Monday, March 29, 2010

Who's the legitimate president of Honduras?

Don't ask the Christian Science Monitor. In an article published yesterday about the dilemma facing the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) in the wake of the 2009 coup d'etat, this usually reliable source gives the following tagline:
The turmoil surrounding last years ouster of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya has mostly died down. But the Central American Parliament is considering giving him a seat at the table over his rival, new President Porfirio Lobo.

Well, no.

The issue is whether to seat Zelaya in the Parlacen as the representative of Honduras, or Roberto Micheletti. So why is the Christian Science Monitor so confused that it not only leads the story this way, but captions the accompanying photo with the same inaccurate claim that the "Central American Parliament is now considering [Zelaya] over his rival, new President Porfirio Lobo, for membership in the Parlacen".

After correctly reporting that "many countries in Latin America continue to question the legitimacy of the new administration of Porfirio Lobo, because he was elected to office without Zelaya being restored to office first", the story equally accurately says the question before Parlacen is who the legitimate former president of Honduras is.

This question is pertinent because Parlacen seats former presidents of member nations.

The CSM article quotes Hena Ligia Madrid, described as "a lawmaker in Honduras from the Liberal Party" as saying
Our founding treaty is very clear as to who forms part of Parlacen. It stipulates that outgoing presidents of member states are immediately admitted. … In the case of Honduras, it is obvious to me, as a politician and Parlacen legislator, that the man who should come is President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, because he was elected in free elections and was sworn in as constitutional president of the republic.

This quotation comes from a story by IPSNews that contains the curious detail that, in fact, neither Micheletti nor Zelaya has made any move to take up the seat afforded to former presidents. The issue is presently being debated by members of Parlacen representing right-wing and leftist political positions within Central America, whose positions are completely predictable.

But who first raised it?

An English-language online media outlet, Honduras Weekly, began publishing articles in February claiming that Zelaya was actively seeking the position, noting that it would come with diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

Also in February, pro-coup Honduran daily newspaper El Heraldo published an article including a statement from Public Prosecutor Luis Rubí saying Zelaya should return to Honduras to face prosecution. In this article, Lobo Sosa was quoted as saying he would be talking to Parlacen officials to resolve the issue
in the face of demands by right-wing political leaders in the country who consider that Micheletti should be included in the Parlacen, not Zelaya.

And here, finally, we find the source of the controversy: right-wing Hondurans who fear seeing Zelaya in an official capacity that would acknowledge his legitimacy as former president.

On February 15, pro-coup La Prensa published an interview with none other than Enrique Ortez Colindres, famous for his undiplomatic comments on US President Barack Obama and the nation of El Salvador during his time as Roberto Micheletti's minister of foreign affairs. Dismissing Parlacen as a failed institution, he nonetheless argued that Micheletti should have the seat given to former presidents because only he had "completed his mandate" as president. You know, because Zelaya didn't stay on after June 28.

And besides, Ortez Colindres said,
if Pepe Lobo accepted [the appointment of Zelaya], then he would be accepting that there was a coup d'Etat and to accept that would be to make his own presidential election vulnerable.

So, now finally we get to why the Christian Science Monitor has gotten the idea that the Parlacen problem is between Zelaya and Lobo Sosa.

Because in a manner of speaking, it is: if Lobo Sosa wants to keep support from the right, he has to oppose Zelaya's non-existent candidacy for Parlacen, or admit that his own election took place under the administration of an illegitimate administration.

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