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Honduran Peace Tour Hits A2

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by Beth Anne Apple

ANN ARBOR- Gladys Lanza, Honduras' highest ranking woman union leader, spoke at Rackham Amphitheatre on April 9, as part of a 7-week, 30-city Honduras Peace Tour. The purpose of the tour was to educate the people of the U.S. about the political situation in Honduras. As president of the Coordinating Committee of Popular Organizations (CCOP), a mass coalition of labor unions, student organizations, teacher's groups, women's groups and peace groups. Lanza spcaks for hundreds of thousands of Hondurans struggling for peace.

"We have three armies in our country: the U.S. army, the contra army and the Honduran army," said Lanza speaking through an interpreter. "There are 18 mili tary bases and 100,000 military soldiers have passed through our country. Despite the fact that military maneuvers are carried out constantly in our country, our people will not allow ourselves to be conquered."

"It's only because of the protest that we carry out," she added, "that the training of the Salvadorean army in our territory has stopped."

"They [the U.S. govemment and the contra]," Lanza stated, "have obliged us to cut the budgets for health care and education in order to maintain this war structure they have created. From our territory they attack our neighbors. We are not at war with these countries. We are sister and brother countries who, at one time, were a part of a single federation of countries."

"It is not with planes and war equipment and bullets that people learn to read and write. Our illiteracy rate is 70% in the countryside and 50% in urban regions. This is precisely what we want the people of the U.S. to be aware of," Lanza said.

Questioning U.S. govemment tactics, called: "Two years ago, women's groups carried out a large demonstration in front of the largest military base in our country. In order to put down the demonstration, chemical weapons were used against us. They used a yellow powder on us that caused skin rashes and, among pregnant women, it caused abortions. This is the message of peace that the United States army brings to our country."

Lanza called the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the economie representative of the U.S. govemment in Latin America. IMFpolicies.she said, are "among the cruelest measures ever waged against our people and working people are those who suffer the greatest consequences. People are paying with their hunger for the economic measures that are freezing our salaries, devaluing the money, and lifting price controls." In response to these policies, workers stage "strikes and demonstrations . . . because we are not about to allow ourselves to die hungry," she said.

Lanza, president of the National Electrical Workers Union, described her government's reaction to workers' strikes saying: The Honduran government sends "tanks into the streets in order to keep us from demonstrating. This is the training that the Honduran army is recciving from the United States. That's what the contra is used for in our country - to particípate in the repressive orders of the state.

"There is a structure of terror, in order to suppress the people in order to keep them from protesting," Lanza conlinued. "Death squads exist which constantly kidnap the leaders of these popular movements. Not only the leaders, but their families as well. The death squads carry out psychological warfare against activists that doesn't allow us to live in peace. When we are captured, we're taken to clandestine prisons where we're submitted to psychological and physical torture."

Lanza and other activists are currently working on proving the direct link between the Honduran army and the right-wing Anti-Communist Action Alliance death squads. Lanza 's name appears on their death lists and her life and those of her family are in constant danger. She has been imprisoned three times.

Lanza believes U.S. aid could be used lo help Hondurans provide employment, education and health care. But instead, U.S. taxes fund "landing strips for more planes, radar for spying, intelligence forces for the CIA and contra, and a group of torturers within the Honduran army, torturers who have been trained here in North America. That is not a message of peace," said Lanza.