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, December 1, 2009

On recognition and Brazil

As the vote count continues, with the official report of the final count now delayed until December 29, the question of recognition of the election faces those countries that said they would not do so, as well as those that said they would.

The US continues to express its position in the murkiest of language.

Brazil, in contrast, is crystal clear, yet today we see others suggesting a softening of the Brazilian position.

The stated Brazilian position remains that voting this Sunday was conducted under conditions that make it impossible to recognize the results, and that the restoral of the constitutional government illegally overthrown June 28 is non-negotiable.

So where are commentators seing room to negotiate the non-negotiable? in the suggestion that perhaps Zelaya can be forced into a nominal restoral just long enough to participate in the inauguration of Pepe Lobo.

Coverage of what Lula actually said at the Iberoamerican Summit doesn't support that interpretation: in fact, he restated that Brazil will not recognize the elections in Honduras or talk to the winner.

For this, it is best to look at original Portugese reporting. So here, I translate Lula's direct quotes from the Portugese.

Rejecting the attempt by Oscar Arias to put pressure on him by comparing recognizing the Honduran elections to recognizing those of Iran, Lula says:
Iran's president participated in the elections and won 62% of the votes, the Constitution was not violated. It is different from a person who committed a coup d'etat repudiated by all countries, by the OAS, which placed conditions set by the very same President of Costa Rica, which was the return to power of President Zelaya.
The coup worked cynically, convened elections for which it did not have a right. [They could have done things with greater normalcy, returned the president, called elections. The return to normality in Honduras all we want. The rest is this:]* You can not make concessions to a coup.
It is a matter of common sense, a matter of principle, we can not condone the politics of vandalism in Latin America.

*[material in brackets was not included in the source cited above, but was contained in the fuller version of these remarks published by Brazil's
O Globo]
Commenting specifically on the situation of President Zelaya, Lula said he hoped Honduras would take the decision that would allow Zelaya to return to normalcy, adding
The best thing would be Zelaya back home, but you must have constitutional guarantees, of the government, of the OAS, and this has to happen rapidly.
[emphasis added]
Other analysts may try to spin Lula's remarks by taking note of the following comment while ignoring the rest of the statements, reported above:
This citizen [Pepe Lobo] has the right to take the steps he deems necessary. If something new happens, let's see, we'll wait. The problem now is much more of Honduras than of Brazil...
What does this mean?

First, Lula is clearly trying to keep separate Pepe Lobo and the authors of the coup d'etat. The election is illegitimate because it was convened by the coup government, which had no legal right to oversee this (and which cannot actually guarantee a free and fair election). But he is not condemning Lobo for participating in the election.

Second, by pointedly calling Lobo a "citizen" (which is the form of address the de facto regime uses in its references to President Zelaya, as a continual refusal to recognize his continued constitutional status) Lula is explicitly refusing to recognize him as president-elect. Lobo can do what he thinks necessary, he says, but we will wait. We'll see.

The problem is Honduras' problem because, as Lula's earlier statements make clear, unless there is rapid action to restore President Zelaya, he is not changing his position. To quote his response to questions at the Iberamerican summit:
Não, não, não, não. Peremptoriamente, não.

[No, no, no, no. Absolutely, no.]
In longer accounts of his comments in Brazilian media, Lula is very clear:
I can not decide now for what may happen next month or in two, three or four months
he said, asked specifically about "new things" that might affect his position,
But for now, the Brazilian position is not to accept the electoral process
Pretty clear, right?

Yet otherwise reliable commentators have suggested a modification, based on a statement attributed to Lula by Reuters UK:

If something new happens, we can discuss it. For now, the (Brazilian) position is not to accept the electoral process in Honduras. A new thing (we could discuss) is for Zelaya to take over for the inauguration of the new president.
I could not find the original of this in Portugese, even in the longest interviews on the topic I have found reproduced, in which Lula emphatically reiterates that recognizing this election opens the door to future coups in Latin America. It should come right after the statements I reproduce and translate above.

I don't doubt Lula said this, or something close to it, perhaps in response to questioning. But it would seem like such a major change of position would have been featured in some of the original Portugese-language reporting.

And it is interesting that Reuters UK (now reproduced by the New York Times) left out all the rest of Lula's remarks that I translated above, in which he emphatically and repeatedly rejected recognition and called for the restoral of President Zelaya. And there is more in the same vein that I don't have time to collate and translate-- and you, dear reader, probably wouldn't have the patience to review.

What precisely Lula might have meant by Zelaya taking over for the inauguration of the new president is the question, one that for me requires the original language quote. A one-word error in translation could have changed a statement from "take over until the inauguration of the new president" ["for" is de; "until" is até, so this is an easy transcription error from spoken Portugege]. Calling for Zelaya to take over until the inauguration-- e.g. for the rest of his original term-- would be consistent with all the rest of the quotes from, supposedly, the very same interview.

Indeed, given that Lula is in this passage clarifying what might be a "new thing" that would change Brazil's firm position, I suspent whatever statement Reuters is translating followed closely from where he said "If something new happens, let's see, we'll wait". The implication there is clear: something "new" would be movement in Honduras to restore the President to office.

Watch for the storyline now to become some sort of brief restoration. But don't believe everything you read.


Anonymous said...

I don't believe anything I read. The US media read as if they are following a script for a play. Periodically we hear a recognizable motif, like the "Paranoid Anti-Semitic Dictator Etude" or the "Chorale in Marxist Minor," and the rest of the time, it is toneless chants of "Democracy good, [insert name of scapegoat] bad." So the current tune is "Pep Rally: Group Hug," in which countries supporting the coup are in front of the microphone, while those who oppose are on mute. Does anyone seriously think that will have any effect on reality except perhaps on the American political scene?

It's not clear to me why anyone pays to listen to this kind of weird modern theater. Trying to pick out facts that could lead one to make a reasonable opinion is like going through a dumpster looking for an unsullied apple pie.

Caonabo said...

That Reuters UK article towards the end says "Zelaya initially went into EXILE after the coup but returned to the country and has been camped out in the Brazilian embassy since September." Simply disgusting saying that he went into exile implying it was done voluntarily. At this late date and some in the media are still writing this garbage.

Anonymous said...

Well, they are upon the Rubicon. They have introduced a resolution into Congress to ratify the coup, as Ch. 36 says.

It's hard to believe that things are this far gone into delusion.

Unknown said...

The Congress just voted against reinstating Zelaya. It was a forgone conclusion after the election, I felt. Now we'll see him negotiate for exile.

RNS said...

Actually Victor, you must have been taken in by a headline somewhere that was misleading. They are just voting now in Congress. While I fully expect them to reaffirm the coup, its not yet done.