Someone calling himself "Patrick" has taken the time today, between 2:53 and 5:17 PM, to comment on three recent posts: One reflecting the incredulity of reporters in an Ian Kelly press conference; one on the continuing saga of the report not yet received from the Honduran Supreme Court; and one on the positions of Brazil and Argentina on elections. We assume he is catching up on his reading; and he did not like what he read.
Here's what he had to say, with increasing terseness and we think it is fair to intuit, emotion, first about our pointing out that reporters found Ian Kelly's press briefing unsatisfactory:
I listened to Shannon in Spanish and it was very clear that the elections and the restoration of Zelaya are two different issues per the accord that the Zelaya camp signed. How can you call this incredulous when only a handful of Hondurans want Zelaya back in office. What does Zelaya bring to the elections? He left his liberal party and the party that supports him is lucky to get 2% of the vote. Zelaya broke the accord, just as he has broken every previous agreement from when he was in office. Currently everything is working in Honduras as it should in a democracy. Zelaya spent more taxpayer money on his horse than he did on any needy person.Next, he commented on our first Supreme Court post of the day:
Why should the courts rush, Congress is not in session as is normal before an election. Zelaya is in a state of limbo due to his ill planned entry into Honduras. He tried to make it to the United Nations building and when he saw the police there to arrest him he knocked on the Brazilian embassy door and became an uninvited guest. Now he is going to spend the next twenty years there being president.Finally, Patrick provides his response to the announcement that Brazil and Argentina will not recognize the November 29 elections:
Honduras follows the U.S. through thick and thin. Argentina is a questionable government.We adopted moderation of comments from the beginning to avoid the common internet disease of violent discourse. We routinely reject the comments that froth at the mouth and accuse Zelaya (and often, us) of being communists spreading dictatorship around the world. Those are clearly adding nothing to debate.
But then there are comments by people like Patrick, who appears to be speaking as a Honduran ("Currently everything is working in Honduras as it should in a democracy") but as one of the Hondurans who suffer the consequences of the drumbeat of negative press coverage that spread outright lies and vague insinuations about the president for more than a year before the coup ("Zelaya spent more taxpayer money on his horse than he did on any needy person").
Patrick is, in our view, more likely to be misinformed than to actually be a committed supporter of the destruction of the rule of law and constitutional order, and while we suspect it is very unlikely that he is willing to listen to more context than the Honduran press has served up, we continue to try to respond to him, and others like him.
But it is very hard because wrapped into comments like these are a world of assumptions that normally cannot be unraveled in the length of a responding comment. And responding to one comment after another, submitted in reply to a variety of posts, but in fact not dealing with their real content-- simply spreading out over that space an aggrieved narrative-- hardly gets to the heart of things.
Patrick is angry with us because we are not accepting the pro-coup propaganda. He wants us, and people like us, to simply accept his counter-to-reality claims and leave Honduras alone. He is echoing in tone, if not directly in words, the frightening declarations that Roberto Micheletti made when the OAS voted to suspend Honduras' membership, that rejected the world community and suggested Honduras forge on alone-- out of touch with the present, out of touch with reality.
But we want Patrick, and people like him, to pay attention to the actual facts. So, here for the record is a deconstruction and fact-checking of his comments:
I listened to Shannon in Spanish and it was very clear that the elections and the restoration of Zelaya are two different issues per the accord that the Zelaya camp signed.First remember that this is a comment on our blog posting about Ian Kelly's press briefing. Not about Thomas Shannon's unfortunate Spanish-language interview, in which he gave the de facto regime new hope by stating prematurely that now that the Tegucigalpa Accord was signed, the US would recognize the Honduran elections no matter what.
The Tegucigalpa Accord is, as President Zelaya noted in his eloquent letter to President Obama, a single accord, with twelve points. So there can be no partial completion of that Accord. International recognition of elections is thus dependent on the good-faith completion of the other points of the Accord. This is the error that Thomas Shannon committed, in my view: he ssumed that the de facto regime would follow through on the requirement for there to be a vote in the Congress on the restoral of President Zelaya. While, as he said at the time, President Zelaya took the risk that the Congress would vote against him, a vote before the elections, ideally before the deadline to form the government of unity and reconciliation, would have kept the accord as a whole on target. Why did that not happen? well, Patrick has another point to make here:
Why should the courts rush, Congress is not in session as is normal before an electionThe Honduran Congress was not in session on October 30, the deadline for the Tegucigalpa Accord to be delivered for its consideration. But that was because Roberto Micheletti had dismissed it before the normal end of the session. More important: the head of the executive branch has the authority to call Congress for an extraordinary session, so Roberto Micheletti could have convened Congress for that purpose. His refusal to do so blocked the consideration of the Accord by the Congress.
Thus when Partrick says
Zelaya broke the accordthis is simply not true.
Micheletti's unilateral attempt to establish a reconciliation and unity government was criticized and rejected by the OAS, the government of Spain, by Oscar Arias, and by Ricardo Lagos of the Verification Commission, to name just a few. This, along with the failure of the de facto regime to persuade the Congress to act, or (more forthrightly) to convene Congress in a special session, is what "broke the accord". Of course, if Patrick does not read the one paper in Honduras with more balanced coverage (Tiempo), or listen to the free radio stations, he cannot be blamed for thinking the opposite is true: the coup-supporting press echoed Roberto Micheletti's claim that Zelaya was obligated to provide Micheletti names for a "unity" cabinet that Micheletti would then get to select, for a government he would head himself. But this interpretation of what the Accord called for has been rejected by the verification commission and the international community. Even the US has not endorsed it.
Based on his certainty that what the biased media have told him is right, Patrick, and misguided people like him, also believe that President Zelaya is unpopular and that few Hondurans support him and the positions he represents:
How can you call this incredulous when only a handful of Hondurans want Zelaya back in office.In reality, repeated polls have shown otherwise. Most recently, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found that Hondurans disapproved of the removal of the President from office on June 28 by a margin of 60% to 38%. 67% of respondents rated the job performance of President Zelaya as excellent or good, as opposed to 31% rating his job performance bad or poor. In contrast, by a margin of 72% to 27%, respondents did not approve of Micheletti staying on as President.
Earlier in October, polling by Consultants in Investigation of Markets and Public Opinion found 52% of Hondurans disapproved of the coup d'etat. 51% wanted President Zelaya restored (versus 33% opposed). President Zelaya and First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya were ranked the two most favorably judged political figures in the country.
CID Gallup poll data from shortly after the coup also indicated that more people disapproved of the coup than supported it; and that President Zelaya enjoyed more support than Roberto Micheletti.
So really, no: it is not just a handful of people who are opposed to the coup, who want the elected government restored, and who actually approve of President Zelaya's actions in office.
Patrick offers some strange arguments against the need to restore the elected President before the November 29 elections that again are based on propaganda positions of the de facto regime:
What does Zelaya bring to the elections? He left his liberal party and the party that supports him is lucky to get 2% of the vote.What restoral of the elected government, headed by President Zelaya, brings to the elections is simply legitimacy.
This comment suggests that the reason for restoring the President has something to do with campaigning. This confusion seems actually to be shared, at times, by Ian Kelly of the US State Department, so again, who can blame poor Patrick? So note well: President Zelaya is not on the ballot, and never would have been; Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party is running, and always was, away from the President who he served as Vice President.
While President Zelaya has not been reported, in any medium I have seen, to have "left his liberal party", he has called for its reformation, and that call is supported by a number of Liberal Party congress members. As for "the party that supports him": presumably a reference to the UD, this ignores the fact that reform-minded congress members and local politicians from Liberal and PINU parties join the non-partisan Frente de Resistencia in rejecting the legitimacy of the present electoral process because the constitutional order has not been restored. How big a constituency is this? that is the great unknown that might become more knowable if alternative means to estimate the number boycotting the election are feasible.
Meanwhile, for Patrick, as for other commentators who want the whole thing to be over by holding an election (apparently including the US Department of State) it is an inconvenient fact that more world governments have announced that they absolutely will not recognize the election than have announced categorically that they will. So people like Patrick are left having to argue against particular governments or even clusters of governments. Thus Patrick says
Argentina is a questionable governmentbut ignores the fact that Argentina's position was announced jointly with Brazil-- are we to understand it is also "a questionable government", whatever that means?
For Patrick and his ilk, there is only one world government that matters:
Honduras follows the U.S. through thick and thin.As a US citizen who has spent my life working on Honduran issues and conducting research in Honduras, the relative truth of this statement is almost the saddest thing about Patrick's comments. The Honduran scholars and activists I so admire are and have been engaged in trying to establish a way for Honduras to follow its own path, and not simply be drawn along in the wake of the US ship of state. Honduras should have its own foreign policy; its own economic policies; its own cultural policy; and its own constitution. Otherwise, what we have is the perpetuation of a neocolonial order that disappoints the best aspirations of the United States as much as those of Honduras.
But this is just almost the saddest part of Patrick's comments.
The truly saddest thing I read is the following statement, which suggests that Patrick cannot imagine a Honduras where free speech is allowed without danger of the imposition of curfews and free assembly is possible without prior registration with the police; where a political disagreement among branches of government could be settled in the courts and with due process, not by the Armed Forces in avowed violation of the constitution; and that Patrick doesn't have any idea what it would mean to have a free press, accountable political parties, and true representative democracy:
Currently everything is working in Honduras as it should in a democracy.