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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Honduran Congress: Good or Bad Faith?

Greg Weeks at Two Weeks Notice has posted a translation of the new agreement, as reported in the pro-coup newspaper, La Prensa. As every commentary on this proposed agreement has noted, there is a risk (actually, more than one) for Zelaya. More on this below. At the same time, the question remains whether this agreement is an achievement for the people who have patiently demonstrated in Honduras all these months against the de facto regime.

As Adrienne Pine reminds us, restoral of Zelaya does not go to the basic core of what the Honduran resistance is actually interested in, which is significant constitutional reform that will lead to conditions that never allow such a thing to happen again. I think it is important to note that the reported accord does not block the people from continuing to call for convening of a constituyente, and I expect that the forces of popular support for constitutional reform will not stop their advocacy simply because of this accord. Indeed, it was precisely to allow this point in the accord to be signed by Zelaya without committing the Frente that Juan Barahona removed himself from the Zelaya commission earlier, a move that the Frente underlined did not signal a break with President Zelaya, who the Frente recognizes was operating under more constraints, as noted in the statement we translated.

Now, Bloomberg News has an article quoting a variety of prominent Hondurans making it clear just how far we actually have to go. The Bloomberg report shows that the news is mixed: the Micheletti crowd agreed to a Congressional vote still hoping that it will reject the return to the status quo before June 28:

Marcia Facusse de Villeda, the vice president of Congress and advisor to Micheletti, said Congress may still vote against restoring Zelaya to power.

“Zelaya won’t be restored -- I don’t think so,” Facusse de Villeda said in a phone interview from Tegucigalpa today.

Nor was Marcia Facusse alone in expressing doubt about the outcome of a vote in Congress:

Congress has passed resolutions pledging to support an agreement that comes from talks. Still, opposition lawmakers could filibuster Zelaya’s return until after the elections, Antonio Rivera, the second highest ranking lawmaker for the National Party, said in an interview.

Congress opened an investigation into whether Zelaya was mentally fit to govern before his ouster, voted to disapprove the leader’s violations of the constitution and replaced him with Micheletti after he was ousted.

“I really don’t understand why Zelaya wants to take this to Congress,” Rivera said.

The cynicism here, though, may be disappointed. There is a considerable incentive for the National Party to support the resolution, as their candidate, currently a member of Congress, is running way ahead of the fatally besmirched Elvin Santos. The core group of deputies from the more progressive parts of the other parties never voted for removal in the first place. And unless they perform some sort of rapid reorganization of the Executive Branch, remember that a number of hard-line supporters of Micheletti and the coup left Congress to take up positions in the de facto regime; those hard-line votes are thus out of the picture, replaced by their alternates.

Of course, what the remaining hard line coup supporters in Congress-- for example, Marcia Facusse-- think has been accomplished is all they care about:

“But just by signing this agreement, we already have the recognition of the international community for the elections.”

So let's be clear: a rejection of restoration of President Zelaya may technically be acceptable under the agreement, and will clearly not bother the US (whose representatives say openly in private conversations that the elections will "solve" their problem); but it would be seen by many in Honduras as making a mockery of a resolution.

And the restoral of Zelaya is still critical for the resistance to support elections. Juan Barahona, quoted in the same Bloomberg article, clearly is conditioning support for the agreement not only on restoral of Zelaya, but on it taking place before the November 29 elections:

“On which day will the president be back in the presidential palace?” he asked. “The chronology must still be defined.”

While the National Party may think this agreement paves a smooth path for their return to government, there remains a significant level of potential support for the independent candidacy of Carlos Reyes; the resistance front has learned how to organize and is more committed today to constitutional reform than before; and bad faith by the Congress will only confirm the need for political change.

So as Adrienne Pine reminds us, it is not over. Good outcome for President Zelaya or bad, it is not over.

Our translation of the accord as described (not to be taken as the text of the accord itself) in La Prensa:
The accord contains the following points:

1-- The creation of a government of unity and national reconciliation

2-- Rejection of amnesty for political crimes, and delay of criminal prosecutions.

3--Renouncing the convening of a National Constituent Assembly or the reform of the Constitution in its irreformable constitutional articles.

4-- Recognition and support for the general elections and the succession of Government.

5-- The transfer of authority over the Armed Forces to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal

6-- The creation of a commission of verification to ensure compliance with the points of the accord.

7-- The formation of a commission of truth to investigate the events before, during, and after the 28th of June of 2009.

8-- Request of the international community the normalization of international relations with our country.

9-- Support a proposal that permits a vote in the National Congress with a previous opinion by the Supreme Court of Justice to return all the Executive Power back to before the 28th of June.


Doug Zylstra said...

Two points -

1. As you postulated a few weeks ago, Victor Meza confirmed this morning that the vote will be simple majority.

2. Pepe Lobo is said to be encouraging a total abstention from the National Party congressmembers. If so, it seems incredibly important as to how the thing is written, whether it's a yes vote for restitution or a no vote to deny. But since we don't even have a date set for voting, the language seems even harder to predict.

Doug Zylstra said...

Raj -

I do think that you're being a bit hard on the US position here.

Hilary was very eager to trumpet what she called an "Historic Agreement" as well as her role in it. I find it hard to believe that she's going to let it fizzle out and have questions later about "What happened in Honduras again? Nothing.."

If State Dept. has any say whatsoever (and it appears they do, one day and accord is signed) Congress will approve.

Nell said...

Pepe Lobo is said to be encouraging a total abstention from the National Party congressmembers.

Srsly, Pepe? I'd think he and the Nacionalistas would have the most to gain from prompt restitution.

Nuisance Man said...

Point #3 is unacceptable. A constitutional assembly is at this point a non-negotiable demand with the backing of the majority of the Honduran people. Restoring Zelaya is secondary.

Also, Pepe Lobo is NOT encouraging an abstention: "We are willing to be cooperative in Congress with the agreement of the negotiators," Porfirio Lobo, a National Party lawmaker who is favored to win the Nov. 29 presidential elections, said Friday. "The best decision for Honduras will be taken."

RNS said...

I have to agree with Nuisance Man, Pepe has the most to gain from this being resolved, and urging the Nacionalistas to abstain (and where does this news come from since everything I've read suggests he wants a solution, though not to have the appearance of taking sides) would be damaging to whoever becomes president in January.

However, the constituyente is not dead, merely resting (obligatory Monty Python reference). Giving a consession on the constituyente now does not mean that Zelaya cannot in the future, after all this is over and a new government is installed, go back to working for a constituyente. Remember, Zelaya is not the Frente; their interests are not necessarily aligned, and Zelaya is at best a badly compromised spokesperson for a constituyente now.

I have no doubt that the Frente will continue to work for a consituyente. Pepe Lobo, sometime after the coup, also said he'd be interested in seeing a contituyente, though it attracted little attention at the time.

Nuisance Man said...

Maybe the constituyente is pining for the fields. Okay, enough Python.

RAJ said...

@Doug (with apologies-- we were in El Salvador):

Hillary was not my target, but I am reflecting on private comments made to me by State Department officials, who have said that the elections would be the resolution, even while the official State Department position was that we would not recognize elections unless they were "free and transparent".

As I said to the most recent of these commentators: recognizing whoever wins the November election will not resolve anything. The polarization of the Honduran populace remains; the disruption of constitutional order with impunity remains a dangerous precedent; the energization of the military in an interpretation of their constitutional role as actively deciding what governments to support remains.

My impatience here is with the US pattern of neglect of cultivation of democratic institutions and civil society, punctuated by incidents of exploitation (the Contra War) or momentary engagement (finally getting directly involved in negotiating the Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord).

And I hope you are right that the US will maintain pressure for a swift decision by the Honduran Congress, where I think the interests of the leading political candidate are in getting Zelaya restored. But I worry that the US State Department-- with notable exceptions, such as Thomas Shannon and Hugo Llorens-- doesn't truly understand Honduras and may think they have an agreement that in fact was never there.

RAJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Zylstra said...


Thanks for the reply.

Let's hope that a vote, regardless of the outcome, is put in place soon so that there will be some measure of accountability.