VOICEOVER: On Monday, May 7th, a number of Congress members, corporate leaders, and international politicians gathered at an upscale hotel in Washington, DC to attend the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, or CHLIâs, 8th annual gala, where awards were presented to business and political figures. This yearâs recipients included AT&T Mobility CEO and President Ralph de La Vega, Republican Representative Thaddeus McCotter, and perhaps most notably, Honduran de-facto President Porfirio âPepeâ Lobo. CHLIâs stated goal is to advance the Hispanic communityâs diversity of thought, placing an emphasis on private enterprise and hemispheric trade. Attendees of the $250 ticket gala applauded as announcers read the long list of corporate sponsors and contributors of the event, among them some of the largest US Spanish language media conglomerates like Univision and Telemundo.*Excerpt from reading of sponsors*Announcer âI feel like Iâm in Miami!âVOICEOVER: A number of familiar faces from the far right Cuban-American Congressional block and lobby, with its base in Southern Florida, are among those who sit on CHLIâs board, including Ileana Ross Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, David Rivera, and the Diaz Balart brothers. CHLIâs founder and chairman is former Republican Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart, who introduced each of the award recipients as his close personal friends. Lincoln retired from Congress in 2011 and was replaced by his brother Mario Diaz Balart.LINCOLN DIAZ BALART: A number of like minded members of congress and business leaders came together 8 years ago to fill a void, to form a Hispanic organization in the US thatâs pro-international trade, pro-business, and pro-human rightsâ¦we never cease in our advocacy in providing constant solidarity with those who fight dictatorship throughout our hemisphere in Cuba and Venezuela, we know that those freedom fighters the heroes of today are the leaders of tomorrow we never forget that.VOICEOVER: Much of the Gala seemed to focus less on domestic issues facing Latino communities in the U.S. and more on regional international affairs, with a particular emphasis on promoting the regime of de-facto Honduran President and CHLI leadership in international relations award recipient Pepe Lobo. The event was kicked off with the singing of the Honduran national anthem, and Honduran tourism advertisements were later screened during the dinner. Outside, demonstrators protested Hondurasâ deplorable human rights record under Loboâs tenure as president. Hundreds of members of the countryâs popular resistance have been the targets of politically motivated assassinations since the coup, with the majority taking place under the Lobo administration. In the Bajo Aguan region, the private security forces of wealthy landowner Miguel Facusse, a key financer of the coup, have murdered dozens of peasant farmers with the backing of the U.S.-trained Honduran military and police. More than 20 journalists have also been murdered while death threats and attacks have become the norm for those who are critical of the governmentâs policies, making Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. A deadly prison fire that killed more than 350 inmates in February has cast further doubts on the Lobo governmentâs professed commitment to human rights, along with the assassinations of dozens of Honduran LGBT activists. PEPE LOBO: Quiero ante ustedes reiterar que hemos superado la crisis politica en Honduras y la democracia se mantiene firme y vibrante hasta que aquellos que decian que habia aqui por la ruta de las armas, hoy son parte del ajuste electoral y van a participar en elecciones como corresponde, el pueblo es el que decide libremente en las urnasâ¦ sanamos muchos las heridas y aprendimos que a parte del interes personal que podamos tener o politico, todos somos parte de esa pequeÃ±a nacion pero con mucho orgullo y que alegria ver aqui la bandera de estados unidos de America, la bandera de Honduras, dos pueblos que tiene una larga tradicion de amistad Translation: I want to reiterate that we have overcome the political crisis in Honduras and that our democracy is strong and vibrant, to the point that some of those who once discussed going down the path of taking up arms are now part of an electoral pact and are going to participate in elections as it should be, where the people are the ones who decide freely at the ballot boxâ¦. We have healed many of our wounds and learned that more importantly than any personal or political interests we may have, that we are proud to be part of this small nation, it brings me joy to see the flag of the United States here together with the flag of Honduras, two peoples who share a long tradition of friendship.VOICEOVER: Adrienne Pine is an assistant professor of anthropology at American University who has been researching violence in Honduras for 15 years. She participated in the demonstration held outside the gala. ADRIENNE PINE: Pepe Loboâs theme has been unity and reconciliation and all throughout his presidency what weâve seen instead is the plastering over of huge violence carried out by the stateâ¦while Pepe talks about the inclusivity of his government and the fact that people who had been and do still consider themselves resistance are still running in elections it does not negate the fact that his military and militarized police are killing people on a regular basis in defense of people who financed the coupâ¦Pepe Lobo is a coup president and represents a politics that people like Ileana Ros Lehtinen are very in favor of, they were so worried that Manuel Zelaya the former president was actually bringing Honduras down a road to socialism and towards something like Chavez at least this is the worry that they talked about I think more than a fear of socialism what congress people like Ileana really want is to is to open up countries for complete exploitation of natural resources complete capitalist exploitations of countries whether they be Cuba or Honduras to make sure that the most profit possible can be made by corporations.MARIO DIAZ BALART: âThe entire world had not only abandoned the Honduran people, they were on the side of imposing a Marxist dictatorship.âLINCOLN DIAZ BALART: âWise leadership brought Honduras back into the international community after the people of Honduras had rallied in an admirable manner to defend its freedom from the imposition of totalitarianism from abroad and by honoring president Lobo CHLI honors the people of Honduras.â VOICEOVER: At the same time the CHLI awards ceremony was taking place, the body of missing Honduran journalist, LGBT activist, and opposition candidate Erick Martinez was found north of the capital city of Tegucigalpa, having been strangled to death. CHLI Congressional members like Lincoln Diaz Balart and Ileana Ross Lehtinen have been instrumental in backing first the coup regime of Roberto Michelletti and later the illegitimate elections carried out under the coup government that brought Pepe Lobo to power. On the domestic front, CHLIâs gala award recipient Representative Thaddeus McCotter has consistently voted yes on anti-immigration measures such as the construction of a US-Mexico border fence, English only legislation, support for the border vigilante group the Minuteman Project, and seeking to require hospitals to report undocumented immigrants who seek medical care. ADRIENNE PINE: Itâs not really about diversity of thought and it has nothing to do with Hispanic community in reality what they are pushing is a corporate agenda that is against human rights itâs against the 99 percent â¦ which is meant to place the blame for poverty on the poor and to pat each other on the backs so that people like Pepe can go back to Honduras saying âI won an award by a Hispanic organization in the USâ and think that thatâs going to give him credibility back in Honduras VOICEOVER: In March, 94 Congress members signed a letter calling for an end to U.S. military to aid to Honduras citing concerns over human rights abuses carried out under the Lobo government. SIGNOUT.
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