Monday, November 30, 2009

Recognition issues: Mexico

So who will recognize the Honduran elections? President Calderón of Mexico says the elections are a necessary but not sufficient condition for the re-establishment of constitutional order. He does not specify what "constitutional order" means.


[L]a democracia en nuestros pueblos está registrando claras regresiones de carácter no democrático, de lo cual el golpe de Estado vivido en Honduras es una situación muy preocupante y una poderosa llamada de atención para todos.

Democracy in our nations is registering clear regressions of a non-democratic character, of which the coup d'etat experienced in Honduras is a very troubling situation and a powerful call to attention for everyone.


Turnout in Honduras

We will have to wait for the final numbers, but La Prensa reports the TSE announced turnout for the Honduran elections as 61%. That is now being reported widely.

The U.S. State Department has already noted the turnout:

Turnout appears to have exceeded that of the last presidential election. This shows that given the opportunity to express themselves, the Honduran people have viewed the election as an important part of the solution to the political crisis in their country.

The turnout question is therefore now answered. It is high enough not to deter recognition, and is significantly higher than 2005, when turnout was 45%.

On the other hand, we will also need to see the results for invalid votes. In countries with obligatory voting, casting an invalid vote (such as blank or with every candidate chosen) is a way to show protest without violating the law). That number would have to be quite high to draw attention, however.

Now we wait and see what governments recognize the results.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pepe Lobo wins

As had been long expected, Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo is being called the winner of the Honduran presidential election. The more interesting question, of course, is turnout. Since the Tribunal Superior Electoral's Web site has been inaccessible for hours, there are no numbers.


Quote of the day: turnout in Honduras

From the New York Times:

But while turnout appeared low in some poorer areas, in the wealthy Tegucigalpa neighborhood of Lomas del Guijarro, people waited in voting lines for nearly an hour.

“The only way to solve the problem is to come and vote and choose the right people,” said Javier Duron, 22 a medical student.


Another Honduran election update

According to El Heraldo's "Minuto por Minuto" Twitter feed, voting will be extended until 5 p.m. Honduran time (6 p.m. EST). In addition, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral will not allow any results to be disseminated until 7 p.m. (8 p.m. EST) Honduran time.

I've been trying to access the TSE's site for some time, but cannot connect.


Honduras election update

From Charles II at Mercury Rising:

Radio Globo is down. Channel 36 is down. The El Libertador journalists are in hiding. Tiempo is trimming its coverage (or is simply unable to get reporters out to what is going on) so that the coup doesn’t shut it down. El Progreso is playing bouncy music; no news, since they aren’t genuinely a national radio station. This is the free press under which free and fair elections are being held.

I had successfully connected to Radio Globo online earlier this morning when the polls opened, but cannot do so now.

Also interesting that the "virtual observer" cameras still show many empty polling places.


Honduran voting begins

The people of Honduras began voting just a short while ago, though strangely enough the "virtual observer" cameras at the Tribunal Supremo Electoral all show empty rooms.

As of now, there is a grand total of five countries that have expressed willingness to recognize the results. My hunch is that if the day appears relatively peaceful, more government will follow suit, though of course that is very much up in the air.

Abstentions will also play a part, but I also think they would have to be extremely high for it to scare off potential recognizing governments. However, a high rate of abstentionism will put more pressure on the president-elect to deal with the issue of Mel Zelaya's overthrow instead of trying to pretend it didn't happen.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

A preview of the Honduran elections

I have a preview of the Honduran elections up at The Monkey Cage.


Obama, Honduras and Latin America

Ginger Thompson at the New York Times has a well-argued critique of the Obama administration's handling of the Honduran crisis and how it will likely affect its relations with Latin America.

The United States was slow to criticize human rights abuses by the de facto government, but swift to scold Mr. Zelaya for political stunts that culminated with his sneaking back into Honduras, where he remains camped inside the Brazilian Embassy.

The move that seems to have most undermined Mr. Obama’s clout came last month when the administration reversed course by signaling that it would accept the outcome of Sunday’s elections whether or not Mr. Zelaya was restored to power.

Latin American governments accused the administration of putting pragmatism over principle and of siding with Honduran military officers and business interests whose goal was to use the elections to legitimize the coup.

Very true. Then I kept reading and winced at the description of Mel Zelaya:

His critics say he crossed a line when he defied the Supreme Court and pushed a referendum to change the Constitution so that he could run for another term. The court called in the military.

It is frustrating that every news outlet keeps repeating the same falsehood about running for another term. The referendum made no mention of terms or re-election.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Honduran court ruling

The Honduran Supreme Court ruled that Mel Zelaya cannot be reinstated unless he faces the pending charges against him. These were, we should remember, the charges that were pending against him on June 28, when the military decided it was better to forcibly and illegally exile him rather than let him address said charges through regular, democratic, and legal channels.

This also means that Congress, which had been planning to vote on his reinstatement on December 2, won't be able to do so without contradicting the court.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Prospects for immigration reform

Scott Keeter at the Pew Hispanic Center takes a look at the prospects for immigration reform in 2010. The main conclusion is that not much has changed. People support the idea of reform but are ambivalent about many aspects of immigration, while the issue is consistently viewed as less important than the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

A major unknown is how bloodied Obama emerges from the health care debate, because immigration reform will require a lot of luring and arm twisting. Further, Keeter notes the following:

More generally, partisan differences on the issue have grown since two years ago, potentially making it more difficult to achieve a consensus in Congress.

Since there is virtually no Republican leadership in Congress, we will hear quite a lot from Lou Dobbs, Sarah Palin, et al.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AMLO's refounding

pc at Ganchoblog notes that AMLO (André Manuel López Obrador) is "refounding" his shadow government. He has ten goals:

1) Rescuing the state and putting it at the service of the people and the nation

2) Democratizing the mass media

3) Creating a new economy

4) Combating monopolistic practices

5) Abolishing fiscal special treatment

6) Exercising politics as an ethical imperative

7) Strengthening the energy sector

8) Achieving nutritional sovereignty

9) Establishing a welfare state

10) Promoting a new current of thought

And a patridge in a pear tree. These are so broad as to be essentially meaningless, but they provide a foundation on which to begin advocating specific policies.

AMLO is looking to the 2012 presidential election. I keep thinking of him as a Mexican Richard Nixon, going off scorned into the political wilderness and then re-emerging after whipping up his base.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Brazil in the Middle East

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad begins his visit to Latin America, most attention will be on the deep opposition of the U.S. to the visit. The Americas Blog at Aljazeera notes another angle that is starting to receive more attention: Lula's desire to project Brazil into the Middle East peace process. He has already hosted Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas:

I spoke about peace with President Shimon Peres, with Mahmoud Abbas and I will speak with Ahmadinejad about it. I am going to speak about it because I think only peace can guarantee the growth of countries, and tranquility of peoples and a better life for people. I have a notion of the significance of the conflicts in the Middle East. I have a notion of the role of Iran, and that of Israel, and the role of Palestine, and of Syria.

A bold move. From the NYT:

Brazilian officials say the holy grail of Mr. da Silva’s Middle Eastern initiative is to improve relations between Israel and the Palestinians, and they see Iran as a key player in resolving the conflict.

But before Lula dives too deeply into one of the most difficult conflicts in the world, he still has to figure out what to do with Mel Zelaya, who is sitting in his Honduran embassy with a very uncertain future.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Honduras and the Millenium Challenge Corporation

Bill Conroy at Narcosphere has a detailed analysis of the Millenium Challenge Corporation scorecard that was just released for Honduras. The scorecard represents a U.S. government assessment of the economic conditions of those countries receiving aid.

It is particularly notable that despite the coup supporters' insistence that Mel Zelaya was pushing the country toward Bolivarian socialism, the MCC rated Honduras as the 68th percentile for "Business Start-Up" and a whopping 98th percentile for "Trade Policy." Finally, a 63rd percentile for "Land Rights and Access" does not exactly sound socialist. Even "Regulatory Quality" was 89th percentile. According to very capitalist standards, Zelaya was given high marks.

Check out the entire article (as well as the MCC data) and I agree with the following assessment:

Honduras’ failure to make the grade in those two measures (“rule of law” and “control of corruption”) can be seen, then, in hindsight, as a red flag pointing to the fact that conditions were primed for a coup in Honduras — and until those areas are addressed going forward, any hope for ensuring real democracy in the nation may be ultimately doomed.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Basic facts in Honduras

The Janesville Gazette of all places put opposing articles together about the crisis in Honduras, with the following question: Should the continued presence of a de facto government in Honduras be considered a serious setback for democracy in Latin America? Mark Weisbrot argued yes, while Ray Walser argued no.

The two articles did not engage each other directly, but they did converge in one way that highlights the problems that coup supporters face when trying to deal with facts.

Weisbrot: Perhaps the biggest lie, repeated thousands of times in the news reporting and op-eds of the major media, was that Zelaya was overthrown because he was trying to extend his term of office.

Walser: [T]he Honduran Congress and Supreme Court ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya from office due to his unconstitutional bid to eliminate term limits.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Out of captivity and into the courtroom

Two months ago I reviewed the book Out of Captivity, which chronicled the U.S. citizens captured by the FARC and held for five years. Now in an unusual twist, they are suing the FARC.

Fair enough. If I were held hostage I would want to do whatever I could to demand compensation as well. The suit, however, seems to cover just about everything under the sun, including charges of international drug trafficking. Of course, the FARC is an international drug trafficking organization, but I don't see how that relates to the case. It also names as defendants members of the FARC in U.S. jails, who had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

It is hard to see them ever getting compensation, but I suppose it's worth a shot.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quote of the day: Honduras

From State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly:

"Of course, we’re involved. We are involved because we want to be involved, because it’s important for us to be involved. We’re involved because they want us to be involved."


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Robert Arellano's Havana Lunar

I read Robert Arellano's Havana Lunar, another example of a growing number of novels dealing with Cuba's Special Period. As such, it is all gritty realism as the characters try to sort themselves out in the face of deprivation and uncertainty. The main character, Mano, even talks to his Che Guevara poster, hoping for answers. And, similar to Achy Abejas' Ruins, the novel uses a hurricane as a symbol of violent cleansing.

The plot revolves around Mano, a clinic doctor, who does what he can to help a jinetera, Cuban slang for a sex worker. He has his own personal baggage, including an ex-wife who left him to do revolutionary work abroad and a hemorrhage under his right eye, which became known as a "Havana Lunar." Some of the more compelling parts of the novel involve Mano's confrontations with her pimp, who blames him for her newly acquired independent streak.

Mano shows a curious combination of resignation and action. He does not feel he can change his life much, and is constantly dealing with shortages of various kinds (including in the clinic) but he perseveres even if it puts him at risk. He is also faced with the shadowy National Revolutionary Police and the political elites who have access to luxury goods, but he simply pushes ahead, trying to do what he believes is right.


U.S. policy toward Colombia

Adam Isacson at the Center for International Policy writes about a letter currently circulating through Congress, asking Secretary of State Clinton to rethink the aid package to Colombia for FY 2011. In short, it asks to take human rights more into consideration, to change coca eradication strategies, to increase emphasis on drug treatment, and to reduce the flow of money to the Colombia military. He hopes to spread the word and increase the number of congressional signatures.

The text of the letter can be found here at the Latin American Working Group.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Congressional vote in Honduras

The president of the Honduran Congress says that their vote about whether to reinstate Zelaya will not come until after the election. Instead, they will meet three days later (December 2).

Although Craig Kelly has just arrived in Tegucigalpa, once again the future of this crisis is centered on Hondurans themselves. What will the protests look like, particularly on the day of the election? How much repression will Roberto Micheletti employ? How many people will boycott the election?

Days since the coup: 142
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 12


DHS' Our Border

Building on Janet Napolitano's recent comments, the Department of Homeland Security has set up a "civic network" on Ning called Our Border. From the mass email I received:

Our Border is a civic network that facilitates conversation about the Southwest Border. The Department of Homeland Security created the network to introduce a new level of dialogue to the discussion about the issues that affect the border and its residents. We encourage you to take advantage of the site’s many features. Post a blog, comment in a forum, introduce yourself, upload a video, or post a photo. Or, if you have questions about Department of Homeland Security policies, visit our “Ask a Question” forum and post them. We will try to have an expert respond to your question.

Very interesting idea, though I wonder how it will work in practice. In particular, of course, "dialogue" very easily becomes "cacophony," even when it is moderated. However, I do applaud the efforts DHS is making.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Reverse remittances and sunk costs

After the economic crisis hit, I spent a considerable amount of time rebutting the conventional wisdom that Latin American--particularly Mexican--migrants would return home. I have not addressed that much recently because the empirical evidence is overwhelming and so fortunately you don't hear it much anymore. Fewer people are coming, but there is no mass return migration.

Today's New York Times further underlines that fact. Remarkably, many Mexicans are scraping together what they can to send to their relatives in the United States. Why these reverse remittances?

Still, although a study by the Pew Hispanic Center from July showed a sharp decrease in the number of Mexicans heading north, there has been no sign of a mass exodus of migrants back to Mexico. Immigrants’ families say it took great effort to scrape together the thousands of dollars needed to send relatives to the United States, a sum that includes the fees charged by the people who help them sneak in.

“It’s expensive to cross, and it was a great sacrifice for us,” said Mr. Salcedo, 43, who has sent about five wire transfers to his son Alfonso, 18, who this year lost his job as a cafeteria dishwasher.
Basically, this argument is about sunk costs. Once you've put in that much, you do not want to give it up.


The immigration reform message

In remarks a few days ago, Janet Napolitano offered a sneak peek at the message the administration will use next year as it pursues immigration reform. She went into great detail about enforcement, using that as evidence of commitment to the more controversial elements of reform.

Let me be clear: when I talk about “immigration reform,” I’m referring to what I call the “three-legged stool” that includes a commitment to serious and effective enforcement, improved legal flows for families and workers, and a firm but fair way to deal with those who are already here. That’s the way that this problem has to be solved, because we need all three aspects to build a successful system. This approach has at its heart the conviction that we must demand responsibility and accountability from everyone involved in the system: immigrants, employers and government. And that begins with fair, reliable enforcement.

We know that one-sided reform, as we saw in 1986, cannot succeed. During that reform effort, the enforcement part of the equation was promised, but it didn’t materialize. That helped lead to our current situation, and it undermined Americans’ confidence in their government’s approach to this issue. That mistake can’t happen again, and it won’t happen again.

That's a good message. She also made brief mention of one of the meetings I was invited to a short while ago, though I have no idea what sort of impact they had.

As part of the Administration’s outreach on this issue, my Department has held stakeholder meetings with more than 1,000 people and organizations across the country. The businesses, community leaders, labor leaders, faith groups and law enforcement we’ve met with all have different stories, but they all reach the same conclusion: we need reform. This reform will be part of the new foundation for growth, prosperity, and security that this Administration is working to create.


The President is committed to this issue because the need for immigration reform is so clear. This Administration does not shy away from taking on the big challenges of the 21st century, challenges that have been ignored too long and hurt our families and businesses.

I hope so.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clock ticking in Honduras

Mel Zelaya wrote a letter to President Obama saying the talks were dead and that he would not accept an agreement that returns him to the presidency if it entails any recognition of the coup. I should point out that he read this letter in Spanish on the radio, which was then picked up, translated and excerpted, so the exact wording can easily get lost along the way.

Unless something changes drastically (and as we've seen, that certainly can happen) the Obama administration has decided that the coup was acceptable and there is no need to do anything about it. The Micheletti government violated the agreement, and what appeared to be a breakthrough was all window dressing.

A extremely depressing conclusion is that Senator Jim DeMint is a point man for Obama's Latin America policy. This victory will bring him even more front and center in next year's immigration debate.

Days since the coup: 140
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 14


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Humans rights and the Chilean transition

via Robert Funk: Sebastián Piñera reportedly went to a meeting of an organization of retired military officers (Chile Mi Patria) and promised to limit prosecutions and to make sure cases did not go on for years.

It is quite striking how that constituency remains relevant for the right, which has had an uneasy relationship in recent years in the wake of all the Pinochet corruptions scandals and human rights cases. In my chapter of the Chile book coming out next year, I analyze the ways in which the concept of "transition" is viewed differently by different political actors (for an early version as conference paper, see here). The very idea of transition is politicized. I quote Army Commander in Chief Oscar Izurieta, who in 2006 said:

The only thing that remains pending for us is undoubtedly the number of people that are being processed. When all these processes end, we would soon proclaim the transition definitively completed.

And so a full 19 years since Pinochet left power, we have the candidate of the right sending the message that if elected, he would do what the military wants to end the transition.


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Latin American blame game

If you have problems in Honduras, blame Venezuela and Nicaragua.

If you have problems in Venezuela, blame Colombia.

If you have problems in Peru, blame Chile.

If you have problems in the United States, blame Latin American immigrants.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

287(g) story

After yesterday's post on the 287(g) lawsuit, I talked to a CNN reporter and was quoted in this story. I guess it's ironic that I was talking to CNN about abuses in immigration policy just as Lou Dobbs was leaving.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New crime: Eating lunch while Latina

I've written numerous times about the 287(g) program that grants immigration enforcement authority to local law enforcement. A very interesting new wrinkle is a lawsuit filed by a Salvadoran woman in Maryland, saying her rights were violated.

The complaint alleges Orellana Santos was eating lunch as she sat on a curb behind a food co-op near Evergreen Square on Buckeystown Pike on Oct. 7, 2008.

The deputies asked her for identification and at first, she told them she did not have any. After a few minutes, she remembered she had a national ID card and gave that to the deputies, the complaint states.

Because she did not speak much English, and the deputies did not speak Spanish, she did not understand why she was being detained, the complaint states.

After about 15 minutes, she tried to stand up and collect her things to leave, but officers cuffed her and took her to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, the complaint states. She was then transferred to other immigration detention centers in Maryland.

I had noted the problem of profiling in an op-ed earlier this year. I suppose it was really only a matter of time before someone sued.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Waiting for Godot in Honduras

The leader of the Honduran Congress says that body needs to hear from the Supreme Court. But even so, it might not bother to make a decision before the Nov. 29 elections. The Supreme Court is taking its own time, though it might convene tomorrow. Or might not.

The sticking point is that as long as the Honduran Congress does not vote, then the agreement is not being honored. If the agreement is not being honored, then the elections are problematic, to say the least.

Days since the coup: 135
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 19


Monday, November 09, 2009

Defection in El Salvador

I kept meaning to post about how the right has splintered in El Salvador. Twelve of ARENA's 32 congressional members proclaimed themselves independent (see Tim's El Salvador Blog and for a conspiracy theory involving--of course!--Hugo Chávez, see the ever-entertaining and fact-free Mary Anastasia O'Grady).

This already has had an effect, because those 12 (who refer to themselves as the Grand Alliance for National Unity, or GANA, which is "win" in Spanish) voted to approve the FMLN government's budget, whereas the ARENA legislators abstained.

I would love to see comparative work on the right in countries where someone from the left is in the presidency. The right often implodes and engages in internal conflict. Of course that process of disintegration had generally begun earlier, which is why a candidate from the left was able to win in the first place. It would be interesting to tease out the cause and effect relationships.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Lugo: I'm not Hugo

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was interviewed by Aljazeera in the wake of coup rumors and his firing of military commanders. His overall message: I am not Hugo Chávez, political power is not concentrated in the executive branch, I am not a socialist, and a military coup is unthinkable even though some people may think about it.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

IR job opening

This is not related to Latin America, but I know I have a lot of readers in academia, both grad students and professors, so please forward to anyone who might be interested. My colleague and fellow blogger Jim Walsh is chairing the search committee. I will just copy and paste from his blog:

Please see the announcement below for a recently authorized tenure track position in peace and conflict studies. I am chairing the search committee. I am happy to answer any questions about the position. I will also be at the Peace Sciences Society meeting in Chapel Hill later this month, and could meet with anyone interested in more information. Feel free to email me at if you want to set up a brief meeting.

Jim Walsh
Political Science
UNC Charlotte


The Department of Global, International & Area Studies at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte invites applicants for a tenure track position in Peace and Conflict Studies, with a preferred concentration in the Middle East, at the level of Assistant Professor. The position begins Fall 2010; Ph.D. in a discipline appropriate to Peace and Conflict Studies is required at the time of appointment. Requirements for the position include training in the field of international conflict and conflict resolution and an ability to contribute to our Judaic and Islamic Studies programs. The successful candidate will have expertise in some or all of the following areas: the political, economic, and cultural consequences of violence; national and international responses to war and conflict; and the development of strategies to promote political and cultural communication, understanding, and reconciliation. Desired qualifications are a commitment to multi-disciplinary approaches to scholarship and teaching and the ability to provide courses on global-scale issues that will enhance the undergraduate International Studies curriculum and help form a foundation for future graduate programs in International Affairs and Global Studies.

Faculty members in the Department of Global, International & Area Studies will be expected to maintain regular high-quality publication, seek external funding, and to play an active role and teach courses that service our global and area studies curricula. They are also expected to advise students, contribute to the governance of the department and the university, and participate in the development of future undergraduate and graduate programs.

UNC Charlotte is located in the state’s largest metropolitan area and is a growing Doctoral-Intensive urban university with a commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching. The university enrolls over 24,000 students. Established in 2009, the Department of Global, International & Area Studies currently offers multi-disciplinary majors in International Studies and Latin American Studies, as well as minors in those two programs, Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Studies, Islamic Studies, and Judaic Studies. The Department also offers a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies. The Department contributes to the university’s General Education program and has strong collaborative relationships with interdisciplinary programs and departments including Africana Studies, Anthropology, Communication Studies, Economics, Geography, History, Language and Cultural Studies, Political Science, Religious Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. The Department’s programs and student population reflect the diversity mission and goals of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. For more information about our department, see:

Applications must be made on-line at: (click on “Faculty” under Vacancy Type). Please include a letter of application outlining your relevant experience for the position as described above and your ability to contribute to the mission of the Department, a complete CV, relevant syllabi, and contact information for at least three references. Three letters of recommendation specific to this job application, publication samples, and an official graduate transcript may be requested by the Chair of the Search Committee at a later date. Screening of applicants will begin December 15, 2009 and will continue until the position is filled.

UNC Charlotte strives to create an academic climate in which the dignity of all individuals is respected and maintained. Therefore, we celebrate diversity that includes, but is not limited to ability/disability, age, culture, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. AA/EOE.



Lula: "I told Obama after the meeting that he had given the kick off to establish a more productive relation with Latin America. The fact is nothing happened since, but the coup in Honduras."


State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly: "I will say that this Administration has put a very high priority on Latin America."


Friday, November 06, 2009

New definition of "unity"

Apparently now a "unity government" is synonymous with "pro-coup only government," as Roberto Micheletti is putting one together alone. The problem, of course, is that the agreement had a deadline for a unity government, but not for a congressional vote. Mel Zelaya wants a congressional vote first. Congress, meanwhile, may not vote at all or wait until after the election.

Tim Padgett at Time has a good analysis of Zelaya's miscalculations, and concludes:

The Obama Administration is technically correct when it argues that last week's pact allows it to recognize the Nov. 29 election even without Zelaya's restoration — a result that would let Obama wipe his hands of the Honduras mess while getting U.S. conservatives off his back. But analysts like Diaz warn that to Latin America and the rest of the world, "That would just return us to the same situation as before, leaving Honduras to face the international community with little credibility." Solis herself said this week after arriving in Honduras that "what happens here has implications regionally." And it could certainly have negative implications for Obama's credibility in the region if he is perceived to have brokered a deal that allowed a military coup to succeed. Then again, the U.S. President could always shift the blame by pointing out that it was Zelaya that signed the deal.

Days since the coup: 131
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 23


Thursday, November 05, 2009

U.S. policy(ish)

Senator Jim DeMint claims that the Obama administration will recognize the elections even if the Honduran Congress refuses to make a decision before the November 29 election. DeMint is not DeSharpest tool in DeShed, so I would suggest this is not as clear as he claims.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More delays in Honduras

The Honduran Congress decided to postpone voting on Mel Zelaya's reinstatement. Instead, congressional leaders are reportedly asking the opinions of a variety of other state institutions.

In addition, motions intended to set time limits were defeated. Congressional leaders also refuse to say when a special session will be called.

The agreement did not anticipate what happens if Congress decides not to act until after the presidential election. I think it is fair to say that would be a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement. As a result, all bets would be off about the domestic and international responses.

Days since the coup: 129
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 25


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

New blog

I encourage everyone to take a look at a new blog, Central American Politics, from Mike Allison, a political science professor at the University of Scranton. It is great to see more Latin American politics blogs.


Term limits in Latin America

In the past few years, the question of term limits in Latin America has been all the rage. The AP just published a story about it. Only at the end of the article, however, is it noted that most countries are not even discussing term limits.

Here is a list I put together quickly:


Bolivia – one term extended to two

Ecuador – still two terms, but can now be consecutive

Nicaragua – no term limits through Supreme Court, though contested

Venezuela – no term limits through national referendum



Brazil – Lula has categorically said no to extending term limits

Chile – terms were shortened from 6 to 4 years with 2005 constitutional reforms

Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

El Salvador


Honduras – became the major theme for opposition to Mel Zelaya





Being actively debated:

Colombia – allowing a third term will be decided in coming months

Should this be considered a trend? Clearly, allowing an unlimited number of terms is not taking off. Ecuador and Bolivia are often noted, though they only allow for two, which is hardly unusual. A majority of countries have done nothing and likely will not in the future either.

On the other hand, the very issue is being debated more now than in recent years, to the point that Lula actually brought up the fact that he wasn't interested. I wonder, though, whether very high profile cases like Venezuela and Honduras, where the debate over term limits (fairly or not) has been front and center, makes the issue seem more relevant across Latin America than it really is.


Juche in Venezuela

From the North Korean News Agency, exciting news about how Kim Il Sung's idea of Juche is being celebrated by some in Venezuela.

A professor of Bolivar University stressed that all the achievements made by the Korean people are a brilliant fruition of the Songun politics pursued by General Secretary Kim Jong Il. The cause of the Korean people facing down imperialism gives strength and courage to the world revolutionary peoples including the Venezuelan people and it has become a model of anti-imperialist struggle, he stressed.

Gotta love North Korea's brilliant fruition.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Finding the disappeared in Chile

Human rights abuses are timeless. Urugayans recently voted not to rescind the 1986 amnesty, with the common argument of "looking to the future" rather than "focusing on the past." In Chile, the 1978 amnesty remains in place, though judges have found creative ways around it.

But trauma does not simply remain in the past. In Chile, former conscripts who were involved in torture and murder want to start talking.

Hundreds of former military draftees are making a provocative offer to Chile's government: They will reveal details of crimes committed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship — but only if their safety is guaranteed.

The draftees fear that if they reveal where the bodies are buried, they will face prosecution by the courts or retaliation by the superiors who ordered them decades ago to torture and kill political prisoners.

The information they once promised to carry to their graves has become both a heavy psychological burden and a bargaining chip. By offering confessions, the former draftees hope to improve their chances of securing benefits from pensions to psychological treatment.

"We were executors and witnesses of many brutalities and now we're willing to talk about them for our own personal redemption," said former soldier Fernando Mellado, who is organizing a Sunday gathering of draftees outside Chile's presidential palace.

These former soldiers know a lot, but this would involve giving them protection and benefits they otherwise might not receive. That is no easy decision.

In nearly two decades of democracy since then, less than 8 percent of the disappeared have been found, said Viviana Diaz of the Assembly of Family Members of the Disappeared Detainees.

Hundreds of recovered remains, some just bone fragments, have yet to be identified. Only those who buried the bodies know where other common graves lie.

You can claim to look forward, but when over 90% of the disappeared are still unfound, the past is always present.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Informal contacts and the Honduran crisis

RAJ at Honduras Coup 2009 touched on something I had not thought about, but which in fact has been a source of considerable research (at least in political science) in the past decade or so. That is informal politics in Latin America:

In retrospect, the main problem with the attempt to negotiate the San Jose Accord may have been that taking place away from Honduras impeded the kind of informal contacts that clearly helped promote an agreement.

In 2003 I published a book on Chilean civil-military relations, and I argued that informal contacts were not conducive to civilian supremacy over the armed forces. The military was able to use informal contacts to get what it wanted, all the while circumventing legally established channels.

However, that cut against the grain of most analyses, which viewed informal channels as often positive for getting things done (e.g. see Helmke and Levitsky's Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America). Informal contacts could reinforce formal institutions.

Since then, my research has evolved in other directions, but it would be very interesting to study the role of informal contacts in the Honduran crisis. What horse trading went on outside the formal negotiations? In what ways was physical presence in Honduras essential to informal contacts?


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