Saturday, March 19, 2011

"State of Emergency" in the schools (K-12 only)

Vos el Soberano has posted the complete text of Decree PCM-016-2011, dated March 18, in which Porfirio Lobo Sosa grants himself extraordinary powers to fire, hire, and generally run the school system.

This is only the latest in a string of sweeping declarations of "emergency" by Lobo Sosa, that echo the state of emergency decrees through which Roberto Micheletti asserted control by his de facto regime.

This decree cites Article 9 of the Ley de Contratación del Estado as allowing for such declarations when "continuity of, or the opportune offering of, State services" is affected. One thing we learned from Roberto Micheletti is to always check the original to see what the claimed authority actually says, so here is Article 9 in its entirety (see end of post for Spanish original)
ARTICULO 9.-Emergency situations.
The declaration of a state of emergency will be made through a Decree by the President of the Republic in the Council of Ministers or by vote of two-thirds of the respective Municipal Corporation.

The contracts that are agreed to in situations of emergency, will require later approval, by agreement of the President of the Republic, emitted by means of the corresponding Cabinet Minister, or of the Directing Junta or Council of the respective Decentralized Institution or of the Municipal Corporation, if it is relevant.

In whichever of the cases the result should be communicated to the control bodies, within 10 working days following, provided that the celebration of contracts is foreseen.

When situations of emergency occur due to natural disasters, epidemics, public calamity, necessities of defence or related to states of emergency, or other exceptional circumstances that substantially affect the continuity or opportune and efficient provision of public services, the construction of public works, the purveyance of goods or services or the lending of consulting servces that might be strictly necessary, without subjecting them to the requirements of solicitation of bids and the remaining regulatory dispositions, without prejudice to the functions of auditory control.

It is an ambituous stretch to use a law intended to absolve government from the need to submit contracts for competitive bids in the case of natural disasters, epidemics, of defense emergencies to allow the government to arbitrarily suspend teachers and replace them. But this is a now-familiar pattern: laws in Honduras seem to exist to be mined for phrases that can be taken out of the context for which they were intended, to underwrite impunity.

This is actually what dictatorship looks like when it is cloaked in the guise of representational government.

And while constraints of time prevent me from translating and commenting on this whole document now, it is worth noting that the preamble-- always the most creative and revealing thing in these documents-- recycles the arguments made by the discredited Ombudsman, Ramón Custodio, against teachers' unions, portraying retaliation against unions as required by international human rights conventions that guarantee a right to education.

Perversity seems to be the rhetorical mode of Honduran government in the post-coup era. How better to slough off the stench of human rights violations deserved for causing the death of your own citizens by releasing the army on them, then to claim that the protests you are suppressing are themselves a violation of human rights?

ARTICULO 9.-Situaciones de emergencia.

La declaración del estado de emergencia se hará mediante Decreto del Presidente de la República en Consejo de Ministros o por el voto de las dos terceras partes de la respectiva Corporación Municipal.

Los contratos que se suscriben en situaciones de emergencia, requerirán de aprobación posterior, por acuerdo del Presidente de la República, emitido por medio de la Secretaría de Estado que corresponda, o de la Junta o Consejo Directivo de la respectiva Institución Descentralizada o de la Corporación Municipal, si es el caso.

En cualquiera de los casos deberá comunicarse lo resuelto a los órganos contralores, dentro de los diez (10) días hábiles siguientes, siempre que se prevea la celebración de contratos.

Cuando ocurran situaciones de emergencia ocasionados por desastres naturales, epidemias, calamidad pública, necesidades de la defensa o relacionadas con estados de excepción, u otras circunstancias excepcionales que afectaren sustancialmente la continuidad o la prestación oportuna y eficiente de los servicios públicos, podrá contratarse la construcción de obras públicas, el suministro de bienes o de servicios o la prestación de servicios de consultoría que fueren estrictamente necesarios, sin sujetarse a los requisitos de licitación y demás disposiciones reglamentarias, sin perjuicio de las funciones de fiscalización.


Anonymous said...

And the difference between this and what was signed into law by Governor Snyder is what, exactly?

I mean, besides the fact that Snyder claims even wider powers and doesn't claim to base these unprecedented powers in international law.


RAJ said...

There is an obvious connection between reactionary forces in the US today and reactionary forces globally. It is not accidental that public unions are targets in both arenas. It is not even, I dare say, accidental that public education is a target in both arenas.

In other places, where I blog about the US, I find myself sometimes having a dizzying feeling that what I am critiquing in the US is just a slightly less parliamentary version of what I am critiquing in Honduras.

So the question is, does that difference matter? I think it does. Honduras is in a much less democratic state than the US, even with our current appalling atmosphere. The refusal of the Wisconsin capital police to allow into the building people-- including legislators-- participating in a long tradition of protest was shocking. But they did not throw tear gas at the crowds, and no one died.

And because of a certain quirky insistence on my part that the warrants claimed matter, I also think that it makes an enormous difference that Lobo Sosa grounds his claim in legislation that does not in fact support what he is doing. He is twisting the legislative basis, perverting international agreements for protection of human rights, and while I acknowledge that similar claims are made by some extremists in the current US climate, they are not acceptable, routine, governance.

Anonymous said...

Yes. I was being ironic. As I commented on Mercury Rising when someone said that Walker had lost the game when the police union sided with the uprising (to paraphrase) "He can have the National Guard shoot the police." Unfortunately, there's no generally-accepted, easily-typed emoticon for snark.

I, too, am glad that unlike Honduras, it is not possible in the US to get the military to shoot dissidents. Yet, at least.

I do think, though, that the differences between the US and Honduras are more cosmetic than substantive. There's no indication that I can see that the US is less corrupt, or that its elites are no more drunk on power. They aren't as clumsy about it.


RAJ said...

Sorry, sometimes I don't do irony; when the world seems to be melting down, for example.

I am not even sure it is actually the case that

re's no indication that I can see that the US is less corrupt, or that its elites are no more drunk on power. They aren't as clumsy about it.

Wisconsin's governor was pretty clumsy and pretty clearly drunk on what he thought was power.

But I tend to think this is an inherent risk in systems of governance. For me, two things turn governance from an already uncomfortable thing into a dangerous and deadly thing. First is open twisting of words to mean other than they do: and here I think we would agree that in the US we are on the same road as Honduras, when people can make ahistorical claims about even recent events, and can claim documents say things that they do not say. Both Lobo Sosa and constitutional fundamentalists seek strings of words that they can take out of context and abuse.

So we have one of the two most dangerous things well entrenched here and getting worse, as virulent anti-intellectualism is added to the mix.

But we still have not reached the point in the current conflicts where the armed forces of the country are firing on the people. That has happened, again, in our not so distant past-- I am thinking here of the attack on the Bonus Army in Washington in 1932-- so I am not smug about this. But it is not, as it appears to be in Honduras, normal and accepted.