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, December 23, 2009

Lobo's solution to inaugural illegitimacy...

is to deny that either Roberto Micheletti or President Zelaya has any role in the process.

As a story in Tiempo, published December 23, puts it:
The President elect, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, affirmed yesterday that the person who should hand over the presidencial sash next January 27, the day on which he will assume power, should be the president of the National Congress.

[El presidente electo, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, afirmó ayer que quien deberá entregarle la banda presidencial el próximo 27 de enero, día en que asumirá el poder, debería ser el presidente del Congreso Nacional.]
Most interesting is his rationale: he says that passing on the power of the presidency is legally the business of the legislature.

This is historically, technically accurate: see the surreal photo in the story in the Nuevo Diario, published January 27, 2006, showing then-congressional head Roberto Micheletti investing President Zelaya with the presidential sash.

But that isn't the whole story, of course. As coverage at the time emphasized, the acts of inauguration mark the passage of power from the previous president to the newly elected one.

Lobo still has this difficulty to solve: while he can duck being given the regalia of power by Micheletti, he still has to be deemed to be receiving power from the previous president.

So who is that? All of the world-- including those few governments that have declared the November elections legitimate-- recognize José Manuel Zelaya Rosales as the legal, constitutional president of Honduras. The Honduran Congress, whose president will place the sash of office on him, twice voted otherwise, asserting that Roberto Micheletti is now the constitutional president. Lobo himself may wish this would go away as a problem-- but it is hard to see how.

And in Honduras, the previous president is expected to give his support to the transfer of power, attending the inauguration. In 2006, the mere rumor that the departing president, Ricardo Maduro, would not attend the inauguration was newsworthy, so much so that the official coverage remarked on his presence:
The exiting Honduran president, Ricardo Maduro, who initially called into question his attendance at the investiture of Zelaya in response to rumors that he would be received with boos, finally confirmed his presence and assured that he would do it "with his head held high".

[El presidente hondureño saliente, Ricardo Maduro, quien en un inicio puso en duda su asistencia a la investidura de Zelaya ante los rumores de que sería recibido con silbidos, confirmó finalmente su presencia y aseguró que lo hará "con la frente muy en alto".]
What we have here is an attempt to argue that the symbolic investiture is the important thing. But pragmatically, practically, the transfer of power is what the symbols are supposed to represent. Power-- which we should remember requires control, authority, and legitimacy-- is what is at issue here, and where the next president's power comes from is going to remain a problem.

As an anthropologist, I know that symbols matter, so having Micheletti out of the picture frame is important. But politically, Lobo remains trapped with no acceptable answer to the question, whose power is he going to receive on January 27?

[Thanks to chela for the heads' up on this story that I might otherwise have overlooked in a comment on a previous post].

PS: The little trip down memory lane to find a photo of the investiture of President Zelaya in 2006 also produced this interesting tidbit:
Thousands of Hondurans filled the National Stadium in Tegucigalpa, with a capacity of some 40,000 persons, to witness the passage of command from the exiting government official, Ricardo Maduro, of the National Party, to Manuel Zelaya, of the Liberal Party, both conservatives.

Miles de hondureños llenan el Estadio Nacional de Tegucigalpa, con aforo para unas 40.000 personas, para presenciar el traspaso de mando del gobernante saliente, Ricardo Maduro, del Partido Nacional, a Manuel Zelaya, del Partido Liberal, ambos conservadores.
A useful reality check in the face of over a year of propaganda, leading up to, facilitating, and then justifying the coup d'etat.

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