Central America 24/10/11
Honduran Supreme Court suspends trial against coup-involved military; expansion of Panama Canal ends third phase; Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom apologizes for 1954 coup.
Offering an update on the effects of the three tropical systems that began battering Central America last week , on Saturday Al Jazeera raised the death toll to 105 and the number of those affected to 1 million.
Guatemala and El Salvador are by far the most afflicted, with the former confirming 38 deaths and the latter, 34.
The United Nations (UN) has described the region as one of the most affected by climate change.
However, the forces of nature did not seem to prevent the doings of the Honduran Supreme Court this week.
On Thursday, the judicial body came to the final decision to suspend the trial of five former army members involved in the 2009 military coup.
In January 2010 they were charged with abuse of power and the unlawful extradition of ex-president Manuel Zelaya, deposed in June 2009.
The magistrates voted 12 in favour and 3 against suspending the proceeding, which involved 2 army generals, a former Chief of Staff, 2 commanders of the Navy and the Air Force and an inspector of the Armed Forces.
The Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (National Front of Popular Resistance – FNRP) denounced the decision as biased, claiming that the members of the Supreme Court had backed the military coup.
In Panama – which saw US President Barack Obama finally ratify the long awaited Free Trade Agreement with the country later in the week –, the Autoridad del Canal de Panamá (Panama Canal Authority – ACP) announced on Tuesday the completion of the third of four dry excavation projects scheduled in the expansion of the Canal.
APC CEO Alberto Alemán Zubieta described the recent development as a ‘game-changer in world maritime commerce.’ Its completion will result in a 6.1 km channel.
The project is valued at US$5.25 billion, and includes a widening of the Canal’s capacity by 2014, which is expected to double the rate of ships carrying goods through it.
Also this week, on Thursday Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom issued a formal apology to the family of former President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán (above), the latter having been ousted and exiled during Guatemala’s 1954 military coup masterminded by the CIA.
Colom described the coup as a crime against ‘the Guatemalan society committed by the CIA and Guatemalans with bad intentions,’ a crime from which ‘we still haven’t recovered,’ he argued.
Árbenz was elected in 1951, and his political platform based on popular land reforms and the redistribution of lands to indigenous communities earned him the title of ‘the Soldier of the People.’
Jacobo Árbenz Vilanova – the former president’s sole surviving son – maintains that his father was overthrown because his proposed reforms hindered the interests of United Fruit Company.
United Fruit Company was sued by 4,000 Colombian plaintiffs in 2007 for funding death squads to protect its interests in the country, the law suit resulting in a fine of US$25m at the time.
‘Here started the injustice and I [call on] the United States to recognise their errors,’ said the President of Guatemala, a country which has recently been voted to join the UN Security Council for two years – effective in January 2012 -, along with Morocco and Pakistan.