Saturday, December 8, 2012

Honduran President Threatens Supreme Court: Court Fires Back

Porfirio Lobo Sosa is sending little "love messages" to the Supreme Court via twitter, accusing the court of being on the side of criminals.

In a stylish move, he did this by reference to Romans 13:3. For those less familiar with the New Testament than the Honduran president, here's what it says:
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?  do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same....
In case anyone is unclear on the implications, here's what Lobo Sosa tweeted:
Romans 13:3 Why the justices are not there to instill terror in those who do good, but rather those who do bad? Do they want to not fear authority?

Tweeting not being enough to get his way, Lobo Sosa is pushing forward in his quest to get around the Honduran Supreme Court, which has outraged him by ruling preliminarily that his Law of Police Purification was unconstitutional

Lobo Sosa has asked Juan Orlando Hernandez, the president of Congress, to fast-track legislation written by the Executive Branch that would approve Plebiscites and Referenda under a simplified system.  Once that is in place, he says, he will take the question about the purification law directly to the people.

Procedurally, because this would require amendments to various clauses of the Honduran constitution, Lobo Sosa has to have initial passage of the law fast-tracked before Congress adjourns in late December. That would allow time for the law to be voted on a second time in the next session of Congress, as required in the Honduran constitution, before Lobo Sosa leaves office. Juan Orlando Hernandez says it is ready to go next week.

While the text of the law is not public, César Ham, head of the cabinet ministry dealing with agriculture, says the law is all written and ready to go. 

According to Ham, the proposed law would allow recall of Supreme Court Justices by plebiscite or referendum, once it's proven they acted contrary to the interests of the state (Lobo Sosa's preferred standard, rather than acting to safeguard constitutional guarantees).

This would mean that a law sponsored by the Executive Branch would allow for recall of a sitting Supreme Court Justice based on popular vote in a plebiscite or referendum, which can be initiated by Congress, the Executive Branch, or a critical mass of voters.

César Ham already has called on citizens to demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court building to protest the Constitutional Branch's preliminary ruling against the police purification law. He called into question the patriotism of the four justices who decided the police cleanup law was unconstitutional.

In a press release, the Supreme Court reacted by calling on Lobo Sosa to curb his criticisms aimed at the Judicial Branch and respect the separation of powers:
We observe with particular preoccupation the statements made in recent days by both the President of the Republic, Porfirio Lobo, as well as the director of the National Agrarian Institute, César Ham, which constitute a direct threat against the full Supreme Court, and intend to induce this jurisdictional entity should declare without merit the appeal of unconstitutionality interposed against the confidence tests in the Ley de Depuración Policial, because the Executive branch believes that if the Supreme Court does not resolve it this way, we would be acting in favor of the criminals.

The Association of Judges for Democracy also called on Lobo Sosa to cease his attacks and respect the separation of powers.  So did the Catholic church.

And then there's the most surreal moment: the endorsement of Lobo Sosa's position by former President Manuel Zelaya, who explicitly compared the current situation to the Supreme Court's opposition to the "cuata urna", the conflict that triggered the coup of 2009.

Mel isn't the only one seeing echoes of 2009 here: in a rambling reaction to press coverage, Lobo Sosa hinted that there was a conspiracy against him.

Lobo Sosa took objection to El Heraldo's coverage of the court's statement, which included a lesson on Article 4 of the constitution, which enshrines the separation of powers.

Commenting on that, Lobo Sosa announced that the paper's owner, Jorge Canahauti, was part of conspiracy to stage a coup d'etat against him:
There's a conspiracy and I invite you to read El Heraldo and look at La Prensa, read them, that of yesterday and today, the front page, and I'm not disrespecting anyone, I am saying the truth, on the front page, and don't think Don Jorge Canahauti that I don't know who you're meeting with, and with whom you're meeting, I'll only tell you the following:  what you are doing is dangerous for the nation and will generate a problem that we don't already have which we might have.
.....
I will only say the following:  It won't work, it will be seen as very bad.  Why? because in the end, look, over there are the citizens, it is they who will judge, and this question Are they in accord, the people, or not with the police cleanup?  That's where it's going, and nothing will keep this question from the Honduran people; many thanks my friends, and the Congress of the Republic will grab the glory and give the right to the people to be consulted YES or NO, it must follow the plebiscite...if they are in favor or not with the police cleanup.

So what comes next? the full Supreme Court still has to rule on the constitutionality of the law. If Lobo Sosa thought he would intimidate them, that seems to have failed. So his henchman, Juan Orlando Hernandez, will push forward with a law on referenda and plebiscites that is recognizably close to what brought the court and Zelaya into conflict in 2009, explicitly so that Lobo Sosa can get the people to impeach justices who issue rulings he dislikes.

Or, Juan Orlando Hernandez could take the advice of Mel Zelaya and convene a constitutional assembly. Seems like a lot quicker way to rewrite the constitution than the current administration's patchwork of unconstitutional laws.

1 comment:

John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Really odd bedfellows these days.

But the reports that a coup is in the making against Lobe have been heard before, but never with such pointed accusations as Lobo has made.

And, even though your remark about a constitutional convention, I'm not sure that Juan Orlando is up to that, since it might affect his chances at becoming the next president.

Maybe there should be a constitutional convention, but the question is always "Who does the writing?" If it's Juan Orlando and Lobo...