Saturday, June 12, 2010

Accept No Substitutes: On Acting Presidents and Potential Coups

In the same interview given before he left for South Africa and the World Cup match, where Porfirio Lobo Sosa complained that the Public Prosecutor wasn't doing his job because he has not initiated an investigation of those plotting another coup, there was another exchange that on the face of it seemed somewhat puzzling:
The leader took as a joke the question of who would remain at the head of the country and he responded "the Honduran people" and when he was asked to whom would be delegated the duties [of President] he said no one; "the People will stay as president".

In the face of insistence he stated that no one wanted to stay because they were afraid that if they signed anything it would disqualify them politically.

What on earth does this mean? and more important, what does it tell us about the current state of affairs in Honduras' national governance?

Honduras doesn't have a Vice President, so when the President of Honduras leaves the country, he must appoint one of the three Presidential designados as acting head of government in order to leave.

There are three designados in the Lobo Sosa administration: María Antonieta Guillén de Bográn, Samuel Reyes, and Víctor Hugo Barnica. All three are National party members and were part of the team elected with Lobo Sosa in November 2009.

Each serves as a Presidential Minister, assigned tasks in Lobo Sosa's cabinet. They are supposed to be available to be "designated" as acting chief executive officer. When Lobo Sosa traveled to Colombia and Peru recently, he appointed María Antonieta Guillén de Bográn to head the government in his absence.

Lobo Sosa initially hoped to spend nine days out of the country on this trip to South Africa for the World Cup. However, he told the Foro Nacional de Jóvenes Líderes Rurales none of the designados is willing to be named in his absence, even though that's what they were elected for.

Samuel Reyes is reportedly accompanying him on the present trip, and thus unavailable to serve. A story in El Heraldo quoted Guillén de Bogran as saying she and Víctor Hugo Barnica will share the responsibility. The same article suggested that the concern of the designados was not to sign anything in the capacity of president, to avoid having formally been president and thus ineligible to run in a future election.

Reporting of Lobo Sosa's remarks in La Prensa omitted his comment about the designados not wanting to sign anything, stressing the "no one wants to remain" part of the quote, making it seem as if the issue was that all the designates wanted to go to the World Cup. This account seems disingenuous, ignoring all exchanges about rumors of a coup plot.

The equally pro-coup paper, La Tribuna, reported the same interview as a transcript of questions and answers. These show quite clearly that the reference to who would remain in charge led directly to a discussion of the threats of a coup, which would be a very difficult situation for a designado to find him- or her-self in.

Let's end with that series of exchanges and let them tell their own story:
Journalist: Who's going to remain at the head of the country?
President: At the head? ah... the Honduran people.

Journalist: But to whom will you delegate your duties?
President: No, the people will remain as President.

Journalist: And in the Executive [power]?
President: We'll see, we have three designados.

Journalist: So have you convinced them?
President: Well, remember and you have to understand that there exists a certain fear that is natural, since as they say, if they sign anything, then, they will be disqualified, but we are not going to leave anyone there.

Journalist: Or might they have political aspirations?
President: It could be in the present or it could be in the future and I have nothing against that.

Journalist: Ambassador Rupérez said, that you had assured him that the threats that had been received were not real...
President: No, what I explained to them is that in the mind of many, things are easier than what they might think. So what I said to them is that they should not think that these intentions, thoughts or ideas, would have any result like they would expect, as those that expect in some manner, would start to wander, I assume that they had a lot of alcoholic drinks or something there.

Journalist: Is your denunciation serious, President?
President: Of course, everything that I do, apart from the joking around that we could have and the friendship that we could have, has the reality that what I say and what I have said is totally certain, I know who they are, but what I say is that the intentions that they have are not going to have any result.

Journalist: Have you given the names to the Prosecutor, President, has the prosecutor come to speak with you about this matter or has he still not come?
President: With the prosecutor, as always we have dialogues that are natural because remember that we share an agenda that is very important that is the theme of security. This is a theme that you have to see how it develops, but we are entirely on top of it.

Journalist: So you have not changed your story?
President: No, why should I?

Journalist: Because of what the Ambassador said?
President: The ambassador was referring to... I didn't say to them that there were no intentions, that there is a group that has met and that has intentions, but that this group is going to have the result that they expected, forget it, as they say you can have someone who wants to do something, but from wanting to being able to make it so, that is like from here to Pluto.

Journalist: When will you release the names of them? they have to be unmasked, President.
President: They only are going to flee.

Journalist: It doesn't scare you?
President: Me? how should it frighten me?

Journalist: Are there military in these threats?
President: No sir.

Journalist: Have they called you from the Prosecutor's office to take your declaration?
President: No, today I spoke with the Prosecutor, with two prosecutors more about the theme of Channel 8 that they want to take away from the State.

Journalist: Or that is, they still have not taken a declaration about your denunciation?
President: I assume that the Prosecutor began, I assume actions since it has been written about in the media, some writers have denounced this.

Journalist: In the Prosecutor's officer they say that you should make a denunciation.
President: They have to do it.

Journalist: No, they want you to come and make a complaint.
President: That is a duty of the Prosecutor, when anything is mentioned that touches on what might be a violation of the Constitution of the Republic, to call that person immediately and say, come here, what are you saying...

Journalist: You're not going to give us the names?
President: At an opportune moment.

Journalist: You say that it is a tutti-frutti that we have here, from what sector do they pertain?
President: There are Nationalists, Liberals, there's everything.

Journalist: Are there businessmen as well?
President: There are businessmen, Nationalists, Liberals...

Journalist: From the UD?
President: From the UD, no.


Periodista: ¿Quién va a quedar al frente del país?
¿Al frente?, ah…el pueblo hondureño.

Periodista: ¿Pero a quién delega sus funciones?
No, es que queda el pueblo de Presidente.

Periodista: ¿En el Ejecutivo?
Vamos a ver, tenemos tres designados.

Periodista: ¿Ya los convenció?
Bueno, es que recuerde y hay que entender que existe un cierto temor que es natural, pues como dicen, si firman algo, entonces, se inhabilitan, pero no vamos a dejar a alguien ahí.

Periodista: ¿O sea que tienen aspiraciones políticas?
Puede ser de presente o puede ser de futuro y yo no tengo nada en contra de eso.

Periodista: Dijo el embajador Rupérez, que usted les había asegurado que no eran reales las amenazas que había recibido….
No, es que yo les explicaba a ellos que en la mente de muchos las cosas son más fáciles de lo que se puede pensar. Entonces lo que les decía es que no deberían pensar que estas intenciones, pensamientos o ideas, tuviesen ningún resultado como el que ellos esperaban, como los que esperaban de algún manera, se ponen a divagar, asumo yo que hay mucha bebida alcohólica o algo por ahí.

Periodista: ¿Su denuncia es seria, Presidente?
Claro, todo lo que yo hago, aparte de lo jocoso que podamos ser y la amistad que podamos tener, tiene la realidad de lo que yo digo y lo que yo he dicho es totalmente cierto, sé quiénes son, pero lo que digo es que no van a tener ningún resultado las intenciones que tienen.

Periodista: ¿Ya le dio los nombres a la Fiscalía, Presidente, ya llegó el fiscal a platicar con usted sobre este asunto o todavía no ha venido?
Con el fiscal, como siempre tenemos diálogos que son naturales porque recuerde que compartimos una agenda que es muy importante que es el tema de la seguridad. Este es un tema que hay que ver cómo se van desarrollando, pero estamos todos encima de esto.

Periodista: ¿De manera que usted no ha cambiado su versión?
No ¿y por qué?

Periodista: ¿Por lo que dijo el embajador?
Es que el embajador se refirió… yo no les dije que no habían intenciones, que había un grupo que se ha reunido y que hay intenciones, pero que ese grupo va a tener un resultado como ellos esperan, olvídese, como dice aquel puede haber alguien que quiere hacer tal cosa, pero de que quiera a que pueda lograr concretarlo, eso está como de aquí a Plutón.

Periodista: ¿Cuándo vamos a conocer los nombres de ellos?, hay que irlos desenmascarando, Presidente.
Ellos solos van a ir saliendo.

Periodista: ¿No lo atemoriza?
¿A mí, en que me va a atemorizar?

Periodista: ¿Hay militares en esas amenazas?
No señor

Periodista: ¿Ya lo llamaron de la Fiscalía para tomarle la declaración?
No, hoy hable con la Fiscalía, con dos fiscales más sobre el tema del canal que le quieren quitar al Estado.

Periodista: ¿O sea que todavía no le toman declaración sobre su denuncia?
Yo asumo que la Fiscalía inició, asumió acciones desde que se ha estado escribiendo en los medios, algunos escritores han denunciado eso.

Periodista: En la Fiscalía dicen que usted debería poner la denuncia.
Deberían hacerlo.

Periodista: No, ellos quieren que usted vaya a poner la denuncia.
Es un deber de la Fiscalía, cuando se menciona algo que linda con lo que es violentar la Constitución de la República, llamar inmediatamente a esa persona y decirle, venga para acá, lo que usted está diciendo…

Periodista: ¿No les va a dar usted los nombres?
En su momento oportuno.

Periodista: ¿Usted dice que un tuti-fruti el que hay acá, a qué sector pertenecen estos?
Si hay nacionalistas, liberales, hay de todo.

Periodista: ¿Hay empresarios, también?
Hay empresarios, hay nacionalistas, liberales…

Periodista: ¿De la UD?
De la UD, no.

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