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.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Low Voter Turnout in US

La Tribuna carried a report on Supreme Electoral Tribunal's reported voting numbers for the United States, and the numbers are low. Voting was first permitted in the US in the 2001 election. Here's what La Tribuna reported yesterday:

Poririo Lobo Sosa

Elvin Santos


However, the La Tribuna article says the TSE reported 2841 total votes from the United States. That leaves 112 votes unaccounted for, likely spoiled and null. The TSE says there are nearly 19,000 registered voters in the US, according to the article, giving an 84% abstention rate.

So how does this compare with previous presidential elections where voting has been allowed in the US? The TSE website confirms that in the 2005 election, there were 464 votes in the US out of 11, 510 registered voters (95% abstention). In contrast, in 2001, the first year voting was allowed in the US, there were 4,541 votes cast out of an electoral role of 10,826 ( 55% abstention). Remember the 1.2 million voters the TSE wanted to eliminate from the electoral rolls to increase the apparent turnout, the voters who were largely supposed to be in the US? Apparently they never managed to get re-registered to vote in the US for this election.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spain Gives Lobo An Ultimatum

EFE reported this morning that Spain has adopted a hard line concerning the formation of Poririo Lobo Sosa's administration. Spokesmen for the Zapatero government said yesterday that if Micheletti is still in power, or if there are other leaders who supported the overthrow of Zelaya in power, the Spanish government will not recognize the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

The spokesperson expressed the Zapatero government's confidence that when Lobo Sosa takes power on January 27, Micheletti will have retired, and will not pass power to Lobo Sosa. The spokesperson added that recognition would come because "they will erase all the traces of the golpistas, because they will form a government of reconciliation, and they will look for a dignified exit for Zelaya," whom Spain continues to recognize as the constitutional president of Honduras. The Spanish ambassador's return to Honduras depends on what happens on January 27.

This creates a significant problem for Lobo Sosa. Among Lobo's supporters are many considered responsible for backing the coup, like Camilo Atala Faraj, owner of the Grupo Ficohsa, through which much golpista government cash has flowed out into private hands, and ex president Ricardo Maduro, and National Party President, and Mayor of Tegucigalapa, Ricardo Alvarez. Camilo Atala, through his membership in CEAL, is said to have coordinated the contracts by Honduran businessmen with lobbyists in the United States to lobby about the "consolidation of the democratic transition" in Honduras.

One of Lobo Sosa's many gatherings before Christmas was with a group of these advisors, including Camilo Atala. Look for Lobo Sosa to let these "advisors" move into the background, and place their lesser known supporters in Lobo's inner circle and cabinet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lobo's solution to inaugural illegitimacy...

is to deny that either Roberto Micheletti or President Zelaya has any role in the process.

As a story in Tiempo, published December 23, puts it:
The President elect, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, affirmed yesterday that the person who should hand over the presidencial sash next January 27, the day on which he will assume power, should be the president of the National Congress.

[El presidente electo, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, afirmó ayer que quien deberá entregarle la banda presidencial el próximo 27 de enero, día en que asumirá el poder, debería ser el presidente del Congreso Nacional.]
Most interesting is his rationale: he says that passing on the power of the presidency is legally the business of the legislature.

This is historically, technically accurate: see the surreal photo in the story in the Nuevo Diario, published January 27, 2006, showing then-congressional head Roberto Micheletti investing President Zelaya with the presidential sash.

But that isn't the whole story, of course. As coverage at the time emphasized, the acts of inauguration mark the passage of power from the previous president to the newly elected one.

Lobo still has this difficulty to solve: while he can duck being given the regalia of power by Micheletti, he still has to be deemed to be receiving power from the previous president.

So who is that? All of the world-- including those few governments that have declared the November elections legitimate-- recognize José Manuel Zelaya Rosales as the legal, constitutional president of Honduras. The Honduran Congress, whose president will place the sash of office on him, twice voted otherwise, asserting that Roberto Micheletti is now the constitutional president. Lobo himself may wish this would go away as a problem-- but it is hard to see how.

And in Honduras, the previous president is expected to give his support to the transfer of power, attending the inauguration. In 2006, the mere rumor that the departing president, Ricardo Maduro, would not attend the inauguration was newsworthy, so much so that the official coverage remarked on his presence:
The exiting Honduran president, Ricardo Maduro, who initially called into question his attendance at the investiture of Zelaya in response to rumors that he would be received with boos, finally confirmed his presence and assured that he would do it "with his head held high".

[El presidente hondureño saliente, Ricardo Maduro, quien en un inicio puso en duda su asistencia a la investidura de Zelaya ante los rumores de que sería recibido con silbidos, confirmó finalmente su presencia y aseguró que lo hará "con la frente muy en alto".]
What we have here is an attempt to argue that the symbolic investiture is the important thing. But pragmatically, practically, the transfer of power is what the symbols are supposed to represent. Power-- which we should remember requires control, authority, and legitimacy-- is what is at issue here, and where the next president's power comes from is going to remain a problem.

As an anthropologist, I know that symbols matter, so having Micheletti out of the picture frame is important. But politically, Lobo remains trapped with no acceptable answer to the question, whose power is he going to receive on January 27?

[Thanks to chela for the heads' up on this story that I might otherwise have overlooked in a comment on a previous post].

PS: The little trip down memory lane to find a photo of the investiture of President Zelaya in 2006 also produced this interesting tidbit:
Thousands of Hondurans filled the National Stadium in Tegucigalpa, with a capacity of some 40,000 persons, to witness the passage of command from the exiting government official, Ricardo Maduro, of the National Party, to Manuel Zelaya, of the Liberal Party, both conservatives.

Miles de hondureños llenan el Estadio Nacional de Tegucigalpa, con aforo para unas 40.000 personas, para presenciar el traspaso de mando del gobernante saliente, Ricardo Maduro, del Partido Nacional, a Manuel Zelaya, del Partido Liberal, ambos conservadores.
A useful reality check in the face of over a year of propaganda, leading up to, facilitating, and then justifying the coup d'etat.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's official: Lobo elected, turnout under 50%

AFP reports in Spanish from an hour ago that the official winner of the November Honduran presidential vote is Porfirio Lobo Sosa, credited with 56% of the vote (1.2 million votes).

As the article notes, Lobo's election is largely unrecognized, although of course, US recognition is probably the most important to him. More important, as AFP notes, some countries will condition their recognition on what happens before Lobo's inauguration: if he takes power from the de facto regime, he may still face a lack of recognition:
Up to now, only the US, Costa Rica, Panama and Peru have recognized the elections, although other countries, such as Chile, are analyzing whether to take that step after January 27, depending on how the transfer of power goes.

[hasta ahora sólo Estados Unidos, Costa Rica, Panamá y Perú han reconocido las elecciones, aunque otros países, como Chile, analizan dar ese paso luego del 27 de enero, dependiendo de cómo se dé el traspaso de poder]
Even the countries in Central America that have already said they will recognize the election are making demands that Lobo is not able to satisfy:
Costa Rica and Panama have asked Lobo to seek the resignation of the de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, as a way to achieve international recognition, but the latter has said that he does not plan to leave before the 27th of January.

[Costa Rica y Panamá han pedido a Lobo que busque la renuncia del presidente de facto Roberto Micheletti, como una forma de lograr reconocimiento internacional, pero éste ha dicho que no planea irse antes del 27 de enero.]
And of course, as we have documented in a previous post, and as reported by the AFP, the final turnout-- which does matter internationally as a measure of legitimacy-- was less the 50%.

So, enjoy your new status, President-elect Lobo...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Llorens Visits Zelaya

US ambassador Hugo Llorens paid a surprise visit to president Manuel Zelaya Rosales in the Brazilian embassy late yesterday. According to Rasel Tomé, a Zelaya spokesperson in the embassy, Llorens came to talk to Zelaya because Llorens is about to take a Christmas holiday, and to get Zelaya's official position on leaving the embassy. Tomé says that Zelaya made it clear that he was president until January 27, and that he would not leave the embassy under conditions that didn't acknowledge that (that is, the conditions proposed by the de facto government). Tomé added that "we continue working to bring about a dialogue in a neutral place and to resolve this crisis with dialogue."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

100.07% And Still Counting

The Tribunal Supremo Electoral's website reporting results started off today reporting that 100.03 percent of the vote had been counted. Upon returning to it later in the day, it now reports results at 100.07 percent! They say they won't declare the results official until at least Tuesday, December 23 but we can make some points now, even if the vote totals change a little later.

The TSE has now counted 2,297,465 votes for president, for a 49.94% turnout. This is almost exactly the percentage vote projected on election day by NDI-Hagamos Democracia. So much for the exaggerated claims of 62% voting. And so much for CNN's December 5 proclamation that their analysis indicated a 56.6% turnout.

For the record, compare this with the 55% voter turnout for the 2005 presidential election of José Manuel Zelaya Rosales reported by the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. (The same source reported a level of 46% participation in Honduran congressional elections in 2005.)

There are 700,000 more voters on the official voting rolls today than in 2005, but only 107,000 more total votes were cast than in 2005. A variety of analysts have noted that the voter rolls probably include some names that should be purged, and have also pointed to limited opportunities for Hondurans abroad to vote. But even these effects would not justify claiming that the 2009 vote was "massive", the term used by the de facto regime and echoed in pro-election statements by other governments.

Spoiled and blank ballots each individually beat out any of the third party candidates by significant amounts. In the TSE final count, Porfirio Lobo is credited with 57%, Elvin Santos with 38%, and no other named candidate received more than 2%.

Spoiled and blank ballots constituted 155,584 of the total number of ballots this year. Some proportion of these are self-evidently votes of protest against the regime. For example, in the La Tribuna article noting the null/spoiled ballots, you'll see a picture of a spoiled ballot. Written across it are the words "Golpistas hijos de puta", definitely a protest vote. Carlos Romero, director of elections for the TSE lamented the large number of spoiled ballots since the TSE had invested 50 million lempiras ($2.6 million) in training the electoral officials and public education specifically to reduce the number of spoiled ballots.

Taking the spoiled and null ballots into account, there were just over 2.1 million valid votes counted, about what Boz expected if the downward trend in voting participation continued as it had over the last 5 elections.

This is far fewer valid votes than the 2.4 million Boz proposed would be needed for the golpistas to declare the election a solid endorsement of the coup. At the same time, it is far more than the 1.5 million valid votes that Boz argued would indicate the call to boycott elections had a major effect. Instead, the valid vote count falls in the middle ground between 1.7 and 2.3 million valid votes where Boz suggested both sides could claim victory, as indeed they have.

But by claiming "massive" voter turnout, now falsified by the TSE's own vote count; by trying to redefine the proportional turnout by arbitrarily deducting some number of voters they decided should not be counted; and by working so furiously to misrepresent the levels of participation; the de facto regime has shown that it felt it needed something far more definite than it got out of this election.

We would suggest that the relevant measure of whether this election met the expectations of the coup regime is somewhat different. Less than 50% of those listed as eligible voted in this election. Of that number, almost 7% turned in ballots that were blank or deliberately spoiled, meaning that the final presidential selection fell to about 43% of the electorate. The trend of alienation from governance that already existed in Honduras intensified with an election that was in no way free and fair.

The big difference this time: hundreds of thousands of people now count themselves as part of a resistance movement that will influence elections in the future. And that includes some large proportion of those who did not vote, or submitted spoiled or blank ballots, as well as those who stayed at home on election day. Porfirio Lobo has no mandate from the people, to add to his lack of influence in his own party and in Honduras' national government.

"Pragmatic" Human Rights

"A commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and holding everyone accountable to those standards." Hillary Clinton, Dec. 14, 2009.
In a Wilson Center event in Washington, D.C. on December 8, Craig Kelly reportedly said that "we [the State Department] spoke up very vocally about human rights abuses" [in Honduras], which Adrienne Pine called "a claim contradicted by reality" in her blog post about the event. It is worth delving into the details of actual US statements on human rights since the coup d'etat of June 28, especially now, as we watch the body count of resistance activists rise steadily.

First, we need to ask: what precisely is current US policy?

Speaking at Georgetown University on December 14, 2009, Hillary Clinton outlined the State Department's new Human Rights policy. I will only touch on the highlights and I urge the reader to go back and read all of Clinton's statements on pragmatic Human Rights.

The policy focuses on four key elements, Clinton tells us. The first element is stated in the quote that starts this post. In her speech Clinton outlined how the US is applying the standards to ourselves as well as others. This gives us moral authority, Clinton said, but the application of universal standards is variable. In some cases we will use them to publicly hold another government accountable, as (she said) in the case of the coup in Honduras, while in others we'll use it in "tough negotiations". Here she pointed to US dealings with China and Russia in particular. This element also involves getting foreign governments to put human rights into laws and embed them in government institutions.

"Second," she says, "we must be pragmatic and agile in pursuit of our human rights agenda - not compromising on our principles, but doing what is most likely to make them real." This includes using all the tools in the US arsenal, and when one approach doesn't work, coming up with others. Examples cited include cutting off Millennium Challenge Corp. grants to Madagascar. Here, Secretary Clinton quoted President Barack Obama, who said "We must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement; pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time." This she calls "principled pragmatism."

The third element is that we will support change driven by citizens in their own communities, and the fourth element is that we will widen our focus.

So has the State Department been vocal in supporting human rights, and in denouncing human rights violations, in Honduras since the June 28 coup, as would be implied by the claim that the first element of "pragmatic" human rights, publicly holding another government accountable for universal principles, has been followed in US policy toward Honduras?

Not exactly. It appears instead, despite citing Honduras as the key example here, the record does not support the claim. At best, perhaps the US has chosen to use the quiet "tough negotiations" mode of the first element, cited in relation to China and Russia.

Here's what the statements on the State Department's own website show about their stance on human rights in Honduras since June 28.

On July 6, in the daily press briefing, Ian Kelly, in speaking about the OAS's action (which the US supported) to remove Honduras from participation in the OAS, said "[the suspension] does not relieve Honduras of its legal obligations to the organization, particularly full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." This was the day after Isis Murillo was shot to death by the military during a massive demonstration at Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa. Another 20 protest participants were treated for gunshot wounds at local hospitals.

On September 3, Phillip Crowley said "we remain concerned about human rights, intimidation by various- by the police, others, some episodes of violence." This statement was made while debate continued in public and in the State Department about whether to call the events of June 28 a military coup or not.

On September 28, Philip Crowley again shared the State Department's concern.
"Well, first of all, we are concerned about the issue of civil rights and human right in Honduras. It is having a significant impact on the Honduran people. But its also the reason why we have said clearly to the de facto regime that because of the environment on the ground, we will not recognize an electoral result as free and fair under the current circumstances."
This of course, was a statement made just after the de facto regime suspended constitutional guaranties, including the right of habeas corpus, for the 45 days leading up to the elections, and shut down opposition media. This is also one day before Lew Anselem suggested to the OAS, on our behalf, that we would recognize the results of the November 29 elections, regardless of what transpired in Honduras.

The State Department made no statement with respect to human rights in Honduras at all during the month of October.

On November 12, Ian Kelly professed not to know about the reports by the IACHR, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, on human rights abuses in Honduras and said he needed more information. This was in response to questions from the press in a discussion of Craig Kelly's return from a mission to Tegucigalpa in which he met with both Micheletti and Zelaya.

A week later, on November 19, in the daily press briefing, Kelly responded to a question asking if human rights was a concern in Honduras, given that he had just said it was central to US policy in the Hemisphere:
"It is. It has been and remains a concern. There have been a number of human rights violations since the coup, and we have consistently called on the regime to respect the rights of individual citizens. And we’ve been particularly concerned about some of the moves against the media. And the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa is closely monitoring the situation. It has reported back to us about a number of allegations of arbitrary arrests, disproportionate use of force, and, in particular, restrictions on freedom of expression. So yeah, we are concerned about it."
This concern was reechoed in a statement by "a senior State Department Official", who briefed the press on November 20, saying:
"We have expressed concerns about human rights abuses under the de facto regime and will continue to do so. Those principles are very important.

Well, we’ve denounced several times the abuses that occur. There was a decree that the regime put in place which was lifted in part because of strong international protests. But there still are – we still do get reports. We have said repeatedly to the regime that they are to be held accountable for the actions that violate abuses. And I was in Honduras two days ago and I made a public statement calling on the regime to respect human rights, and also calling on all sides to refrain from provocation of violence. This is very important."
Finally, Arturo Valenzuela said, in a closed meeting of the OAS on November 23 that "we do view with concern reports of human rights violations and deliberate efforts to incite violence and confrontation on both sides of the political divide in Honduras that might taint the electoral process."

It is perhaps instructive to consider how the State Department has apparently used the newly articulated policy of four "elements" in Honduras with regards to human rights violations. While the State Department responded to direct questioning by reporters, it never actually issued an independent statement on human rights violations. We thus conclude that the State Department has chosen to employ the "quiet" mode on human rights in Honduras. It has not chosen to employ all of the options open to it under the second element, suspending only some of the aid it gave to Honduras, and doing so very late compared to other countries.

It is also possible to give at least a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of the policy that has been newly articulated. If we judge by the evidence of continued violation of freedom of the press, and continued harassment of activists, the increasing number of assassinations, the quiet approach has failed. It has not stemmed a rising tide of human rights violations in Honduras.

Judged strictly on its own criteria, the State Department's new human rights policy, as outlined by Clinton, has been ineffective in Honduras. Human rights abuses have escalated in December. There has been no corresponding response from the State Department. It has not proved agile in either recognizing the failure of the current "quiet" strategy or agile in adopting a new strategy for holding the de facto regime accountable for the new round of human rights violations. What human rights principles does this policy profess? Clinton offered none.

Perhaps this is what is implied by having a "pragmatic" human rights policy. If so, it is hard to see how it constitutes any kind of advocacy for human rights.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thanks For The Coup

In a private ceremony the command of the armed forces of Honduras gave awards to a handful of government officials. These officials "could not be thanked during the Armed Forces Day celebration," said Colonel Ramiro Archaga, spokesperson for the Armed Forces. "Besides, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Minister, and the President wanted to thank them personally," Archaga continued.

"These are people who have contributed to the institution [Armed Forces] and the country, and what better moment than a reunion of the high command to recognize their merits in supporting defense of democracy."

The ceremony was closed to the press, and the public, because this is the meeting of the high command in which they discuss security strategy for Christmas.

So who are these "defenders of democracy" who could not be decorated in the public celebration of armed forces day, but rather, had to wait for a closed meeting of the high command?

Tomas Arita Valle, justice of the Supreme Court
Marcia Facussé, Liberal Party Congress person
Rafael Pineda Ponce, Chief of Staff to Micheletti
Gabriela Nuñez, Finance Minister
Roberto Zuniga, Budget director in Finance Ministry
Arturo Corrales, Negotiator on San Jose Accord team of Micheletti
Enrique Ortez Colindres, Foreign Minister for a few days at the beginning of the coup
Miguel Antonio Andino, administrative head of Defense Ministry

Anyone else think this is totally inappropriate?

Micheletti: "I will not resign"

It will come to no surprise to readers of this blog that Roberto Micheletti announced today, after meeting with Porfirio Lobo yesterday, that
"Though the world wants it, I will not resign."
thus nailing the coffin shut on the State Department's latest scheme to find a way to make it possible for more world governments to recognize Porfirio Lobo Sosa's government in January 2010.
"Even when the world asks me, even when the countries that have been intransigent watching us with hate, without justification, even so I will not do it. And what does it matter, some days, when we have practically six months of leading on these topics? What does it matter to the international community that I might stay another day, another two days? I don't see what could be the interest of the other countries of the world that I have to leave one day, two days, seven days, eleven days before January 27. What's the sense of that? "

Monday, December 14, 2009

Brazil and US: "Small Differences"

Marco Aurelio Garcia, advisor to Brazilian President Lula, said that there were "small" differences between the US and Brazil on Honduras. Garcia spoke after meeting with Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemispheric Affairs. When asked what those differences were, he explained that the differences were over the effects of the November 29 election, but that both countries agreed the elections were not a sufficient condition for the return to normalization of democracy.

Garcia said:
"We believe, there is an accord, that the de facto president Micheletti needs to leave; and it would be fundamental, also, that they concede a safe conduct or other instrument that would permit President Zelaya to move forward."

Valenzuela, in contrast, spoke in generalities about Brazil-US relations when asked about the differences between the US and Brazil on Honduras:
"Really, we agree on some fundamental aspects of our relations and have similar points of view on many of the hemispheric affairs."
Valenzuela met with Garcia instead of Brazil's Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, in part because of resentment over Clinton's Friday warning to "nations that flirt with Iran". Garcia said "that wasn't a warning for Brazil; if that was a message, it was mistaken."

Some of the press coverage is spinning this as a change of position by Brazil, but I don't see it. What's interesting is that it is Garcia who is reporting to the press on what their points of unity are. Valenzuela is silent in nearly all of the press coverage, and when he is quoted, says next to nothing of substance.

If Garcia's statements are representative of the agreement between Brazil and the US, wouldn't it be a stronger message if Valenzuela at least echoed it? If Valenzuela, or Clinton, were the ones calling for Micheletti to leave power, for the issuance of a safe conduct, would it not be more effectively received in Honduras? But we, as a country, remain mute, and let our "partners" do the heavy lifting. What are we actually saying to Micheletti? Not surprisingly, the State Department remains mute on that subject as well, but I'm willing to bet that its not this.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lobo "WIlling" To Talk To Zelaya

Porfirio Lobo Sosa stated today that he was willing to talk to Manuel Zelaya in the Dominican Republic, or in the Brazilian embassy, or wherever, in search of a solution to the political crisis in Honduras.
"There is the total and absolute will to talk, but what is lacking is to see a way that the actual authorities [the de facto government] aid and facilitate, in what is possible....the exit of Manuel Zelaya so that I can go talk with him wherever, I have no problem....but we leave it to the authorities to resolve...the administrative decision on how he will leave is not in my hands."
He later added:
"The leaving of ex-President Zelaya is not in my hands; this depends on the Honduran authorities, and as is logical, I will do all that I can to the extent that I can to influence so that they do what most suits the national interest....I am the president of the Hondurans, that they elected the last Sunday in November, and I have to be careful to not act irresponsibly."
Lobo will do "what he can" but no promises since everything depends on the de facto government. Remember first that Lobo Sosa supports the coup, and therefore acknowledges the legitimacy of the de facto government, however much it stands in his way. Micheletti has little reason to cooperate with Lobo Sosa; they are of different political parties. Lobo's own Nationalist Party introduced the resolution in Congress to reaffirm the Congressional decree where Congress removed Zelaya from office, without the constitutional authority to do so; the coup redux if you will. He can call for those things that he has that will make international recognition possible, but he cannot make them happen, even within his own party.

All of this adds up to little room to maneuver for Lobo Sosa. He's fairly powerless in the current situation, and will not have much more power come January 27. The time in which he could have acted was prior to the November elections, when his leadership towards a resolution of this problem would have meant something, but that would have put his election at risk. Now his only choice is to be a powerless president, as his statements and actions continue to demonstrate. He's stuck with whatever shell of an economy Micheletti leaves him, without a guarantee of international recognition beyond a few countries, a weak position as president-elect and likely an even weaker president.

Update 9:15 AM PDT: Lobo Sosa made it clear this morning that his only roll is to "suggest" what needs to happen, not to make it happen.
"The only thing that remains for me is to suggest or ask that they facilitate the talk that is important for Honduras, to end this thing once and for all, to not begin this new government trapped in this problem."
Dear Porfirio Lobo Sosa, do you really think Micheletti is going to make it happen, to resolve the problem for you? I don't.

Dominican Meeting Cancelled

Porfirio Lobo Sosa and Manuel Zelaya Rosales will not meet in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic on Monday. Both Zelaya and Fernandez pronounced the effort dead. Fernandez said the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti placed too many obstacles to obtaining the safe conduct for Zelaya. The Dominican government issued a communique which read in part:
"The willingness to begin dialogue this week was reiterated by President Fernandez, as much as by Zelaya and the candidate elect, but the de facto government insists on conditioning Zelaya's leaving the Brazilian Embassy as political asylum."
Yesterday, a spokesperson for Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, announced that if the de facto government issued a safe conduct for Zelaya to meet with Lobo, then Guatemala, which up to now has rejected the elections in Honduras, would recognize Lobo Sosa as "the legitimate president of Honduras." The spokesperson alluded to the possibility that other countries would also make this concession if the safe conduct was forthcoming.

Still, the de facto government announced yesterday that Zelaya was free to seek "territorial political asylum" but that it could not be in any Central American country, and he would first have to sign a piece of paper acknowledging, among other things, that Congress had removed him from office. Milton Mateo, a spokesperson for the de facto Foreign Minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras, told the AP that:
"It has been decided at the highest level of government: it will be a territorial asylum and cannot be in any country touching on Honduras, that is in Central America."
The reason they want him to seek political asylum is that under the Caracas Convention of 1954, someone seeking territorial asylum cannot involve themselves in confrontations with the government in their home country. This would remove Zelaya as a "threat" to the de facto government and let them get their propaganda out.

Peruvian President Alain Garcia immediately suggested that Lobo meet with Zelaya in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
"Lobo should talk with Zelaya to find out what terms Zelaya would accept for a recuperation of his political dignity, or at least to give the impression that he knows how to dialogue. To turn your back on him is less democratic"
Meanwhile, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, returned to Honduras after visiting the United States. He announced, on return, that he would establish the truth commission called for the the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, during the first quarter of 2010, as the Accord requires.

In a surprise move, Ricardo Maduro, former president of Honduras, called on Congress to declare a general amnesty for political crimes, including those committed by Zelaya and Micheletti.
"Its a tragedy to leave open the wound, in the sense that constitutional violations can be used by any future government to reopen this wound, to re-separate the Hondurans, and to use it for political persecution, be it against President Zelaya or against President Micheletti and theirs, it appears to me that we need to close now this wound."
He called on Congress to do it now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Zelaya, Lobo Agree To Meet

EFE reports, along with many other sources, that Porfirio Lobo Sosa and Manuel Zelaya Rosales have agreed to meet Monday to try to put an end to the political crisis in Honduras, announced Dominican President Leonel Fernández. The meeting will take place in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. President Fernández said:

"We hope that with this decision, there will be no difficulty for President Zelaya to leave Honduras and that there won't be any conditions or obstruction on the part of the de facto government so that he can travel to the Dominican Republic.....If the president elect is in agreement to support this dialog, if this is demanded by the international community there should be no impediment."

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The chaos of information surrounding the trip Manuel Zelaya planned to take to Mexico has settled, and the story is now fairly clear. It is true that Mexico offered, and both Manuel Zelaya and the de facto government of Honduras initially accepted, that Zelaya would leave the Brazilian embassy with a safe conduct (solicited by Mexico, not Zelaya) and then reside in Mexico as an honored guest for some period of time.

Why it fell apart is instructive. It fell apart because Zelaya would not sign a declaration authored by the de facto government. Carlos Lopez Contreras, the de facto Foreign Minister, said
"There was an understanding that Zelaya would subscribe to a declaration...that he respected the Guaymuras pact, and respected in a like manner, the decision of the National Congress in the sense that it confirmed the end of his mandate."
They want Manuel Zelaya to recognize their authority and give up his claims to authority, to give them legitimacy. He shouldn't, and he won't. As he said last night,
"I could be here 10 years, I have my guitar."
Indeed, he played his guitar for those listening to Radio Globo last evening.

Why is this a roadblock? Porfirio Lobo was given homework by Oscar Arias and Ricardo Martinelli on Tuesday, which included getting Roberto Micheletti to step aside, since it will be fatal to Lobo's case for international recognition for Micheletti to be the one handing over power. Micheletti has more than once said he won't resign until and unless Zelaya also renounces as president. Stalemate.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

President Zelaya Heading for Mexico?

El Tiempo confirms reports from other media, including Telesur, that President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales is leaving Honduras and will be welcomed in Mexico.

Reuters has a report saying the same, from 22 minutes ago, citing "a politician close to Zelaya", saying
He is going to leave the country today for abroad. He is leaving of his own will.
Telesur and Tiempo identify their source as Enrique Flores Lanza.

Tiempo and La Tribuna report that the Honduras Chancellor has already signed a safe conduct for a car from the Mexican embassy to pick up Zelaya, his wife, and two children, and convey them to Toncontin airport where a plane from Mexico, sent for them, landed at 7 pm. Tegucigalpa time.

Flores Lanza said that Zelaya would establish his family in Mexico, then go to Havana for the ALBA summit.

Update: Radio Globo is broadcasting an interview with President Zelaya in which he states that he has not sought asylum in any country.

Telesur has updated its coverage with a story that is headlined Zelaya confirms that he has not asked political asylum of any country.

It reads:
The legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, confirmed exclusively to teleSur that he has not asked for political asylum of any country in the world and clarified that in case of an eventual exit from his nation it will have to be within his role as President of the hondurans.

El presidente legítimo de Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, confirmó en exclusiva a teleSUR que no ha pedido asilo político a ningún país del mundo y aclaró que en caso de una eventual salida de su nación tendría que darse dentro de su calidad de Presidente de los hondureños.

The English-language media are reporting this as a story of going into political exile. Zelaya's own statements, and those of Flores Lanza, emphasize that he is leaving Honduras in order to carry on his work as president by attending the ALBA meeting.

President Zelaya, on questioning, has said he is not going to confirm plans as he does not have firm agreements yet giving him permission to travel.

The Mexican government limited its comments to Tiempo to confirming that a Mexican airplane is on the way to Tegucigalpa.

The Washington Post reports that a spokesman for the de facto regime's Foreign Ministry, Milton Mateo
says the safe-conduct pass was signed and would be delivered to the Brazilian Embassy.
Meanwhile, Zelaya is playing guitar live and singing on Radio Globo...

Update: El Heraldo minute-by-minute column says the Mexican plane has diverted to either San Pedro Sula or Comalapa, El Salvador.

Update (7:25 Pacific): A report on Proceso Digital says that at the last minute, the Micheletti government suspended the approval of the safe conduct.

Update (8:17 Pacific): La Prensa reports that the de facto government declined to issue the safe conduct requested by the Mexican embassy after Zelaya announced he was not seeking asylum. Carlos Lopez Contreras said "it lacked the appropriate legal requirements in not specifying the type of asylum they would give him." Previous press reports had quoted a spokesperson for Lopez Contreras as confirming the safe conduct had been issued.

Further details are provided in a story in the Mexican newspaper Diario de Yucatan. It makes clear that the point of disagreement between the parties was a demand by the Micheletti government that Zelaya leave for Mexico as a "political refugee" (asilado).

Daniel Ortega is quoted as saying that
the de facto Honduran government proposed to Zelaya "that he take political refuge, that he leave the embassy of Brazil... and that he go to Brazil or another country as a political refugee, but he (Zelaya) said that he did not accept the status of political refugee, because he continues being the president of Honduras".

Masked Anti-Riot Police Outside Brazilian Embassy

Radio Globo reports that there are large numbers of masked anti-riot police being staged outside the Brazilian Embassy. They've been unable to get a comment from the police spokesperson, so far.

Martinelli Cancelled Lobo's Dominican Trip

Porfirio Lobo Sosa had planned on meeting with the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, on Thursday this week, but abruptly announced the cancellation of that trip yesterday. Lobo Sosa told Honduran media today that Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panama, told him the trip was cancelled.
"Martinelli made the decision in light of not having implemented all of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord."
Lobo announced last night that after meeting with Arias and Martinelli, he understood that there was no point in continuing his international trips seeking recognition without having complied with the Accord.

Lobo indicated that he hoped that long before January 27 there would be a government of national unity that was "not of one, or the other", that is neither of Zelaya or Micheletti.

Homework for Lobo Sosa

Porifirio Lobo Sosa returned from San Jose, Costa Rica, yesterday after meeting with Presidents Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, and Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, and immediately cancelled his planned trip to the Dominican Republic to lobby its president, Leonel Fernandez, for support.

He came back with homework, assigned by Arias, Martinelli, and Clinton, homework which will help make it more palatable for these three politicians to recognize him as president of Honduras in January, though they claim to speak for all international governments. The three of them made it clear to Lobo Sosa that he needed to accomplish all his homework for the international community to recognize him, but in return, they agreed to lobby for him.

First, he must see to the compliance with all of the steps of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. This includes the establishment of a government of national unity and reconciliation and the establishment of a truth commission.

Second, there needs to be a general amnesty for events of June 28 and later, an amnesty for political offenses, not criminal ones. This is something that was part of the original San Jose Accord, but both Zelaya and Micheletti felt was unnecessary and thus left out of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

Third, that Roberto Micheletti needs to step down now; that it will be hard to get international governments to recognize Lobo Sosa if he takes office from Micheletti.

Arias and Martinelli told him that the government of national unity and reconciliation needs to be formed now, and that the truth commission needs to be formed in the first quarter of 2010. They made it clear that international aid will be conditioned on compliance. Lobo Sosa said on his return:
"We need to resolve this situation because, if not, what will happen is that there is approximately $2,000 million dollars which we won't have acess to, at least not in the first months of next year."

Arias, Clinton, Martinelli lobbying for Lobo Sosa

Oscar Arias confirmed yesterday that he got a phone call from Hillary Clinton concerning the need to get Porfirio Lobo Sosa recognized, and that he, in collaboration with Ricardo Martinelli, would be using technology to gather support for Lobo Sosa.

After a two hour meeting yesterday, Arias and Martinelli told Lobo Sosa they would do whatever is necessary to get the international community to recognize Lobo Sosa as president on January 27, 2010.

Valenzuela To Visit Mercosur Countries

The State Department announced today that Arturo Valenzuela would visit the 4 Mercosur countries, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay next week. During the visit he will "discuss bilateral and multilateral themes of mutual interest," according to the State Department spokesperson Charles Luoma-Overstreet.

While there's no official announcement yet on the State Department website, its not a stretch to think that this visit will center on trying to persuade these countries to come around to the US point of view of Honduras, as one of its goals. Monday these four countries issued statements indicating they would not recognize the results of the November 29 Honduran elections, nor would they recognize a Lobo Sosa administration this coming January. Valenzuela, on Univision over the weekend, said the US would recognize Lobo Sosa as the legitimate president of Honduras once inaugurated.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Costa Rica, Panama Call for Micheletti Resignation

The Presidents of Costa Rica and Panama, in meeting with Porfirio Lobo Sosa in San Jose today, told him that if he wants his government to be recognized on January 27, that he must convince the de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, to resign. Lobo must not receive power from that polemic de facto governor.

Oscar Arias and Ricardo Martinelli are presidents of the only two Central American countries that have agreed to recognize the results of the November 29 Honduran elections.

Unilateral Unity Government Call

Rafael Pineda Ponce, Minister to the de facto President, Roberto Micheletti, has literally repeated the act that blew up the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord the first time. He has reissued letters to the presidents of the political parties, and the Union Civica Democratica, an aggregation of right wing organizations that support his government, and Manuel Zelaya, requesting names. Pineda Ponce said:

"I have sent notes to be given to the presidents of the parties, the UCD, and to ex-president Zelaya, so that in the most pure spirit of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord they propose 10 citizens with the capabilities and sufficient merit to aspire to Secretary of State or high posts in the government, so that, from them, the President of the Republic, can form a cabinet of reconciliation and national unity."

The problem with this should be obvious. Ricardo Lagos, member of the verification commission which supervises the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord compliance by both sides, called it a complete violation of the accord last time. Roberto Micheletti, illegitimate de facto president, is not empowered by the accord to unilaterally pick who forms part of the national unity government, and that's what he proposes to do. The accord is specific, their representatives that are part of the verification commission are supposed to negotiate the conformation of the unity government.

Pineda Ponce continued:
"If we cannot form it this time, this government has the responsibility and commitment to go to the 27 of January and publicly convey the government to the next president"
Zelaya has again declined to participate in this sham compliance with the accord. Rasel Tomé told EFE:
"President Zelaya has reiterated that he will never endorse the coup regime of Micheletti and 'he's not sending no list to no one' "

Mercosur Disavows Honduran Elections

The 38th Mercosur summit, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, has issued a statement Monday disavowing recognition of the Honduras elections. The presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela, which is seeking membership, "reaffirmed their strongest condemnation against the coup" of June 28 against Honduras' constitutional President Manuel Zelaya." Bloomberg reports the statement said:
“In light of the failure to restore President Jose Manuel Zelaya to the position for which he was democratically elected by the Honduran people, we want to express our total lack of recognition for the Nov. 29 elections held by the de facto government, which were undertaken in an unconstitutional, illegitimate and illegal atmosphere.”
The elections were held ""in a climate of unconstitutionality and illegality, being a strong blow to the democratic values of Latin America and the Caribbean."

Mexico was observing at the Mercosur summit. The Mexican Foreign Minister, Patricia Espinoza, said "the elections in Honduras are a necessary but not sufficient condition for the normalization of the democratic life in Honduras." She told the summit that Zelaya needed to be returned to power, and called for an end to the harrassment of the Brazilian Embassy.

Mercosur joins the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA in Spanish) in not recognizing the elections.

Insulza Lays Down Ground Rules

José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, said yesterday in a press release, that "the return of Honduras to the OAS will be possible only when the outcome of June 28 is overcome." He noted that the resolutions voted on by the OAS Permanent Council were still valid and in effect. These include the condemnation of the removal of the legitimate president of Honduras, unequivocally qualified as a coup d'état, a demand for the restitution of constitutional order, including the return of president Manuel Zelaya, the total rejection of the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti Bain and its actions, and the suspension of Honduras from OAS membership.

“We all want a prompt return of Honduras, a founding member of the OAS, to the heart of the Organization. But that will only be possible when this country reaches a true restoration of its democratic regime and the outcome of the coup of June 28 has been overcome....An election does not erase, on its own, the forced deposition of the constitutional President, his expulsion from the country and his seclusion, even today, under precarious conditions in the enclosed Embassy of a sister country.”
He then called on Porfirio Lobo Sosa to end the persecution of Manuel Zelaya Rosales and to break clearly and publically with the coup, to fully reestablish respect for human rights, and to work to create national unity in the period between now and his inauguration on January 27.

Insulza called for the immediate establishment of a government of National Unity, with the participation of Zelaya, to prevent Lobo Sosa from receiving his command from the hands of those responsible for the coup d'éat, the normalization of things around the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, and the full liberty of Zelaya to live in his country with "respect for his rights and without further persecution."

"No State or government of the hemisphere or world has recognized the government of Roberto Micheletti....We must reinforce....that in the Americas no one will again recognize a regime arisen from a coup d’état. "
Lobo Sosa said over the weekend on Mexico's Univision, that he thought it would be possible for Zelaya to live in Honduras as an ex-president after January 27 without persecution, and has repeatedly called on Micheletti and Zelaya to establish the unity government, but has taken no actions to repudiate the coup, for which his Nationalist Party was a complicit partner. Instead he has embarked, today, on a series of missions to visit various Latin American governments seeking recognition of his government as legitimate.

Brazil: No recognition. Period.

Remember the reports that claimed to parse a Brazilian press spokesman as contradicting President Lula da Silva's eloquent "No, no, no, adamantly, no" response to whether they would recognize the November 29 elections?

Well, as the New York Times reports today, that parsing is being firmly rejected:

The president's position is clear...Brazil does not intend to recognize a government elected in a process that was organized by an illegitimate government.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

But watch for others to focus on a different statement, one that supports the pragmatic claim that Brazil (and everyone else) simply will have to recognize the Lobo government:

One thing is dealing with the fact that there were elections and another is recognizing the legitimacy of the elections...And for now, Brazil does not recognize that legitimacy.
Rather than accept the "no, no, no..." or the first sentence I quoted above, expect others to emphasize the phrase "for now".

Whereas what I find interesting about this second quote is that Brazil, apparently, can tell the difference between recognizing that a voting exercise took place, and accepting that it was legitimate.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Keeping Them Honest

The TSE continues to play fast and loose with the numbers as it speaks in public and represents the election results to the press. On their election results website, they list a total of 2,080,959 votes counted, which they say is 90.52% of the votes. This would project as a total of 2.3 million votes (2,298,894 votes). However, in comments to the press here, Enrique Ortez Sequeira, a TSE magistrate, says that they've counted 2.3 million votes, and that there will be 2.5 million votes total, a record for Honduras.

By the way, this would be a participation rate of 47.8 percent, or exactly what the Hagamos Democracia projections said the turnout was, not the 63% they initially announced, or the revised 49% they released late last week. Looks like a victory for statistics and sampling.

There are approximately 5,000 ballot boxes out of 45,000 that are problematic, where people forgot to sign forms, or put the forms inside the ballot box before sealing it up, which the TSE has not yet opened or counted, but will examine today. Ortez Sequeira says they could finish them up today.

Meanwhile, in the TSE counting center, in the Marriot Hotel in Tegucigalpa, the computers had network problems yesterday and could not talk to each other, so no work was done between 9 am and 2 pm when the network came back up. Its rumored that networking problems are what prevented the TSE from delivering its initial count on election night.

More than 80 mayoral races have already demanded recounts, as have 23 races for Congress.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Micheletti Unilateral Unity Government Redux

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Don't Go Changing....

To be blunt, the TSE is messing with us in order to tell the story about the election that the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti Bain wants the world to accept. The message, turnout was massive. The reality is quite a bit different, and the way they're playing the game is by changing the rules. Here's how it goes.

You will remember the night of the election there was confusion about the participation level of the populace of Honduras in voting. Saul Escobar, president of the TSE, came out and told us that 63 percent of the potential voters voted, whereas at the same press conference, they read the report of the independent NGO Hagamos Democracia, which found a participation level of 47 percent in its data. Where did that discrepancy come from? Many of us have been looking for the reason.

While previous press reports have described Hagamos Democracia as having a contract with the TSE, and described its methodology as being based on exit polling, neither turns out to be true.
According to Rolando Bú, coordinator of Hagamos Democracia, the only thing the TSE did was accredit them as election observers. They were not paid by the TSE to report; they are, in fact, and NGO, funded by various governments, including the United States.

Their methodology was to select a sample of 1173 mesas electorales from around the country based on criteria like their history of participation in previous elections and other criteria. In each of these mesas electorales, they established an observer who was present the whole time, from the time the polling place opened until it closed, and did not visit other mesas electorales as many election observers do. After the polling place closed, their election observer sent them the statistics from that mesa, including the tallied vote counts, and participation from the official "actas" that the TSE has reported to it to tally. Their observers also send in their own statistics gathered from their observations during the day.

In 2005 the TSE website said 2,190,398 people voted, from an electoral roll of 3,976,550 voters. According to Hagamos Democracia, 2,162,000 voted in 2009 from an electoral roll of 4.6 million. That's approximately 28,000 fewer people voting than voted in 2005, while the electoral roll increased by some 600,000 persons. The size of the electoral roll was supplied to Hagamos Democracia by the TSE prior to the election, and was the same number supplied to the press.

told Tiempo that the TSE measured participation against a different electoral roll that was adjusted for emigration, deaths, etc, that the TSE did not share with them. Bú said that Hagamos Democracia was not adjusting the electoral roll for deaths and emigration because it did not have reliable enough information to do so.

To measure participation you need to know two things; how many people voted, and how many possible voters there were. In prior elections, including the 2005 election, participation was measured as a percentage of the whole electoral roll. For 2009, the TSE no longer wants to use the size of the electoral roll as registered, but rather some adjusted number that they're not publically releasing. This is transparent? For the TSE to measure against another value is disingenuous at best, and an attempt to deliberately mislead, at worst.

As I wrote this a correspondent wrote to tell me the TSE has recanted and now claims turnout was 49%. This was confirmed in an AFP story.

Next Farcical Step

The next farcical step in the ballet choreographed by the State Department is being danced in Honduras. Porfirio Lobo, the president-elect in the election of last Sunday, called on Roberto Micheletti Bain to form a government of national unity and reconciliation, as the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord called for a month ago. Lobo said this government should be formed independently. Lobo said that this was vital for his recognition.

Lobo said he understood that there were different opinions circulating about the accord, like that of Ricardo Lagos, but that that was normal, and that all parties should press forward to comply with the agreement.

"With the decision of Congress, we are complying with the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord...and pending is the formation of a government of a government of reconciliation and the truth commission."

Tiempo perceives Lobo as asking Micheletti to conform the government, but there is ambiguity in the reporting over just who Lobo thinks should form the government, and be part of it. What is clear is that Lobo does not believe Zelaya himself should be part of the government, since he said after the election "Zelaya is history".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Disappointing" vote by Congress "broke" Accord

The Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord committed both the faction of Roberto Micheletti and the legally elected president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, to a series of steps that, as has been noted at length here and elsewhere, was fatally flawed by the lack of a sufficiently clear timeline and an undefined mechanism for the formation of the expected "unity" government.

The US government, after it committed itself to recognizing the outcome of the election whether or not Zelaya was restored by the proposed vote in the Honduran Congress, has been held awkwardly to the transparent fiction that the Accord never was intended to imply a vote on Zelaya's restitution had to take place before the elections.

So immediately after the election, the Honduran Congress chose, for whatever reason, not to vote on a straight motion whether or not to restore President Zelaya, but rather, decided to turn the clock back to June 28 and re-enact the passage of the decree through which they claimed to install Roberto Micheletti as replacement president.

Where does that leave things?

Speaking for the US, Arturo Valenzuela said
We're disappointed by this decision since the United States had hoped that Congress would have approved [Zelaya's] return.
He also, remarkably, reiterated that the US continues
to accept President Zelaya as the democratically elected and legitimate leader of Honduras
and that
the status quo remains unacceptable.
In response to questioning after Valenzuela's statement, unnamed Senior Administration Officials expanded on this theme, noting that the November 29 voting
we have always felt, was an important step to the solution of the problems of Honduras, but not a sufficient one, because the restoration of the democratic and constitutional order had to go by additional measures... [emphasis added]
These "additional measures" explicitly included
this vote that the Congress was supposed to take on the restoration of Zelaya...[emphasis added]
Translation: the US expected a different vote than the one they got. What kind of vote? well, I am glad you asked:
That's why we were disappointed. And the fact that the Congress, in fact, did not vote President Zelaya back into office...
And about the unacceptable status quo, the same unnamed officials said
the absence of democratic and constitutional order is the unacceptable status quo
we continue to accept President Zelaya as the democratically elected president of Honduras.
For his part, Ricardo Lagos, the former Chilean president who had the bad experience of being part of the all-too-briefly functional "verification" commission, went further. As reported in El Universal of Venezuela, speaking on CNN En Español Lagos said
the refusal of the Honduran Congress to restore the overthrown president Manuel Zelaya "breaks" the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord and will make international recognition "more difficult"
Lagos puts the blame for the breaking of the accord squarely on the de facto regime and the Honduran Congress:
The decision "finishes breaking the accord between the (interim) government and began to be broken [when] one of the parties thought that he could constitute [the unity government]" in a unilateral reference to the regime of Roberto Micheletti.
Most important, in this interview, Lagos said that
in his reading, the vote on the part of Congress about the situation of Zelaya foressen in the Tegucigalpa Accord carried "implicitly" an "elegant form to restore" the overthrown official.
Or to put it another way: Lagos, like most readers, thought the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord called for a vote on restoring Zelaya as a way to give Congress a face-saving means to redress their original actions.

So, the US and Lagos are in harmony and both consider what the Congress did an unfortunate, even disappointing, waste of the opportunity provided in the Accord. Right?

Well, not so fast. The US manages to add yet another twist to its already contorted position. Valenzuela added to the remarks quoted above the qualification that
the decision taken by Congress, which it carried out in an open and transparent manner, was in accordance with its mandate in Article 5 of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.
Let us pause to think about the implications here.

The US does not recognize the coup of June 28 as legitimate, and continues to consider Manuel Zelaya the only legitimate president of Honduras (while looking wistfully ahead to the end of January and a new inauguration as their new solution).

Yet the framework now transparently identifiable as forged by the US-- despite the thin veil of Costa Rican mediation cast over it by the use of Oscar Arias as a conduit-- has had one real result: it gave the Honduran legislature a chance to reaffirm the very same unconstitutional actions whose outcoes the US says it still does not recognize.

Quite a powerful tool, that Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord: it apparently cleanses constitutional rupture and makes it something the international community has to accept-- because it was transparent.

But then, so were the events of June 28. They were transparently a coup d'etat.

Yet, the US argues that the exact same decree that was illegitimate on June 28 is legitimate in December because it was enacted in response to the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

What a powerful thing that Accord turned out to be: it supercedes the Constitution of Honduras and whitewashes a universally condemned coup.

Poet Rebeca Becerra Arrested

Poet Rebeca Becerra was arrested today along with her 8 year old daughter as she attempted to collect her partial share of an annual bonus in the Ministry of Education. She was accused of having taken public documents from the Ministry of Culture offices by Myrna Castro, the de facto Minister of Culture.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mayoral Update San Pedro Sula

With 76.55 percent of the vote counted, here's how the mayoral race for San Pedro Sula stood late this afternoon. The numbers come from La Prensa's Minute by Minute column at 4:39 pm. With 911 of 1190 actas counted:


number of votes


Juan Carlos Zuniga



Tuky Bendaña









If this is 76.55% of the votes, it implies we should see about 153,754 votes in San Pedro Sula this year, or a turnout of about 30% of the (low ball) estimated 507,000 voters in San Pedro Sula.

Couping The Coup

Congress committed another unconstitutional act when it voted this evening on a motion to again ratify its Decreto 141-2009, which removed Zelaya from office (not a power granted them by the constitution) and installed Mr. Micheletti as de facto president. The motion was introduced by the Nationalist party, which held a meeting this morning and agreed to vote as a block of 55 votes in favor of this motion. They only needed 9 Congressmen from another party to join them to block the restitution of Zelaya, but in fact the measure had substantial support from members of the Liberal Party as well. At 7:11 pm Tegucigalpa time, a simple majority of the Congressmen had voted for the motion, with the vote continuing.

The Honduran Congress today thumbed its nose at the rule of law, at the US State Department, and the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.

Update: 8:48 PM Tegucigalpa time: 92 votes for the motion, 11 against so far.

Update 9:30 PM Tegucigalpa time: 110 votes for the motion, 14 against.

Final vote: 111 votes for the motion, 14 against, with 3 Congressmen absent.

Congress deliberates on repeating the coup

The Partido Nacionalista had determined to meet today and reach a uniform position on the restoral of constitutional order.

While La Prensa reports that debate is ongoing, and that the head of Congress, Jose Saavedra, says it could continue until Friday, a first hint of the likely vote came when the Nacionalista delegation introduced a motion to deny restoration of President Zelaya. Reportedly, according to La Tribuna's Minuto a Minuto, 33 members of the Liberal party joined the Nacionalistas to vote to accept the motion for debate.

As previously promised, the reports received by Congress are now unsealed and all are opposed to the return to the constitutional order that existed before June 28.

Let us pause before the debate concludes and recall two things:

there is no legal basis under Honduran law for what was done June 28. The legal code requires the presumption of innocence; the rights of due process have not been honored; no legal verdict on charges against President Zelaya could validly be reached without due process; and no verdict resulting in his conviction of a crime has been reached. So the Congress is debating whether to commit a crime, or rather, recommit the crimes they committed on June 28. They do not and did not have authority to remove the President from office and replace him.

Second: the sole reason they are debating committing these crimes again is because a US-brokered, US-proxy-mediated agreement invited Congress to substitute an unconstitutional vote for an unconstitutional vote.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On recognition and Brazil

As the vote count continues, with the official report of the final count now delayed until December 29, the question of recognition of the election faces those countries that said they would not do so, as well as those that said they would.

The US continues to express its position in the murkiest of language.

Brazil, in contrast, is crystal clear, yet today we see others suggesting a softening of the Brazilian position.

The stated Brazilian position remains that voting this Sunday was conducted under conditions that make it impossible to recognize the results, and that the restoral of the constitutional government illegally overthrown June 28 is non-negotiable.

So where are commentators seing room to negotiate the non-negotiable? in the suggestion that perhaps Zelaya can be forced into a nominal restoral just long enough to participate in the inauguration of Pepe Lobo.

Coverage of what Lula actually said at the Iberoamerican Summit doesn't support that interpretation: in fact, he restated that Brazil will not recognize the elections in Honduras or talk to the winner.

For this, it is best to look at original Portugese reporting. So here, I translate Lula's direct quotes from the Portugese.

Rejecting the attempt by Oscar Arias to put pressure on him by comparing recognizing the Honduran elections to recognizing those of Iran, Lula says:
Iran's president participated in the elections and won 62% of the votes, the Constitution was not violated. It is different from a person who committed a coup d'etat repudiated by all countries, by the OAS, which placed conditions set by the very same President of Costa Rica, which was the return to power of President Zelaya.
The coup worked cynically, convened elections for which it did not have a right. [They could have done things with greater normalcy, returned the president, called elections. The return to normality in Honduras all we want. The rest is this:]* You can not make concessions to a coup.
It is a matter of common sense, a matter of principle, we can not condone the politics of vandalism in Latin America.

*[material in brackets was not included in the source cited above, but was contained in the fuller version of these remarks published by Brazil's
O Globo]
Commenting specifically on the situation of President Zelaya, Lula said he hoped Honduras would take the decision that would allow Zelaya to return to normalcy, adding
The best thing would be Zelaya back home, but you must have constitutional guarantees, of the government, of the OAS, and this has to happen rapidly.
[emphasis added]
Other analysts may try to spin Lula's remarks by taking note of the following comment while ignoring the rest of the statements, reported above:
This citizen [Pepe Lobo] has the right to take the steps he deems necessary. If something new happens, let's see, we'll wait. The problem now is much more of Honduras than of Brazil...
What does this mean?

First, Lula is clearly trying to keep separate Pepe Lobo and the authors of the coup d'etat. The election is illegitimate because it was convened by the coup government, which had no legal right to oversee this (and which cannot actually guarantee a free and fair election). But he is not condemning Lobo for participating in the election.

Second, by pointedly calling Lobo a "citizen" (which is the form of address the de facto regime uses in its references to President Zelaya, as a continual refusal to recognize his continued constitutional status) Lula is explicitly refusing to recognize him as president-elect. Lobo can do what he thinks necessary, he says, but we will wait. We'll see.

The problem is Honduras' problem because, as Lula's earlier statements make clear, unless there is rapid action to restore President Zelaya, he is not changing his position. To quote his response to questions at the Iberamerican summit:
Não, não, não, não. Peremptoriamente, não.

[No, no, no, no. Absolutely, no.]
In longer accounts of his comments in Brazilian media, Lula is very clear:
I can not decide now for what may happen next month or in two, three or four months
he said, asked specifically about "new things" that might affect his position,
But for now, the Brazilian position is not to accept the electoral process
Pretty clear, right?

Yet otherwise reliable commentators have suggested a modification, based on a statement attributed to Lula by Reuters UK:

If something new happens, we can discuss it. For now, the (Brazilian) position is not to accept the electoral process in Honduras. A new thing (we could discuss) is for Zelaya to take over for the inauguration of the new president.
I could not find the original of this in Portugese, even in the longest interviews on the topic I have found reproduced, in which Lula emphatically reiterates that recognizing this election opens the door to future coups in Latin America. It should come right after the statements I reproduce and translate above.

I don't doubt Lula said this, or something close to it, perhaps in response to questioning. But it would seem like such a major change of position would have been featured in some of the original Portugese-language reporting.

And it is interesting that Reuters UK (now reproduced by the New York Times) left out all the rest of Lula's remarks that I translated above, in which he emphatically and repeatedly rejected recognition and called for the restoral of President Zelaya. And there is more in the same vein that I don't have time to collate and translate-- and you, dear reader, probably wouldn't have the patience to review.

What precisely Lula might have meant by Zelaya taking over for the inauguration of the new president is the question, one that for me requires the original language quote. A one-word error in translation could have changed a statement from "take over until the inauguration of the new president" ["for" is de; "until" is até, so this is an easy transcription error from spoken Portugege]. Calling for Zelaya to take over until the inauguration-- e.g. for the rest of his original term-- would be consistent with all the rest of the quotes from, supposedly, the very same interview.

Indeed, given that Lula is in this passage clarifying what might be a "new thing" that would change Brazil's firm position, I suspent whatever statement Reuters is translating followed closely from where he said "If something new happens, let's see, we'll wait". The implication there is clear: something "new" would be movement in Honduras to restore the President to office.

Watch for the storyline now to become some sort of brief restoration. But don't believe everything you read.