Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More US spin on Honduras...

is brought to you by Voice of America, which starts its story from this morning with the following headline and tagline:
Honduran Congress Grants Zelaya, Coup Plotters Amnesty

Supreme Court also clears military of criminal charges; both moves seen as steps toward national reconciliation before President-elect Lobo takes office Wednesday.
Really? seen as "steps toward national reconciliation" by whom?

From the very first version of the US-inspired San Jose Accord, there has been a proposal for amnesty in the agreements that were proposed to end the coup.

Just as consistently, both sides in Honduras have rejected the call for amnesty. Some English-language commentaries suggested this was due to the fierce animosity between the two sides, and the desire by both to keep open the possibility for revenge prosecution.

But as we are seeing now, the issue for Hondurans is actually a good deal more complex than amnesty/no amnesty. Papered over in the VOA story is the continued uncertainty about the status of the additional bill of charges against President Zelaya, produced after the installation of the coup regime, which are not covered by this amnesty. The amnesty, as we noted in the previous post, is for specific identified crimes, those considered "political" or connected to them.

The debate in congress and the party-line split vote reveal major disagreement about the best way toward "national reconciliation" within the Congress itself.

What we are seeing in the spin given these moves by VOA is the US perspective. The US insists that Honduras go through a theatrical performance of enacting the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord even though that brokered compromise absolutely failed and is utterly irrelevant now. One hopes the US State Department doesn't suffer the illusion that Zelaya will not be prosecuted when he eventually returns to Honduras, because if so, they will likely be disappointed.

It is perhaps not too much to treat the VOA article as a proxy for how the US State Department would like to rewrite the story of the coup. From that perspective, two further things leap out.

First, in reporting on the shameless use of the Supreme Court as a mechanism to cleanse the Armed Forces of all responsibility for their actions on June 28, the VOA states that the Court found that the Armed Forces "acted to preserve peace in Honduras". That is certainly part of the court's argument; but by selecting that piece, and leaving out the part about the Armed Forces not acting out of "malice", the VOA gives a tweaked impression of the arguments being offered to justify the Armed Forces violating the Constitution as well as exceeding the Supreme Court warrant produced to justify their actions.

Bad enough that good intentions alone can clear the military of wrong-doing (thus creating a precedent for future interventions in government "to preserve peace". Are you listening, Pepe?) But perhaps it would be worth paying attention to the fact that the Honduran stakeholders feel there is something more involved: the question of whether people were motivated not just by their better angels, but by "malice". This is not a conflict that will be sanitized by formalized actions.

Which is, in essence, what the Congressional debate over "amnesty" showed. In our post from yesterday, we simply reported that the Liberal party abstained. The real story is more complicated, as Tiempo reported in the article we linked to in the previous post:

The Liberal Party abstained from voting because they could not come to agreement, since only 8 had defined a position (five against and three in favor), while among the rest there were diverse positions on the sense that it was necessary to know in depth the reach of the project [of amnesty], to socialize the decision more, to listen first to the Truth Commission and then consult the people in a plebiscite.
(For the public consultation observers out here, that would be consultar el pueblo en un plebiscito...)

In other words: the Liberal Party congress members are wary of how the Honduran public will react. As the party that occupied both sides in the coup, they have been burned the most by the political fallout. And they are worried about who this will affect, what the public will think about it, and how it will harmonize with the expected Truth Commission. Better to get the public to ratify it and relieve the political pressure.

And the second thing that leaps out in the VOA article: even to the bitter end, the English language media still think the real cause of this coup was a non-existent attempt to prolong the current Presidential term in office; as the last sentence of this meretricious piece of writing sums up the whole sordid seven months
Mr. Zelaya's opponents say he was ousted because he was trying to illegally change the constitution to extend his term in office. [emphasis added]
And VOA, like the US State Department, gives those "opponents"-- the architects of the coup-- the last word.

[Nerdy word usage aside here: technically, the verb "socializar" has two meanings, the first to privatize something, as in State seizure of property, and the second
Promover las condiciones sociales que, independientemente de las relaciones con el Estado, favorezcan en los seres humanos el desarrollo integral de su persona

To promote the social conditions that, independently of relations with the State, favor in human beings the integral development of their persons.
The closest to the sense here would be that the Liberal Party congress members feel the need to promote the idea of amnesty among Honduran society, to introduce it as a social value that presumably they are not sure already exists. In other words, they are dubious that amnesty is part of the Honduran habitus.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Nerdy word usage - Sometimes I hear people using the word "socializar" to mean pass information about the event/discussion/idea more widely so that people know what is meaning talked about.

RAJ said...

Wonderful... the danger for us English-speakers is to think this simply means hang out together (socialize). But indeed, trying to promote a shared understanding or give context enough so people understand what is happening is dependent on socializing, even in that colloquial sense...