Saturday, February 13, 2010

Unspeakable Truths

Ramon Custodio, the Human Rights Commissioner, sounded the alarm yesterday that the truth commission being formed by Eduardo Stein might be considering suggesting social and legal reforms as part of its mandate. Stein confirmed yesterday that it was possible the commission would look into suggesting reforms with the idea of preventing future crises.

Custodio's comments, and those of others, come following the announcement late this week that Stein would head a truth commission made up of 3 international representatives and two Honduran representatives, and that one of those Hondurans would be from the Frente de Resistencia with President Lobo selecting the other. Stein suggested the international representatives be ex-foreign ministers or jurists well versed in issues of human rights. While Stein suggested names in his report to Porfirio Lobo Sosa, he made it clear that President Lobo would be making the selection of representatives on the commission.

Maria de Bográn, presidential designate and advisor to President Lobo Sosa, said yesterday that Stein's report to the President
told us about making an analysis of some reforms, not precisely constitutional; it spoke of some reforms of social laws that needed to be made clearer or better.

She stated that the position of the President, and the Government, is that the commission has no mandate to suggest constitutional reforms.

Custodio, however, asked if this wasn't a continuation of the cuarta urna, the fourth ballot box whose proposal triggered this constitutional crisis. He inferred that the truth commission would be suggesting changes to the "written in stone" articles of the Constitution, including the prohibition on re-election of the president:
If what we removed with the cuarta urna they're going to impose on us with a yoke hidden in the truth commission, then Mr. Stein is presiding over and coordinating a constitutional commission.

Custodio went even further, accusing Stein of not being impartial:
Mr. Stein has in his background his bias about the Honduran crisis because he was part of the commission which declared that the Honduran elections were not legitimate and called at the time for the reincorporation of Mr. Zelaya as President of the Republic. So he is a person representing attributions that perhaps are not appropriate for the impartial, ethical carrying out (of the mandate of the truth commission) and could affect the relative stability that we've gained.

I think there is too much indulgence of the OAS. They're the cause of this problem...

Custodio's is not the only voice sounding the alarm. Federico Álvarez, an ex-president of the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE in Spanish) thinks things are moving much too fast, and that the truth commission needs commissioners who are questioned by no one:
We could have looked for investigators of international reputation, a group of constitutional law professors, who would be happy to be here with no interests and no links to anyone (involved in the crisis), and people would be more calm.

Álvarez suggested that there needs to be a separation between what Hondurans need to do to reform their constitution with the goal of strengthening their democracy, and what the truth commission might want to do with the constitution:
The only thing we know is what Stein said, and he said that it is necessary to revise the process by which a president is removed from office, ignorant of what article 239 of our constitution says.

Álvarez had already come out against Stein before recent reports about the nature of the proposed Truth Commission. In a February 6 editorial in La Tribuna he stated that Stein was disqualified by being a representative of a government (Guatemala) that had passed judgment on what happened in Honduras. This is not precisely true. While the government of Guatemala has expressed an opinion, it was not the government of which Stein was a part, since he was a member of a prior administration. Álvarez seems to be referring to Stein's membership in the Carter Center's mission to Honduras in October, 2009, to know the truth of the human rights violations and decide whether conditions were apt for an election.

So why this manifest anxiety over suggestions of reforms? How did Maria de Bográn's comment about the report suggesting the commission might consider suggesting reforms to social laws transform itself, in the representation of Custodio and Álvarez, into constitutional reforms and the suggestion that the truth commission was the feared "constituyente" that the cuarta urna might have initiated?

One possible cause of anxiety-- not openly alluded to by Federico Álvarez or Ramon Custodio-- could be Stein's proposal that one representative on the commission be from the Frente de Resistencia. That appears to be almost literally unspeakable: to date no Honduran press coverage of this part of Stein's proposal has appeared. On February 7, Juan Barahona, a leader of the Frente de Resistencia, rejected the Truth Commission itself as "pure show". But since the proposal by Stein that a representative of the Frente be included, there has been no further comment, and no official communication. Of course, since that selection is to be made by Porfirio Lobo Sosa, it is hard to imagine that he or she would be a legitimate representative of the popular resistance. The Honduran press and officials-- including Ramon Custodio in an interview with Spanish media-- continue to claim that the inclusion of former UD presidential candidate César Ham in Lobo Sosa's cabinet was equivalent to representation of the resistance, a position explicitly disclaimed by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular itself in a communique on January 26.

In this case, it seems, silence is golden. As with all monsters in closets, the fear has to be expressed somehow. So Custodio and others like him pass over in silence the real threat of having a Truth Commission actually hear from opponents of the coup and critics of the pretense that the present government is free of entanglements with it. But their imaginations run directly to where they fear listening to the people might take an independent commission: the absolute need for constitutional reform.

1 comment:

RNS said...

Maria de Bográn has taken the offensive against the misinformation being spread by Ramon Custodio. In an article published today in El Heraldo, she said:

"We are talking about making some analyses of some reforms, but not precisely constitutional ones; we are talking about some reforms of social laws that need to be clarified or made better, but at no time, and it is not our position and I say this bluntly, neither the President nor the government of the Republic are going to position the truth commission to constitutional reforms."

The commission members are supposed to be announced on February 25.