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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Honduran Congressional Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Micheletti, ball's in your court.


TITO said...

La Prensa and El Heraldo belong to same person, Jorge Canahuati, and one of their characteristics is placing his opinion in the news as facts! That is highly misleading and unethical!! It is sad that there are people, "highly educated", that are not able to critically read these newspapers nor question the veracity of their editorial lines.

RAJ said...

As titozone notes, the Honduran press is tightly controlled by owners who influence not just what gets covered, but how it is covered. Direct quotes are no guarantee that what is reported actually happened or was said.

This erosion of any ideal of a free press has led to the isolation of the one traditional newspaper in Honduras that has continued to report on the actual resistance to the coup regime, El Tiempo, which unfortunately is now subject to an economic boycott by the Honduran business community that supported the coup.

But it is precisely the known bias of newspapers like La Prensa that makes it interesting when their biased reporting begins to depart from the script of unanimous support for the coup. It is therefore especially interesting to note that the Honduran Congress did not follow its previous precedent and immediately reject the Arias' plan.

On the one hand, this is clearly more of the delaying tactics that makes the entire Oscar Arias "mediation" problematic: the idea of "negotiating" with criminals who overthrew the legal government has led to giving that gang undue legitimacy, and is delaying the moment when the world community-- and especially the US-- has to take firmer action.

But it is also the case that the parties to the coup are increasingly showing signs of being nervous about being held accountable for their actions, as finally, with actions to cut-off US Visas, we may see happening in ways that affect these privileged individuals.