Recent Information out of Honduras and analysis of US responses

Here is a very interesting group of posts from the Hondurascoup blog.
Much of what is posted here would be impossible to find in mainstream news reports. In fact as of now mainstream reports on Honduras are approaching nil! Notice that it is now a crime to suggest to people that the presidential elections should be boycotted.

Honduras Coup 2009
Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

: Inaccurate arguments about constitutional and legal issues persist

Posted by RAJ at 2:51 PM 6 comments Links to this post
Labels: Congreso Nacional, Constitution, Honduras coup, Supreme Court
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Vapid US Policy Statement
The Voice of America website, under a byline "The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the US government", has just published one of the oddest texts I think I have ever read.

Here for the record is a professional deconstruction of this text, from my perspective as an avowed post-structuralist:

Efforts to return deposed President Manuel Zelaya to office and end the crippling political crisis in Honduras have hit another roadblock.

This form of statement, leaving out any agent (actor), is typical of rhetoric that attempts to avoid responsibility. Efforts have hit a roadblock: not because the US State Department made pronouncements that encouraged parties to misbehave, just because roadblocks are there...

The United States is disappointed that both parties haven't been able to reach agreement on the creation of a government of national unity under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose accord, and it urges leaders there to stay focused on it. While the U.S. and other hemispheric nations worked hard to bring the parties together, the stalemate is a Honduran problem that must have a Honduran solution.

"The stalemate is a Honduran problem". Well, not exactly. The stalemate is a problem exacerbated by the aforementioned US State Department pronouncements. But what is most interesting here is that the "disappointment" of the US is the topic of this paragraph. Not the consequences for the Honduran people. And who precisely are the "leaders" urged to stay focused on "it"-- and is that "it" the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, or the "government of national unity"?

Under the terms of the agreement, signed late last month, President Zelaya and Honduras's de facto regime agreed to let Congress decide on the president's return. A presidential election set for November 29 will determine who succeeds President Zelaya and a government of national unity will operate until the new president takes office, among other provisions.

More or less accurate. But notice the very revealing slide: "A presidential election set for November 29 will determine who succeeds President Zelaya": or, to put it another way: President Zelaya is still and will be the legally elected president, presumably no matter what the Congress decides about his "return".

Both sides need to return to the table and fulfill their commitment to forming a government of national unity, and all parties should avoid provocative statements and actions that could upset the process.

Ah, how much the US State Department wishes other people would "avoid provocative statements"; like, perhaps, publicly stating that the US would recognize the election no matter whether the legally elected President was allowed to return to his constitutional position or not?

Before voting on the president's return, congressional leaders have asked for input from the Supreme Court, attorney general and human rights ombudsman. This is consistent with the accord and was agreed to by both parties during the negotiation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

Well, no. The Accord did say that the Congress would vote after previously receiving a report from the Supreme Court. But there is nothing in it (go, read it for yourself!) about asking the attorney general to pronounce (and remember, Edmundo Orellana's legal opinion is that this would be against the law); and no one actually asked Ramon Custodio to provide a report; he just got enthusiastic. What the Accord-- and remember, I think it is a lousy piece of writing-- called for was for the Supreme Court to provide Congress a report (on what has never been clear to anyone: they cannot simply issue a verdict on charges against him, and without some constitutional issue in front of them, they cannot judge whether it would be legal or illegal for congress to revoke its own decreto of June 28). Period.

Isn't revisionist history fun?

The United States’ commitment is to the accord and its implementation and to the restoration of democratic constitutional order in Honduras. It provides a pathway to free and fair elections, the outcome of which will be widely accepted both within Honduras and abroad.

"It" is ambiguous (again). What provides a "pathway to free and fair elections"? One presumes the intended reference is "the accord", but it could as easily be "the United States commitment" or even, unlikely as it may seem, "democratic constitutional order".

In any event, this entire paragraph is a fantasy. The outcome of these purported "free and fair elections", which will not be observed by any official third-party outsiders, are already being repudiated by every member of the OAS from Latin America; by UNASUR; by the Central American and Caribbean nations; and there is a debate pending in the EU but Spain has already said there cannot be any legitimacy in the elections scheduled for just 16 days from now.

And as for "widely accepted within Honduras": well, yes. But that is not something to be happy about; the wide acceptance of elections that fail to live up to the standards of democracy is a symptom of the corrosion of Honduran popular belief in democracy itself.

The United States will respect any decision by the Honduran Congress, and is working to create an environment in which Hondurans themselves can address and resolve the issues that precipitated the crisis. With this behind them, the nation may move forward to address the many other challenges facing it.

Ah me: "the nation may move forward"-- precisely how? how does a country so polarized "move forward" when the one thing that is now certain is that any outcome-- "any decision by the Honduran Congress"-- will be accepted by the hemispheric power that has been most influential on the modern politics of Honduras? Does that "any decision" include, say, an assertion that Roberto Micheletti was inserted into power legally because the Congress says so?

And finally: "the issues that precipitated the crisis". No longer even able to clearly label a coup d'etat what it is, and giving in at the end to what has always been lurking below the surface: this whole incident would not have happened if there were not prior "precipitating" events.

No wonder the President of Paraguay is nervous. God help us when this is the best the US State Department can come up with.
Posted by RAJ at 4:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord, US State Department
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Media Outlets Threatened Again
Police Commissioner Danilo Orellana says that some anti-de facto government media outlets are instigating crimes by asking people to boycott the November 29 elections, and he is asking the Public Prosecutor's office to act against them.

"This is to instigate by action of committing a crime, its in the penal code. The Public Prosecutor needs to take more firm action."

Orellana also noted that the police were investigating the text messages that urged a boycott.

Orellana indicated the police have been making blacklists: "all those of the left, we removed the so called head, and we know everyone, from A to Z, who are those that form parts of these groups. (todos los de la izquierda sacaron como quien dice la cabeza y todo el mundo nos conocemos, desde la A hasta la Z, quiénes son los que forman parte de estos grupos)"

Orellana tried to tie the recent bombings and attacks on electric transmission towers to Frente de Resistencia and indicated that they intended to cause blackouts in determined parts of the country to impede the election.

Danilo Orellana, who was a spokesman for the police for more than 15 years before being promoted to police chief, was quoted in a 1995 New York Times article about the hunt for Battalion 3-16 fugitives in Honduras, "We are continuing to look for them, but we cannot find them." He said this about fugitives who were living at home on their ranches.
Posted by rns at 7:01 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: elections
"You don't punish the next guy"...
so says Shelley A. McConnell, described as "an assistant professor of government at St. Lawrence University and a former analyst at the Carter Center" in an article in the New York Times.

I beg to differ.

The "next guy" referred to here is the projected winner of the November 29 presidential election, who, if current polling holds, will almost certainly be Porfirio Lobo Sosa, of the National party. If he were without culpability in the current crisis, it might make sense to portray him as an innocent victim who should not be held responsible for what the architects of the coup wrought, or the intransigence of Roberto Micheletti that has blocked all attempted solutions.

But Pepe Lobo is more than the prospective presidential winner: he is a participant in the vote on June 28 through which the Honduran Congress unconstitutionally removed President Zelaya from office, and without legal basis, elevated Roberto Micheletti, then head of Congress, to the role of head of a de facto authoritarian regime born out of a military intervention.

More: Pepe Lobo is the one person who might be able to swing Congress into action even now to vote on the restoral of President Zelaya, and if reports by many media sources are to be credited, had made some sort of agreement with US diplomats to do just that as part of gaining President Zelaya's signature on the Tegucigalpa Accord.

Arguments that Lobo cannot risk alienating his voter base by supporting a vote on Zelaya are extremely unconvincing. He has a solid lead in an election where his main opposition provides the perfect illustration for the word "feckless": Elvin Santos, caught between the President he once served as Vice President, and the rival for the nomination who he managed to surpass only due to legal chicanery that almost defies description. (See this post for details). Who, since realizing the coup wasn't increasing his popularity, has tried to have it both ways: stating that he wasn't for the coup, exactly, although he isn't against the outcome, more or less...

If Pepe Lobo had called on the party he leads to convene an extraordinary congressional session a week ago, no matter what the outcome of the vote, we would not be in the situation we now are. Yes, the Frente de Resistencia would still have called for an election boycott, based on what in my opinion are accurate assessments that the election to come is a farce (if not an actual fraud in the making).

How on earth can anyone in the world pretend that the Honduran Armed Forces, guilty of kidnapping the President, complicit in violent repression of free speech, and so far from their apolitical mandate that the silence of their Chief is seen as a political statement, could possibly guarantee freedom of participation to the very people who have been beaten, tear-gassed, and in some cases, raped? Remember that the victims of this violence include the independent candidate for the presidency who only recently withdrew from the race: what kind of atmosphere exists, and doesn't the differential discouragement of dissenting voices guarantee that the outcome of the November election will be biased towards those who enjoy the status quo?

But if Congress had voted, even to reject the restitution of the constitutionally elected President, the terms of the Tegucigalpa Accord-- that ever-so-flawed illegitimate offspring of the San Jose Accord-- would at least not have been made an object of ridicule. And the clarity of such a decision would at least have potentially opened a path for the Verification Commission to oversee the formation of a unity government from which we might hope Micheletti also would have been persuaded to step aside.

So who should we not be punishing-- who is the "next guy" who has no guilt here? what about all those Honduran voters-- the 40% plus who do not think that the elections will solve anything? those who find themselves with no candidate to vote for, and no assurance that if the candidate they elect acts in ways the entrenched power elite doesn't care for, the Armed Forces won't again be called out by their real masters to clear the way for a more acceptable dictator? Can we not concede that the Honduran people are the "next guys" who shouldn't be punished by having the world accept that Honduras is not a State in the Rule of Law?

So again: I beg to differ.

And I cannot help but suspect that, like most of us in academia, Professor McConnell's remarks were rather more extensive than what is reported by the Times, and that she also would like a little more contextualization about what such a statement might mean.

After all, this is the same person quoted October 29 as saying

There is a great deal at stake for the inter-American system in how the crisis in Honduras is resolved...If ousted President Zelaya is not restored to office despite a region-wide condemnation of the coup, it will call into question the utility of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and indeed the concept of collective protection of democracy through the Organization of American States.
That is an opinion I can agree with. Those are the stakes that are going to require more than a sigh and acceptance of the status quo come January 28, 2010.
Posted by RAJ at 5:39 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: Congreso Nacional, elections, Elvin Santos Ordoñez, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, Pepe Lobo, Roberto Micheletti, Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord
Tamayo and Tomé Denounced as Criminals
The commission of electoral crimes denounced Padre Andrés Tamayo and Zelaya advisor Rasel Tomé as criminals for having committed the crime of calling on the Honduran electorate to boycott the November 29 elections. The denunciation to the Public Prosecutor's office cited them as saying "if there is no restitution of President Manuel Zelaya there will be no election." The denunciation pretends (deliberate word choice, because the charge appears fanciful under Honduran law) that their declarations have violated the clause of Article 209 of the Electoral Law that describes the penalties for "not permitting or obstructing the electoral organisms to occupy the public places necessary for their functioning". Of course, this is a denunciation, not an actual charge. Its up to the public prosecutor's office to decide if any actual crime has been committed.
Posted by rns at 3:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: Andrés Tamayo, Rasel Tomé
Supreme Court Needs A Week
The Supreme Court met today in full, with all 15 members present to decide what to do about Congress's request for a report on the restitution of Manuel Zelaya as President. Surprisingly the first thing they did was meet with Evelio Reyes, minister of the Abundant Life evangelical church, and a coup supporter, who reportedly told them "nobody should lend themselves in this society, to arrangements above the law...justice serves the truth." El Heraldo's Minute by Minute column reports that they have formed a committee to formulate a reply to Congress's request. The committee is made up of justices Jorge Rivera Avilez (Chief Justice), Jacobo Cálix (Sala Penal), Carlos Cálix Vallecillo (Sala Penal), Oscar Fernando Chinchilla (Sala Constitucional) y Rosa de Lourdes Paz (Sala Laboral). The committee will deliver a report next Wednesday.
Posted by rns at 3:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Labels: Supreme Court, Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord
Porfirio Lobo Sosa: Do Something
Honduras Held Hostage, Day 137

Porfirio Lobo Sosa complained yesterday because the OAS will not be sending election observers to the November 29 election. No one has more to lose in this election than Lobo Sosa. He is the front runner, the one expected to win the election and inherit this mess. He said, "There is a reality, the 29 of November we have elections, the process must be transparent, it will be large because the people are very intelligent and the people know that this political crisis is contributing greatly to the suffering today."

Unfortunately for Lobo Sosa, Micheletti is betting everything on the international governments recognizing the elections as "free, transparent, and fair," something that the international community is nearly unanimous in rejecting.

Lobo Sosa recognizes this. He says "the international countries are holding this country hostage because they have frozen aid to put pressure on the discord that there is on high and that which came from it."

But then Lobo Sosa gets it wrong, saying "I have told them, amd what I insisted, is that they have to understand that they have to be in solidarity and that they shouldn't punish the Honduran people, punishing the poor by freezing projects, and now they want to punish them prohibiting that they go to elections....what's important to me is that finally the Honduran people pronounce."

No one wants to punish the Honduran people, and Lobo Sosa understands that, so his stance is disingenuous. The international community does not want to prohibit the Honduran people from having an election; they want them to have a "fair, free, and transparent" election, and the conditions for that are not present as long as the de facto government rules Honduras.

Lobo Sosa could solve this, as a pragmatic politician, by using pressure, behind the scenes, to push Congress to act, but instead sits on his hands and complains. Congress, especially Saavedra, and Micheletti, are Lobo Sosa's worst enemies right now. He could gain prestige by bringing about an end to the international crisis by simply pressuring his Nationalist colleagues to call the Congress into an extraordinary session, but he chooses not to. He doesn't have to coordinate how they will vote, but merely to get them to act to move things forward, but he fails to act.

Instead, Lobo Sosa asks the Verification Commission to act, to pronounce on who is responsible for the state of the accord, and what needs to happen.

Sorry, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, that's already happened, or haven't you read what Ricardo Lagos has to say about what Micheletti did to sabotage the agreement?

So yes, as you say "here there is a reality, November 29 nothing is going to keep the people from going to the polls"-- nothing except apathy and the perception of illegitimacy. In 2005, 45% of the people didn't vote for a candidate for President. Even fewer voted for Congress. What percentage of people will fail to vote this time around?

You're going to win, so why not act to ensure people think you're legitimate?

Move Congress to call a session and vote on Zelaya's restitution. Make yourself a hero.


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