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.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Micheletti: "This is my last day in the presidency"

As reported in an article datelined San Pedro Sula in Tiempo:
The Council of Ministers will direct the Government of Honduras starting today

The interim president will withdraw from the Government this afternoon, after presiding over the Council of Ministers that will be installed at 2 PM and will assume governmental control.

"This is my last day in the presidency... I will withdraw to my house for the peace of the nation and because I do not want to be an obstacle to the new government", Micheletti confirmed in an interview with a television channel.

"In the coming days I will lower my public profile and I will stand aside so that the new government will have more space to act", said Micheletti, who assumed power the past 28 of June.

So what does this mean?

Well, not necessarily what you might think. The verb used, that we translate "withdraw", is the Spanish "retirarse": a classic "false friend". The temptation to translate it as "retire" is strong, and this is one of the meanings given in dictionaries. But it also is used as well for retreat, withdraw, backtrack, recede, withdraw, and colloquially, "quit work for the day".

So what is Micheletti doing?

Well, in other Honduran news reports, he is quoted explicitly as saying he is not resigning (the verb renunciar). He explicitly compares his current action to the few days before the November election when, under pressure from the US government, to give a sheen of legitimacy to a soured election, he stepped aside, leaving power to his cabinet, and retreated to his own house.

So the English-language headlines should read "Micheletti suspends his direct role in government". Instead, papers like the Washington Post initially reported the story as one of resignation. [Literally corrected between the time I began this post and now!]

We don't expect the English press, or politicians, to catch Micheletti's nuances-- he has shown one great skill throughout the crisis, that of shading his words so that people think he has said one thing when in fact he has said quite another.

What this move obviously is intended to do is to open some space to allow world governments, like that of the US, to attend the inauguration of Lobo Sosa without the embarrassment of being directly associated with Micheletti himself.

So it bears emphasis: Micheletti is the figurehead of the coup. He is not the total problem. The authors of the coup are still in place, comfortably, and will likely be quite visible throughout the inauguration and initiation of the new government. Lobo Sosa is receiving power from an illegitimate government, and nothing Micheletti is doing changes that.

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