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, August 31, 2009

Advice for Hillary Clinton

The news service EFE is reporting that an anonymous State Department source told them that the US will make a decision on sanctions against the de facto government either Tuesday or Wednesday this week. Hillary Clinton is due back in the country tomorrow. The source indicated to EFE that she is waiting on the results of the latest round of discussions between the de facto government's negotiating commission and the OAS to see if it bears fruit.

In other news, the de facto government has denied that it offered to step aside if Zelaya also renounced his claim to office, in favor of a third person, as was widely reported on friday and over the weekend.

My advice to Hillary Clinton is to go ahead and sign the determination that this has been a military coup. Micheletti made it clear in countless interviews earlier this month that he believes that because you have not yet imposed sanctions, he has your tacit approval to continue. That's how he's reading the ambiguous signals from Washington, DC. You need to send him a clear message that he doesn't have your support if you want him to negotiate.

Update: Voice of America is now reporting that President Zelaya will be in Washington starting tomorrow, meeting with US State Department officials later this week.

Quoting a "senior State Department official" the article reports

The State Department says the Obama administration still intends to make a formal determination that Mr. Zelaya's overthrow was a coup. Such action means that a suspension of most U.S. aid to the Central American country would become permanent. The determination was to have been made last week.

The official said talks with the two sides in the dispute is a factor in the delay. The official said this is an inter-agency decision "that everybody has to be comfortable with."
(emphasis added)

At this point, a week is a long delay to allow for nothing new, especially since everything Micheletti supposedly "proposed" he has since rejected. At this rate, all Micheletti would need to do is propose the same thing every week, wait a few days, repudiate it, and repeat.

Let us hope that whoever is still not comfortable gets so quickly. Today was Day one of the election campaign season, and there is now no way to deny that the November election will be tainted by the effects of the coup.

Elections, Constitutions, and Laws: how "obligatory" is voting?

As the resistance calls for non-participation in the November elections, signs accumulate that this tactic is of concern to the regime, no matter how much they say otherwise. There are intimations that of intentions to prosecute people for not participating in the election or for encouraging others not to do so.

The rhetoric on this topic echoes an overall tactic of the coup regime that is worth exploring both in relation to the specific pressure on the population to vote, and in order to reflect on the use by the de facto regime of claims of constitutionality as their first resort, instead of, as constitutional authorities would expect, a last resort.

The specific case first: the vote, we are told, is obligatory. Constitution Article 40, which defines the duties of citizens, lists as point number 3 "ejercer el sufragio", "exercise suffrage". More common cited is Article 44, which says in full

El sufragio es un derecho y una función pública. El voto es universal, obligatorio, igualitario, directo libre y secreto.

Suffrage is a right and a public function. The vote is universal, obligatory, egalitarian, direct, free, and secret.

Now, I have noted before that the obligatory nature of the vote has obviously not been enforced, given that participation rates in national elections have plummeted, to 46% of eligible voters registering a vote for congress, and 55% for president, in 2005. This is a drop from 81.4% in 1980, the first year when elections were rated as "partly free" during the development of the constitutional system of government that was uninterrupted until June 28 of this year, according to international sources.

A study by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, found voter turnout world-wide from 1945-1999 was lowest and tended to drop over time "partly free" countries, including Honduras, where basic civil liberties may not actually be protected. Both "free" and "not free" countries had higher turnout, presumably for different reasons.

Compulsory voting, the authors of this study note, has been debated as anti-democratic. Even when enforced, citizens have found creative ways to express their actual opinions when no choice they are presented is acceptable:

The leading argument against compulsory voting is that it is not consistent with the freedom associated with democracy. Voting is not an intrinsic obligation and the enforcement of the law would be an infringement of the citizens' freedom associated with democratic elections. It may discourage the political education of the electorate because people forced to participate will react against the perceived source of oppression. Is a government really more legitimate if the high voter turnout is against the will of the voters? Many countries with limited financial capacity may not be able to justify the expenditures of maintaining and enforcing compulsory voting laws. It has been proved that forcing the population to vote results in an increased number of invalid and blank votes compared to countries that have no compulsory voting laws.

Looking at countries where voting is obligatory, the study (after noting that enforcement varied widely) says that

A somewhat surprising result of this study is that the 24 nations which have some element of compulsion associated with voting have only a small lead in turnout over the 147 nations without any compulsory voting laws.

But most important for our purposes here, this study points out that simply having a constitutional claim that the vote is obligatory is symbolic, and that countries with such claims vary in whether they enforce them:

The simple presence or absence of mandatory voting laws in a constitution is far too simplistic. It is more constructive to analyze compulsory voting as a spectrum ranging from a symbolic, but basically impotent, law to a government which systematic follow-up of each non-voting citizen and implement sanctions against them… Not all laws are created to be enforced. Some laws are created to merely state the government's position regarding what the citizen's responsibility should be. Mandatory voting laws that do not include sanctions may fall into this category.

And this is the general point of this post: the coup government consistently cites the Constitution as the basis of its actions: but a Constitution is interpreted through the development of specific legislation.

Social science research shows that globally, such laws do not increase participation; but what does Honduran electoral law implementing the constitutional mandate actually say about not voting?

Simple answer: nothing. Honduras never has had sanctions for not exercising the "obligatory" right to vote.

(The IDEA study confirms this, but if you don't believe them or me, look it up yourself: read the Ley Electoral of 2004, Decreto 44-2004. Lots of sanctions for lots of things, but not one for not voting.)

So, what is a significant cause of higher voter turnout?

The only socio-economic factor which does seem to correlate with turnout rates is the United Nation's somewhat more sophisticated "Human Development Index" (HDI). Turnout tracks closely a nation's level of Human Development. If we split the HDI league table into five equal sections we find that the top fifth of countries have an average voter turnout of 72%, the next 69%, the third 66%, the fourth 60%, and the bottom fifth an average of 56%.

No mystery where Honduras falls in the HDI.

Now, here's the general point: the coup regime has a bad habit of wrapping itself in the raw words of the Constitution, neglecting the actual way the intentions embodied in that document are implemented in legislation, and undermining due process as established in law.

This is most egregious in the way that the coup and its supporting media have promoted the false claim that President Zelaya is guilty of treason, because a legal charge (which many believe was fabricated post-facto) was lodged with the Supreme Court. This claim violates the presumption of innocence implemented in legal revisions of the last decade. It ignores the fact that no hearing had even been held on the "evidence" cited in the legal filing.

arguments like this return Honduras to a state of legal indeterminacy, by encouraging the direct interpretation of constitutional provisions rather than the adherence to well defined legal codes. Thus the coup regime grasps at Article 239 and presents it as a post-facto basis to legalize its actions, when as an unending stream of legal scholars have noted, that Article does not mean what these politicians want it to mean. The Constitution becomes a weapon used against the rule of law. That erodes the legitimacy of what should be the nation's highest charter.

Just as the coup regime has eroded the legitimacy of congress, the supreme court, and the election tribunal.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A response to citicism from coup supporters in Honduras

We regularly receive critiques from people, sometimes (not often) identifying themselves, criticizing us for taking a position they feel is uninformed. These messages echo talking points widely disseminated by coup apologists, reprinted in pro-coup media. Since this blog is intended to represent the voices of those denied access to the media in Honduras, or whose views published in the rare media available are apt to be ignored by English-language media, we have not in general taken up those arguments here.

But it occurs to me that it is useful to review the main points made, and to note why they are not successful arguments.

The first claim made is one of privileged knowledge: writers say "are you in Honduras?", "have you been in Honduras recently?" or the like. The implication is that the writer, by being in Honduras, has better knowledge than we can have.

There are three problems with this. First, of course, Honduran media are presenting a largely propagandistic view of events. So being in Honduras actually impedes knowledge. Second, while being in Honduras provides a perspective on events, it is necessarily limited to the people in the immediate social network and geographic circle of the writer. Finally, these criticisms ignore the fact that our sources of information include many friends in Honduras, so that what we are representing are the perspectives of people in Honduras-- just people who happen to disagree with the views of these kinds of critics.

(For the record, we returned from Honduras June 26, held tickets to return two weeks later, would have been back again in August, and currently have tickets in September and December which we may or may not use. So we also have first-hand knowledge of Honduras, but we do not make the mistake of thinking that our experiences represent the totality of Honduran public opinion.)

The second criticism, which usually follows from the claim of privileged location to comment on events. This is the assertion that "everyone I know" or "the majority of the Honduran people" (or even "the Honduran people") are happy that the coup occurred.

As a social scientist, I know that when people say "everyone agrees" that is a statement of ideology. The more certain a person is that their opinion is shared widely, the more likely they are to assume others agree. (And depending on the circumstances-- as when there is military suppression of free speech-- people who actually disagree may not openly express their disagreement).

That is why we rely on such things as opinion polls. CID-Gallup produced poll numbers shortly after the coup, which remain the only real data on Honduran public opinion. There is a fine discussion of these numbers, and various distorted presentations of them that circulated, here. There were two questions asked about the coup in particular:

¿Considera usted que las acciones que tomó Mel Zelaya con respecto a la cuarta urna justificaban su destitución del puesto de Presidente de la República?
Yes 41%, No 28%, Don't know/No answer: 31%.

¿Cuánto está usted de acuerdo con la acción que se tomó el pasado domingo que removió el Presidente Zelaya del país?
Support 41%, Oppose 46%, Don't know/No Answer 13%.

The first question indicates that 41% of the Honduran public believed that President Zelaya's actions merited the coup against him. This is, obviously, not a majority.

The large number that supposedly had no opinion (31%) was surprising to the social scientists discussing these results. The second question helps give a better picture of the real depth of support for and opposition to the coup. Asked "How much are you in agreement with the action that was taken last Sunday that removed President Zelaya from the country?", 41% supported this (presumably the same people who answered "Yes" to the previous question). But more people--46%-- opposed it.

So there was already, one week into the period of unconstitutional government, significant opposition to the coup. Now, the next interesting question would be what the level of support was for President Zelaya himself, since it is obviously the case that people might be opposed to the coup, but strongly oppose President Zelaya. Other CID-Gallup poll numbers at the same time gave Zelaya a 46% favorable rating (with 44% unfavorable). Note that this shows a highly polarized country, but a majority in favor of President Zelaya. In contrast, only 30% had a favorable opinion of Roberto Micheletti, while a remarkable 49% had an unfavorable opinion of Micheletti.

So while I respect the critics who honestly think they have the temperature of the Honduran people, the reality of statistically reliable polling shows something quite different. Micheletti was very unpopular; President Zelaya had a larger level of approval than disapproval; and a larger number of Hondurans disapproved of the coup than approved of it. That the level of support for the coup was as high as 41% is not good news for democracy in Honduras, but the fact that 60% of the people did not approve it is actually extremely reassuring.

This blog is not required to adhere to some sort of "fair and balanced" fantasy, and is explicitly for the purpose of giving voice to that under-represented plurality of Hondurans who are against the destruction of constitutional order-- including many who were not in favor of President Zelaya in general or specific policies. But it is most important to note that the views we represent are those of a large proportion of the Honduran population: in a representative democracy, we do not dismiss diversity of opinion; we try to create means to debate issues with civility and without violence and repression.

(An ironic point from the CID-Gallup data: 63% of those polled disagreed with the proposal for a constitutional assembly, and only 23% agreed. If Zelaya's opponents had let the survey go forward, they would have had excellent grounds to reject the call to put the question on the November ballot-- which is all the survey was asking about.)

Critics usually proceed from the claim to speak for the Honduran majority, to one of two forms of delegitimating the Hondurans who disagree with them, whose experiences we represent here. The first is a corrosive claim that these people are "only" the poor and the marginal. Even if it were accurate, the poor have a right to a voice and a right to opinions. Some critics are clearer than others in their contempt for the poor, while accusing President Zelaya of encouraging "class warfare".

But in fact, my network in Honduras is very much composed of people in the middle class, the educated class, and they are very strongly opposed to the original coup and the repression that has since followed. These have moved many people who would have liked to be apolitical into active expressions of resistance to the de facto regime.

The second claim used to try to dismiss the Hondurans opposed to the de facto regime and its repressive policies is to blame demonstrators for violence, to claim that only the insistence on demonstrating for civil rights is disrupting life in Honduras. This claim ignores the fact that in any democratic society, people enjoy the right of free assembly, freedom of opinion, and free speech. The de facto regime's suspension of civil liberties is one of the strongest pieces of evidence of their lack of regard for the rule of law.

Again, critics have a pre-emptive argument that they use here: the only violence is the fault of the protesters. The police and military are just keeping order.

In civil society, police have the responsibility to limit their response to ensure that the citizenry is not exposed to unjustifiable risks of state-sponsored violence. Shooting live ammunition violates that, and so the (so far) four people killed in demonstrations, and many others wounded, are not responsible for their own deaths and injuries: the military are.

Critics like this usually add that the Hondurans they know cannot understand why the US or OAS are supporting President Zelaya.

It is useful to note here that it is not simply the US and OAS: no government in the world has recognized the Micheletti regime. (Honduran pro-coup media regularly report false assertions that Israel, Taiwan, Italy, or other governments somehow recognized the regime. Each such report has led to specific repudiation by Italy and Israel; Taiwan tends not to respond, but in fact has not recognized the regime.)

Why has the world community not recognized the regime? critics claim it is because the regime has not been allowed to tell "its story". But in fact, they have been given many opportunities, and their claims have been rejected by all world bodies and governments.

Biased reporting in Honduras, where what gets repeated are the Micheletti regime's arguments for why the world community should accept the coup, asserts a series of "facts" that are not actually true. So let us end by reviewing these points, which critics almost always bring up (ignoring the fact that a large part of the content of this blog has been analysis of the regime's arguments).

The claim: the army acted legally on orders of the Supreme Court on June 28

The fact: even if the order they received preceded events (which has been questioned) and were legal itself (which it was not, as constitutional authorities have repeatedly confirmed), the Armed Forces violated the order and the law by raiding President Zelaya's house before 6 AM, and by removing him from the country. The order calls for him to be detained and for his statement on charges to be taken.

The claim: The Supreme Court had found President Zelaya guilty of treason

The fact: the public prosecutor's filing does include charges of treason, but no legal decision on them had been or has since been rendered. The forcible removal of President Zelaya denied him due process, which legally includes the presumption of innocence. President Zelaya must be presumed not guilty of treason under the presumption of innocence.

The claim: the National Congress legally replaced the president following constitutional succession.

The fact: the National Congress has no authority to remove and replace the president. It literally is not their business. The session of congress on Sunday June 28 is of questionable legitimacy. There was no recorded roll-call vote. Claims of unanimity are clearly false as more than a dozen deputies state they did not vote in favor.

Now, there may be arguments that critics of this blog can advance that are more original, but fundamentally, nothing that anyone can say will validate the idea that the entire Honduran population accepted or accepts the coup, or that the regime is legitimate, or that President Zelaya was legally tried and found guilty.

We may have disagreements of substance about President Zelaya's policies. Those out of power in any government have the right to be opposed to governmental policies, and to speak out about those differences. But in this case, the legal, constitutional government was forcibly disrupted due to differences in opinion about policies. That cannot be argued away; and even if the government had not been engaged in activities that I agree with, I would be here blogging against any unconstitutional regime, because in the long term, such actions continue the trend of discouraging popular participation in democracy that I have watched unfold in Honduras since I first began working there in 1977.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Burn Rate

Just a quick economic note. Since June 25th, the de facto government in Honduras has drawn down the liquid foreign reserves by about $400 million so that today, the Banco Central de Honduras reports its liquid reserves of international currency at $2,063.8 million. At the rate of $200 million a month, by the election day, November 29, 2009, the liquid reserves will be down to $1,463.8 million, and by the time a new president could take office in late January, they will be down to $1,063.8 million, or to a level that is less than half what it was before the coup. Whoever takes over in December under these conditions will have a Honduran economy that's in freefall, former Banco Central director Edwin Araque Bonilla said today on Radio Globo.

I suspect that a major part of the outflow of reserves of foreign currency is for petroleum products now that the de facto government has been cut off from the cheaper fuel of the Petrocaribe agreement and has to pay for petroleum in hard currency instead of the favorable terms of Petrocaribe. No wonder the Secretary of Industry and Commerce (SIC in Spanish), Benjamin Bogran, asked people to start saving gasoline. He noted that up until now, the government has been subsidizing half of the price increases in diesel, so its even more important to conserve that. He closed by saying they are developing biodiesel and ethanol.

There was no Constitutional Succession

This is my rough translation of an editorial by by Ramón Enrique Barrios, Professor of Constitutional Law in UNAH in today's Tiempo. It in turn, we are told, a summary of a talk he gave to a group of teachers and workers at the San Pedro campus of UNAH.

There was no Constitutional Succession
by Ramón Enrique Barrios

It Was not a constitutional succession, rather a coup d'etat. This crisis began with a call for a non-binding poll. It wasn't a plebiscite nor was it a referendum, both of which are binding.

This poll was based in the Law of Citizen Participation and would have been carried out by the National Statistics Institute, INE. In my judgement, it was not illegal. With the results of the same, they would have gone in front of the National Congress, which was who would give the final authorization to place, or not, a ballot box in the general elections of November to consult the people to see if they want a National Constituent Assembly. If the Congress had said "no", that would have been it.

Its important to note that the candidate of the National Party, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, has also proposed a fourth ballot box in the name of the Constitution, but they don't treat him in the same way. It would be constitutional to place either ballot box.

We have a judge of the Complaints against the Administration (Contencioso Administrativo) who thought this poll was illegal and prohibited it.

To not follow that order does not carry a crime. Zelaya insisted in carrying out the poll, and in insisting, committed the crime of disobedience (to the judge's ruling). This is the crime that the President committed.

Question: Why didn't the Public Minister proceed to prosecute the President if this happened a few days before the 28th of June?

We are supposed to believe that friday, the 26th of June at 4 in the afternoon (when everyone working is preparing to leave), they presented a request for indictment to the Public Minister, but there, they accused him of treason against the country, attempts against the form of government (they should have gone after other supporters of the forth ballot box in the same way).

I think its almost impossible that they presented the request at 4 in the afternoon of June 26th, but if that's the way it is, the way it's handled is that the Supreme Court as a whole comes together, because of its diversity and names a Judge having jurisdiction (Juez Natural), a lawyer "juez de letras" (one of the justices), but instead they named justice Tomás Arita Valle (we must ask why they later revoked his visa?)

The question is, when did they meet? Its interesting to note that the judge having jurisdiction, Arita Valle, is from the Labor branch, and the ideal for this would have been someone from the Criminal branch.

Later the judge accepted the request for indictment and gave the detention order June 26th (?). We ask, why wasn't he detained that friday, or Saturday, the 27th?

Another thing he didn't comply with: its a given that judges give detention orders to the National Police, not the the Military (who have their own constitutional functions, but its never constitutional that they detain people). That's how they carried this out, assaulting the constitution.

Raul Alfonsin, ex-President of Argentina, commented that all was well with the military of his country; the only thing was, the "don't think".

The detained citizen President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales on Sunday, June 28th, before 6 in the morning (the law says that detentions happen between 6 am and 6 pm).

In the detention, there are a series of irregularities. We see they surrounded the house with 500 soldiers, entered shooting, and detained him before 6 am and having done that, the logical thing would have been to take him in front of the judge who issued the detention order, Tomás Arita Valle.

Before him, he [Zelaya] would have to give his testimony about the allegations. And logic tells us they would have given him an alternate punishment as they have done for mayors, businessmen, and even drug traffickers, and that's how he would have been judged.

As for them invoking a "state of necessity" to throw him out of the country, the order given by the judge was to detain him, not to banish him from the country (which is against the constitution).

With all respect to my distinguished legal colleagues I can say that they lie who say that he was detained and banished from the country because of a state of necessity, because the president was disarmed, none of the population knew of this to allege that his detention would provoke a popular revolt, and the Presidential Guard was disarmed.

From that it doesn't fit because there was no legal good in danger, and at the same time, due obedience doesn't apply.

After removing him from the country, Congress met and said the president was "absent", but note, his absence wasn't voluntary. They could not claim any of the three causes established by the Constitution, to elect a new President, and these are: death, resignation, or incapacity.

That same day a resignation appeared. They read a supposed letter of resignation of President Zelaya and decreed that that established that Roberto Micheletti was President because of the resignation. After that they claimed it was because of the crimes committed by President Zelaya. Now they don't cite the resignation letter which was denied by the same President Zelaya. Here we have the presumption of a crime for falsification of signatures.

Its important to highlight that the same Constitution guarantees the right of due process and that no one can cite someone as crimminal if they haven't been heard and judged, because "all people are inocent until proven guilty".

Here is the rupture that becomes a coup d'etat by the Congress and the Armed Forces.

What happened here was serious and it pains me that colleagues want to maintain that what happened here was a constitutional succession. This is untenable.

And the crimes committed by action or omission. To be silent in this situation is an omission, and suspect. This is the historical moment to define ourselves and to come out defending our institution, the rule of law; I'm not talking about a particular person. I don't belong to any particular political party, but I am a citizen and as a professor in UNAH I have to collaborate in the instruction of the people to whom we have a duty.

Meet the new kid, same as the old kid: nothing new from Micheletti

Late Thursday news media reported supposed movement by the de facto regime, assisting the spinning of nothing new as if it were something real.

An article in the New York Times provides the better report; the article in the Washington Post is distinguished primarily by the amazing use of Lanny Davis-- a paid lobbyist for the coup regime-- as the source of a quote offered as if it represented an independent judgment-- worse, as if it were the opinion of political insiders in the US government:
"We regard this as a significant change in Mr. Micheletti's policy, and his willingness to immediately resign shows that this is not about his power, but it is about the rule of law," said Lanny Davis, a former White House official in the administration of President Bill Clinton who now represents a group of Honduran businessmen seeking a negotiated solution to the crisis.

This isn't about his power? Micheletti is concerned about the rule of law?? And Lanny Davis is a "former White House official", not just a paid operative???

What is interesting here, if there is anything interesting, is asking whether this is just another attempt to delay sanctions (in which case, perhaps it is an indication that those rumored stronger sanctions are really being floated); or is a hastily constructed Plan B for the coup regime to back off the ledge they put themselves on.

President Zelaya's representative to the OAS, Carlos Sosa, quoted by the Washington Post, thinks it is simply a delaying tactic:

We don't accept this. . . . This is an effort to keep winning time and make it seem like they're talking.

Micheletti's negotiator, Arturo Corrales, pretty much confirmed this view, even if the Post bizarrely treated his statement as if it were not deeply ironic and totally unbelievable, quoting him as saying:
It's the starting point for the conversations
Starting point? wasn't that over a long, long time ago?

The NY Times more accurately describes this as essentially the same as a previously offered, non-starting, proposal from Micheletti. Their reporting does suggest that this time around, Micheletti is more concrete about his proposal. Perhaps those talks noted going on between coup apologists this week included explaining to Micheletti that his position is untenable?

The Times suggests that under Micheletti's proposal, his resignation and that of President Zelaya would leave the way clear for the next person in constitutional succession to be Jorge Rivera, head of the Supreme Court. Not entirely clear if this is specified by the Micheletti regime, or inferred by reporters, but I am not so sure that this conclusion is safe to draw.

If Micheletti resigns from his "presidency" as if it were legal, then he resigns as president, not as president of the National Congress. If his regime is allow to pretend to legitimacy, then the next in line to succeed "president" Micheletti would be the de facto regime's choice for president of the National Congress, Alfredo Saavedra. Perhaps coincidentally, coup newspaper La Tribuna just published an interview with him, at about midnight on the West Coast (early morning Friday in Honduras), characterized as his "breaking the silence" he has maintained since June 28.

Only if Micheletti stepped back to be President of the National Congress would his resignaton create a line down to Jorge Rivera.

But all this is moot, and it is pretty clear the goal here is to draw out the discussion even longer, while appearing, as his lobbyist tells us, to make a significant change in his posture of intransigence.

The version on the AP newswire reveals the cynicism at the heart of this supposed proposal, described as having five points. It notes that the limited amnesty offered would absolve the coup participants entirely but allow them to continue prosecution of President Zelaya for charges they have manufactured while the de facto regime has been in control of the government.

What this is transparently about is attempting to forestall Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from deciding to accept what sources say is the recommendation within the State Department to declare the June 28 removal of President Zelaya formally a military coup. That action, as the Voice of America notes, will trigger significant economic sanctions.

Micheletti has claimed repeatedly his regime doesn't need the world community. But it seems like that bravado only goes so far.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

More Sanctions

Various news reports at lunch time today report that Phillip Crowley, US State Department spokesperson, stated today that the US was considering further sanctions against the Micheletti government. Reuters went a step further and reports that State Department staff have recommended to Secretary of State Clinton that the coup against Manuel Zelaya be declared a military coup, which would automatically trigger further sanctions. Among the funds that would have to be cut off are those the Millenium Challenge Corporation has promised to Honduras, nearly $176 million. The MCC money has continued to flow to Honduras since the coup took place, with payments reported in July; and the Chairperson of the board that decides whether or not the funds continue to flow is Hillary Clinton in her role as Secretary of State.

Do the sanctions already in place work? The press who interviewed State Department experts by phone on the 25th about the visa cutoff for tourist visas seemed to think this would have little effect. They suggest that cutting off business visas would be more effective, but also note that that they expect most business people would already have multiple-entry business visas. However, statements today by Amilcilar Buines, head of COHEP, a business association, suggests that cutting off tourist visas may have had a significant negative effect on the business sector. Enrique Núñez, the president of another business association, ANMNPHI (Associación Nacional de Mediana y Pequeña Industria de Honduras) said

"This thing with the visas has a large negative effect, primarily because it affects the purchase of basic materials needed for production processes in small and medium businesses."

Jorge Canahauti, head of the association of Maquila owners suggested that the government needs to find an intermediate position that it can get behind.

Adolfo Facussé, president of ANDI, the Asociación Nacional de Industriales de Honduras, said that any punishment that involved affecting Honduras's membership in CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, as was recently suggested by the President of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández, "would be the ruin of the country". However, he notes they would rather "resist the pressures of the United States and eat tortillas and beans for a year rather than return to the way things were, under the influence of Hugo Chavez".

Carlos Kattán, head of the National Congress's Foreign Affairs committee, argues this cannot continue for long because the visas bring in $500,000 a month in this embassy, and he mistakenly believes the embassy is required to pay for itself through user fees. He argues that the US is only protecting its interests in the approval of Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil.

Update: Radio Globo claims that the US government will, tommorrow, freeze the bank accounts of the principal coup participants, starting with Roberto Micheletti Bain's account in a Houston, TX Wells Fargo bank (they read off the account number over the air).

Radio Globo is also reporting that an official communique from the Zelaya government states that the the G-16 country election supervision is being withdrawn, which will prevent G-16 country recognition of the November 29th election results.

Economic pressure (finally): lets follow the money a little, shall we?

The Associated Press is reporting that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) is "freezing credits to Honduras". They add that this is getting media attention in Honduras, as it could bring a halt to highway and other public works projects. The report says BCIE financing over the past five years amounts to $971 million.

These not only provide necessary economic development, through employment and purchase of materials; they also are critical in a country that still suffers from inadequate basic infrastructure.

While the report says "the freeze is provisional, while the banks' governors weigh whether to suspend financing", that technical difference is largely immaterial on the ground in Honduras.

Because the largest beneficiaries of loan-funded infrastructure projects are actually the owners of the businesses contracted by the government to undertake them, this measure, and others like it, can hit directly at those who supported the coup.

It is not coincidental that the National Congress of Honduras, since it illegally removed President Zelaya from the country and illegally appointed its own president in his place, has spent the bulk of its time (between rejecting international demands for restoration of democracy) in passing laws that authorize infrastructure spending.

A list of Decretos passed in 2009, available on the Congressional website, shows that beginning with Decreto 141-2009 of June 28, in which the Congress rationalized its illegal removal of President Zelaya, through July 27, Congress had passed 17 laws.

The national budget, whose passage the de facto regime has made much of, accusing the Zelaya government of serious crimes for not having accomplished this, was only passed on July 21 (decreto 157-2009).

Before that, however, the regime, untroubled by lack of a budget, passed 6 bills approving contracts for infrastructure projects or transferring funds to specific towns for such efforts.

Even more interesting: according to their own index, in the irregular Sunday session called June 28 to whitewash the military coup, before they got around to that item of business, the Congress took the time to pass other bills, including two that let contracts for loans from the BCIE and BID (International Development Bank). These were for $28.55 million US and $16.7 million US (respectively).

Anyone who doubts that money is at the root of this entire debacle should sit up and take notice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

IHAH Employees Support Dario Euraque

Is he or isn't he? maybe Hugo Llorens knows

Now that the US has finally begun to move, albeit creakily, toward more sanctions on the recalcitrant de facto regime (as the clock ticks toward Monday's scheduled kickoff of the election campaign, already compromised...), rumors are in the air, and in the press.

This morning, Honduras' El Heraldo published that "it has leaked out that the US ambassador, Hugo Llorens, will not return to the country by order of the State Department."

The same language was then echoed by Radío América.

But Mexico's El Financiero begs to differ: their article cites an unnamed "spokesperson" for the US State Department saying

The US has not recalled its ambassador in Honduras. We continue to believe that the presence of our ambassador in Honduras in these moments can contribute more to the final result that we are all seeking.

Estados Unidos no ha retirado a su embajador en Honduras. Continuamos creyendo que la presencia de nuestro embajador en Honduras en estos momentos puede contribuir más al resultado final que todos buscamos.

Oh really? like what? Has there been any evidence of any progress in persuading the regime to back down?

With Micheletti telling the Honduran press that Honduras doesn't need the world community, and that they will hold an election even if the world community declares it illegitimate, what possible good effect can the US ambassador have?

Especially when it is quite possible that these Honduran press reports are part of a smear campaign seeking to diminish his influence?

Remember-- Micheletti has said he hopes Llorens will never return to Honduras.

And the Radío América article doesn't describe the possible recall as a US sanction on Honduras. Instead, it ends its report with the following:
El diplomático ha sido criticado por el gobierno hondureño que consideró como intromisiva la reunión que tuvo en la embajada de Honduras en Nicaragua con el ex presidente, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, a finales del mes de julio.

The diplomat has been criticized by the [de facto] Honduran government that considers as meddling the meeting that he had in the Honduran embassay in Nicaragua with the ex-president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, at the end of the month of July.
As the reference to President Zelaya as the ex-president and to the coup regime as the Honduran government indicate, this paragraph is written from the pro-coup perspective. This was the way his departure for the US was originally characterized on August 14 by the pro-coup El Heraldo, which wrote that

It leaked out that the diplomatic visit to the ex president of Honduras in Nicaragua, had generated discomfort in the government of his country... The actions of the ambassador caused critiques by the Honduran authorities, that considered the meeting meddling... Unofficial sources reported that the ambassador was called to consultations in Washington.
[In diplomatic lingo, being called to consultation is polite wording for being called on the carpet.]

It cannot be accidental that two less-common Spanish words are repeated in these reports: intromisiva (meddling) and trascender with the meaning of "leak out". This is how you follow the traces of a talking points memo, or a propaganda campaign: watch for the same language being repeated.

The spin coup media would like to put on Llorens' continued absence from Honduras is that this is not just welcome, but in some way a punishment for the diplomat. The State Department needs to do more than have an unnamed spokesperson comment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Could it be true? Reports of US sanctions being enacted

A correspondent pointed us to a posting on the Libertad de Expression Listserve citing a Mexican journalist, Jacobo Zabludosky.

And now Radio Globo is broadcasting the same story, being picked up by a variety of Spanish language news sources in Mexico and Brazil.

Meanwhile, the State Department website confirms reports in the Honduran Press that beginning tomorrow, the Honduran Embassy will not issue new visas to any Hondurans applying for them.

[Update: The New York Times story on this action posted at 7:24 PM cites A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity saying Washington was considering other steps though it was premature to disclose these. Can we hope there might be something to the Mexican journalist's report, below?]

[The NYT article cites Human Rights Watch as calling for more US economic sanctions calling for the Obama administration should directly target members of the de facto government by denying them access to the U.S. banking system and targeting private companies associated with these officials. Human Rights Watch spoke out this week after a group of scholars and activists published an open letter calling for them to take a firmer stand. See Adrienne Pine's letter thanking HRW for taking that action.]

Radio Globo reports that Ambassador Hugo Llorens has been ordered by the State Department not to return to Tegucigalpa.

So take this as either an actual breakthrough or a rumor that tells us what the world community thinks would be the most effective actions against the regime.

Update: Since the OAS commission has now come and gone without evident effect, the last rationale the US had for waiting to act has been removed. Adrienne Pine has published an important statement by 20 Liberal Party congress members who condemn the coup, and call for the signing of the San Jose Accord. These individuals are taking enormous risks, and one hopes the US will not leave them exposed for no reason.

Meanwhile, the police and military are reportedly meeting NOW with Canahuati-- which could be the break, the conversation about removing the one barrier to accepting the San Jose Accord, Micheletti. [Update: live reports on Radio Globo say Micheletti has tripled the guard around his house to more than 50.]

Here is what Zabludovsky said the US sanctions could be; Radio Globo claims the suspension of remittances, one of the main economic supports of Honduras even before the coup, will be in place tomorrow, without citing a source for this:
1. Desconocimiento total del presidente que resultase de las elecciones realizadas bajo el régimen de facto.

[Complete rejection of recognition of any president from elections carried out under the de facto regime]

2. Suspensión total de toda la ayuda económica que todavía Los Estados Unidos están aportando a Honduras.

[Total suspension all economic aid still being given by the US to Honduras]

3. Congelamiento de cuentas bancarias personales de cada uno, y de todos, los golpistas en Los Estados Unidos y en cualquier parte del mundo donde quiera que se hallan registradas.

[Freezing of bank accounts of each one, and of all, the golpistas in the US and in any part of the world where they might have been registered]

4. Congelamiento total del envió de todo tipo de remesas en dinero a Honduras.

[Freezing of all remittances of any type to Honduras]

5. Suspensión de todas las importaciones y exportaciones a Honduras.

[Suspension of all imports and exports to Honduras]

6. Retirar a Honduras del tratado preferencial para las exportaciones de sus productos, incluso de la producción maquilera.

[Removing from Honduras preferential trade status for the export of its products, including products from maquilas]

Update: El Heraldo is confirming today (8/25) that Ambassador Hugo Llorens has been recalled.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Is there anything new in the Supreme Court's comments on the San Jose Accord?

An article posted at 7:20 PM Saturday evening on the website of the pro-coup Honduran newspaper, La Prensa, brings us a verbatim publication of the outcome of the weeks-long deliberation on the San Jose Accord by the Honduran Supreme Court.

Surprise: they don't like it.

Actually, it is a breath of fresh air to have some branch of the de facto regime actually admit that they have no intention of accepting core principles of the San Jose Accord. The regime has realized it can virtually endlessly play out the clock by reiterating supposed support for the Accord, while either remaining silent about the restoration of the democratically elected president, or actively refusing to consider that point.

And while they are subtle, there are some interesting points in the Supreme Court statement.

Press coverage has emphasized that the court reiterated that President Zelaya would have to stand trial. But what they actually said is that there is an existing legal case against him, which has to be finalized following the penal processual code.

As readers of this blog know, the required process had only begun the discovery phase of gathering statements. The single justice who was assigned that task still could have decided to dismiss the case, a defense could have been mounted, and the case would have had to be proved. So while this is being spun under the reigning perspective of "guilty until proven innocent", under the actual reformed legal code's presumption of innocence, a chance to fight the charges, weak as they are, would hardly be a reason not to come back.

It is one thing to accuse someone of really serious crimes-- all those capital letters!-- and another to prove it.

(And notice the capital letters come in discussing the San Jose accord's call for President Zelaya to abandon constitutional reform for the rest of his term in office; it looks like it is emphasizing how guilty he is, but in fact when it talks about the ongoing legal case, it refrains from the scare tactics; the capitals here are to emphasize how dreadful the public poll or survey was, that it was so horrific that it led to charges of serious crimes. Not that these were proven, just that the poll motivated a lawyer to file these charges.)

Most interesting of all: the court makes no reference to the supposed 18 point indictment, so trumpeted by the Micheletti regime, which as we noted previously actually lacks the most dark crimes being mentioned in conjunction with President Zelaya and instead is full of multiple points of administrative law.

It is also intriguing that in the section commenting on the San Jose Accord's call to restore the government to its condition before June 28, the court feels obliged to address a possible criticism that no one has actually made. So, they burst out in a description of how their branch is really legal, legally appointed waaay back in January (unlike some other branches we might mention but are too polite to embarrass: yes, we're looking at you, de facto executive branch...).

Anxiety about what will happen on restoral also may explain the insertion in their list of comments on the final dispositions in the San Jose Accord of a reiteration of their own approval of their own actions, which they say have been absolutely in accord with the Constitution and within the framework of impartiality.

Nothing to see here, move along; did I mention that the executive branch is really, really not in keeping with the constitutional and legal framework? well, did I?.

And of course, like all parts of the de facto regime's government, they cherry-pick the accord for phrases they like and try to spin them. Thus, in their seventh comment on the final dispositions, they call for the international community to respect Honduran sovereignty and the non-interference clause in the UN Charter.

The truly dangerous thing about this regime, again, is that they seem to really believe they are just misunderstood; their violations are all felicitous exceptions to the rules.

Oh, and the there's that little thing in the preamble where they register their disrespect for the very idea of constitutional reform by the people. So very much better not to let them get their hands on it.

This dispute will not go away: the reactionary position is now clearly that any attempt to modify the constitution (except all the modifications congress practices for all sorts of reasons) is impermissable. Added to which we now have the premature promotion of the participants in the 1981 constitutional drafting to the status of would-be Jeffersons and Madisons.

In service of better understanding by the English speaking community, here is [the first half of] a translation of the document emitted by the Supreme Court [with the rest to come]:

A. Constitutional and doctrinal dispositions relating to the document of the proposed 'San Jose Accord':

I. Constitutional dispositions about the organization of the State of Honduras.
In conformity with the Constitution of the Republic, Honduras is a State of Law, its constitutional form of government is Republican, democratic, and representative, exercised by the three powers (Legislative, executive, and Judicial), complementary, independent and without relations of subordination. Sovereignty corresponds to the people from which emanates all the powers of State that are exercised by representation.

Within the constitutional organization of the Honduran State, to the Judicial Power corresponds the power to impart justice by independent justices and magistrates, uniquely subject to the Constitution and the Laws, through its application in concrete cases, judging and executing judgment, pronouncing through resolutions and sentences issued with the independence that the constitutional text ordains.

II. Doctrinal dispositions about constitutional reform and the set-in-stone clauses.

Every Constitutional State establishes mechanisms to reform its Constitution, as a means to assure and maintain the conservation of the ideals that inspire the State of Law and Democracy. The key to the success of constitutions, as norms given supremacy, in any democratic society is precisely to come to be the result of consensus or of a pact of all a society and not of circumstantial will, in addition to foreshadow in its norms the form of materializing constitutional changes, as well as the mechanisms that permit a guarantee that the validity of the popular will not be supplanted.

In the eagerness to fortify democracy it is important to visualize the necessary equilibrium of the two principles that are always found present in every constitutional reform: constitutional supremacy and popular sovereignty. On the one hand, constitutional supremacy that implies that the Constitution is the supreme norm that obliges equally those who govern and those who are governed, prescribing the mechanisms for constitutional reform, as limits to the powers constituted by the people themselves. On the other hand, popular sovereignty that empowers the people as the holder of sovereignty, the exercise of constituent power to modify the Constitutional State, its organization and the Constitution itself, in the form prescribed in that document itself, for which there are established limitations of a material kind, such as irreformable or set-in-stone clauses. These aspects, without doubt were considered by the legislative constituent at the moment of the approval of the Honduran Constitution of 1982.

In this sense, the majority of the irreformable or set-in-stone articles of the Honduran Constitution are directed to establish a rigidity so that the Constitution cannot be reformed freely at the whim of the political forces governing the country. Constitutional Article 374 expressly comes to be a clear limit on the possibility to return to the epoch of constitutional rupture on the part of military regimes, as well as to impede that, once in power, the holder of the Executive Power should intend to convert him- or her-self into a president "ad infinitum", by applying the prohibition against that functionary opting for re-election. Today, the democratic State of Law should strengthen itself in order to avoid the menace of the calls of an imperialist presidency, democratic plebiscites, or even so-called democracies without a state of law, in which they seek to infringe or elude the fulfillment of the Constitution and Laws reigning in each country.

B. Opinion of the Supreme Court of Justice about the document of the proposed "San Jose Accord"

The Supreme Court of Justice, in the framework of its constitutional attributes, subject only to the Constitution of the Republic, international instruments and laws, in relation to the document of the proposed "San Jose Accord", in that which could fall within the competence of this Power, for actions realized or by express reference to the Judicial Power in the contents of the said document and other related aspects with constitutional dispositions, manifests its opinion in the following terms:

First: On the National Government of Unity and Reconciliation

In regard to this point in which the conformation of a "national government of unity and reconciliation integrated by representatives of the diverse political parties recognized by its capacity, repute, suitability, and will to dialogue" will be established, in this respect it is important to observe that even though this postulate is introduced within the ideals of participatory democracy, nonetheless it should be held in mind what is established in Article 245, number 5 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, that grants to the President of the Republic the power to name and separate freely the Cabinet members.

Second: Renunciation of convening a National Constituent Assembly or to Reform the irreformable part of the Constitution

It is demonstrated that the convocation for a poll or survey to modify the Constitution of the Republic, in contravention of judicial resolutions dictated by competent tribunals, declaring the same illegal for not being framed within the legal and constitutional dispositions in effect, was one of the charges on which was based the legal filing presented by the Attorney General of the State, against the ex-incumbent of the Executive Power, citizen Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, for supposing him responsible for offenses against the FORM OF GOVERNMENT, TREASON AGAINST THE FATHERLAND, ABUSE OF AUTHORITY AND USURPATION OF FUNCTIONS, in prejudice against the PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND THE STATE OF HONDURAS.

Given the principle of constitutional supremacy that the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras implies is the supreme norm of State that obligates equally the governors and those governed, and that prescribes the mechanisms for constitutional reform, it is obligatory observance of what is established in its Articles 5, 239, 373, and 374, in reference to the impossibility of inciting, promoting, or supporting modifications to the form of government, national territory, presidential term, to the prohibition against a citizen that had that role under any title to be President of the Republic again, and in reference to those who cannot be President of the Republic for the following period.

Third: Concerning the return of the Powers of State to their integration previous to June 28

To this effect and understanding that this refers to those who wielded the incumbency of the same, since as Powers of State they continue functioning and operating in the framework of the attributes and limits that the Constitution, international agreements, and laws impose, taking into consideration that the Public Prosecutor's office has exercised penal action interposing filings against citizens that are supposed responsible for the commission of offenses and those give rise from the beginning to corresponding penal cases that the courts and tribunals are hearing, the only way to finalize or suspend these penal processes is in conformity with what is regulated in our penal processual legislation, so that an arrangement of political character must necessarily pass in respect to legality and corresponding juridical control. On the contrary, it would be true nonsense if the search and construction of accords in a State of Law, is accomplished by violating or leaving aside the Constitution and the Laws.

In respect to and by express allusion to the Judicial Power, it affirms that this Power of State was legitimately constituted in conformity with the process of selection and election regulated in Articles 311 and 312 of the Constitution of the Republic for a period of seven years beginning January 25, 2009, and from the referenced date has been fulfilling its functions and attributes in conformity with that indicated in the Constitution of the Republic and the Law.

In relation to the return of the citizen Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the Presidency of the Republic, until the conclusion of the present governmental term, the 27 of January, it should be taken into account that as has been mentioned previously, there exist penal actions presented by the Attorney General of the Republic; in consequence and in strict legality as long as there do not exist other applicable legal dispositions he cannot avoid having to submit himself to the established proceedings in the penal processual code.

Friday, August 21, 2009

De facto regime illegally dismisses Director of Institute of Anthropology and History

Readers of this blog know that the de facto regime is no friend to the Ministry of Culture or its various programs and offices. We have documented the history of dismissals of talented and accomplished scholars and artists, as well as the evidence of ideological blindness about disseminating books and encouraging critical thinking.

Now comes the latest sad volley: Ms. Myrna Castro has issued an illegal dismissal letter intending to remove the Director of the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia, Dr. Darío Euraque.

A historian and Professor of History at Trinity College in Connecticut, Dr. Euraque took a leave of absence from his position there to step in and provide leadership for the Institute. Under his leadership, it has fostered wide public participation through workshops, press coverage, and conferences that always include a public aspect. He has overseen the greatest expansion in the number of historical sites managed by the Institute for the Honduran public in its history.

Dr. Euraque's own research, including his ground-breaking book, Reinterpreting the Banana Republic (1996), and the 2004 Conversaciones históricas con el mestizaje y su identidad nacional en Honduras, are indispensable works to understood the roots of the present conflict, and also how Honduras is developing as a pluralistic, multicultural society.

What is different in this case is that the office of the director is preparing a legal defense and will fight this. The Honduran Institute is legally autonomous and is under the direction of a duly constituted board. The Director can only be legally dismissed by the board. The board must be legally convened, a quorum established, and a specific procedure following.

None of this has happened.

We are asking for solidarity on behalf of the directorship of the Institute and the integrity of its projects. This is, as the network of artists and scholars in resistance shows, a regime that lacks respect for the work of understanding culture and history.

Resisting this abuse of authority against an institution defending the cultural heritage of Honduras in the aftermath of the coup is something to which we can all contribute.

Update: As noted, this time, the person under attack is fighting back and holding the de facto regime responsible. See his response letter here.

Additional update: The union of employees of the Honduran Institute has issued a statement of support for Dr. Euraque, translated by Adrienne Pine, and employees took over IHAH installations across the country. Dr. Euraque continues to conduct the work of the Institute, with growing international support, including a letter signed by more than 350 academics, scholars, and intellectuals.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Now they want a truth commission

Several sources are reporting on an interview with the head of the Honduran Congress under the de facto government, José Alfredo Saavedra. The original source appears to be a La Tribuna interview with Saavedra. In it, he issues a public call for the international community to convene a truth commission as quickly as possible. Why does he want a truth commission? He says it will counteract the lies and positioning of those who want to return Manuel Zelaya to power. Here we see the recurring theme of the golpistas, that if only the world knows what they did, all will be forgiven. It never seems to cross his mind that a truth commission, made up of international representatives, might be critical of them.

"We came into this insisting that to avoid these problems, it is necessary to form a truth commission, and it should be done as quickly as possible. The international community is required to make the truth commission of people of different ideologies so that all at once, everyone will know the truth that comes from personal experience, testimony, and the proofs they might get."

"I feel that it is not the moment for us to confront each other. Discretion should guide everyone, and should rule in a country where we are accustomed to live in peace, to not attack one another, to not confront each other."

Saavedra indicated that he was surprised by the information being given to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH in Spanish) of the OAS, especially that there were torture chambers in the basement of the National Congress.

"These people only want to hurt the Honduran people because, in Congress, there have never been torture chambers in the basement."

Saavedra here seems to be forgetting that those testifying to the CIDH are Honduran people.

At the end of the La Tribuna article, there's an unrelated comment from Saavedra that Congress has rejected, after discussing all week, a return to mandatory military service. Compulsory military service was abolished because the military abused its draftees, pulling them off buses, from markets, and pressed them into service for 2 or 4 years, often feeding them poorly and not allowing them to communicate with their families for the first six months. Many "recruits" died. That Congress would be discussing a return to compulsory service was not popular among the Honduran populace.

"The final solution": The National Congress, elections, threats and illegitimacy

Considering that on the 29th of November of the present year, the Honduran people, attending to the call of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, will come together massively to the electoral polls to express, by means of the universal, egalitarian, obligatory, direct, free, and secret vote, their desires and the firm hope of continued guarantee of the State of Law to assure the people the enjoyment of justice, liberty, culture, and economic and social welfare, as is ordered in effect by the maximum legal order of the country, which is the Constitution of the Republic.

This is the first stated assumption in a congressional resolution passed August 18. The ironies should be obvious, given the absolute lack of a guarantee of liberty, freedom, and the State of Law under the de facto regime.

Our question is, why did the congress pass any such resolution, and why now?

An article about this resolution in yesterday's La Tribuna supports the inference that the possibility of electoral activism, whether boycotts or other actions, is disturbing to the de facto regime.

The National Congress statement uses language from the codes of law and Constitution concerning the implementation of elections.

Hence the clause quoted above cites the constitutionally obligatory nature of the vote, which as we have previously noted, is honored more in theory than in practice.

The reporter for La Tribuna boils down the issues considered by the National Congress to four simple paragraphs, stripping away the overlay of lofty sentiments in the resolution. The article notes that it
condemns any action or denunciation, come what may, that would obstruct, disavow, impede, or tarnish the general election process that will be carried out in Honduras.

The first three words here come directly out of law; so the interesting interpolation here is "tarnish" (empañe). This is a choice by the writers for the pro-coup newspaper, revealing more than perhaps the congressional faction it supports would have desired.

Here, yet again, we have the de facto regime and its supporters ignoring the fundamental constitutional guarantees of freedom of opinion, in an attempt to shore up their support in the face of massive erosion of public trust, not just in their regime, but in the entire system of government. Some (unnamed) people are threatening to "tarnish" the electoral process. In fact, of course, the people who have tarnished the elections are the coup proponents and their supporters.

This is what the reform campaign is at base about. The disillusion on the part of the citizenry with the legitimacy and effectiveness of Honduran government was not created by the coup, or by President Zelaya. But he and his government were motivated to try to directly address it by enlisting citizens in governance. And that is what the coup regime cannot tolerate.

The other points made in the resolution that El Heraldo felt were newsworthy are equally revealing.

The congress felt it necessary to reiterate that the elections will be held, as scheduled, in November. Why is this even in question? Perhaps because the coup has shown that guarantees of constitutional processes are not to be trusted? perhaps because the national congress has considered seriously laws that would do such unthinkable things as reverse the hard-won freedom from universal military conscription, or would require news media to allow any politician who felt reporting was unfair to him or her to use the media to rebut the (not so free) press? Or, are we seeing a sign that people expect the regime to use continued unrest to suspend the elections, as has been the precedent in Honduran history?

The national congress explicitly expressed its total support for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Why? who is questioning it? could it be that people do not trust it as an independent guarantor of the outcome of scheduled elections? (It is worth noting that the 2005 Presidential election was marked by a major episode of premature announcement of electoral "results" by the TSE which undermined any idea of the apolitical posture it might take...)

Now, there are other aspects to the National Congress statement that did not make it into the commentary by La Tribuna. While numbered points 1 and 2 in the resolution simply restate that the election will happen as scheduled, and that the TSE is the entity charged to

supervise the transparency, legitimacy, and credibility of the electoral process.

But item 3 should give us pause; it reaffirms support for the Armed Forces

as guarantor institution of the rule of the Constitution, the principles of free suffrage, and the alternation in the exercise of the office of Presidency of the Republic.
What is this actually trying to say? The Armed Forces have clearly experienced an erosion in public confidence due to their unwarranted actions in kidnapping the constitutionally elected President and expatriating him, actions absolutely contrary to the Constitution and without any authorization, even in the fatally flawed order dated June 26 signed by one justice of the Supreme Court. Throughout the days following, and increasingly since the coup leadership ordered that protesters be dislodged, the military has participated in violent repression leading to deaths and injuries, further eroding any image they had built up of kindly institution obedient to and serving the people.

The Armed Forces do have a constitutionally mandated role in elections: to guard the polling places to ensure no one interferes in access to them, and to ensure that polling results are not tampered with on their way to the TSE. But think about what the recent history of violent repression of the citizenry implies about this supposedly benevolent role. What participant in the resistance would find a polling place guarded by the Armed Forces welcoming?

More than that, though, part of this passage echoes a perversion by the de facto regime of the Constitutional role of the Armed Forces that is such a serious wound to the social contract that it has led to calls for Honduras to join Costa Rica in abolishing the Armed Forces entirely. This is the claim that the Armed Forces are "the guarantor institution" for constitution succession in the Presidency, and more generally, of the rule of the Constitution.

This is not the Constitutional role of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces is explicitly defined as apolotical and non-deliberative. To assert such an active role for them is to establish a fourth branch of government, one that has authority through might, not right.

The Armed Forces, in this formulation, would usurp the roles of the actual established branches of government. To the repeated claim that this was not a coup, or the uncertainty the US State Department inanely claims exists about whether this was a military coup, the de facto regime's response has been: but the military has not taken over any of the three branches of government. What this statement exposes is that in reality, this coup has increased the power of the military, and has permanently upset the balance of power. What is to stop future Armed Forces leadership from deciding that a President is leaning too far toward an ideology of which they do not approve, and acting independently on the theory that they are the guarantor institution?


The fourth item in the Congressional resolution affirms support for
the participation of the political parties and independent candidates, in fortifying participatory democracy.
Notice the silences here. Electoral politics is understood to be an activity, not of the people, but of the parties. The parties are given primacy as the means of "participatory democracy", making a mockery of the idea.

But this item is critical for its acknowledgment, however muted, of one of the larger issues: the need to shift from an emphasis on purely representative democracy to greater participation by citizens. The very phrase "participatory democracy" owes its power, most certainly, owes its presence here, to the administration of President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

And why is this resolution being passed now? Item 5 gives both the rationalization and the threat: the election, the Congress asserts, is the "final solution" of the crisis, and to ensure that solution, they are prepared to make more threats and bring more charges against citizens who attempt to exercise their civil rights even to speak out against the illegitimacy of an election held under the current regime, in light of the current lack of civil rights.

The final solution.

[Resolved] to condemn from now any intent to try to disavow, discredit, or block the electoral process, no matter where such threats come from, warning that it will not hesitate, if that were the case, to carry out the actions and legal complaints that correspond to these actions, since the successful culmination of this process constitutes for the Honduran people the final and definitive solution of the present political crisis that crosses our country.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"I am until the end a soldier of the resistance": Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle

The invaluable Honduran blog mimalapalabra brings us an account of a new interview with Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle. Their commentary on the interview, by Mario Casasús on Telesur, is preceded by the following note:

Note, dear reader, where the balance of intelligence leans. To the right, or to the left? (Today everything has to do with the division of these two ideological tendencies). Toward Harvard or to the Mall? Who has more brains in their head, who goes every day to the beauty salon or who offers conferences in prestigious universities? What do you prefer, faithful reader of mimalapalabra, a good mirror that will decorate your office or a personal library to read? You can answer the questions asked above in the intimacy of your house, confide them to your family and friends or, in the best of cases, shout them out. (The allusions are obvious for those who know the interiority of our country.)

The allusions should be equally obvious to readers of this blog, if you have been paying attention to the contrast between the scholar, intellectual, and committed advocate of social justice, Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle, and the de facto regime's appointee to run his ministry. The interview with historian Pastor Fasquelle, currently visiting faculty at Harvard in anthropology and history, should be required reading for all students of this crisis.

In the course of this long interview, Pastor Fasquelle expresses his belief that the mobilization of popular resistance will produce lasting political change in the long run.

Apropos of discussion fomented by the previous post of an editorial of his in El Tiempo, it is interesting to note that he says here that

We have to increase the pressure to take away the social base from the coup and we have to assure the Interamerican promise to disown the whitewashing of the coup by means of an election controlled by the golpistas.

One of the extended answers he gives, sparked by a question about his editorial, "Yo acuso", is an analysis of the similarities and differences between the coup against Allende in Chile in 1973 and the present coup in Honduras, from his viewpoint as both an historian and a politician.

Pastor Fasquelle's discussion of the role of Honduran media in the coup is trenchant. He clarifies that the editorial openness of
El Tiempo newspaper, is due to the position of the owner, Jaime Rosenthal, against the coup, a position shared by his son, Yani Rosenthal.

Dr. Pastor Fasquelle reports an even more pessimistic economic outlook for the marginalized de facto regime than contained in other reports noted here and elsewhere:

I understand that they have serious fiscal difficulties and perhaps the resources to maintain the current State apparatus for less than one month.

Asked to comment on the situation of cultural properties in Honduras under the de facto regime, he credits the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia with managing to stave off the misuse of the Antigua Casa Presidencial, a conflict reported here. But he says he puts his greatest
"trust in the new civic consciousness of the value of patrimony" that was fostered under his leadership of the Ministry of Culture.

In response to a later question about the firing of Nathalie Roque, by the de facto regime's delegate to run his ministry, he says

That poor woman is a public calamity of the coup, a comic cause célèbre, the laughing stock of the community, for her irredentist ignorance, her administrative inability and her profound confusion. She fired all the technical cadres of the Ministry because she wanted to employ political activists from her campaign. Now the organic intellectuals of the coup itself are beginning to ask for her head. But since she has always been surrounded by delinquents she goes around trying to seek the fly in the ointment, trying to find crimes. The witch dedicated to the witchhunt. Not necessary to do anything against her. She has already done all that could be done against herself, with absolute efficiency.

A full translation follows:

[Q] The 22nd of June, in an interview with Proceso, you said "I have lived through three coups d'Etat in my country. In the two previous, the population did not provide any opposition at all. The following day, normalcy was absolute". Two months after the de facto regime is being cornered by the multitudinous demonstrations; how do you see the emergence of an organized civil society? is this the result of Citizen Power?

[A] For the majority of the intelligent people that I know this transformation of the collective consciousness is the most important. It is manifested in the conjuncture but reveals a structural break with the past. Honduras has been very conservative, a society fearful of change, but change is there. It has been, for example, bipartisan, where only the traditional parties have the capacity for national mobilization and the option of power. But now the political parties have not organized these demonstrations, they have formally opposed them and have tried instead to support the demonstrations of the white shirts, that have now vanished; it has been the social organizations, the UD, and a party faction with its own identity that have organized the effective resistance in the streets and highways. The Frente, supposes in effect not only the real potential to push back the coup, but also a sustainable base for the future social and political modernization of our society, as another type of organization.

Citizen Power could have contributed, at least as a framework or rhetoric. But it was more the option of President Zelaya to govern with the social organizations that was strategic as a trigger. And the cause is the deepest and most ancient, it is an evolution of social organization itself, which goes on incorporating new social actors: after the unions and the cooperatives, it has assimilated the indigenous organizations, and the independent professionals.

[Q] In the same interview with Homero Campa, you cautioned against the danger of an imminent civil war in Honduras; a month after that statement, has your perception changed? Does the de facto regime have its days numbered?

[A] I don't know how to count the days of the regime. The logic of brute power is an elemental logic. It does not need much. This regime has no interest in investment, nor in continuing the programs that have been implemented. I understand that they have serious fiscal difficulties and perhaps the resources to maintain the current State apparatus for less than one month. But they have the option of a radical cut, with excuses. The Interamerican right is moving with energy to obtain oxygen for them, at least even space to manoeuvre. The business people will continue firm as long as the freeze doesn't affect their commerce and their earnings. Meanwhile, they continue to have more to lose with a return.

What I do not see is that the people will be scared. The truth is they are not afraid. Although the levels of repression have risen as a strategy to intimidate, through the selective elimination and criminal prosecution of the demonstrators, despite all the movement of resistance continues growing. And in point of fact, the repression is provoking the middle class sectors that originally wanted to be neutral to sympathize with the resistance and oppose the coup. This puts in question the capacity of the regime for control. Now no one believes in the coup media and information continues to circulate by the Internet. As polarized and set as the conflict is, I continue to see the possibility of violence as a direct result of frustration. I don't like it, but I am a realist.

[Q] The Micheletti regime broke off diplomatic relations with Argentina, the ambassadors that backed the coup d'Etat were discontinued and expelled by their host countries; how was it living during the crisis and attempt to assault the Embassy in Mexico? Did you expect a unanimous reaction of international solidarity?

[A] The break with Argentina is one more foolishness of the coup. The ambassadors that took the side of Micheletti pertained to an old oligarchic tradition in the Foreign Ministry, redoubt of aged dinosaurs that pretend professionalism and register cynicism. The President had yielded to the pressures of this "tradition" and that of the capital Curia in the matter of appointments. Significantly, the present Foreign Minister of the coup, López Contreras, had previously been Foreign Minister for the military dictatorships, he is the husband of an ex-Vice President of the conservative party, relative and protégé of the ex-dictator López Arellano and of the Embassy, and the present Vice-minister is the messenger of the Cardinal and of Opus Dei in the Congress.

The recovery of the Embassy in Mexico-- whose heroine was Rosalinda Bueso-- was as if you will a minor incident that, nonetheless, was linked to a break and a clarification of the Mexican position in the conflict. It was a moment in which the directive seemed to vacillate in the face of the coup propaganda that attributed to the government of President Zelaya a radical "chavismo" and there was no lack of those who thought that they could play both sides, taking advantage of an interpretation that has been called the Estrada Doctrine. Institutionality prevailed. Mexico is serious. It has signed the OAS Declaration and subscribed to that of the UN, and of the Río Group; including having participated from the first moments in the meetings of the Central American Integration System that condemned the coup.

I never expected anything but the international reaction did not surprise me. The coup in effect is an atavism that puts institutionality at risk in all Latin America and threatens its attempts to seek a more independent definition. And Barack Obama has proclaimed a multilateral international policy.

[Q] We know that you completed a doctorate in the Colegio de México, and at one point three Cabinet Ministers coincided in the DF [Mexico's capital district]: the Finance minister, the Education minister, and you, representing the portfolio of Culture, Arts, and Sports, not to mention as well President Zelaya and Foreign Minister Rodas made an official state visit; to what do you attribute the presence of the ministers of Honduras and President Zelaya in Mexico? To the presidency pro tem of the Río Group?

[A] There is an old history of geographic and cultural proximity, of shared history and diffusion. Mexico has been a refuge for all Ibero-american dissidents, but more than any, the Central American. In regard to the trip of President Zelaya, it is clear that the battle is won on two fronts, the internal and the external. It is by means of this itinerant diplomacy of the President that the external front can be assured against the conspiracy of the right that moreover now has become familiar. We have to increase the pressure to take away the social base from the coup and we have to assure the Interamerican promise to disown the whitewashing of the coup by means of an election controlled by the golpistas. Mexico is an especially key partner because of its proximity to the US, so that it was a logical first stop in the President's pilgrimage that nonetheless has its limits.

[Q] Will you carry out diplomatic and cultural negotiations from your professorship at Harvard? Are you thinking of writing in the North American press about Honduran reality?

[A] I am already doing that when I replied to your interview and this is one of my commitments here. I have promised my President that I am at his disposal for diplomatic negotiations here. I am until the end a soldier of the resistance. I will continue publishing in Honduras some texts that escape censure. And to the extent that the US press is interested, I will be disposed to take the time to meet them. But I hope to bring prestige to my government and my country by completing my obligations and respecting my commitments in teaching at Harvard, which I take equally seriously, to teach social and cultural history of Latin America to young students that soon will be cadres, and that perhaps is an indispensable labor to seek lucidity over the long term. (I thank the David Rockefeller Center for Latin America and the Departments of History and Anthropology at Harvard that have given me such a pleasant refuge and are in agreement.) I have the shield of Honduras over my desk. Honduras is always here, in my wakefulness and in my sleep. I will miss it later.

[Q] In an interview with Telesur, the art critic Helen Umaña told me: "The prospect is bleak because cultural depredation could happen inadvertently… only the intervention of institutions of international prestige such as UNESCO can contain the predatory action"; has there been any recourse for the preservation of Honduran cultural heritage?

[A] I have requested this management from the Instituto Hondureño de Antropología e Historia that miraculously has survived the coup. But more than UNESCO, I trust in the new civic consciousness of the value of patrimony, fruit as well of a lucid administration, which was, for example, what prevented the [de facto] Minister of the coup from being able to carry out her announced intention of consigning the restored Old Presidential Palace-- in which we established a Center of Investigation-- to the reservists of the Armed Forces as a barracks, in preparation for the "Venezuelan invasion".

[Q] It was overwhelming to write "Yo acuso"; the then-Senator Neruda had written a discourse with that title during the first persecution of the communists in 1947 and the person in charge of the Pisagua Concentration Camp was Pinochet; years later he acted as loyal to President Allende; you said, "I accuse Romeo Vásquez Velásquez-- who impersonated a friend of the President and a disciplined soldier until the final hours of his legitimate mandate"; is history repeating itself? Why do we not remember the names and trajectories of the golpistas of yesterday?

[A] I am a historian. History does not repeat itself. It has names of its own and precise dates, unrrepeatable. But there are sociohistorical processes that are analogues, phenomena that can be catalogued. Fascism, for example, repeats, it is an almost predictable reaction to democratic modernization in the face of crisis. And is is always paranoid and repressive. The analogy with the Pinochet coup against Allende is therefore valid. There is a series of common denominators: a president with a will to transformation, with a wide social base, a private industry disposed to support the coup to preserve its privilege, a collaborationist political class and an interposed military caste.

There is also a different element: Obama. It could be a determinant difference so that Honduras will not have to suffer so much. And another, a Honduras that continues being rural and dispersed, and a much weaker military apparatus. And a third: the history of Chile also awoke an internationalism of human rights that had no equal force in 1973. And a fourth; my President did not die in La Moneda. He travels all over the continent in a small plane that has been loaned him, raising a stir, and communicates with his people. In regard to the title of "Yo acuso", it is classic, nineteenth century. France. Balzac. Significantly, no one published "Yo acuso" in Honduras. They didn't dare.

[Q] The de facto bureaucrat that usurped the Ministry of Culture, fired Nathalie Roque, then the director of the National Newspaper Archive who denounced the past delinquency of Romeo Vásquez Velásquez and the other golpistas; is remembering history a crime? What relief will you have in your capacity as Cabinet Minister when democracy returns?

[A] That poor woman is a public calamity of the coup, a comic cause célèbre, the laughing stock of the community, for her irredentist ignorance, her administrative inability and her profound confusion. She fired all the technical cadres of the Ministry because she wanted to employ political activists from her campaign. Now the organic intellectuals of the coup itself are beginning to ask for her head. But since she has always been surrounded by delinquents she goes around trying to seek the fly in the ointment, trying to find crimes. The witch dedicated to the witchhunt. Not necessary to do anything against her. She has already done all that could be done against herself, with absolute efficiency.

[Q] In August of 2001, you analyzed: "The Honduran case, press, citizen, and power", the variables were different, above all the bad management of the economy and the "83% 'popularity' of Sr. Flores", thanks to "the full and close collaboration of the media…minimizing possible objections"; what index of popularity will the golpistas have in the press and in history? The question because El Heraldo is a coup pillar, and the Tribune is property of the same Sr. Flores…

[A] Mario, you are an enlightened interviewer. The Honduran press manipulated by the Association of Owners of Communication Media, "all five of them"*, and all or almost all golpistas, is a problem of fundamental importance for Honduras of our time and the immediate future. The coup would have been impossible without the media manipulation and is sustained in part because this manipulation continues obscuring and supplanting the national reality with propaganda. And this press is the link par excellence between the coup businessmen and the regime. As in everything, there are exceptions. Although not all his relatives, the newspaper and television owner Jaime Rosenthal rebelled against the golpistas and his son, the youth leader Yani [Rosenthal], despite the costs that it represents for his businesses because of the reprisals of the government and the other businessmen, has declared himself against the coup. Nonetheless, Carlos Flores continues in command of the illicit association of the manipulators, together with J. Canahuati, and dominate almost all the important media.

But history has never submitted to what the media of communication say. What do you think the German media said about Hitler during the Third Reich? Modern and critical history (unlike medieval chronicle) precisely is designed as a discipline to dismantle and strip propaganda. Today even the middle class that is a natural clientele of the manipulated media has started to doubt its press, because they go farm they exaggerate without modesty. The people in the street shout in the demonstrations "Out with the coup press!" and another, which I like a lot, in these multitudinous marches "We are not four, we are not one hundred, sold-out press, count us well!" I have no doubt what history is going to say about the coup. Do you?

[Q] Finally, what message would you like to send to all the poets, writers, artists, actors and intellectuals who next Sunday will perform a Concert from the resistance in Tegucigalpa?

[A] I am proud of the brotherhood and the community of the thinking men and women and creators of my country. Like others of Latin America in the recent past they have reacted with heroism, with imagination, with sensitivity and with professionalism. They go to the marches and they make art to display. It is not only this coming Sunday, but since hours after the coup, and in a continued fashion, in Honduran cities, they sing against the coup in the street, they dance and they write poetry and theater and sociological and political essays against the coup, they convey the chronicle of the infamies of the coup, they paint against the coup, on the walls and on paper. This speaks of a new and unified civic maturity of the citizenry, although always diverse, of the guilds of artists and academics. The mealy-mouthed and the traitors are so few that it isn't worth the trouble to make a list. Hopefully I can contribute something like leavening. This lucid conscience is at the base the only proof that the work of the last thirty years has not been in vain, that there is no such backlash as those others want, and the clearest signal that we are going to prevail.

*phrase reported in English