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.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"You don't punish the next guy"...

so says Shelley A. McConnell, described as "an assistant professor of government at St. Lawrence University and a former analyst at the Carter Center" in an article in the New York Times.

I beg to differ.

The "next guy" referred to here is the projected winner of the November 29 presidential election, who, if current polling holds, will almost certainly be Porfirio Lobo Sosa, of the National party. If he were without culpability in the current crisis, it might make sense to portray him as an innocent victim who should not be held responsible for what the architects of the coup wrought, or the intransigence of Roberto Micheletti that has blocked all attempted solutions.

But Pepe Lobo is more than the prospective presidential winner: he is a participant in the vote on June 28 through which the Honduran Congress unconstitutionally removed President Zelaya from office, and without legal basis, elevated Roberto Micheletti, then head of Congress, to the role of head of a de facto authoritarian regime born out of a military intervention.

More: Pepe Lobo is the one person who might be able to swing Congress into action even now to vote on the restoral of President Zelaya, and if reports by many media sources are to be credited, had made some sort of agreement with US diplomats to do just that as part of gaining President Zelaya's signature on the Tegucigalpa Accord.

Arguments that Lobo cannot risk alienating his voter base by supporting a vote on Zelaya are extremely unconvincing. He has a solid lead in an election where his main opposition provides the perfect illustration for the word "feckless": Elvin Santos, caught between the President he once served as Vice President, and the rival for the nomination who he managed to surpass only due to legal chicanery that almost defies description. (See this post for details). Who, since realizing the coup wasn't increasing his popularity, has tried to have it both ways: stating that he wasn't for the coup, exactly, although he isn't against the outcome, more or less...

If Pepe Lobo had called on the party he leads to convene an extraordinary congressional session a week ago, no matter what the outcome of the vote, we would not be in the situation we now are. Yes, the Frente de Resistencia would still have called for an election boycott, based on what in my opinion are accurate assessments that the election to come is a farce (if not an actual fraud in the making).

How on earth can anyone in the world pretend that the Honduran Armed Forces, guilty of kidnapping the President, complicit in violent repression of free speech, and so far from their apolitical mandate that the silence of their Chief is seen as a political statement, could possibly guarantee freedom of participation to the very people who have been beaten, tear-gassed, and in some cases, raped? Remember that the victims of this violence include the independent candidate for the presidency who only recently withdrew from the race: what kind of atmosphere exists, and doesn't the differential discouragement of dissenting voices guarantee that the outcome of the November election will be biased towards those who enjoy the status quo?

But if Congress had voted, even to reject the restitution of the constitutionally elected President, the terms of the Tegucigalpa Accord-- that ever-so-flawed illegitimate offspring of the San Jose Accord-- would at least not have been made an object of ridicule. And the clarity of such a decision would at least have potentially opened a path for the Verification Commission to oversee the formation of a unity government from which we might hope Micheletti also would have been persuaded to step aside.

So who should we not be punishing-- who is the "next guy" who has no guilt here? what about all those Honduran voters-- the 40% plus who do not think that the elections will solve anything? those who find themselves with no candidate to vote for, and no assurance that if the candidate they elect acts in ways the entrenched power elite doesn't care for, the Armed Forces won't again be called out by their real masters to clear the way for a more acceptable dictator? Can we not concede that the Honduran people are the "next guys" who shouldn't be punished by having the world accept that Honduras is not a State in the Rule of Law?

So again: I beg to differ.

And I cannot help but suspect that, like most of us in academia, Professor McConnell's remarks were rather more extensive than what is reported by the Times, and that she also would like a little more contextualization about what such a statement might mean.

After all, this is the same person quoted October 29 as saying
There is a great deal at stake for the inter-American system in how the crisis in Honduras is resolved...If ousted President Zelaya is not restored to office despite a region-wide condemnation of the coup, it will call into question the utility of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and indeed the concept of collective protection of democracy through the Organization of American States.
That is an opinion I can agree with. Those are the stakes that are going to require more than a sigh and acceptance of the status quo come January 28, 2010.

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