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Honduran Garifuna Culture Threatened by Coup

San Francisco Bay View
Willie Thompson

The Honduran de facto coup government under Roberto Micheletti plans to eliminate the Honduran Garifuna people and culture. Micheletti has rescinded the Manuel Zelaya authorization to teach in the Garifuna language in school and to teach the language itself. All scholarships to Garifuna students have been eliminated.

Now, Micheletti, with no opposition from the U.S. State Department, has set Sept. 1, 2009, to take over the Garifuna built and operated hospital and fire its Latin American Medical School (ELAM) trained Garifuna physicians, including Dr. Luther Castillo Harry, its founder.

Dr. Castillo Harry has been targeted for assassination in order to decapitate the Garifuna leadership. The original open assassination strategy has been revised to arrest and imprison Castillo Harry and have him killed in jail as a way of covering his assassination. Dr. Castillo Harry never travels alone; he never sleeps in the same place and keeps his appointments and engagements secret. Targeted assassination of leaders for social change is a strategy to cut off the head of the movement, making it leaderless and more vulnerable to extermination.

The Garifuna doctors were trained at ELAM in Cuba and have served Garifuna and Meskito patients since 2005. Health indicators of these communities have shown considerable improvements since that time and their work is receiving increasing international recognition and support, such as from Project CHIMES under the direction of Bill Camp of the Sacramento Labor Council. The latter group provided funding and other support for the construction of the hospital and is continuing and broadening its support.

According to Bud McKinney, vice president of the Sheetmetal Workers International Association, Local 162, the hospital was built brick-by-brick by the Garifuna, who are now the proud owners of the only Garifuna hospital in the world which could soon be taken away by the de facto coup government with no protest from the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lanny Davis, former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton and chief of staff for President Bill Clinton is now the chief defender of the criminal Honduran coup government under Micheletti.

Black physicians in the United States have experienced similar discriminatory prejudicial treatment as recently as the 1980s, only 25 years ago. According to Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, “local chapters of the American Medical Society (AMA) had rules against Black members well into the 1960s and policies that made Blacks feel uncomfortable well into the 1980s.” Local medical societies in the U.S. beginning in the 1800s barred Black doctors, which prevented them from treating their patients in local hospitals. Abraham Flexner, chair of the AMA Commission on Schools in 1910, deemed all Black schools except Howard and Meharry universities substandard and urged they be closed.

Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, is preparing a resolution for the AFL-CIO National Convention in Pittsburgh Sept. 14-17 to embargo all trade with the U.S.-supported de facto coup government in Honduras. This is the most efficient and effective way to prevent the genocide of the Garifuna, to return democratically elected President Manual Zelaya to Honduras, punish Roberto Micheletti and the coup government and rescue the United States from its support of the Honduran coup government.

All groups should pass similar embargo resolutions and begin now to boycott all Honduran products such as coffee, fruit etc. Obviously, the situation is urgent. The life and culture of the Garifuna people are at risk as are democracy and justice for the Honduran people.

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