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Colombian Free Trade: Exporting Death Squads to Honduras

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A breaking story -- covered in the Colombian press for about two weeks but just now being picked up by English-language news sources, including CNN -- reports that 40 members of Colombian death squads, responsible for the execution of thousands, have been recruited by Honduran plantation owners to protect their interests. In addition to the Colombian mercenaries, 120 paramilitaries from other Latin American countries "have been contracted to support the government of Roberto Micheletti," who organized the overthrow of Honduras' democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, on June 28.

Since then, Micheletti and his business backers have hired US lobbyists and public-relations firms, including lawyer and confidant of Hillary Clinton, Lanny Davis, to make the case to Washington that Zelaya's ouster was a democratic transfer of power.

Yet Honduras' rising body count, along with the reappearance of death squads - responsible in the 1980s for the murder and disappearances of tens of thousands of Central Americans - makes Davis's efforts increasingly difficult.

Micheletti himself may be directly involved in the importation of Colombian mercenaries. According to Bertha Oliva, the president of the respected and besieged Honduran human-rights organization, Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, the infamous "Billy" Joya - who in the 1980s was himself a member of the Honduran death squad, Battalion 316, and now is working as Micheletti's security adviser - traveled to Bogotá, Colombia, in early September to arrange the deal which brought the mercenaries to Honduras.