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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banco Central Stamps Its Feet

The Banco Central of Honduras issued a press release on September 25 that everyone appears to have ignored. Basically what it says is that the International Monetary Fund disrespected us when it told us that the Special Drawing Rights belonged to the Zelaya government, not the de facto government.

They resolve, in brief, to declare the funds at risk, hold the IMF responsible for the damages it causes to the Honduran economy, hold personally responsible Edwin Araque and Rebeca Santos, urge the judicial arm of the Banco Central to pursue legal action against the former Zelaya ministers, make it know to the rest of the government, hoping one of them can take court action, ask the Soliciter General to notify the IMF of this resolution, and ask that this resolution be published widely in the press.

I didn't see one article mentioning it. Oops. I guess no one noticed.

UPDATE 2:55 PM PDT: Oops, I missed the article in today's La Tribuna on this which came out this morning.

Fito's Plan Causes Conflict

Adolfo Facussé's plan to resolve the crisis in Honduras has stirred up a controversy within the country. This morning, La Tribuna wrote about Luis Larach, presdent of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the department of Cortés (CCIC), who feels Facussé has overstepped his bounds and stepped on Congresses toes.

Larach noted that Facussé's plan involves allowing 3000 foreign soldiers into the country as a peace keeping force, and restoring, if only for a few hours, Manuel Zelaya. "These themes pertain to the National Congress and the Judiciary, anyone who makes these proposals lightly should not have any validity," Larach said.

"All of us should think and propose, but the entities charged to carry this agreement out should be the corresponding authorities and to us the productive aparatus, maintaining employment and moving forward the national economy."

Almilicar Bulnes, presending of COHEP, another business council, said the plan doesn't benefit the private sector in general, that it leaves it up to the proper authorities to do that. "I don't know about the proposal of ANDI, but its not from the private sector, I have not spoken with Adolfo Facussé about the proposal, particularly it appears to me that the situation in Honduras is not such that any kind of foreign invasion would come," Bulnes said. "We are not capable of making a decision over these types of negotiations and including we have not solicited a proposal from COHEP, this does not exist."

Anselem's Statement Creates Problems for Llorens

If the State Department apologist Phil Crowley needs the proof that the rest of us see as obvious, that backup ambassador to the OAS Lew Anselem's ridiculous statements in the OAS have caused damage, one only needs to look at the Honduran newspapers this morning. Many of them are running a story like this one in La Tribuna, quoting the de facto government's Minister of Government, Oscar Matute, saying Anselem is not saying the same thing as our ambassador Hugo Llorens is.

Hugo Llorens held a damage control meeting with business leaders yesterday morning in which he said the US message has been consistant, "we support democracy in Honduras, and in any other country," he told them. He would not have had to say that without idiot Anselem's statement.

Oscar Matute not only noted that what Llorens said, and what Anselem said, aren't the same message, but he specificially noted that Anselem said the way out was the November 29 elections, the same claim as the de facto government. ANSELEM'S STATEMENTS DIRECTLY ECHOED THE DE FACTO GOVERNMENT'S STATEMENTS.

Matute said, what Anselem said in the OAS "differs totally and absolutely with what Mr. Llorens said, such that today there was no consensus in the OAS, because the United States is one of the countries that would not pronounce to not recognize a priori the results of the electoral process."

Matutue also indicated he believes the words of Anselem over Llorens because Anselem operated with the thinking of the US government. "Llorens does not coincide with the official expression of the representative of the United States in the OAS," he insisted.

Here's the question and part of the answer Phillip Crowley gave to reporters yesterday in the State Department daily briefing.

Q: And so is there any comment? Is there any change in the U.S. policy on this matter?

Mr. Crowley: Not at all. Not at all.

So why is it that Hondurans can see the difference, and Mr. Crowley cannot? Damage Control?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Media Threatened

La Tribuna reports in its Minuto a Minuto column, that the head of the southern region of the National Police, Danilo Valladares, confirmed late this evening that two radio stations in Choluteca, and another two in Valle could be suspended for violating PCM-M-016-2009, the de facto government decree that was used to shut down Radio Globo and Cholusat Sur in Tegucigalpa. This is the same decree that Micheletti promised to rescind, only he's delaying until every contrary voice is silenced.

Business proposes a solution

Tiempo reports Adolfo Facussé, leader of ANDI, an association of businessment, today shared with the AFP details of a plan proposed to end the crisis in Honduras. Facussé told the AFP it calls for Zelaya's restoral, but that he submit himself immediately for trial on the charges filed against him. Micheletti would return to Congress, but not as its president, just a regular congressperson. "We'll give him an important chair (chairmanship of a committee?, "curul vitalica")." To assure enforcement, we'd ask for a multinational force of military or police from Canada, Panama, and Columbia.

The plan also supposes that Zelaya would delegate the command of the armed forces to his council of Ministers as well as the ability to remove members of the cabinet. The Ministers would be named by the various political parties in proportion to the votes they received in the last national elections in 2005, and it would require a vote of 2/3 of the cabinet to remove them.

The proposal also asks the international community to support the November 29 elections and that the OAS and other international observers certify the transparency of the process and the legitimacy of the results.

It asks the US to provide economic assistance "for the damages done to the Honduran economy by the sanctions adoped by Washington", such as the cancelation of visas and the freezing of aid, and asks for a moratorium on the deportation of Hondurans living in the US.

Facussé said the proposal had been presented to Micheletti, the presidential candidates, US Ambassador Hugo Llorens, and the auxilliary biship of Tegucigalpa, Juan Jose Pineda, who is acting as a go-between between Micheletti and Zelaya.

We are Idiots

Yesterday in the OAS session about Honduras, the backup US ambassador to the OAS, Lew Anselem, and Bush era appointment, said "Zelaya's return to Honduras is irresponsible and foolish and it doesn't serve to the interests of the people nor those who seek the restoration of democratic order in Honduras. Everyone will be better if all parties refrain from provoking or inciting violence." He also said of Zelaya, "The president should stop acting as though he were starring in an old movie."

You can find an excellent review of just what a lowlife Lew Anselem is from Al Giordano.

The "foolish" comment became translated in Spanish as "idiot" in all the Honduran press and was widely covered. It has done irreparable harm to the US message in Honduras, if their desire, as stated, is a return to democracy. The question I increasingly find myself asking is: Are they really not aware of how their message is being received in Honduras? Do they not know how their convoluted words are being seized on as signs of support? Can they really not manage to be clearer?

I increasingly find myself concluding that they know what they are saying, that the Micheletti regime really does have the support of the US State Department, that they will support the results of the November 29 elections, whether or not democracy is restored to Honduras; that they just want all of this to end, to go away, a return to the status quo. That's not going to happen. Honduras will never be the same again.

I can parse a statement from the US State Department as an American, and I can parse the same statement the way a Honduran does. I have to think that the State Department can do both parsings as well. Ian Kelly's (State Department Spokesperson) statement yesterday basically ignored Anselem's vulgarities yesterday. Anselem's actually suggested in the OAS session that the US would recognize the results of the November 29 elections, whether or not anything changes in Honduras, and was part of a faction that included Canada, Panama, and Columbia that took that position and blocked an OAS resolution to not recognized the results. We aligned ourselves with the right wing governments of Latin America. The State Department and the Obama White House have not repudiated Anselem's actions in the OAS.

Hugo Llorens, US ambassador in Tegucigalpa, spent the morning trying to deliver a clearer message in Honduras. He said "We support democracy in Honduras and in any other country."

I wanted to include whatever statements Phillip Crowley made in the daily press breifing today, but the State Department website is so broken that they've posted a link to the video, but it doesn't seem to play on my computer, and of course, they don't post the full text transcript until many hours later, except for those willing to pay the subscription fee to the Federal Transcription Service.

Either our State Department is incompetent, or we are idiots for believing them. Either way, Honduras loses.

General Vasquez Velasquez sees end soon

General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez says the crisis will end soon. "I see that we are rapidly coming to a solution, which is what we all want," he said in a local television interview. He noted that the solution is being promoted by different sectors of Honduran society, and that "it will be achieved when the parties have the disposition to sit down and talk." He also noted that he perceives the will in various sectors that are looking for an exit, that "What we have to do now is begin to create levels of appropriate confidence" to make an accord possible.

The Curious History of PCM-M-016-2009

This controversial decree, PCM-M-016-2009, rescinding constitutional guarantees for Hondurans for 45 days has a curious history first noted by the Spanish paper, El Pais. The decree was passed, according to La Gaceta, on 22 September, just one day after Zelaya came back into the country. However it was not published in La Gaceta until Saturday, September 26. For 4 days it was kept secret. Indeed, by publishing it on a Saturday, few had access to it over the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, a foreign reporter asked Carlos Lopez Contreras about the rumors of its existance, and he replied "I don't have any knowledge, go ask the Minister of Government." Yet his is the third signature on the second page of the decree.

Even after publishing it, the government maintained its secrecy through Sunday afternoon and did nothing until the national and international press began to write about it. Why?

Thanks to Tito for pointing out this excellent article.

Rescind Delay

There is a struggle in Honduras about how to rescind the de facto government's decree removing constitutional guarantees for 45 days. The struggle is not based on any legal issue, but rather on political considerations.

As Greg Weeks notes in his blog today, the consitution allows congress to reject, ammend/modify, or approve of such decrees, and notes that they simply go out of effect should the conditions that caused them to be issued (which must be specified in the decree) cease to exist. So, Congress could have dealt with it yesterday.

Micheletti himself, via a new decree from his council of Ministers, could nullify it. Manuel Zelaya used this technique to comply with the lower court order regarding the Cuarta Urna original decree. Its completely legal and simple.

However, yesterday Congress refused to deal with rejecting the decree even though they told Micheletti it would not pass and Micheletti said he would talk to the Supreme Court and the Presidential candidates about rescinding it. Why?

First, there's the simple need of Micheletti to delay things. He delayed the OAS ministers visit by more than a week; its now scheduled for October 7. He wants this election to take place under his administration, so any delay is a good delay. I think this is his only motivation for asking the Supreme Court how to rescind it. There's no legal impediment to him doing it today, if he wants to do it. The cost, however, politically is enormous. As El Pais notes "the mask is off." In their lead, they see Congress as having "corrected" Micheletti.

Why doesn't Congress rescind it, since they told Micheletti yesterday that it would not pass if it came up for a vote. The reasons here are political. Both Porfirio Lobo (Nationalist Party presidential candidate) and Jose Angel Saavedra (President of Congress) have indicated there is near universal agreement that the limitations on speech and personal liberty are improper and unsupportable. Neither contributes to transparent elections, and both said this yesterday.

Elvin Santos (Liberal Party presidential candidate) noted that in talking with Micheletti, they provided him with several alternative decrees that still accomplished his goal of restricting opposition access to the media.

Congress itself could reject, or ammend the decree right now. However, Saavedra noted that there were divisions within Congress regarding the other consitutional restrictictions in the decree, and the political cost of bringing those divisions to light could damage the coalition that supports the coup.

So expect delay from everyone about rescinding the decree, which is not law, but is being enforced because it has successfully stopped the over the air broadcasts of Channel 36 and Radio Globo.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Micheletti will take his time rescinding decree

El Heraldo is reporting via its "Minuto a Minuto" column that at 3:19 pm in Tegucigalpa, Roberto Micheletti said that having heard the petition of Congress, he would meet with the justices of the Supreme Court and presidential candidates to rescind the decree, AT AN OPPORTUNE MOMENT IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS! In the meantime it remains in effect. Literally incredible.

The leadership of the Liberal party has denounced the decree, reports Radio Globo.

Congress asks Micheletti to Rescind Decree

The head of congress, Jose Angel Saavedra, met with Roberto Micheletti and Ramon Velasquez Nassar, vice president of the Congress, Antonio Rivera Callejas, Liberal Party member, and Ricardo Rodriguez, Liberal Party member, to ask that Micheletti rescind the decree issued sunday night.

The Nationalist party has come out and said they will not vote for it when it comes up for approval in Congress.

Radio Globo, broadcasting on the internet from a clandestine studio, reported a few minutes ago that the measure likely will not pass if it comes to a vote in Congress. They cited Jose Azcona as their source.

Update 2:30 PM PDT: La Tribuna reports that the Congressional leadership has met with Micheletti and asked him to rescind the decree suspending parts of the constitution. Antonio Rivera Calleja, a congressman, pointed out that the Executive branch has ways of punishing media that break the law. He said the motiviation for asking Micheletti to rescind the decree was to open a space for dialogue that the country requires.

The vice president of Congress, Ramon Velasquez Nazar, said it would be better if Micheletti rescinded the decree before sending it to Congress for approval.

Jose Angel Saavedra, president of Congress, said that they brought the proposal to the executive branch, and it was up to them to decide if they want to reform or rescind this ordinance.

"We want to foster dialog, we want to send a message to the international and national community that the management of Congress, the heads of the political parties represented in the legislature, we want to contribute to a great dialogue which is what we are hoping for," said Saavedra.

Lobo Sosa Appears to Break Ranks

Four of the six presidential candidates met with US ambassador Hugo Llorens this morning. The encounter, which happened in the ambassador's residence in Tegucigalpa, included Porfirio Lobo Sosa (Nationalist party), Elvin Santos (Liberal Party), Felicito Avila (Christian Democrat party), and Bernard Martinez (Party of Innovation and Unity). Also present were members of Honduran civil society, and representatives of the OAS. The Honduran press has identified Carlos Flores Facusse, intellectual father of the coup, and Adolfo Facusse, head of ANDI, as present.

Upon exiting from the meeting Pepe Lobo gave a number of statements to the press. "The meeting was about the San Jose Accord and how we need to reach an agreement having recognized that the Arias agreement is not written in stone and that the parties can suggest changes. But the most important is that both sides return to dialogue, because, without a doubt, this is what is happening and the relations with other nations, with the United States and the rest of the international community, it is important for Honduras to return to normal."

"We are trying to influence both don Roberto Micheletti and don "Mel" Zelaya, to begin talks and discard attitudes of inflexibility and to take a level headed and flexible attitude to put themselves into agreement," he added. "We ask them to think about Honduras and think about the damage that will be done to the Honduran people if things aren't returned to normal, not only because it signifies the division in the Honduran family but also because it complicates international relations." "In consequence," he continued, "it is urgent that the Honduran situation return to normal because remember that we, in large part, depend on international aid that comes from various organizations that do extraordinary work in the interior of the country. Because of this understand that to have good international relations is something that in these times we should not ignore."

On being asked about the de facto government deporting the OAS representatives yesterday, he replied, "we are very preoccupied because this is evidence in the international community of a position of little politeness with our friends at an international level and this is very regretable situation for Honduras." "Because of this, I ask the government to reflect and think that to be courteous and likeable with all the international community should be a part of what we've always had and it should not be curtailed."

When asked about the suspension of the constitutional guarantees, he replied "this cannot be, can you tell me that in the 21rst century we would lift the individual guarantees? Really? This cannot be." "I think this is a good time to reflect and not put into execution a decree that, sincerely, will leave Honduras in a bad spot internationally." "This will do us much harm."

Lobo Sosa also indicated he would not join with the other three candidates in organizing a public march in favor of the elections; that he didn't want to be part of actions that would provoke a confrontation.

Congress will discuss the presidential decree later today. Jose Azcona, head of committees of the National Congress said, "There is a general preoccupation for this decree, with its breadth and scope in an election period, with the situation in which the country lives and what we need is dialogue." "What has happened is that this decree, although it is approved in the council of Ministers (of the President), is in reality becoming known by the National Congress and we've been studying the constitution," he added. "We cannot give the government this much power to restrict the citizen's liberties in any circumstance; the public authority is to protect and promote the rights of citizens."

Radio Globo, Channel 36 Closed by Military

Channel 36 and Radio Globo were siezed by the military this morning after the de facto regime published a decree suspending five articles of the constitution for 45 days. One part of the decree was intended to shut down media that supports Zelaya.

Both stations were seized at 5:30 am. The military and police immediately began siezing files and equipment and removing them from Radio Globo. Channel 36 was surrounded by the military and its broadcasts stopped . Radio Globo reporters escaped out the emergency exits as over 200 soldiers invaded its offices.

Hugo Llorens Meets with Presidential Candidates

United States ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, met with four of the Presidential candidates yesterday. Also at the meeting were Carlos Flores Facusse, Adolfo Facusse, Leo Valladares Lanza, and others not identified.

More about this later today.

Free and Transparent Elections?

This morning the de facto government published, in La Gaceta, a decree suspending five articles of the constitution for 45 days. Among those articles suspended are the right of free speech (article 72), free assembly (article 78), the free movement (article 81), arrest only with a warrant (article 84), and personal freedom (article 69). The alleged reason for the suspension is Zelaya's call for insurrection.

Article 3 section 1 of the decree says "free circulation is prohibited, restricted by the parameters communicated in nation broadcast on radio and television."

Article 3 section 2 of the decree says "it is prohibited all public gatherings not authorized by the police and military; because if they do, they will be detained and jailed."

Article 3 section 3 says "it is prohibited to publish in any media, spoken, print, or televised, anything that offends human dignity, public functionaries, or questions the law and government resolutions. Any such attempt is an attack on peace and public order." CONATEL will "suspend any radio station, television station, or cable system that does not adjust its programming to fit these restrictions."

Article 4 give the de facto government the right to "detain anyone outside during a curfew or is suspected by the police of causing harm to persons or things; also people who gather with the objective of committing crimes or put their lives in danger."

As El Heraldo notes in its article, the de facto government seeks to avoid the gathering of protesters in support of Manuel Zelaya, and to take off the air Channel 36 and Radio Globo.

Oscar Matute, the Government Minister, said "this absolutely will not affect the electoral process, its not like that." Yeah right.

BTW, La Prensa tells us that this decree has not yet been approved by Congress, so its not yet law, but they are already enforcing it. Congress will not meet until this afternoon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

OAS Representatives Deported

Five OAS technical representatives, three Spaniards, one Columbian, and a US citizen, who arrived at Toncontin International Airport this morning were expelled from Honduras. All four arrived this morning at 9 am. Three were expelled on a COPA airlines flight this morning at 9 am while a fourth was expelled abord a later American airlines flight. El Heraldo reports that all four were deported because they arrived without the authorization of the de facto regime. La Prensa disagrees, and says they were deported because their governments do not recognize the de facto government. A Chilean who accompanied them as part of the team was allowed to remain. All of them were deported after being held for 6 hours, on flights bound for San Jose, Costa Rica.

Yesterday Carlos Lopez Contreras, Foreign Minister of the de facto regime, had invited the OAS delegation to visit. In a press release yesterday he emphasized that the political crisis in Honduras needed a Honduran solution, and that it was no threat to international peace, that there were no international interests. None-the-less he invited the OAS delegation to visit "on a precise date", along with the support staff they require, "so that they might witness the level of advance of the internal dialog." Lopez Contreras's statement didn't specify the "precise date" so we can only guess that its not today.

Lopez Contreras issued a separate press release on Friday telling foreign governments that had broken relations with Honduras that "make it known that the government (of Honduras) will not receive diplomats from these countries unless their respective governments proceed to negotiate with the Foreign Minister of thde Republic about the re-establishment of same."


The United States is the only country that still has an ambassador in Tegucigalpa. All of the Latin American countries, and the European Union countries recalled their ambassadors after the coup. In recent days, both the EU and many Latin American countries have agreed to restore their ambassadors at the request of the OAS to help mediate a solution to the Honduran political crisis.

The de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, in a national broadcast ("en cadena nacional", like our emergency broadcast network, but used daily by the de facto regime) announced that ambassadors returning must ask permission of his Foreign Minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras, and be accepted in order to enter the country. The attempt here is to be able to say that these countries have "recognized" the de facto regime by having solicited permission to send their ambassadors back.

I don't anticipate that any country will actually do this. Ambassadors don't, as a part of protocol, have to ask permission to come to the country, but rather, formally present their credentials to be recognized once in the country. In this case, no re-credentialing is called for so I would expect the ambassadors to simply show up to return to their posts.

The de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti also took steps overnight to isolate itself even further from International mediation. Micheletti announced that the ambassadors of Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela would not be allowed to return to their embassies in Tegucigalpa. These are countries that, at the request of Manuel Zelaya's government, rejected ambassadors loyal to the de facto government and ordered them to leave their countries. In addition, as Oscar Arias noted on friday, the de facto government is preventing the arrival of the OAS ministers. These steps serve to isolate the de facto government from what it called foreign meddling.

Honduras has traditionally resolved political crises by face to face personal negotiation between the agrieved parties. Its always been done this way, so maybe the reports that the first meetings have taken place between formal representatives of the de facto government and Zelaya offer hope that they are trying to work towards a traditional Honduran solution.

UPDATE 1 PM PDT: Telesur reports that diplomatic sources indicate that the de facto government denied permission to enter the country to two OAS functionaries sent to set up the OAS visit, and two from the Spanish embassy in Tegucigalpa.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Accelerated Environmental Licenses

On August 31 the de facto government of Honduras announced a new partnership where business would provide the money for salaries for 35 new employees for SERNA, the Secretary of Natural Resources and Climate with the expressed goal of accelerating the approval of environmental licenses for energy projects.

El Heraldo informs us there was, at that time, a backlog of 1200 license applications, some dating as far back as 1992. Now SERNA was reputed to be fairly thorough when it issued a license, and often asked for changes in the project. An average license took two years from the time it was applied for to the time it was granted. As a result, many powerful companies simply didn't bother to get a license, gambling on their wealth and access to power to protect them. Notable among such projects recently is the Gas de Caribe case in Omoa, where the Mexican owned LPG company built a series of natural gas storage facilities without bothering to get an environmental license despite the many protests to SERNA by the occupants of Omoa.

The alleged goal of this partnership was to reduce the backlog to zero by December 31 this year. Vice Minister of Natural Resources, Mauricio Reconco, said "We hope by
December 31 of this year to activate a great many of projects which permit the generation of 200 Megawatts of clean energy...we are looking at projects from 150 megawatts to 10 megawatts." Congress, we are told, is working on enabling legislation to loosen the environmental regulations that hold up these projects and streamline their approval. Recently Congress issued its legislation approving some $1200 million for renewable energy projects within the country, and the Banco Central transferred the corresponding funds to the Honduran bank that then funds the projects.

Today, less than a month later, SERNA handed over 320 environmental licenses for projects valued at $368 million, projects such as piers for cruise ships to dock on the Bay Islands, housing, pharmaceutical companies, chemical companies, hotels, restaurants. Not a single one of the renewable energy projects promised. SERNA promises they will have issued over half the backlog of licenses by the end of this month! None of these projects seems to raise any environmental issues. Literally incredible.

Grade D-: Flawed Research from the Law Library of the Library of Congress

Janine D'Addario, Coordinator of the Office of Communications of the Congressional Research Service, was kind enough to confirm what many people now have noted: the attribution of bad research to that office was wrong. I am delighted, as I told her, to hear that the report was not the product of the "nonpartisan Congressional Research Service".

Those quotation marks, by the way, refer to comments by neither Ms. D'Addario nor me. They enclose the quoted "speech" of US Representative (R-Ill) Aaron Schock, still posted as of 12:30 PDT on his official congressional website, that wrongly characterize the source of the analysis purporting to give the Honduran Congress a leg to stand on in the question of the constitutionality of their actions on June 28. Visit it and you can also see the box with the link to "Schock Honduras CRS Report".

Rep. Schock's press release makes clear that there remains a problem with Bad Research from a Federal agency, even if the source is not the highly-respected CRS. Either we have to conclude that the research of the Law Library of the Library of Congress is generally unreliable, or that this specific report should never have been approved for release.

As a scholar, I would much prefer not to have to throw into question all research emanating from an office of the Library of Congress. But until someone there issues a statement retracting the report, based on the amply documented and easily substantiated sources showing the basic facts of law are mistaken, the full faith of the Library of Congress is behind a piece of research I would not accept for a term paper by an undergraduate.

To recap: the report, again in the words of Rep. Schock's office "concludes that the removal of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was legal and Constitutional". The Law Library report does so by proposing a novel legal theory, not actually articulated by the Honduran Congress itself on June 28 or since. The researcher virtually had to do this, because the stated bases of the June 28 actions would not meet legal or constitutional scrutiny.

This is not just my opinion. Armando Sarmiento, whose commentaries on this report published on are required reading, describes the legal bases for refuting this report. Add to these analyses the opinions of US, Spanish, and Honduran constitutional law experts who find the coup violates the Honduran Constitution previously cited here. And, as Jennifer Moore explains in a report reproduced at, a research group representing the American Association of Jurists, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Association Against Torture, came to the same conclusion.

The Law Library may have rules against citing such external sources, or may have simply been interested in answering the narrowest possible version of a set of specific questions by consulting documents in its databases. The basis for the conclusion by the Law Library researcher is a section of Article 205 of the Honduran Constitution that was declared unconstitutional by the Honduran Supreme Court in 2003. A search of the Law Library would not have produced the Supreme Court ruling, because the Honduran Congress refused to publish it, as explained by Sr. Sarmiento in response to my inquiries:
El congreso ordenó que el fallo de la Corte Suprema del 7 de mayo de 2003 no fuese publicado ...sin embargo, el efecto legal es obligatorio.

Congress ordered that the verdict of the Supreme Court of May 7, 2003, would not be published ...nevertheless, the legal effect is obligatory.
Ley de Justicia Constitucional en su Artículo 94 menciona que “La sentencia en que declare la inconstitucionalidad de una norma será de ejecución inmediata, y tendrá efectos generales y por tanto derogará la norma inconstitucional, debiendo comunicarse al Congreso Nacional, quien lo hará publicar en el Diario oficial la “Gaceta”.

The Law of Constitutional Justice in its Article 94 mentions that "The sentence in which the unconstitutionality of a norm will be of immediate execution, and will have general effects and therefore it will derogate [abolish] the unconstitutional norm, having to be communicated to the National Congress, which will publish it in the official newspaper, "La Gaceta".
Sr. Sarmiento adds that
Aunque el congreso se haya negado a publicarlo el fallo de la Corte Suprema el mismo está vigente desde el punto de vista jurídico.

Even though the congress had refused to publish the verdict of the Supreme Court the same is in force from the juridical point of view

That is, rulings of unconstitutionality go into effect immediately; they are not contingent on publication, unlike laws, which do not become official until they are published. This is part of the difference between the role of Congress, which is to make laws (that then need to be shared with the people by publication) and the Supreme Court, which has the role of interpreting the constitution, by ruling laws or even parts of laws unconstitutional, rulings which immediately invalidate these laws and any action based on them.

The key passage in the Supreme Court ruling of May 7, 2003, that invalidated the constitutional amendment attempting to establish Article 205, section 10, says
si bien el congreso Nacional de la República tiene la potestad de reformar la Constitución en las materias que el poder constituyente le ha conferido expresamente: esa potestad debe ejercerse respetando los límites constitucionales establecidos y la esencia de la de la Constitución. Esos límites no fueron respetados por el Congreso al introducir irregularmente, por medio de esa adición, una nueva excepción consistente en una norma accesoria adjetiva sin relación con alguna norma constitucional principal sustantiva por la que el Poder constituyente haya conferido al Congreso Nacional la atribución de interpretar la Constitución.

given that the National congress of the Republic has the power to reform the Constitution in those areas that the constituent assembly has expressly conferred on it: this power should be exercised respecting the established constitutional limits and the essence of the Constitution. Those limits were not respected by the Congress by introducing, irregularly, by means of this addition, a new exception consisting of an accessory adjective norm without relation to some principal substantive constitutional norm through which the constituent Power might have conferred on the National Congress the attribution of interpreting the Constitution.
In other words: the Congress cannot just add a power that was not given it in the original Constituent Assembly that produced the 1982 constitution. It can amend those parts of the constitution that deal with powers it has, but cannot smuggle in a whole new power as a subsection of a section that did not give it that power.

We are dealing here with a struggle by the Honduran Supreme Court-- handicapped by being re-appointed one term at a time (formerly four years, now seven) by a process requiring unilateral approval by another branch of government-- to preserve the separation of powers that is key to a balanced government.

The finding by the Supreme Court was absolutely explicit about this being based on separation of powers. Their verdict adds
Que no se desconoce que el Congreso Nacional ha realizado interpretaciones a la Constitución; sin embargo, en consonancia con los artículos 373 y 374, de la misma no puede atribuirse al Congreso Nacional esa facultad en detrimento de las atribuciones de los otros Poderes del Estado; pues ello afectaría la forma de gobierno, al vulnerar la independencia que debe existir entre ellos y por ende estableciendo relaciones de subordinación con relación al Legislativo, pues ello daría origen por parte del Congreso a leyes- sentencias, disfrazadas de normas interpretativas de la Constitución.
That it is not unknown that the National Congress has made interpretations of the Constitution: nonetheless, in consonance with Articles 373 and 374 of the same [Constitution] the National Congress cannot attribute to itself this faculty in detriment of the attributions of the other Powers of State; since that would affect the form of government, weakening the independence that should exist among them and as an outcome establishing relations of subordination in relation to the Legislative [Branch], since that would give origin on the part of Congress to laws, sentences, disguised as interpretations of the Constitution.
Sr. Sarmiento notes in closing that
Un detalle importante es que después del falló del 7 de mayo de 2003 el congreso NO HA REALIZADO NUEVAMENTE NINGUNA INTERPRETACIÓN DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN.

An important detail is that after the verdict of the 7th of May of 2003 the Congress HAS NOT NEWLY CARRIED OUT ANY INTERPRETATION OF THE CONSTITUTION.
Including, pointedly, on June 28, 2009, when the analyst for the Law Library of Library of Congress thinks this would be the only way they could have considered what they were doing as legal. Which means the Honduran Congress could not think they could redefine the power to censure Congress does have under Article 205, section 20, which deals only with administrative conduct, to extend to the removal of a President from office, a power they do not have, and they did not even try to make that invalidated claim. It took a US researcher to do that.

If the Law Library had to rely on its own documentary resources, it should not have allowed citation of personal communications from a single, impeachable source with an open interest in a specific conclusion. Once one such source was cited, many others willing to explain the finer points of constitutional law, reaching contrary conclusions, were available. Sr. Sarmiento's reply to my inquiries came within hours, and with rich specific detail citing published records.

I give the Law Library a D-

They did correctly note the unconstitutionality of expatriating President Zelaya, and did correctly note that this expatriation interrupted the legal procedures by which the Supreme Court was beginning its hearings on the charges brought by the Public Prosecutor. But the Law Library report was confused about the separation of duties of the Armed Forces (who should not have carried out the raid) and the National Police (who are charged with enforcing court rulings), missing the relevant articles of the Constitution entirely. And it engaged in the construction of a spurious rationale for what the Congress might have been doing, which it did not do because the specific power claimed in Article 205, section 10, had been ruled unconstitutional.

In my teaching practice, I give students a chance to revise their first drafts. I am happy to provide the same option to the Law Library of the Library of Congress. I will update this blog when and if I receive a statement from them.

Just a side note about Voice of America spin

My academic writing is calling, and before I get there I have an update to post on the Aaron Schock Library of Congress Law Library report.

But since the little things also matter, I wanted to briefly point to an odd language game in a VOA story about the gassing of the Brazilian Embassy:
The international community has refused to recognize the interim government and has called for Mr. Zelaya to be reinstated with limited power until a presidential election is held.
Well, no. The international community (OAS, EU, UN) has called for Zelaya to be reinstated. Period. And until the end of of his term, which is in January 2010, not "until a presidential election is held".

The "limited power" thing? that is part of the Oscar Arias-negotiated, US State Department-inspired, San Jose Accord. It is one of the many unpalatable things about the San Jose Accord that President Zelaya should not have had to accept, but which he in fact did, despite the fact that the "limited power" business basically accepts the counter-factual claims of the de facto regime that Zelaya has evil intentions. (This theme has now, as the November election nears, changed into insinuations that Zelaya plans to "disrupt" elections-- but that gets us back to the astonishing Representative Aaron Schock, and on to the real post for the day.)

Do we have a right to demand that US-sponsored media, like US-sponsored research services, get the details right?

Friday, September 25, 2009

FFAA Website Makeover

In the middle of the coup, the Fuerzas Armadas of Honduras took down their website, host of delicious documentation, both real and faked, to demonstrate to the world that Manuel Zelaya was evil and had to be deposed.

This doesn't mean it wasn't also full of the usual rah rah look at our military mission, see us having a prayer breakfast, and the like, but after June 28, it had become increasingly political...Odd for a group that constitutionally has NO political mission.

So it was somewhat surprising that they took the website down for about 3-4 weeks in August and September for a makeover. The new, improved website came back with a new Joomla based content management system (for those of us who are nerds) and without the previous content. Gone was all of the old content, political or otherwise. New professional website, new, professional message; right?

The new content was boring. Press releases about new patrol boats for the Navy, Helicopters, the Independence day celebrations, and the like. It was exactly what you'd expect of a military outward facing website. It stayed that way for a couple of weeks.

But starting September 21 the political content returned. The first sign was the article about the vandalism of the Zelaya supporters around the Brazilian embassy. This was followed by General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez reviewing his troops outside the embassy and now, ever scarier content.

In a long essay written by Juan de Dios Caceres, the author notes that Honduran society is deeply polarized between those who defend democracy, and the Frente de Resistencia contra el Golpe, "characterized by violence, who are responsible for damaging the most important cities of the country."

Caceres says its important that we identify who comprises the Frente, so that later we can identify them and call them by their real name, and after his self described "cold, neutral analysis," he decides they are the "golpistas" who are trying to establish a dictatorial regime allied to the socialism of the 21 century promulgated by Hugo Chavez. In this upside down world, its the military, the police, who are the resistance.

He specifically calls out as golpistas those who attack the media, naming the attacks on La Tribuna, El Heraldo, Radio America, Radio Globo, and Channel 36, although he's sure that the last two actually attacked themselves so that they could accuse the legitimate authorities to promote the interests of Zelaya and Chavez.

I'd like to think this was a pathological way of thinking, not widely shared; but it is a shared pathology. The rhetoric of stopping 21rst century socialism is exactly what General Manuel Angel Garcia Padgett claimed months ago; that they'd stopped it from getting to Iowa and the US should thank them. Could this be what these soldiers were taught at the School of the Americas? If so, it would be a sad commentary on our own armed forces.

Anyhow, the appearance of these political stories, and the stridence of this article, on the Armed Forces website is a sign of stress within the military. They have no way to express it internally, so they externalize it on their website. Its appearance has nearly always coincided with violent acts of repression on their part, and this time is no different.

They don't seem to realize that they can relieve the stress very simply; by going back to their bases, and leaving it to the politicians to resolve these problems. The only violence is the violence they perform against those they're now ironically calling golpistas. Without them there would be no violence, and the politicians would be more motivated to resolve the issues that currently divide the country. They're the facilitators, the ones maintaining the standoff.

So FFAA of Honduras, listen up. Go back to your bases, stop your violence, relieve your stress, retrieve your honor, and make the politicians settle this.

Talks Hit A Speedbump

Oscar Arias announced today that he had no intention of going to Honduras to negotiate a solution to the political crisis any time soon. He said he spoke with President Jimmy Carter, and he wasn't inclined to go either. Arias said that the OAS ministers needed to do the preparatory work before it would be worthwhile for him to come to Honduras. Roberto Micheletti had announced last evening that Oscar Arias and Juan Carlos Varela, Panamanian Vice President, would come to negotiate, and that he preferred to negotiate with them before the arrival of the OAS delegation.

In other news, the OAS announced that there was no date yet for their group of Ministers to visit Honduras. Oscar Arias told the Associated Press that the de facto government told the OAS that they would not be welcome any time before next week. José Miguel Insulza said "We'll come in the next few days," but he indicated there were difficulties. "The communications are terrible, there are no flights, and the roads closed," Insulza indicated. He also noted that he hoped that the preperatory group could arrive either today or tomorrow to prepare for the mission.

UPDATE 4:00 PM PDT: Oscar Arias, in an interview with Telesur, said that the intransigence of Roberto Micheletti on the issue of returning power to Manuel Zelaya, is the obstacle that is keeping there from being any advances in the negotiations for a solution to the crisis in Honduas. "There is no possibility that they will admit the restitution of Zelaya before the elections (of November)."

Arias further said that the Micheletti government is blocking the arrival of the OAS foreign ministers. He said the OAS was told that the ministers would not be allowed to enter the country.

Military Gases Brazilian Embassy

Telesur reports the miltary began throwing some kind of gas grenades into the Brazillian embassy this morning and blocking the admission of food and water. They've also cut the electricity again, and are blocking cell phone service from inside the embassy at this time.

Symptoms of the gas include bleeding from the nose, vomitting, diarhea, fainting, headaches.

Manuel Zelaya told the AFP that he had asked the Red Cross to visit, and has called on the UN to send a toxicologist to help determine the nature of the gas. He speculated that it was a gas the military use to get people to come out of buildings. He said they have evidence to present to the UN about the source and nature of the gas. Radio Globo is currently transmitting a press conference in which he is showing the press his evidence of the devices that deliver the gas.

About 25-30 people in the Brazilian embassy are affected.

All of this is a violation of the Vienna Convention but the law doesn't matter to facists like Micheletti.

In the meantime, the UN Security Council called on the de facto government to cease its relentless pursuit of the Brazilian Embassy and to resume the supply of services and access to the Brazilian embassy. They specified that the electricity, water, food, and access to continuous communications be restored.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

US Congressional Research Service missed crucial Honduran Supreme Court Ruling...

Armando Sarmiento, former director of the Honduran equivalent of the IRS, provides on a critical and devastating critique of the CRS report discussed in our previous blog posting making two points, the first fatal for the shocking attempt to justify the coup:
  • The Supreme Court of Honduras declared it UNCONSTITUTIONAL for the National Congress to interpret the constitution in the verdict issued on May 7, 2003. As such, there exists no legal basis to assert that Congress can interpret the constitution, indirectly constituting a basis for a political verdict permitting the removal of the head of state.
[Note correction: the original blog post at had the year as 2009]

This post saves me belaboring the point: the amendments to the Honduran Constitution-- proposed, passed, and ratified by the Honduras Congress-- that gave the Congress the right to interpret the Constitution itself-- as opposed to the laws passed by the Congress, as called for in the original 1982 Constitution-- eroded the separation of powers, and usurped the authority of the Supreme Court itself to interpret the Constitution. I am glad to see that the Honduran Supreme Court agreed with me this in May 2003-- even longer before the events of June 28, and also, before the now entirely discredited "research report".

Sr. Sarmiento also anticipates a second point we have been actively researching, and confirms another understanding we had about legal process in Honduras, writing:
  • In any case, if Congress had the ability to interpret the constitution (which according to the Supreme Court's decision it does not possess) the interpretation would have to state clearly in a decree that the constitutional standard was being interpreted and to clarify thereafter the standards resulting from said interpretation (which was not done in the removal of the president). There is no tacit interpretation of the constitution; the interpretation must be explicit.
During the period when the Congress acted on the strength of amendments it had made to try to grant itself the power of Constitutional interpretation, there was a procedure that had to be followed. That procedure was not followed during the extraordinary session convened on June 28. The Congress had to declare that it was actively interpreting the Constitution.

It did not do so.

The fact that a US Congressional Research report decided that the only way the Congress could have done what it did is if it was (without declaring it) interpreting the Constitution would have been utterly inexplicable-- except, as we have shown, for the fact that the researcher involved relied on one single Honduran informant, apparently not knowing or not caring that this individual was not a disinterested source, and that his opinion conflicted with all real legal analyses offered in Honduras, Spain, and the US.

Indeed, we would make a third point of our own (complementing Sr. Sarmiento's third point, which we urge you to read at the original post, soon to be updated with a longer analysis):

The June 28 session was not an ordinary session (as it was erroneously labeled in the CRS report). It was an "extraordinary session".

The procedural document guiding Honduran National Congress meetings establishes in Article 5 the procedures to be followed for calling such an "extraordinary session".

These include the requirement that only those topics listed explicitly on the call for the session be discussed. There was no explicit mention of constitutional interpretation as part of the agenda for that meeting. That may in fact be because the members of the Honduran Congress knew that the Supreme Court had rejected the claimed power of interpretation years earlier.
[note that the original blog post on had the year wrong]

Surely Ms. Gutierrez should have found out that critical point? wouldn't it have been nice for her golpista source to have informed her, before she wrecked her credibility by producing this poisoned research?

Giving Constitutional Research a Bad Name

US congressman Aaron Schock (Republican from Illinois) commissioned a research report that has excited immense interest in the pro-coup Honduran media. So far, in English mainstream media, it appears to have been given the cold shoulder it deserves. But make no mistake, bad research is consequential, and the right-wing blogs are alive with the story as well.

Written by someone identified only as a "Senior Foreign Law Specialist" at the Library of Congress, Norma C. Gutierrez, the report makes an argument that the removal of President Zelaya was constitutional. In this, her report would contradict numerous constitutional law professors in Honduras, Spain, and the United States. The references cited in the report consist almost entirely of citations of the Honduran constitution, or of documents posted online by the Honduran Supreme Court.

A notable exception, and key to understanding the basis of her unique conclusions, are references to phone calls with Guillermo Pérez-Cadalso, described as "a Honduran attorney who formerly served as Supreme Court Justice and Secretary of Foreign Relations." Sounds impressive, right? But wait, who is this, anyway?

Well, he was part of the pro-coup delegation that came to testify before Congress in early July. This was the lobbying group put together by Lanny Davis. His service in the executive branch came during the administration of Ricardo Maduro, one of the former Honduran presidents implicated in the carrying out of the coup. Mr. Pérez-Cadalso is #34 on the widely circulated list These are the coup leaders: They will be judged.

So, hardly a disinterested source.

So let me match Ms. Gutierrez expert-for-expert. Mr. Pérez-Cadalso's testimony is countered by the opinions of Angel Edmundo Orellana Mercado, who was until June 24 a cabinet Secretary in the Zelaya government, resigning over his disagreement with President Zelaya's attempt to remove General Vasquez Velasquez from his position as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Formally a member of Congress since he resigned from the Zelaya government, he formally refused to attend sessions of Congress following the June 28 coup, offering a powerful critique of precisely the same "constitutional" arguments and processes she, relying on a known golpista, accepts. Orellana's editorials specifically rebut the constitutional analysis offered by Gutierrez.

Orellana, in addition to his most recent service in government, has an illustrious history as a Professor of Constitutional Law and a member of various Honduran governments. He holds a PhD in law, and was from 1976 a Professor of Law at the National University of Honduras (UNAH). His government service began in 1982, when constitutionality was restored to Honduras; was Magistrate in the Court of Appeals of "lo Contencioso Administrativo" (the courts that ruled against Zelaya in his attempts to hold a poll) from 1988-1994; was the Attorney General of the country from 1994 to 1999; served as Honduras' ambassador to the UN, was a cabinet minister in multiple administrations, is the recipient of many honors, and the author of legal texts as well as research articles.

And Orellana-- like his colleague on the law faculty at UNAH, Efrain Moncada Silva, and Francisco Palacios Romeo, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Universidad de Zaragoza, Spain, not to mention Professor Doug Cassell of the Law School of Notre Dame, whose invited analysis published by the American Society of International Law is considered the authoritative English-language study of the constitutional issues-- does not agree with Gutierrez or her single Honduran legal advisor.

Why not? well, let's begin with the fact that Ms. Gutierrez appears willing to ignore major points of law. She admits it was unconstitutional to expatriate President Zelaya. But she provides a spurious rationale for the Supreme Court's enlisting the Armed Forces to carry out the raid on President Zelaya in the early hours of Sunday, June 28.

On page 2, she says one of the existing constitutional questions is whether the Supreme Court had the authority to order "the public forces (fuerza pública) to carry out an arrest warrant".

That is not the legal issue. The issue is, did they have the power to ask the Armed Forces (military) to carry out such a raid? The original 1982 Honduran Constitution included all security personnel under the Armed Forces, and made no distinctions between the military and the police, at that time a branch of the Armed Forces called the Fuerza de Seguridad Pública (FUSEP). Article 306 of the current Constitution authorizes the judiciary to call on the Fuerza Pública (capitalized, not lower case) to enforce legal decisions, and failing that, the citizenry. What it does not do is authorize the Armed Forces, from which the police were separated in order to demilitarize civilian policing, under special legislation ratified in 1996. Article 293 of the current Constitution defines as proper duties of the civilian National Police the
ejecutar las resoluciones, disposiciones, mandatos y decisiones legales de las autoridades y funcionarios públicos, todo con estricto respeto a los derechos humanos.

to execute the resolutions, dispositions, mandates and legal decisions of the public officials and authorities, all with strict respect to human rights
The two instances of the term "fuerza pública" in the present constitution, including that cited by Ms. Gutierrez, were retained from the original 1982 Constitution. The multiple revisions of the Constitution have left many such dangling phrases. But the revision of the Constitution that introduced the present Article 293 makes it clear what public forces are supposed to enforce judicial rulings. Re-militarizing a demilitarized branch of public security forces is one of the main acts by the de facto regime that Honduran analysts point to as evidence that this was, indeed, a military coup.

Ms. Gutierrez does acknowledge that the Supreme Court had started the legally mandated process of investigation of the charges brought by the Public Prosecutor, and that this process was truncated by the unconstitutional expatriation of President Zelaya. But she seems incapable of acknowledging that this means there was in fact no determination of guilt that might serve as a legal basis for any move to remove the president from office.

She manages to avoid the thoroughly debunked "Article 239" argument which the de facto regime adopted days after the coup.

Instead, she comes up with a breathtaking, novel new theory of Honduran law: Congress has a unilateral right to interpret the Constitution; so they "interpreted" their power to "disapprove" of presidential actions, under Article 205, section 20, as including an ability to remove the president. Powerful disapproval there.

Apparently aware of the fact that "throw out" is not the most obvious interpretation of "disapprove", Ms. Gutierrez draws on an equally novel interpretation of Article 205, section 10. This section itself has an interesting history: not present in the original constitution, it was added to the Constitution in 1983-1984, giving the Congress the right to interpret not just the laws it passed, but the very Constitution itself. (This is exemplary of the concentration of authority that has made the National Congress in Honduras more powerful than the separation of powers of the original three branch model.)

But the interesting thing is, as Ms. Gutierrez notes, the Honduran Congress did not in fact make the argument she is advancing now. It did not ever, in its own declaration, say that the reason it could remove the President from office was that this was a form of "disapproval".

So where does her novel theory come from? Quoting from page 8:
An analysis of the facts of the case and the aforementioned constitutional provisions leads one to the conclusion that the National Congress made use of its constitutional prerogative to interpret the Constitution and interpreted the word "disapprove" to include also the removal from office.
This section ends with a footnote reference, footnote 40, which reads in full:
This line of analysis was confirmed in an August 3, 2009, telephone interview with Mr. Guillermo Pérez-Cadalso, a Honduran attorney who formerly served as Supreme Court Justice and Secretary of Foreign Relations.
?! Meaning what? that he agreed this was as good a post-facto rationalization as any other?

If all her legal "research" is this good, one can question whether any of it is reliable.

But there is more. In a document that tries to hide its advocacy under a veneer of reviewing simple facts, there are some extraordinary lapses. Ms. Gutierrez repeats the then already widely debunked claim that the vote to remove President Zelaya was unanimous (p. 8). In doing so, she footnotes the supposed "resignation letter", originally furnished by the National Congress as the legal basis for proceeding to the line of constitutional succession. Her footnote is scandalous in both its ignorance and its use of a golpista smear that even the worst US congressional zealot has not attempted to use, to my knowledge. Her footnote (no. 43) says
It is believed by some in Honduras that Zelaya signed the letter on June 24, before his arrest, to make use of it after the referendum, when presumably the National Constituent Assembly was going to be initiated, on June 29, because Zelaya anticipated that he would be elected President of the Assembly.
It is believed by a lot more in Honduras and outside that the backdated letter was written to be used by the golpistas earlier in the week, when they originally intended to carry out their coup. The actual content of the letter doesn't accord with the interpretation offered either: the letter purported to offer the resignation not only of the President, but of his entire Cabinet.

What Ms. Gutierrez reproduces here is part of the paranoid rumor-mongering through which the Honduran people were induced to believe that President Zelaya had a secret plan to suspend the Constitution June 29 and unilaterally take over the country.

So, what is her source for this claim? You guessed it: the trusted Mr. Pérez-Cadalso.

And so who is Ms. Gutierrez, and other than her reliance on a member of the coup faction, what is her supposed expertise? According to the Law Library of the Library of Congress, employees with her title are "a diverse group of foreign-trained attorneys". Ms. Gutierrez is listed as having jurisdiction over issues related to Mexico and Nicaragua.

It is unclear where Ms. Gutierrez received her legal training; but her legal advice came from a poisoned well.

Pro de facto government march fizzles?

Reading between the lines the "pro democracy" (your tax dollars at work here) march organized to support the de facto government by the UCD (Union Civica Democratica) may have fizzled. The La Tribuna article mentions the organizers expected 500,000 people to join them from across the country. It then goes on to say that "hundreds" arrived at 10 am for the march.

Radio Globo has fielded numerous calls from workers who were being "ordered" to attend the march as part of their job. Unlike the marches of the resistance, busloads of supporters in white shirts were being allowed past the military checkpoints into Tegucigalpa this morning.

The UCD is an organization funded, in part, by the US State Department. It receives funds designated to groups that promote democracy in Latin America.

More information on this march as it becomes available.

UPDATE 10:42 AM PDT: La Prensa describes the march as consisting of "thousands" and they have posted pictures of the demonstraters outside the UN building in Tegucigalpa here.

IMF offers $163.3 million to Zelaya government

El Heraldo, a pro coup news source, tells us this morning that the International Monetary Fund has offered the $163.3 million in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) that the de facto government is counting against its foreign reserves to the Zelaya government representatives. Sandra Midence, the de facto government's head of the Central Bank of Honduras is miffed. "Its contradictory that the ex president of the BCH, Edwin Araque, and the ex president of finances, Rebeca Santos, can have the use of these resources."

You will remember that this is the money the BCH made the press release about back on August 29, and that we blogged about numerous times.

Houses around Brazilian Embassy cleared

Radio Globo reported this morning that the military completed clearing the houses around the Brazilian embassy overnight. All of the residents in the area have been cleared from their houses, and the military has occupied some of them, Radio Globo reports.

Radio Globo also identified several boxes attached to the power lines that jam radio signals (such as cell phones and radios) in the area around the embassy.

At this time the military is interfering with Radio Globo's internet signal, sending end-of-stream packets to clients trying to connect.

Channel 36's internet broadcast is unavailable to us this morning.

Military, COHEP meet in Secret

The head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran military, general Romeo Vasquez Velasquez met in secret with the head of the Business Council (COHEP), Amilcar Buines, yesterday. Today's Tiempo reports that the suprsing meeting took place at 9 am. Unofficially the meeting was to discuss the political situation and no comments were given to the press, who saw Buines's car drive in to the military headquarters, and later depart. The spokesperson for the military, Ramiro Archaga did not answer his cell phone or return calls.

Pepe Lobo Clarifies what Dialogue he meant

You will recall we reported on 9/22 in the bog entry "Presidential Candidates call for dialogue" that first Pepe Lobo, and later, four of the presidential candidates, called on Micheletti to start talks with Manuel Zelaya. Lobo went further and suggested that the Nationalist Party would withdraw its support of the Micheletti government if it did not begin talks. The President of the National Congress then announced that that would be the topic of the congresses general session next tuesday.

Yesterday evening Roberto Micheletti took Pepe Lobo to task for calling for dialogue and predicted he would have problems with his own party. "This threat will bring good to nobody" Micheletti indicated.

Today Porfirio Lobo Sosa "clarified" that he didn't mean dialog with Manuel Zelaya, but rather the dialogue that Micheletti had promised to convene between all the sectors of Honduran society, or so La Tribuna reports. Micheletti had promised to convene such a dialogue, and had appointed a "dialogue czar" who has done nothing since the coup.

The four presidential candidates have a meeting with Micheletti today to discuss the upcoming elections.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Deny thy father and refuse thy name": Romeo redux

El Heraldo again:


FF AA. Según el vocero, Romeo Vásquez se encontraba en los predios de la embajada de Brasil en Tegucigalpa, por un acto de rutina y supervisión, y no para encontrarse con el destituido mandatario.

9:30 PM

Armed Forces. According to the spokesperson, Romeo Vásquez is in the property of the embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa, for an act of routine and supervision, and not to meet with the displaced leader.

Now that is one dedicated head of the joint chiefs of staff!

And what kind of routine activity does the Honduran Armed Forces carry out on the property of an Embassy?

Micheletti: Less than Meets the Eye

Credulous English-language media, and misguided coup apologists alike, have repeated the statement that Roberto Micheletti has indicated a willingness to enter into a "dialogue" with President Zelaya.

Luckily for all of us, Roberto Micheletti cannot keep his mouth shut, even when his English-language scripts are provided for him to have someone else read or publish for him.

So pro-coup El Heraldo reports tonight on an interview with CNN. I know you could just read this one on CNN's website: but it is worth seeing how the Honduran media spin things.

Headlined "Elections are the exit to the crisis", in the article Micheletti says
"We already have candidates that are working politically" (that is, campaigning)
He kindly indicates that Manuel Zelaya
"can support any of the candidates, and if he wins, we will respect the will of the citizens."
This might seem mystifying, since the point isn't whether Zelaya has the right to support whatever candidate he wishes (although wait, that's right: in Micheletti's Honduras, citizens do need permission to express their political opinions).

But then he repeats his insinuation that Zelaya will somehow violate electoral law:
"I just want to express that we are going to elections the 29th of November, and if he (Zelaya) is in agreement, great, but he has to comply with the laws"

At least in the reported version, this is followed by a great non sequitur, with the subject of the sentence slipping from Zelaya to the world community as Micheletti returns to his favorite theme: if the world would simply listen to his side, they would realize everything was incredibly legal:

"What we want is that they listen to us, that they see our Constitution and our laws and they see what it was that happened before the 28th of June".

(At first with the change of subject I thought he was plaintively urging that Zelaya listen to him, see the Constitution and the laws, which made this a poignant passage...)

Then Micheletti reproduces the coup apologists' lies about what the Constitution actually says (if you have no idea what I am talking about, read the previous blogs throughout July and August on the constitutional issues):

"Our Constitution is clear, it says that any individual who tries to break the Constitution or call a constitutional assembly is automatically removed from his office and it is a more than clear explication, when he (Zelaya) left the country he was already not the President of Honduras"

Well, no. This was a post-hoc rationalization that has been taken apart by legal scholars multiple times, in multiple languages, in multiple countries.

And while the Honduran Constitution includes specific clauses that it says cannot be revised-- the so-called set in stone articles (articulos petreos)-- the Constitution is silent on the calling of Constitutional Assemblies. This is actually one of the really interesting constitutional issues that exists: since the Constitution does not define how to convene such a constituent-- which was the kind of body that produced this very document-- it leaves open to legal debate how one might do this. It does not declare such actions illegal, or legal for that matter. It is silent.

Micheletti cannot help but return to his favorite theme, however, which is that Zelaya's only possible future in Honduras is to be arrested and tried on charges laid before and after the coup. But we should all be reassured: the judicial process against President Zelaya will be "transparent".

"I think that there will be all the cameras of the world to see this process. It is justice that will proceed with the case, not I".

Independence of the judiciary is of course, highly dubious in Honduras under the best of circumstances. But it is interesting: it could actually be the case that international scrutiny of the legal proceedings might make a difference, although not in the way Micheletti intends. The presumption of innocence, for example, if enforced, would require actual evidence, not just inferences about what might have happened in a future that never came. President Zelaya would be able to defend himself, a right he was deprived of on June 28. And at least some of the "evidence" gathered by the military raid, originally posted on the Armed Forces website and discussed here, would seem to disprove key allegations against him: flyers intended to promote voting "yes" in the cuarta urna in November if it were ever installed, for example, make no mention of presidential term limits; and their mere existence would seem to prove that rather than intending to suspend elections and immediately convene a constituent, Zelaya's hope was actually to campaign for the passage of the referendum in November.

Then, at least in the version reproduced in El Heraldo, things get creepy as Micheletti invokes divine support in military imagery and links the Honduran Constitution to religion:

"I try to be close to God permanently that is the fortress of all the Hondurans, in addition we have our Constitution that shelters us to act as we are doing"

And then he closes with an honest-to-god outright lie; or at least, he seems to be unaware of the worries of his own Minister of Agriculture and Ranching, who we have noted thinks the harvest will not be good enough to keep the country in basic foods:

“Thanks to God, this is one of the best harvests that we have had in the country in the last 20 years, so that we have food products for possibly six months more".

Equally interesting is what El Heraldo left out of the CNN interview, quoted in an article on the CNN website.

Specifically, Micheletti never comments on the baseline requirement of all international governments, which is the restitution of the legally elected president, as he calls for Zelaya to be prosecuted:

"I think that what the whole world should understand about this country is that there is no immunity for anyone -- for anyone"

"And, no one can be above the law." (Irony alert here...)

"President Zelaya should present himself before the tribunals of justice in our country where he has charges against him"
Even CNN, which has, shall we say, not been on top of this story, noticed that there were some gaps in the fabric of truth:
Micheletti's willingness to engage Zelaya seemed to be a reversal of his position. On Tuesday, he had said in an interview with local network Televicentro that Zelaya's sudden appearance would not revive negotiations to have him return to power. [Emphasis added]
And on the surreal side: Micheletti claimed the power outage to the Brazilian embassy was caused by the demonstrators who assembled, and that the police outside the Brazilian embassy were there to protect it, at the request of the Embassy staff.

Doesn't he realize that other people in the world can talk to the press?

Romeo, Romeo, thou, Romeo?

El Heraldo's minute-by-minute timeline just denied that Gen. Vasquez Velasquez himself is off talking to his Commander in Chief:
Romeo. El vocero de las Fuerzas Armadas de Honduras desmintió esta noche que el Jefe del Estado Mayor Conjunto, Romeo Vásquez, haya llegado a la embajada de Brasil en Tegucigalpa para reunirse con Zelaya.

Romeo. The spokesperson of the Armed Forces of Honduras denied tonight that the Head of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vasquez, had arrived at the embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa to meet with Zelaya.
Really? Rumor, or not?

[and yes, for the pedants among you, I know that I am committing an act of violence on the Shakespeare quote. But really, I resisted a direct reference this long, and that is more than anyone should have expected]

What President Zelaya Has (and has not) Said

A comment by Mark on Greg Weeks' blog, Two Weeks Notice, claims that President Zelaya has made some statement about the November elections: "I think that Zelaya's current position of refusing elections even if he were re-installed speaks volumes".

I cannot find any source for this claim in the real news media, although I have not tried scratching through the lying pro-coup media yet.

Here is what I can find President Zelaya saying about elections, reproduced in many places, but let's use the quote from the pro-coup Radio America website, just over 30 minutes ago:
"Ese es el objeto (del regreso a Honduras), dialogar en forma personal, no sólo con él (Micheletti), sino con los grupos económicos del país (...), con los grupos políticos que tienen interés en participar en las elecciones" de noviembre

This is the point (of returning to Honduras), to have a dialogue in a personal form, not only with him (Micheletti), but with the economic groups of the country (...), with the political groups that have an interest in participating in the elections" of november.
[Reproduced without any changes; the omissions and clarifications are by Radio America]


So who is insinuating that President Zelaya is somehow "refusing elections"? You guessed it: Roberto Micheletti.

From the same article:
Por otra parte, Micheletti dijo a través de un comunicado leído la noche del martes por su canciller Carlos López Contreras "Estoy dispuesto a discutir cómo resolver la crisis política (...) estoy listo para conversar con el señor Zelaya siempre y cuando reconozca explícitamente las elecciones (...) pautadas para el 29 de noviembre"

For his part, Micheletti said via a communique read Tuesday night by his canciller Carlos Lopez Contreras [this is the famous communique we blogged about here earlier] "I am disposed to discuss how to resolve the political crisis (...) I am ready to talk with Sr. Zelaya always and when he explicitly recognizes the elections (...) planned for the 29th of November".
This is a tiresome piece of propaganda that it appears Mark fell for.

Insinuate that Zelaya just wants to be reinstated to suspend the constitution and act as a dictator... oh wait. That's the current regime, sorry.

"The history of Honduras is formed of all these personal histories"

Todo esto es parte de nuestra historia personal. Seguro que la historia de Honduras se forma con todas esas historias personales que tienen su propia particularidad, pero que coinciden en la lucha por la defensa de la democracia. Cada uno aporta o se manifiesta en diferentes maneras: Desde los blogs, redes sociales, en los diarios que aún permiten opiniones no alineadas con los golpistas", en youtube o mediante el enfrentamiento directo con los órganos represores.

All of this is part of our personal history. It is certain that the history of Honduras is formed of all these personal histories that have their own particularity, but that coincide in the struggle for the defense of democracy. Each one contributes or demonstrates in different ways: Through the blogs, social networking, in the newspapers that still permit opinions not aligned with the
golpistas, on YouTube or through the direct confrontation with the repressive forces.

Nosotros, apenas somos unos “cipotes” que tienen el "subversivo" acto de leer libros; "enemigos de la paz y democracia" que no "entendemos" que las acciones puestas en marcha por los golpistas desde el 28 de junio son muestras del patriotismo contra el comunismo y el chavismo.

We are barely some "kids" that have the "subversive" habit of reading books; "enemies of peace and democracy" that did not "understand" that the actions launched by the
golpistas since the 28th of June are examples of patriotism against communism and chavism.

Quizá cuando todo esto pase volvamos a los libros y de nuevo obviaremos la política, cosa que poco, es decir nada, nos había importando hasta el 28 de junio de 2009. De nuevo hoy, 22 de septiembre, tengo acceso a internet. Soy un asalariado que mientras está en toque de queda permanezco desconectado y a merced de los medios de comunicación local que construyen su "Paz y Democracia" con mentiras, tergiversación y manipulación de la verdad. Ahora me preparo para regresar a mi casa porque el toque de queda entra en vigencia a partir de las 5:00 pm. Honduras es una cárcel gobernada por trogloditas que "razonan" con garrote y plomo. Mientras tanto, la represión continúa en el país.

Perhaps when all this passes we will return to the books and again avoid politics, a thing that mattered to us very little, that is to say not at all, until the 28th of June of 2009. Again today, the 22nd of September, I have access to the internet. I am a wage-earner who remains disconnected while the curfew is in place and at the mercy of the local media of communication that construct their "Peace and Democracy" with lies, misrepresentation, and manipulation of the truth. Now I am preparing to return to my house because the curfew begins at 5 PM. Honduras is a jail governed by troglodytes who "reason" with the club and lead. Meanwhile, the repression continues in the country.

Carlos Rodríguez today on mimalapalabra, writing from San Pedro Sula where the struggle continues as it does in Tegucigalpa, with even less coverage internationally. Be well.

Face to Face: What human rights violations look like

A friend and colleague writes from Tegucigalpa:

It is now 4:11PM, day 3 since the first curfew this week

Today I personally witnessed the repression in downtown Tegucigalpa.

At 2PM I left my home, and I joined today´s massive demonstration when it arrived in the Plaza Central in front of the Cathedral where I was baptized long ago.

By 3:15PM the crowds began to disperse as rumors circulated that the military and police forces were about to arrive, in fact, dispatched from near the Brazilian Embassy. I saw the arrival, in huge trucks, of about 150 military men, and about 50 riot police, masked to protect themselves from the tear gas that they began to launch as people ran and tripped over each other on the streets and sidewalks. Some managed to slip into businesses and homes that offered shelter.

Terrified, I ran and managed to escape, running about a kilometer until, with others, I managed to get into cab; while running I ran into a man about 55 to 60 years old whose face had been beaten, and blood gushed from his face; a woman whom I took to be his wife or companion was trying to take care of him as he limped away.

By late tonight you will see certainly see photos from today´s repression. The new curfew begins at 5PM.

UN withdraws from Honduran Elections

UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon annouced today that the UN would temporarily withdraw its technical support of the Honduran elections scheduled for November 29. The UN will do this because the turmoil there means the elections will not be credible. The technical support in question included training polling station staff and a quick court project. The value of the assistance was $1.3 million.

False Dialogue?

Will the real Carlos Lopez Contreras stand up. Last evening, Carlos Lopez Contreras, Foreign Minister for Roberto Micheletti, said "Neither the OAS nor the international community should intervene," that the crisis should be solved by Honduran's using Honduran law. This seems very clear. It's a response to the OAS President José Miguel Insulza's offer to come to Honduras to facilitate dialogue between Micheletti and Zelaya.

However, unreported in Honduras, but reported in the English language press, today Carlos Lopez Contreras "invited a representative group of foreign ministers" from the membership of the OAS, US State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly informs us. These foreign ministers are invited to travel to Tegucigalpa for talks. Ian Kelly says the US "welcomes this announcement and looks forward to supporting that initiative."

Either Carlos Lopez Contreras has had a complete change of heart about the OAS and dialogue, or this has another meaning. I'd like to believe he's had a change of heart, but I don't. As I outlined in our posting Non Talk Talks, this is not really an effort at dialogue to resolve the issues in any way the international community would recognize; this is more of their "get people to listen to us" program. While details are scarce at this point, it appears that Carlos Lopez hand picked the group of foreign ministers, and I'd be surprised if he doesn't try to control their contacts once they're in Honduras.

UPDATE 5:24 PM PDT: Clarin, an Argentinian newspaper, reports that the OAS delegation will consist participants from Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic, and be headed by José Miguel Insulza.

Endless Curfew

The de facto government just concluded a national broadcast in which it announced that the curfew would resume in 15 minutes, at 5 pm, and THEY WOULD ANNOUNCE AT A LATER DATE WHEN IT WOULD END. I'm pretty sure that, like the manner in which the curfew was invoked, violates Honduran law.

UPDATE: 7:55 PM PDT: The curfew will end at 6 am thursday morning.

$50 Million a Day

Bloomberg reports that Jesus Canahuati, vice president of the Honduran chapter of the Business Council of Latin America, said that the curfew in Honduras is costing the economy $50 million a day. He noted that the economy has lost $200 million in new investments since June 28.

"Those numbers aren't sustainable in Honduras," Canahuati said.

In another Bloomberg report, Sandra Midence, the President of the Banco Central of Honduras for the de facto government predicted the return of Zelaya might lead to a high demand for foreign currencies, further draining the national reserves.

"Before Zelaya's return, I was pretty tranquil because the drainage of reserves had slowed. With his return, I'm waiting to see how it affects demand for dollars and Lempiras."

Five or Fewer rule

Cholusat Sur was showing live images of a peaceful gathering of people in the center of Tegucigalpa when the police and military showed up. There was some kind of argument between the police and the military about what to do. Eventually they must have worked it out because they began arresting everyone. In response to a reporter's question as to why, the reporter was told that the people had violated the "rule" that they could only gather in small groups, of five or fewer people.

They're making this rule up. No such rule was ever announced. The crowds that gathered at banks, supermarkets, gas stations,etc. all exceeded this.