streets for demonstrations of as many as
100,000 people against the Duarte regime.
Bush's immediate predecessors were
able to support corrupt Central American
dictatorships like that in El Salvador
without committing large numbers of
U.S. personnel to the region; a few billion
dollars -worth of lethal weapons, including
napalm, a few hundred U.S. military ad-
visers, a bit of training for indigenous se-
curity forces in torture techniques, and a
few pious pronouncements on our need to
support "fragile democracies" (aka state
terrorism) usually did the trick.
But if Bush hopes to sustain the brutal
logic of U.S. imperialism, such "help" for
the region, and especially El Salvador,
may no longer be enough. It is here that
he will face his first major foreign policy
crisis, and it is quite possible that he, like
Johnson when confronted with a similar
situation in Vietnam, will respond in the

human rights policies as Somoza was
bombing his own people. It was Michael
Dukakis who pointed to the murderous
regime in Guatemala as a shining example
of the kind of democracy he would sup-
No single figure can be assigned the
blame for the U.S. perpetrated violence in
Central America. Militant as Reagan has
been, frightening as Bush is, they are no
more so than their Democratic counter-
parts are and have been. For Central
Americans, U.S. Inauguration Day 1989
is no different than Inauguration Day
1981, or 1977, or 1961. All of them sig-
nify business as usual in a region domi-
nated by U.S. business. If we in the U.S.
are to influence what happens in Central
America, we must first understand the po-
litical and economic systemic constraints
that have determined how individual presi-
dents approach the region. On Inaugura-
tion Day 1989, let us inaugurate a renewed
commitment to expanding the narrow
U.S. political spectrum that makes busi-
ness as usual in "our backyard" a grisly
chamber of horrors.

Puerto Rico still colonized:
Democracy thwarted

By Pedro Bonilla, Augustin
Irizarry, Jose Matos, Raul
Medina and Lisa Ruiz
Coincident with the swearing in of the
Governor of Puerto Rico, Rafael
Hernandez Colon, a White House opera-
tive, Andrew Card, arrived on the island.
His mission was not to take a message of
congratulations to Hernandez Colon, but
rather to inform him of the order from Mr.
Bush that in Puerto Rico there would be a
plebiscite to decide the issue of political
status. As is common in the United
States' paternalistic relationship with
Puerto Rico, Mr. Card did not say, "So,
do you think the people of Puerto Rico
desire a plebiscite?" He simply ordered
The United States government's posi-
tion has historically been that the question
of status was resolved in 1953, when
colonial status was reaffirmed. This justi-
fies what the rest of the world viewed as a
flagrant violation of international law in
ignoring the United Nation Decolonization
Committee's repeated orders to decolonize
Puerto Rico. It is thus curious that
suddenly this same United States
government mandates a plebiscite. A
plebiscite will probably not occur in the
near future, and even if it did it would not
be legal from an international perspective.
It is nevertheless important to discuss the
reasons for, and implications of, this sud-
den maneuver of the United States.
First, the discussion of the colonial sta-
tus of Puerto Rico at the international
level during the past two decades has been
detrimental to the United States' image as
a defender of the democratic ideal. It has
always been an embarrassment that this
so-called defender of democracy denies a
population the most basic of democratic

political crises that plague Puerto Rico
mandates changes in the current political
status of the island. While the upper class
of the United States currently enjoys a pe-
riod of economic bonanza, Puerto Rico
continues to stagnate economically,
affecting even its well-to-do. Puerto Rico
suffers from a chronically high level of
unemployment. Approximately one-third
of the population lives under the level of
poverty and more than half of the popula-
tion receives some type of federal eco-
nomic aid. The economic debacle of
Puerto Rico results directly from the
complete control that the United States
exercises over the country in terms of
economic interchange, laws of shipping,
etc. Such conditions underscore the neces-
sity to consider changes in economic and
political structures. It is not surprising
that the United States suddenly wants to
discuss the issue of the political status of
Puerto Rico, to calm the impending
Third, could a plebiscite resolve the
colonial problem of Puerto Rico even if it
were held? Very likely not. In 1967 the
United States imposed another plebiscite
which hardly solved the recurrent prob-
lems. Moreover, according to the United
Nations, plebiscites in occupied territories
are invalid in the first place.
On the occasion of the first plebiscite,
the principal groups that represented the
independence sector boycotted the
plebiscite, making it irrelevant with regard
to the question of independence. Of the
two other alternatives offered by the
United States (become a state or remain a
colony), the Puerto Rican people clearly
rejected the option of becoming a state.
We know of no respected analyst that has
claimed significant changes in the opin-
ions of the Puerto Rican people since that
Por the reenItm No a nlhkrito nver the

can decide internally on the possible forms
of government to be considered in a
plebiscite. In sum, the United Nations
does not recognize a plebiscite on the
question of whether or not the United
States should decolonize. The United
States must decolonize first, and then a
plebiscite can be fairly administered.
It is relatively easy to guess the attitude
that the Bush administration will assume-
his campaign supported statehood for
Puerto Rico during the primaries. Never-
theless, we feel we may be at an important
juncture, one which could begin a process
leading to the solution of the colonial sta-
tus of Puerto Rico. Clearly all people in-
terested in a solution to this problem,
U.S. citizens who wish their country to
abide by international law, as well as
Puerto Ricans who want their political
status defined once and for all, should be
on alert to watch the development of this
One component of this new plebiscite,
probably more important than the
plebiscite itself, will be the intense
propaganda campaign that will be waged.
This campaign, as the many that have
preceded it, not only will seek to have an
effect on the people of Puerto Rico, but
also on U.S. citizens and international
opinion. Already statements from Puerto
Rican leaders (or, more aptly, leaders of
Puerto Rican descent) have appeared in the
Spanish language media placing the
"Puerto Rico people" in favor of state-
hood, or, at most, lauding the present sta-
tus from which we "benefit."
Such propaganda is not intended to
pursue an evaluation of the status
alternatives, but rather is designed to
reinforce one of the two alternatives that
the Bush administration supports. As in
administrations before him, it matters not
whether the alternative is statehood or the
current arrangement . oth imnlv cnntinedi


Help fig]
Today, the Lesbian and Gay Rights
Organizing Committee (LaGROC) is
calling a second rally as part of the on-
going struggle to fight AIDS. Follow-
ing the rally, students will address the
University regents and demand that the
University take a leadership role in
fighting AIDS.
Renowned for its research facilities,
and its immense research budget, he
University should be a leader in the
AIDS fight. But the University has re-
fused to publicly disclose information
ahot what AIDS research if anv is

ing, and policies on AIDS/HIV infec-
2) Open an AIDS treatment center
controlled by health care workers,
clients, and the communities most af-
3) Massive funding for AIDS re-
search, treatment and support services
under the control of health care work-
ers, clients, and the communities most
4) Mandatory gay-positive safer sex
education for students, and for workers
with naid time off. under the direction

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