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, July 18, 2009

The Seven Points of the Arias Plan: A translation with commentary

Based on the Spanish version published today in El Heraldo of Honduras (original text repeated at end of my translation):

1. The legitimate restitution of José Manuel Zelaya Rosales as President of the Republic, an office in which he will remain until the end of the constitutional period for which he was elected, and that concludes the 27th of January of next year, the date on which he will transfer power to the candidate designated freely and democratically by the people, in elections supervised and recognized by the international community.

2. The formation of a government of unity and national reconciliation, composed of representatives of the principal political parties.

3. The declaration of a general amnesty exclusively for all those political crimes committed in the event of this conflict, before and after the past 28th of June.

4. The express renunciation by President Zelaya, and his government, of the intention of placing a "fourth ballot-box" in the next elections, or to carry out any popular poll not expressly authorized by the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

5. Moving up the national elections of the 29th of November to the last Sunday in October, and moving up the electoral campaign from the first days of September to the first days of August.

6. The transfer of the command of the Armed Forces from the Executive Power to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, one month before the elections, to guarantee transparency and normality of suffrage, in conformity with the terms of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

7. The integration of a commission of verification composed by distinguished Hondurans and members of international organizations, in particular, by representations of the OAS, that will oversee the fulfillment of these accords and supervise the correct return to constitutional order.

Notes: Item 2 calls for the unity government to be composed of representatives of the principal parties. This is odd, because this conflict was not inter-party, but intra-Liberal party. Left undefined: which of the parties are "principle"? "Partidos politicos" can have no other meaning, and does not imply integration of the de facto regime per se.

Item 3 extends amnesty only for political crimes. Does this leave in place the trumped-up charges being manufactured against Zelaya and his cabinet ministers, for example, for drug-running?

Item 5: moving up the campaign will require legislative action, but probably is seen as a way to assure the people that the Zelaya government is a caretaker and to shift attention to the policies that a new government will undertake. Nonetheless, minority parties note that the acceleration of the calendar works against them and in favor of parties with more resources for publicity.

Item 6: by consitution, the Armed Forces guarantee freedom of the polls. This was the center of conflict between President Zelaya and the command of the Armed Forces when he fired the chief of the Armed Forces for refusing to play that role for the public poll June 28. The Supreme Tribunal of Elections, which is not the same as the Supreme Court, oversees the outcome of elections; so this is intended to ensure that the people believe the ballots are not tampered with (one of the corrosive rumors of the anti-cuarta urna campaign) and that President Zelaya cannot insert a fourth ballot somehow.

Item 7: the nod to the OAS in essence is a reprimand to the de facto regime for its vote to leave OAS. The call for distinguished Hondurans to be part of the oversight commission is heartening, if any remain who have not been drawn into, and thus tainted by, the current crisis.

Propuesta del presidente de Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, para solución a crisis de Honduras

1.- La legítima restitución de José Manuel Zelaya Rosales en la Presidencia de la República, cargo en que permanecerá hasta el fin del período constitucional por el cual fue electo, y que concluye el 27 de enero del próximo año, fecha en que entregará el poder al candidato designado libre y democráticamente por el pueblo, en elecciones supervisadas y reconocidas por la comunidad internacional.

2.- La conformación de un gobierno de unidad y reconciliación nacional, compuesto por representantes de los principales partidos políticos.

3.- La declaración de una amnistía general exclusivamente para todos los delitos políticos cometidos con ocasión de este conflicto, antes y después del 28 de junio pasado.

4.- La renuncia expresa del presidente Zelaya, y de su gobierno, de la pretensión de colocar una “cuarta urna” en las próximas elecciones, o realizar cualquier consulta popular no autorizada expresamente por la Constitución de la República de Honduras

5.- El adelantamiento de las elecciones nacionales del 29 de noviembre al último domingo de octubre, y el adelantamiento de la campaña electoral de los primeros días de septiembre a los primeros días de agosto.

6.- El traslado del comando de las fuerzas armadas del poder ejecutivo al Tribunal Supremo Electoral, un mes antes de las elecciones, para efectos de garantizar la transparencia y normalidad del sufragio, conforme con los términos de la Constitución de la República de Honduras.

7.- La integración de una comisión de verificación compuesta por hondureños notables y miembros de organismos internacionales, en especial por representantes de la Organización de Estados Americanos, que vigile el cumplimiento de estos acuerdos y supervise el correcto retorno al orden constitucional.


Anonymous said...

It still goes too far in coddling the coupistas. The best Zelaya can do is get the coupistas to walk out of the talks, so that he can return and re-take the country... and then maybe re-write the Constitution to put the military under civilian control and clean out the court system.

--Charles of MercuryRising

RAJ said...

Ironically, according to the latest reports from Honduras, especially La Tribuna, it is the Micheletti faction that has walked out of the talks.

This followed their presentation of a counter-proposal that included agreeing to President Zelaya's return to Honduras, but only for the purpose of a trial, thus rejecting Arias Item 3 and/or underlining my comment, that an amnesty for political crimes leaves open prosecution on other questionable charges.

Reportedly, the Micheletti faction justified this by citing out-of-context comments by President Zelaya in an interview published July 17 in Brazil. Honduran media have been taking these quotes and editing them to make it appear that Zelaya insisted he would continue to advocate for the constitutional referendum, which would have violated Arias' Item 4. The original Portugese interview, however, does not say what these Honduran media made it seem to say. In it, President Zelaya says he will continue his campaign for constitutional reform because it is not his decision to make, it is a legal decision, and is something demanded by the people. The context makes it clear that he is referring to continuing a commitment to push for constitutional reform, not referring to a specific ballot initiative. The article is in fact headlined, "The Constituent Assembly is the People". It was after this that he agreed to Arias' proposal, and he has repeatedly said he will abandon the specific proposal for a referendum in November. Once he is out of office, there is no reason he should suffer from prior restraint prohibiting him from advocating constitutional reform. In the same article, he explicitly notes that the issue isn't re-election, it is reform of the government.

So, while talks are to resume Wednesday, there is ample evidence now of bad faith from the Micheletti crowd (who control the Honduran press printing the misleadingly edited statements).

But that does not mean I agree that Zelaya must return and "retake" power, because I am not certain that is a viable outcome, given the opposition of the Honduran military. It is a strategy that would put the Honduran people at great risk. Zelaya's exhortation, based on the Constitution, that the people have the right of insurrection, should not be interpreted as calling for an armed uprising, but rather, for the kinds of acts of public resistance-- strikes, takeovers and blockades of highways-- that are being covered in the media, and the kind of more private acts of resistance (like government workers refusing orders given by the de facto regime) that are less widely covered. Ideally, Hondurans would refuse to pay taxes to an illegal government, and more: the broader meaning of insurrection.

What must happen now, and visibly, is for the US to stop its posture of somehow not being a player. It is now time for the US to withdraw its ambassador, to cut off visas for members of the de facto government, to cut off remaining aid, and to make it unequivocally clear to the Micheletti faction that they are only getting concessions because the US stage-managed the whole Arias' process in the first place, when there should have been no "negotiation" with an illegitimate regime.

RAJ said...

Clearly a translation of the Zelaya interview in Brazil is needed. Original at

Notice this is clipped out of a longer interview only available to subscribers, which I am not; context matters, and so the direct quotes are more telling than the interpretation by the reporter in which they are embedded.

Zelaya does not renounce the goals of the popular movement he speaks for now, which wants constitutional change. But he explicitly says it is not his decision to quit, it is a legal one; and that the government cannot extend term limits, that would be a question for a constituent assembly, which would draw its authority from the people. He admits that if the rules changed, he would not rule out running again, but even edited to look as bad as possible, the reporter does not have a quote saying he will carry out the referendum in November against legal rulings, nor that he intends to remain in office or pass a law changing term limits to do so. Running again-- in the hypothetical case of a constitutional reform-- is quite a different thing than trying to stay in office.

And apologies; my Portugese rougher than my Spanish:

Manuel Zelaya was deposed from the Presidency of Honduras in a coup perpetrated by Army, Supreme Court and Congress. The day he was taken from his home, last June 28, he wanted to have an electoral consultation on the possibility of including in the general elections of 29 November, a referendum on a reform of the Constitution.

In an interview with Folha, Zelaya says the coup happened because he tried to give more decision=making power to the people, and that any Constituent Assembly is the people themselves.

Fabiano Maisonnavez, the reporter who interviewed Zelaya, says that the deposed leader does not seem willing to make concessions on the points made to justify his removal.

He intends to carry out his project to convene a consultation on the Constituent Assembly - a project which, according to the proposal for mediation of the Costa Rican Oscar Arias, must be forgotten - and says it is a demand of the people.

"This is not my decision, it is a legal decision. We must seek a legal decision. It is a problem of political will, I cannot betray the people and forsake the whole process," he said, in an interview recorded on the evening of Friday (17).

Accused by the interim government of wanting to change the constitution only in order to allow re-election, he says he does not discard a new candidacy for the presidency if the rules change.

"The government has no chance to create a process of re-election. It is a question of a Constituent Assembly that would establish another government, not me."

The Honduran also said it wants to be remembered in history "as one who fought for just causes and did not accept submission and imposition."