Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Yesterday SICA held a summit of heads of state in Panama City, Panama. Major themes for discussion were economic integration, regional security, and the re-establishment of democratic institutions.
Absent was any mention of Honduras in the agenda of this group. Instead, it was widely reported that the reincorporation of Honduras would be discussed by the meeting of Foreign Ministers, being held in parallel.
The way it was supposed to work was that the Foreign Ministers would hash out the wording of the resolution and pass it along to the Summit, which would then approve it. Panamanian Vice President Juan Carlos Varela announced June 28 that there would be a consensus declaration at the end of the meeting. "Just about everything is closed (about the recognition of the Honduran government)," Varela said. Porfirio Lobo Sosa said it was a sure thing that Honduras would be reincorporated in the meeting. Mario Canahuati said by telephone, "Honduras is in SICA, it's signed."
It didn't happen.
At the end of the summit meeting, Mauricio Funes, the Salvadoran President who presided, expressed his disappointment at the lack of a resolution reincorporating Honduras. "We did not stamp the wording on the reintegration of Honduras," Funes told the press.
What this means is unclear. Many of the rights explicitly denied by the resolution of a year ago have been tacitly restored, such as access to BCIE loans. However, Honduras cannot currently participate in the finalization of the free trade agreement with Europe, or benefit from the joint purchase of medicines.
SICA will hold an extraordinary meeting in El Salvador on July 20, 2010, where Funes will again take up the formal reincorporation of Honduras.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
What's Wrong with Mainstream Media: the BBC takes the prize today
"Honduras still split one year after President's removal"
Removal? a little sanitized, perhaps, but maybe the story will correctly label what happened a coup.
But readers will look in vain for a clear statement that this was a coup, a rupture of the Honduran constitutional order, and illegal.
Instead, repeatedly the reporter, Julian Miglierini, says things like "Manuel Zelaya was removed from office and expelled from the country".
Well, no. President Zelaya was kidnapped and expatriated (illegally) and then the Congress passed a resolution (for which they had no authority) claiming he was no longer the President and appointing their own head as dictator at the head of a de facto regime.
Perhaps worse, Miglierini describes what ensued as "deep uncertainty" rather than dictatorship, repression, and resistance.
But then, he thinks that the event he dare not name only "left Honduras politically isolated for several months".
Even by his own chronology, in which the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa appears to have been magical healing that started "a period of relative stability", half of 2009 was consumed by the de facto regime and its destructive isolationist policies.
And what does "a period of relative stability" mean? the confrontation in the Bajo Aguan; the murders of journalists; the assassinations of members of the resistance, and of ecological activists; these hardly mark "stability". Miglierini simply channels the Lobo Sosa administration's retread of the tried and true claim that the violence is due to "a general crime wave" caused by drug cartels.
Most vehemently, the coup of June 28 was not "the climax of a political crisis". It was another step in a long boiling political crisis that continues today.
No surprise then that
Many in Honduras think that, 12 months on, the political divisions that precipitated the crisis have not subdued; some even argue that they have worsened.
But you will search in vain for the voices and names of many individuals who argue things have worsened, or even acknowledgment of the visible organized resistance, which in Miglierini's wretched reporting is relabeled "supporters of Manuel Zelaya".
Only Patricia Licona, a former Zelaya administration official, is quoted to balance the voices of Lobo Sosa, Mario Canahuati, and most egregiously, Martha Lorena Alvarado, a member of Roberto Micheletti's regime, who makes what reads as a thinly veiled threat against Lobo Sosa for even talking about complying with the constitutional requirement to let Honduran citizens with whom she disagrees politically return to their country:
For example, when (Mr Lobo) sounds too indulgent with Zelaya's possible return, he irks part of the Honduran people.
No wonder "Mr Lobo's government is struggling to leave the crisis behind".
The concern in Honduras is not just "how solid the democratic order", as Miglierini would have it.
As we have underlined many times here, and paraphrasing Brazil's Celso Amorim: a coup is a hard thing to leave behind.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Commemorating the Coup d'Etat of June 2009: Opinions
So it is that in Honduras today, those in opposition to the coup, to the de facto regime it initiated, and to the administration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, elected under the shadow of that regime, gathered in public, to share in marking the passage of a year since the legal order was broken in their country.
We would normally be in San Pedro Sula at this time of year, when the celebration of the founding of the city, the Feriana Juniana, takes place. In San Pedro yesterday and today the Artistas en Resistencia continued their practice of using the arts as a weapon of protest, organizing a sleepover Sunday night with cultural activities and fireworks, and promising a concert and screening of the film "Quien Dijo Miedo".
As it happens, El Tiempo, the only newspaper in Honduras that dared to print accurate stories during the coup and de facto regime (and as a result, saw its circulation increase), is published in San Pedro Sula. So it was the first place we went to see how the marking of this anniversary would be covered.
The first notable thing is that the front page includes a whole series of stories on the topic. This even includes reporting on the alternative truth commission sponsored by the Human Rights Platform.
But even more striking is the editorial stance of the paper. Of six signed editorials, four overtly condemn the coup d'Etat. There is only one that openly supports the coup. (*)
The lead (unsigned) editorial is striking: it calls attention to the connection between drug-trafficking and the coup, quoting Hugo Martinez, chancellor of El Salvador, for the punch line: "There are only two sectors that are interested in the governments in the region being weak: drug-traffickers and golpistas".
Luis Alexis Ramos writes of the "Anniversary of a betrayal" (or even, "Anniversary of an act of treason"
promoted by the oligarchic classes of the country, with the collaboration of unscrupulous and ambitious politicians and congress members, clerics and pastors that left the pulpit to meddle in politics, and with the backing of the most backward groups of the decision-makers of the Armed Forces of Honduras...The only positive thing that was obtained through this attack on the Constitution perpetrated by the Honduran oligarchy, is that the people became conscious of their role in defense of democracy, woke up from their stupor of decades; they illuminated their mind with the thoughts of liberty and rebellion in the face of injustices, and that their courage was an armor against all the affronts and the blows that the received defending their right to protest.
In "The Virus of golpismo", Eduardo David Ardon argues that due to the long history of coups in the country
we have not attained the development that the people long for, and we believe that it is only possible when a democratic process is initiated in which popular sovereignty is respected and a system of participation with justice and equity truly takes shape, because if not, if there is not justice for everyone, there will be peace for no one.Ardon identifies golpismo as a virus in the bloodstream of some politicians because their ancestors carried out previous coups. He traces an intricate web linking many of the authors and supporters of the latest coup to relatives involved in previous disruptions of constitutional government. He continues
The golpistas of yesterday, today, and always, are the same and the people knows them already, so that it fights against them in every circumstance.
The causes of those coups and attacks on the Constitution, also are the same, since at every moment it has been the defense of their economic and political class interests, that do not compromise with the ideas of liberty and progress of the Honduran people.
Efraín Bu Figueroa labels the coup of 2009 an "Historic Rupture",
with which constitutional order was broken in Honduras. A ferocious repression was begun against the people and the independent press was silenced by bayonets. Old death squads were reactivated, that human rights institutions have denounced as dedicated to the selective elimination of the opposition, actions that persist to the present, many of them disguised as crimes by common delinquents.
The coup was fostered by powerful groups, affected in their economic interests by the diverse popular measures taken by the government of citizen power....
The political crisis of 2009 is the eruption of a political-social volcano, whose destructive energeies have been building up for many decades.... When the people began to receive timid responses to their vital needs, the controlling elite saw its special interests menaced, and its hegemonic power in danger....
One year later, Honduras is no longer the same nor will it go back to being so. The coup d'Etat, was a consequence of the distortions and weaknesses of the system, placing in evidence its failure; but at the same time opening the door, in a moment of inflection, to advance without fears, with hope and under new paradigms to a State of justice, and equity, and of confidence under new leadership and renewed ideas.
Finally, Efren D. Falcon writes in "First things First" that the answer to the question "what do Hondurans want?" is complex, beginning with what he identifies as a lack of understanding about the political-economic situation of the country on the part of the small middle class, in which he places himself. His critique of the political-economic elite is harsh:
the political leadership confuses itself and merges with a coarse business class that has not learned how to measure the consequences of its actions. It manipulates with hypocrisy and cynicism poverty and need; it makes a party of an unwanted social conscience-- that is quoted with discretion and without dignity-- but that it keeps in its Prada handbag or Armani wallet when it isn't speaking in public, citing measures of inequality that they themselves sponsor.To this, he contrasts
the growth of a social movement whose extension has no equal in national history. We call this phenomenon the Resistance: resistance to the coup d'Etat, and against an infinity of irregularities that today are perfectly unmasked. What is moving through the country today is a resistance against the present social and political-economic order, ever stronger winds of change.These editorial opinions contrast vividly with the failure in much of the English language press to understand that the coup of 2009 was a response by a threatened political-economic elite to the possibility of broader effective participation on the part of the Honduran people, to relatively small steps toward economic equity and participation in governance by that people.
The repeated recognition that there is no going back, and that the resistance movement mobilized by the coup may well be the real lasting legacy of that attempt to hold back change, is and should be the story, one year after what history will look back on as the grossest miscalculation by a group in power thinking they could hold back change by force and will.
*The sixth signed editorial in Tiempo, by Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramirez, is ambiguous. It presents an argument against people who rely on "one book". If we take this as a call for tolerance of pluralism, mark it in the category of opposed to the coup. Ramirez, a former revolutionary during the anti-Somoza fight in Nicaragua, wrote in negative terms about the coup in Honduras last year, calling the international press to task for not identifying it clearly as a military coup, calling attention to the dangerous political involvement of the military, to cite just two examples.
But he also is engaged in fighting against what he sees as the danger of continuismo in Nicaragua. So the framework for his editorial is not that of the Honduran editorialists, and he makes no mention of the anniversary. Yet it is interesting to read in the context of that anniversary. He asks explicitly whether we should hold against Marx "the socialism of the 21st century". References to 21st century socialism in Honduras usually come from those who see danger in the kinds of participatory democracy promoted under Manuel Zelaya. We would not be surprised if this editorial is read by those people as support for their position, regardless of Ramirez' own intentions.
One Year of Resistance: What Could Porfirio Lobo Sosa Do?
The political situation was tense enough that we told the students who were staying to be careful. In particular, despite any interest they might have, we suggested they stay away from the central square in San Pedro Sula on Sunday, when the polling for the cuarta urna initiative would take place. We were concerned there would be violence, given the passion and at times, frenzied irrationality, of those protesting Manuel Zelaya's proposal to test the depth of support for constitutional reform.
But despite conversations about rumors of a coup with Honduran colleagues, we did not believe, truly believe, that Honduras could turn back to that past. So when we were wakened on June 28 by a call from one of our students with the news of President Zelaya's kidnapping and expatriation, the disruptions of media and internet service, and cut-offs of electricity, we struggled to come to terms with this failure of democratic process.
We are still struggling to understand it, and the events that followed under the de facto regime, and continue under the administration of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. We have, with many others, found the actions of the United States disappointing, and determinative in breathing new life into the de facto regime at points when it seemed that a restoration of the elected government might be possible. Instead, Roberto Micheletti held on to his delusional "presidency", destroying any chance for elections to be held that would allow for participation by dissenting politicians and that might have honestly acknowledged the level of nonparticipation and open repudiation of elections held after such a breach of public order.
One of the things we struggle with constantly is the question, what could a real leader in Honduras do at this point to begin a process that might allow the country to come to terms with these events sooner rather than later? We have, like others, been horrified at the cynicism of the US position that ticks off a list of gestures in order to claim that the coup is behind us. We think there is ample evidence that the gestures Porfirio Lobo Sosa is performing satisfy no one except the US, and have further weakened Honduran government and civil society.
So we debate, constantly, the question: what might Lobo Sosa do now that could genuinely make a difference? Is Honduras doomed to spend an entire presidential administration in this state of suspended animation? In commemoration of one year of Honduran resistance to this coup and its aftermath, we offer the following list of actions that a Honduran president who truly wanted to start a process of national dialogue would have to take:
(1) Declare officially that the coup d'etat was an unconstitutional disruption of the rule of law. We know from his candid statements to Spanish media that Lobo Sosa admits that a golpe took place. But Lobo Sosa not only was incapable of leading the members of his own party to repudiate the coup after the November elections, he assented to the Congressional resolution reaffirming the illegitimate actions of June 28, 2010. As long as the official line in Honduras is that what happened was legal, there is no possibility of coming to terms with what happened.
(2) Recognize the existence of the FNRP as a legitimate voice of opposition, respect the insistence of the FNRP on determining its own structure and leadership, and acknowledge its communications as legitimate political statements of an autonomous public opinion that cannot be dismissed as "radical". This one is complicated. Honduran politicians want to neutralize the FNRP by drawing attention to its internal debates (as if such differences in opinion are absent in other political groups), by characterizing it as radical, and if those attempts do not work, by suggesting it is simply a typical political movement that will be converted into a conventional party. It will be a challenge for Lobo Sosa to craft a statement that accepts the legitimacy of the Frente without also attempting to redefine it or minimize its importance. But it is critical that he acknowledge that the conventional political parties whose presidential candidates he drafted into his cabinet do not represent the opposition to the coup, and thus, that his government is not one of "reconciliation and unity".
(3) Fund Sandra Ponce, the Fiscalia de Derechos Humanos (who has the investigative and prosecutorial authority for responding to complaints of human rights abuses) and direct her to immediately investigate the human rights abuses documented by the IAHRC. State clearly and in public that he accepts the IAHRC's findings and acknowledge that abuses continue today.
(4) While we doubt Lobo Sosa has the political power to do it (and we question whether he has the support to accomplish even the first three items we list) if he could, he should remove from executive branch offices those proponents of the coup d'etat appointed by Micheletti who are still to be found throughout the Honduran government.
(5) Acknowledge formally that he cannot guarantee Manuel Zelaya Rosales that if he returned to Honduras, which is his legal right, he would be free of politically-motivated prosecution. By insisting that Zelaya can return anytime, without admitting that the judicial branch, full of adherents of the de facto regime and complicit in the coup d'etat, is primed to pursue prosecution of a frivolous list of charges, Lobo Sosa is being disingenuous. Hondurans were encouraged in the months leading to the coup to be afraid of political differences, and were inspired to call for adherence to narrow orthodoxies of thought, belief, and action. Zelaya is one of the most powerful symbols of the purging of political diversity, and if Lobo Sosa would acknowledge that the country cannot tolerate his presence, he would be acknowledging that the country is not capable of healthy political debate.
(6) Finally, we would hope that Lobo Sosa could find the courage to reject the utility of the artificial performance of the steps outlined for Micheletti in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. He needs to be the one to admit that having politicians from other parties in his cabinet is not "a government of unity and reconciliation". He should be the one to say that Honduras is not ready for a "Truth Commission" constructed simply to give cover to a few powerful international allies that want to stop having to deal with Honduras. He could do more good by saying clearly what everyone in Honduras knows: the truth of what happened on June 28, 2009 is well established. There is nothing about the events that is unclear. It is how people in support of the coup justify those events, in contrast to how the opposition understands them, that is separating Hondurans. And those are not matters of truth: they are matters of interpretation. If Honduras needs to move on, what it needs to move on from is precisely the terms of the Accord, which never worked, never really stemmed from Honduran intentions, and stands in the way of the country beginning to confront the fissures that broke open one year ago today.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Letter to Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes: Rodolfo Pastor F.
In the face of the informality of my communication, you might ask-- before reading me-- Who is this? Giving me an excuse for vanity. I write as an historian and as a chronicler of what occurred in my small homeland, Honduras. I could presume on the basis of my curriculum vitae: honorary degrees that have been given me for my professorships or the seat of honor that has been conceded to me in some of the best universities in the world. Or I could boast to you of the high offices that have been entrusted to me, such as president of CERLALC, a decentralized organism of UNESCO, president of the Consejo de Integración Social de Centroamérica, which brings together the ministers charged with social policy. I could weigh my titles of Minister of Culture, Arts and Sports (two times) and coordinating minister of the Social Cabinet of my country in the recently passed administration. But I write as a historian.
I have listened to you today condemn roundly the magnificent reception that some politicians and businessmen gave, in your country, to R. Micheletti, who came to be dictator of Honduras, under whose government and with continued military and police repression, covered up and justified and with the suppression of media of communication of the opposition, there were carried out last November, the elections in which emerged elected the present President Porfirio Lobo. This condemnation of yours is important, given that Micheletti declared that, on the contrary, your government had offered him all security and your minister of governance had hinted at honors of a man of state. (Don't worry since no one believes the liar.) And I am not reaching out because I know that you have those who can inform you better and can confirm the repression before and after those elections, that only malice could describe as "the most free and fair elections in the history of Honduras" as H. Llorens declared.
I understand your celebrated pragmatism, President, and the urgency that you have to turn your back on this problem, in order to get on with your goals of governing for the benefit of the brother people of El Salvador. (My father received his doctorate in that country that he taught me to love, without delusion. Although it has had unjust wars, many times those of us who know this material have commented that it is difficult to encounter two peoples more similar to each other, in culture, religion, language and custom; which should make us more close.) I also understand that you wanted to take advantage of the fact that those elections were carried out within a formal framework to recognize President Lobo, which you have done diligently and amiably, and to procure for him the recognition of others. But when you justly accuse Micheletti of being a dictator, recognize that he committed a coup, and I am not going to presume to teach you that this situation will only be remedied by bringing about peace and forging a new legal order.
Nonetheless, you declare, sir, according to the press of your country: "Now that Honduras has recovered political and social stability, after the presidential triumph of Porfirio Lobo, El Salvador supports its re-entry in the multilateral organizations, that it lost owing to the Coup d'Etat".
Honduras has not recovered any stability, Sir. WOLA itself (Washington Office for Latin America, closely aligned with the State Department) recognized in a press communique today that "political instability and violence against the opposition continues". The golpista members of congress selected the current attorneys and judges. The military and congressmembers who supported the coup continue in power and the same Supreme Court that justified it a posteriori and that finished by granting impunity to their partners. Right there, in El Salvador Micheletti has hinted again, and even though there are those that disbelieve it, Lobo himself has disclosed a conspiracy to overthrow him. In Honduras, they are assassinating journalists at a rate of half a dozen a month and the leaders and relatives of leaders of the opposition every day.
I want to defend this rationale of yours and agree with ex-President Zelaya in the thesis that, if Honduras comes to comply with various difficult conditions, President Lobo will have to be recognized, in order to make firm a route to a future without war, without blood. (I understand you and your companions in arms in the Frente Farabundo Martí know about blood, understand the suffering of war and want us to avoid it.) The continued repression must cease, which will not end, Mr. President, while the present Attorney and the Justices of the Supreme Court that direct the system of justice continue in their positions, who just fired six justices and a magistrate that opposed the coup and while the same military group that committed the coup continues in arms.
When Mrs. Clinton-- with whom you have had a useful friendship-- asks "what are the rest of the countries of the continent waiting for to recognize Pepe Lobo?" the response is simple: they are waiting for him to remove from office the officials who led the coup and the repression and change the attorneys and judges who have given those repressors judicial impunity while they refuse to protect the rights of the Honduran people.
They are not, counted out, many things; nor are they easy to obtain. But only if we achieve a unified voice of the international community can there prevail in peace the good intention to convene a Constituyente that will bring us peace. For this end, Mr. Lobo will need the recognition of the Resistance, that only the FNRP can give, that today recognizes the leadership of ex President Zelaya. It may appear paradoxical, but the worst that you could do for President Lobo is award him the unrestricted and unconditional support that Doña Hillary asks, because that will put him in the hands of the same golpistas that, in a show similar to that which you witnessed, pass here boasting that, if he does not respect their bizarre interpretation of the constitution that they throw in the trash, they will also commit a coup against him. For the Señora it will be difficult to understand. But perhaps you do not see the danger for your country in the instability of ours? I am sure you have studied history.
What's all this talk of "Injerencia"?
What is injerencia? The Collins dictionary definition is interference or meddling. Despite all the concern by the far right in Honduras about foreign interference, or injerencia, nothing could be further from the truth. What they call injerencia is having an opinion about events in Honduras that is different from their opinion. Thus, the G-16 raising concerns about the Honduran Supreme Court's firing of some judges, or Porfirio Lobo Sosa stating that that the decision to fire the judges complicated the international relations of Honduras is not injerencia, it is having an opinion contrary to what those raising the concern about injerencia believe.
Canadian Ambassador, Neil Reeder, noted that the G-16 stated its position in a press release and that they have the right of freedom of expression; that isn't interference in the internal affairs of Honduras. "We are not a pressure group," Reeder said.
But no one made it clearer that the Spanish Ambassador, Ignacio Ruprez Rubio, who called it a stupidity of some Honduran sectors to criticize the international community for expressing an opinion about Honduran national affairs.
"This is stupid. All the world's problems are ours, the problems of Honduras, the problems of Israel, the problems of any country. There are no internal affairs or external affairs, this is something that has been amply revised for many years in international law and in international relations. Human rights are the rights of everyone; we are talking about questions that are of all humanity and this talk of interference and all this, I repeat, is stupid."
Friday, June 25, 2010
Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle: The Community of Nations and Honduras, a Conjuncture
Central America could not maintain the closure of frontiers after one week because of the economic pressures of their businessmen... partners of the Honduran golpistas. The OAS never succeeded in true commercial embargos or resolutions that would require... the golpistas to give in; on the contrary they dragged their feet (2) and now around 54 countries recognize the present government, including the USA that represents 70% of our economic activity. In Honduras there has been no scarcity of anything that had not already been lacking and despite the acute economic crisis, the lempira has not even been devalued and the interest rates increased. All the multilateral organizations are now in dialogue with the government of Lobo and have initiated payments and the SICA has already incorporated the Honduran ministers in the consultations of its ministers, even thought they have not changed the resolution that prohibited it.
Something that is patently illegal.
We should remember that the ex-Minister behind much of this debacle is the strong arm of the USA, but is a discreet man. On the other hand, the golpista press has questioned, and the forces of the right (that also were more able to hold together with their few external friends) have rejected, adverse pronouncements from outside the country, by the OAS and most recently the joint position of the so-called Group of 16 that-- recently-- repudiated the determination of the golpista Supreme Court of Justice to fire the judges and magistrate that have made statements against the coup and demanded attention and remedy to the continuing abuses of human rights and violence against the opposition, ignored by the Prosecutor. The so called "Institute for the Defense of Democracy", that is no more than a front for golpismo, has rejected in a communique the strong statement of the G16, imputing to them an interventionist spirit and a lack of respect for the institutionality of the country. The ambassador Ruperto Pérez, of the Kingdom of Spain, who belongs to that group, rejected that response and declared that the isolationist norm invoked was completely obsolete, recalling that around the world, the international community today is involved in problems of human rights which are conceived as universal and the responsibility of everyone.
In effect, the judge Garzón, who is now being punished for having dared so much, only had made a personal demonstration of a perception already generalized that we cannot be indifferent before the rights of the rest of the inhabitants of the planet without putting our own in danger. And this thesis has prevailed in the new international law. Consequently there exist international commissions of rights that have repudiated Ramón Custodio and international campaigns against flagrant violations, in Asia and the Pacific, and campaigns by the UN against mutilations by Muslims in Africa, treaties and conventions worldwide against torture that-- furthermore-- Honduras has ratified, which is why the International Court has been established, etc. The ideologues of golpismo such as Carlos López C. (ex Chancellor who was the favorite of the military since the time of his uncle, the dictator of the same name) and his favored ambassadors don't understand. They remain, as General McCrystal said not long ago, "stuck in the seventies". Certainly this is not going to stop this push of international law, nor is it going to resolve the confrontation in Honduras.
Perhaps the evolution of the situation since the coup has been converted into a case of the study of change generated, not in the bureaucratic field, that also keeps being short-sighted or obsolete, but in the very wide public effects on international politics of the powerful countries of the globe. These are democracies in the more genuine sense, where the citizens (that can inform themselves at the edge of the manipulated media) are determined to demand that their governments be consistent with international aid, and not waste it on dictatorships that, with it, make themselves ever more powerful. Self-determination can only prevail where the agreed-upon international norms are not violated. The problem continues being the dissonance or open contradiction between pragmatic interest, especially of the USA, and the more abstract and idealist doctrine of rights, otherwise easily manipulable if it is not defined in an integral way, as human rights, political as well as social.
Some pivotal institutions of the international community could be in danger if they do not demonstrate more effectiveness in the protection of those principles, but at the same time they are pressured not to move against the powerful. In particular the OAS, that is already warned by the published determination of a large majority of its members (that feel smothered within it) to create a different entity, that would leave out the USA and its twin.(3) So that, to the degree that the great power does not succeed in reconciling itself with the greater complexity of the community of nations of the Continent, the latter is disposed to create a space apart, that excludes it. The OAS as such therefore confronts a test. It will not be disposed to fail. And to have success it is necessary that it be capable of reconciling the imperatives of both factions and to obtain concessions from both parties that will give to the voice of the organization the coherency that it requires to be effective and to consolidate its new principles of international law. In so far as this goal advances it will gain respect and even recognition in all the factions, although some will remain more content than others and even though no one can demand that they resolve the internal problems of each one of their members.
Published Friday 25 June, 2010 on Vos el Soberano.
(1) engañoso: deceitful, deceptive, illusory, fraudulent, phony, misleading. As Pastor Fasquelle references "various meanings of the word", any of these should be considered here.
(2) dio largas al asunto
(3) The reference is to the meeting of the Río Group earlier this year, resolving to form an association leaving out the US and Canada.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Honduras has Two Truth Commissions
Why is there a truth commission at all?
The establishment of a truth commission was one of the 12 points Oscar Arias proposed in the original San Jose Accord proposal. It survived in the Guaymuras (AKA Tegucigalpa-San Jose) Accord eventually signed by both Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti. It thus has its origins in the international community, not from Honduran aspirations.
The Tegucigalpa Accord was almost immediately violated by Micheletti, and declared no longer in effect by Zelaya, when Micheletti tried to unilaterally set up a government of reconciliation on his own. At the time, verification commission member Ricardo Lagos declared that these actions violated the accord. Nonetheless, the US has promoted what it calls full implementation of the Accord under the administration of Lobo Sosa, despite Lobo not being a party to the agreement which in any event was violated and declared dead by the two parties it attempted to reconcile.
And so Porfirio Lobo Sosa has established what he (and the US State Department) call a "government of reconciliation and unity", based on participation by representatives of opposing political parties. Just who this government unifies and reconciles is, of course, the question: it does not include participation by the Liberal party, and members of the UD party have disclaimed those party officials who agreed to serve in the government. Nor does it include what might be recognized as movements that actually opposed the de facto regime, such as the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP), or even supporters of Manuel Zelaya.
Not much unity there, and precious little reconciliation.
Nor was forming the "unity" government enough. Lobo Sosa has had to form the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for in the Guaymuras Accords to address one of the requirements placed on Honduras as it seeks readmission to the OAS and the international community. But that brings us to why Honduras has two truth commissions.
The Official Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Eduardo Stein, a consultant at the time to the OAS, was commissioned by Lobo Sosa to write the charter of, and recommend foreign members for, this truth commission. Of the international candidates recommended, Lobo Sosa picked Michael Kergin and Maria Amadilla Zavala. To complement these, Lobo Sosa selected Honduran members: Julietta Castellanos and Jorge Omar Casco, with Sergio Membreño as secretary. This governmentally chartered truth commission is funded by countries including the United States and Spain, and staffed by the OAS.
According to his OAS biography Eduardo Stein got his doctorate in Communications Sciences from Northwestern University in 1978. He then taught Political Science and Communications at universities in Guatemala, El Salvador, and the United States. He served as an advisor to Panamanian President Aristides Royo (1980-82). In the 1990s he served as Panama's representative to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and then as the IOM Regional Project Counselor for Central America. From 1996-2000, Stein was Foreign Minister for Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu, a conservative who nonetheless signed a peace treaty with the Guatemalan URNG ending the civil war. In 2004-288 he was Vice President of Guatemala under President Oscar Berger Perdomo, another conservative president. More recently he has been a consultant to the OAS, and an OAS election observer/monitor. [The link to this biography could not be embedded as this was written.]
Michael Kergin is a Canadian career diplomat who entered foreign service in 1967. He served in the Canadian embassies in the United States, Cameroon, and Chile before becoming ambassador to Cuba in 1986. In the 1990s he held positions on political and international security affairs, and became the Canadian equivalent of the National Security Advisor. He became ambassador to the United States in 2000, serving until 2005. He is currently an adjunct professor in Political Science at the University of Ottawa, and a senior advisor at Bennett-Jones LLP.
Maria Amadilla Zavala is former President of the Supreme Court of Peru. She has also served as Peruvian Minister of Justice, and as Peru's representative to the OAS. She is reportedly close to the current conservative President of Peru, Alan Garcia.
Julieta Castellanos is currently Rector of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. She has also served as a consultant to the UN Development Program
Jorge Omar Casco is a former Rector for the National Autonomous University and a lawyer.
Sergio Membreño, who serves as the commission's secretary, is a university professor and participant in Transformemos a Honduras.
The Alternative Truth Commission
The Honduran Human Rights Platform is made up of representatives from the Centro de Investigación, Prevención y Tratamiento de Víctimas de la Tortura (CIPTVT), the Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH), the Centro de Derechos de Mujer (CDM), the Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (CIPRODEH), and the international anti-hunger organization Food First Information and Interaction Network (FIAN).
The Human Rights Platform coalition, unconvinced of the impartiality and human rights mandate of the official truth commission, decided to set up and fund its own truth commission with international representatives Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu, Francois Houtart, Mirna Antonieta Perla Jimenez, Nora Cortiñas, and Elsie Monje. Its Honduran representatives are Helen Umaña and the Father Fausto Milla. This truth commission is funded by donations from individuals and non-governmental organizations (to donate, see the link here).
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel is an Argentinian, trained as a sculptor and architect, who in 1974 relinquished a teaching post to devote full time to coordinating the activities of non-violent Latin American groups through a group which he helped found, Servicio, Paz, y Justicia. He initiated a successful campaign to create the United Nations human rights commission. The Argentinian junta imprisoned him in 1977 and released him in 1978 under restrictions. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980 for his work on human rights.
Rigoberta Menchu, a Quiche Maya activist from Guatemala began work on women's rights in Guatemala as a teenager. Her father, mother, and brother were arrested, tortured, and killed by the Guatemalan government. She joined the Committee of the Peasant Union (CUC) and participated in strikes to improve farm worker conditions on the Pacific Coast of Guatemala in 1981. She joined the 31 of January Popular Front and taught resistance to military oppression. By the end of 1981 she fled Guatemala to Mexico and began working to organize resistance to oppression from abroad, in addition to working for peasant rights. She was part of the founding of the United Representation of the Guatemalan Opposition in 1983. In 1986 she became part of the National Coordinating Council of the CUC. She won a Nobel Prize in 1992 for her work on indigenous peoples' rights. She is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador promoting a culture of peace.
Francois Houtart is a Belgian sociologist and Catholic Priest. He served as a consultant to the ecumenical council of Vatican II. He serves as an advisor to the Centre Tricontinental (CETRI) which he founded in 1976 to promote dialogue and cooperation between third world social groups. In 2009 he won the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence.
Mirna Antonieta Perla Jimenez is a justice of the Supreme Court of El Salvador. She testified before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights in 1988 and 1992, and testified before the UN in 1988, 89, 90, and 1992. She was Vice President of the International Federation of Human Rights in Paris (1988-90). She served as Vice President of the Comision para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos en Centroamerica (CODEHUCA) 1988-92 and a member of the Human Rights commission in El Salvador (1992-93).
Nora Morales de Cortiñas is a defender of human rights and member of the Asociacion de Madres de Plaza de Mayo, an Argentinian human rights organization that was formed initially by mothers whose children were disappeared by the Argentinian dictatorship of 1976-1983. She is a social psychologist and professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
Sister Elsie Monge is a Maryknoll nun who is known for her efforts for human rights in Ecuador. She has taught grade school in Guatemala, and high school in Panama before returning to her native Ecuador. In 1981 she served on the Ecumenical Commission for Human Rights (CEDHU) in Ecuador, becoming its Director in 1994. In 1996 she become president of the Federation of Human Rights in Ecuador. In 2004 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Ecumenical Commission for Human Rights.
Helen Umaña is a professor of literature at the National Autonomous University of Honduras-Sula Valley. She was raised in Guatemala, where her family lived in exile. She both graduated from, and taught at, the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. She received the 1989 Honduran National Literature Prize for her literary criticism about Honduran writing.
Father Fausto Milla Nuñez, a native of Guarita, Lempira, Honduras, is diocesan priest of the church of San Martin de Porres, Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. He was educated in El Salvador and Colombia. He taught school for 17 years in Popoyan, Colombia. In 1963 he was called to the priesthood, and was ordained in 1964. In 1969 the then Bishop of Santa Rosa, Monseñor Carranza Chévez, posted him to the church in Guarita, which a few months later bore the brunt of the so-called Soccer War of 1969 between El Salvador and Honduras. He was transferred to the church in Cerquin in 1970 where he began his work in human rights. This assignment also began his interest in Lenca culture and foodways. He was jailed in 1981 by the Honduran military junta and went into exile in Mexico. In 1985, he returned to Honduras assigned to Santa Rosa de Copan, where he returned to the community organizing and human rights work he had been doing since before his exile in Mexico.
These are the kinds and quality of people selected by Porfirio Lobo Sosa and the Human Rights Platform to form their respective truth commissions, to look into the events surrounding the coup d'etat of June 28, 2009, the de facto regime that seized power, and the human rights abuses that resulted. The government's truth commission began work in May. The Human Rights Platform's truth commission will begin work on June 28.
I know which group I think is more qualified. Which group seems more qualified to you?
Monday, June 21, 2010
Notes on murder rates in Honduras and deaths of journalists
One of these was the claim that journalist's murders were rising because the crime rate was going up so dramatically overall.
First, let us stop to note that this does not, in fact, as the critic wished, disprove our basic point: the coup ushered in an atmosphere of impunity (freedom from responsibility for crimes) for certain factions, and unleashed lawlessness and violence (by the armed forces and the police).
But, as I said in a comment, I know of no credible statistics that suggest the overall rise in murder rates-- which surely have gone up after the coup, and I would argue, as a direct result of the coup-- are anywhere near the increase seen in deaths of journalists: from two recorded in the two years prior to the coup; to ten recorded in the eleven months since the coup.
It took some effort, but we now have numbers for the murder rates in question. The US State Department, relying on UNDP data, reported a murder rate of 4,473 in a population of 7.3 million in 2008, the year before the coup d'etat. Standardizing, this would be 61.3 homicides per 100,000 population.
The murder rate over the past year is reportedly 66.8 homicides per 100,000. That represents a rise in the murder rate of just under 9%.
That is, indeed, a huge increase and a very troubling sign. But if the rate of increase in murders of journalists had increased proportionately, we would have expected one or at most two journalists to be killed in the past year. The actual number killed, of course, is ten.
Our constant critic made a second argument, also based on a false use of the language of rationality.
This was that it was "logical" to assume that journalists were targeted, not for the few stories they might have written critical of the coup, but for the much larger number of stories that they wrote about other topics. I have previously noted that there is nothing logical about this argument. A reporter might cover uncontroversial stories his or her entire life, then write one story that picks at a scab the powerful and lawless do not wish to have touched.
Those scabs, in some of the cases of recently murdered journalists, seem clearly to be related directly to anti-coup sentiments and reporting, based on military intimidation and death threats. But I also count as legacies of the coup deaths of journalists engaged in covering the events in the Bajo Aguan, where peasant cooperatives are under severe pressure for actions of civil disobedience through which they are demanding land rights.
One might argue that these stories have nothing to do with the coup. But they touch on the rich and powerful who initiated the coup.
Despite the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa attempting to reach a deal to clear the peasants out of the way of powerful landowners, compensating them with promises down the road, that apparently was not enough. Yesterday another armed attack on the Bajo Aguan cooperatives happened, killing one person, in one of the farms that the government authorized them to occupy. The claim made by the attacking forces-- the national military Cobras-- was that the peasants are "arming themselves".
This is the kind of claim that can never be disproved without independent media research, as the bought-and-sold newspapers of Honduras routinely print as fact stories about the Bajo Aguan that are transparently false-- in at least one case, so much so that the government had to repudiate the reports.
And here is where the coup is relevant to the deaths of journalists today. One lesson that the powerful in Honduras learned by carrying out the coup and occupying the government throughout a de facto regime rejected by the entire world is that they can get their way by force. Shutting down the media throughout the months of the de facto regime was a major initiative: by direct physical attacks, by electronic attacks, by illegal decrees, and by death threats.
So like the international human rights organizations, and organizations dedicated to the safety of a free press, we will continue to report on the unprecedented wave of violence against journalists. Because it is not just the way things are in Honduras. It is an outrage and it is motivated by impunity, a lasting legacy of the coup d'Etat.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Who's in Charge (and what are they doing)?
El Heraldo reported that according to "lawyer and political analyst" Raúl Pineda, there should have been a formal written document naming the designate in charge. The media had been unable to get confirmation of whether any such document was written. Presidential designate Maria Antonieta Guillén de Bogran was quoted as saying that she was "fulfilling the responsibilities of the administration of the Executive power" in coordination with Víctor Hugo Barnica.
But her reassurances were not enough for the media and, reportedly, the general public. So, on June 16 El Heraldo reported the release of the text of an official statement saying Barnica was the official designate, a statement that La Tribuna printed.
The original article in El Heraldo includes a sentence that seems like a non sequitur, stating that Raúl Pineda also said
that the minister of Governance, Áfrico Madrid, shouldn't be left in command either because that is why the three presidential designates were elected.
But this goes to the heart of why the press, if not the general public, have been concerned: Madrid appears to have taken advantage of the vacuum in authority, building on his constitutional role as chair of the cabinet to push through new policy that Honduran sources questionable.
As described by Radio America, last Tuesday the council of ministers led by Madrid passed a decree "that approves the construction of various dams in Honduras, responding to a priority and to take advantage of the water resource in the country". Madrid is quoted as saying
"The exploitation of water is part, together with production, the export of bananas, coffee, shrimp and wood, it is one more of the fundamental pillars and the State is going to be obliged to simplify the administrative procedures so that the people or the State itself can invest in the construction of dams of different sizes in all the [national] territory".
So what's up here? Simplifying paperwork must be good for everyone, right? after all, as Radio America reminded readers, there have been repeated shortages of water in the capital city.
But dams are not primarily about providing municipal water. They are means to control the distribution of water for agriculture; and mechanisms for production of electrical power, today an international commodity, through hydroelectric plants. And so, they are in essence profit opportunities for private enterprise, if the burden of regulation is not too onerous. Opportunities to exploit national resources for private gain. Minister Madrid's announcement of the new decree, as reported by La Tribuna, emphasized that the new decree would authorize dams for the "capture of potable water, irrigation, energy generation and the control of flooding".
In another Heraldo article article, Madrid is quoted as saying
"In Honduras there are millions of cubic meters of water that are thrown out in the sea every year and that we don't use the water represents money, represents life and social development."What is at issue in the building of public works like dams that can benefit private enterprise was amply illustrated by the concurrent debate in Congress about a contract for 250 megawatts of "renewable energy" that, El Tiempo notes, sparked a wave of accusations and counter-accusations:
The ex-representative of the Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada (COHEP)in the governing committtee of the Empresa Nacional de Energía Eléctrica (ENEE), Jesús Simón, said that the renewable energy businessmen enjoy an excess of incentives and that the contracts will be granted almost in perpetuity, since they will have the concession of the rivers for 50 years.Water use is one of the emerging global issues where economic disadvantages are being created or deepened. For a new "priority" on water projects to be set by the Honduran government in the absence of the supposed head of state, in order to streamline some undefined "procedures", raises concerns about creating fewer opportunities for advocates for a public good to ask questions like those debated in Congress this week. And more: it raises the ever present question, who will profit from the proposed dams?
At the same time, he questioned that the prices will be above the economic variables that the energy market would set....
Those opposed to these contracts also questioned why in the process of contracting the energy the marginal price that the Secretaría de Recursos Naturales y Ambiente (SERNA) sets in January every year was not taken into account.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Journalist death toll rises to 9
TEGUCIGALPA - The assassination of journalist Luis Arturo Mondragon brings the number of media professionals killed this year in Honduras to nine, making it the most unsafe country for journalists.
Mondragon, who was news director for Channel 19 in the city of El Paraíso, was shot dead last night as he was sitting with his son on the sidewalk outside his house, minutes after his program.
He had received death threats for exposing corrupt local and national officials.
The media has been one of the sectors most affected since the June 28 coup, with over 300 attacks reported, including assassination, abuse, intimidation, censorship, and the shutdown of news agencies.
The nine journalists killed to date this year belonged to different news media in different regions, and the majority had used their programs to denounce human rights violations and cases of corruption or drug trafficking.
According to Honduran news reports, Mondragon supported the coup. This lends itself to a preferred "fair and balanced" narrative in English language media, that downplays the targeting of journalists who opposed the coup.
Unlike other English language coverage, the Inside Costa Rica story correctly notes that the majority of journalists killed have been opposed to the coup.
The AP story is more typical of English language coverage of the dire situation for Honduran journalists. It includes the now-standard oversimplification about the case of Karol Cabrera, whose daughter was shot in an apparent soccer gang incident last year, and whose colleague Joseph Ochoa was shot in an incident that Cabrera claims was intended to target her. In the latter case, the parents of the murdered colleague claim Cabrera actually arranged the attack to eliminate competition from her son. But that does not stop the AP from presenting Cabrera as a political exile targeted in both incidents.
More perniciously, the AP story, reported from Tegucigalpa by Freddy Cuevas, continues a pattern of police reframing of each of these incidents as personal, stemming from a general climate of lawlessness. According to a police representative, Mondragon was accused of sexual assault and stealing cattle, possible motives they are investigating.
Also typical of this kind of reporting, which obscures the real surge in killings due to the targeting of anti-coup journalists, the reporter adopts a long time frame that reaches back before the coup to conclude that "more than 50 lawyers, politicians, businessmen, and journalists have been killed in the last two years."
But it is only after the coup d'Etat that the spike in deaths of journalists has occurred, with seven since March alone according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Unlike the Honduran Police, the CPJ points to Mondragon's history of reporting about local "government corruption, environmental issues, and crime" as possible motives.
The majority of the targets of the attacks this year have not been people like Cabrera or Mondragon, who were in favor of the coup d'Etat. They have been people like José Bayardo Mairena, Manuel Juarez, and Nahum Palacios, none named in the AP story, who were reporting on the Aguan conflict. Palacios, in particular, was targeted with threats after the coup for his vocal opposition to it.
Monday, June 14, 2010
"I am a liberal in resistance": A letter from Manuel Zelaya June 11
As a symbol, he can be used against the resistance by politicians who dismiss calls for fundamental restructuring by labeling the resistance as "zelayistas", reducing what is happening in Honduras to a repeat of caudillismo-- the cult of a strong leader that permeates Latin American political history. Since the resistance includes groups and individuals who were and are critical of Zelaya, this over-simplifies and misrepresents reality, even if it does make it easier to digest Honduran reality (and thus return to the international status quo of ignoring it).
Yet repudiating Zelaya would alienate large segments of the Honduran population for whom he was not simply a symbol of change, but an actual agent of change-- making petroleum affordable, increasing the minimum wage, and giving opportunities for people to voice their own opinions and tell their own stories. The cuarta urna campaign gained its popularity from the sense it gave to these people that the system could be changed to allow their votes to actually count for something.
And then there is the specific quandary that Zelaya presents for the Liberal Party. As has been stressed numerous times, Zelaya and Micheletti were both members of the same party. Their differences dramatized the range of opinions contained within that party. Liberals in resistance are a major group, although again, politicians interested in dismissing the wider significance of calls for constitutional changes use that to claim that the resistance is simply a within-party movement.
From these differences have come a number of tensions, which sometimes rise to the surface in statements by resistance movement members and segments, some openly acknowledged in writing, others taking place in less public media. A good sense of the debates is being provided by ethnographer Adrienne Pine's posting of field notes from her ongoing research in Honduras. In a recent post, she points to a letter from Zelaya himself published by Vos el Soberano as an intervention of particular importance in the current situation.
In contrast to previous statements that have been criticized for collapsing Zelaya's own situation with the broader goals of the Resistance, this new letter is a straightforward exhortation to keep focused on the campaign for the constituyente; notably, it is addressed to the Resistance, the Liberal Party, and a broader group that might not identify with either but may have become politically conscious. It states clearly that the Liberal Party has destroyed itself and that liberals need to work within the Resistance Movement. It cautions against premature identification of candidates for office under the current system, and places support firmly behind the Resistance and the assemblies it is holding to formulate proposals for a new constitution.
While it does not entirely avoid the personalization of the coup and its aftermath that has made previous statements by Zelaya fodder for critics, it is a powerful distillation of the themes of the present movement to reformulate the Honduran constitution. It makes it clear why Zelaya is an important political actor, even in exile.
Dominican Republic June 11, 2010Comrades (men and women) of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular,
Correligionaries of the Liberal Party,
Compatriots with liberty of consciousness,With the good intention of contributing to fortifying the unity of the diverse political forces that make up the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular allow me to express [the following]:
The military coup d'Etat that we suffered together with the people the 28th of June 2009, when they expatriated me by the force of arms, produced the worst tragedy for Honduras in this century, but at the same time, it engendered the birth of the force of the Resistance, which today is obliged to remain united in the face of the enemies of democracy.
Since I was subjected to tortures and abuses in the diplomatic seat of Brazil in Tegucigalpa, we warned in a missive to the people about this necessity when we said:
“… The Resistencia is the new belligerent force in Honduras, and it should be the axis to coordinate and bring together the progressive political forces, that without losing their own identity, will oblige the dominant elite to recognize that the Hondurans do not have bosses and that we want to be free ”
In respect to the actions of the political forces, I reiterate what I said on that occasion:
“I am a liberal in permanent resistence and I will continue being so, of those that practice their true doctrine, opposed to military dictators and antidemocratic regimes, those that forged this coup d'Etat ceased to be Liberals and the people punished them at the ballot box, the National Party never would have been raised from the defeat that we delivered in 2005, without the leadership of the Liberal Party, conspiring with the oligarchy and the Pentagon, arming the military coup to remove me from the political stage…”
The Liberal Party only has an option for power within the Resistance, outside the resistance it is weak and is condemned to failure. To not be united in the Resistance is newly to deliver to the oligarchy the country and power.
We must be alert, the enemies of the people cause to circulate items with tricks and lies, with the goal of dividing us. The promotion of premature candidacies is part of their strategies to divide the Resistance from the Liberal Party and so liquidate the opportunity for liberty that today is presented to us after fifty years.
The homeland in this moment calls us to struggle for unity and for the Constituyente, and we should say without fear:
“Elections Yes… for delegates to the Constitutional Assembly”
Our struggle today is for true independence, and for the refounding of Honduras, where the worker and the poor will be freed from those who oppress them.
We should struggle without respite for a new Constitution that will guarantee democratic liberty.
The new Constitution should have clear contents that arise from proposals presented in the Assemblies of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, and that gather the aspirations and needs of all the sectors.
By the 15th of September, anniversary of our Independence, we should have these proposals and broaden the period to that date for the collection of signatures for the sovereign declarations to demand the National Constitutional Assembly and my return.
The suffering of the victims of this crime against humanity, with the loss of lives of our martyrs who condemned the coup d'Etat, cannot be in vain, nor pass into oblivion.
Without justice there is no reconciliation, No to impunity!
“Coups d'Etat, never again”
“Everyone for the constituyente”
Manuel Zelaya Rosales
Sunday, June 13, 2010
"The vacation of Lobo and his lambs in South Africa"
From Oscar Estrada, Honduran filmaker and contributor to "May I Speak Freely?", comes a thoughtful commentary on the spectacle of Honduras' participation in the World Cup and how odd it is to want to cheer for the national team while experiencing the effects of the ongoing aftermath of the coup.
Estrada reminds us that there is serious governmental work that is not being done in Honduras, masked by the press attention to the world cup. He points to the looming deadline for labor organizations to decide what to do about an impasses over setting a new minimum wage-- a process where the president is supposed to step in and settle things (which Manuel Zelaya did in 2008, in one of the steps that earned him the anger of certain businessmen). As we have previously noted, Porfirio Lobo Sosa has declined to settle the issue.
Estrada also reports that the Armed Forces have been deployed into the countryside, in the wake of coup rumors. While Honduran press reporting makes it hard to assess exactly what is going on, we have also been hearing reports that there is an increased visibility of the Armed Forces. Honduran media printed reports this week of congressional approval of a plan by the Minister of Security, Oscar Alvarez, to use the Army to supplement the police force in fighting common crime, which is to say, to militarize the country. The approved law is said to "limit" the length of time this arrangement can continue-- to the length of the current government (that is, four years).
It bears repeating that the Honduran Constitution assigns the role of fighting crime to the police force, expressly as part of a move intended to end the history of militarization of what should be a civilian function. As the Honduran people experienced last year, having the Armed Forces involved in police actions creates both a climate of intimidation and the potential for confrontations to be rapidly escalated. Shamefully, there has been no coverage of this anti-democratic development in any of the English language media.
Instead, as Estrada notes, the national and international press is ready for a feel-good story: one that will, if Honduras does well in its first games, run directly up against the first anniversay of the coup d'Etat, a national day of mobilization. It will be interesting to see how much international attention is given to demonstrations that day.
The vacation of Lobo and his lambs in South Africa
I did not think of writing about this, the truth is I would like to give a certain distance to the theme and not get involved in one of the few distractions that the Honduran people have. But it is impossible not to comment on the nerve of the governing class, which in an historic lack of respect...has taken 15 days of vacation, after three months of assuming their offices, to go to South Africa with all the costs paid by the national treasury...
It is certain, that like many Hondurans that are in the resistance I would like to see Honduras win, to break in victoriously among the best teams in the world and give us that pride to this people that lives filled with bad news. But I cannot. While the international media inform us of a Honduras empty of power, they forget to mention that Pepe Lobo had NOT governed at any moment, this has not been his job, he was contracted to appear in front of the camera and let himself be seen, with his phony smile while others clear the field. Others, the obscure personages that can be found in the shadows conspiring against this worthy people, to torture, to kill our hope.
We know that this world cup, more than any other in history, will be used sinistrally against our people. The show that is being mounted with the complicity, yet again of the national and foreign press, reminds me of that day in August, when while in the houses, bars, restaurants, streets, sidewalks and offices the goals of the team were celebrated, dozens of people suffered torture in the basement of the National Congress, afterwards to be transported to the humid dungeons of the Cobra battalion, of the antisubversive police commandos: because their shouts might ruin the football party of Micheletti....
And this is the thing that does not let me celebrate. The Honduran Resistance is in an intensive process of organization. Practically in every corner of the country we are learning to work together, to debate, to politically discuss and reach consensus on this complex project of refounding the country. This effort, with our advances and setbacks, can only be stopped by terror.
And for that they have called out the Armed Forces, who, taking advantage of a suspect denunciation by Sr. Lobo who said this week that "they are preparding a coup d'Etat against him", have gone into the streets, supposedly to combat organized crime, but invading the hamlets and villages positioning their weapons against the people as if preparing themselves for something bigger.
Meanwhile, Monday the 14th the three workers centers will report what they will do in relation to the minimum wage that should have been defined by the government since last December, and which Lobo Sosa has avoided touching in order not to anger the oligarchy. Possibly they will go on strike, I think that is the only way out they have. And in a municipality in Choluteca [State] the people have taken over the city hall in objection to the barefaced corruption of the mayor and they say they are prepared to resist against the army, until the mayor is fired.
We are two weeks from the first anniversay of the coup d'Etat. If the Honduran team makes it to qualify for the second round, it will play on the 28th of June. That same day, hundreds of thousands of Hondurasn will be in the streets and will let the world know that here no one surrenders and that team, is also of the same pattern.
Oscar Estrada, Habla Honduras
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Accept No Substitutes: On Acting Presidents and Potential Coups
The leader took as a joke the question of who would remain at the head of the country and he responded "the Honduran people" and when he was asked to whom would be delegated the duties [of President] he said no one; "the People will stay as president".What on earth does this mean? and more important, what does it tell us about the current state of affairs in Honduras' national governance?
In the face of insistence he stated that no one wanted to stay because they were afraid that if they signed anything it would disqualify them politically.
Honduras doesn't have a Vice President, so when the President of Honduras leaves the country, he must appoint one of the three Presidential designados as acting head of government in order to leave.
There are three designados in the Lobo Sosa administration: María Antonieta Guillén de Bográn, Samuel Reyes, and Víctor Hugo Barnica. All three are National party members and were part of the team elected with Lobo Sosa in November 2009.
Each serves as a Presidential Minister, assigned tasks in Lobo Sosa's cabinet. They are supposed to be available to be "designated" as acting chief executive officer. When Lobo Sosa traveled to Colombia and Peru recently, he appointed María Antonieta Guillén de Bográn to head the government in his absence.
Lobo Sosa initially hoped to spend nine days out of the country on this trip to South Africa for the World Cup. However, he told the Foro Nacional de Jóvenes Líderes Rurales none of the designados is willing to be named in his absence, even though that's what they were elected for.
Samuel Reyes is reportedly accompanying him on the present trip, and thus unavailable to serve. A story in El Heraldo quoted Guillén de Bogran as saying she and Víctor Hugo Barnica will share the responsibility. The same article suggested that the concern of the designados was not to sign anything in the capacity of president, to avoid having formally been president and thus ineligible to run in a future election.
Reporting of Lobo Sosa's remarks in La Prensa omitted his comment about the designados not wanting to sign anything, stressing the "no one wants to remain" part of the quote, making it seem as if the issue was that all the designates wanted to go to the World Cup. This account seems disingenuous, ignoring all exchanges about rumors of a coup plot.
The equally pro-coup paper, La Tribuna, reported the same interview as a transcript of questions and answers. These show quite clearly that the reference to who would remain in charge led directly to a discussion of the threats of a coup, which would be a very difficult situation for a designado to find him- or her-self in.
Let's end with that series of exchanges and let them tell their own story:
Journalist: Who's going to remain at the head of the country?
President: At the head? ah... the Honduran people.
Journalist: But to whom will you delegate your duties?
President: No, the people will remain as President.
Journalist: And in the Executive [power]?
President: We'll see, we have three designados.
Journalist: So have you convinced them?
President: Well, remember and you have to understand that there exists a certain fear that is natural, since as they say, if they sign anything, then, they will be disqualified, but we are not going to leave anyone there.
Journalist: Or might they have political aspirations?
President: It could be in the present or it could be in the future and I have nothing against that.
Journalist: Ambassador Rupérez said, that you had assured him that the threats that had been received were not real...
President: No, what I explained to them is that in the mind of many, things are easier than what they might think. So what I said to them is that they should not think that these intentions, thoughts or ideas, would have any result like they would expect, as those that expect in some manner, would start to wander, I assume that they had a lot of alcoholic drinks or something there.
Journalist: Is your denunciation serious, President?
President: Of course, everything that I do, apart from the joking around that we could have and the friendship that we could have, has the reality that what I say and what I have said is totally certain, I know who they are, but what I say is that the intentions that they have are not going to have any result.
Journalist: Have you given the names to the Prosecutor, President, has the prosecutor come to speak with you about this matter or has he still not come?
President: With the prosecutor, as always we have dialogues that are natural because remember that we share an agenda that is very important that is the theme of security. This is a theme that you have to see how it develops, but we are entirely on top of it.
Journalist: So you have not changed your story?
President: No, why should I?
Journalist: Because of what the Ambassador said?
President: The ambassador was referring to... I didn't say to them that there were no intentions, that there is a group that has met and that has intentions, but that this group is going to have the result that they expected, forget it, as they say you can have someone who wants to do something, but from wanting to being able to make it so, that is like from here to Pluto.
Journalist: When will you release the names of them? they have to be unmasked, President.
President: They only are going to flee.
Journalist: It doesn't scare you?
President: Me? how should it frighten me?
Journalist: Are there military in these threats?
President: No sir.
Journalist: Have they called you from the Prosecutor's office to take your declaration?
President: No, today I spoke with the Prosecutor, with two prosecutors more about the theme of Channel 8 that they want to take away from the State.
Journalist: Or that is, they still have not taken a declaration about your denunciation?
President: I assume that the Prosecutor began, I assume actions since it has been written about in the media, some writers have denounced this.
Journalist: In the Prosecutor's officer they say that you should make a denunciation.
President: They have to do it.
Journalist: No, they want you to come and make a complaint.
President: That is a duty of the Prosecutor, when anything is mentioned that touches on what might be a violation of the Constitution of the Republic, to call that person immediately and say, come here, what are you saying...
Journalist: You're not going to give us the names?
President: At an opportune moment.
Journalist: You say that it is a tutti-frutti that we have here, from what sector do they pertain?
President: There are Nationalists, Liberals, there's everything.
Journalist: Are there businessmen as well?
President: There are businessmen, Nationalists, Liberals...
Journalist: From the UD?
President: From the UD, no.
Periodista: ¿Quién va a quedar al frente del país?
Presidente: ¿Al frente?, ah…el pueblo hondureño.
Periodista: ¿Pero a quién delega sus funciones?
Presidente: No, es que queda el pueblo de Presidente.
Periodista: ¿En el Ejecutivo?
Presidente: Vamos a ver, tenemos tres designados.
Periodista: ¿Ya los convenció?
Presidente: Bueno, es que recuerde y hay que entender que existe un cierto temor que es natural, pues como dicen, si firman algo, entonces, se inhabilitan, pero no vamos a dejar a alguien ahí.
Periodista: ¿O sea que tienen aspiraciones políticas?
Presidente: Puede ser de presente o puede ser de futuro y yo no tengo nada en contra de eso.
Periodista: Dijo el embajador Rupérez, que usted les había asegurado que no eran reales las amenazas que había recibido….
Presidente: No, es que yo les explicaba a ellos que en la mente de muchos las cosas son más fáciles de lo que se puede pensar. Entonces lo que les decía es que no deberían pensar que estas intenciones, pensamientos o ideas, tuviesen ningún resultado como el que ellos esperaban, como los que esperaban de algún manera, se ponen a divagar, asumo yo que hay mucha bebida alcohólica o algo por ahí.
Periodista: ¿Su denuncia es seria, Presidente?
Presidente: Claro, todo lo que yo hago, aparte de lo jocoso que podamos ser y la amistad que podamos tener, tiene la realidad de lo que yo digo y lo que yo he dicho es totalmente cierto, sé quiénes son, pero lo que digo es que no van a tener ningún resultado las intenciones que tienen.
Periodista: ¿Ya le dio los nombres a la Fiscalía, Presidente, ya llegó el fiscal a platicar con usted sobre este asunto o todavía no ha venido?
Presidente: Con el fiscal, como siempre tenemos diálogos que son naturales porque recuerde que compartimos una agenda que es muy importante que es el tema de la seguridad. Este es un tema que hay que ver cómo se van desarrollando, pero estamos todos encima de esto.
Periodista: ¿De manera que usted no ha cambiado su versión?
Presidente: No ¿y por qué?
Periodista: ¿Por lo que dijo el embajador?
Presidente: Es que el embajador se refirió… yo no les dije que no habían intenciones, que había un grupo que se ha reunido y que hay intenciones, pero que ese grupo va a tener un resultado como ellos esperan, olvídese, como dice aquel puede haber alguien que quiere hacer tal cosa, pero de que quiera a que pueda lograr concretarlo, eso está como de aquí a Plutón.
Periodista: ¿Cuándo vamos a conocer los nombres de ellos?, hay que irlos desenmascarando, Presidente.
Presidente: Ellos solos van a ir saliendo.
Periodista: ¿No lo atemoriza?
Presidente: ¿A mí, en que me va a atemorizar?
Periodista: ¿Hay militares en esas amenazas?
Presidente: No señor
Periodista: ¿Ya lo llamaron de la Fiscalía para tomarle la declaración?
Presidente: No, hoy hable con la Fiscalía, con dos fiscales más sobre el tema del canal que le quieren quitar al Estado.
Periodista: ¿O sea que todavía no le toman declaración sobre su denuncia?
Presidente: Yo asumo que la Fiscalía inició, asumió acciones desde que se ha estado escribiendo en los medios, algunos escritores han denunciado eso.
Periodista: En la Fiscalía dicen que usted debería poner la denuncia.
Presidente: Deberían hacerlo.
Periodista: No, ellos quieren que usted vaya a poner la denuncia.
Presidente: Es un deber de la Fiscalía, cuando se menciona algo que linda con lo que es violentar la Constitución de la República, llamar inmediatamente a esa persona y decirle, venga para acá, lo que usted está diciendo…
Periodista: ¿No les va a dar usted los nombres?
Presidente: En su momento oportuno.
Periodista: ¿Usted dice que un tuti-fruti el que hay acá, a qué sector pertenecen estos?
Presidente: Si hay nacionalistas, liberales, hay de todo.
Periodista: ¿Hay empresarios, también?
Presidente: Hay empresarios, hay nacionalistas, liberales…
Periodista: ¿De la UD?
Presidente: De la UD, no.