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.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"No chance Zelaya will be allowed to return": Ortez Colindres

Micheletti's notorious former Foreign Minister, Enrique Ortez Colindres, told BBC Mundo today that Micheletti's request to Arias for someone such as Enrique Iglesias to come and talk to all social sectors in Honduras is not meant to lead to an acceptance of the San Jose Accord.

Ortez Colindres said that the purpose of these conversations is only for Iglesias to hear from many distinct groups (presumably, he hopes, voicing a single pro-coup message):

It isn't the conversations that will provide an exit for the people, rather, the elections in November

(No son las conversaciones que las van a darle una salida al pueblo, sino las elecciones de noviembre)

Instead, he says, the purpose of calling for the dialog is to get the de facto regime's point of view listened to by "prestigious people" (personas de prestigio).

According to Ortez Colindres:

There is not even a minimal chance that Zelaya will come back to Honduras, there is no possibility for an arrangement of this type

(No hay la más minima posibilidad de que Zelaya regrese a Honduras, no hay ninguna posibilidad de arreglo en este sentido)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Military in Distress: Statement of Honduran Officers

The Honduran blog Mimalapalabra posted a statement today, of necessity anonymous and thus no doubt open to dismissal and suspicion. But if the authors are, as they claim, members of the Armed Forces, what they have to say would be an important indication of dissent within the military. Almost every commentator, even a woman like me who is almost allergic to the idea of military having such importance, sees the Honduran Armed Forces as critical for any prospects of resolution of the constitutional crisis they helped create.

So, here is a translation of this statement:

Group of Senior and Subaltern Officers denounces politicization of the Armed Forces of Honduras


We, a group of senior and subaltern officers (we do not give names for obvious reasons, and not due to cowardice) in the face of the situation in which the politicians in collusion with the joint command involved the Armed Forces, and that has eroded the good image that we had before the Honduran people, state and denounce the following:

  • The Head of the Joint Chiefs, General Vásquez, politicized the institution, contravening the constitutional mandate to be apolitical.
  • General Vásquez committed the Armed Forces in the beginning to aid Sr. Mel Zelaya and afterward changed political scope, in place of retiring his troops to their respective barracks and maintaining them on the periphery of the politicians who are only using them.
  • It is mentioned that a group of businessmen collected 30 million Lempiras and doled it out to the group of commanders, something that goes against the decorum and values of the military, and we declare that the Armed Forces are not gendarmes of any elite economic group, rather we are with the people because the majority of its members, both officers as well as troops come from the entrails of the people, we are not a thoroughbred army.
  • General Vásquez should have stepped down two years ago, but Sr. Mel Zelaya left him, infringing the laws in force, on that occasion he said "understood I accept Sr. President"; and now because he did not say again "understood", infringing the Law as he did two years ago, he sold to the highest bidder. A lack of principles as a person, there is something of betrayal in his actions, he has prejudiced two promotions in the succession of of command.
  • Two years ago when Sr. Zelaya re-elected him; some weeks before various commanders were removed who were not in agreement with the continuity and when Don Mel brought together all the Military Commanders in the Casa Presidencial, the General sent some officers that if present were going to question the decision with Sr. Mel Zelaya on a mission outside of Tegucigalpa.
  • General Vásquez has denaturalized the rank of General, raising to this rank officers that have had a black path in military life, but have been his admirers, without any operational capacity.


Promoting a friend, Retired General Gerónimo Pérez, an officer who in a state of inebriation wrecked two military cars and did not have responsibilities removed, made pregnant a student ensign in the Military Academy and influenced it so that they graduated her, now General Vásquez has him working on contract in the Defense College earning 30,000 Lempiras monthly.

General Fuentes Gonzales is a kleptomaniac officer that on one occasion, there being Commanders of the North American Military battalion, carrying out a civic action in the west of the country, left construction materials and some wood, and when they returned to get it he had already sold it, the North Americans recommended a dishonorable discharge and now he is a brand-new General.

General Cuéllar, an excellent person but as an officer never knew a frontier battalion, doesn't know what it is to patrol a frontier, has only been an invisible clerical worker, but is completely a general and hasn't sweated fatigued.

General Padget, a problem officer since he was a junior officer, graduated in Mexico and left a bad record there, with his failures of decorum (better you investigate).

General Cervantes, Prince, and counter-admiral Rodriguez, without negative commentaries about their private and military life, but they have not had the character as military to clarify things with the Head of the Joint Chiefs.

Sr. General Vásquez, when you said to Sr. Mel Zelaya that you would not carry out the order of the "cuarta" [urna], you should have presented your resignation, not changed your political camp, as if the Armed Forces existed to serve political groups. Better to resign, it is time, remember that in 1993 you also knew the cells of the P. C.

More from Micheletti: Playing out the clock?

Spain's El Economista is out ahead of the Micheletti-Arias story, and their reporting suggests we should view this latest move as perhaps a new way to slow things down, remain in power, and appear to be addressing international concerns.

Their story says Micheletti asked Oscar Arias
to send a commission to undertake an internal dialogue of reconciliation.
The story cites a press release, unsigned but attributed to the Executive branch, as saying
This dialogue, this actual communication, should include all the parties of civil society: churches, trade societies, student groups, business associations, media, labor unions, universities.
While such broad participation would be nice-- and ironically, precisely this kind of participatory democracy is what the Zelaya government was doing that got people in Micheletti's cabal so worried-- it is also a daunting order to imagine such a dialogue being accomplished before Zelaya is restored.

Micheletti is quoted as "explaining" in the press release that
the results of the San Jose dialogue will be articulated and promulgated by all those elements of civil society, so that they should be encouraged and inspired to initiate this dialogue today, immediately.
Wonder why all these civil sectors now have to pick up after the de facto regime that was so anxious to keep their opinions about government from being recorded?

While saying that the San Jose framework is "the best route to achieve consensus in Honduras" Micheletti reportedly added
Our citizens need to endorse and widen the dialogue of San Jose with a dialogue in Honduras, that is to say, a dialogue among our own people.
This from the man who suspended rights of free speech and freedom of assembly.

Not to say that the Spanish newspaper accepted this press release without some degree of due skepticism. They note that Micheletti actually rejected the San Jose accord when he denied the central point calling for the restoral of President Zelaya. But, they continue, he agreed to "analyze" the rest of the aspects of the San Jose Accord. Which is how the Micheletti regime has been able to claim, on the one hand, that it is Zelaya's team that has broken off negotiations, while actually failing to consider the one, unalterable fact of any internationally-recognized solution: President Zelaya must be restored to his office.

Finally, as the article notes, having claimed he could not speak for the other branches of government, Micheletti is now stuck with the outcomes of deliberations by those other bodies. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has rejected the call to move the November elections forward to October, because-- as I long have noted-- this is unconstitutional.

And the Congress has apparently limited its discussion to the question of amnesty for political crimes, forming a commission that reportedly has written a report, which has yet to be shared openly, but that all news coverage suggests will reject this as well, congress members having been encouraged to believe that political payback against the Zelaya government was now completely assured.

So, maybe Micheletti has actually accepted the San Jose Accords, including restoral of Zelaya as President. But it looks like it doesn't matter one bit if he does-- and cynically, one could argue that all he is doing is playing out the clock in a different way.

Micheletti Accepts the San Jose Accords??!!

So reports Ginger Thompson of the New York Times 36 minutes ago

But the kicker is, he says he is not the source of the intransigence, and he needs help convincing others in the Honduran regime to accept the fact that they have to back down. So Micheletti called Arias to ask for help, seeking others to convince those holding out, he says.

Do we believe this? for me, it underlines a problem with trying to mediate between a real elected government (Zelaya) and a regime that seized power extra-constitutionally. It has never been clear who could commit the Micheletti regime. Now, it would appear, one part of the answer is: not Micheletti, who reportedly
asked Mr. Arias to consider sending a prominent international political figure to help him stem the fierce opposition.

One of those mentioned as a possible envoy was Enrique V. Iglesias, the former head of the Inter-American Development Bank and current secretary general of the Ibero-American Cooperation Secretariat, which was created in 2005 to increase cooperation between Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

“Today is an important day,” said one of the officials who spoke about Mr. Micheletti’s call to Mr. Arias. “President Arias essentially has Mr. Micheletti calling to say he thinks the San José Accord is a good framework, but that to make the accord work, he needs help building political support inside the country.”
Second point: why does Micheletti think it is a good accord? well, perhaps because the accord accepts as beginning postulates all the accusations made against President Zelaya. And perhaps because, instead of restoring the Zelaya government, it allows a negotiation in which those who seized power maintain toeholds for the next several months. Knowing the havoc being wreaked in at least one ministry by the ill-qualified person allowed to pretend to run it, this latter point makes any agreement under the San Jose Accord seem like a Pyrrhic victory.

US State Department Won't "Hug" President Zelaya...

But boy, do they love Oscar Arias. I enjoy reading the transcripts of press briefings because what they reveal is the real ambiguity of the US position on Honduras. It would be funny if it were not for the fact that it is US ambiguity that supports the delusion by the Micheletti regime that they can hold on, and that once the November elections are held, the world will shrug off the violent overthrow of constitutional order.

But here's the lighter side of yesterday's State Department press briefing; notice that the impression left is that it is Oscar Arias who the US government is pledged to support, presumably against the shocking experience of not being effective as a mediator; when the reporter presses the briefer on why they are not reaching out to Zelaya, things get very very weird. (If you are impatient, just look for the sections set in bold below):

QUESTION: Can you just quickly say what you’re doing to help support
the efforts of Arias, though? I mean, I know you say that you’re
reaching out to Zelaya and his people, but there are – just to
clarify, there are absolutely no discussions with any officials in
the de facto government?

MR. KELLY: I don’t – I wouldn’t say that categorically. I know that
we’re talking quite a bit to the Honduran congress. And as I said
before, we’re urging them to support this – the Arias process and the
San Jose accords. I can’t give you a blow-by-blow of who exactly
we’ve contacted in the government.


QUESTION: Do you think it will be useful for [President Zelaya] to come to
Washington, or do you think not?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said before, our focus is on what President
Arias is doing. Our energies are focused on that, on supporting him
and helping him and his negotiation efforts. If there is a role that
he thinks that we can play vis-à-vis Mr. Zelaya, of course, we’re
ready to do it.

QUESTION: But I’m unclear, though, because you say that you support –
you recognize President Zelaya as the president. You support his return.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But you have no opinion as to whether he should come to the
United States or not? I mean, shouldn’t you be – if he wants to come,
shouldn’t you be giving him like a big, warm hug to show that you
support him?

MR. KELLY: It’s up to him. I mean, what we’ve said is that we would
discourage him from doing anything that would somehow undermine
President Arias. We’ve – the President – I mean, Secretary Clinton
has urged him not to do anything precipitous regarding going into
Honduras absent a political solution. And again, if we can help by
sitting down and talking with Manuel Zelaya, with President Zelaya,
we’re happy to do it. But it’s up to President Zelaya to determine
when he wants to come back here.

QUESTION: It sounds like you don’t support what happened to him and
you support some kind of reversal of what happened, but you don’t
necessarily support him as a political leader.

MR. KELLY: I don’t know why you’re drawing that conclusion.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you’re not – you’re saying that you support –
you recognize him as president, but at every turn, I mean, you’re not --

MR. KELLY: We have never – we’ve never turned down any requests for a
meeting or a telephone conversation or anything with President Zelaya.

QUESTION: But you’ve made no comment about – like, you know, you’ve
said that he should be returned because you call it part of this kind
of constitutional order and rule of law, but you don’t seem to be
making any strong support for him as an individual.

MR. KELLY: Our support right now is for President Arias, for that
whole process to play out.

QUESTION: But he’s the one that was ousted, though.

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: But Zelaya was the one who --

MR. KELLY: I don’t know – I mean, I think that we have given him – I
don’t know what else we can do to support President Zelaya. We –
every day we call for his return --


MR. KELLY: -- to Honduras and the restoration of the democratic and
constitutional order.

QUESTION: But when he says he wants to come here, you’re not like,
okay, great --

MR. KELLY: I just said if – we’re happy to --

QUESTION: -- you’ll meet with the Secretary of State.

MR. KELLY: -- we’re happy to see him.

QUESTION: He has asked for sanctions to be imposed on specific
people. So this is – are you moving in that direction with the
revocation of the visas?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware exactly what he said. He’s asking for?

QUESTION: He wrote a letter to President Obama saying that he would
like to see sanctions imposed.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I haven’t seen that letter. But I mean, as I said
before, the revocation of visas is consistent with our policy.

QUESTION: Is this a first step towards more punitive measures?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, we’re still putting our full weight behind
President Arias, and that process has not played out yet.

Well. Glad we got that clarified: the US unambiguously supports a beleaguered Central American President whose democratic credentials have been questioned due to his efforts to change the constitution, eliminate term limits, and return to power.

Just, unfortunately, not the one currently waiting on the Nicaragua border for some sign of actual support, or maybe even that big, warm hug.

The Honduran Supreme Court: In its own words

As word comes today that among those whose US visas have been cancelled is the Supreme Court Justice responsible for ordering the military raid on President Zelaya's house, Jose Tomas Arita Valle, it seems an opportune time to review what actually was, and was not, ruled on by that body.

If we look in the 86 pages of the Supreme Court's own posted PDF for actual rulings where a final decision was reached, we find very, very little said by the Supreme Court itself. Despite the claim that the Supreme Court had made final rulings, only eight statements by the Supreme Court itself are included. And of those, only one is a final ruling, and it does not cover the misdeeds for which President Zelaya was purportedly removed.

The first Supreme Court filing, and the only final ruling, is documented on page 29. Titled "Certification of the Act dated June 25, 2009", it is the finding that General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez was improperly dismissed, and should be reinstated. It first cites constitutional article 280, reformed September 19, 1998, by Decree 245-98, which says
The Secretary of National Defense will be named or removed freely by the President of the Republic; in equal form will be the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, who will be selected by the President of the Republic from among the members that make up the Joint Chiefs, in conformity with that which is established by promotion list of officers, prescribed in the Constitutive Law of the Armed Forces.
Seems pretty clear that constitutionally, Zelaya could dismiss the Head of the Joint Chiefs. But wait, there's more: "Not withstanding the preceding, article 40 of the Constitutive Law of the Armed Forces, contained in Decree 39-2001, dated April 30, 2001, that is the Specialized Law and applicable in this case…" as are, the court says, everything from other parts of the Constitution to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Zelaya apparently could fire the general, but he did it the wrong way.

The second document issued by the Supreme Court starts on page 48. Dated June 25, 2009, it reads in full:
Having received the prosecutorial request that precedes this with the accompanying documents, entered by the Public Prosecutor for the Attorney General of the Republic, Attorney Luis Alberto Rubi, against the citizen Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, supposing him to be responsible in the style of author of offenses against the form of government, treason against the homeland, abuse of authority and usurpation of functions, in prejudice of public administration and the State of Honduras. In order to transact the present case in the preparatory and intermediate steps, Magistrate Jose Tomas Arita Valle is designated as Judge, in fulfillment of that ordered in Articles 313 number 2 reforming the Constitution of the Republic; articles 414 and 416 reformed of the Code of Penal Processes and the resolution by this Tribunal in Point No. 2 of Act No. 34 of the session celebrated on 25 June 2009.
Immediately following is a document, unlike the others not on letterhead, dated Friday June 26. It records the acceptance of a prosecutorial complaint and supporting documents, repeats the crimes of which President Zelaya is accused, then notes
Finding sufficient merits according to the commission of deeds, issue and order of capture for the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces of Honduras so that the will please place under the order of Judicial Authority Mr. Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and once having done so, take the statement of the accused. In view of the fact that the crimes that are claimed are sanctioned with very high punishment and existing a danger of flight, a raid on the house of the citizen before mentioned in the Colonia Tres caminos, fourth avenue, second house, left side, without number, is decreed, which can be carried out between six in the morning and six in the afternoon of the day that is deemed relevant and for that effect is named as Judge Executor: the citizen, Rene Antonio Hepburn Bueso…
The signature is illegible, and no typed name appears, but it presumably is Jose Tomas Arita Valle.

The next Supreme Court document starts on page 51, is dated the same day, and signed by the same Judge. Addressed to the Head of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, it is the order to raid President Zelaya's house, the closest thing there is to an arrest warrant. What it literally says is
By order of this Tribunal of Justice of the Republic of Honduras, for conduct of the undersigned unanimously named Judge by the full Court, avail yourself through the authority delegated to you to capture the citizen President of the Republic of Honduras: Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who is supposed responsible for the crimes of: Against the form of government, treason against the homeland, abuse of authority and usurpation of functions in prejudice of Public Administration and the State of Honduras, the preceding based on a prosecutorial request presented to this Court on the part of the Public Prosecutor.

The authorization is repeated and expanded on the next page, now addressed to Lieutenant Colonel Rene Antonio Hepburn Bueso, another member of the Joint Chiefs. It reads
By order of this Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic of Honduras, for conduct of the undersigned unanimously named Judge by the full Court, please proceed at the relevant moment to raid the residence of the citizen President of the Republic of Honduras: Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, located in the colonia Tres caminos, fourth Avenue, second house on the left, with number of this city, between six in the morning and six in the afternoon, and place him under the command of the corresponding authority for supposedly being responsible for the commission of the criminal deeds: against the form of government, treason against the homeland, abuse of authority and usurpation of functions in prejudice to the Public Administration and the State of Honduras, the preceding on the basis of a prosecutorial request presented to this Court by the Public Prosecutor.

Why the two different orders to two different military officers, only one of whom was named in the apparent original Supreme Court ruling? What does the change from "capture" to "place him under the command of the corresponding authority" actually mean? Is either accurately characterized as an arrest warrant? What happened to the original request that he be informed of the charges against him and his statement taken? Can an order issued by one member of the Supreme Court be treated as a final sentence, or does there need to be a final ruling by the entire court? Remember that Arita Valle was designated to undertake "preparatory and intermediate steps"; not to make a final ruling.

On page 58 the court reproduces a letter it sent, also dated Friday, June 26, to the heads of the Supreme Courts of other nations in the region. This letter they characterize as intended to inform these peers of the actions they are undertaking, due to President Zelaya not accepting earlier rulings about the legality of his proposed poll.

The specific offense they cite is his attempted firing of General Vasquez Velasquez, saying his action violated constitutional rights and failed to follow the procedures required by the Law of the Armed Forces. Based on these actions, the judges say, they have accepted claims of assistance, and they were sending along a certification of a resolution issued by the court "as the final and definitive interpreter of the Constitution of the Republic".

What is this resolution? Presumably, not one of the orders for the capture or raid of the President's house. The one thing labeled a "Certification" is the document starting on page 29, dated June 25, concerning the dismissal of General Vasquez Velasquez.

On page 79, the Supreme Court includes its own receipt, dated June 26, for documents submitted concerning the rulings of a lower court of administrative disputes.

Finally, on page 80, we get something that seems like a ruling by the full Supreme Court. But it is dated June 29-- after the coup d'etat. Its purpose is in fact to refer the legal case against Zelaya, now by their opinion a private citizen, back down to a lower court, since the Supreme Court is no longer the appropriate venue for action for someone who is not a high government official.

What is clear, then, is that the Supreme Court never issued a ruling about the crimes imputed to Zelaya. It issued the orders requested by the Public Prosecutor, who in the summation of his filing starting on page 47, specifically requested
that an order of capture be issued and migration alerts against the accused Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, that a raid on the residence of the now accused be ordered, that he be given to understand the deeds of which he is accused, that his declaration as accused be received and consequently, judicial detention be decreed in virtue of the gravity of the penalty to be imposed; that the secrecy of the transcript be decreed.
But none of the three different versions of orders for June 28 actually called for "judicial detention", a euphemism for arrest.

And of course, no arrest was carried out-- instead, the Armed Forces solved the problem, as they saw it, by sending Zelaya out of the country.

What these documents suggest is that one reason the military took that action might have been some degree of unease about the actual legality of the entire proceeding. And of course, left unaddressed in any of the Supreme Court rulings is the reason for the Armed Forces being given a task constitutionally that of the National Police, because as the Public Prosecutor wrote
since, in conformity with Article 33 of the Law of Public Administration the Cabinet Ministers are collaborators of the President of the Republic, in consequence and given that the Secretary of State for Security has, by means of the National Police, the legal capacity to carry out orders of capture issued by competent authority, but owing to the conflict of interests and the well-founded fear that the Public Prosecutor has that the will not fulfill the Judicial order, for this reason asks that once the corresponding orders of capture are issued the Armed Forces of Honduras will be instructed, through their Head of the Joint Chiefs, who have the capacity to make him comply with the mandates of the Constitution, the laws, that impose on the Armed Forces, they shall proceed to carry out the order for the capture of the now-accused.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Honduran Congressional Opinion

Two Weeks Notice points out that the Honduran Congress' proposal to engage in study of the San Jose Accords is yet another way the de facto regime is slowing things down, playing out the game. His reference for their plans, an article in Honduras' La Prensa, cheerleader for the coup, gives a very interesting glimpse of either the intransigence of Congress itself (not solely the Micheletti regime) or-- and this is to me the more interesting possibility-- the Honduran Congress' distance from reality. We know that the tight control of media has led to massive disinformation in Honduras. The question is, do the representatives in Congress not know how inaccurate their own media are?

The article notes the formation of a special commission to look into the question of amnesty for "the ex-president Manual Zelaya", and whether it is "prudent" to move up the elections from November to October. (I continue to question this proposal in the San Jose Accord, as it simply would cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election due to the inherent advantages an early campaign gives to the larger parties.) Notice that considering an amnesty for someone characterized as "ex-president" has nothing to do with restoring Zelaya as President. On this the Congress is mute.

Congress member Rigoberto Chang Castillo is quoted as saying eight days is too short a time to give a reply, since he says the San Jose Accord contains "a series of contradictions that the Honduran government should make the mediator, Oscar Arias, see." The paragraph that immediately follows is not in quotes nor attributed to anyone in particular; one might assume it was the reporting of La Prensa itself, editorializing heavily as it tends to do, but it could be continuing the interpretation offered by Chang Castillo: "The impossibility of the time frame comes because one of the parties that represents the ex-president Zelaya left the negotiation table and said its participation in this event was over, consequently, there only remain the representatives of the [de facto regime] and the idea is to continue in the conversations because the dialogue has a goal." Read that twice, slowly: someone (La Prensa? Chang Castillo?) is suggesting that Micheletti's team is still at the negotiating table.

Remarkably, more than once the article repeats this false claim that the Zelaya side withdrew from negotiation. This was the spin advanced last Thursday in a press conference by the Micheletti team on their return from Costa Rica, after Rixxi Moncada declared the negotiations a "fracaso". It is the propaganda promoted by the LA Times in their partisan coverage of the end of last week's negotiation. But it is not what the Zelaya team has said; they support even the appalling framework of the final San Jose Accord. As they noted, it is the Micheletti side that has refused to accept the central principal of restoration of the constitutionally elected President.

The article quotes the leader of the National party constituency in Congress, Rodolfo Irias Navas, saying "we don't know if it is worth the trouble to give an opinion about comething that gives the impression of not having any follow-through", referring to the claim that the Zelaya group had broken off the Arias-mediated process. The paper says he added that if Zelaya doesn't want amnesty, why approve it? "…They clearly showed that they had no interest and if that is the case it is not worth the time or giving false expectations to the Honduran people...." The spokesperson for the Liberal Party, Celín Discua Elvir, agrees that there is no "political will" among "the congress members that we have consulted" because "one of the interested parties, that of ex-president Zelaya, declared the mediation a failure."

On the face of it, it is hard to see what the Congress has to "debate", since the article reports a majority is opposed to any amnesty. Representative Rolando Dubón Bueso is quoted as saying "the special commission will deliver a report to the chamber, we are open to analyzing the case, what from the outset we are not in agreement with is to declare an amnesty where impunity will come out gaining due to acts of corruption committed, we are not in agreement in giving amnesty for those." In other words: the Congress wants to continue to press its hyped-up cases with manufactured evidence claiming "corruption". Even waiting six months would be too long.

Nonetheless, buried in even this weird alternate-universe article are some interesting hints at backtracking and repositioning. Nationalist party member Change Castillo is said to have "made clear" that since an amnesty only needs a simple majority of 65 votes, which the Liberal party and its allies easily have, "the interest of the National Party is more to contribute to the return of calm and tranquility". Since the Micheletti regime-- led by the Liberal party-- continues to claim all is calm, this is an extraordinary expression of internal political positioning: the National Party is not responsible for this mess, at least.

Wenceslao Lara, another National Party congress member, is cited as being utterly against any amnesty, declaring that the crisis is already past, and what needs to be demonstrated to the world "is that we are in a government that was elected democratically in the National Congress under a constitutional succession, that's what is left". Move along here, nothing to see.

Less extreme but still interesting was the response of a spokesperson for the PINU party, one of several smaller parties. Ana Rosa Andino described the amnesty proposed as "the only exit to overcome the crisis" (again, just interesting that some members of Congress are admitting there is a crisis). Her concerns are with who is subject to amnesty, and for what offenses: "It is desirable to give an amnesty to ex president Zelaya and not to other persons". Presumably, she does not mean not to the participants in the coup, but rather, wants to exclude other members of the Zelaya government so that the Congress can continue politically-motivated persecution (no typo there).

Finally, Doris Gutiérrez, a member of the minority Democratic Unification party who broke away from her party's support of Zelaya, acknowledges that constitutionally Congress can grant the required amnesty, but says the crimes with which Zelaya is charged are not well defined. She argues that the key articles in the San Jose accord are others, and for those points "Congress has no input, since those who have to decide are those in the Executive branch".

Mr. Micheletti, ball's in your court.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Promote Constitutional Reform? A Zelaya Government Text

The Honduran Armed Forces posted a 156 page long document including everything from a timeline to an FAQ that reached almost unequalled levels of the absurd: in response to the question, Was this novel in political history?, the Armed Forces replied with the to-them obvious parallel: the Supreme Court decision in the US Presidential election in 2000 designating George W. Bush as winner over Al Gore (p. 10).

You all remember when the Chief of Staff at the time kidnapped Gore and took him off to Costa Rica, right?

Nestled in this treasure trove, which overall reinforces my sense that the Armed Forces are very defensive, is a document (p. 7) described as

Propaganda material distributed by the Executive Power, called "Cuarta Urna, Peaceful Route to the Citizen's Revolution, a New Constitution!" A document that now establishes some aspects that were intended to be eliminated from the Constitution of the Republic.

The actual handout itself appears almost at the end of the 156 pages of reproduced legal cases and orders sent to the military, the basis on which they acted.

But this document is different: it is the one, actual, solid piece of evidence the military can offer showing what the Zelaya government was intending to promote, in the event that the public opinion poll on June 28 produced a majority in favor of a fourth ballot box in November.

Here's what it promotes; notice the entire absence of any discussion of term limits, continuing in office longer than his elected term, dissolving Congress, the Supreme Court, or the command of the Armed Forces, which elsewhere (p. 15) in the Armed Forces document they claim was the real goal of the exercise; instead, what the Zelaya government proposed was ensuring the rights of women, of the multiple ethnic groups now recognized in Honduras, and the expansion of human rights to include "third and fourth generation" rights-- in other words, bringing the Honduran constitution into conformity with international treaties, just as Minister of Culture Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle previously noted:

Cuarta Urna
Peaceful Route to the Citizen's Revolution!
A New Constitution

The fourth ballot box is the democratic road to make it legally possible to convene a Constitutional Assembly that could write a new Constitution, to give Honduras a superior democracy, in which the people will not only freely elect their rulers and representatives at all levels of Government, but as well will participate actively in the fundamental decisions that affect their lives and exercise actual control over those who are in power in their name.

Among the momentous topics that should be included in the new Constitution we single out the following:

a) Social Control: establishment of recall referenda, so that the people will have the possibility of denying their confidence in the middle of their term, to those that have been elected and have betrayed them-- and of the Death Crusade! Censure and veto, for mayors, representatives, and the President.

b) Actual freedom of the press, which means equitable access to the media for all the social and political organizations and all the citizens, and that will impede the use of the ownership of the means of communication as an instrument of accumulation of economic and political power.

c) Economic liberty with social responsibility, that will guarantee private property with a social use and the social economy of the market, placing the human being at the center of the economy and rescuing public services for the people.

d) Authentic political liberty that will impede the monopoly of representation on the part of the current party members, who slow the actual participation of the citizens, whether party activists or not, in national politics. Election of representatives by electoral districts and separation of the dates of elections for Presidents, Representatives, and Mayors.

e) Renewal of confidence in those officials who have dignified their office, fulfilling it adequately for the citizens.

f) Popular consultation to guarantee that no ruler could snatch from the People their economic and social takings, because any decisions that menaced these takings only could be legalized by means of a Popular Consultation.

g) Constitutional obligation to aid the progress of Woman as central actor in the development of the country.

h) To grant priority to the individual rights, social, economic, and the rest that will be established, as well as the guarantees of a multicultural and pluri-ethnic society.

i) To incorporate the rights known constitutionally as "third and fourth generation rights" as constitutional rights.

j) To institute the Constitutional Tribunal.

A response to Micheletti's Op-ed in Sunday's Wall Street Journal

It comes as no surprise that the Wall Street Journal is publishing misleading op-eds in support of the authoritarian regime in Honduras. It contributes centrally to the impression internationally of the US being behind, or at the very least, in support, of the coup d'etat in Honduras, and thus is prejudicial to US interests abroad; but that is what we have with our treasured free press, the right to receive unadulterated right-wing propaganda. And I would rather that than the situation of the Press in Honduras, which is entirely owned and controlled by the few wealthy families behind the coup, with the sole exception of El Tiempo, constantly under attack since the coup.

But that does not mean we have to accept the publication of lies. Here, for the record, is a point-by-point rebuttal, a comment posted in response to the WSJ by an associate of this blog:

Undisputed facts, Mr. Micheletti? I don't think so. Lets look at
them one by one.

- The Supreme Court Arrest Order. You say the Honduran Military
was the appropriate agency under Honduran law. The constitution of
Honduras does not list the execution of arrest warrents under the
description of functions of the Military. That duty falls, under its
founding law (on the National Congress website) to the National
Police, not the Miltary. Also it was an arrest order, not a trial.
Mr. Zelaya has been denied due process under the Honduran
constitution. I might also point out that it is illegal under the
Honduran Constitution to forcibly exile a citizen of Honduras, as you
have done with Mr. Zelaya.

- The Congress voted overwhelmingly in support of removing Mr.
Zelaya. Congress was convened in an unusual manner, where not all
representatives were notified of the meeting, and in some cases,
people unknown to the representatives substituted for them without
their permission. Representatives of the UD party were prevented by
armed guards from attending the session. Voting was done by a show
of hands, not an actual roll call vote. Also, the vote doesn't
matter since the Honduran constituion contains no method for the
National Congress to remove a sitting president. Congress cannot
remove the president. You modified the constituion to make that
impossible a few years ago.

- Constitution Article 239. There is no evidence in the form of
public statements, printed anywhere, including in the Honduran
newspapers that support you, that quotes Mr. Zelaya as ever saying
that he was seeking to extend his term of office. In fact, this is
entirely your supposition, without any supporting evidence.
Therefore article 239 does not apply, unless you can show words and
actions that show he tried to extend his term. Might I also point
out that you were a signer of a 1985 attempt to call a National
Constituent Assembly specifically to extend the term of President
Suazo Cordova, and when given a chance to withdraw your support of
the bill, you declined.

- Illegal withdrawal of money from the Banco Central of Honduras.
These are allegations that remain to be proved; Your prosecutors are
hardly impartial sources of information.

- Seizure of the ballots and their source. Mr. Zelaya led a peaceful
mob. The Airforce base commander never felt threatened and talked
both with Mr. Zelaya, his legal commander, and quite naturally turned
the ballots over to him when asked for them. The ballots were
printed in Venezuela, but were not shipped by the Venezuelan government.

- Legal succession to president. Elvin Santos, vice president under
Mr. Zelaya, was allowed to resign as Vice President. The process was
unconstituional, as you know. Your own human rights commissioner,
Mr. Custodio said so. Also, as stated above, Congress cannot remove
a President according to the Honduran Constituion, so any succession
authorized by Congress was based on the lie of the legal removal of
Mr. Zelaya. Don't take my word for it, study Honduran constitutional
scholar's Efrain Moncada Silva's opinion.

- expulsion of Mr. Zelaya from Honduras. Everyone, including
military's chief lawyer, Colonel Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, agrees
this was an illegal act, and your fear of mobs does not justify
violating the constitution you claim to be supporting. Forcing Mr.
Zelaya into exile was a violation of your constitution, an illegal
act, in which you participated.

The San Jose Accord: A Translation and Commentary

San Jose Accord
for national reconciliation
and the strengthening of democracy in Honduras

We, Honduran brothers, disciples of peace, liberty, and democracy of our country; conscious of the historic responsibility with which our circumstances have invested us; profoundly convinced of the power of our union and the force of our consensual will; under the aid of our Constitution and the laws of our Republic and the full validity of the State of Law; reaffirm before the people of Honduras, before our mediator, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, and through him, before all the international community, our unbreakable commitment to the reconciliation of our people, that should be one and indivisible.

The recent events that have disturbed Honduras require of us maturity and humility, and in that spirit we have agreed to sign the following Accord.

1. Of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation

To reach reconciliation and fortify democracy, we agree to a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation, integrated by representatives of the diverse political parties, recognized for their abilities, honorability, suitability, and willingness to engage in dialogue, who will occupy the distinct Secretariats and sub-Secretariats of State, in conformity with Article 246 and following of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

In view of the fact that prior to the 28th of June, the Executive Power had not sent for consideration by the National Congress the Plan for the General Budget of Income and Expenditures, in conformity with that established in Article 205, point 32, of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, this Government of Unity and National Reconciliation will respect and function on the basis of the General Budget recently approved by the National Congress for the fiscal year 2009.

2. On Amnesty for Political Offenses

To achiever reconciliation and fortify democracy, we ask the National Congress to declare a general amnesty, exclusively for political offenses committed by reason of this conflict, before and after June 28, 2009, and until the signing of the Accord, according to the terms of Article 205, point 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras and the special legislation in force that regulates this material. The amnesty should, as well, guarantee with clarity the conditions of security and liberty of the persons that remain under its protection.

In the same way, we commit to not initiate nor continue legal acts about the acts prior to July 1, 2009 that derive from the present conflict, for a period of six months. The incompletion of any of the commitments contained in this Accord, proved and declared by the Commission of Verification to which Point 7 refers, will nullify the effects of this moratorium for the transgressor or transgressors.

3. On the Renunciation of Convening a National Constitutional Assembly or Reform of the Constitution in the Unreformable

To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we reiterate our respect for the Constitution and the laws of our country, abstaining from calling for the convening of a National Constitutional Assembly, in direct or indirect ways, and renouncing as well the promotion or support of any popular poll with the goal of reforming the Constitution to permit presidential re-election, modify the form of Government, or contravene any of the unreformable articles of our Magna Carta.

In particular, we will not carry out public declarations nor exercise any type of influence inconsistent with Articles 5, 239, 373 and 274 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, and we reject energetically all demonstrations contrary to the spirit of the said articles and of the Special Law that Regulates the Referendum and the Plebiscite.

4. On Moving Up the General Elections and the Transfer of Government

To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we urge the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to consider advancing the national elections convened for the 29 of November, 2009, to the 28 of October; and the consequent advancing of the electoral campaign from September 1, 2009 to August 1, 2009. We reiterate that, in keeping with Articles 44 and 51 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, the vote is universal, obligatory, equal, direct, free and secret, and that it corresponds to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, with full autonomy and independence, to supervise and execute all that is related with the electoral acts and processes.

As well, we carry out a call to the Honduran people that they participate peacefully in the next general elections and avoid all type of demonstrations that oppose the elections or their result, or promote insurrection, antijudicial conduct, civil disobedience or other acts that could produce violent confrontations or transgressions of the law.

With the goal of demonstrating the transparency and legitimacy of the electoral process, we urge the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to authorize and accredit the presence of international missions from now to the declaration of the results of the general elections, as well as during the transfer of powers that will take place, in conformity with Article 237 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, on the 27th of January, 2010.

5. On the Armed Forces

To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we endorse our will to abide in all its extremes to Article 272 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, in conformity with which the Armed Forces remain at the disposition of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal from one month before the general elections, for the purpose of guaranteeing the free exercise of suffrage, the custody, transport, and guarding of electoral materials and all the other aspects of security of the process. We reaffirm the professional, apolitical, obedient, and non-deliberative character of the Honduran Armed Forces. In equal form, we recognize the professionalism of the National Police, whose rotation should be strictly subject to that which its special legislation prescribes.

6. On the Return of the Powers of State to their Integration Prior to the 28th of June

To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we ask the National Congress that, for the goal of recovering the integration and legitimate conformation of the powers constituted the 28th of June of 2009, in the proceeding they return the situation of the Executive Power, Legislative Power, Judicial Power and Supreme Electoral Tribunal to their state prior to June 28, for having been in conformity according to Articles 202, 205, points 9 and 11, and 236 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras. The preceding implies the return of Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the Presidency of the Republic until the conclusion of the present governmental period, the 27th of January, 2010.

7. On the Commission of Verification and the Truth Commission

To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we arrange the creation of a Commission of Verification of the undertakings made in this Accord, and those that are derived from it, presided over by the OAS, and persons that it considers suitable among national and international figures. The Commission of Verification will be charged to attest to the strict compliance of all the points of this Accord, and will receive for this the full cooperation of the Honduran public institutions.

With the goal of clarifying the deeds that occurred before and after the 28th of June of 2009, a Truth Commission will also be created that will identify the acts that let to the present situation, and provide to the Honduran people elements that will avoid that these deeds will be repeated in the future. The work of the Truth Commission will be fundamental in the recovery of confidence of the Honduran people in its Constitution and in its Government. To assure the impartiality in the execution of this task, we designate as leader of the Truth Commission the Interamerican Institute of Human Rights.

8. On the Normalization of the Relations of the Republic of Honduras with the International Community

On promising to faithfully fulfill the obligations assumed in the present Accord, we respectfully ask the immediate revocation of those means or sanctions adopted at a bilateral or multilateral level, that in any manner affect the reinsertion and full participation of the Republic of Honduras in the international community, and its access to all the forms of cooperation.

We make a call to the international community that it shall reactivate as soon as possible the active projects of cooperation with the Republic of Honduras, and continue with the negotiation of future ones. In particular, we urge that, on request of the competent authorities, the international cooperation that will be necessary and opportune for the Commission of Verification and the Truth Commission will be made effective to assure the faithful fulfillment and follow-through of the obligations acquired in this Accord.

9. On the Entry into Effectiveness of the Accord of San Jose

All the obligations assumed take up formal and total effectiveness from the same moment as its signing.

10. Final Dispositions

Any difference in interpretation or application of the present Accord will be submitted to the Commission of Verification, which will determine, in keeping with that set in the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras and in the effective legislation, and through an authentic interpretation of the present Accord, the solution that corresponds.

Taking into account that the present Accord is the product of understanding and fraternity among Hondurans, we strongly request that the international community respect the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras, and fully observe the principle consecrated in the United Nations Charter of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.

11. Calendar of Fulfillment of the Accords

Given the immediate entry into effectiveness of this Accord from the date of its signing, and with the goal of clarifying the dates for fulfillment and follow-through of the obligations acquired to gain national reconciliation, we agree to the following calendar of fulfillment:

22 July, 2009
1. Signing and entry into effectiveness of the Accord of San Jose
24 July, 2009
1. Return of Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the Presidency of the Republic of Honduras
2. Formation of the Commission of Verification
27 July, 2009
1. Formation of the Government of Union and National Reconciliation
2. Formation of the Truth Commission
27 January, 2010
1. Transition of government.
12. Final Declaration

In the name of the reconciliation that has summoned us to the table of dialogue, we commit to executing the present Accord, and that which derives from it, in good faith. We know that humanity expects from Honduras a demonstration of unity and of peace, to which we are obligated by our conscience and our history. Together, we shall know to demonstrate our valor and crown with olive branches the face of our democracy, so that future generations will see what we were capable of doing for our homeland.

The preceding translation, omitting only the signature and witness names (since the Accord has yet to be signed), illustrates considerable evolution from the original 7-point plan Oscar Arias presented to the representatives of President Zelaya and the de facto regime. Comparing the two, the San Jose Accord shows an almost complete absorption of proposals made by the Micheletti regime, including things that might be considered "interference in internal affairs", such as the requirement that the budget passed by Congress while the de facto regime has been in power should remain in place for the rest of President Zelaya's term.

As noted here previously, and exploited by the de facto regime in its press conference on Thursday, many of the points of this plan presume the truth of accusations made against President Zelaya, for example, expanding the original statement of renunciation of the "cuarta urna" consultation to explicitly identify changing the unreformable articles of the constitution as not permitted. Even the "Truth Commission" is a substantiation of the de facto regime's views, calling for exploring the events that led up to the present "situation"-- not the coup on June 28-- as if there could be any justification of the coup.

Even the call for amnesty is constructed in such a way as to disadvantage President Zelaya. First, it is only temporary: in six months presumably the members of the de facto regime, who will still be in Congress as there are no term limits there, will be free to pursue political charges. But they also would be free right away to initiate prosecution for charges they claim are not political-- such as the outrageous claims of drug-trafficking promoted by the "genius" of the de facto regime, Ortez Colindres.

Most shocking, instead of a forthright call for the restoration of President Zelaya at the outset, as in the previous plan, this document integrates that in the 7th point-- and then only as a consequence of a call to return all the government branches to their original status (something not extending to the Cabinet of the President, meaning that the Executive Power in actuality would not be restored).

Examining this version, it is a wonder the Zelaya negotiators accepted it; and it makes it clear just how fair it was for Rixxi Moncada to declare the Micheletti negotiators intransigent, since here they obtain far more than they should ever have gained in return for a largely symbolic restitution of President Zelaya. What Arias offered the Micheletti team was control of the government for the next six months, early elections, locking in the hastily passed budget that means the Zelaya government cannot carry on its initiatives, a forum to continue politically motivated investigations of Zelaya for what his opponents assert were his intentions, and full resumption of their own positions as re-electable members of Congress.

My Cental American colleagues with whom I discussed Arias' original plan last week described even the original as not really a product of mediation, noting rumors that a US senator had brought Arias a draft. T
hey already felt that this version, which was not fully public at the time, went too far in presuming the offenses Zelaya was accused of were real, and requiring him to renounce them, while demoting from its more prominent place the insistence that Zelaya is the constitutional president and his restoration is non-negotiable. I wonder what they are saying now about the actual wording of the critical point concerning his restitution, which entirely abandons the firmness of the constitutional basis for his restoration-- a basis which does not exist for the proposal to let those responsible for the coup, currently occupying positions in the de facto regime and abusing them to engage in purges of government civil servants, return to their former congressional posts.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Armed Forces statement: a translation and commentary

Saturday I decided to hold off on adding a second post based on messages I was receiving that suggested some movement of the military.

Events, of course, overtook me, and the NY Times reported on Armed Forces Communique No. 7, a curious document posted on the website of the Honduran armed forces command. The NY Times article reported that unnamed "aides" to equally unnamed US Congress members assisted officers of the Honduran army in formulating the statement. The specific mention of coronels-- the younger generation, waiting to become the next set of high command-- suggests that Romeo Vasquez Velasquez' little adventure, and its negative effects on the reputation the army had previously earned for its abstention from political interference, was troubling to elements within the command structure.

The whole communiqué is worth a look:


The Secretary of State Office of National Defense, in view of the latest suspected developments, communicates the following to national and international public opinion:

1. That the Armed Forces are respectful of the Constitution and of the Laws, whereby we reaffirm our subordination to civil authority in keeping with the principles of legality and due obedience.

2. That as an institution we back a solution to the problematic situation that spans our country, through a process of negotiation on the framework of the San Jose Accords. Likewise, we reiterate our unrestricted support for the results of the same, in conformity with our Constitution and other laws.

3. The Armed Forces as a national institution fulfills and will continue to fulfill the missions that the Constitution and the Laws of the Republic have indicated for it.

Comayaguela, M.D.C. 24 of July, 2009

Ostensibly, the audience addressed is "national and international public opinion"-- a telling phrase. The triggering event is expressed extremely vaguely-- in light of the "latest suspected developments". What might these be? there are two possible readings: one, the San Jose mediation itself, although here, the use of "suscitado" (suspected) makes little sense. Instead, this word and the vagueness of the phrase suggest the reference is to Zelaya's announced intention to return to Honduras: the Armed Forces want their position out in front of any military confrontation they will end up forced into.

For me, this is the rationale for the first and third points in the communiqué: the Armed Forces wants everyone to know that whatever they end up doing, it will be by the book. Which, they continue to protest, was what they thought they were doing June 28, and they resent being portrayed as authors of a military coup. From this perspective, it is worth pairing the Armed Forces statement with a brief news item reporting on a press conference by the high command of the National Police. (Extraordinary situation when both commands are engaging in aggressive press contacts, including the Radio Globo interview with Vasquez Velasquez discussed by other commentators.)

The short report in the Honduran paper, El Tiempo, cites the police chiefs as vowing to protect the physical safety of Zelaya and his escort:

Police guarantee physical safety of President Zelaya

In case the overthrown president, Manuel Zelaya, enters Honduras, the police authorities will guarantee the physical safety of himself and his escorts, in accord with a strategic plan being put into place.

The preceeding was made known yesterday in a press conference carried out at the Casa Presidencial by the police high command, made up of the general director of this corps, General Salomón Escoto Salinas; the national director of the Preventative Police, General Jose Luis Muñoz Licona; and the national director of Special Investigation Services, René Maradiaga Panchamé, among others.

In the same way, they advised that if the entry of Zelaya, who arrived yesterday from Nicaragua to the border zone with Honduras, were to be accomplished, they would carry out the judicial orders issued by the respective legal tribunal.

It would be good if it were certain that President Zelaya would not be in physical danger. But physical danger is not the only issue here. The police end by promising vaguely to "carry out the judicial orders issued by the respective legal tribunal". That, presumably, could mean the arrest warrant dated June 26, 2009, which authorized the Armed Forces to raid Zelaya's residence. That order was not addressed to the National Police-- constitutionally, the group who should have carried out any such arrest-- specifically because the requesting government minister did not trust the police. This recalls reports of police at the border with Nicaragua disclaiming receiving any arrest order and laughing at the idea of arresting President Zelaya. It is not entirely clear at this point what other warrant the Police, or the Armed Forces, might have in hand to implement.

So the Armed Forces statement does not necessarily mean that the critical breakthrough has happened, but together with other signs, is part of an emerging picture of reluctance by the military (police and Armed Forces) to be the fall guys for civilian incompetence. I read the Armed Forces statement as a warning to the civil government, to get back to the mediation and stop being so intransigent. It is in effect-- and as its inclusion in a numbered sequence of communiqués suggests-- the Armed Forces' expression of continued discomfort with the position in which they have been put by a civilian government that was so misguided as to expect the world community to accept a coup d'etat.

(On the question of why the coup plotters were so mistaken, the Honduran scholars I talked with in Costa Rica this week suggest that the coup group lacked anyone with real knowledge of contemporary world politics. In the absence of such a knowledgable person, they argued that Enrique Ortez Colindres-- notorious now for his racist remarks about President Obama-- was able to project an aura of confidence and knowledge, primarily through his facility as a speaker, albeit one whose ideas are both retrograde and uninformed.)

It is worth noting that Communique No. 7 is for the most part a revision of Communique No. 6, dated July 24. Item 1 is identical; Item 3 differs only by citing the specific sections of the Constitution that cover the mission of the Armed Forces.

In this communique, the second point is much less pointed:
2. That as a subordinated institution we support in a unanimous and unrestricted form the Government of the Republic, in the decisions and actions that it may take in the framework of its attributes for the peaceful solution of the problematic situation that spans our country, on the basis of the negotiations that are being realized on an international level by means of dialogue; in which sense we maintain ourselves firm in the defense of the rule of the Constitution of the Republic, our laws, and of the national sovereignty in all its manifestations.
Unlike the Communique that followed, this preceding document had two more numbered points: Number 4 asking the international and national communities to maintain their confidence in the Armed Forces; and Number 5 saying
We emphasize our commitment to respect and to have respected our constitution and the laws, more than any private interest or that of groups that intend to destabilize our country.
In other words, on Friday the Armed Forces was hinting that while supporting the ongoing dialogue, they were not going to feel obliged to support some private interest or group that might "destabilize" the country; by Saturday, they were endorsing the San Jose Accord specifically.

This was a major change in emphasis from Communique 5 of July 22, which appeared to disclaim any responsibility if unnamed "persons" were injured in the process of fomenting unrest.

In fact, the series of Communiques that started on June 30 with the Armed Forces' defense of their raid on the house of President Zelaya, clearly shows that the military are unhappy with the positions they have found themselves in as a result of their implication in the coup. The first three Communiques essentially justified actions taken by the army.

The tenor of these press releases changed radically with Communique 4, dated July 14, issued primarily to reject rumors of divisions within the Armed Forces. Item 1 read

That the Armed Forces maintain themselves solidly united and that we, its members, are immersed in the task of contributing to the Government of the Republic, to maintain internal order in the country without disregarding the other missions established by the Constitution of the Republic.
Item 4 reiterated
That the persons engaged in creating divisions in the Armed Forces are not going to achieve it because we are a hierarchicized institution, solidly united, and its members formed under the trilogy of honor, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Over the course of a little more than a week that followed, the Armed Forces' communiques have become increasingly pointed. From defending the regime they installed, they have moved to calling more and more openly for that regime to agree to a settlement like that proposed by Oscar Arias.

What will the next communique bring?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"An Authentic Cultural Inquisition": A statement by Helen Umaña

Helen Umaña wrote and circulated the Spanish original of the following translated statement decrying ideological attacks on the employees of the constituent parts of the Secretariat of Culture in Honduras, on July 23. An internationally prominent author, she calls public attention to the notorious failure to understand the Secretariat of Culture by the de facto regime's appointed placeholder there, Mirna Castro.

Castro is equally indicted by her own words in a YouTube video-- denouncing the distribution of books throughout the country to populations she describes as "vulnerable", a disturbingly patronizing word to use to describe the afro-caribbean Garifuna and indigenous peoples. Especially ironic when one of the first changes the coup regime brought to the Secretariat of Culture was the dismissal of the first Garifuna Vice Minister of that Secretariat, Salvador Suazo, who is in the process of producing a unique dictionary of the Garifuna language.

The same person is responsible for the widely reported threat to violate international conventions on the protection of cultural property in times of military conflict, as well as Honduran law, by approving the use of a Honduran National Monument for a cadre of military reservists.

The facts, and others Helen Umaña comments on-- including many previously noted here-- should produce international outrage.

Crimes against Culture

Helen Umaña

From an anthropological point of view, the term "culture" refers to all manifestations of material life (planting maize, for example) and spiritual life (writing a poem, devising a scientific theory, or frawing a protest graffiti) of a specified community. We live and we breathe, then, within a specific and singular culture that marks our way of proceeding: taste for specific foods; parameters to evaluate a film or a song; manner of dressing; preference for specific sports, etc. It provides us, then, a kind of seal or badge that identifies us or individualizes us in the face of others. In the case of Honduras, as well, we have to speak of a multicultural reality.

But speaking in general terms, culture is linked unfailingly to the concept of national identity. That is, not as a closed or finished condition, but as a process: something that always is enriched or is renewed. Including, that is deteriorated or destroyed (the Spanish conquest annihilated, mutilated or changed the culture of the indigenous peoples: the Lenca, for example, lost their language and with it, vital aspects of their world view).

It is self-evident, then, the importance that the Ministry of Culture has in the life of a nation. The formulation and putting into practice of programs destined to conserve and enrich the spiritual wealth of the country depends precisely on its policies. Only clumsy politicians disparage the function of the intellectual and affective mortar that artistic, literary, and other works represent for the people. For this reason, when a government cabinet is named, persons are chosen to “direct” it who must fulfill some political or personal commitment but who, in cultural phenomena, ignore the most basic elements.

The de facto regime, in addition to the great blunder with the naming of its first Chancellor (he of the celebrated phrases, pearls of Honduran diplomacy, like the racist phrase directed at Obama), is giving another example of the intellectual level of its functionaries. In a recent appearance, Mirna Castro, brand-new minister of “culture” – of unknown resume in scientific, artistic, or literary subject matter – in front of television cameras of the world, showed that never in her life has she opened a book: she condemned as subversive fundamental works in the literary heritage of the country.

Probably, as Juan de Zumárraga and Diego de Landa did when they burned invaluable indigenous codices, she will soon organize a great pyre with the works of "indoctrination", such as the following: Memorias y apuntes de viaje, Todos los cuentos and Anecdotario hondureño by Froylán Turcios; Soy extranjero y ando de paso by José Roy Castro; Estampas de Honduras by Doris Stone (daughter of Samuel Zemurray, banana magnate); Honduras by Luis Mariñas Otero; La inconformidad del hombre by Alfonso Guillén Zelaya; La heredad by Marcos Carías Reyes (nephew and secretary of General Tiburcio Carías Andino); Mundo de cubos by Nelson Merren; Obra poética escogida de sus manuscritos by José Antonio Domínguez; Panorama de la poesía hondureña by Óscar Castañeda Batres; Soñaba el abad de San Pedro soñaba y yo también sé soñar by José Cecilio del Valle; Sueños de Merce by Mercedes Agurcia Membreño, and many other titles of similar lineage and of recent publication. Perhaps the dictionary of Honduran authors by José González can explain to her who those “dangerous” authors were, that undoubtedly delighted many of our fathers and grandfathers.

The preceding is, truly, laughable and equivalent to the celebrated phrases of Dr. Enrique Ortez Colindres. If these books are destroyed or confiscated, they can all be replaced in future editions. The most serious issue lies in other decisions that directly affect the historical patrimony of the country. So, she contemplates assigning the Honduran Documentary Center for Historical Research (where the newspapers and documents fundamental to scientific investigators and the general public interested in the theme are kept) to the Military Reservists so that they can set up a center of military operations. If action is not taken rapidly (and a call to UNESCO is imperative), soon, the Hemeroteca and the National Archive could be victims of a looting and destruction without precedents. For members (visible or invisible) of the de facto government it is urgent to "erase" irrefutable proofs of a not-very-clean recent past. It isn't an accident that one of the first actions of Sra. Castro was the firing of the historian Natalie Roque Sandoval, zealous guardian of this cultural patrimony.

Also, within this ominous policy of razing Honduran culture, is inscribed the recent firing of the Director of The Book and the Document, Lic. Rebeca Becerra, one of the poets with the greatest expressive force in present-day Latin American poetry. She carried out a distinguished editorial labor and is responsible for the publication of books like those mentioned. The “Death to the intelligentsia!” war cry of all the Fascists that there have been in the world, begins to resonate in the halls of government.

Black clouds are hanging, as well, around the Cultural Houses, accused, by the uninformed minister, of being centers that damage the country because the unholy shadow of Hugo Chavez is cast over them. Fortunately, they are located in cities of the interior of the country and each community knows what acts have been carried out under its protective eaves (presentation of books; painting workshops; film showings; reading clubs…). In other words, they know how to detect the magnitude of the official lie.

With grief, we observe that Honduras has entered an obscurantist stage whose precedents go back to the notorious decade of the 1980s. The de facto government, in cultural matters, has thrown overboard the progress achieved during the two terms of Dr. Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle at the head of the Ministry of Culture. In this respect, it is enough to cite the praiseworthy work, applauded internationally, of the Institute of Anthropology and History, directed by Dr. Darío Euraque. Let's not deceive ourselves. Unholy signs like those noted indicate that we are in the shadows of an authentic cultural inquisition.

San Pedro Sula, Honduras 23 July, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Me Detain Zelaya? What Are You Saying!"

Today in passing, a Honduran colleague told me that the latest news was that the national police were on strike because they had not been paid, and that when the de facto regime's designate to run the Treasury, Gabriela Nuñez, said she would get them back pay, they said they would refuse to accept it.

The story is less important as a statement of fact, although AFP reports today confirm that at least some of the National Police joined the national strike today demanding extra pay for the work created by the coup (!), and Telesur reportedly interviewed a "police official" who said the police would stay in their stations, and not carry out orders to detain Zelaya.

Rather, I offer the story-- complete with the second half about rejecting payment from the de facto regime, for which I have no independent support-- as evidence of the hopes Hondurans waiting for some turning point in their quest for restoration of the constitutional government are placing in the police or military changing sides.

How widespread police participation in the national strike might have been is an open question. The pro-coup Honduran paper La Tribuna said the strike was limited to a single station, accounting for 200 officers. AFP reported mixed findings:
In the streets of Tegucigalpa, police were not observed, while many public buildings remained guarded by military officers. Nonetheless, in the traffic stops installed on the route toward the Nicaraguan border there were police working together with soldiers, as confirmed by journalists of the AFP.
But the most interesting report in this vein comes from La Vanguardia of Spain, and provides the title for this post. Here, for the non-Spanish speakers, is a translation of the direct quotes from police interviewed by reporter Joaquim Ibarz in the border town of Los Manos:

Alejandro Diaz, chief inspector of police: "Ha, ha, ha"..."Me detain him? Ha, ha, ha. What are you saying!"

Lieutenant Colonel Juan Ramón Gavilán Soto, in charge of the military outpost: "We don't have orders to detain him, nor are we here for that. We should only guard security and avoid disturbances".

What might such isolated reports tell us about the actual situation on the ground? It is hard to know how they will translate into action once President Zelaya passes the border. But the consensus among the Central Americans here in Costa Rica has been that it will take the police and military deciding not to support the de facto regime for there to be any chance of restoration of the legitimate government.

When did "Support for the Plan" come to mean rejection?

As I previously noted, singling out the LA Times, a number of English-language media sources have claimed that the Zelaya delegation to Costa Rica rejected the latest plan. Some of the same media pair this claim with disingenuous coverage of the Micheletti delegation's statement that they would take the plan back to Honduras for consideration by the separate branches of the government, giving unearned credit to the latter group for supposedly being willing to consider this.

So here, cited verbatim from today's edition of Costa Rica's La Nacion, is what Rixi Moncada, spokesperson for the Zelaya team actually said, which I saw televised last evening and can testify is not taken out of context:
reiteró su apoyo al plan, igual que la crítica contra la posición de sus adversarios. “El diálogo de San José ha fracasado por la intransigencia del régimen del golpe”, dijo.

What that means in English:
she reiterated support for the plan, as well as the critique against the position of her adversaries. "The dialogue of San Jose has failed because of the intransigence of the coup regime", she said.

On the other hand, the remarks by Micheletti's spokesperson, Mauricio Villeda, is described (not quoted directly as follows:

recalcó la dificultad de aceptar el retorno de Zelaya al poder, pero igual que el fin de semana, prometió que llevarían el plan a consulta de poderes hondureños

In the actual interview, he emphasized that the Micheletti delegation had no authority to make an agreement, and said he would take it back home to Honduras. As the summary above notes, he

stressed the difficulty of accepting the return of Zelaya to power, but as with the weekend, promised to bring the plan to the Honduran [governmental] powers for consultation

So far, so good, as long as we don't recall what happened with the previous plan ("the weekend" above), which is that Micheletti rejected any proposal that acknowledged Zelaya as legitimate president and restored him to office, which is a necessary condition to restore legitimate constitutional succession.

What happened next: from Tegucigalpa, a televised press conference by the Micheletti faction. Honduras Tiempo today cites the statements of Carlos Lopez of the de facto regime as reiterating that while they have yet to formally respond to the Arias' proposal, the return of President Zelaya is "non-negotiable", basing himself in the live interview on the argument that when he "left the country" (e.g. was forcibly expatriated against the Honduran Constitution) President Zelaya was "already a private citizen" (a claim made originally based on a supposed resignation letter, backdated to June 25, denied by President Zelaya; and later bolstered by a supposed Supreme Court order, which Honduran colleagues also believe was created post-facto).

Thus Lopez claims to restore Zelaya would be to allow a foreign force (Arias? the OAS?) to install an illegal government, a perspective encapsulated in the following, otherwise hard to parse quote:

En el otro caso (Zelaya Rosales) lo que tenemos es un gobernante destituido que no tiene poderes ni tiene controles legales dentro del territorio nacional

In the other instance (Zelaya Rosales), what we have is a fired governor that does not have any power nor legal control within the national territory
What is not cited in Tiempo is the rest of the "press conference" (propaganda conference would be a better name for it) in Tegucigalpa which I watched live on CNN En Español last evening. During that press conference, members of the de facto regime read point-by-point, if selectively, the latest Arias' proposal, emphasizing the points that accepted their demands, and arguing that Arias' acceptance of the demands meant he agreed with the conclusions behind them.

Thus, for example, the point in the Arias' plan asking President Zelaya to publicly state he would not work for constitutional reform while he was in office was used to argue that this proved Arias agreed that Zelaya should not have been working for such reforms.

The point inserted into the plan calling for the budget recently passed by the de facto regime (which among other things cuts the budgets of all government institutes by 20%; and limits the ability to hire new doctors, nurses, teachers; thus imposing policy limitations on any government restored under the plan) should be maintained, was presented at this "press conference" as an expression of support for the supposed efficiency and effectiveness of the coup regime.

And where the Micheletti regime couldn't spin the latest Arias proposal in its favor, it engaged in deep sarcasm about Arias himself.

Unfortunately, CNN did not post this press conference on its website. While Carlos Lopez was more statesmanlike in his CNN interview, it also definitively shuts the door on any agreement to the Arias plan, arguing that Arias wasn't actually a mediator so much as someone getting some ideas out on the table. The delaying tactic is clear here.