Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Explosive, but no longer set in stone"

That's how Upside Down World subtitled a post by Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle on the effects and reception of recent action by the Honduran Congress.

As we wrote in a previous post, the Honduran Congress passed a law that, once ratified by being passed by the next session of Congress, explicitly makes it legal to hold public referenda on constitutional reform. We wrote that what the Honduran congress did
is in no way a substitute for what the Zelaya government was proposing, and what the Frente de Resistencia has continued to advocate. Both the Zelaya government and the Frente have pursued completely revisiting the constitution through a participatory forum, an assembly, not [just] via amendment by the Congress, which these bodies argue is not truly representative of the will of the Honduran people or its broader interests and needs.

In a separate post, we pointed out the hypocrisy involved, since merely talking about asking the populace if they wanted to be asked their opinion about constitutional reform was equated, after the coup d'etat, to advocating for changes to the "set in stone" articles of the constitution, while this new legislative move was defended from the same charges.

But only an insider to Honduran politics like Pastor Fasquelle could provide a clear analysis of who wins, who loses, and the opportunities that this legislative move provides.

Pastor Fasquelle notes that Lobo Sosa had spoken in favor of constitutional reform before the coup. Lobo Sosa has made statements in the same vein since his election as president. So from that perspective, his advocacy for this is not entirely surprising, and in the present situation, it is politically expedient.

As Pastor Fasquelle writes
It should also be obvious at this stage that the National Party believes it has created the superficial changes necessary to prevent real, profound change from taking place.

This is the side of the argument that sees the congressional action as an attempt to preempt real constitutional change emerging from the will of the people.

But Pastor Fasquelle thinks that the political establishment has unleashed more than it intended:
A critical analysis of the amendment, in context, needs to take into account the dangers and should recognize its opportunistic and partisan intent. At the same time it must also recognize there has been an opening and that opportunism has created an actual opportunity.

He points to the endorsement by former President Zelaya of the action by the Honduran Congress as part of his evidence that the unintended consequences may be broader than the intended ones:
The amendment has changed the rules, and opened possibilities for the Resistance, despite the intentions of its authors.

Writing as a member-- not a spokesman-- of the Resistance, Pastor Fasquelle notes the FNRP
needs no official recognition to call for a referendum for a Constituent Assembly and to demand the repeal of amnesty for human rights violators on the day the law is officially passed. And soon the Congress may be facing an even bigger challenge: a drive to collect the one hundred thousand signatures needed to call a referendum on the abolition of the Armed Forces has already been announced.

This is where the experience that the Resistance gained in mobilizing a drive for signatures on a petition for a constitutional assembly might be seen, in retrospect, as a more significant form of political action than forming a conventional political party would have been.

Not that Hondurans can expect that the consequences of this legislation will unroll without additional drama. The right-wing Unión Civica Democratica has voiced fierce opposition to the measure, and has every possibility of being more influential in Washington than any of the other positions Pastor Fasquelle outlines, because as he notes the UCD
also has increased its presence in Washington, where it has now ever more powerful congressional allies, to pressure the Obama Administration against what its members believe to be an action as criminal as they claimed Zelaya’s poll to be.

US policy toward Honduras has hardly been coherent or progressive even before the elevation of a more right wing House of Representatives brought about by the 2010 elections. The indications that House members will politick on an overly simplified storyline of right wing nightmares are already clear. How will the recent action of the Honduran Congress that has been promoted by the US right as guarantors of constitutional integrity factor into this going forward?

Thanks to Quotha for reposting Pastor Fasquelle's published essay and ensuring it came to our attention quickly.

No comments: