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, October 31, 2009


"87 % of the Honduran population is in favor of, and endorses the government of Roberto Micheletti." -- Lizzy Flores, Vice President of Congress and daughter of Carlos Flores Facussé, in a BBC Mundo article on the "secret pact" in Honduras.

Really?! Have you checked your facts lately Lizzy? A CID-Gallup poll conducted between 13 and 19 October, 2009 in Honduras would like to give you a dose of reality. They surveyed 1420 adults over 18 and the results have a margin of error of 2.8%.

Who do you recognize as President?
Micheletti: 36%
Zelaya: 42%
Neither: 18%.

Roberto Micheletti has done what is good for the people of Honduras
All the time: 14%
Most of the time: 22%
Only a few times or never: 59%

Manuel Zelaya has done what is good for the people of Honduras
All the time: 23%
Most of the time: 37%
Only a few times or never: 38%

The CID-Gallup poll also found that Manuel Zelaya was the 4th most popular of a list of 25 individuals presented in the survey. Lizzy's father, Carlos Flores Facussé was first. Roberto Micheletti came out 11th in the same list.

So not only do these results roughly coincide with the results of two previous polls that show support for Micheletti is weak, at best, in Honduras (the COIMER poll in August, and a CID-Gallup poll taken days after the coup both showed Micheletti with low approval levels), and that Manuel Zelaya is more popular and recognized by more people as the legitimate President of Honduras, but they also show that Lizzy is deeply out of touch with the Honduran populace. She needs to take some political lessons from her father, who never would have made such an elementary political mistake.

Convening Congress: the details

So, we think it is worth reviewing the entire Constitutional section dealing with what it takes to convene Congress.

On the one hand, it seems pretty clear that Micheletti was counting on further delay due to having already dismissed Congress (a fact noted by Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle in one of his editorials, translated by Adrienne Pine, but otherwise missing from the commentary we have seen). So we have seen the leadership in Congress saying nothing can happen, including picking up the mail (!) until Tuesday and then maybe there cannot be a meeting because everyone is out campaigning.

On the other hand, the proposal made by a Liberal Diputado from Yoro, Javier Francisco Hall (reported by TITO in a comment on a previous blog post) to convene an extraordinary session represents a direct challenge to the power to block forward progress. And it appears to be quite legal, indeed, Constitutional, under provisions carried over into the guidelines of the Congress itself.

So here is the relevant Constitutional language, in translation with commentary, followed by the original Spanish. These are the first articles in Titulo V, Capitulo I, which establishes the nature of the Congress:
Article 189: The Legislative Power is exercised by a Congress of Diputados, that will be elected by direct suffrage. It will meet in ordinary sessions in the capital of the Republic the 25th of January of each year, without necessity of being convened, and will close its sessions the 31 of October of the same year.

Sessions can be adjourned for the time that should be necessary by resolution of Congress, at the initiative of one or more of its members, or at the request of the Executive Power.

Article 190: The National Congress will meet in extraordinary sessions:

1. When the Executive Power requests it

2. When it shall be convened by its Permanent Commission; and
3. When half plus one of its members agree.

In those cases, it will only treat the business that motivated the respective Decree of convening.

Article 191
: A number of five diputados can extraordinarily convene the National Congress to meet in any place in the Republic, when the Executive, another authority, force majeure or fortuitous event, shall impede its installation or the celebration of its sessions.

Article 192
: For the installation of the National Congress and the celebration of its sessions half plus one of its members will be sufficient.

Article 193
: Neither Congress itself, nor any other authority of State or private party, shall impede the installation of the Congress, the celebration of its sessions or decree its dissolution.

The contravention of this precept constitutes a crime against the Powers of State.

(There is an additional Article (197) that says diputados are obligated to attend all sessions, but it is not clear if that includes extraordinary sessions)
So, what does all the foregoing mean?

(1) Congress should have still been in session Friday, October 30. It was dismissed by the de facto regime in advance of its scheduled end date. This is allowed, but it is curious that it happened and set up the present situation.

(2) If just half (plus one) of the members of Congress agree, there can be a special session. Notice that the head of Congress need not be the person calling this session. Nor does it seem there needs to be a delay while the mail is slowly walked over to his office.

(3) Five deputies can convene Congress, anywhere in the country, if its convocation is impeded, no matter who or what is responsible for that impediment. So the promise (or threat, depending on your point of view) of the delegates in favor of a rapid resolution has teeth; and they do not even have to have access to the house of Congress to meet. And even Congress itself cannot impede the convening of the body; to do so is a crime.

(4) However, while as few as ten diputados can convene Congress, it still takes half (plus one) to hold a session.

That bar, while higher than the one set for issuing a call for an extraordinary session, is still relatively low; and most important, the "leadership" of Congress is irrelevant; this is a surprisingly grass-roots set of provisions in the much-maligned Honduran Constitution.

ARTICULO 189.- El Poder Legislativo se ejerce por un Congreso de Diputados, que serán elegidos por sufragio directo. Se reunirá en sesiones ordinarias en la capital de la República el veinticinco de enero de cada año, sin necesidad de convocatoria, y clausurará sus sesiones el treinta y uno de octubre del mismo año.

Las sesiones podrán prorrogarse por el tiempo que fuere necesario por resolución del Congreso, a iniciativa de uno o más de sus miembros, o a solicitud del Poder Ejecutivo.

Los recesos serán establecidos en el Reglamento Interior.

ARTICULO 190.- El Congreso Nacional se reunirá en sesiones extraordinarias:

1. Cuando lo solicite el Poder Ejecutivo;

2. Cuando sea convocado por su Comisión Permanente; y

3. Cuando así lo acuerde la mitad más uno de sus miembros.

En estos casos sólo tratará los asuntos que motivaron el respectivo Decreto de convocatoria.

ARTICULO 191.- Un número de cinco diputados podrá convocar extraordinariamente al Congreso Nacional para sesionar en cualquier lugar de la República, cuando el Ejecutivo, otra autoridad, fuerza mayor o caso fortuito, impidan su instalación o la celebración de sus sesiones.

ARTICULO 192.- Para la instalación del Congreso Nacional y la celebración de sus sesiones será suficiente la mitad más uno de sus miembros.

ARTICULO 193.- Ni el mismo Congreso, ni otra autoridad del Estado o particulares, podrá impedir la instalación del Congreso, la celebración de las sesiones o decretar su disolución.

La contravención de este precepto constituye delito contra los Poderes del Estado.

Credit where credit is due

Now that the exact language of what we now know is called the Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord has been published, the English-language commentary will no doubt center on what the US did to make this happen.

But many observers who have been following the events carefully are reaching an agreement that there are two (or three) Honduran forces that should be given the credit for a framework for resolution being reached. And since it is likely that the short-attention-span English language media will lose sight of at least two of these Honduran forces, in keeping with our mission to forcefully represent Honduran voices whenever possible, we want to pause and give credit where credit is due to the people of Honduras and in particular, the Frente de Resistencia Popular.

From the very first day of the awful disruption of civil order, the unthinkable violation of a history of struggle to achieve representative democracy and, more recently, to transform that democracy into a truly participatory one, the Honduran people have not accepted the will of a small, powerful, wealthy elite that thought it could turn back the clock thirty years or more.

The cost to the people has been enormous. We will not try to enumerate the numbers of those injured, arrested, or even the dead-- acknowledged by the international community or not. The many reports by human rights groups provide a devastating chronicle of repression and its effects.

But the Honduran people fought on. And this fight united diverse groups representing workers, farmers, indigenous people, African-descendant people, women, students, crossing class, race, age, and social status lines. It went beyond those who had supported the Liberal party in the last presidential race, and incorporated people who simply would not accept a dictatorial Honduras resurrected from the past.

By July 4, a formal Frente de Resistencia Popular had formed and issued its first call to action. The mobilization of popular resistence took place without the kind of media attention that has given hope to the popular movement in Iran; indeed, as the months have unrolled, I have been struck by a different, more grim comparison: to the resistance in Myanmar, judged by political pragmatists to be hopeless, yet continuing today in conditions of more total oppression than most of us can conceive.

The Honduran Frente and the Honduran people deserve the greatest credit for continuing and improvising ever more creative forms of protest. Whether it was the artists organizing days of art and culture in resistance, the Garifuna marching to the strains of the traditional music appreciated across the country as a form of cultural patrimony beloved at one and the same time for its specificity to the history of this African-descendant group, the under-covered work by Lenca and other indigenous actors rejecting the de facto regime, or the women who called in to the radio stations that were the sole free media to report their insurgent action of walking in their own towns and neighborhoods when the regime forbade it; the Honduran people made it impossible for the international community to accept the status quo. And they now know how to organize, and they are not satisfied with the Accord, which for them simply promises to satisfy the first demand, the restoration of the elected government.

I began this post intending solely to celebrate the people, and the Frente. But then I realized that I needed to also acknowledge the ambivalent figure, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, as well. Throughout the months, English-language media have treated him as an object of ridicule. They found his frequent extravagant pronouncements of unenforceable deadlines misguided. While reporting the US State Department's unhelpful and repeated chiding of President Zelaya for being visible and vocal, the mainstream media failed to provide any real analysis of his political position or strategy. They made it seem almost inconceivable that this person ever held office, acting as if he were not, as he is, an experienced politician who, after all, won the Honduran presidential election through strategy and the deployment of local-- that is, Honduran-- knowledge. So when Zelaya managed to make his way back to the capital city, there were few among the media who gave him any credit other than for creating yet another spectacle. The media were especially impatient with what they clearly thought was a foolish move (again echoing the US State Department), getting himself trapped without an exit in the Brazilian embassy.

And yet: clearly, by being in Honduras, in Tegucigalpa, Zelaya changed the balance of events. In retrospect, the main problem with the attempt to negotiate the San Jose Accord may have been that taking place away from Honduras impeded the kind of informal contacts that clearly helped promote an agreement. Zelaya being in Tegucigalpa also increased the media presence there, which gave public demonstrations and their repression at least a chance of being witnessed. Tactically, the decision by the de facto regime to use measures against the Brazilian embassy itself, providing media angles that otherwise would not have existed, probably worked against the regime's interests-- and would not have happened had President Zelaya not taken refuge there to give an undeniable visibility to his stubborn refusal to accept the new order of things.

So, giving credit where credit is due, while my overarching appreciation goes to the people-- and the organized Frente de Resistencia-- we also need to pause and recognize that the Honduran government in exile, not just Zelaya but also all those who lost their positions on June 28 and yet continued to work to publicize the atrocity visited on their country-- made this happen. They may not be mentioned in the acknowledgments contained in Item #11, but they deserve to be.

Zelaya Pushes Monday Decision

The Zelaya negotiating team has asked Congress to decide on Monday. "We are not asking them to pronounce for A or B, just to pronounce. One power of state cannot place obstacles for another power of state; they have to act in a rational form," said Rasel Tomé. "We are asking the Honduran people to go to the houses of Congressmen, or call them on the phone and ask them to Monday form the corresponding session."

Congress is in recess until after the November 29 elections, and so an extraordinary session is needed. To wait for an ordinary session will take months. An extraordinary session can be convened by the President (Micheletti), the executive council of the Congress(headed by Saavedra), or by a simple majority (65) of the Congressmen according to the Constitution and Rules of Congress.

Article 191 says "Five Congressmen can convene an extraordinary session of the National Congress in any part of the Republic when the Executive, other authority, force, or fortuitous cause impedes the installation or celebration of its sessions."

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Congress, Ramón Velásquez Nazar, says that the accord will be presented to Congress on Tuesday. It is the Secretary's responsibility to take the incoming "mail", which is how the accord is classified, and convey it to the President of Congress, Jose Alfredo Saavedra. "It won't be until Tuesday because I'm running for re-election as Congressman and this weekend I need to visit my supporters in various communities. Monday is the Day of the Dead and I have obligations in my town."

Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord: A translation


We, Honduran citizens, men and women convinced of the necessity to strengthen the state of law, to aid our constitution and the laws of our Republic, deepen democracy and assure a climate of peace and tranquility for our people, have carried out a frank and intense process of political dialogue to seek a negotiated and peaceful exit to the crisis in which our country has been submerged in recent months.

As fruit of this dialogue in which has predominated the wisdom, tolerance, and patriotic spirit of all the participants, we have drafted a political accord that will permit the reestablishment of civic harmony and assure a proper climate for democratic governability in our country. This accord, we are sure, will define the road to peace, reconciliation, and democracy, urgent demands of Honduran society.

The agreement on this accord demonstrates yet again, that Honduran men and women are capable of successfully carrying out dialogue and thanks to that and by means of it, reach the high goals that society demands and the country requires.

In virtue of the forgoing, we have agreed on the following accords:


To achieve reconciliation and strengthen democracy, we will form a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation made up of representatives of the various political parties and social organizations, recognized for their capabilities, honesty, aptness, and willingness to dialogue, who will occupy the distinct secretariates and subsecretariates, as well as other dependencies of State, in conformity with article 246 and following of the constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

In light of the fact that before the 28 of June, the Executive Power had not submitted a General Budget of Income and Expenses for consideration to the National Congress, in conformity with that established in article 205, number 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 fiscal year 2009.


To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we reiterate our respect for the Constitution and the laws of our country, abstaining from making calls for the convening of a National Constituent Assembly, in direct or indirect manner and renouncing also promoting or aiding any popular poll with the goal of reforming the Constitution in order to permit presidential re-election, modify the form of government or contravene any of the irreformable articles of our Magna Carta.

In particular, we will not make public declarations nor exercise any type of influence inconsistent with articles 5; 373 and 373 [sic: 374?] of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, and we reject energetically every manifestation contrary to the spirit of said articles and of the special law that regulates the referendum and the plebiscite.


To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we reiterate that, in conformity with the articles 44 and 51 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, the vote is universal, obligatory, egalitarion, direct, free and secret, and it corresponds to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, with full autonomy and independence, to supervise and execute everything related to the electoral acts and processes.

At the same time, we make a call to the Honduran people to peacefully participate in the next general elections and to avoid all kinds of demonstrations that would oppose the elections or their results, or promote insurrection, antijuridical 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 ask urgently that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal that it authorize and accredit the presence of international missions from now until the declaration of the results of the general elections, as well as the transfer of powers that will take place, in conformity with Article 237 of the Constitution of the Republic, the 27 of January of 2010.


To reach reconciliation and fortify democracy, we affirm our will to comply in all its measures with article 272 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, according to 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, transparency, and guarding of the 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 the same way, we agree that the national police should be strictly subject to that prescribed in its special legislation.


To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, in the spirit of the themes of the proposed San Jose Accord, both negotiating commissions have decided, respectfully, that the National Congress, as an institutional expression of popular sovereignty, in the use of its powers, in consultation with the points that the Supreme Court of Justice should consider pertinent and in conformity with the law, should 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".


To achieve reconciliation and fortify democracy, we are disposed to the creation of a Commission of Verification of the promises assumed in this Accord, and of those that shall derive from it, coordinated by the Organization of American States (OAS). Said commission will be made up of two members of the international community and two members of the national community, these last will be sought one by each of the parties.

The Verification Commission will be charged with giving witness of the strict completion of all of the points of this Accord, and will receive for this the full cooperation of Honduran public institutions.
Incompletion of any of the commitments contained in this Accord, proven and declared by the Verification Commission, will produce the activation of measures that the Commisssion will establish against the transgressor or transgressors.

With the goal of clarifying the deeds that occurred before and after the 28 of June of 2009, there will also be created a Truth Commission that will identify the acts that led to the present situation, and provide to the Honduran people elements to avoid that those deeds will be repeated in the future.
This Commission of Dialogue recommends that the next Government, in the framework of a national consensus, constitutes the said Truth Commission in the first half of the year 2010.


On committing ourselves to faithfully comply with the promises assumed in the present Accord, we respectfully ask the immediate revocation of those measures and sanctions adopted at a bilateral or multilateral level, that in any manner would affect the reinsertion and full participation of the Republic of Honduras in the international community and its access to all forms of cooperation.

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


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

Taking into account that the present Accord is a product of the understanding and fraternity among Honduran men and women, we ask vehemently that the international community respect the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras, and fully observe the time-honored principle in the Charter of the United Nations of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.


Given the immediate entrance into effect of this accord from the date of its signing, and with the goal of clarifying the timetable for completion and follow-through of the commitments acquired to reach national reconciliation, we agree on the following calendar of completion:

*30 of October of 2009
1. Signing and entry into effect of the accord.
2. Formal delivery of the accords to Congress for the effects of point 5, of "Executive Power".

*2 of November of 2009
1. Appointment of the Verification Commission

*Beginning with the signing of the present Accord and no later than the 5 of November
1. Appointment and installation of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation

*27 of January of 2010
1. Celebrate the transfer of government

*First half of 2010
1. Formation of the Truth Commission


In the name of reconciliation and the patriotic spirit that has convened us at the table of dialogue, we commit to complete in good faith the present Accord and that which derives from it.

The world is witness to that demonstration of unity and peace, to which we commit our civic conscience, and patriotic devotation. Together, we shall know to demonstrate our valor and determination to fortify the State of Law and construct a tolerant, pluralistic, and democratic society.

We sign the present Accord in the city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the 30th of October of 2009.


We take advantage of the occasion to thank the accompaniment of the good offices of the international community, in particular the OAS, and its Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, the Missions of Chancellors of the Hemisphere; the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez; the ultimate government of the United States, its president Barack Obama; and its Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.


For internal effects, the Accord has full effectiveness from its signature.

For effects of protocol and ceremony, there will be carried out a public act of signing on the 2nd of November of 2009.

Tegucigalpa, Municipio del Distrito Central, 30 of October of 2009

(Spanish language source here. Another translation by cadejo4 here.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Devil In The Details

Thomas Shannon wasn't kidding when he said, "The implementation of this agreement will be difficult and will require the collaboration of the international community." But to bring us up to date, the full accord is signed and in effect, a calendar of events agreed to, and the process is underway. The details, however, have not been publically released.

The OAS will coordinate the formation of a verification commission over the next several days, and it will consist of two representatives of the OAS, and one delegate from each party to the agreement. A government of National Unity will be worked on next weeek. The troubling question, for which no schedule was set, is the work of Congress to decide whether or not Zelaya is restored to power.

The agreement was hand carried to Congress, but because it is in recess, it was received as "normal mail" by the sargeant at arms. Congress will have to be called back to a special session, and Jose Alfredo Saavedra, president of Congress, said he will not have his schedule dictated. Victor Rico, of the OAS, said "I am sure that the Congress have full commprehension of the urgency and importance of these determinations and I hope they will do them in the shortest time possible.

Saavedra said that once the agreement reaches Congress, he will need to call a meeting of the leadership of the political parties so that they can know the full contents of the agreement and decide how to proceed. The decision will be issued as a decree.

The Honduran Congress: Good or Bad Faith?

Greg Weeks at Two Weeks Notice has posted a translation of the new agreement, as reported in the pro-coup newspaper, La Prensa. As every commentary on this proposed agreement has noted, there is a risk (actually, more than one) for Zelaya. More on this below. At the same time, the question remains whether this agreement is an achievement for the people who have patiently demonstrated in Honduras all these months against the de facto regime.

As Adrienne Pine reminds us, restoral of Zelaya does not go to the basic core of what the Honduran resistance is actually interested in, which is significant constitutional reform that will lead to conditions that never allow such a thing to happen again. I think it is important to note that the reported accord does not block the people from continuing to call for convening of a constituyente, and I expect that the forces of popular support for constitutional reform will not stop their advocacy simply because of this accord. Indeed, it was precisely to allow this point in the accord to be signed by Zelaya without committing the Frente that Juan Barahona removed himself from the Zelaya commission earlier, a move that the Frente underlined did not signal a break with President Zelaya, who the Frente recognizes was operating under more constraints, as noted in the statement we translated.

Now, Bloomberg News has an article quoting a variety of prominent Hondurans making it clear just how far we actually have to go. The Bloomberg report shows that the news is mixed: the Micheletti crowd agreed to a Congressional vote still hoping that it will reject the return to the status quo before June 28:

Marcia Facusse de Villeda, the vice president of Congress and advisor to Micheletti, said Congress may still vote against restoring Zelaya to power.

“Zelaya won’t be restored -- I don’t think so,” Facusse de Villeda said in a phone interview from Tegucigalpa today.

Nor was Marcia Facusse alone in expressing doubt about the outcome of a vote in Congress:

Congress has passed resolutions pledging to support an agreement that comes from talks. Still, opposition lawmakers could filibuster Zelaya’s return until after the elections, Antonio Rivera, the second highest ranking lawmaker for the National Party, said in an interview.

Congress opened an investigation into whether Zelaya was mentally fit to govern before his ouster, voted to disapprove the leader’s violations of the constitution and replaced him with Micheletti after he was ousted.

“I really don’t understand why Zelaya wants to take this to Congress,” Rivera said.

The cynicism here, though, may be disappointed. There is a considerable incentive for the National Party to support the resolution, as their candidate, currently a member of Congress, is running way ahead of the fatally besmirched Elvin Santos. The core group of deputies from the more progressive parts of the other parties never voted for removal in the first place. And unless they perform some sort of rapid reorganization of the Executive Branch, remember that a number of hard-line supporters of Micheletti and the coup left Congress to take up positions in the de facto regime; those hard-line votes are thus out of the picture, replaced by their alternates.

Of course, what the remaining hard line coup supporters in Congress-- for example, Marcia Facusse-- think has been accomplished is all they care about:

“But just by signing this agreement, we already have the recognition of the international community for the elections.”

So let's be clear: a rejection of restoration of President Zelaya may technically be acceptable under the agreement, and will clearly not bother the US (whose representatives say openly in private conversations that the elections will "solve" their problem); but it would be seen by many in Honduras as making a mockery of a resolution.

And the restoral of Zelaya is still critical for the resistance to support elections. Juan Barahona, quoted in the same Bloomberg article, clearly is conditioning support for the agreement not only on restoral of Zelaya, but on it taking place before the November 29 elections:

“On which day will the president be back in the presidential palace?” he asked. “The chronology must still be defined.”

While the National Party may think this agreement paves a smooth path for their return to government, there remains a significant level of potential support for the independent candidacy of Carlos Reyes; the resistance front has learned how to organize and is more committed today to constitutional reform than before; and bad faith by the Congress will only confirm the need for political change.

So as Adrienne Pine reminds us, it is not over. Good outcome for President Zelaya or bad, it is not over.

Our translation of the accord as described (not to be taken as the text of the accord itself) in La Prensa:
The accord contains the following points:

1-- The creation of a government of unity and national reconciliation

2-- Rejection of amnesty for political crimes, and delay of criminal prosecutions.

3--Renouncing the convening of a National Constituent Assembly or the reform of the Constitution in its irreformable constitutional articles.

4-- Recognition and support for the general elections and the succession of Government.

5-- The transfer of authority over the Armed Forces to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal

6-- The creation of a commission of verification to ensure compliance with the points of the accord.

7-- The formation of a commission of truth to investigate the events before, during, and after the 28th of June of 2009.

8-- Request of the international community the normalization of international relations with our country.

9-- Support a proposal that permits a vote in the National Congress with a previous opinion by the Supreme Court of Justice to return all the Executive Power back to before the 28th of June.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Report both sides will sign tomorrow

Press reports most recently including AP say both sides have agreed to sign an accord establishing a power- sharing government. The restitution of President Zelaya will be voted on by Congress, news articles say, after Congress receives a report by the Supreme Court.

While AP says the Supreme Court already rejected restoral, that is not actually true. Their response to the original San Jose Accord said Zelaya faced legal proceedings. As there is no amnesty that would still be true. But due process and the right to defense and trial would be afforded and until a decision is reached, the presumption of innocence would apply.

The Supreme Court's original statement on June 29 simply accepted Congress' actions. They have admitted legal cases challenging the June 28 removal, but have not ruled. Twice the Court asked Congress for information for such cases. It is still awaiting a reply. Accepting the cases is a major step; it means there was sufficient grounds to consider the constitutional issues: the June 28 events were not an open and shut case. Congress stonewalled. Now the roles are reversed.

Return to Dialogue This Morning

Four minutes ago, a mexican source reported that Rodil Rivera, Zelaya's chief negotiator, told HRN radio in Honduras that the dialogue would resume this morning, and his delegation would be there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What is an anti-election protest?

If you guessed terrorism, then you are able to anticipate the de facto regime's security forces better than I can.

An article in today's La Tribuna details the plans the National Police and Armed Forces have to deal with possibility anti-electoral protests, based on a joint press conference. (Wonderful to have such accessible security forces...)

Their immediate threat was to arrest members of the Frente de Resistencia, for what they said were threats to take over buildings, destroy political advertising, and disturb the public peace with noise. These crimes, they said, would be met with arrests.

As ever with the de facto regime, they provided citations of what they claim as the legal grounds for their threats. Now, it seems the Frente is a bunch of potential terrorists:
They based the preceding on Article 336, number 6 of the Penal Code, which says: they commit the crime of terrorism, who with political ends attempt against the security of the State executing any of the following deeds: Whoever organizes bands, teams, or armed groups that would invade or assault populated places, hospitals and churches, among other private and public places, will be sanctioned with imprisonment of 15 to 20 years....
That does seem the first place to go for dealing with peaceful protests, doesn't it?

But wait, there's more: the fiendish crime of noise, they noted, is punishable under
Article 73 of the Plan of Arbitrations of the Municipal Mayoralty of Tegucigalpa, concerning sound contamination: Automotive vehicles that cause excessive noise with horns and cars with loudspeakers that cause sound contamination will have imposed a sanction of 500 to 5,000 lempiras.
The article ends on a more disturbing and less clownish note; after asserting that people do have the right to demonstrate, as long as the apply to do so first, they aired a paranoid fear that "the left" was threatening to kill members of the military and police.

Oh, and the picture included here? The caption reads,
Las personas que anden haciendo ruido y pidiendo que no se ejerza el sufragio, será acusada de terrorismo

(The people who walk around making noise and asking that suffrage not be exercised, will be accused of terrorism.)
Somewhat more extreme than the actual police threats, which would not seem to relate at all to bands demonstrating and playing drums. But then, it would be too much to expect one of the pro-coup papers to actually base their captions on what their own report says, when making things up is so much more dramatic.

"Preliminarily" Unblocked Agreement pending "Formalities": Micheletti commission

Just 4 minutes ago, Telesur reported the following:

The commission of the de facto president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, announced this Wednesday that the terms for unblocking the only point that impedes the accord about the political crisis in the country is "preliminarily" agreed and is only pending "formalities".

If true, this is very good news. So many almost-agreements makes us wonder about the details and how Micheletti might reject the agreement this time...

Update 9:06 PM Tegucigalpa time, Victor Meza, a member of the Zelaya negotiating team, denined to EFE that there had been a preliminary agreement to unblock the talks. His comments were reported in Mexico's El Universal newspaper.

EFE reports that Vilma Morales of the Micheletti negotiating team said they had an agreement to let Congress decide the issue of restitution. "It is defined that we have to go to Congress, but we also have to hear the opinions, the opinion of the Supreme Court. We have to renew the dialogue...we are prepared to sign the agreement," Morales continued in a press statement after talking with Thomas Shannon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

US Congress Requests Correction of Flawed Law Library Report

By now, it is old news to readers of this blog that the report, originally erroneously credited to the Congressional Research Service by the congressman who released it, actually produced by a researcher at the Law Library of the Library of Congress, asserting that the coup d'etat of June 28 was within Honduran law, has been refuted. Despite attempts by US scholars to request correction of this report, the Library of Congress has either refused to reply or ignored the substance of requests.

Well, now they have someone they need to answer to. Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Howard Berman, Chair of the corresponding committee in the House of Representatives, have written to Director James Billington of the Library of Congress requesting a correction. They make the same points first stated here. They also describe a pattern of interaction with the Law Library that sounds very familiar, in which despite the evidence, the library refuses to even acknowledge that its report is dangerously flawed.

In my teaching practice, I allow students a second chance to revise papers handed in, when the first draft shows good intentions and substantial evidence of work. While I am not sure I think this is an accurate assessment of the work of the Law Library, I am willing to extend the same courtesy to their essay, which I graded D-minus originally.

Maybe now they will take the chance offered and redeem themselves.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Unclear On The Concept

It was the Day of the Armed Forces earlier this week. The day celebrates events of October 21, 1956 when the Armed Forces of Honduras overthrew President Julio Lozano Diaz in a military coup. There was a very long article celebrating their role in this on Armed Forces website, but they have since removed it, substituting a shorter piece about the 1956 coup. The relevance? The military alleged that Lozano Diaz was trying to fraudulently prolong his time in office. This coup ushered in a cyle of coups, some bloody, and governments, mostly military, that continued until 1982 when the current constitution was written in a consitutional assembly, ironically with Roberto Micheletti a minor participant. It ended with the coup on June 28.

The Armed Forces of Honduras didn't celebrate on October 21 this year with the usual public parades; rather they kept to their bases, said mass, and reviewed the troops. Today, however, they choose to go more public. General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez ordered a general deployment of the troops and that they show their might in parades within their bases, for which the public will be charged a $20 lempira entrance fee. The money will allegedly go to charity. This, they assert, will bring them closer to the people.

I wanted to write about that longer piece up on the Armed Forces website, the one that outlined their constitutional role and then, without segue went in to a celbration of their role in the 1956 coup. I wanted to write about the irony, the sadness that this represented, but they apparently rethought what they were doing and removed it, substituting a series of smaller, less celbratory articles on the same topics. Instead I'll leave you with this.

When asked how it felt to celebrate their day four months after removing Zelaya from power, Ramiro Archaga, spokesperson for the military said:

"We feel good, secure in what we are doing and what we have done. We need to be content and proud to be living in a situation like this, a situation in which we have never lived before.... The institution has given a real demonstration of its role in defending the Constitution of the Republic. We are very proud to be members of the Armed Forces. I tell my companions...that there will never be another moment like this. This is a special moment for the institution....We don't regret anything."


There are 2,896 candidates up for election in November in Honduras, at all levels of government from President and Congress to mayors, and aldermen. While two of the presidential candidates, Cesar Ham (UD party) and Carlos H. Reyes (Independent), have said they will not run without a return to democratic order in Honduras, few at other levels of government have made public statements about the elections.

Earlier this week, the leadership of the UD party indicated they would not participate in the november elections without the restitution of Zelaya. The majority of the leadership of the Party of Innovation and Social Democratic Unity (PINU-SD) issued a statement rebuking their candidate for President, Bernard Martinez, for supporting the coup, and indicating that it would not participate in the November elections unless there was a restitution of democratic order in Honduras. This faction of the PINU-SD party indicated that 100 of its candidates for office would not participate in the November elections without a return of the democratic order.

However, the report in Tiempo this morning that a faction of the liberal party held a convention yesterday, and that 300 of its candidates will not participate in the election if Zelaya is not returned to power comes as something of a surprise. Six of them are candidates for the Congress (El Heraldo says 26). All of these candidates stood for election in the internal party elections last November and won. They come from a variety of factions within the liberal party, including those of Roberto Micheletti, Elvin Santos, Eduardo Maldonado, and José Nolasco.

This scares the de facto government. Why else would they continue to issue threats to throw those who boycott the elections in jail? Denis Gomez, one of the alternates for the Magistrates of the Supreme Election Court (TSE), said yesterday "we will have to, according to articles 209 and 210 of the Law of Political Organizations, process in court those who try to boycott [the elections]". This crime is punishable by imprisonment for four to six years. He points out that the political parties will be able to subsitute for any candidate that withdraws, but laments the cost to the government.

A simple boycott, not participating in the election, is not punishable under articles 209 or 210 of the "Ley Electoral y de las Organizaciones Politicas". The threats are either empty, or involve a more active definition of "boycott" than that advocated by those boycotting. Article 209 is the relevant article.

209. Coercion and Electoral Threat
The following are sancioned by imprisonment of four to six years:
1. Anyone, not legally authorized, who impedes another, with or without the use of violence, from exercising their political rights.
2. Anyone who does not permit or otherwise blocks the election organization from the public sites necessary for it to function.
3. Anyone who alters or blocks legitimate campaign materials.
4, Anyone who impedes election officials in the fullfillment of their job and
5, Anyone who impedes the opening of voting, or causes it to be interrupted, or to have to move.

Article 210 is about falsification of election documents and so appears to be an empty threat like so many of those of the de facto government.

So what kind of boycott is Denis Gómez anticipating? He might be thinking about pickets outside the polling place, of school teachers who refuse to end the school year early and turn over their classrooms for voting or the removal and alteration of the campaign signs rampant in the country as a violations of Article 209. The one thing he can't be thinking about is people boycotting by staying home and not participating, because that is not a punishable crime in Honduras.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bad Economy Getting Worse

There's a lot of financial news today. First comes the news that the de facto government has sold $1,000 million lempiras in bonds, payable in 709 days at 8.1% interest, primarily to Honduran banks (private capital), and pension funds. Congress, has in recent months, authorized it to sell up to $10,000 million lempiras in bonds. By its own estimates, the de facto government, by staging a coup, caused a loss of about $6,600 million lempiras in in income from production, in addition to almost all international funding. As it stands, the de facto government has a bond sale every Tuesday.

At the same time, the bonds that were used to finance the 2006 and 2008 budget, totaling $2,000 million lempiras came due without the de facto government having any means to pay them. They got Congress to pull their chesnuts out of the fire and extend the term of those bonds for another 2-3 years, or about the same time as this year's bonds come due. This will be during the administration of the next president, severely constraining him financially.

Several newspapers are reporting about an attempt to reprice gasoline in the country. When Manuel Zelaya assumed the Presidency, one of his accomplishments was to redo the way the retail price of gasoline was determined. This brought down the price of gasoline around 6 lempiras per gallon (around $0.32) in part by changing the source and consequently reducing the transport costs. US supplier monopolies were broken up (Chevron) in favor of Petrocaribe. Ever since the coup, the Micheletti regime has said that its suppliers (surprise, its Chevron again) are prepared to guarantee the necessary supply to the de facto government. Now we learn the price; return to the old pricing method which increases profits for the gas station owners.

Finally, Gabriela Nuñez, the de facto government's Finance Minister, the one who has lied multiple times about the FMI drawing rights and having been invited by Gordon Brown to London, says the government has money to actually pay its employees for October. It seems employees aren't being paid on schedule. Every month the de facto government has been late with payments. "This government has guaranteed the pay of all public employees until the last day that it corresponds to president Roberto Micheletti to direct the destiny of this country," she asserted. However, it seems there's a cash flow problem (see debt sales above) such that they can only pay some workers in any given week. They've instituted a committee to see what the income is for any given week, and who they can pay that week. So it might be a while before everyone receives their October paycheck. She places the October obligation at around $1,500 million lempiras.

But don't worry government employees, even if your pay is late, Gabriela, who never lies, says your pay is assured, and your pension fund has invested in bonds issued by this illegitimate government to pay you now, bonds the next legitimate government may choose to ignore. An illegitimate government after all, cannot make contracts binding on the next government. Buyers of the bonds assume all the associated risk.

How to Make Constitutional Reform More Popular

At Quotha on Friday, Adrienne Pine posted some of the results of a new poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner that, third in a row, shows that the Honduran people do not support the coup and have a better opinion of Zelaya than of Micheletti.

Boz has now presented more of the data from this poll (which you can download here) and offered commentary on it. One of his conclusions:
The crisis has also increased support for a constitutional reform. If the conflict among the political factions in Honduras has shown the public anything, it's that their constitution has some flaws.
Let's follow through on this theme.

By a margin of 81% to 15%, the poll respondents said Honduras is heading in the wrong direction. They disapprove of the removal of the President from office on June 28 by a margin of 60% to 38%. Only 14% say the best way to deal with the dispute in June was to remove President Zelaya; 70% agree that the legal processes should have been pursued. Considering options to solve the current crisis, by a margin of 82% to 17%, they do not approve of sending President Zelaya into exile outside the country.

Respondents were more than twice as likely to feel Zelaya did a good job as President: 67% of respondents rated the job performance of President Zelaya as excellent or good, as opposed to 31% rating his job performance bad or poor.

Opinion on Micheletti's job performance, in contrast, is considerably more polarized: 47% rank him excellent or good; 50% bad or poor. Despite this, by a margin of 72% to 27%, respondents do not approve of Micheletti staying on as President as a proposed solution to the current crisis. That means that half of those who approve of his job performance think he has to step aside to solve the current crisis.

If we are to be concerned about polarization of the country, we could say that Micheletti clearly has increased that problem, producing a deadlock in opinion today where President Zelaya's government had a less than one-third disapproval.

Asked about possible solutions to the current crisis, most responses today echo the increased polarization caused by the coup and its aftermath; proceeding with the legal case against President Zelaya is the only option to have a slight majority: 51% to 47% disapproving. Alternative proposals for President Zelaya to resume his office "with full powers", or "with limited powers", poll at 46/52 and 49/50 approval/disapproval. Statistically, while we do not have a stated margin of error, I would treat all of these as virtually the same: the country is deadlocked about what to do about President Zelaya.

And here is the amazing stuff:

Asking about options to resolve the current crisis, one option offered was
22 Hold an assembly to reform the Constitution
This received the highest majority of all the options offered: an 11 point majority in favor of this, 54% to 43%. Even when you look at the levels of strong approval and strong disapproval of this option (factoring out the weak support or resistance to this solution) this option holds up: 43% of respondents strongly approved of it; while only 33% strongly disapproved of it.

Remember, this is as a solution to the current crisis. Now. Not some time in the future.

Nor is this support for constitutional reform made with major reservations about retaining the current model of a one-term president:
Q. 14 Do you think the Honduran Constitution should be amended to allow for the re-election of presidents?
The responses:

Yes: 55%
No: 43%
Don't Know or Refused to Answer: 2%

Again, remember that presidential re-election was not what the June 28 poll asked about; it was what the anti-Zelaya press tried to make the issue. Looks like that backfired as well: even with a drum beat of opposition to presidential re-election, as unconstitutional, unpatriotic, and downright chavista, the people think maybe it is worth a second look.

And oh, by the way, Chavez? Don't like him (rating him 17 on the 100 point scale, 83% cool to 10% warm). Don't even like Venezuela much (16/100, 78% cool to 9% warm.) So no need to claim this group of respondents is somehow biased pro-Chavez. Their response has to do with Honduran politics, where Congress is seen with more jaundiced eyes than the Presidency. Even in the 2005 election, which reached a historic low in voter turnout, the percentage of the eligible voters registering their choice for President (55%) was higher than that completing a valid Congressional ballot (46%), based on data on voter turnout from IDEA.

With this as a background, are suggestions of a people's referendum on the need for a constituyente really so laughable?

Yes, I know the next steps: try to delegitimate the polling. This is an avowedly progressive polling organization. They refer to President Zelaya as "Mel". Based on self-reporting, more of these respondents voted in the last election than did so in reality (60% say they voted in that presidential election, compared to the expected 55%.) But the demographic information looks good, the distribution across the country is fine.

And eventually, doesn't the continued production of the same trends-- and no polling being disclosed with contrary results (and who among us is so naive as to think the Micheletti regime's lobbyists haven't been out there trying to massage some data into supporting their claims?)-- require the admission that the coup d'etat has failed in the long term because it has produced a majority calling for constitutional reform, the very thing it was trying to block?

Now, how do you make that happen with a government that is constructed to keep congress members in office indefinitely and where established political parties proceed in the kind of spoils system that was typical of Tammany Hall?

Oh, and one final piece from that poll: the US does not fare well in public opinion in Honduras, and these results I suspect mirror opinion in many Latin American countries. Asked to rank their feelings about various people and countries on a 100 point scale, the US received a mean score of 39 out of 100; but more significant, 51% of the respondents were "cool" towards the US, far more than the 24% who were ranked as "warm" toward the country. Barack Obama fared slightly better, receiving a mean score of 49 out of 100; but the warm/cool split was evenly balanced, 39% to 38%. It seems unlikely that many of these respondents would have voted for the Nobel Peace Prize for the US President.

Dithering and giving the impression of supporting the de facto regime has its costs.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Going Around in Circles

The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti Bain, yet again today, proposed the already rejected idea that if Zelaya steps down, Micheletti will step down, and some third party could take over. Its been suggested, and rejected, multiple times in the negotiations, and even in the months leading up to the negotiations. Vilma Morales, negotiator for Micheletti, made this suggestion during a press conference this morning after Zelaya declared the dialogue closed.

Zelaya, in a phone call to Radio Globo, compared it to staging yet another coup.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Micheletti wants: Recognition before Restitution

As published in La Tribuna, the latest "proposal" from the de facto regime, has been distributed at a press conference.

Apparently, it irritates the de facto regime that no one will agree they are a constitutional government; remember, what is offered here is intended for signature by Zelaya's representatives, who thus would be included in the "we" agreeing that the present claimed Executive branch is legitimate:

New Proposal of the Commission of the President, Roberto Micheletti

We recognize the legitimacy of the constituted powers, Executive, Legislative, Judicial, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for having been conformed according to Articles 202, 205 points 9 and 11 of the Constitution of the Republic.

Recognizing that the different parties intervening in this dialogue have proposed different instances of public power, on the one hand, the Supreme Court, on the other, the National Congress, to decide about the pretension of the citizen, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, we propose that the parties exercise their constitutional rights to petition before whoever is appropriate for support of the processual guarantees that the State of law would establish.

The preceding implies a commitment by the parties to put an end to the situation in which the country lives, as a consequence of this accord the parties would remain obligated and commited to support the electoral process already underway to the effect that the same will be realized in an atmosphere of order, tranquility, and transparency, legitimacy and full participation by the Honduran electorate, as has been agreed in the point relative to general elections and the transfer of government in the present accord.

Translation: we will never admit that you are the constitutional President. We will never agree which body of government has authority to rescind the actions we took on June 28. We insist that you go along with our assertion that we are having a free election so that it will be recognized internationally. That's why we forced you to sign that point of the accord first. We are the legitimate President because we interpret the constitution as we see fit. Good luck with getting anyone to support your claim that your rights were violated, but feel free to bring it to anyone you want.

The claimed Constitutional basis for this latest "proposal" cites Articles 202 and 205. These citations illustrate the degree to which simply shouting "Constitution" has become an empty symbolic gesture for the de facto regime.

Article 202 simply defines the makeup of Congress.

Article 205 sets out the duties and powers of Congress. Number 9 cites the role of Congress in naming the commission that nominates Supreme Court Justices.

Article 205, number 11 simply notes that that Congress names the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Update 3:10 PM PDT: Rodil Rivera, a negotiator for Manuel Zelaya, says "leaving out a few paragraphs", the proposal is within the framework of the San Jose Accord and is therefore negotiable. "We have studied it, we've analyzed it and now we'll go consult with President Zelaya" he added.

Negotiations to resume at the Hotel Clarion at 5 pm Tegucigalpa time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How Can it be Legal to Revoke the Right Of Assembly?

The Radio America website has the only news story I've found in Honduras about the new "law" explained by police spokesperson Danilo Orellana to the gathered press at the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa today.

To recap, the law requires anyone who wants to organize a public rally, march, or meeting, to notify the police 24 hours in advance, and such notification must indicate the reason for the gathering, the identity of those organizing the event, the start and end time for the event, and in the case of a march, the route to be taken. Gatherings on public roadways must not block traffic.

The Radio America article goes on to explain that the measure is based on Article 62 of the constitution, articles 22 and 24 of the "Ley Organica de la Policia" and articles 1, 52, and 54 of the "Ley de Policia y Convivencia Ciudadana".

Hmm, lets examine the law they cite to justify this new decree.

Article 62 of the constitution reads, in its entirety:
The rights of every person are limited by the rights of others, for the security of all, and the exigencies of public well being.
While, in a general sense this might apply, one cannot ignore Article 79 which says a citizen has the right of free association without having to get prior or special permission. This article does allow for the establishment of special permission for open air meetings of a political character, but only to guarantee the public order.

According to Radio America, the law also cites as justification the "Ley Organica de la Policia Nacional" (decreto 67-2008), articles 22 and 24. Article 22 is about the professional and apolitical nature of the National Police and does not seem to have any relevance here. Article 24 is a very long listing of the duties of the police, which includes things like, obeying and causing others to obey the constitution, be professional and well behaved, and so forth. There's nothing here that could serve as a justification for the law. Its not quite clear why they cite this as justification for it.

Finally, the Radio America article indicates the regulation cites the "Ley de Policia y de Convivencia Cuidadana" but in truth, I couldn't find a law with that name. What I found was the "Ley de Policia de Convivencia Social" (decreto 226-2001), but the content seems to indicate this is the Law at issue here.

Articles 1, 52, and 54 are cited as support for the new decree. Article 1 has to do with the function of the police. Article 52 says if an altercation puts the public security in danger, or blocks a road, the police can break it up. Article 54 has to do with temporary restrictions on free circulation because of delinquency or organized crime.

So, they seem to be basing this on the fact that protests tend to block streets, limiting the rights of others to drive around the city. This appears to be the case., a Spanish news website, reported that the national police prevented the march today by the Frente, but did not stop a vehicle caravan parade by the same group. The dictator Mousolini wanted to keep the trains running on time; I guess this one wants to drive.

The regulation appears to be illegal because it is so broadly written, as explained to the press, and violates the provisions of article 79 of the constitution, which only gives police the right to limit political gatherings. As it stands, this regulation restricts gatherings like outdoor concerts, church processions, even model railroad clubs, in violation of article 79 of the constitution.

It just got that much harder to hold an election. All political gatherings need to be pre-approved. The UN Human Rights Commission currently taking testimony in the country should be very interested in this new law.

Respect My Authority!

Like the sad character of Eric Cartman from South Park, the de facto government has sent a demanding letter to the UN demanding that that organization "immediately cease its discriminatory activity".

Carlos Lopez Contreras, wrote to Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon on October 8. He write that "only the representatives confirmed by the government" represent Honduras. He objected to the UN's resolution of the 30th of June which qualified the events as a coup d'etat insisting it was a "constitutional succession". He wrote "if you do not enter into immediate contact with the legally established government, harm could come to the work of the resolution of the UN; I recommend that you inform yourself about the happenings in the country."

Right of Free Assembly Revoked.

The de facto government's Minister of Security has issued a "law" that requires all public activities, be they rallies, marches, or public meetings must notify the national police 24 hours in advance, and must at that time tell the police who is promoting the event, the starting and ending time, and the route any march might take. There's not a word of this law published in a Honduran newspaper so far.

This is a direct violation of article 79 of the contitution the de facto government professes to love so much. Article 79 states:

Every person has the right to assemble with others, peacefully and without arms, in public rallys or transitory groups, in relation with their common interests of whatever kind, without any previous advisement or special permission.

Open air meetings of a political nature can be subject to a regimen of special permission only with the goal of guaranteeing public order.

The new "law" failes the test above because it governs all public meetings, regardless of purpose. Open air religious services are restricted. Religious processions such as happen for a saint's celebration, or guancasco are restricted. Celebrations of a win of the Seleccion Nacional ina World Cup match are restricted under the law.

One by one the de facto government is putting in place the same restrictions that it "lifted" on Monday when it published the rescension of the unconstitutional executive decree PCM-M-016-2009. First it gave the military control of policing what the media can broadcast and instructed CONATEL to act on what the military reports and shut down such media. Now they restrict the right of free assembly.

These are not the conditions for holding transparent elections.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Insulza Points A Finger

El Universal, a Venezuelan newspaper, citing a EFE wire story, reports this evening that José Miguel Insulza, OAS President, lamented that the de facto government of Honduras introduced a proposal that was not in conformance with the San Jose Accord and in this manner, "made impossible a good result" in the dialogue to resolve the crisis in Honduras.

"One of the parties presented a proposal that included a point not included in the San Jose Accord, which seeks to force the legitimacy of what happened on June 28. This act make a good outcome in the dialog impossible."

Insulza noted that dialogue "is the only way to reach peace and harmony among Hondurans."

Insulza will address the permanent council of the OAS tomorrow morning at 10:30 AM EDT concerning the situation in Honduras.

State Department to Recognize Election? Or Not?

Jim DeMint told The Cable, a publication of Foreign Policy Magazine, that he saw movement in the State Department's position on Honduras and expects them to recognize the November elections. He said that he and Thomas Shannon had nearly reached an agreement for him to withdraw his hold on two State Department appointments.

"We got a lot of agreement in the area of coming to terms with recognizing the upcoming elections there," DeMint said of his meeting with Shannon."That's what I'm waiting for from our government, signals that we're going to recognize those elections and move forward."

But then DeMint shoots down his own claims by saying, "He [Shannon] realized that it is essential that these elections go forward and are recognized," DeMint said of Shannon. "But he did not say they are ready to recognize them."

Golpista Cardinal

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga gave an interview to the Catholic News Service published today. In it he said this might be the last opportunity to make fundamental changes and avoid a course toward Venezuelan-style politics.

"I think this can be a good opportunity for politicians to reflect," the cardinal said. "I have been telling them, maybe this will be your last opportunity. Because there are fundamental changes necessary in our country."

"Nobody is listening to the reality. People are not looking for the truth, but for their versions of it."

"The reality in Honduras is, there is a constitution here. Everything was done according to our laws, our constitution. But the rest of the world wants to think of things as they want it done. And this is the problem."

Of Venezuela, he said, "But after some very corrupt governments, the political parties disappeared -- like an implosion, and so, the messiah (Chavez) came out. I think this will happen (in Honduras) if it hasn't started already. So maybe this will be our last opportunity to think like a nation, to start with a national plan."

More Visa Revocations

Six de facto government functionaries and business supporters had their US visa privileges revoked today, reports La Tribuna. Radio Globo reported that the US Embassy would take this action last evening. Only one person has been identified so far, Rene Zepeda, Micheletti's press secretary. Sources close to the US Embassy in Honduras suggested that the revocations could be extended to 200 functionaries and business people linked to the regime.

Previous visa revocations brought strong, vocal reactions from the de facto government, especially those whose visas were revoked.

Visit to Embassy

Both El Heraldo and La Tribuna report that Raul Valledares, an advisor to Zelaya, and Arturo Corrales, one of Michiletti's negotiators, arrived at and entered the Brazilian Embassy without speaking to the press.

Update 4;35 PM PDT: Corrales gave statements to the press on leaving. He said he and Zelaya exchanged points of view on how to resolove the situation. He said the meeting, which lasted for a little more than an hour, was at the invitation of Zelaya.

"We exchanged information about what had happened during the dialogue; he asked me questions, he took positions, I took positions, in the honduran fashion, very friendly, very open, forward looking."

Victor Meza, head of the Zelaya negotiating team said he knew nothing about the meeting but he considered it valid. "The dialog is stagnant; but can be unstuck by an intelligent proposal." Meza said he was in favor of anything that was constructive, but that he couldn't accept jokes like the proposal on Friday. "That we should accept that there was no coup! My God! we're not so foolish as to accept that."

Golpistas Hunker Down

Roberto Micheletti ordered his de facto government to cut costs for the remainder of the year by 60 percent. Exceptions include the military, and a few special education and health programs. The de facto government also decided to sell bonds on 400 million lempiras in construction projects. In a press conference, Rafael Pineda Ponce noted that more than 20 million lempiras are being set aside to pay the miltary for their current deployment and to support their role in the upcoming elections, including food, lodging, and transportation for the reservists who will be guarding the election boxes.

Where Things Stand

At the moment it seems we're involved in theater of the absurd. We have a proposal from the Micheletti camp to wait for reports from the Congress and Supreme Court before taking up the question of restitution, and we have the response from the Zelaya side that that is unacceptable, and that without concrete proposals, negotiations are dead, though they remain open to concrete proposals.

Rumors abound of parties not directly involved in the negotiations showing up at the hotel and being led past security. The rumored guests include Martha Lorena Alvarado (vice chancellor of the de facto administration), Don Miguel Facussé, a major businessman from CEAL, Fernando Sanchez, ex-counsel of the US in Honduras, and assorted mid-level military officers.

The OAS observer said this morning that he will never lose faith in the talks. Vilma Morales of the de facto government's negotiating team says they are sitting in the hotel waiting for the Zelaya negotiators, but no new proposals are on the table.

Update: 11:43 PDT - David Romero of Radio Globo reports that there will be no talks today without a proposal from the Micheletti side. Victor Meza, negotiator for Zelaya says the dialogue is broken ("roto"). El Heraldo, in contrast, reports the sides will meet at 3 pm today.

Statement by the Zelaya Administration

From La Tribuna today, the Zelaya administration's response to the Micheletti proposal offered late yesterday, which called for waiting until reports from Congress and the Supreme Court about events leading up to June 28 could be received:

Commission of Zelaya declares that the "dialogue" is deadlocked

Tegucigalpa-- The decision to restore the ex-president Manuel Zelaya Rosales based on the reports of Congress and the Judicial Power that the government committee proposed was rejected last night by the representatives of the removed leader, who declared the "Guaymuras Dialogue" that seeks a solution to the crisis of the country "deadlocked and obstructed".

After condemning the delaying tactics and declaring that the elections of November 29 are a fraud, the coordinator of the committee, Victor Meza, read an official communique that is reproduced here in full:



The dialogue, in which we have been parties in representation of the Constitutional President Manuel Zelaya Rosales, began the 7th of October under the auspices and with the accompaniment of the Organization of American States (OAS).

In the first meeting the agenda was adopted by consensus, whose first stated point was the signing of the San José Accord, which clearly indicates that the dialogue could only be realized in conformity with the spirit and essence of the mentioned accord.

By virtue of the state of obstruction and relative stalemate in which the dialogue is presently found, provoked despite us, we consider it necessary to make the following declaration:

FIRST: We reiterate that the dialogue is an adequate instrument to reach an exit from the political crisis that crosses our country, within the framework of compliance with the resolutions of the OAS, UN, and the San José Accord; but it is indispensable that the same be accompanied by the necessary and firm political will. The negotiating commissions have shown a good disposition to advance and sign seven of the eight key points of the final Accord. Despite which, the past Friday the 16th, the viceminister de facto, Martha Lorena Alvarado, publicly announced that our Commission had broken off dialogue, introducing in this way a lie and confusion in the process of negotiation.

Señor Roberto Micheletti has not demonstrated the political will and continues determined to use the dialogue as a simple mechanism of political distraction and calculated delay to gain time and prolong his illegal and arbitrary stay in the exercise of governance.

SECOND: While our delegation gives undeniable proof of its political will to arrive at an accord and to find an exit to the crisis, Señor Roberto Micheletti puts into practice delaying manoeuvres, purely formal approaches, inadmissable, and in some cases, insulting and provocative, proposals.

THIRD: For all the preceding, we reiterate that the dialogue, although we do not declare it broken nor do we intend to break it, has entered a phase of evident obstruction.

The permanent council of the OAS that will meet in Washington on Wednesday the 21st of the present month, should consider and make a declaration about the actual state of obstruction in which the process of dialogue finds itself.

The Constitutional President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales has made all the concessions possible to assure the success of the dialogue and a political exit from the crisis. Thanks to him, we have been able to come to consensus on and sign 95% of the content of the San José Accord; the remaining percentage depends exclusively on the political will of Señor Micheletti. It is he who must assume the political responsibility and the historical blame for having impeded the successful culmination of this generous effort at dialogue, that has always counted on, and will continue to count on the determined backing of the Constitutional President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales and the delegation that represents him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Radio Globo Transmitting!

Radio Globo returned to the airwaves in Honduras today with the publication of the rescension of decree PCM-M-016-2009! Its not yet clear whether broadcasts have resumed across the country, or only in Tegucigalpa.

PCM-M-016-2009 Rescension Publlished

Today's La Gaceta finally published the rescension of the decree PCM-M-016-2009 that restricted constitutional freedoms. Perhaps not coincidentally, the UN Human Rights commission began a visit that will last until November 7th

PERMANENTLY REPOSTED: Inaccurate arguments about constitutional and legal issues persist

[NOTE: comments on this post originally made in October asked us to try to find a way to keep it at the top of the blog. We found a somewhat odd way to achieve that goal that deferred it to December. We now have solved the puzzle the way it should have been originally-- RAJ]

The same bad arguments continue to be offered by readers of this blog, so we decided it is worth reviewing what is and is not true about the constitutionality of the removal from office of President Zelaya June 28. We have tried to link back to earlier blog posts, many of them reporting the opinions of Honduran law professors, Edmundo Orellana, Efrain Moncada, Ramon Enrique Barrios, and their Spanish counterpart, Francisco Palacios Romeo.

As its beginning point, this post specifically responds to a comment left by someone called "Admin" on a previous post, "Failure and a Public Proposal". Admin repeats every one of the major pro-coup arguments, all of which have been disproven by legal analyses now so widely available that their persistence in Honduras is mainly a reminder of how successful the propaganda has been in Honduras.

Admin wrote:
The problem IS judicial not political. [The} Supreme Court of Justice has fired Zelaya due to he broke the constitution rules. This is the problem.
Wrong. The Supreme Court never ruled on any of the charges filed by the Public Prosecutor on June 26. There is a persistent misunderstanding of the long documents the Supreme Court posted, which holds that they include a statement removing him from office. They don't; what they do say is that, since the Congress has removed him from office, he is now a common citizen, so the charges filed against him would no longer be heard by the Supreme Court (which only was hearing the case because it has jurisdiction over high government officials).

Admin then rehearses what he/she understands are the basic constitutional issues:
1- Try to change the constitution to implement the reelection is PROHIBIT[ed] - (see article 374).
Yes. Article 374 prohibits changes to, or a sitting government official even suggesting changes to, presidential terms. But President Zelaya never made any such suggestion. What happens is that people who are supporting the coup claim either that the only reason to propose a constitutional assembly was for that purpose (which ignores the issues the Zelaya government actually proposed needed to be addressed) or that proposing a constitutional assembly would automatically put Article 374 under discussion. But in either case, the claim is that a possible outcome, denied by President Zelaya, was the same as actually committing a violation. The Honduran Constitution guarantees freedom of thought, and guarantees that you will be prosecuted only for crimes you commit.

Admin continues
2 - To do "poll opinion" about reelection is PROHIBIT[ed]. (see article 5 + article 374 - you must read both articles together in order to understand)
Yes, you need to read each article of the Constitution, and not pick and choose-- which means you cannot ignore the many violations of due process, and such violations as expatriating the President, which is against the constitution. But reading Articles 5 and 374 doesn't get us anywhere here. The encuesta was not about re-election. It asked only whether people were for or against having a question on the November ballot about whether people were in favor of having a constituent assembly. Not the same thing at all. So Article 374 is irrelevant.

Article 5 deals with the need for citizen participation to be incorporated in government. It regulates plebiscites and referenda. By the time the June 28 encuesta was in place, it no longer had any characteristics of a referendum or a plebiscite. It was a non-binding opinion poll. There is a dispute about whether opinion polls could take place at all. The decisions by a lower court, which the Supreme Court refused to review, did tell the Zelaya administration not to do anything to ask citizen opinion, not even to think about anything of the kind. Whether that really was a decision whose violation could be prosecuted as a criminal matter (rather than an administrative matter) is something we will never know, because the actual encuesta was cut off by the coup d'etat. What is clear is that the poll on June 28 would not have been carried out with the support of the Armed Forces, nor under the supervision of the National Election Tribunal, and therefore was not the kind of process called for under Article 5 for referenda or plebiscites.
3 - Who (the president) [tries] to change the constitution in order to implement the reelection LOST the mandate IMMEDIATELY (see article 239).
Point number 1: Article 239 was raised as a possible foundation for the coup d'etat days after the coup itself, not as part of the original argument made by Congress. Point number 2: President Zelaya was not proposing modifying the constitution to allow re-election. No evidence of any kind supports this claim, which is the product of the paranoia of his opponents. Point number 3: Honduran legal scholars are unanimous that Article 239 does not apply, and that it could not come into effect "automatically" or immediately without violating due process (everyone has the right to be presumed innocent, and a right to due process). A
rticle 239 needs to be interpreted in the context of the rights and guaranties that the Constitution establishes, among which are the right of liberty (articles 61 and 69), the right to defend oneself (article 82), the presumption of innocence (article 89) and due process (articles 92 and 94). The Article 239 proposal has been so thoroughly debunked that it is mainly sad that it persists.
4 - Who (the president) tries to change the constitution in order to implement the reelection commits crime - [TREASON]. (see article 4)
Article 4 is indeed as noted. But is irrelevant: President Zelaya had not tried to change the constitution to implement re-election. He had not even tried to change the constitution. He was trying to take a public opinion poll.

Up to here, Admin is simply following the line of coup apologists, who presume President Zelaya's hidden intentions were to implement re-election (or suspend the government and stay in power). His next points seem to be responsive to my comments here:
5 - The armed forces has the obligation to guard the constitution. So, that is the reason which Supreme Court order the armed forces to capture Zelaya. Only the armed forces can capture who try to broke the constitution rules. (see article 272)
This is not what Article 272 says. Here it is in full:
Article 272: The Armed Forces of Honduras, are a National Institution of permanent character, essentially professional, apolitical, obedient, and non-deliberative.

They are constituted to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic, to maintain the peace, the public order, and the rule of the Constitution, the principles of free suffrage and the alternation in the exercise of the Presidency of the Republic.

They cooperate with the National Police in the Conservation of the public order.

In order to guarantee the free exercise of suffrage, the custody, transport, and guarding of electoral materials and other aspects of the security of the process, the President of the Republic shall put the Armed Forces at the disposition of the National Election Tribunal, from one month before the elections, until the declaration of the outcome of the same.
Pro-coup apologists ignore the abundant documentation provided by the Supreme Court itself, which shows that the Armed Forces were given orders to carry out the raid on President Zelaya because the Public Prosecutor expressed a lack of faith in the National Police, whose role detaining a high government official to take his testimony should have been. The authority for this is delegated to the National Police in Article 293, which defines that body as
a permanent professional institution of the State, apolitical in the sense of party alignment, of a purely civil nature, charged with watching over the conservation of public order, the prevention, control, and combat of crime; to protect the security of persons and their goods; to execute resolutions, dispositions, mandates and legal decisions of the authorities and public functionaries, all with strict respect to human rights.
The National Police role was set aside by the Supreme Court. There is no special circumstance clause that allows that, no matter how many times pro-coup apologists say that. The reason for this substitution was that the Public Prosecutor didn't trust the Police to carry out what in effect were illegal procedures. But he knew the Armed Forces would do it.

Admin's final point clearly takes issue with my postings here, because he tries to argue that the early morning raid on President Zelaya's house was legal:

6 - The last observation - to enter at home on the first hour of the wee is LEGAL. It is a exception of Honduras Constitution. In URGENTLY case is possible to capture a person in home on wee (this happened with Zelaya) - (see article 99)
OK, here's Article 99 (emphasis added)
The home is inviolable. No entry or registry can be verified without the consent of the person that lives there or the resolution of a competent authority. Nonetheless, in an urgent case, it can be raided, to impede the commission or impunity of crimes or to avoid grave damage to person or property.

Except in cases of urgency, raids on the domicile cannot be approved from six in the evening to six in the morning, without incurring legal responsibility.

The Law will determine the requisites and formalities so that there can be entry, registry, o raid, as well as the responsibilities that whoever carries it out could incur.

Here, the selective reading principle is at work. Entry is allowed in urgent cases; but these are defined specifically: to impede the commission or impunity of crimes, or to avoid grave damages to persons and property. And only in cases of urgency can raids be approved for before 6 AM.

None of this was a factor in the June 28 raid on President Zelaya. How do I know? In conformity with that last clause that says "the Law will determine the requisties and formalities" for an exception to the inviolability, the Supreme Court orders dated June 26 defined specifically what was approved. Those orders specified a raid after 6 AM, not before. The rationale for the raid was the claim by the Public Prosecutor that President Zelaya was a flight risk. The defined goal of the raid was to detain him and take his statement on the charges against him. There is close to universal agreement that the Armed Forces exceeded those orders. There is universal agreement that expatriation is unconstitutional, and it was certainly not authorized by the Supreme Court.

Admin ends by warning us to consult the most up to date text of the Constitution. We do. But what we have to urge him, and others who accept these facile arguments, to do, is that they read more than isolated constitutional articles. The links to blog postings relevant to the points made above will provide a starting point for Admin, or anyone else interested in learning more about the real legal and constitutional issues.