Sunday, July 05, 2009

Zelaya's effort to return to Honduras

As this case gets stranger and stranger, we await to see exactly where Mel Zelaya's plane lands. The Honduran authorities say it will be El Salvador.

I have been trying unsuccessfully to think of another Latin American case where a president was overthrown, and then kept trying to come back while the new government was truly desperate to ensure that said president could not re-enter the country to be arrested and tried. Indeed, one curious aspect of this crisis is the strong intent never to allow any sort of trial to take place.

At least in (relatively) recent memory, when a president is overthrown the most common outcome is that he/she flees or is granted safe passage through the intervention of other countries (Salvador Allende's death in 1973 is an exception). From a variety of ideological positions, Jacobo Arbenz appealed to Mexico in 1954, Juan Perón barely escaped with his life in 1955, Joao Goulart headed to Uruguay in 1964, and Anastasio Somoza bounced from Miami to Paraguay in 1979.

None of them said, "Hey, I am going back right now!"

Zelaya appears still to have enough confidence in Honduran institutions that he feels returning to the country can result in some outcome he will accept. I do not want to stretch, but this is a positive sign--at the very least, I would think it means he does not think he will be summarily killed, which with many coups is a real and legitimate fear.

But it also highlights the fact that, despite the many charges (I believe eighteen, at last count) levied against Zelaya, the coup government really does not want to proceed with formal charges against him. I agree that avoiding bloodshed is critical, but certain guarantees could be made that would avoid a massive confrontation at the airport once Zelaya arrived.


Anonymous,  5:40 PM  

Well there you go reading the intentions of the side you favor and castgating anyone who does the same for Zelaya. The govt. in Honduras does not want to "try" him not for lack of evidence nor for lack of will but simply because Zelaya's plan is based on a media spectacle. He wants to be a victim of the golpe. He has little in the way of affirmative democratic credentials. "I am more democratic than those oligarchs." Thus far this has been a series of media events more than a traditional coup. Both sides know it and are trying to establish a narrative that leaves them in the best possible situation with regard to international public opinion should this become violent. The history of the coup will partly be written with regard to twitter, media and so forth just as the Marcos overthrow was influenced by CNN in 1986.

Justin Delacour 6:06 PM  

at the very least, I would think it means he does not think he will be summarily killed...

Well, of course. Who in their right mind is going to kill a president in front of TV cameras, with Miguel D'Escoto and a bunch of ambassadors surrounding the man, and the OAS chief and two Latin American presidents tag-teaming behind?

Nobody is that crazy. Not even Pinocheletti.

leftside 6:12 PM  

The Honduran legal system has shown itself to be under the thumb of the coup plotters. For example, if they had any semblence of proof of Zelaya's alleged drug running, why didn't we hear about it until now? They tried throwing the kitchen sink at Zelata - to scare him from returning apparently. What an idiotic decision. They've discredited themselves and made Zelaya want to come and clear his name. All this over an opinion poll and 5 more months in office. On smarts alone these coupsters get a failing grade.

Weeks' point is valid. No real legal system would do everything possible to avoid a trial.

Anonymous,  7:48 PM  

CNN has referred to Telesur as Honduran television. Chavez is directing this political theater...

Steven Taylor 9:15 PM  

On smarts alone these coupsters get a failing grade.


leftside 10:57 PM  

It's becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration is not committed to restoring Zelaya. I knew something was up when I heard Obama's first words that stressed "not interfering," when we knew the State Department had been intimately involved with events prior to the coup and held all the possible diplomatic cards. Since then, we've seen the State Department refuse to call a coup a coup and a number of other worrying comments totally out of step with the world from unnamed US officials.

Now, the Washington Post is reporting that US officials tried to persuade Zelaya from making the trip today. This could not have been just to "prevent bloodshed" (echoing the putschists), for the plane could have simply and easily been diverted to our Soto Cano military base. Refusal to consider that option shows where Honduran democracy rates in the scheme of things...

And check out this jaw-dropping quote from Davidow - Obama's special advisor at the Summit of Americas.

"The threats against democracy in Latin America, and I don't in any way minimize what's happened in Honduras . . . are not those coming from military coups, but rather from governments which are ignoring checks and balances, overriding other elements of government.

I was amazed not only because of its foreign policy implications, but also in the timing. This clearly signals US displeasure with Zelaya and takes the position of the coupsters in the forthcoming legal arguments, whether in Tegucalpa or the Hague. We can debate the (frightening and hypocritical) larger point another day (I wonder if Mr. Davidow believes that Roosevelt "stacked the courts" and Garcia in Peru shuts down TV stations), but it is now clear to me at least, where the intellectual sympathies of this State Department lie.

Zelaya is supposed to return to Washington, according to this article. I would advise him to tell the US to play real diplomatic hard ball with the putschists (ie. some real consequences) or the US will be held partially responsible for whatever comes next. Forces are quickly radicalizing, particularly with the apparent killing of a youth.

Gabriel,  11:46 PM  

If some foreign government had sent an uninvited plane to the US that lacked authorization our military would blow it out of the sky. Luckily for Zelaya Honduras did not decide to follow that approach.

leftside 3:53 AM  

Gabriel, if some crooked cabal of entitled elites violated our Constitution and got some elements of the military to oust Obama from the country and would not let him return, I would hope the patriotic US military would realize where their real loyalties lie. I would also hope that those who have studied and care about Latin America would realize that coups are almost never good for a country. And particularly not when based on such pathetic circumstances as this.

Gabriel,  6:37 AM  

And if some US president openly,repeatedly, and deliberately ignored judicial rulings I would hope they'd be kicked out of office.

Luckily for those of us in the US our institutions are strong enough to deal with such a potential crisis. In Honduras' case Zelaya's irresponsible actions were magnified by that country's inability to deal with a rogue president in a more institutionalized manner.

Nell 7:20 AM  


Could you provide a link to Davidow's statement?

Anonymous,  9:58 AM  


It seems to me that Bertrande Aristide did something similar in both 1991 and 2004. However, he did not have the support of ALBA or the US government.

Nell 10:53 AM  

Answering my own request, the quote from Davidow is in a classic piece of Washington Post "analysis" that is straight State Department stenography.

The piece is clearly intended to reassure uneasy members of the permanent government that despite the Obama administration's apparent departure from past reflexive support for coups against leftist presidents, nothing has fundamentally changed.

It characterizes the attempted encuesta as "a non-binding poll on writing a new constitution that many believed would scrap term limits, allowing [Zelaya] to seek a second term next year". God forbid an "analyst" should point out why no one could actually have believed this would be a result of the poll.

Nell 11:08 AM  

Sorry, that link is incorrect.

Here is the Washington Post State Department stenography.

And here is some background on Jeffrey Davidow. Al Giordano's analytical track record is one hell of a lot better over the last twenty years than Davidow's.

Gabriel,  11:34 AM  


Nobody believed that would result from the poll? Really? A good chunk of Honduras society believes that.

What, exactly, do you think Zelaya had in mind if it wasn't his own reelection? You think he broke laws, resorted to mob rule, and generally ignored all separation of powers just so whoever came next as President could have the opportunity of reelection?


leftside 2:32 PM  

Gabriel, perhaps you can explain to us how the Constitution could have been changed by November to allow for Zelaya's re-election at that time? I mean, in the best case scenario, the November elections would have only seen the first real referendum on convening a Constitutional Assembly. Obviously the current Constitution would still be in place and Zelaya would not be eligible to run. Again, this tiny bit of logic spoils the entire alleged reason for the Court sacking Zelaya.

Gabriel,  3:04 PM  


1) I will gladly lay out the scenario you request

2) but will you please answer my question, what did you think Zelaya was after that was so important in his mind that breaking the law, ignoring Congress and th judiciary, and resorting to mob rule were all justified?

leftside 3:45 PM  

Gabriel, he was after changing a Constitution written under the military junta in 1982. After years in office he felt this was the only way to change Honduras from its pathetic political and economic situation, where the rich own everything and 60% of Hondurans are dirt poor. He tried to play under the current rules and realized all avenues for change were closed. Only involving the people more in governance could correct the situation. As is proper, he laid out very few actual proposed changes at this point. The point is to have the social movements, Constitutional experts and the people involved with coming up with their own ideas - democratically.

Your flawed assumption appears to be that no one could actually care that much about their country; Therefore he must be after personal power.

Gabriel,  3:53 PM  


I promised to answer your question, and will, but let's explore this line of argument further. Even if you are correct that Zelaya oonly had the best of intentions, how was giving a future president the posibility of two terms going to improve Honduras? What great benefit would accrue from allowing reelection that it was worth ignoring judicial rulings, the Congress, the Attorney GEneral, and the electoral tribunal?

leftside 4:12 PM  

Gabriel, we can have a larger argument about the inherent idiocy of having only 1 term Presidents if you want. You can tell us all about how the US' 2 terms are somehow an affront to basic principles democracy. But I have to ask you again, where did Zelaya specifically propose amending the term limit provision to allow for 2 terms? I've seen no such thing.

And again, even if there was some specific quote from Zelaya on this topic (which I don't believe there is) it simply would not have been possible for Zelaya to be re-elected - which, by itself, renders the Court's decision as completely specious and illogical.

Justin Delacour 4:59 PM  

But I have to ask you again, where did Zelaya specifically propose amending the term limit provision to allow for 2 terms?

He didn't. As usual, Gabriel is just spouting jibberish.

Gabriel 8:23 PM  


Let's continue this on the other post, But allow me to correct one point.

You claim that since Zelaya did seek his own reelection the SC's decision was not logical. I disagree with your premise but, for argument's sake, let's assume it's correct. Even in that case your conclusion doesn't follow.

There is no lack of rulings by the US SC that many excellent law professors have considered ill argued and just plain wrong. One that comes to mind to those of us that opposed Bush is Bush v Gore. There are plenty of academic articles pointing out its inconsistencies. And what relevance do any of these opinions have on the actual implementation of the ruling? Zip. None at all. If Clinton had decided that Gore was the legitimate president because he thought Bush v Gore was ill argued, he would have rightly been kicked out of office.

Once the SC ruled Zelaya had no choice bu to obey. Unless, of course, you wish to give Zelaya the right to pick and chose what rulings he will accept and which he won't.

This is a key point because it keeps coming up, no matter how many times you try to kill it. A 'zombie argument' if you will. It doesn't matter what you think of the judicial decisions. Zelaya could disagree. What he couldn't legally do is ignore.

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