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

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Between them they've buried the bipartisan system": Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle

In an editorial today in El Tiempo, the Minister of Culture continues his commentary on the spectacle that is the post-coup reality in Honduran politics, endorsing an emerging coalition of progressives:

Pepe and Elvin: The Gravedigger Clowns of the Film

It comes to pass that now, no one took part in the coup, except the no-counts that don't know where to hide. Many businessmen say that they did not, as if their words haven't remained in print and their voices recorded and their handiwork and external lobbying betrayed.

The political leaders of the coup say that neither were they. Carlos Flores says that he was not, that "it was Teté". Pepe goes crazy and Elvin declares 35 days after that "he is not a golpista" and that he condemns "the form" although he condones the basis. A sector of PINU finally repudiates their golpista congress members. But it is obvious that formally speaking the Congress, which is also called "Congre-Zoo", carried out the coup and the congress members responded to their political leaders. That's why the people shout in the street, "golpista congresspeople, trash, out" and when they can they kick them in the street. Without a consensus of the political leaders there would be no coup, since Micheletti, who they are now leaving solo, neither invented the coup nor would have arrived at first base when sent to bat without them.

Paraphrasing Swift I once commented to President Reina that I raised horses because they seemed more noble and rational than politicians. He didn't contradict me and he didn't disagree with me. They should be better than us. And they are the worst breed. I mentioned previously (in "J'accuse") the principal political actors of the coup, and among the witches and alchemists, those generally known, Rafael Callejas and Carlos Flores Facussé, now old politicians, that have once sworn the Constitution that now they are smashing and, exercising their criterion of excellence, the presidency of the Republic that lies here, prostrate, but confronting the repressives with gallantry 45 days later.

Although he competes with Arturo Corrales, Flores is the most cynical. As he says he is writing a memoir I want to assist him. He got in as a congressmember with the blessing of rodismo[*] and intervened many times in the drafting of the constitution that now he broke saying that it was to preserve it. He achieved renown because he wanted to launch himself as a candidate when he was a cabinet minister in the presidency of Rosuco [Roberto Suazo Cordova], on whose orders he also went to the Congress, accompanying Mich [Micheletti] with a proposed law for the Congress to declare itself a constitutional assembly and reform the stony articles, that now he passionately defends.

So many things one could say about Carlos Flores, dangerous and irritable, who many people fear. And that he believes himself loved. Son of a golpista, father of a golpista. Godfather of the usurper and of the judges, attorneys, prosecutor and head of the coup bench.

Carlos has been trying to put this behind him since the day of the coup, when he saw what was coming, saying to anyone who would listen "it wasn't like that man and I told you, but you didn't heed me". Since the week now past he began to publish in his press the adverse opinion of the coup of my teacher Gautama B. Fonseca. But surely you conspired, Ingeniero. We all know what you said to the rest and your role of sponsor. The golpistas that you visited, the media barons, but also the joint command, the "capos" and their deputies, was public.

Your newspaper fabricated the golpista propaganda that prepared the work and set the stage. Your editorials and your little pills always have been golpista even when they wanted to seem unaware in their cynicism. You are a villain, Sir, there is no way to evade the infamy of history. Your father was more cautious. Your own writings condemn you. History will not pardon you, it takes apart propaganda.

The other politicians who conspired will have an identical destiny, although they also try to distance themselves from the coup, Elvin Santos and Pepe Lobo, no one is going to vote for you, Sirs. You are going to have to invent the votes when polls give each one of you one-third favorable in your own parties, versus negative opinions from half. It is now very late to go around repenting. And no one is going to pardon you. You were at the negotiating tables and we all know that you, as candidates of your parties, could have put the brakes on Congress. Pepe wants to pass as ready and lost his second opportunity, Santos lost the only one that he is going to have. Between the two they have buried the hundred-year-old bipartisan system.

No well-born liberal should vote for Elvin Santos, the gravedigger of the greatest party of the isthmus. I have known various bad candidates, but none so fatuous and so destructive as this incontinent Cantinflas, this wet clown.[**] No one should receive him in an honorable house, on pain of being marked. No one should listen to his pleas. No one should speak with him nor turn to see him nor buy a white t-shirt in his malls.

But we don't have to cry for this system that seems that it is going to endure forever, and that we are never going to have parties that will propose ideas, different proposals, real commitments to the people. It could be that there remains, in sight, above the mud with which they cover it, a tight fist, calcined and cracked from the sun, extended saluting those names. The golpistas opened the system so that this new alliance can be established of social organizations and the UD and the varicolored red-and-white progressives, committed to the people, that will win the next elections strikingly and will write glorious pages of our history and a new constituent.

*rodismo: A reference to the conservative movement in the liberal party named after Modesto Rodas Alvarado.

**"payaso mojado": I was tempted to translate this "crying clown", but chose the literal "wet clown" both because of its pairing with "incontinent Cantinflas" and in reference to a story by Daniel Alarcón, "City of Clowns", in which the image refers to a clown literally pelted with water balloons. The image is not uncommon in Spanish as that of a pathetic figure of ridicule.


John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

"the stony articles"
I presume this means the "articulos pétreos" of the constitution. Would a more idiomatic translation be "articles set in stone"? Neither really gets to the concept that these were supposedly to be "irreformable" - "unchangeable" articles

Doug Zylstra said...


Not a 100% sure, but I think chafa in the first sentence is slang for cop, or in this case, the military that's now being left holding the bag. At least that's how I took it when I read it in the Tiempo.

Nell said...

An enjoyable piece, with reservatons.

If by "the next elections" Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle means "the next legitimate elections", in 2013, then maybe so.

If he's talking about November 29, then his prediction is not only exceedingly optimistic, even triumphalist, but also divisive. There's are serious differences in the movement over the question of participation, and I'm not sure that the tone this takes, while bracing in its mockery of the sellout golpistas, is is the most constructive contribution to the discussion: It seems to take participation as a foregone conclusion.

That this is a sensitive issue is evident in Oscar's most recent report, where he complains about the leadership's closed meetings. It's going to be hard to have as open and inclusive a discussion about the stance toward the elections as there needs to be, when they're operating so much under siege.

RAJ said...

The referent may well be the military or the cops, but I stand by my translation here: chafa literally means useless. (I recognize it as Mexican slang, not a word in my own entirely-Honduran speaking vocabulary.)

RAJ said...

On Nell's comment: my interest here is in representing Honduran scholars, intellectuals, and activists as much as possible. So I am not evaluating what Minister Pastor Fasquelle is calling for here.

That said, I think it is important to recognize that the resistance to the coup is unified in their demands for restoration of constitutional order, but has still not come to a unified position on the upcoming election; and as a movement that is popular and democratic, may well not come to a single position.

The division Oscar talks about between a small group discussing options and expecting the larger body of the movement to go along with what was decided is for that reason extremely interesting, because it may be a key test of how popular a movement will actually come out of the present crisis.

But when long-time Liberal politicians like Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle (or for that matter, Mel Zelaya in the days before the coup) proposing that progressive party members should move to support UD in the upcoming election, that is a break with (as he says here) a hundred-year long history that is of importance simply as an enunciation of disavowal of the party.

So, I read this less as a problematic statement for the negotiation among progressive factions and the resistance, and more as a very important statement about the longer-term meaning of the coup for the unity of the Liberal party and the possibilities of relatively rapid reshaping of the political landscape.

RAJ said...

Reading yesterday's comments backwards, sorry! should have concentrated the two on translation together.

"petreos" seems to me to be literally untranslatable while also completely transparent. So I have been translating it different ways in different places. "Stony" does not quite work, admittedly.

I like "articles set in stone" but I have been trying to search for a single-word adjective that keeps the material flavor (permanent, unchangeable, all work but lose the metaphor, which I think echoes the biblical ten commandments, and such a resonance matters).

So, watch for me to translate this all sorts of different ways. When I translate poetry I feel authorized to use equivalent but not literal images; maybe I need to treat this metaphor the same way. Constitutional law as poetry.