Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What's In The Kool-Aid?

Roger Noriega has a good conservative pedigree.

He was ambassador to the OAS from 2001-2003, and then worked as an Asssistant Seccretary of State in the State Department from 2003-2005. Now he's a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and managing director of Vision America LLC, a lobbying firm. As a lobbyist, he has to place press op-ed opinion pieces for clients from time to time. I have to assume his latest on Fox News is placement for a client, because if he believes it, he should have his beverage of choice analyzed for hallucinogens.

Noriega's piece posits a secret meeting in mid-May between Porfirio Lobo Sosa and Ariel Vargas, representing Hugo Chavez, at Lobo Sosa's suburban home in Tegucigalpa.

The purpose of the meeting? Noriega claims that sources within the Venezuelan government told him Lobo Sosa did his best to convince Chavez's representative that he was still a "fervent revolutionary", and sought to enlist Chavez's patience and help with neutralizing the National Party and the Catholic Church so that he could bring in sweeping constitutional changes "that will allow the people to sweep out the old order."

Kind of reminds me of the whisper campaign against Lobo Sosa in the fall 2009 elections, reminding us he went to college in the former Soviet Union.

Ariel Vargas was the chargé d'affaires for the Venezuelan embassy in Honduras during the 2009 coup and defied Micheletti's expulsion order remaining locked in the embassy.

Noriega goes on to say that Chavez is now pouring millions of dollars into the FNRP to help it become a political party, bypassing Lobo Sosa and the Honduran military, which he would have us believe is the only institution in Honduras backing Lobo Sosa.

So why is Chavez doing this?

Noriega claims that Chavez is using Honduras to place drugs into Mexico and the US, as part of a plan to destabilize the US and Mexico. There are serious studies of drug circulation from South America through Honduras: this is not a contribution to that research.

And what conspiracy would be complete without an allegation that terrorists in Venezuela-- specifically, Hezbollah-- have been seeking information about sneaking across the US border undetected, a goal that somehow will be advanced if Honduras goes all 21st century socialist again under Lobo Sosa.

Noriega's article would be ludicrous, if it didn't echo the tone-- if not the specifics-- of right wing elements in Honduras displeased that Lobo Sosa negotiated with Manuel Zelaya at all. But only in a right wing fantasy-- that is, nightmare-- can Porfirio Lobo Sosa be recast as avid revolutionary.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reactions to the Cartagena Accord, Part 4: The UCD responds

The Union Civica Democratoica (UCD) has spoken, and they don't like the Cartagena Accord.

No surprise there.

Speaking for the UCD, Fernando Anduray said
"What we are not in agreement with is an accord that was signed to aid the initiatives of the government of Venezuela and the president of Colombia without consulting Honduras."

So, Porfirio Lobo Sosa clearly doesn't speak for Honduras in Anduray's universe.

The directorate of the UCD held a press conference on May 26 to denounce the accord. According to Rina Callejas de Guillen
"I regret that President Porfirio Lobo Sosa continues to humiliate and act behind the back of the Honduran people, officiating and sacrificing our dignity to the highest bidder..."

Callejas de Guillen was speaking as the new President of the UCD.

Their "constitutionalist", Irma de Acosta Fortin got right to the point, following the lead of Jimmy Dacaret and Fernando Anduray of a few days earlier.
"the pretense of the Cartagena Accord is to make possible the installation of a National Constituent Assembly, which is absolutely unconstitutional."

She sees no reason for constitutional reform anyway; she noted that after all, 98 percent of the constitutional clauses can be modified without resorting to a National Constituent Assembly.

I guess she missed the discussion over the last two years that made it clear there was a significant desire to reconsider all of the clauses of the 1982 constitution, which was crafted largely with US help and with an agenda that had more to do with ensuring governmental rigidity than allowing change.

Also at the press conference was a spokesperson for the Association of Reservists of Honduras, Aversio Navas, who suggested that the US might reject the actions called for in the Cartagena Accord, and cut off economic cooperation with Honduras.

In fact Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, has already lauded Lobo Sosa for carrying out the negotiations, so Navas's profession of fear of US rejection was already without merit when pronounced.

(You will remember that it was the Association of Reservists who responded when the UCD issued its call for marches in support of Roberto Micheletti Bain, the so called "white shirts".)

So the UCD proves true to form.

They think the fix is in for a National Constituent Assembly. It's not.

The Frente could try to make a call for a National Constituent Assembly by means of a plebiscite or referendum thanks to the new set of laws passed by Congress, but in order for that to get on the ballot, it will require the approval of Congress.

It would surprise me if this conservative, Nationalist party dominated, neoliberal Congress would approve such a referendum.

The UCD is still fighting the ghosts of the 1980s, not "twenty-first century socialism", its professed enemy.

Everyone else has moved on; it's time they did too.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"The ancestral force of Lempira": COPINH responds

A pattern is emerging in responses from the more revolutionary forces within the FNRP: greet Mel, while making it clear his importance is due to his symbolic place as a most visible, but not unique, victim of the coup and institutionalized power; don't mention the Cartagena Accord by name; do denounce the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa and repudiate any claim that "reconciliation" has happened.

Again courtesy of Adrienne Pine at quotha, we have a translation of one of the responses that we have been anticipating most anxiously: that of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH).

The original statement in Spanish was issued May 27, in La Esperanza, Intibuca, the heart of the territory of the contemporary Lenca, and the core of the area where in the early sixteenth century Lempira led resistance to Spanish colonization.

COPINH, like the Artists in Resistance, addresses its statement to Mel, calling for "a warm welcome to you, who symbolize the struggle of the Honduran people to create a participatory and human democracy".

That is immediately followed by a call to
deepen all our efforts at denouncing the criminal dictatorship led by Porfirio Lobo Sosa, peon of the oligarchy and of North American imperialism.

COPINH then turns to address the OAS directly:
if you think you will wipe the board clean and start over, you are mistaken; you are mistaken in your cold economic calculations, in your political pragmatism, in your urgent desire to serve imperialism in its project of rearranging the continent; you are mistaken in your hypocrisy of recognizing a murderous regime that is the inheritor of a coup d'état and that has not complied with the conditions for return imposed by the OAS itself, for which it was expelled in the first place.

Indeed, the hypocrisy about human rights issues is glaring; to simply accept yet another assurance from Lobo Sosa, who has, after all, consistently assured the OAS and other international bodies that he is respecting human rights (while his Minister of Security tightens the noose, and journalists and activists continue to die in incidents that go uninvestigated), might be a pretty good definition of heartless pragmatism.

COPINH raises another troubling issue that is side-stepped by taking the Cartagena Accord as sufficient ground to reintegrate Honduras in the OAS: the authors of the coup have not been sanctioned.

The amnesty law passed by a complicit Honduran congress continues to block resolution of the political crisis because it represents impunity, as the COPINH statement recognizes, affirming the group's
conviction to fight, alongside the nation, against impunity, and to do everything possible to ensure that there will be punishment for the authors and actors of the criminal coup.

COPINH particularly underlines the project for which it has been a leading advocate within the Frente, "refounding" Honduras, vowing to continue efforts toward
the creation of a new society, refounded from below, capable of achieving decolonization, emancipation, and a dignified life

In that same passage, COPINH reaffirms its commitment to struggles that began before the coup, and that are motivated as much by inequities in the fundamental governmental and economic system of the country as at those introduced or exacerbated by the disruption in constitutionality brought on by the coup, committing to
continuing with the historic struggle that we have been undertaking in our communities defending our natural resources, our sovereignty, our self-determination.

It is worth reminding readers that one of the reasons that COPINH is committed to a new constitution is that the current constitution lacks protections for indigenous sovereignty, and treats natural resources as national resources, denying these same communities mechanisms to defend themselves against the damages caused, for example, by mining projects. Tinkering at the edges of the current constitution cannot bring the protections these advocates want and need to protect their continuity as communities.

Lest anyone labor under the illusion that a process of "truth and reconciliation" has been begun, let alone been completed, COPINH ends with an exhortation calling on "the ancestral force of Lempira, Mota and Etempica", sixteenth century indigenous leaders:
We will not forget, We will not forgive, and WE WILL NOT reconcile!!

So the tally continues to run against the Cartagena Accord...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reactions to the Cartagena Accord, Part 3: Artists in Resistance

The Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular is not homogeneous. It does not speak with one voice, as we previously noted.

We have special affection for Artists in Resistance who made the phrase "culture and politics" in our title something other than a contradiction in terms. Performing artists, writers, poets, have been at the forefront of the resistance from its inception.

They have now issued a characteristically poetic response to the Cartagena Accord, in the form of a statement addresses at Mel Zelaya, never mentioning the words "Cartagena Accord", and explicitly denouncing the administration of the co-signatory of that document, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, for continued aggression against the people of Honduras at sites such as the Bajo Aguan.

It is worth visiting the original to get a sense of the poetics, even if you don't read Spanish. Luckily for the non-Spanish reader, Adrienne Pine has provided a translation at quotha. While she leaves the statement to speak for itself, I cannot resist pulling out some threads and noting where they lead.

The first thread is given by the addressee: this is a communication to Mel. But it places on record the fact that Mel's return is not just a personal success, and further, underscores that it does not make him the body of resistance even though he came to embody "the dignity of Honduras":
Your return to Honduras is only the first step for which we took to the streets....

We will go to welcome you as you deserve, compañero Manuel Zelaya, with the pride of knowing that we did everything within our reach to defend to dignity of Honduras that you embody...

The tone is restrained. While congratulating Mel on being able to return to Honduras, and promising to be part of the crowd greeting him, Artists in Resistance refrain from being part of a carnivalesque celebration:
We will be there, compañero Manuel Zelaya, but we will not provide the spectacle. Our song and our voice is political and not simply backup for a cathartic euphoria over a success that we have yet to achieve.

"Cathartic euphoria over a success that we have yet to achieve": nothing could be clearer. The Cartagena Accord has not, and will not solve the entire political situation; it does not even undertake to address many glaring issues.

The Artists in Resistance, like the Political Committee of the Frente, do not believe that Lobo Sosa can be trusted to safeguard human rights, as he promised in the accord:
we will not forget that the Lobo regime is murderous, that it continues murdering the campesinos of Aguán and Zacate Grande; that this very week it has ordered police to stomp on the necks of the students of Luis Bográn, that it ignores the martyrs and desperate hunger strike of the teachers, that it permits the targeted assassinations of artists like Renán Fajardo and Juan Ángel Sorto, that it carelessly ignores the deaths of poets of universal standing like Roberto Sosa and Amanda Castro, that it continues ordering protection for the murderous businessmen of the coup d'état and that it attacks and persecutes its people and has sold off our territory piece by piece, with the help of a police force and army converted by the empire into occupation forces within our country.

While much of this part of the statement could be generalized to others in resistance, the outrage by the Artists in Resistance about the failure of the Lobo Sosa government to recognize "the deaths of poets of universal standing" speaks volumes about the cultural divide opened up by the coup.

On one side stand those for whom culture, in the famous phrase of Myrna Castro, also includes fashion, but not the distribution of what she considered subversive books; and on the other, those who were, under the Zelaya government, seeing public recognition of poets and authors reflected in many aspects of policy, advances now lost.

(The Honduran literary blog mimalapalabra has an appreciation of Roberto Sosa for Spanish readers. Feministas en Resistencia produced a statement on the death of Amanda Castro, reproduced on voselsoberano.)

Nothing in the Cartagena Accord deals with the retrogression in Honduran cultural affairs that came about in the coup and has continued under Lobo Sosa.

Artists in Resistance reserve harsh language-- I would have said, the harshest, had their statements about Lobo Sosa not been so severe-- for others in the Frente de Resistencia:
we did everything within our reach to defend to dignity of Honduras that you embody, an extraordinary effort that has brought us, in the course of two years of painful struggle, to organize our understanding and watch it grow within the legitimate structures of the FNRP. Nonetheless, all of our enormous effort, from every corner of Honduras and from all of our people's artistic expressions, does not seem to be sufficient to ensure that the FNRP at all levels of its hierarchy also advances in terms of decisive dialectic understanding and of accepting internal criticism and its own diversity...
[speaking of their refusal to perform as part of a premature celebration]: This is a fundamental stance for us that has not been understood by those who have been incubating orthodox hegemonies from within the FNRP leadership.

Can the Frente survive the Cartagena Accord? In part, it seems to us, that will depend on whether those who thought they spoke for the entire heterogeneous group get back to work engaging internally.

The Artists in Resistance close with a call to recognize that they, and the rest of the heterogeneous resistance, can be the leaders in the continuing political struggle:
The enormous weight that now lies on your shoulders—and that we are willing to bear—can be summarized in the fact that, with each of your actions, the voice of our martyrs and exiles will remind you of the sacrifice that so many have made to give life to the National Front of Popular Resistance.

This is not quite the conventional view that sees the Cartagena Accord as bringing an end to the need for resistance, viewing Zelaya as the leader of the Frente. The resistance remembered by the Artists is something bigger:
we have been witnesses to the growth of thousands of voices and faces of leadership, leaders of neighborhoods, municipalities, towns, collectives and organizations—an immense demonstration of the strength and will accumulated over decades in the bowels of a humiliated Honduras.

Couched in poetry, what this statement does is make clear that José Manuel Zelaya Rosales matters as a symbol of what has been done to Honduran society generally; and perhaps even a warning to him not to mistake that for a mandate for leadership.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"There's A Hidden Agenda"

"There's a hidden agenda," or so says Fernando Anduray, a UCD Member. Jimmy Dacaret, former had of the UCD, who stepped down a few weeks ago, said the Cartagena Accord quarrels with the Honduran constitution.

Are either of these statements the official policy statement of the UCD?


The UCD itself has formally remained silent, like so many other golpista parts of Honduran civil society,

ANDI and COHEP each said last Sunday that they would make formal statements last Monday, yet, if they've made them, no one has seen fit to cover them. The Catholic Church, through a spokesperson, said last Sunday that it would need a day to analyze the document. It spoke out late Monday in favor of the accord.

Nonetheless, when the UCD does formally speak, if ever, it probably will sound a lot like what Dacaret and Anduray had to say.

Dacaret, speaking to Tiempo on Sunday, said

"The politicians continue to play with the law, with this Accord - although they say its based on the constitution - it disrespects it completely."

Dacaret, however,failed to cite any examples of this disrespect. He predicted that Lobo Sosa and Juan Orlando Hernandez would find themselves in a fight with Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Fernando Anduray is another often heard voice of the UCD. In Wednesday's La Tribuna, he said the Cartagena Accord has a hidden agenda.
"We are preoccupied by the things that we don't see of the Accord that was signed; on the one hand, we have a call to a National Constituent Assembly, but disguised in the form of constitutionalism and it does not say the time in which these situations will happen."

Anduray goes on to launch an attack on Lobo Sosa:
"There's a hidden agenda; this has been the permanent conduct of President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who has never told the Honduran people the truth and the things which are behind [this]; here, nonetheless, is behind the participation of Honduras in this famous society of nations the Hugo Chavez wants to form."

Anduray sees all of this as a plot in which Manuel Zelaya Rosales and the FNRP are political instruments for those who seek macroeconomic control for the next twelve years.

The UCD does not like anything that Manuel Zelaya Rosales or Hugo Chavez are part of. Lobo Sosa is being tarred with that brush for having agreed to the Chavez - Santos mediation that resulted in the Cartagena Accord, and for saying that a plebiscite is the way to begin the road to convene a National Constituent Convention.

So from a fair proxy for the extreme right of Honduran society, we would have to say the Cartagena Accord has gotten a pretty thorough rejection, and Porfirio Lobo Sosa along with it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reactions to the Cartagena Accord, Part one: the FNRP

Signing agreements is easy; anyone out there forgotten the San Jose/Tegucigalpa Accords, and how they ended the coup d'etat in 2009 and restored constitutional order?

So, as we previously said, we think that there will need to be close scrutiny of the reactions of differently positioned parties to the Cartagena Accord.

Porfirio Lobo Sosa was strongly motivated to do whatever he could to allow Honduras back into OAS. Other hemispheric governments had the same motivation. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales could not be seen to stand in the way of some sort of step forward and retain any international credibility.

But neither Lobo Sosa, nor Zelaya, nor the governments of Colombia, Venezuela, the US or other OAS member states can compel the people of Honduras, far from reconciled, to follow through. The question then will be: how is this playing at home?

After surprising silences, responses are beginning to trickle in. We want to give each serious consideration, so this post treats just one: the official statement of the Comité Político of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular.

In this statement, the Political Committee of the Frente recognizes the advances made
With respect to the agenda proposed by the ex-President of the Republic of Honduras (2006-2010) and General Coordinator of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Nuance matters in statements like these. The Political Committee is not disavowing Zelaya, but they are pointing out that the Cartagena Accord follows his agenda, not one outlined by the Frente.

To characterize what follows as supportive to the Cartagena Accord would be to miss more nuances. The Political Committee takes a point by point reaction to the four agenda items it recognizes in the new accord.

On the return from exile of Zelaya and others, such as Padre Tamayo, the Frente endorses the agreement but notes it will actually be fulfilled when they are back in the country. Caution may seem overdone, but remember the Tegucigalpa Accord: I guarantee you everyone in the Frente does, and the bitter disappointment.

That the Frente does not trust Lobo Sosa becomes clear in their reaction to the second agenda item, general human rights issues:
In the sphere of human rights there are no advances, because the regime of Lobo Sosa did not commit to, nor guarantee the application of justice to the violators of human rights, nor the guardianship of the human rights of the people in resistence, this is a challenge to achieve for the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular.

In other words: we see your lips moving but what don't see you doing anything.

The third agenda item, as described by the Political Committee of the Frente, reads
The recognition of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular as a political and belligerent force ("fuerza política y beligerante")

We are now at the heart of a question debated within the Frente: should it become (or give rise to) a political party? or should it remain a social movement with political aims? "Beligerante" in this context could be glossed as "militant", as in "a militant political movement". "Fuerza", literally force, is not to simply be reduced to "party" (partido).

So it is interesting that in analyzing this third agenda item and what was achieved in the Cartagena Accord, the Political Committee of the Frente does not use the word "partido" at all:

En cuanto al reconocimiento del Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular como una fuerza política y beligerante, se logra un avance en el sentido que el régimen se compromete, a cumplir las garantías para la inscripción del F.N.R.P. ante el Tribunal Supremo Electoral a la luz de las leyes para la participación democrática en los procesos políticos electorales de Honduras y para que pueda integrar los organismos oficiales de carácter político electoral en igualdad de condiciones.

[In regard to the recognition of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular as a political and militant force, an advance was achieved in the sense that the regime committed itself to comply with guarantees for the registration of the FNRP before the Tribunal Supremo Electoral in light of the laws for democratic participation in the electoral political processes of Honduras and so that it can be integrated in the official organizations of a political electoral character in equality of conditions.]

What the laws alluded to here govern is not just political parties, but broader advocacy groups. Returning to the language of the Accord, we note that the rapid translation we posted here interpolated the words "political party" because that is how this part of the agreement was parsed by those negotiating it. But it does not seem to us that the response by the Political Committee of the Frente endorses a full conversion to a political party.

Finally, the Political Committee pronounces on the fourth of Zelaya's agenda items in negotiating the Cartagena Accord and again, comes down in a more mixed way than simple outright endorsement of the language of the accord itself:

En el tema de la constituyente que es uno de los grandes objetivos del Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, se logra el derecho a la consulta para la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente; de esta forma se ratifica que con la fuerza de los principios y las ideas del soberano se vence a los intereses mezquinos de los grupos de poder que le han negado el derecho a la democracia participativa.

[In regard to the constituyente which is one of the major objectives of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, there was achieved the right to a consulta (poll or referendum) for the Asamblea Nacional Constituyente; in this form was ratified that with the force of principles and the ideas of sovereignty the avaricious interests of groups in power that have denied the right to participatory democracy are defeated.]

In other words: we showed that if you document broad public desire for constitutional change and more direct political participation, the other side eventually has to give in. But notice: no ringing endorsement of the mechanism, characterized with such self-congratulation in the Cartagena Agreement itself, by which the kind of popular consultation that Zelaya wanted to undertake is now possible.

So we would score this as 1 overt endorsement (of return from exile); 2 muted recuperation of their own agenda from that embodied in the Cartagena Accord, with a pause to remind people that these achievements came from the Frente's actions; and 1 outright rejection, of the human rights items, based on lack of trust for Lobo Sosa.

In a related post, political scientist Greg Weeks makes an interesting set of comments about the potential role of the Frente. He notes that the literature on how resistance movements become political parties probably does not apply here, as the Frente never was a guerrilla movement, and thus has none of the obstacles to overcome when a militarized opposition becomes a political one.

He then adds that there is a literature on how ethnic movements become political parties, suggesting this also does not apply here.

We agree, although for slightly different reasons than he gives: there is a pan-ethnic movement at the heart of the Frente, represented among other things by the prominence of Bertha Oliva, and the symbolic location of Frente assemblies in the heart of traditional Lenca territory.

But the Frente does not speak solely or uniformly with this voice; we pay attention to when COPINH issues statements in order to understand how at least the indigenous faction within the Frente understands things. But there are other voices, including those that represent reform tendencies within the Liberal Party, and those that are mobilized primarily out of belief in Zelaya himself.

Where we think Greg may slightly miss a nuance is when he suggests that the challenge for the Frente is moving from taking positions against the government to taking positions for certain policies.

The Frente has a robust and clear agenda. It is just an agenda that is either not reported in mainstream media, especially in the US, or not taken seriously by them. It starts with constitutional reform. Constitutional reform, through the direct convocation of a popular assembly, is a position for a policy: it is a position for changing a political system that has demonstrated its incapacity to protect the weak from the powerful.

So, we will be interested to hear what broader segments of the Frente say, especially about the modest steps toward popular consultation in the Accord; and we await some specific statement from COPINH or its leadership on this point in particular.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Cartagena Accord

The Cartagena Accord has been published. Here is a translation of the actual points of the agreement with some initial comments:
1. The framing of all actions and decisions of the government of Honduras in strict compliance with the constitution and the law.

This is a recognition by both sides that Honduras is governed by the rule of law, and that the conflict must be settled using that law. As we've seen, the interpretation of that law can be pretty malleable in the Honduran courts....
2. Ensure that former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales can return to Honduras, with full recognition of his rights under the constitution and laws of Honduras, including the exercise of political action, in terms of security and freedom.

3. Deepening the guarantees for the return, safety, and freedom, of the former officials of the government of former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and others affected by the crisis who are not abroad, with full recognition of their rights under the constitution and laws of Honduras.

This is actually a broadening beyond the initial demand, which was just for guarantees for Zelaya himself. Many former government officials, and members of the FNRP, are still living in exile.
4. To welcome the decision of the competent authorities to anull the legal proceedings against former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, highlighting the presentation of documents by the Public Prosecutor's office and the Attorney General's office before the ad-hoc Court of Appeals according to which both institutions waive the right to appeal, and its admission by the Court, which makes the Court's decision final.

Put another way, we celebrate the "happy coincidence" that the law allowed the charges against Zelaya to be annulled. But as has been noted many times before, while the Court's decision to annul was final, both the Public Prosecutor and the Attorney General's office retained the right to refile charges at any time once they correct the procedural errors. In the absence of an admission that the charges themselves were without merit, the international position that the charges amounted to political persecution is not upheld by the Cartagena Accord.
5. To watch in a special way to ensure compliance with the constitution of the Republic with regard to guarantees of respect and the protection of human rights.

We're not quite sure what they mean here. Is the Compliance Commission going to have oversight of this ("the special way") or is it the Honduran Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Ana Pineda, who so far has assured there is lip service to Human Rights, but no actual compliance?
6. To ensure compliance with all guarantees that the law gives the National Front for Popular Resistance applying for registration [as a political party] before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to participate democratically in the electoral political process in Honduras and to enable government agencies to integrate it as an electoral political equal. In this context and with the full respect of procedures and legal powers, to instruct the Compliance Commission to verify compliance with the procedures for registration of the People's National Front in an atmosphere of cooperation and transparency.

In some ways this is the most interesting of the agreements. It highlights the tension within the FNRP over whether to become a political party or not. Negotiations were carried out by Juan Barahona, a former campesino leader, on behalf of the FNRP, and he has clearly been in favor of the Frente becoming a political party, but other significant factions in the Frente, such as COPINH, have not. It will be interesting to see their public statements in reaction to the agreement. Can the Frente survive being fractioned into both a political party, and a wider social movement as this split would imply?
7. Reiterate that the amendment to Article 5 of the Honduran constitution regulates the call for a referendum with clearly established procedures, allowing the possibility for the people to be consulted. This reform enables all sectors to launch legal procedures to conduct a plebiscite and thus subject directly to the will of the people the political, economic and social through the new constitutional plebiscite and referendum. Therefore, the request that the former president Zelaya made to convene a National Constituent Assembly will be part of these consultation mechanisms. In this regard, the government of Honduras is committed to the taking measures that are within their legal powers to ensure the electoral rights of citizens, and to instruct the Compliance Commission to verify compliance with the procedures established for the conduct of referendums in the Republic of Honduras, when this process is initiated by any sector, with total respect for the legal powers of the branches of government, which complement the paperwork associated with these processes.

While Zelaya initially called for, as part of the accord, a National Constituent Assembly, this clause represents Lobo Sosa's response. Lobo Sosa and the Honduran National Congress have been busy making sure that everything Zelaya tried to do, and allegedly was overthrown for doing, is sanctioned under current Honduran law. To that end, Congress rewrote large sections of the Constitution over the last 2 years, making it possible for citizens to collect signatures to convene an election to modify the constitution of Honduras.

The fact that the Frente collected over a million signatures (1.3 million) calling for a National Constituent Assembly certainly contributed to making this a legislative priority of the current government.
8. Recognize the creation of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights as the entity that will strengthen national capacities for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Honduras, following up on recommendations made to Honduras as a result of having submitted the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, and coordinate and harmonize the cooperation and support of the United Nations and other international organizations to strengthen public policies and national capacities to ensure full respect for human rights in Honduras. In the same vein, the Honduran presidency has asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN to install an office in Honduras.

The new Ministry of Justice and Human Rights seems to be well intentioned, but ineffectual. It makes pronouncements, but not policy. As an example, the Minister, Ana Pineda, denounced the new wiretapping bill being considered by Congress as going too far and violating Hondurans rights to privacy. This did not trigger a reconsideration of the bill, which is expected to pass unchanged this week. Congress basically ignored her.
9. The Compliance Commission will consist initially of the foreign ministers of Colombia and Venezuela, who will assume office after the signing of this agreement by the President of the Republic of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former President, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and as witnessed by the Presidents of Colombia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.

The Compliance Commission is a purely ornamental body, having no actual power to enforce the Accord. They can only shame non-compliant parties through public exposure. The body of the agreement in another section states that the parties may add other countries to the Compliance Commission by mutual agreement.

All of this was accomplished without the United States, whose State Department has remained silent about the mediation efforts being carried out by Presidents Santos and Chavez.

Indeed, the US State Department has been decidedly unhelpful in pursuing mediation, having called several times in the last month, as the mediation was being carried out, for the OAS to immediately return Honduras to full membership. In the end, Arturo Valenzuela, who is stepping down as Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs said this was a very positive step because it showed they were overcoming their deep divisions and it recognizes the legitimacy of the Lobo Sosa government.

This accord brings certainty to Honduras' return full OAS membership.

What it will mean for reconciliation within Honduras remains to be seen. Does Porfirio Lobo Sosa have the political influence in his own party, let alone in the Liberal Party, to encourage support and follow through? Will the Frente, or a significant enough portion of it, take up the offer to become a political party, and what will happen to those elements of the Frente that do not wish to do so? Will anti-Zelaya forces be able to resist the urge to bring the same (or variant) charges again, once Zelaya is back in the country?


This morning Jose Manuel Zelaya and Porfirio Lobo Sosa signed the Cartagena Accord.

Our first reading: human rights issues still may receive more lip service than real response; the agreement to conduct a plebiscite on the constituyente vindicates the Zelaya government and probably recognizes the Frente's signature drive; the agreement to register the Frente as a political movement raises questions about internal Frente goals and means.

More later: literally on a runway.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inaccurate AP reporting

The Associated Press, should not be trusted to report the actual facts on a story about Honduras. In a story filed thursday afternoon, The AP reported that Manuel Zelaya Rosales would return to Honduras on June 28, the second anniversary of the coup.

In fact, Manuel Zelaya Rosales will return to Honduras on May 28, as announced by Juan Barahona Thursday morning.

It took the AP almost 10 hours after its original publication to correct the story. All the evidence of this error is slowly disappearing from the internet. The article linked to above is now corrected, but check out the headline encoded in the URL.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Truth Delayed?

The official government truth commission, headed by Eduardo Stein of Guatemala, announced yesterday that the commission's report would be delayed until the middle of June.

As recently as 11 February, Stein announced the report would be ready by mid-march.

On April 13, Stein told us report was to be delivered at the end of May, in time for review prior to the OAS General Assembly in June. At that time, he said it was specifically to be previewed to the OAS before it would be made public, in order to help them with their deliberations, so the change of timing now is odd.

Odder still is the announced reason for delaying again: to not influence the OAS member countries in their vote to return Honduras to full membership. In a complete reversal, Stein now says:
"We want to avoid it serving as an excuse or argument for anyone to contaminate the discussion over the return of Honduras."

But it seems that was precisely the point a few weeks ago, to influence the OAS discussion. So what's changed?

Stein himself has admitted the report is done, the list of recommendations finished.

He has a few questions he would like to ask Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who has refused to deal with the commission, but believes he has sufficient knowledge of events from other sources.

Stein told reporters:
"We would have liked to historically document his version of some of the topics, because it it impossible for us to speculate what the intentions of ex-president Zelaya were on taking up certain positions and making certain decision, things that only he can clarify.... For us the work is finished, save some questions that we would have liked to ask him [Zelaya], but it was his decision...."

One wonders why influencing the OAS was fine in April, but has become anathema in May.

And in either case, we wonder if it is appropriate for a so-called "Truth Commission" to be scheduling the release of its findings to advance a political goal of the people whose actions are supposed to be under scrutiny.

Of course, if you begin your hunt for "truth" having prejudged that the current political administration bears no responsibility for the actions that many of its members took to implement a coup and the repression that followed, maybe that kind of politicization doesn't seem at odds with truth at all.

But we continue to think that a truth commission that starts with conclusions, and that times its reports for political ends, has very little credibility.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Legal Opinions

Legal opinions.

How do you assess them? Is it really good news that Honduran courts have nullified the final charges against Manuel Zelaya? If so, why is he not flying right back to the country now?

Certainly, the US State Department is overjoyed, and through the Voice of America, is promoting the idea-- yet again-- that the coup is now completely behind Honduras. On with business!

Honduran lawyer Carlos Augusto Hernández Alvarado is not convinced.

The law professor at UNAH, previously a Professor of Constitutional Law at the Universidad de San Pedro Sula, provided an illuminating commentary about the nullification of charges against José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which he describes as a "blackmail ploy".

His argument is that the opinion rendered is "a trap", because the nullification was based on errors in process, rather than a repudiation of the charges themselves.

This is certainly the case. As he writes,

The sentence itself centers on sustaining that due process rights of the ex-President, contained in article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic and others such as the right of defense recorded in article 82 and including the presumption of innocence of article 89, were violated, by having been expatriated, expressly prohibited by article 102 of the Constitution.

Hernández Alvarado notes that one justice, Marcos Vinicio Zuniga Medrano, presented a separate legal analysis, arriving at the same conclusion, and using the same bases for nullification. What distinguished this opinion was a "deeper" discussion of the remaining crimes Zelaya was accused of, falsification of public documents and fraud in public administration.

Hernández Alvarado suggests that Honduran citizens need to ask a series of questions about this decision. We think these are pretty good questions for others interested in Honduras to consider as well.

1.- Who petitioned for the nullification of the charges?

Hernández Alvarado's answer: public defenders José Anaim Orellana and Edgard Crosby Lanza. As we have noted before, this appointed violates the right of a defendant to chose their own representation.

2.- On whom does the public defender who solicited the nullification depend?

Hernández Alvarado, noting that the answer is that the public defender is part of the judicial branch, characterizes this as a "grave moral and ethical contradiction", since the judicial branch "is what sustained the illegal charges against the Ex President and now, as if by magic arts, names defenders on the petition of the Procuraduría General de la Republica, converting the Judge into a party to the case".

3.- How [on what grounds] did the public defenders solicit the nullification of the charges?

Quoting Hernández Alvarado:

We have here the first trap of all the spectacle that we have lived through, the public defenders that are at the same time Judge and party for the institution on which they depend, solicited the nullification solely of the process, and not of the substance of the matter placed before them. In other words, they did not attack nullification of the illicit evidence that supported [the charges] and was obtained in an illegal manner.

4.- Why did they not do this before, if they were aware of what had occurred?

5.- Why did the public defenders named and the decree of nullification of the case not enter into an in-depth analysis of the evidence, so that the charges would be completely annulled?

6.- Why did the defense and the nullification of the charges decreed by the Court not ask if the evidence they succeeded in getting was obtained by infringing on due process?

Hernández Alvarado finds the last question explicable only "because they move to the political pulse of whoever controls the institutional apparatus of state".

He notes that "if they had analyzed the illegality of the evidence that would have carried the nullification to the level of the charges themselves, not leaving the door open to reformulate the charges".

This is the most interesting point in his statement: Hernández Alvarado believes that the decision was made in such a way as to deliberately retain the potential to place the same charges again. This is what he characterizes alternately as "the trap" or "the blackmail ploy".

He points to articles 94 and 200 of the Código Procesal Penal as calling for assessment of the legal or illegal nature of evidence provided:

Articulo 94: Illegality of evidence. When the Fiscales have in their power evidence and they know that it was obtained by illicit methods, especially torture, deals, or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments or other abuses of human rights, they should abstain from using them; they should proceed against whoever had employed these methods to obtain them if they consider that they have incurred penal responsibility, and adopt all the measures necessary to assure that those responsible appear before justice.

Artículo 200: Prohibited or illicit evidence. They shall lack evidentiary efficacy those actions or deeds that violate the procedural guarantees established in the Constitution of the Republic and in the international treaties related to human rights of which Honduras forms part; as well as however many might have been a necessary consequence of such acts or events and that would not have been possible to obtain without the information derived from them, without prejudice to the responsibility that whoever obtained the illicit information would have incurred.

Hernández Alvarado goes into more depth on the way that the legal opinion fails to confront the violation of aspects of the legal code governing admitting illegally obtained evidence, and the need to pursue those who committed the illegality.

He also notes that article 93 of the same legal code calls for the prosecutor to exercise objectivity. This is defined in ways clearly not descriptive of the actions of the authorities who have been determined to press charges in this case, such as Luis Alberto Rubí:

“Objectivity. In the exercise of his functions the Ministerio Público should act with absolute objectivity and protect the correct application of the criminal laws. He should investigate not only the circumstances that will permit proving the accusation, but also those that would be the cause of exemption or of attenuation of responsibility of the accused; at the same time, he should formulate his summonses in conformity with this criterion, even in favor of the accused."

7.- What is the result, when since the beginning of the process of investigation, the Tribunal A QUO and A QUEO, did not guarantee due process, nor did it execute an Effective Judicial Guardianship for the accused Manuel Zelaya Rosales?

Again, quoting Hernández Alvarado:

Not only did it entail a procedural nullification instead of one on the basis of the way that the evidence was obtained and the violation of international treaties subscribed to by our country and the basic principles contained in articles 16 and 18 of the Constitution, that should have primacy in their application.

Let's point out the norms that were infringed:

  • 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10,11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December of 1948;
  • 7.3, 8.1, 9, 24, 25 of the Convention of the Americas on Human Rights, signed the 22 of November of 1969, approved the 26 of August of 1977 (Gaceta No: 22,287-289);
  • articles 9, 14, 26 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, signed the 16 of December of 1966 (Gaceta No. 28,293).

Now the question to evaluate would be:

Was the evidence in the cases of Ex President Manuel Zelaya Rosales illegally obtained?

Article 209 of the Código Procesal Penal gives us the answer in its second paragraph:

"The register of churches, public buildings, military installations or in general properties of the state can be carried out only by making known to the person in whose charge they are found, the said person should attend the proceeding or name another to represent him, if not, to permit the register would constitute the crime of disobedience."

Hernández Alvarado points out that the "diaspora" of Zelaya government officials after the coup means they were not there when searches were carried out, making any supposed evidence "automatically illegal". He goes on to say

The summons in consequence is not objective, the evidence is nullified, contaminated, and as a final result the case is nullified, not just on the process but also on the basis.

The specific vote of Abogado Magistrado Marco Vinicio Zuniga on the decision to nullify the charges against Mel Zelaya, the one that comes closest to this assessment, logically was not included in the decision because it would procure as a consequence admitting the illegality of the authorities that supplanted those that were constitutionally named and would leave the same Fiscales automatically subject to [charges of] irresponsibility such as those established by article 200 of the Código Procesal Penal.

As he notes, the judges and prosecutors in the present case were themselves involved in the break in constitutional order, and letting them make this decision gave them the opportunity to seek a way to shift the blame away from themselves: to seek a procedural ground that is innocuous instead of confronting the violations at the core of these charges, which would require them to be charged with violations of the law and of international treaties.

His concern is that taking this procedural route to satisfy the form of the demand (in time for the OAS to re-admit Honduras) leaves the way open for charges to be brought again by the Fiscal, whose violations of constitutional rights have not been reprimanded, should Zelaya decide to return to Honduras:

But in this country in regard to justice "cork floats, lead sinks"; we can see a motion without feet or head, end up returning the same original state of the charges against the Ex President...

Was this legal opinion a blackmail ploy?

Hernández Alvarado's answer:

The answer is known to those who control the state, and who in the immediate past carried out a Coup d'Etat.

If that answer is yes, then we have to ask: who is being blackmailed?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lies and ODCA

The Organización Demócrata Cristiana de América (ODCA) met this weekend in Panama to discuss their philosophical document "Projection of Christian Democratic Thought and Central Political Humanism". ODCA is the parent organization of 36 political parties in 25 countries in Latin America. In Honduras, both the Nationalist and Christian Democrat parties are affiliated with it. We wrote about its core philosophy here.

Interesting press coverage of the event. In the world media, such as EFE and AFP, the coverage was all about how the meeting was to develop a unified approach to stopping populist governments, specifically the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

The international press coverage is primarily of the statements of Milton Hernandez of the Popular Party of Panama.
"We have to rescue democratic values."

Also quoted was Jorge Suarez, a representative to the conference from Bolivia, who told the press:
"The populist projects have proposed much and nothing has come of them....They have been spending too much and now we are seeing a way to get out of them."

In Honduras, El Heraldo ran with the statements of its president, and Mexican Senator for the State of Puebla, Jorge Ocejo, who invented a reality full of discredited ideas and misinformation. In El Heraldo, the whole story was Ocejo's announcement that there was no coup in 2009 in Honduras.

In the fantasy world of Ocejo, there was no coup because the Congress had a discussion and decided they could not go along with Zelaya:
"There was no coup, no one came and entered and took the positions of government,"

said Ocejo. I'm not quite sure how that matches with the reality of the military kidnapping and forcibly exiling Zelaya, but Ocejo continued:
"he was trying to change the rules of the game that are already established in a democratic country to seek re-election as president."

We thoroughly debunked that claim at the time of the coup. Saying it now does not make it so. The "Cuarta Urna" question was about asking voters if they had any interest in voting on whether or not to have a constitutional convention. The Cuarta Urna was not about re-election. Yet Ocejo repeatedly raises this lie as his justification for why there was no coup.

What El Heraldo chose to make the focus of the story, of course, either merited only a single sentence in the major international press, such as the AFP, or went unmentioned.

Ocejo is entitled to opinions, and we've reported them faithfully here, but we've also thoroughly debunked them; they are lies.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Over (With A Caveat)

The Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubí publicly announced today that he will not file an appeal to the full Supreme Court of the appeals panel's nullification of the charges filed against Manuel Zelaya Rosales.
"From today we have given the instructions to the lawyers that have the case to not file an appeal....The Public Prosecutor will not make use of an appeal; we will accept the verdict of the court of appeals and continue with what they are ordering us to do to make good on what the court of appeals decided (it is not based in law) and we will continue with the procedures established by law."

Rubí made it clear that he is not enjoined from refiling the same charges against Zelaya in the future. And that's the caveat; Luis Rubí will almost certainly refile charges in the future. And this is what Zelaya Rosales was referring to yesterday when he complained about the "continuing coercion and threats to his liberty." As he said, until there is a final resolution to the political persecution there is no way for him to return to Honduras.

This skirmish is over, but Luis Rubí is planning a full campaign of political persecution of Manual Zelaya Rosales. Nonetheless the OAS will accept this as a compromise solution and pretend that the state of Honduras has ended its political persecution of Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

Like a game of whack-a-mole, these politically motivated charges have been extinguished, but look for them to pop up again in the near future.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Motion To Reconsider Rejected

The appeals panel of the Honduran Supreme Court today rejected the Public Prosecutor's motion to reconsider its verdict in the charges against Manuel Zelaya Rosales.
"This was not the resolution we were looking for. We will exhaust all our legal possibilities because we've well documented the crimes of fraud and falsification of documents by Zelaya.....by means of an appeal we will indicate our rejection of the resolution of the appeals panel of the Supreme Court,"
said Albina Zepeda, the appeals prosecutor.

Starting tomorrow, the Public Prosecutor has 60 days to file an appeal, which will then be heard by the entire Supreme Court.

Reset your countdown clocks again because its not over. 61 days from today and counting.

Motion To Reconsider

The Public Prosecutor's office filed a motion to reconsider with the appeals panel of the Supreme Court yesterday "because of errors in the decision". The motion to reconsider is separate from an appeal, which can be filed up to 60 days after the court's decision. The Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubí said this motion gives them time to study the decision and determine if it conforms to the law.
"We have used the motion to make a more in-depth analysis with the goal of making a study. We will analyze if this decision is based on the law,"
said Rubí. He said he had no preconceptions about the case and that it would be reviewed by legal experts. The appeal states
"Honorable court, finally, we do not want to fail to mention that to support the claim that no injunction may be filed against a person out of the country creates a dangerous precedent, because it would mean that any person could leave the country to later rely on the invalidation of actions taken against them, thereby creating a serious problem with impunity. We request that you admit this motion to reconsider and revoke your previous decision of 2 May 2011...."

The appeals panel of the Supreme Court must issue a decision today on the motion to reconsider.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Its Not Over Till Its Over

Yesterday the appeals panel of the Honduran Supreme Court voted 2-1 to nullify the remaining charges against José Manuel Zelaya Rosales for procedural irregularities. The panel of three magistrates, Rosa de Lourdes Paz Haslam, Marco Vinicio Zúniga Medrano, Gustavo Enrique Bustillo Palma made their verdict public shortly after noon yesterday in Tegucigalpa.

La Tribuna reported that the vote was 2 for nullification of the charges with one abstention. El Heraldo reported that Rosa Lourdes Paz Haslam and Gustavo Enrique Bustillo Palma voted to nullify the charges and that Justice Marco Vinicio Zúniga Medrano voted against the appeal.

The court based its decision on articles 16, 61, 82, 90, 102, 303 and 304 of the Constitution, article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and articles 4, 101, 165 y 166 (numbers 3, 5, 6 y 7, 139), 167 (number 1), of the Penal Code and articles 1 and 137 of the Law of the Organization and Attributes of the Court.

The decision
"reformed the order dated 25 March 2011 [of judge Chinchilla] in relation to nullification, and because of the particular and unique status of the involuntary absence of Mr. Zelaya Rosales, declares the partial nullification of the proceedings exclusive to José Manuel Zelaya Rosales accused, from and including the present admission requirements and tax issues 0801-2009-31126 0801-2009-31042 dated July 30, 2009 and February 24, 2010, respectively, promoted against Mr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, on charges of falsification of public documents to the detriment of the public trust, and fraud against the government and all acts that have been made to posterity, with the exception of the measures mitigating the appointment of a public defense of the accused, the decision to bring this case to the special procedure for processing a high government official, the motion to bring nullify these actions, the processing of the appeal and the proceedings brought against the co-defendants in related charges."
All of that to affirm the hearing procedures and overturn the decision of appeals judge Chinchilla and grant the defense motion to nullify the two remaining charges against Zelaya Rosales. The court made it clear that the nullification only applied to the charges against Zelaya Rosales, not his co-defendant, Enrique Flores Lanza.

The Public Prosecutor, Luis Rubí, has 60 days to appeal the decision of the three judge panel. He can appeal because the decision was not unanimous. If he appeals, the case is taken to the entire 15 justices of the Supreme Court, who will then analyze and vote on the case.

So all of this will probably be sufficient to get Honduras re-admitted to the OAS, but as yet is insufficient for Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to Honduras. Its a legal ruse to give Lobo Sosa daylight to negotiate Honduras's return to the OAS while still keeping the charges open. Already Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, says this is sufficient to negotiate Honduras's return.

Until the appeals period expires the case is not over.

We fully expect the Public Prosecutor's office will appeal this court's decision. Henry Salgado, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor as much as said so this morning. The question is, will Luis Rubí stick it to Lobo Sosa and file the appeal before the OAS meetings in June, or will he wait until after the meeting to file his appeal?

Reset your countdown clocks for 60 days.

UPDATE: 11:11 AM PDT - La Tribuna is reporting that the Public Prosecutor's office will file an appeal in the next few hours. Luis Rubí, despite his lack of prosecutorial success in these politically motivated corruption cases, is sticking it to Lobo Sosa with respect to readmission to the OAS.

UPDATE 11:00 PM PDT - The appeal is filed.

Monday, May 2, 2011


El Heraldo is reporting a rumor that the Honduran Supreme Court has decided to anull the charges against Manuel Zelaya Rosales.