Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Cartagena Accord

The Cartagena Accord has been published. Here is a translation of the actual points of the agreement with some initial comments:
1. The framing of all actions and decisions of the government of Honduras in strict compliance with the constitution and the law.

This is a recognition by both sides that Honduras is governed by the rule of law, and that the conflict must be settled using that law. As we've seen, the interpretation of that law can be pretty malleable in the Honduran courts....
2. Ensure that former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales can return to Honduras, with full recognition of his rights under the constitution and laws of Honduras, including the exercise of political action, in terms of security and freedom.

3. Deepening the guarantees for the return, safety, and freedom, of the former officials of the government of former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and others affected by the crisis who are not abroad, with full recognition of their rights under the constitution and laws of Honduras.

This is actually a broadening beyond the initial demand, which was just for guarantees for Zelaya himself. Many former government officials, and members of the FNRP, are still living in exile.
4. To welcome the decision of the competent authorities to anull the legal proceedings against former president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, highlighting the presentation of documents by the Public Prosecutor's office and the Attorney General's office before the ad-hoc Court of Appeals according to which both institutions waive the right to appeal, and its admission by the Court, which makes the Court's decision final.

Put another way, we celebrate the "happy coincidence" that the law allowed the charges against Zelaya to be annulled. But as has been noted many times before, while the Court's decision to annul was final, both the Public Prosecutor and the Attorney General's office retained the right to refile charges at any time once they correct the procedural errors. In the absence of an admission that the charges themselves were without merit, the international position that the charges amounted to political persecution is not upheld by the Cartagena Accord.
5. To watch in a special way to ensure compliance with the constitution of the Republic with regard to guarantees of respect and the protection of human rights.

We're not quite sure what they mean here. Is the Compliance Commission going to have oversight of this ("the special way") or is it the Honduran Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Ana Pineda, who so far has assured there is lip service to Human Rights, but no actual compliance?
6. To ensure compliance with all guarantees that the law gives the National Front for Popular Resistance applying for registration [as a political party] before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to participate democratically in the electoral political process in Honduras and to enable government agencies to integrate it as an electoral political equal. In this context and with the full respect of procedures and legal powers, to instruct the Compliance Commission to verify compliance with the procedures for registration of the People's National Front in an atmosphere of cooperation and transparency.

In some ways this is the most interesting of the agreements. It highlights the tension within the FNRP over whether to become a political party or not. Negotiations were carried out by Juan Barahona, a former campesino leader, on behalf of the FNRP, and he has clearly been in favor of the Frente becoming a political party, but other significant factions in the Frente, such as COPINH, have not. It will be interesting to see their public statements in reaction to the agreement. Can the Frente survive being fractioned into both a political party, and a wider social movement as this split would imply?
7. Reiterate that the amendment to Article 5 of the Honduran constitution regulates the call for a referendum with clearly established procedures, allowing the possibility for the people to be consulted. This reform enables all sectors to launch legal procedures to conduct a plebiscite and thus subject directly to the will of the people the political, economic and social through the new constitutional plebiscite and referendum. Therefore, the request that the former president Zelaya made to convene a National Constituent Assembly will be part of these consultation mechanisms. In this regard, the government of Honduras is committed to the taking measures that are within their legal powers to ensure the electoral rights of citizens, and to instruct the Compliance Commission to verify compliance with the procedures established for the conduct of referendums in the Republic of Honduras, when this process is initiated by any sector, with total respect for the legal powers of the branches of government, which complement the paperwork associated with these processes.

While Zelaya initially called for, as part of the accord, a National Constituent Assembly, this clause represents Lobo Sosa's response. Lobo Sosa and the Honduran National Congress have been busy making sure that everything Zelaya tried to do, and allegedly was overthrown for doing, is sanctioned under current Honduran law. To that end, Congress rewrote large sections of the Constitution over the last 2 years, making it possible for citizens to collect signatures to convene an election to modify the constitution of Honduras.

The fact that the Frente collected over a million signatures (1.3 million) calling for a National Constituent Assembly certainly contributed to making this a legislative priority of the current government.
8. Recognize the creation of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights as the entity that will strengthen national capacities for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in Honduras, following up on recommendations made to Honduras as a result of having submitted the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva, and coordinate and harmonize the cooperation and support of the United Nations and other international organizations to strengthen public policies and national capacities to ensure full respect for human rights in Honduras. In the same vein, the Honduran presidency has asked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the UN to install an office in Honduras.

The new Ministry of Justice and Human Rights seems to be well intentioned, but ineffectual. It makes pronouncements, but not policy. As an example, the Minister, Ana Pineda, denounced the new wiretapping bill being considered by Congress as going too far and violating Hondurans rights to privacy. This did not trigger a reconsideration of the bill, which is expected to pass unchanged this week. Congress basically ignored her.
9. The Compliance Commission will consist initially of the foreign ministers of Colombia and Venezuela, who will assume office after the signing of this agreement by the President of the Republic of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo Sosa and former President, José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, and as witnessed by the Presidents of Colombia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Juan Manuel Santos and Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias.

The Compliance Commission is a purely ornamental body, having no actual power to enforce the Accord. They can only shame non-compliant parties through public exposure. The body of the agreement in another section states that the parties may add other countries to the Compliance Commission by mutual agreement.

All of this was accomplished without the United States, whose State Department has remained silent about the mediation efforts being carried out by Presidents Santos and Chavez.

Indeed, the US State Department has been decidedly unhelpful in pursuing mediation, having called several times in the last month, as the mediation was being carried out, for the OAS to immediately return Honduras to full membership. In the end, Arturo Valenzuela, who is stepping down as Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs said this was a very positive step because it showed they were overcoming their deep divisions and it recognizes the legitimacy of the Lobo Sosa government.

This accord brings certainty to Honduras' return full OAS membership.

What it will mean for reconciliation within Honduras remains to be seen. Does Porfirio Lobo Sosa have the political influence in his own party, let alone in the Liberal Party, to encourage support and follow through? Will the Frente, or a significant enough portion of it, take up the offer to become a political party, and what will happen to those elements of the Frente that do not wish to do so? Will anti-Zelaya forces be able to resist the urge to bring the same (or variant) charges again, once Zelaya is back in the country?

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