Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reactions to the Cartagena Accord, Part 4: The UCD responds

The Union Civica Democratoica (UCD) has spoken, and they don't like the Cartagena Accord.

No surprise there.

Speaking for the UCD, Fernando Anduray said
"What we are not in agreement with is an accord that was signed to aid the initiatives of the government of Venezuela and the president of Colombia without consulting Honduras."

So, Porfirio Lobo Sosa clearly doesn't speak for Honduras in Anduray's universe.

The directorate of the UCD held a press conference on May 26 to denounce the accord. According to Rina Callejas de Guillen
"I regret that President Porfirio Lobo Sosa continues to humiliate and act behind the back of the Honduran people, officiating and sacrificing our dignity to the highest bidder..."

Callejas de Guillen was speaking as the new President of the UCD.

Their "constitutionalist", Irma de Acosta Fortin got right to the point, following the lead of Jimmy Dacaret and Fernando Anduray of a few days earlier.
"the pretense of the Cartagena Accord is to make possible the installation of a National Constituent Assembly, which is absolutely unconstitutional."

She sees no reason for constitutional reform anyway; she noted that after all, 98 percent of the constitutional clauses can be modified without resorting to a National Constituent Assembly.

I guess she missed the discussion over the last two years that made it clear there was a significant desire to reconsider all of the clauses of the 1982 constitution, which was crafted largely with US help and with an agenda that had more to do with ensuring governmental rigidity than allowing change.

Also at the press conference was a spokesperson for the Association of Reservists of Honduras, Aversio Navas, who suggested that the US might reject the actions called for in the Cartagena Accord, and cut off economic cooperation with Honduras.

In fact Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, has already lauded Lobo Sosa for carrying out the negotiations, so Navas's profession of fear of US rejection was already without merit when pronounced.

(You will remember that it was the Association of Reservists who responded when the UCD issued its call for marches in support of Roberto Micheletti Bain, the so called "white shirts".)

So the UCD proves true to form.

They think the fix is in for a National Constituent Assembly. It's not.

The Frente could try to make a call for a National Constituent Assembly by means of a plebiscite or referendum thanks to the new set of laws passed by Congress, but in order for that to get on the ballot, it will require the approval of Congress.

It would surprise me if this conservative, Nationalist party dominated, neoliberal Congress would approve such a referendum.

The UCD is still fighting the ghosts of the 1980s, not "twenty-first century socialism", its professed enemy.

Everyone else has moved on; it's time they did too.


Ardegas said...

I guess she missed the discussion over the last two years that made it clear there was a significant desire to reconsider all of the clauses of the 1982 constitution.

I guess I missed that discussion, too. Can you bother to give some references?

which was crafted largely with US help and with an agenda that had more to do with ensuring governmental rigidity than allowing change.

Wow, I miss that too. I thought the Constitution had already been changed many times. What do you mean by governmental rigidity? What do you think is wrong with the current Constitution? What is the Zelayista alternative for this current Constitution? How does this current Constitution reflects the U.S. agenda, as you seem to imply?

RAJ said...

We don't have room enough in a response to a comment to recapitulate all the discussions about what the Zelaya government proposed needed to be changed in the current Honduran constitution.

Readers who care to take the time to read are invited to begin with our post on July 1, 2009, reporting on an editorial written by the Minister of Culture in the Zelaya government.

As Dr. Pastor Fasquelle wrote:

although its beneficiaries do not wish to see it, the present political system, petrified in the Constitution, is broken, more than the treasury. It is a system of corruption and privileges frozen by constitutionalization of corporatist pretensions and by groups of incontravertible economic power. It does not assure the fulfillment of the duties of citizenship and the payment of its obligations (no one in any country in the world has to be exempt from paying income tax) nor does it guarantee the enjoyment of minimum rights.

Among specifics that continue to fuel the interest of the Frente de Resistencia in constitutional reformation are these points made by Dr. Pastor Fasquelle:

we have to broaden the rights of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities to bring ourselves into line with our international commitments in these areas. Because even today the rights indigenous people derive from their condition are not recognized

As for Ardegas comment that the constitution has been changed many times: yes it has. Over and over, the same clauses some times, so that it grew to become what Oscar Arias famously called the "worst constitution in the world".

Far from proving that this is a good constitution, the ability of the Honduran congress to make changes almost at whim illustrates some of the built-in rigidity of this constitution. The main mechanism for amendment envisaged was by the congress-- there are no explicit mechanisms for the people to intervene. The checks and balances against congress switching things back and forth frivolously reside in the requirement to pass changes in two successive sessions. But as political power is deeply entrenched in the incumbent parties, that turns out to be no problem. In 2009 we discussedone example of the abusive use of this congressional prerogative that nicely illustrates that part of the problem.

For the context surrounding the writing of the 1982 constitution, under US guidance, accompanied by an increase in institutionalized militarism, we refer you to William Robinson's 2003 Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social Change, and Globalization, as one starting point.

Ardegas said...

Fasquelle's article was his personal opinion. I never knew about that article, because I rarely read diario Tiempo. So, it's not fair to criticize a person for not reading an obscure article in a relatively minor newspaper, years ago, saying "they are missing the discussion".

There was no discussion. This is just personal opinion. I wish there could be a real discussion, and Fasquelle's article could be a starting point, but unfortunately, the louder voices are not those of the intellectuals, but of the agitators.

Reading Fasquelle's peace and your own answer, I get the impression that the real problem, as you both perceive it, is not the Constitution per se, is how to get the "right people" (from the Left) in Congress, so they could make "progressive laws".

I don't know if Zelaya's crowd has the "right people" for the job, but as in Zelaya's administration the Congress was not responsive, it needed to get out of the way, by a virtual Zelayista coup d'Etat they couldn't pull out, because a counter-coup stopped them.

So, I guess the mistake was not using the right procedure: First get your people elected, and then change the laws. Maybe, the democratic way is not viable for the progressive crowd, because of the rule of bipartidism, and so the need to rely on "unorthodox" means.

RAJ said...

At the risk of annoying you further, we would point out that Dr. Pastor Fasquelle's article was not the only place where the goals for constitutional change were laid out, both before the coup d'etat and after. Our referring you to that piece was meant to get you started; to follow up these serious issues, you need to read more, but it is not our job to assign you reading.

Anyone who starts out by saying they do not read Tiempo has deprived themselves of the closest thing to a useful newspaper in Honduras. We would suggest you try reading it regularly; we read all the Honduran newspapers available online daily, and we can tell you that the information content is higher in Tiempo than the rest combined.

Editorials by members of the government involved are actually useful sources of information about the policies of that government, so you should really not reject this source so quickly.

As for additional discussion: if you read any of the coverage of the various meetings by the Frente de Resistencia, and the documents they produced, you would have another source of information about what changes to the constitution the opposition in Honduras thinks would be desireable.

I am not sure how you manage to ignore the arguments in Dr. Pastor Fasquelle's article for rewriting the constitution and reduce his editorial to a call for getting certain people elected, but then, I feel we may have some fundamental communication problems here. You use terms like "agitators"; I assume you mean, the people I would call the resistance. That is language spread by the extremely biased Honduran media, and it usually means there is no point in further discussion, because you have already decided the resistance is not intellectual (without reading their position papers).

You assume the goal of decreasing electoral rigidity in Honduras is getting specific people elected, then label those figments of your imagination "the Left". But the problems that exist with the representational approach in the 1982 Honduran constitution are not about right and left; they are about entrenched power. All the parties enjoy entrenched power, including the UD (which would normally be considered the most "left" political party in Honduras). None of them actually have to follow the norms of democracy as experienced in the US or Europe; they are, in fact, more like US politics ca. 1900, with party bosses deciding who gets to rule.

And like that US situation, the problem is that the electorate is wooed with rhetoric and often exaggerated claims, but is not in fact given the opportunity to determine policies. Reforms in the US led to the present situation-- which still is too dominated by two parties, but in which the electorate can influence policy.

That is what the distinction between "participatory democracy", the goal in Honduras, and "representative democracy", refers to. Representative systems do not invite direct participation in making policy by the people.

Finally, your last two paragraphs-- although not clear in English-- reflect the fully debunked claim that the Zelaya administration was planning to seize power and had to be stopped by the coup d'etat. The public opinion poll scheduled for June 28, 2009 would not have changed the governmental system. It wasn't even about changing the constitution. It was about putting a question on the ballot the following November about possibly convening a constitutional assembly after Zelaya would have stepped down.

But I realize you will not accept that. After all, you don't read the wider world of sources that would have helped you understand this.

Ardegas said...

Going back to the original claim that Irma Acosta de Fortin was "missing the discussion", I answered that claim saying no one has the duty of reading a particular private newspaper. These are not official communications.

While Zelaya was in office he had a formidable propaganda machine, and he could have use it to explain the necessity for a new Constitution. He didn't.

I don't apologize for not reading Tiempo. I believe it is a low quality newspaper, compared to the competition. Also, take into account, that this newspaper has the northern part of the country as its target audience. And as I don't live there, my informational needs are better suited reading La Tribuna or El Heraldo.

And I mention this to underline that it is unreasonable to expect that everyone should read this newspaper, or else "they're missing the discussion".

Tiempo newspaper is owned by a wealthy Jew, maybe the wealthiest man of Honduras. From the point of view of those who embraced the class struggle rhetoric (the Zelayistas) he is not to be trusted.

I believe all media has its bias, but the Zelayista media, with its wild and exaggerated claims, does not inspire me more confidence that the traditional media.

You said:

Finally, your last two paragraphs-- although not clear in English-- reflect the fully debunked claim that the Zelaya administration was planning to seize power and had to be stopped by the coup d'etat.

I do believe he was planning to seize power. What else could be the purpose of such massive propaganda and mobilization? Make no mistake: this wasn't a simple poll of opinion, there was so much at stake. And I don't claim to know he was trying to do it exactly on June 28, 2009. Maybe the military got nervous. They shouldn't have expelled Zelaya from the country. That was a mistake.

RAJ said...

The editorial written by Rodolfo Pastor was not the only place where the goals of the constituyente were discussed. It was a single starting point for you to read, and for others similarly interested.

There was a lot more documentation available in the last two years, including-- as we said in additional comments here-- the many documents from the assemblies of the Frente. These document the many issues that indigenous people, women's rights activists, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and campesinos have with the current constitution.

Nor is it true that there is no evidence of the actual goals that the Zelaya administration had in promoting a popular consultation about the possibility of having a ballot question about whether or not to convene a constitutional assembly. The evidence exists-- it just does not happen to support your assumptions.

To take one striking example: among the materials seized by the Honduran Armed Forces after they raided Zelaya's house in 2009 was a printed document, for distribution if the June 28 consulta passed, explaining goals that a constitutional assembly might have. You can read our English translation of the document, posted by the armed forces, here.

The list of goals given there is quite clear: it includes women's rights, rights of minorities, rights of the people to intervene politically directly, through participation.

And such goals were in fact discussed by Zelaya administration officials before the coup. The pro-coup news media in Honduras either did not cover these statements or denied that they had any validity, repeating the assertion that there could be only one reason to pursue a constitutional assembly.

We reiterate that any Honduran could have made him or her self aware of the goals of a constitutional assembly in the two years since the coup, even if they had not done so before. That includes Irma Acosta de Fortin.

Your last few paragraphs confirm that you are not willing to take the effort to seek those media that are going to inform you about the issues. You cannot then claim that no one could have been informed: just that you choose not to.

There was-- and is-- plenty of reason to undertake a revision of the 1982 constitution to change the fundamental political system so that it no longer institutionalizes a political elite; so that it ensures the rights of minorities; and so that it is in keeping with international treaties Honduras has in theory agreed to abide by.

I have the evidence-- documentary evidence-- to back my understanding up. What do you have, other than propaganda and fear?