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.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Micheletti Unilateral Unity Government Redux

With apparent State Department blessing, Roberto Micheletti Bain has once again begun the process of forming a unilateral "unity" government, El Heraldo reports. He has once again requested from his ministers, and his support groups, since that's the only part of civil society he recognizes, lists of names of people to form a unilateral "unity" government, just as he did after the signing of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

According to Oscar Matute, Micheletti's Minister of Government, his cabinet already is a "unity" government since it contains people from other political parties. In the previous "unity" government formed by Micheletti, its core consisted of many of his current cabinet members.


Aaron Ortiz said...

Zelaya refused to send his nominees to the verification commision in time for the unity government to be formed, saying it was a Micheletti's ploy.

This is a fact!

Revolter said...

Hey, this is Revolter, from Great job on the blog. I had a question from one of the prior posts. Talking about Lagos, you stated that he was part of "the all-too-briefly functional "verification" commission."

I don't get it. The verification commission is already done with? What the heck was their function if they are already finished, and how was it established in the Accord that they wouldn't actually verify anything? Was there a side agreement?

RAJ said...

RAJ replying: I should be careful of terse snark.

The Verification Commission is supposed to verify that the Accord us being fulfilled. It's non-Honduran members, Lagos and Hilda Solis, left Honduras before Micheletti's first unilateral declaration of a unity government, less than a week after the effective date of the Accord.

The Verification presumably exists as much as the accord does. But its members are not acting and since Zelaya has said the accord is dead, his rep will presumably not participate even if the others re-assemble.

The lack of functional role stems from the accord which describes them essentially as witnessing things.

rns said...

No Aaron, that's not what happened, but is what Micheletti wants you to think happened.

The problem then, and now, is that Micheletti believes he alone should choose the members of the "unity" government, and that he alone should preside over it. The procedures he followed were improper and not what should have happened. That's not just my opinion, but also the opinion of Ricardo Lagos of the verification commission.

By doing that, Micheletti mocked the agreement he said he was implementing, just as his current process mocks the agreement.

Aaron Ortiz said...

Are you saying that those who heard him say so in Radio Globo were hallucinating!

Are you saying that Telesur is obeying Micheletti now?

RAJ said...

Aaron, there are three problems with your comments (not just these ones, but all of them-- including the ones that contain so much confusion that we cannot see any way to make sense of them, and so reject them).

First: you are a propagandist. You may not intend to be (although as time goes on, and we spend valuable time trying to rehabilitate you, I am more and more convinced that your apparent confusion is deliberate). As a propagandist you simply repeat claims made about events, and never examine how true they are.

Second: you take everything that happens out of context. You can always find a snippet of words that will allow you to support your claims, especially if, as you often do, you lift them out of a longer context. This is what you have done with your repeated attempts to promote your claim that President Zelaya had said he wanted to change the Constitution so that he could prolong his term in office.

Notice how carefully I phrased that last sentence. Your claims are never so clear-- sometimes you claim he wanted to change the Constitution so that he could be re-elected, sometimes that he would have seized power right after the June 28 encuesta.

In any event, these repeated claims often come attached to YouTube clips of a few seconds of a speech, or the answer to a question in a press conference, but not the question itself. In context, when we spend our time (which I finally decided was always going to be a waste of time) these statements either turn out to be part of longer discussions or responses to hypothetical scenarios set by reporters about what might happen in the future if there were a constituyente.

Finally, and most relevant here, you continually confuse or ignore the sequence of events. When at the end of October the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord was initially signed, the first step that it called for was delivery of the Accord to Congress for its deliberation. The Accord did not set an explicit deadline for the vote by Congress, but every independent (non-golpista, non-US State Department) reading of it was that the expectation was that Congress would at least begin debate on receipt. But as we previously noted, Micheletti had previously dismissed Congress early, before the October end of the term.

So in the first full week of the Accord, which set a one-week deadline for the formation of the unity government, there was already a problem in the expected sequence of events. More, there was great lack of clarity about how the unity and reconciliation government was supposed to be formed.

In that first week of the Accord, Micheletti decided to go ahead and form the unity government unilaterally, assuming he should be its head. Ricardo Lagos, a member, after all, of the Verification Commission, explicitly says that by doing so, Micheletti "broke" the Accord.

You leave this step out in your account. You reverse the order of things so that you can blame Zelaya for not participating in forming a unity government, when what he did was refuse to accept a unilateral assertion by Micheletti that Micheletti had the right to determine the membership of the unity government, and that Micheletti should head it himself.

You leave out the sequence of events.

After Micheletti unilaterally started forming a supposed unity government, Zelaya did refuse to provide names for such a farce.

At that point, Micheletti insisted that the deadline for forming the unity government in the Accord had to be met. He did this despite the fact that Hilda Solis, the other non-Honduran member of the Verification Commission, had specifically indicated that the deadline for forming the unity government could be reconsidered. This insistence on putting together a supposed "unity" government that could in no way unify things broke the Accord.

phoenixwoman said...

There's a principle in the law that possession of a thing of value cannot be rendered except for another thing of value. It's a recognition of a deeper principle, that for a contract to exist, there has to be agreement on what it is that is being agreed to.

It was clear what things of value the dictatorship would receive: foreign funds running into the millions of dollars, the right to travel abroad, and so on. But one cannot discern what "thing of value" Zelaya would receive for signing the agreement if it were not restoration to office.


catracho at heart said...

I am wondering how long it will take the "sour grapes" phase of this crisis to end and people to start focusing on helping Honduras build a more effective government and grow their economy so people can go back to work.

Now is the time to identify and support genuine leaders who can work within their democratic institutions to create a stronger government which represents all the people.

Right or wrong, what's done is done. This crisis should provide two valuable lessons to all politicians:

1. Just because you are the elected president doesn't mean you can do what you want to do without the support of the majority of your constituents, the democratically elected congress and your government's other institutions.

2. Removing a president from office without due process is a coup d'etat, now matter how you look at it, and this has political and economic ramifications. Modification to the existing constitution, providing an unambiguous empeachment process for presidents attempting to circumvent the laws, is essential to prevent future political crises of this nature.

Aaron Ortiz said...

I agree with almost everything you said. But the accord had a deadline that would not be met unless Zelaya sent his appointees to the unity government. He did not do it, saying that the unity government was a farce unless he was restored to office first, which wasn't in the accord.

The accord did not specify a date for the vote on restoring Zelaya, only on the formation of the unity government.

Zelaya's refusal to cooperate in this time-sensitive issue changes everything.

Aaron Ortiz said...

Why did Zelaya sign the Tegucigalpa/San José Accord at all? By signing it he was agreeing to a set of conditions that went against all his goals.

By signing it and then protesting that he had not been restored to office he lost the respect of all those who had read the accord closely. The accord did not say Zelaya was to be restored immediately. It gave an extremely vague time frame.

He should have refused to sign. By signing it he gave his enemies exactly what they needed: time.

RAJ said...

@Aaron (Part 1 of 2)

Let's go back to the original Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord,, because again, with all due respect, you are ignoring inconvenient facts.

October 30 was the first deadline. On it, two things were to happen. The second of these was 2. Formal delivery of the accords to Congress for the effects of point 5, of "Executive Power".

Everyone seems to be ignoring this now. But what that means is that the Accord as signed called for Congress to receive the Accord on Friday, October 30, Congress was supposed to start doing its part of the deal. It did not. Instead, it refused to pick up its mail until days later.

Point 5 of the agreement of course is the one calling on Congress specifically to


resolve in that proceeding in respect to "return the incumbency of Executive Power to its state previous to the 28 of June until the conclusion of the present governmental period, the 27 of January of 2010". The decision that the National Congress shall accept should lay the foundations to achieve social peace, political tranquility and governability that society demands and the country needs.

This wording matters. It called, not for a reaffirmation of the decree that started the mess, but for a vote on returning to the constitutionally elected government. Whether or not an explicit assurance was made on the outcome of the vote, the reaction of the international community makes it clear that no one expected Congress to refuse to play its required role.

By Tuesday November 3, the OAS was urging Congress to stop the rhetoric and install a government of national unity which restores the legitimate President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya. This, again, is evidence of what the mediators thought the agreement implied.

By Wednesday November 4, Roberto Micheletti had declared that he would select and head the supposed "unity" government. President Zelaya did not reject the process because of the Congressional vote; he rejected it because Micheletti was controlling it, stating that he expected the Verification Commission to oversee the negotiation of the unity government. Also on November 4, the US State Department reiterated that president Zelaya should be restored.

It was the job of the Verification Commission to adjudicate disagreements between the parties about the implementation of the Accord. So at this point, we need to ask, what was the Verification Commission's position?

On November 4, Ricardo Lagos and Hilda Solis reportedthat Micheletti had agreed to renounce his claim to head the unity government. Hilda Solis was quoted stating that the formation of the unity government might take more time:

everything will take its time, we do not have either the hour nor the date, but we are doing what is possible for those persons that are working on the plan to succeed in this plan, there are various persons that are talking, there are names, but we are still beginning.

At this point, Lagos and Solis returned to their respective countries. Solis in particular was quoted as saying when she returned she would like to find that the National Congress will comply with the accord.

Instead, Micheletti denied his reported agreement to step out of the picture, making it conditional on President Zelaya also doing so.

RAJ said...

Part 2 of 2:

Late on the evening of Thursday November 5, Micheletti unilaterally appointed a supposed unity government, which was immediately denounced by Spain as violating the Accord. The US State Department described Micheletti's actions as a "failure" to implement the unity government. No one in the world community, including the Verification Commission, approved of Micheletti's actions. No one was putting pressure on him to meet the original deadline, presumably because the timeline had already gone off the rails when Congress, on October 30, refused to accept their part in the Accord.

By the weekend, the Verification Commissioners were back and trying to fix the situation. Ricardo Lagos was quoted as saying

It appears to us that there was a fault in the compliance when he (Micheletti) on his own sent letters asking to be sent names of persons, and to Mr. Zelaya. This was not the accord and in the Verification Commission we asked Arturo Corrales and Jorge Arturo Reina to begin working on an eventual national cabinet.

I will spare you a day by day tracking of the responses, but you get the picture, I hope. This is how historical scholarship is done. We pay attention to who says and does what when. You need to do so as well, or, again, we have to conclude you are simply an echo of pro-coup propaganda.

I happen to agree with you that President Zelaya gained nothing by signing the accord; but not for the reasons you state. He agreed to take a risk, in order that, no matter what happened to him personally, a government that included representation of his own government-- the only legal executive government-- might come to pass. It is obvious that many people involved in the Accord, and many international observers, expected a different sequence of events, so he was not alone. But he was the only person risking anything.

RAJ said...

@catracho at heart:

I am wondering how long it will take the "sour grapes" phase of this crisis to end and people to start focusing on helping Honduras build a more effective government and grow their economy so people can go back to work.

Now is the time to identify and support genuine leaders who can work within their democratic institutions to create a stronger government which represents all the people.

Right or wrong, what's done is done.

Well, no. While I applaud your recognition that a coup d'etat can never be the accepted way to solve a political crisis, if we accept the idea of "right or wrong, what's done is done" we will in fact be compelled to accept future coups d'etat.

I know you mean, it happened a long time ago (albeit less than six months have passed). But let's try a little reductio ad absurdum.

What if a San Jose Accord had been signed in July, with the same provisions, and exactly the same sequence of events had happened? would that have been time to accept what happened? Maybe not, since the election campaign did not start until the end of August, and there would still have been weeks to try to straighten things out to hold a less-illegitimate election.

OK, what about if an Accord were signed in August, the same bad sequence of events happened, and the world community faced the beginning of September and the beginning of the election campaign. Would that have been the time to say, oh well, what's done is done?

In other words: what's done is done is a blunt instrument. Taken literally, it implies that as of June 28, nothing could be reversed so the world should have condemned the coup and accepted the de facto regime.

Indeed, the reason why a significant number of people in the broader world community are not satisfied with shrugging their shoulders and saying, "the new president will be here soon", is that the precedent set here matters. Approving of a de facto seizure of government opens the door to other such actions.

The pragmatic argument-- move on and help Hondurans get jobs by helping build better government-- would make sense if there were any indication, any indication at all, that the power elites in Honduras understood that they had to change. But in fact, quite the opposite: this coup and its aftermath have rolled back progress for the many, and given the few in power reassurance that they can control the country as they wish.

So, my pragmatic suggestion: don't accept the de facto regime. Keep fighting it. And when Pepe Lobo is inaugurated, insist he repudiate the coup; insist he accept forms of reparation, not to President Zelaya, but to the people whose lives have been disrupted because of their political opinions. And ensure that the international community works directly with non-governmental organizations to pressure the Honduran government to move to constitutional reform.

What's needed is not an impeachment procedure: Honduran legislation provided perfectly good means to deal with a high government official accused of violating the law. We can never lose sight of the fact that rather than let that legal process take place, the coup authors truncated it and substituted an illegal seizure of power. They did not trust their own legal system, or else they knew that the case against Zelaya for high crimes could not stand up to scrutiny, because it was composed of rumor and innuendo.

What's needed is what the Zelaya administration was campaigning for: fundamental revision of a deeply flawed constitution to allow real checks and balances, real means for citizens to advocate, and real, durable guarantees of human and civil rights.