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.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The State Department Muddies The Waters

Yesterday Phillip Crowley said in the daily press briefing:

"In Honduras, we welcome de facto leader Micheletti’s decision to step down and see that as a positive step that will advance the process of national reconciliation in Honduras. And we look forward to working with the government of President-elect Lobo and note that important work remains to be done to reestablish democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, and we continue to – we will work with the new government in Honduras on full implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accords."

First some context. This was part of a prepared statement Crowley read at the start of the press briefing, not an ad-libbed response to a question.

As the gentle reader will already know from our previous post on what Micheletti said in his announcement the other day, he did not step down or otherwise remove himself from power; he merely has removed himself from the public eye.

As if on cue, Micheletti popped up yesterday after the State Department statement hit the Honduran papers to reiterate he was still in control of the de facto government.

So why would the State Department make a statement perpetuating the inaccurate portrayal of Micheletti's actions? After all, major US newspapers quickly corrected their language to ensure readers knew Micheletti had not resigned. Are they just using sloppy language to describe what Micheletti's position is?

I think we can rule out the use of sloppy language. This was a written statement, not an answer to a question made in passing. Professional diplomats need to use language which conveys all the nuances of their position. The speaker, Phillip Crowley, who is Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, is a professional. As the public voice of the State Department, he would use precise language in formal statements to the press.

Likewise I believe we can rule out shoddy translation. In November, the State Department used a less misleading translation of the same words. Robert Wood, deputy department spokesman, in speaking about Micheletti's last "leave of absence" (his words) before the November election, was clear that the State Department understood the nature of Micheletti's statement. At the time the State Department made positive noises about it.

Wood said of that November action by Micheletti:

"Well, as I think many of you are aware, there was a statement made last night by Mr. Micheletti about taking a leave of absence. And we welcome that he is going to take a leave of absence and expect its prompt implementation."

Micheletti used the same language to describe the present "leave of absence" as the last one, so presumably the State Department fully comprehends what it entails, especially since they asked him to do it the first time, in November.

So why say that Micheletti "stepped down" when he did not? This advances the spin the State Department is trying to create to make it more acceptable for them to carry out their recognition of Porfirio Lobo Sosa as legitimate president of Honduras and return to the status quo, resuming US AID aid, and encouraging other governments and international lending institutions to resume aid and lending to Honduras.

In essence, the State Department is putting the best face on a bad situation. And Micheletti is not playing along.

The majority of world governments have made it a condition of recognition that Lobo Sosa not receive power from the illegitimate and unrecognized government of Roberto Micheletti.

With the statement that began this post, the State Department is creating confusion about whether that condition has been met. Crowley, by describing Micheletti's move as "stepping down", suggests that a condition the international community has insisted on for recognizing the new government in Honduras has been met, when it has not.


Anonymous said...

Crimeny, Micheletti is going to go to a mass of thanksgiving at the Case de Gobierno which overlaps with the toma? The diplomatic angels must be doing the can-can on the proverbial pin over that one.

As for "The majority of world governments have made it a condition of recognition that Lobo Sosa not receive power from the illegitimate and unrecognized government of Roberto Micheletti," it's not clear to me what this means. It's normally the president of Congress that passes the sash, right? That will be Juan Orlando Hernández, not a visible player in the coup, indeed, supposedly said back on 6/19/09 that Lobo had a fatal disease.

--Charles of Mercury Rising

RNS said...

The specific requirement has been, and continues to be, that Micheletti resign, not just abent himself, before Lobo Sosa is sworn in. Its a question of the golpistas being the occupants of the executive power being transmitted to Lobo Sosa.

Yes, the sash is traditionally conferred by the newly elected president of the Congress. Juan Orlando Hernandez is interesting. He supported appointing Micheletti as de facto president, voting for it, but also in late September was pushing for a national dialogue that included Zelaya and his supporters, seeing that kind of dialogue as the only way out of the crisis. He also was the avenue by which Porfirio Lobo Sosa proposed a law in Congress that was by all accounts identical to the "cuarta urna" poll, changing its name to "constituyente."

The "mass of thanksgiving" is unprecedented, and I can only see it as thumbing his nose at Lobo Sosa, who pretty much has to grin and bear it until he's sworn in.

Anonymous said...

Well, as far as I can tell, RNS, the major players in this in descending order of importance are:

*IMF/World bank
*Regional banks
*Everyone else

The golpistas have the top three on board. Many other countries have said they'll play it by ear after the inauguration. So, the world community's focus on the requirement that Micheletti resign is likely to fade with time.

My point was not what Tegucigalpa-San Jose said-- as far as I can see, it required Micheletti to step down ahead of the election, since if he failed to do so, Zelaya could refuse to cooperate with forming the unity government, creating exactly the sense of incompletion of the Accord that we see. Rather, the point was that statements that Lobo not receive power from a government headed by Micheletti as executive can easily be fuzzed up by pointing to from whom Lobo receives the sash and by Micheletti lowering his profile (with media complicity appearing to be absent). The diplomats will get it that Micheletti is sticking his finger in their eyes, but how many (wo)men in the street will?

Obviously the question is whether they can suppress news about ongoing human rights violations. If the screams are muffled well enough, it seems likely to me that the world will forget.