Friday, July 30, 2010

Open Letter from the Liberal Party

When we last heard from the Liberal party on July 15, the Central Executive Council had formed a subcommittee to write a letter to Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales asking him to put aside their differences and to come, rejoin, and help unify the Liberal party. The Executive Council president is Elvin Santos Lozano, the father of the party's presidential candidate in the last election. He said,
we are going to invite ex President Zelaya to participate in the unity program; if he doesn't want to, we aren't going to beg anyone.

Eduardo Maldonado, secretary of Central American Integration of the Executive Council also hoped to bring into the fold the "Liberals in Resistance". Maldonado said,
Liberals in Resistance is liberal, it will continue to be liberal, and we will look to incorporate this important director Manuel Zelaya Rosales because he represents a part of the membership of the Liberal Party of Honduras.

They did this out of political expediency. Without some kind of reunification, the Liberal party will remain a minor political party. Honduras will essentially become a one party system because none of the parties, outside of National Party, will have sufficient support to win national elections.

Over a week later they were reported to still be struggling with a draft letter to Zelaya, even after his lightning response, sent to Radio Globo announcer David Romero, which we blogged about here, that he would talk to them when they expel the dictator and pronounce against the coup

Late today El Heraldo published the text of an open letter from the Central Executive Council to the membership of the Liberal party, rejecting Zelaya's conditions for talking with them and calling for unity and reconciliation of the membership.

The original text of the letter, which is translated below, can be found here.
Honduran Liberals,

The Liberal Party, through its central authorities, has demonstrated its political maturity over time to bring itself to one and all of its members, militants, men and women, to declare about the events of June 28, 2009.

We understand that our party for more than a decade has been showing a slow deterioration produced by the incorrect application of its laws, improvisation, personal ambition, abandonment by the directorate, which has provoked a profound crisis taken advantage of by some irresponsible persons, because they want to change the direction of Liberalism, whose actions were done under their name; we, all the members of the party, are not guilty.

As a result of this outbreak of actions, the full Central Executive Council agreed at a news conference, to arouse Citizen Manuel Zelaya Rosales so that, by profound reflection, he would rejoin the party, prioritizing those high ideals of the liberal flag, its doctrine, its statutes, leaving to one side personal or group ambitions to convert Liberalism into the reunifying and transforming force capable of implementing changes and profound transformations for the Honduran people.

Unfortunately, we have as a public reply from Citizen José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, a series of conditions for which this political institution is not authorized; in consequence, we are freed of our historical responsibility and this leaves the political road open for him; our party is a political institution that has free membership and voluntary withdrawal.

Throughout history, the party has always needed the granitic unity of its members, it's not important which ideological group or thought which they belong to, and only accepts as a legitimate source of public power and exercise of sovereignty the will of the people expressed at ballot boxes, freely, justly, and equally; the Party ideologically nourishes itself on social liberalism and the fundamental popular sovereignty.

With the unity of the Liberal Party, the Honduran democratic system is strengthened. The actual crisis is a breeding ground to promote anarchy, the party condemns caudillismo, colonialism and dictators; it opposes regimes that go against the will of the people and defends the rule of law.

The Central Executive Council of the Liberal party of Honduras, as the highest representative of the party, makes a fervent call to Liberals so that together we raise the flag, red, white, red in favor of party DIALOGUE. We strip any petty ambition, recognizing our errors and by honest and sincere consensus, we will encounter the UNITY AND LIBERAL RECONCILIATION as the only way to reach power.


Tegucigalpa, M.D.C. 02 August, 2010

Central Executive Council of the Liberal Party of Honduras

UN Critical of Justice Dismissal

None of the decisions that led to the dismissal of the judges and the magistrate contains the legal grounds that justify why the conduct that was the object of the disciplinary proceedings was considered to be grave.

So concluded the report of three UN Human Rights experts made public in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday. The report, in response to the dismissal of the four judges and a magistrate by the Honduran Supreme Court earlier this year, noted that
Judges can be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence, in accordance with fair procedures that guarantee objectivity and impartiality. Accepting an invitation to give a lecture, write an article, present an application for habeas corpus in favour of the dismissed president or participate in public demonstrations does not seem to meet these criteria.

The Supreme Court of Honduras notified the jurists that they were dismissed for "non-compliance or serious breaches of their duties", but the report notes that they seem to have been dismissed for their comments and writings, and participation in public protests after last year's coup d'etat, which does not seem to meet those criteria. The report also notes the Supreme Court
violated the rights of the dismissed judges to due process; they were sanctioned without having been heard and were prohibited from participating in the plenary sessions in which the court agreed to and ratified their firing.

The report also notes that the judges have appealed the decision to the Judicial Career Council of Honduras. They noted that it is important to resolve this case "in accordance with international standards in this area," and for Honduras to consolidate the independence of the judiciary.

The report, written by Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, concluded that the dismissals could have the effect of intimidating other members of the judiciary to "to refrain from expressing views different from those expressed by the authorities," and that this is a disturbing message for other jurists in Honduras. They noted to EFE:
This represents an inadmissible attack against the independence of Honduran judges and magistrates, and against the freedom of opinion, expression, gathering, and is against associations which promote and protect human rights and fundamental liberties in Honduras.

OAS Report on Honduras

Yesterday José Miguel Insulza presented to the President of the OAS Permanent Council, Maria Isabel Salvador, the 12 page report of the High Commission appointed to report on conditions in Honduras. The full report has not yet been released, but its conclusions just appeared in the Honduran press.

As reported in El Tiempo, the High Commission proposed seven points that could make it possible for Honduras to return to the OAS:
1. The Commission considers it appropriate to end the legal cases initiated during the de facto regime against ex President Zelaya and his associates under the laws of Honduras. To adopt this recommendation, the Commission has considered that, although the two cases pending against ex-President Zelaya correspond to events that occurred well before the coup, these cases and the action of the Prosecutor's office were formalized shortly after ex-President Zelaya was overthrown in his duties as president of the country, at the same time that they presented other accusations against him like reason, abuse of authority, and others, in the middle of a negative political climate following the coup. It is evident that at the time of initiating those cases [Honduras] lived in a state of constitutional breakdown which it is not possible to ignore. Therefore , these accusations are perceived as politically motivated.

2. The Commission emphasizes the readiness of President Porfirio Lobo to give former President Zelaya the protection he is entitled to as former President of the Republic of Honduras and recommends it be implemented once former President Zelaya returns home.

3. We recommend that ex-President Zelaya ask the Directive Council of PARLACEN to incorporate him into that organization. The Commission considers that said incorporation recognizes ex-President Zelaya as the previous Constitutional President of the Republic of Honduras before President Porfirio Lobo.

4. The Commission considers that the collaboration offered by the Government of Honduras during the visit of the IACHR last May, the communications sent by President Lobo to the Secretary General about this subject, the subsequent actions reported by the Minister Advisor on Human Rights and the Special Prosecutor on Human Rights, and the presence of an external advisor for the investigation of the crimes against journalists and human rights activists, among others, are positive steps. At the same time, the Commission recognizes the necessity of concrete steps in fulfilling the recommendations of the IACHR, especially the following:

4a. Steady progress in the investigations to clarify the murder of various persons, among them journalists and human rights activists.

4b. The adoption of measures to put an end to the threats and attacks on human rights activists, journalists, social communicators, teachers, members of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, judges who participated in activities against the coup and the effective implementation of fulfilling the protective measures dictated to protect the life and integrity of numerous at-risk persons. The Commission received the communication of the Minister Advisor on Human Rights informing it that the Secretary of Security had created a Human Rights unit to support the Special Prosecutor of Human Rights.

4c. Provide the Inter-Institutional Commission on Human Rights of Honduras the qualified staff and resources sufficient for them to respond in an efficient manner to defend the human rights of Hondurans and the protective measures of the IACHR. The Commission has seen the letter of the Minister Advisor on Human Rights which reports on the decision of the government to create a Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

4d. An end to impunity for violations of Human Rights, including those verified by the IACHR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN. The Commission knows about the creation of a Unit for the Investigation of Human Rights Violations in the Special Prosecutor for Human Rights office to support investigations in these cases.

4e. Effective support for the work of the Special Prosecutor of Human Rights and the Office of the Minister Advisor on Human Rights. The Commission values the work that both institutions does, in spite of the precariousness of financial and human resources. We consider this work could have a significant impact on the validity of human rights, if they were assigned the necessary resources to carry out an effect oversight, protection, and transformation of the State to a culture of promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission notes with satisfaction the proposal of the Honduran Government to assign resources to these institutions and supports its prompt implementation. It also knows the requests for collaboration sent to the governments of Colombia and the US for investigation of violations of human rights.

5. The Commission considers the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission must count on the full support and collaboration of all sectors of Honduran society to determine what happened on June 28, 2009. The Commission notes with satisfaction the disposition of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine the theme of human rights violations in the context of the coup.

6. The Commission notes the willingness of President Lobo to convoke a national dialogue between the political sectors, in which they would discuss themes of interest to all the parties, with the objective to reach a reconciliation of Honduran society. For this it is necessary to avoid any impediments or hostility towards them, especially towards those opposed to the present government. Their security and protection must be guaranteed by the authorities.

7. The Commission presents this report for consideration by the General Assembly so that, in conformity with the Charter of the OAS and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, it can adopt the decisions it considers appropriate with respect to the situation of Honduras.

These conclusions will not be well received by some sectors in Honduras.

Point 3 makes explicit that the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti should not be recognized as having had any legitimacy. For this international body, presidential succession went from Manuel Zelaya to Porfirio Lobo Sosa. At the same time , the report implicitly recognizes as legitimate the November 2009 elections despite the lack of normal institutional international election observers.

If you read our previous post on Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle's press release on his conversations in Washington with Insulza, representing Manuel Zelaya, many of these points will not be a surprise.

Pastor Fasquelle reported substantial agreement between Insulza and himself on what steps Honduras needed to take to return to the OAS. It was, he reported, Arturo Corrales, representing Lobo, who could not accept some of the points.

Of the five points that Pastor Fasquelle reported he and Insulza agreed on, only his fourth point, a proposal to enlarge the official Truth and Reconciliation Commission by adding a FNRP member, is not mirrored clearly in the final report by the OAS High Commission. In the OAS report, point five presents a watered down wording that calls for the Commission to have the full support and collaboration of all sectors of Honduran society, leaving it to the Honduran government, how to achieve that (or not).

Pastor Fasquelle's fifth point, calling for a broad national dialogue to study the right to a Constitutional Assembly, is redirected in the OAS conclusion six as simply a broad national dialogue, with no mention of a Constitutional Assembly. As it is written in the OAS version, conclusion 6 is a bit puzzling. It calls for a discussion between the political sectors, which would explicitly leave out the FNRP, which is not a political party. There can be no meaningful reconciliation in Honduras without bringing the FNRP to the table.

As the OAS report has just been reported, it's too early to tell what the reaction in Honduras will be. Pay attention to how it gets spun in the different press stories that report on it over the next several days, to get an idea of who feels they have won or lost in this step of the OAS process.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Economic basics: Edmundo Orellana on half-time jobs

It is far too easy to become swept up in political strategies and statements. While the outside world is consumed with questions of OAS recognition, inside Honduras, policy decisions continue to be made, and these are moving mainly below the radar.

It is worth stopping and reminding ourselves: the coup was spurred by economic interests. Changes in economic relations are part of the ongoing aftermath of the coup.

Edmundo Orellana, in an editorial brought to our attention by Charles at Mercury Rising (and to his attention in turn by El Cid in a comment on the Daily Kos) reminds us that the current Congress has promoted a change in the fundamental labor market in Honduras that is likely to be bad news for the Honduran working poor for years to come, promoting it with a dubious claim that it will improve the labor market.

Called the "media jornada laboral", this law will allow salaried jobs to be part-time (literally half-time). Unions and congress members differ on whether the proposal would even be legal under Honduran labor law, with congress members suggesting the new half-time positions would come under laws governing temporary (term) employment.

Union leaders called for public discussion of the proposal before it was implemented by the congress. Union leaders see it as putting at risk a variety of contractual benefits won by unions for their members.

Pro-business media support a government claim that the new law will create 600,000 jobs (or 400,000 jobs) over the next three years.

But this misses the point: splitting existing jobs in half may allow the government to count more people as employed, but there won't be any increase in jobs: just a move to have people share those that might exist. The presumption seems to be that businesses might be prepared to hire someone for half-time in the present economy, but cannot afford to hire full-time, but there is nothing to really suggest this is the case.

As José Luis Vaquedano of CUTH (Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores, United Confederation of Workers) said
What do you gain by paying less salary to a worker who has a budget that he/she has to make in the face of the high cost of living?
What you gain, of course, is a labor force working for less cost, and if the suspicions of the unions are right, without the benefits that come with full-time employment. But that would be a labor force with half the pay of full-time workers, when even with the Zelaya minimum wage increase, full-time base pay is less than needed for a household to meet its basic costs.

As Edmundo Orellana argues, a pretend jobs act, which he calls evidence of "improvisation", isn't what the Honduran economy needs.

Called simply Work, his editorial reads in part as follows:
There is no work because there are no new investments nor increase in existing ones. On the contrary, the latter have decreased.

The principal cause of the nonexistence of sources of work is the crisis that started the 28th of June of last year.

We all lost. The salaried their income. The micro- and small- businesspeople, for the most part, lost their patrimony and their family tranquility. The large investors did not lose their patrimony, it is true, but they did earnings, and not a little.

There is work where there is investment. It doesn't matter what scope. Small or large, it always generates work.

In today's society without investment there is no large-scale or sustained work.

The policies of the State, then, should be concentrated on all the factors of production. Betting that the economy is going to improve or that income will be guaranteed, creating half-time labor positions is an error. "Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow", said the grandparents. With the added aggravation that tomorrow is as close as within three years. And afterward?

With this measure the environment will be shaken up more unnecessarily and it will not stimulate investment nor will it increase production. Still less will it favor the worker, because he or she will have to accept half-time jobs and receive a salary below the minimum wage. It's not true either that a half-time job will be more guaranteed, because there are many unemployed and few employed. In addition, nothing will assure us that the bosses will not take advantage of this law to affect those who already have work.

With such a measure it is evidenced that there does not exist a strategy to take care of production. Improvisation is the rule that is imposed on governmental management since the Law of Planning was rescinded. Nonetheless, now that it is affirmed that there is a plan for development, is when we most perceive improvisation.

The decisions that are required-- and urgently-- should aim directly at creating more sources of work by investment. Nonetheless, insofar as the government does not have an integrated vision of the situation of the factors of production to confront the problems that affect them, to stimulate the circumstances that would maximize them and generate a climate of confidence for investment, some of the measures that will be adopted will be no more than patches, and others, true time bombs.

US "dangerous approach rewards illegal and violent regime change"

The Center for Constitutional Rights has released a letter sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opposing easy readmission into the OAS for Honduras. CCR is a highly credible institution; its opinion that "The human rights situation in Honduras is dire and has continued to deteriorate" represents a consensus of international human rights organizations.

The language Vincent Warren, executive director of CCR, used to characterize the US role is blunt:
The United States is taking a dangerous approach in leveraging its influence to lobby for the normalization of relations by the OAS. It rewards illegal, anti-democratic and violent regime change and should be abandoned.

CCR's letter (which you can download here) is a searing indictment summarizing clearly the evidence that the human rights situation did not turn around with the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. From the issue of violence against journalists to the persecution of judges opposed to the coup, from Reporters Without Borders to the IACHR, the CCR letter marshals the evidence that repression and violence continue.

And it calls out Secretary Clinton for repeating the falsehood that the November election was "free and fair". Citing the Carter Center's statement when it decided it could not send observers, that
restrictions on press, protest, and movement have occurred since the presidential coup on June 28, 2009, and into the formal campaign period, impinging on the electoral rights of Hondurans

CCR shows that it understands what the requirements are for a "free and fair" election, and asks that Secretary Clinton cease the pretence that the November election met these requirements.

CCR also has the courage to call out the failure of the US government to insist on the truth, and the implication that this resulted from the influence of lobbyists:
we are concerned also about the role that a number of U.S.-based lobby and public relations consulting firms may have played in helping to muddy the waters in this respect, and the effect that may have had in shaping U.S. policy.
We believe that the extent to which these firms helped paint a portrait of the situation in Honduras that was at odds with the reality of the situation in order to manipulate public opinion and policy is further evidence of the anti-democratic forces at work behind the coup and should be inquired into and investigated, particularly when so many lives have been lost and affected.

Finally, the CCR exposes the truth about the "Truth Commission" (or CVR):
the mandate, methodology and scope of the CVR have been criticized from the outset by the Human Rights Platform and the Honduran civil society....Additionally, the CVR has been criticized by international human rights organizations that question its legitimacy.

CCR cites The International Center for Transitional Justice as saying
the decision to establish the commission seems to have more to do with a hasty desire to turn the page, rather than clarifying last year’s disruption of democracy and the serious crimes that took place.

The CCR concludes that
Honduras today presents a moment and an opportunity for the U.S. to proceed on the right side of history.

We wish this powerful document could move the US to at least a position of neutrality, instead of its crass pragmatic stance that winks at the coup because it is "in the past" and seeks to "put behind" the reality that Hondurans still have to live with daily.

Instead, we expect we are likely to see a continuation of the exploitative history for which the CCR calls the US to account:
an ignominious past in which Honduras was used in the Cold War era as a springboard for U.S. policy and an ill-advised, illegal and ultimately unsuccessful counterinsurgency effort in Central America that resulted in countless violations of human rights and lives lost.

We know now what motivated past interference in Honduras. For what gain now? Cui bono?

Ortez Colindres joins Lobo Sosa in admitting it was a coup

Is confession good for the soul? It must be, because it sure isn't obvious how it is good politically, yet here comes another Honduran politician to join Porfirio Lobo Sosa in admitting that what happened June 28, 2009 was a coup.

In the latest episode, Honduras' Tiempo brings back one of the most outrageous members of the Micheletti regime, Enrique Ortez Colindres, the man whose racist comments about Barack Obama never were translated into completely accurate equivalents in English language coverage.

And it isn't just that Ortez Colindres-- briefly the Secretary of State for Micheletti until his impolitic comments brought him down-- admits it was a coup. He says it was completely planned and executed by the Armed Forces.

Colindres made the comments by telephone to Cholusat Sur (Channel 36), a noted anti-coup media outlet in Tegucigalpa.

Esdras Amado López, the reporter Colindres tried to take on, was reportedly criticizing Ortez Colindres for suggesting that Lobo Sosa should be talking to Hugo Chavez in pursuit of readmission to the OAS. Amado López expressed the view that Ortez Colindres was contradicting the position he took during the coup, when he characterized Chavez as "the devil".

Seeking to explain his position, here's what Ortez Colindres said, live, on television:
“The conditions did not exist to negotiate with Chávez [in the de facto regime] because the enemy of the Army of Honduras is Chávez and Micheletti had been put in the hierarchy of command by the Army."

“I don't believe that Micheletti would have had the courage, nor the individual ability to go to sit with Chávez without having the approval of the commander who put him in that moment, which was the Armed Forces, today it's different."

“The military are those that made the legal chain run and put in [Micheletti]."

"The Army put him in and why would I am deny it, they are the ones that made the succession."

Now, the one thing obvious after Ortez Colindres brief, disastrous "career" as a diplomat for Micheletti is that he is-- well, loose cannon hardly seems strong enough. A buffoon?

But still: these seem likely to be explosive comments among politicians so eager to pretend that what happened was completely legitimate that they have bullied their "Truth Commission" not to even use the words "coup d'etat".

It has always been clear that one way for the civilian authors of the coup to attempt to wriggle out of responsibility would be to blame the whole thing on the military. That was one of the reasons there were so many press statements by the military last year. But unlike their almost hysterical efforts at PR during the coup, the current military seems disinclined to respond to this provocation.

Yet these are the most open attempts to implicate the army that are possible. Ortez Colindres said
“I recommended to the [military] command that they go to speak with Zelaya Rosales to respect him, but they said: He is olanchano [from Olancho] and he is going to command us... if we ask that he stops the cuarta urna and he fired Romeo Vásquez Velásquez."

So: is this blame-shifting? or what Ortez Colindres actually thinks happened? And how can the Armed Forces actually ignore being blamed, not just for the decision to remove Zelaya (illegally) from Honduras-- which Ortez Colindres says set in motion the (presumably constitutional) installation of Micheletti-- but the very idea of a coup?

And: what on earth does it mean to say that the enemy of the Honduran Army is Hugo Chávez?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Amnesty or Prosecution?

The press communique by Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle that we translated has been getting some attention in the broader press. This is understandable because it shines light inside the dark room where negotiations have been underway to solve the problem that Jose Manuel Zelaya presents for Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

In the press communique, Pastor Fasquelle noted that the Lobo Sosa representative was unable to accept positions on which the Zelaya camp and OAS Secretary General Insulza were in agreement. One of the more substantive differences: despite abundant public rhetoric claiming that Zelaya can come back to Honduras any time without fear of persecution, the Lobo Sosa representative was demanding that he face prosecution on the remaining charges against him.

Just what those pending charges might be is somewhat unclear. The amnesty the Honduran Congress passed in January to protect participants in the coup also should extend to Zelaya, at least for those legal accusations covered by the law.

(Whether anyone should have amnesty is a separate issue; it is arguable that the damage widespread impunity does is not worth the marginal gain of voiding the most obvious political prosecutions.)

Amnesty was specifically granted for "political" crimes, but explicitly not for "common" crimes committed.

Which brings us to the interesting question of precisely what justice Humberto Palacios actually did. As reported by the Associated Press, Palacios dismissed two pending "abuse of power" charges because in his view they are covered by the amnesty. According to AP,

Zelaya still faces charges of fraud, usurping other institutions' powers and falsifying documents.

An exclusive interview with Palacios in Honduras' La Tribuna on July 23 examined the role of the judge. The interviewer worked very hard to insinuate that there was something funny going on in having the judge in the case, who was supposed to be on vacation, rule on the amnesty question.

So it is of more than a little interest that today's Heraldo carries a story saying that there is significant disagreement about how amnesty applies to Zelaya between two judges: Humberto Palacios and Elvira Meza.

As the story concisely puts it

One gave him the benefit of the amnesty, but another justice asserts that this is not legal.

According to Meza, Palacios acted irregularly, since the case was still in process (in the Court of Appeals, apparently before her). Hence this purported amnesty for abuse of authority is not, in fact, a fact. Again, quoting El Heraldo:

Elvira Meza declared without value or effect the judgment issued by Palacios, for which reason the orders of capture against the ex-officials remain in effect.

Needless to say, this contradiction undermines any attempt to spin the odd, independent, and now challenged action by one justice as somehow clearing the way for Zelaya to return to Honduras.

El Heraldo quotes a representative of the Public Persecutor who took the opportunity to reiterate that the justices are applying the congressional amnesty and that

In the same, justices were authorized to apply in their own office, or as well at the request on the parties (the Prosecutor or the defense) the amnesty that had been decreed for the political crimes in reference. He noted that the prosecutors should be aware that the amnesty applied only to the purely political crimes and not to those of corruption.

Translation: the Public Prosecutor still intends to try ex-President Zelaya while ignoring the actions of participants in the coup, by defining as "corruption" those charges he wishes to pursue.

Rigoberto Espinal Irias, described as the legal advisor of the Attorney General, has since tried to minimize the conflict between Palacios and Meza, saying it is part of "an internal problem". According to Espinal, judges can apply the amnesty to accusations of political crimes and those common crimes linked to political crimes.

Espinal Irias concludes that the amnesty was correctly applied to the accusations of a broader group of crimes than simply abuse of power: he would include crimes "against the form of government", treason, and abuse of authority. This effectively would wipe out the charges supposedly filed secretly by the Public Prosecutor on Friday June 26, 2009 (which, it has been argued, actually were filed later than the date they carry).

Espinal, like the others offering opinions, says that Zelaya and his officials must face charges of diversion of funds (for using government funds from another source to pay for costs of the cuarta urna after the armed forces kept the funds they were given for that purpose, then refused to undertake the activities for which the funds were approved).

Wonder if the AP, and venues like the Washington Post that eagerly published the original story, will print a follow-up acknowledging that Zelaya has not, in fact, been extended the amnesty so easily granted to all the actual perpetrators of the coup? We won't be holding our breath.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Conversations in Washington by the Representative of Zelaya, Rodolfo Pastor F."

Vos el Soberano today posted a press release under the above title that reads as follows:

The Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Insulza, having solicited that he send his representative to talk with the OAS High Level Commission formed by the past Assembly of the organization to analyze the problem generated in Honduras by the coup d'Etat of 28-06-09, the ex-President Manuel Zelaya R. ordered me to present myself in Washington. There I attended two meetings between July 5 and 8, one meeting with the Commission as a whole and the other with the Juridical Commission of advisors, that had previously visited Honduras.

I explained our position in the meeting with the Commission of ambassadors, which is the same as the declarations of the OAS and of the authorities of almost all the governments represented in it, which is that, in Honduras on the 28th of June of 2009, there was produced a coup d'etat, underlining that, in it, there had participated in coordination the military, the Congress of that time (which accepted a falsified resignation before naming its president as Head of State), and the present Supreme Court that, in the days following the coup, generated a series of exculpatory documents for the military and a political persecution with a series of accusations against President Zelaya and against various cabinet ministers. We argued that for the present government to be able to be recognized in the assembly as the legitimate representative of our country, it would have to fulfill the demands subscribed to in the proposal of the OAS, and sustained in its democratic charter, otherwise leaving this crime unpunished as a disastrous precedent and abdication of the principles of the organization.

The conversations with Secretary Insulza coincided in

1. Arranging for the end of the judicial prosecution of ex-President Zelaya and his collaborators.

2. Commiting the present government to strengthen the Human Rights Prosecutor.

3. Proposing international accompaniment in the fight against impunity.

4. Enlargening the Truth Commission formed by the government, with a representative to be proposed by the opposition; and

5. Convening a broad National Dialogue, with genuine representation of the opposition and with an open agenda to study the right to the Constitutional Assembly process.

Secretary Insulza informed me without details that President Lobo had sent his own representative but he didn't accept that agreed to [above]. That they were additionally accusing the ex-President, of a payment for publicity and for the investment to finance the logistics of the poll about the Cuarta Urna, which had been indispensable in view of the fact that the military did not return the money they were given for that purpose, when they rebelled two days before the Coup. That is to say that the present government, elected without opposition, under a State of Emergency and without the observation of the OAS nor any official international organization demands that ex-President Zelaya should submit himself, for these accusations, to the justice of the perpetrators and sponsors of the coup that was carried out against him. That they would give him the grace to permit himself to defend himself outside the jail. Secretary Insulza did not explain what would be the proposal for international accompaniment for the struggle against the impunity that the Coup participants enjoy and explained that President Lobo wished that it would be the official Truth Commission itself that would incorporate a representative of the opposition.

It was expressed to the Secretary and the Commission our agreement that, by different procedures, the same end could be arrived at and that what worried us, above all, was the state of defenselessness of Hondurans against the everyday violations and crimes against humanity, certified by its own Commission on Human Rights, about which they were not ruling given that-- due to the complicity of the Public Prosecutor and the judiciary in the coup-- the conditions to put a brake on these abuses or deduce responsibilities did not exist. But he was reminded that the agreement was the end of persecution.

The jurists that have studied the accusations assured us that they have progressed in the discussion with the Prosecutor and the Court in Honduras, but they repeated that, for formality's sake, the President would have to present himself before this judiciary, to ask that it grant him amnesty, and submit himself to trial for the two remaining accusations. To them as well it was explained that the ex-President could submit himself to justice for any accusation made before the day of the coup or before any international judicial body that would offer the conditions of objectivity, but he would not humiliate himself before the court that had administered him the coup d'etat. Later, and at the end of our visit and in view of the fact that agreement had not advanced, we presented before the High Commission a Position Paper, prepared personally by ex-President Manuel Zelaya, today coordinator of the National Resistance Front, demanding that the OAS act in congruence with its Democratic Charter (whose substance is the right of the people), with its own reiterated declarations, and with its commitment not to recognize the government as long as the situation created by the coup is not reversed and full rights have not been restored.

Since then Secretary General Insulza has traveled throughout Latin America lobbying its governments to accept Honduras by majority vote, dismissing those that oppose it, and has lobbied recently in the meeting of SICA in El Salvador in which, despite the fact that the norms of the organization demand a total consensus, in the absence of a country and of three of the presidents, President Funes announced the reincorporation of Porfirio Lobo in the System and solicited, as had been announced many times that he would for pragmatism, the reincorporation of its representative in the OAS.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Honduras back in SICA or, what about the bylaws?

The headlines in many newspapers across Central America, like this one from El Salvador's El Mundo, pronounced Wednesday morning that Honduras was "approved to reincorporate itself into SICA" (emphasis added).

But is that really true? The Presidents of all the Central American countries except Nicaragua met in El Salvador and reportedly issued a proclamation urging the OAS to rapidly reincorporate Honduras back into the OAS. That would be news, but of course, is not the same thing as being reincorporated into SICA.

There is also a claim that Honduras was readmitted to SICA as a fully functioning member yesterday, but interestingly there is no such announcement or resolution on SICA's website. [See below for updates on this point.]

The only posted result of the most recent SICA meeting makes no mention of the reincorporation of Honduras, and lacks a signature from the representative of Nicaragua. Maybe they're just not into transparency?

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega decided last night to reprimand the other Central American presidents for their "ridiculousness" in issuing the proclamation that Honduras was reincorporated in SICA.

In a speech broadcast Tuesday evening, Ortega dismissed his Central American colleagues as "ridiculous" and as "challenging Central American integration", the NOTIMEX news service reported.

Ortega also said Nicaragua does not recognize the reintegration of Honduras in SICA, and that any such resolution passed at the extraordinary session held in El Salvador on July 20 lacks legal validity because SICA resolutions require unanimity under SICA bylaws. Nicaragua did not vote for any such resolution. Ortega said the announcement by his colleagues violates the basis of the SICA treaty. He said he considers that his colleagues "did something ridiculous" because SICA has its rules and establishes consensus as the rule, and consensus "requires unanimity"; without it, "you simply cannot make such decisions".

We first pointed out this SICA bylaw problem when SICA Secretary General Juan Daniel Alemán Gurdián (a Nicaraguan opponent of the current government of that country) unilaterally declared that no resolution was necessary to reincorporate Honduras into SICA, and that it had never been suspended, patently ignoring the SICA resolution of June 29, 2009.

There was no reaction at the time from any member government, not even President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, who Alemán accused of just "getting it wrong" for reporting that no consensus had been reached. Which, given that President Ortega would have to be part of any consensus, shows that Funes was correct and Alemán is, lets say, playing fast and loose with the truth.

Meanwhile, Mario Canahuati, the Honduran Foreign Minister, boasted today that he had "24 or 25" votes for Honduras's readmission to the OAS. Under OAS bylaws he only needs 22 votes, a two-thirds majority.

But Boz, in a comment on an earlier post, noted that the OAS normally operates with consensus. He predicted that until the vote could be 30-0 or 28-0 with the remaining countries abstaining, the OAS is unlikely to consider a motion to readmit Honduras.

The reason that SICA coming to a consensus about reintegrating Honduras is important, is that it is the group most likely to accept Honduras back first, for pragmatic reasons: the need for economic integration, negotiation over contested territorial limits in the ocean that can otherwise lead to seizing of fishing boats, and the like.

Boz mentioned such pragmatic considerations in his post earlier today on early reports of "formal reintegration" of Honduras in SICA. There, he argued that it was unlikely that the other Central American presidents would have acted in Ortega's absence, against his expressed position:
I have a hard time believing that the region's presidents, particularly Colom and Funes, would have done this without Ortega's knowledge. I think [Ortega] chose not to attend as a way to abstain from having to either vote in favor or against. That way he can continue his opposition at the OAS and elsewhere, which only has political consequences, while having Honduras back within the Central American community, which benefits the region's economic health.

And this sounds about right to us. But when the other presidents announced that they were in favor of full reintegration of Honduras into the OAS-- assuming that report is true-- Ortega would have had every reason to be outraged. Having arranged not to stand in the way of the necessary (for the people of Honduras, and the region) economic reintegration, while maintaining opposition to the political reintegration into OAS, he finds himself bypassed and blind-sided.

Which we expect will increase, not decrease, his vocal opposition to OAS reintegration. And it is not just Nicaragua, of course (although having one's close neighbor oppose this should rhetorically count for quite a bit).

As the rabidly pro-coup Honduran online Proceso Digital put it, "Even though Central America wants it, South America confirms blockade of Honduras":
from the South they sent a jar of cold water to get across to Tegucigalpa that they will not permit the country to return to the institutional system.

As always, it was incumbent on the aggressive Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa not to fail to take advantage of a visit with the open enemy of Honduras into which the secretary general of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, has converted himself, to affirm that he will not permit the return of the country to the continental organization, unless it accedes to his desires to see imprisoned all those that removed from power his friend and partner José Manuel Zelaya.

Ecuadorian news media, while being far less colorful in their characterizations of the diplomats involved, basically confirmed that Correa told Insulza he was opposed to reintegration of Honduras in the OAS as long as those who participated in the coup enjoy impunity. The actual statement of Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño did not call for mass imprisonment, but it does call for justice:
"For Ecuador the return of Honduras to the OAS is not acceptable as long as there is no clear sanction or initiation of judgment against those responsible for the coup".

"We believe that it is a very bad precedent for democracy in the hemisphere that a country should carry out a coup d'Etat and organize elections in the next months, as if nothing had happened."

And so, if Boz is right in his assessment of the normal operating procedure of the OAS, it will be a long time before there is an agreement, because there is no indication that anyone in Honduras understands that they have to repudiate the coup, they have to take steps to rid the current government of the hangover coup appointees, and they have to do something substantive and believable about the impunity for the coup authors that was created by the passage of amnesty just before the Micheletti regime stepped down.

Dia de Lempira

Yesterday, July 20, was the Dia de Lempira in Honduras, when schoolchildren dress up as make-believe Lenca and elect an "India Bonita" in each town.

Like most such nationalist holidays incorporating imagery of an original people, there are many problematic aspects to this celebration. The image of Lempira on Honduran currency and in the statue that stands on a boulevard in San Pedro Sula draws more from ideas about generalized American Indians than any specifics of Lenca appearance or costume. But these aspects of cultural appropriation and their ironies are not the subject of this post.

In honor of this Lempira day I want to step back and remember the historical Lempira.

Lempira, or El Empira, was a Lenca war captain in the 1530s when the Spanish invaded western Honduras. We know he was a real person, one of those rarely named indigenous people who appear in Spanish Colonial documents of this time. When we began research in the country thirty years ago, the high school graduates we talked to were dubious about his historical existence, thinking he was legendary. But he was demonstrably real, and the recovery of his story is a tribute to the tenacity of Honduran scholars.

There are two contradictory stories about Lempira's death at the hands of the Spanish.

The most well known story is from the 17th century writings of Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. In his multivolume work Historia General de los hechos de los castellanos en las islas y en tierra firme del mar océano.

This story, written long after the Spanish Conquest, was composed by interviewing the children of participants in the conquest and by examining documents in archives in Guatemala. In Herrera's story, Lempira agreed to meet with two representatives of the Spanish captain Alonso de Caceres to negotiate peace. While they were meeting under a flag of truce, a Spanish sharp-shooter shot and killed him. This is the story as it is taught in Honduran schools.

Due to the hard work of Honduran historian Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo, we actually know that earlier documentation of Lempira's campaign against the Spanish, dating to the 1560s, exists. Written less than a generation after the events, it contains first-hand witness testimony, and it tells a much different story.

The document, Patronato 69, R. 5 ("Meritos y Servicios Rodrigo Ruiz Nueva España") is in the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, Spain.

The document was sitting in the archives but was unknown to Honduran historians until the 1980s, when Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo, a noted Honduran historian, found and published it in Honduras in his book, Los Últimos Días de Lempira: Rodrigo Ruiz, El conquistador Español que lo venció en combate.

Rodrigo Ruiz gives us a fascinating story of infiltrating the Lenca forces during the battle with Lempira, until he arrived at the spot where Lempira was commanding his troops. He reports that Lempira was dressed in the clothing of two Spanish soldiers because Lempira felt it would make him impervious to bullets. He reports that he fought Lempira in hand to hand combat and killed him with his sword, later cutting off Lempira's head and presenting it to Montejo, the Spanish governor in 1537, as proof of Lempira's death. After Lempira was killed, Ruiz reports the Lenca withdrew for four days, then came to give obedience to the king.

The account of Rodrigo Ruiz contains elements which match the oral history preserved by the modern Lenca about Lempira, specifically that he thought he was impervious to the Spanish bullets, and that he was killed in combat, not in ambush as Herrera wrote.

The story of Lempira received from Herrera has been an important part of the creation of Honduran national identity, especially in the 1930s under the dictator Tiburcio Carias Andino. The new national currency, the Lempira, was named after him in 1931. The story of Lempira's betrayal by the Spanish, as told by Herrera, was incorporated into the new national school curriculum.

When Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo came forward with the account of Lempira based on earlier-- and therefore, likely more reliable-- documents, he was largely ignored. Lempira as an innocent victim of his nobility, doomed to defeat by the crafty (if morally flawed) Spanish, fits a standard storyline also seen in Mexico and Guatemala (where the stories are equally questionable historically). These stories underwrite ideologies of national integration, of assimilation and acculturation, of the inevitable loss of indigenous autonomy and identity.

Lempira as a successful leader who rallied a large-scale resistance to the Spanish is quite another kind of founding father. He is one of a group of alternative figures of indigenous history, who came to grips with the new historical circumstances in which they were living, and took active roles in advancing the persistence of their peoples.

It is a tribute to the work of Honduran historians that today the more complex story of Lempira is so well known that an editorial in Tiempo today by Edwin Wilfredo Rubí presented basically the same facts as we have in this post, about the rediscovery of the earlier story of Lempira and the contradictions it presents with the nationalist version. He ends his editorial

This extraordinary document...that has not been studied by any other historian [since Mario Felipe Martinez Castillo], merits a more careful analysis... It is also a stimulus for the present and future generation of Honduran historians that will give life to our colonial history, making use of documents like this...
From this text you can take two conclusions: first, that the rising of Cerquin was absolutely true, and second, that the indigenous leader who led the peoples of the province of Cerquin was named ELEMPIRA.
If this version is the truth, it also makes me feel proud, on knowing, that our Cacique Lempira died completely as a hero, preferring to die fighting, rather than on his knees

[Unfortunately, we cannot provide a link directly to the original document. But due to the policies of open access by the Spanish government, anyone with computer access can look up a scan of the original 16th century document. To do this,

1. Navigate to

2. Select the button for "Búsqueda Avanzada"

3. Under "Filtro por Archivo" select "Archivo General de Indias"

4. Under "Filtro por Signatura" enter "Patronato,69,R.5" and select the "Búsqueda por Signatura exacta" radio button.

5. Click on the "Buscar" button at the bottom of the page.

6. On the search results page click on "Patronato Real" underneath the "Archivo General de Indias" title.

7. Under "Titulo" click on "Meritos y Servicios Rodrigo Ruiz".

8. To view the page images, click on the "Ver Imagenes" button. ]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Refounding the Liberal Party

On July 14, Vos el Soberano published a brief note under the headline "When they expel the dictator then we can talk".

It reported the content of a message sent by ex-president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to the Consejo Central Ejecutivo (Central Executive Committee) of the Liberal Party.

In it, Zelaya reportedly said he would talk with that group when it fulfills three requirements:
  • when “the Central Committee announces against the Coup”
  • when "They expel the dictator [Roberto Micheletti]”
  • when “They demand justice for the intellectual and material authors of the 166 assassinations [by repressive organs of State on account of the Coup]. ”

Zelaya's communique was one response to a proposal by Elvin Santos Lozano, president of the Central Executive Committee (and father of the failed 2009 presidential candidate of the party), that Zelaya return to Honduras and rejoin the Liberal Party in order to unify it (and thus save it). Seems like a rough judgment on his own kid.

As an editorial by Radio Progreso, also available on Vos el Soberano, notes, Hondurans find themselves
with a situation unequalled in the political history of Honduras: a president who was overthrown by a coup d'Etat and sent into exile, and, after one year, is reclaimed by two antagonistic projects and political forces. The president that was proscribed, sent into exile and considered as the cause of the major division and polarization in the life of the country, now his return appears to be fundamental to the exit from the institutional stagnation in which we find ourselves and to make possible national reconciliation.

We have previously explained the outcome of the Tocoa Assembly of the Frente, in which Liberals in resistance were unable to seat additional delegates and withdrew from the provisional governance, explicitly without withdrawing from the Frente itself. This led to a curious sequence of actions by the Liberal Party itself.

Leadership of the Liberal Party came out shortly after the end of the Tocoa assembly of the Frente with an open invitation to the Liberals in resistance to reintegrate in the party. This explicitly included an invitation to Zelaya to return and organize a political "movement" within the party.

First, Marlon Lara, ex-campaign director for the party, currently second vice president of Congress, said the Tocoa meeting showed that the Liberals in Resistance should return to the party and contribute to its unification. Lara
exhorted them to collaborate with the initiative of the Consejo Central Ejecutivo to procure granitic unity of the party for which a commission will travel to the Dominican Republic to negotiate with the overthrown president Manuel Zelaya.
At about the same time, members of the Liberal Party held what was reported variously as a unity forum or a gathering of Zelaya supporters, the latter the way El Heraldo headlined their article. It was said to bring together "a part of the directorship of the Liberal resistance, ex-officials of the deposed president Zelaya, and presidential aspirants", implying that these are all categories of Liberal Party members with reasons to oppose the current governance of the party.

At this forum, Eduardo Maldonado, ex presidential contender, said that "the unity of his party passes by the return without conditions of ex president Manuel Zelaya." Esteban Handal Pérez, another "pre-candidate" for president, called for a special party convention to vote in new leadership.

Edmundo Orellana, who reportedly also participated,

insisted on the need for the authorities of his party to convene, as quickly as possible, internal elections (not primaries) to change all the authorities: central, departmental, and municipal.

As the article notes, the majority of those who would be removed from office belong to one of three major movements within the Liberal Party: those headed by Elvin Santos, Roberto Micheletti and Eduardo Maldonado. Maldonado volunteered to have the occupants of the two seats his movement controls on the Central Executive resign. No one from the Santos or Micheletti camp attended.

Also present and speaking at the forum: Jaime Rosenthal, perennial presidential aspirant and owner of El Tiempo.

According to La Tribuna, all the speakers called for the immediate and unconditional return of Zelaya, hoping he will take a place as a "standard-bearer" in the party, and most of the speakers at the forum endorsed a national constitutional assembly as a the only way to institute social and economic changes. The exceptions to the latter call: Jaime Rosenthal and Esteban Handal

As we write, the Central Executive Committee is reportedly writing a letter to ask whether Zelaya would receive a delegation to talk things over in the Dominican Republic. As reported by El Heraldo, "some political sectors" speculate that Zelaya will receive a delegation if the Central Executive Committee calls the "events of June 28" a coup:
The Central Executive [Committee] has not said if what occurred the 28th of June was or was not a coup d'Etat nor has it condemned nor applauded the situation of which Zelaya, member of the Liberal Party, was victim.

Elvin Santos Lozano ducked the question, saying that the Truth Commission will decide what happened. Not too promising in terms of meeting Zelaya's stated condition. And of course, no reference to the requirement that Roberto Micheletti, honored senior Liberal Party member, be expelled.

Tiempo, in its reporting on the forum by dissident Liberal Party members, underlined that members of the present Central Executive Committee "do not enjoy the sympathy and backing of the majority of the Liberals".

That was inadvertently underlined when presidential hopeful Handal helpfully predicted that the proposed commission to Zelaya would be a fiasco.

Victor Sierra, a director of the Liberal Party movement M-Lider (Movimiento Liberal Democrático Revolucionario), probably had the single most evocative comment.

As reported in Tiempo, he proposed to "refundar el Partido Liberal": refound the Liberal Party.

Now, where have we heard something like that before?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Edmundo Orellana: Return

On July 12, La Tribuna published a commentary by Edmundo Orellana on the topic of the possibility José Manuel Zelaya Rosales could return to Honduras.

Since that has now been framed as the first goal of the Frente de Resistencia, it is worth reviewing what this legal scholar reminds us about: the difficulties that stand in the way of this return.

Contrary to assertions that it is just a matter of buying a plane ticket, the events of the coup and de facto regime are substantial obstacles to resolution: Orellana notes that the Public Prosecutor insists on maintaining a legal case open that should have been covered by the amnesty passed by the National Congress. He notes that the judicial branch and much of the Legislature is still filled with coup participants. He reviews the aggression that Zelaya was personally subjected to, and suggests that without guarantees of security from the government, returning is not feasible.


Edmundo Orellana

The return of ex-President Zelaya Rosales is the news of the moment. But the return to the homeland will not be easy.

He was expelled from his country after his home had been outraged with a raid outside the hours that the Constitution permits, accompanied by machine gun bursts, while his young son listened, hidden in fear of being victim of the bestial action, everything they did to reduce his father to impotence. All this operation, worthy of an episode of a formal war, was designed against a single man that barely three and a half years before had been voted by the Honduran people as their new President.

Later it was made known that the Public Prosecutor had filed an action against the President and that a judge named by the Supreme Court of Justice from among its members, after declaring the secrecy of the process, had issued an order of capture against him and to put it into effect ordered, against the Constitution of the Republic, that the Armed Forces carry it out, alleging that the police could be inclined toward the President, so that they would not be trustworthy. Nonetheless, they, immediately, displayed a persecution against those who protested in favor of the President with a cruelty that the population understood had been in the 80s. The accusations against the police for the violation of human rights of those who protested against the coup d'Etat came from the organizations that make up the inter-American system of Human Rights and surely our country will be newly condemned to the payment of large amounts of money in compensation to the victims, and those truly responsible will enjoy impunity.

The tortures to which President Zelaya, his family and those accompanying him in the Brazilian Embassy were subjected, using high-end technology, putting at risk the life of all those encountered there, stripped before the world the hatred that the conspirators had for Zelaya and the savagery of which the dictatorship and its accomplices was capable.

The National Congress, the system of justice and the organizations responsible for the national defense and public security participated directly in what today is an undeniable fact: a Coup d'Etat. Even the same Chief of State Lobo Sosa has admitted this and more than one functionary of his government has asked pardon for this crime against democracy, the Republic, and history.

The bias of the system is placed in evidence when it leaked out that of the prosecutions launched against the President only one, apparently, is still pending, and, despite the fact that it treats evidently of an act that, in any case, will end up benefited by the amnesty, they insist stubbornly on maintaining it in effect.

Very little has changed institutionally in the country since the President was overthrown. Only the Executive Power and part of the Legislative has been renewed. So that his return in these conditions does not offer any guarantee for his personal security and the tranquility of his family.

Nonetheless, his return is essential to commence national reconciliation. The very political stability of the country depends on the return to the country of Zelaya. It is, then, a question of State. It should guarantee, in consequence, that he will enjoy the protection that his situation so special demands. How to accomplish this, is the responsibility and priority of the first order of the present government.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Resistance Front presents its Executive Committee

[On the road, so without comment, extracts from the recent post announcing the outcome of the National Assembly in Tocoa; please see the official website for more]:

This Assembly was composed of 56 delegates, men and women, from all the national territory who were present in the heart of the Valle de Aguan to show the unconditional support to the campesino movements that are confronted with the violence of the army and the businessmen, and at the same time to achieve a historic date in the struggle of the Honduran people.

With this Assembly there was installed the Provisional National Coordination as a first step in the consolidation of the FNRP as a political platform toward the refounding of the country. This space of direction is made up of the representatives elected in the distinct Departmental Assemblies that have been carried out in the last weeks across Honduras, creating in this way a new Democracy that is born and is developed from the base.

The Provisional National Coordination named an Executive Committee that will direct the destinies of this struggle against golpismo, the military regime, barbarity and injustice. The first office selected in a unanimous manner was that of Manuel Zelaya Rosales as Coordinator, recognizing in this way his leadership and putting him at the head of this project that seeks to leave behind the old political practices in which small groups were set above the interests of the impoverished majority.

There will accompany Zelaya in this Executive Committee recognized figures of the popular struggle: Juan Barahona and Carlos H. Reyes (Tegucigalpa), Will Paz (Colón), Leonel Amaya (Olancho), Lucía Granados (San Pedro Sula), Lilí Aguilar (Lempira), María Antonia Martínez (of the movement Feministas en Resistencia), Porfirio Amador (Choluteca), Jaime Rodríguez and Edgardo Casaña (of the Federación de Organizaciones Magistrados de Honduras FOMH), Juan Chinchilla (Juventud Bajo Aguan), Víctor Petit (Comayagua), Teresa Reyes (Organización Fraternal Negra de Honduras Ofraneh), José Luis Baquedano (Confederación Unitaria de Trabajadores de Honduras CUTH). There only remains pending the man or woman representing the indigenous Lenca population.


The immediate objectives expressed by the Assembly are the return of Manuel Zelaya to the country together with all the persons obliged to go into exile, the development of the work of organization and political formation in all the country, the strengthening of our means of communication to defeat the lies elaborated by the golpistas and collaborators, and to initiate the collective construction of what will be the National Constituent Assembly that for the first time in our history will be Participatory, Popular, and truly Democratic.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Reactions to the National Assembly of the FNRP: From Mel on down

There are so many statements now reflecting, from different perspectives, on the Tocoa Assembly that it would be overwhelming to translate them all.

But one deserves a full translation:

From the desk of the Constitutional President (2006-2010) Jose Manuel Zelaya.

People and Comrades:

I am verifying the contents of the communique and of the first resolutions of the Assembly of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, that was carried out in Colón this weekend. On first impression it seems good to me that the force to advance was encountered in its own decisions. I have asked Xiomara, my wife, that she present herself tomorrow to the Directorship of the FNRP to speak with Carlos H. Reyes, Juan Barahona, Rafael Alegría and the rest of the comrades, to know the scope of the proposal and so tomorrow itself it will be possible to communicate my acceptance as Liberal-Pro Socialista to integrate in the General Coordination of the Executive Committee of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular.

MEL Z RD 11 de julio de 2010.

In this brief note, Manuel Zelaya effectively supports the actions of the FNRP and the leadership of the sectors that resisted pressure to seat a larger than agreed on number of Liberal Party delegates.

Statements like that of Ollantay Itzamna reiterate that this was a critical achievement in the quest to change the fundamental system, that confirmed "the extreme unction of the moribund 'dedocrátic' system of bipartisanship in Honduras".

The first image is of the administration of the Last Rites of Roman Catholicism, given here to the hand-picking of delegates misrepresented as "democratic" (dedo= finger, which substitutes for hand in the Spanish equivalent to the English figure of speech; so "dedocratic" is approximately "handpickedocrat").

Ollantay Itzamna adds that the naming of Manuel Zelaya Rosales as National Coordinator of the Frente is
also another strategic ratification of popular sentiment. In the Honduran conjuncture, Zelaya is an undeniable national/popular leader. But, this nomination is a sociopolitical strategy. The FNRP needs to articulate to all the cells of the resistance dispersed across the country, and so to construct a sociopolitical hegemony on a national level. And this difficult task, against time, only can be done with a strong and evident national leader. Here we have the strategic reason for the nomination of Compañero Zelaya, but this is not to say that the FNRP is completed in Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

In some ways, the statement by Zelaya negates a curious side comment in the report of the withdrawal of the Liberals in Resistance, when Carlos Reina said
before withdrawing, that in taking this decision he had the endorsement of the deposed Honduran president, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who had been consulted by [the Liberals in Resistance] by telephone from the Dominican Republic, where he remains exiled since the past 27th of January.

In context, that seemed almost as a claim of patronage, a reclaiming of Mel from the Frente in general.

That some such claim was perceived is made explicit in the response to the assembly by Luis Mendez, described as a "poet in resistance". After rehearsing the details of the attempt to swell the ranks of the delegates with extra appointees recommended by Liberals in resistance, Mendez says that
It is lamentable but the thing is that Carlos Eduardo Reina and the rest that don't add up to ten have the economic resources to move bars, and money to bring a national commission of Liberals in Resistance to the Dominican Republic (as they proposed at the Assembly of Tocoa), and expound to our ex-president Manuel Zelaya Rosales the developments for which they withdrew from the national conduct of the FNRP... well, if they have the economic resources that would be very much their own affair, but we, we do not go to Santo Domingo, but, we go to the villages, to the hamlets, to form the collectives, to accompany to the town fronts, there is where the construction of popular power will be given.

And, without doubt, we expect comrade Manuel Zelaya will personally join the Executive Committee of the FNRP as one of the principal leaders of the movement and it is certain that we can invite the Apparition, there, to where Saint Thomas was the one to say to us: TODAY IS NOT AS BEFORE COMRADES, today we have new visions.

The religious nature of this imagery, again, is somewhat startling, but like the metaphor of extreme unction, it shifts the register from mere politics as usual to redemption, to revelation, and to fervor.

Zelaya, by accepting his appointed role in the FNRP, affirms the new movement as something more than the politics of the past.

The Frente and the Liberal Party

As the previous posts should indicate, there was considerable tension around the assembly of the FNRP that was held in Tocoa this weekend.

Under the headline Second Day of the National Assembly: the debates and the wager on the unity of the FNRP continue, Vos el Soberano provides a report that starts with the following quote:
"Before being a Liberal I am of the people and the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, that is the future.”

Ubodoro Arriaga Izaguirre, Delegate from the Department of La Paz to the First National Assembly of the FNRP.

While that tells the whole story in a nutshell, the report goes on to specify what happened:

Liberal leaders withdrew from the National Assembly of the FNRP on not succeeding in impose their delegates named outside the Departmental Assemblies of the Resistance.

Specifically cited as speaking for the Liberal Party were Carlos Eduardo Reina, Orfilia de Mejía and Rasel Tome, who "took the floor to explain to the departmental delegates their reasons to self-exclude themselves". According to this report they clarified that they "do not renounce" the FNRP, just participating in the provisional National Coordination to be elected today.

On the one hand, this is not that different from what COPINH and the Feminists in Resistance did. But timing is everything. Making a principled statement in advance that you are not interested in being part of a formal structure you consider dubious, and withdrawing when things don't go your way, are as different as, well, making a principled stand and saving face.

Reporting describes an unsuccessful attempt to install 29 extra delegates representing Liberals in Resistance over and above those elected on a state by state basis:
Yesterday, in hours of the afternoon and night, the leaders of the sector called Liberals in Resistance tried by every means to impose and inscribe 29 delegates in addition to those elected in departmental assemblies of the Resistance...

The trigger for rejection by the departmental delegates was, according to this report, an attempt to appoint the ex mayor of Tocoa, Adán Fúnez. The latter participated in open resistance to the coup up until one week before the November election, when, Vos el Soberano (citing news reports in El Heraldo) says
with the intention of relecting himself in office, he appeared in a center of the golpista sector of the Liberal Party to ask, publicly and on bended knee, pardon for having participated in the activities of the Resistance.

One can see why he was an unwelcome person. It is almost unbelievable that experienced party politicians would have such a tin ear as to think this would go down without choking.

Rasel Tome is given the principal responsibility for the attempted to expand delegates:
Within hours of yesterday it was possible to confirm that Rasel Tome had unilaterally ordered his sympathizers to expand the departmental delegates from two incumbents and an alternate to four incumbents and an alternate (two additional hand-picked delegates) against the decision of the last Assembly of the Resistance celebrated in Siguatepeque that established the number of delegates at 56 for logistical and budgetary reasons.

The report emphasizes that with the departure of the Liberal leaders, debate continued, underlining that the FNRP is not about winning traditional elections:
the political wager of the FNRP will not be the electoral processes, so as not to continue accepting elections Honduras-style, and it was decided that the fundamental task of the moment is the installation of the National Constituent Assembly with the conditions that the popular movement proposes.

In addition, it was made clear that the guarantors of this political process unleashed by the coup d'Etat are not the political parties, but the popular and social movement.

Undoubtedly there will be political analysts willing to argue that the activists of the Frente are being unrealistic and should have trimmed their ambitious project to fit into the goals of the Liberal Party faction.

But the message the Frente is conveying is that politics in Honduras is completely broken: if the system is dysfunctional, taking it over will not help.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"How Democractic Should Democracy Be?": Oscar Estrada

Note: The original in Spanish was posted today on Quotha, with the first half translated there in a comment by Charles II and the second half in a comment by me. In the following translation, I make slight changes to the original translation of the first half.

For those of us who didn’t go to the national assembly of the FNRP in Tocoa because we weren’t elected as delegates by our organizations or simply because we weren’t active in any organization other than the Frente, the accomplishments of this week still seem unclear. In the afternoon, the assembly will have ended and we hope that everything will be more broadly known. Meanwhile, various ideas occurred to me which I think are important to explore to better understand the “conflict” which we live internally.

The Liberal Party, which historically had a moderately progressive origin, has been controlled by the right for at least the last 60 years. I previously wrote on the 17th of June, about the role which the Liberal Party played in the most key stages of Honduran history, such as the ‘54 strike, the coup d’état of ’63, the different military governments of the ‘70s, the dirty war of the ‘80s, the neoliberalism of the ‘90s, and about how always, with rare individual exceptions, it bent itself to the interests of the national oligarchy and transnational capital. And while the labor code, voluntary military service, and certain legal changes were given in Liberal administrations, it would be remote from history to try to say now, that the changes that have been achieved in social matters correspond to the political will of the Party alone, making invisible the social and popular movements which drove those changes. One should understand that in Honduras, nothing is ever done except through pressure.

The crisis which the Honduran people lives in actuality originates in essence in a struggle of classes [class war]. It is the product of the erosion of an economic and political model which favors the most wealthy, displacing from wealth a broad sector of the population which lacks representation within the power structures.

The Liberal Party as a an institution never, through its individual leaders, owners, and caudillos, will be able to understand the urgencies of the dispossessed classes of the country, simply because they belong to another class, and therefore to another Honduras. This is not to say that there aren’t Liberals who belong to the popular classes. It’s clear that there are such and that they understand very well what it is to be poor in Honduras. But those who take decisions, those who today urge the rescue of the party, because without it they are nothing politically, those are NOT of the same class which filled the streets in repudiation of the coup d’état.

This is the basic contradiction of the Liberal Party in Resistance. To form a part of the FNRP and to propose to “rescue” the Liberal Party which amounts to rescuing the bipartisanship reigning for more than 100 years. To rescue the Liberal Party, the same Liberal Party would have to seize the Party. [To rescue the Liberal Party they will have to seize the Party, the Liberal Party itself.]

It has not been clear up till now what would be the strategy for the Liberals in Resistance to rescue their party. At times they can be seen seated in the gringo embassy, then in the office of Rosenthal and their goal seems remarkably similar to that of Elvin Santos or Micheletti: to return to power in the next elections.

They, the Liberals in Resistance, now accuse a faction of the left of the Frente of not being “inclusive” on blocking them from “storming the assembly,” placing 29 delegates more than those which by agreement they had obtained in the previous assembly in Siguatepeque. This strategy reminds me a great deal of the assemblies of the 90s in the UNAH, when it was a common practice to bring 100 delegates from another campus, normally from the north of the country, to flip the results and to impose a directive according to the interests of the caudillo of the student front and it was naive to think, that with all those years of experience, we would not have learned.

The ideological separation within the Frente has been evidenced basically among what the Liberals call "los bloqueros", in reference to the bloque popular, but that is composed as well by the parties of the left (PSOCA, TR, MND, OPLN, CNRP, BP, unions, guilds and social movements) on one side and on the other the Liberals, who independently of the name that they use continue being a party of the right with all the practices and vices of traditional politics.

We have all always said that the FNRP is a diverse and pluralistic organization. And although pluralism as a concept can seem sound to us, what is certain is that this has pushed us to accept, on some occasions, actions contrary to the will of the base, both by political organizations as well as by individuals, that far from unifying in their political pragmatism have weakened us.

I would put as an example the decision of the UD to participate in the elections of last November, legitimating the same and their inflated results, and later to participate in the Government of National Unity of Lobo Sosa, permitting him to say internationally that his government is of Reconciliation since he counts among his ministers one that is "of the resistance". This action, accepted by that mistaken sense of plurality, has brought a great political cost for the Frente and will continue doing so.

On the other side, and as a prelude to the assembly, the COPINH launched a communique that has had a certain replication, both by the Feminists in Resistance, as well as by some independent authors. The basic propositions of the public communique of COPINH, far from representing differences in the objectives of FNRP, show a discussion that sooner or later it will be necessary to have.

What those communiques demand, more than representation in the leadership of the Frente, is a different vision of power. It is a call to attention to the traditional left that continues thinking about democratic centralism, the political bureau or the negotiations of realpolitik distant from the will of the base. It is a questioning about the concept of popular representation and democracy as an expression of the will of the majority (denying voice to minorities). It is a demand, to the entire FNRP, that it see power as something that is constructed from the base, from below, because the history of the peoples has demonstrated to us that in the end, a revolutionary government without popular power is nothing more than a reactionary government with a populist discourse.

While all this happens, the machinery of terror does not stop. Lobo journeyed to Miami on a lightning visit to meet with Insulza in relation to the return (in August, according to CODEH) of the expresident Manuel Zelaya, as a prior requisite for there to be total recognition of Lobo Sosa in the extraordinary Assembly of the OAS at the end of July.

"We are near a solution, but I don't believe that it is possible to speak of a solution still nor to be overly optimistic", said Insulza.

And that's something the un-government understands very well, because its master Colombia has demonstrated it, that international recognition is one thing and internal legitimacy is another very distinct thing.

In Tocoa, the same municipio where the Assembly was carried out, "various police and military commandoes advanced toward the land where more than 190 families in the Bajo Aguan are found" according to a report of COFADEH, violating in this form the accord signed by the president with MUCA the past month of April, throwing fire on the powder keg of the national agrarian conflict.

And the repression continues and while this week in Tegucigalpa we say goodbye to two known fighters of the Bloque Popular (dead of natural causes), Luis Morel and Oscar Padilla, on the north coast they assassinated in front of his house Julio Fúnez Benítez (57), union member of SANAA and member of the frente, and Jorge Alberto Castro Ramírez, of 41 years, horchata vendor in the numerous marches of 2009.

Oscar Estrada
11 de Julio de 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not quite a reply from the FNRP

But the statement posted on Vos el Soberano today may show some effects of the public positioning of COPINH and the Feministas en Resistencia.

Titled In installation of its first National Assembly the FNRP recognizes its diversity and strengthens unity, the statement starts
Recognizing the diversity of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP) there was initiated this day in Tocoa, Department of Colón, the act of installation of the First National Assembly of the Honduran Resistance.

That "recognizing the diversity" is, obviously, critical to many constituent parts of the Frente.

Choosing Tocoa as the site of the Assembly is itself symbolic: Tocoa is in the region of the Bajo Aguan, where the confrontation of campesinos and landowners has not yet been concluded, and where tensions continue.

The statement goes on to say that
delegates, militants and sympathizers of the FNRP coming from all Honduras participated actively in the Forum of installation.

This wording raises the question, what constitutes a delegate, versus a sympathizer? The statement goes on to describe the assembly as including
men and women, youths and adults of all the political currents that have expression in the country and that have space in the FNRP.

Near the end of the statement tensions are finally openly acknowledged:
At the end of the act of installation and previous to the mobilization various doubts were clarified that have to do with the character of the Resistance, it was clarified that "the objective that the FNRP has is the National Assembly. What matters now, is not if we will be a political party, the important thing is that we are the principal social and political force of the country and that we have succeeded in reconfiguring the map of power in Honduras".

The "big tent" rhetoric, especially given the specification that it concerns "all the political currents", hints at the tensions between traditional political parties and the more revolutionary groups in the Frente.

So who did attendees hear from to represent the diversity of the Frente?

The three speakers mentioned by name in the article are Marcelino Borjas, Pavel Núñez, and Gloria Oquelí.

Borjas is described in the statement by the Frente as a retired teacher with a Master's degree in sociology and a doctorate in economics. His remarks at the Assembly reaffirmed the anti-imperialist posture of the Frente, and argued that the coup "would not have been possible without the participation and the help of officials of the highest level of the North American government".

Pavel Núñez, a member of the musical group Café Guancasco "spoke in the name of Honduran youth".

But the really interesting choice here is to give a great deal of print to Gloria Oquelí, described as "recognized leader of the Liberal Party, member for Honduras of the Parlamento Centroamericano (PARLACEN), and until recently President of that regional organization".

In March, Oquelí was listed as part of a group called the "encounter of progressive Liberals", one of seven factions within the Liberal Party that El Heraldo claimed would "promote the overthrow of the Liberal Party and even ask for the disappearance of that party". In May, El Heraldo augmented its count of factions of Liberals in Resistance to include what it called three "zelayist" factions, for a total of ten separate movements within the Liberal Party organizing against the dominance of Roberto Micheletti and Elvin Santos.

So, whatever other role she has, when Oquelí speaks, one of the tensions she voices is that between Liberals in the Resistance and those suspicious of the party system itself.

Oquelí is quoted as saying that
the rules of democracy are simple: one of those affirms that the majority rules and a second reaffirms that the majority can change any rule that might be established in a democratic system, except for the first.

Sounds uncontroversial, right? Majority rule = democracy.

But in fact, COPINH and the Feminists in Resistance each have articulated different rules of democracy, which stem from a minority position that understands that majority rule may actually end up being majority command. COPINH builds on a tradition of indigenous organizing in which consensus is the goal. A consensus is a majority; but it is a majority without significant dissent. To arrive at consensus, you have to take time to thrash things out, and you may well need to abandon some things that are objectionable to a determined minority.

Feminist organizations often strive for consensus as well. They also may advocate, as the Feministas en Resistencia did in their statement, for parity between men and women in governance.

Minority groups, including traditional parties that have strong agendas but are not popular enough to win a majority (such as the Liberal Democrats in the recent UK elections), often advocate an alternative to majority rule: proportional representation. Unlike the more familiar winner-takes-all approach, in proportional representation, minority positions can emerge with representation equal to that of their supporters. In pluralistic societies, proportional representation is probably more truly democratic.

So, the rules of democracy are not so simple after all.

But back to Gloria Oquelí. The report on the Assembly says she argued that "it is important to consolidate the political project known as Resistance". Again, not all participating segments of the Frente would agree that the Resistance is a "political project", and if they did, they would disagree on what kind of "political project" it is; and they may well continue to politely disagree with the claim that it has to be "consolidated".

Oquelí is a good politician, a progressive one, and she clearly feels the Resistance has a once in a lifetime opportunity. According to the report,
Recognizing the wide character of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular and the traps of empire she declared that "if they push us, if they corner us, so that we will be an institution of a homogeneous ideology, we could fall into error. In the FNRP we all fit, therefore it is not true what Hugo Llorens says, that we are a small group of the extreme left and of the extreme right facing off. It is the ideas, the ideals and all our dreams, not the ideologies that mark our way".

While it isn't entirely clear here who "they" are who want to corner the Frente into a homogeneous ideology, the juxtaposition with US Ambassador Llorens' regrettable dismissal of the Frente as an "extreme left" group tends to suggest Oquelí is concerned about the Frente being pushed to remain ideologically pure by the left. While it is hard to reduce feminist or indigenous activism to right/left terms, if you have to choose one position, it would indeed be left.

So, perhaps "they" who are trying to corner the Frente into an "ideology" in place of simply "ideas" and "ideals" includes those who recently expressed their uncertainties about the goals of this weekend's assembly. Since no one from indigenous or feminist networks is quoted in this first report, it is hard to say what they thought of how the event was opened.