Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Honduras back in SICA or, what about the bylaws?

The headlines in many newspapers across Central America, like this one from El Salvador's El Mundo, pronounced Wednesday morning that Honduras was "approved to reincorporate itself into SICA" (emphasis added).

But is that really true? The Presidents of all the Central American countries except Nicaragua met in El Salvador and reportedly issued a proclamation urging the OAS to rapidly reincorporate Honduras back into the OAS. That would be news, but of course, is not the same thing as being reincorporated into SICA.

There is also a claim that Honduras was readmitted to SICA as a fully functioning member yesterday, but interestingly there is no such announcement or resolution on SICA's website. [See below for updates on this point.]

The only posted result of the most recent SICA meeting makes no mention of the reincorporation of Honduras, and lacks a signature from the representative of Nicaragua. Maybe they're just not into transparency?

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega decided last night to reprimand the other Central American presidents for their "ridiculousness" in issuing the proclamation that Honduras was reincorporated in SICA.

In a speech broadcast Tuesday evening, Ortega dismissed his Central American colleagues as "ridiculous" and as "challenging Central American integration", the NOTIMEX news service reported.

Ortega also said Nicaragua does not recognize the reintegration of Honduras in SICA, and that any such resolution passed at the extraordinary session held in El Salvador on July 20 lacks legal validity because SICA resolutions require unanimity under SICA bylaws. Nicaragua did not vote for any such resolution. Ortega said the announcement by his colleagues violates the basis of the SICA treaty. He said he considers that his colleagues "did something ridiculous" because SICA has its rules and establishes consensus as the rule, and consensus "requires unanimity"; without it, "you simply cannot make such decisions".

We first pointed out this SICA bylaw problem when SICA Secretary General Juan Daniel Alemán Gurdián (a Nicaraguan opponent of the current government of that country) unilaterally declared that no resolution was necessary to reincorporate Honduras into SICA, and that it had never been suspended, patently ignoring the SICA resolution of June 29, 2009.

There was no reaction at the time from any member government, not even President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, who Alemán accused of just "getting it wrong" for reporting that no consensus had been reached. Which, given that President Ortega would have to be part of any consensus, shows that Funes was correct and Alemán is, lets say, playing fast and loose with the truth.

Meanwhile, Mario Canahuati, the Honduran Foreign Minister, boasted today that he had "24 or 25" votes for Honduras's readmission to the OAS. Under OAS bylaws he only needs 22 votes, a two-thirds majority.

But Boz, in a comment on an earlier post, noted that the OAS normally operates with consensus. He predicted that until the vote could be 30-0 or 28-0 with the remaining countries abstaining, the OAS is unlikely to consider a motion to readmit Honduras.

The reason that SICA coming to a consensus about reintegrating Honduras is important, is that it is the group most likely to accept Honduras back first, for pragmatic reasons: the need for economic integration, negotiation over contested territorial limits in the ocean that can otherwise lead to seizing of fishing boats, and the like.

Boz mentioned such pragmatic considerations in his post earlier today on early reports of "formal reintegration" of Honduras in SICA. There, he argued that it was unlikely that the other Central American presidents would have acted in Ortega's absence, against his expressed position:
I have a hard time believing that the region's presidents, particularly Colom and Funes, would have done this without Ortega's knowledge. I think [Ortega] chose not to attend as a way to abstain from having to either vote in favor or against. That way he can continue his opposition at the OAS and elsewhere, which only has political consequences, while having Honduras back within the Central American community, which benefits the region's economic health.

And this sounds about right to us. But when the other presidents announced that they were in favor of full reintegration of Honduras into the OAS-- assuming that report is true-- Ortega would have had every reason to be outraged. Having arranged not to stand in the way of the necessary (for the people of Honduras, and the region) economic reintegration, while maintaining opposition to the political reintegration into OAS, he finds himself bypassed and blind-sided.

Which we expect will increase, not decrease, his vocal opposition to OAS reintegration. And it is not just Nicaragua, of course (although having one's close neighbor oppose this should rhetorically count for quite a bit).

As the rabidly pro-coup Honduran online Proceso Digital put it, "Even though Central America wants it, South America confirms blockade of Honduras":
from the South they sent a jar of cold water to get across to Tegucigalpa that they will not permit the country to return to the institutional system.

As always, it was incumbent on the aggressive Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa not to fail to take advantage of a visit with the open enemy of Honduras into which the secretary general of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, has converted himself, to affirm that he will not permit the return of the country to the continental organization, unless it accedes to his desires to see imprisoned all those that removed from power his friend and partner José Manuel Zelaya.

Ecuadorian news media, while being far less colorful in their characterizations of the diplomats involved, basically confirmed that Correa told Insulza he was opposed to reintegration of Honduras in the OAS as long as those who participated in the coup enjoy impunity. The actual statement of Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño did not call for mass imprisonment, but it does call for justice:
"For Ecuador the return of Honduras to the OAS is not acceptable as long as there is no clear sanction or initiation of judgment against those responsible for the coup".

"We believe that it is a very bad precedent for democracy in the hemisphere that a country should carry out a coup d'Etat and organize elections in the next months, as if nothing had happened."

And so, if Boz is right in his assessment of the normal operating procedure of the OAS, it will be a long time before there is an agreement, because there is no indication that anyone in Honduras understands that they have to repudiate the coup, they have to take steps to rid the current government of the hangover coup appointees, and they have to do something substantive and believable about the impunity for the coup authors that was created by the passage of amnesty just before the Micheletti regime stepped down.


boz said...

SICA's Special Declaration on Honduras can be found here.

RNS said...

Thanks. It lacks a signature from anyone representing Nicaragua, and so would appear to violates SICA's bylaws, which do require unanimity from all members. How quaint that they allowed Porfirio Lobo Sosa to sign it!

I would like to point out that in the case of the June 29, 2009 resolution, there was unanimity from all member countries, as required. That decision was signed by Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales as the person SICA recognized as the legal Honduran representative.

This special declaration does not conform to SICA bylaws.

boz said...

I noticed it lacked Nicaragua's signature. So did the main declaration. I honestly don't know what the rules on abstentions are in SICA. I'm sure the argument can (and will) be made both ways. This is rather uncharted waters.

Anonymous said...

The proof that nothing has actually happened is that the State Department is not boasting about it.