Friday, July 31, 2009

Delay and repress

Roberto Micheletti is back to saying that he will not allow Zelaya to return to the presidency. The Honduran Congress will also not even discuss the amnesty issue until Monday.


Also marking a tougher stance, riot police in the Honduran capital used tear gas and night sticks to break up a pro-Zelaya blockade of a main artery leading into Tegucigalpa. Police said 25 people were injured and 88 arrested.

A Zelaya supporter was wounded in the head by a gunshot and was seriously hurt. Police spokesman Daniel Molina alleged the shot was fired by protesters.

"We will not allow any more disturbances," Micheletti said. "We are going to bring order to Honduras."

That won't mean anything good.


More on the Honduran military

I keep repeating that the Honduran military's position is critical to any resolution to the current crisis. It seemed quite clear that they had shifted to support the Arias Accord. Head of the joint chiefs Romeo Vásquez now says there were never any negotiations with the United States (which had been reported). He says the statement released by the military should be viewed only as support for Micheletti, and that the institution has no opinion about what decisions that government makes.

When asked about human rights violations, he responds that the military follows orders. Apparently doing so means they are not responsible for anything.

Ustedes han sido acusados de violar los derechos humanos, ¿cómo responde usted a esas acusaciones?

Lo que hicimos fue cumplir las órdenes de un poder del Estado. Nosotros no hemos violado los derechos humanos, hemos dado cumplimiento a las leyes del país.

Quick translation: You've been accused of violating human rights, how do you respond to these accusations?

What we did was carry out orders from a State power. We have not violated human rights, we have carried out the laws of the country.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Honduras and Latin America

I think Latin America should solve its own problems whenever possible. Indeed, you will find few Latin Americanists who think otherwise. That said, such efforts should be based on realistic assumptions. For that reason, Mark Weisbrot makes no sense. He believes the Arias talks should be rejected, and that an undefined Latin American alternative should take its place.

He does not mention that the OAS, led by a Chilean who has often been criticized by the U.S. government as too leftist, tried and failed first, before the Arias effort began.

But let's set that inconvenient fact aside, and ask: who would organize the Latin American response? Wiesbrot suggests UNASUR, which as he points out helped to defuse a serious Bolivian conflict. But UNASUR is a South American organization, which has nothing to do with Central America. Even if it tried, does anyone think that any South American leader has any leverage in Honduras? Even Hugo Chávez, the most interested South American president, has offered no practical solution.

The even more essential point that Weisbrot ignores is that you cannot just say "restore Zelaya" and have it happen. He wants Washington out. Fine. But the coup government will tell every Latin American delegation the same as it said to the OAS--butt out. Then what will happen?


Honduras and the Supreme Court

Similar in tone to his Wall Street Journal editorial, Roberto Micheletti is saying Mel Zelaya could possibly come back, as long as the San José Accord was modified to make it palatable to other state institutions. It could well be just another way to drag things out. Tucked in the Reuters article was this:

The Honduran Supreme Court, which ordered the army to oust Zelaya on June 28, is due to rule this week on Arias' proposal that Zelaya be allowed back to serve out the rest of his time, which ends early next year.

Two problems with this. First, the Supreme Court did not order the army to oust Zelaya. They only ordered his detention, but neither his exile nor removal from office. Second, since the Supreme Court never ruled that Zelaya should be removed from office (if there is a Supreme Court document I have missed, let me know) then I am not sure what it needs to decide. Nowhere did they indicate that their order entailed his removal from office.

In other words, it should not be too hard to uninvoke things that were not invoked in the first place.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Paul Cuadros' A Home on the Field

I read Paul Cuadros' A Home on the Field (2006). It is written by a reporter of Peruvian descent who received a grant to study Latino migration to the South. He went to Siler City, NC, where the poultry plants were attracting a growing migrant population, and started a soccer team at the local high school. Despite resistance, he not only got the program going, but became state champion within three years with a group of young, impassioned Latino kids, many of whom were undocumented.

As I began reading, I have to admit my first impression was that Cuadros was too self-congratulatory. But reading more, and thinking about what it means to relocate to small town America and really transform it culturally, I couldn't help but think some people deserve some self-congratulation. Not long after he arrived, so did David Duke, and Campos does a nice job of showing how Duke criticized the presence of Latinos and then went to eat chicken, the processing of which had been done by Latinos in the area.

The book is very positive, with a message of promise about how sports can bring a community together. He even uses the stages of grief as an example--you start with denial and end with acceptance. Small southern towns focus on high school sports, and despite language differences Siler City became proud of its champions. He emphasizes that it also provided structure for the kids: "There is a happiness that seldom appears when you get beyond a certain age, but it is in us all, sleeping, waiting for a true and honest moment to emerge. That's what sport does. It awakens that buried feeling of real joy" (p. 257). That is the connection he makes with a skeptical community.

But he pulls no punches about the negative cultural expectations: "This is where Latino parents can fail their kids...For many immigrant parents, when a kid reaches sixteen he is on his own, he is a man, able to make his own decisions about life. That worked in Mexico but it can have disastrous results here" (p. 126). Cuadros agonizes over the poor decisions he sees kids make, yet also notes how kids with promise cannot ever attend college. As high school students they are safe, but once they graduate they become "an animal to be rounded up and deported" (p. 241).

If you're interested in Latino immigration, especially to the South, then this book is worth your time.


Honduras and Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan National Assembly is now entering the Honduran fray. The opposition is starting to talk about a resolution to expel Mel Zelaya from the country. Prior, they would put together a commission to go to the border and evaluate the situation. The Constitutional Liberal Party is leading the way--at this point it is not clear whether they could garner a majority in support. The Sandinistas only have a plurality so cannot block it alone, but Daniel Ortega has forged alliances in the past with members of the conservative Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance.

Regardless, it is not unreasonable to assert that Nicaraguans regardless of political affiliation may well start getting tired of Zelaya's extended presence, which is disrupting the border.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brian Bilbray sets us straight

From The

Brian Bilbray has made some important conclusions regarding Honduras. He met with members of the coup government and reports that a majority of them don't want Zelaya back as president. He also learned that the coup government does not like people using the word "coup."

Lastly, Hondurans should be "congratulated for what they have done" and that the State Department loves Hugo Chávez. A majority of Hondurans he talked to in the coup government agree.


Slow ride

When Mel Zelaya proved that ultimately he was unwilling to cross into Honduras, my take was that the coup government would then be emboldened to stall.

Now, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral says it is not opposed in principle to moving up the elections, but there will be have to be a process of meeting with all groups who would affected and reaching a consensus with them. That will take a while.

And a special congressional commission will take its time to determine whether Zelaya could be granted an amnesty. Then it will write up a report. Then that report will have to be debated by the full Congress.

It is still hard to figure out the military's role, since it proclaimed itself committed to the San José Accords. Perhaps as long as the coup government says it is open to the proposal, then armed forces will remain in the background.

Update: even slower. Congress says it wants the Supreme Court to rule on the issue.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Obama and Honduras

It has become almost a political game to determine who is influencing Barack Obama with regard to Honduras. It can be tough to keep track.

  • He was duped by Bush administration officials while in Russia to oppose Zelaya.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coup fears in Latin America

For all the talk about Gallup polls in the Honduran case, I have not seen coverage of Gallup's region-wide poll about people's fear of military coups (the poll was published in June, but the responses are from 2008). Honduras had the second highest percentage of people (29%) who agreed that the country was moving toward a coup (behind Bolivia at 36%).

Those countries are not surprising. But 11% of Chileans? And 14% of Colombians? And then 11% in Costa Rica, where the military was abolished before most of its citizens were even born?

I find these numbers amazingly high.


The military and cracks in Honduras' coup government

The Honduran military has issued an official statement supporting the San José Accord (text here). The NYT notes that it comes from negotiations between mid-level officers and U.S. congressional aides (this is the second reference I've seen to such "aides" but I have never seen them identified, even in a general way).

Of course, this solution includes Mel Zelaya's return as president, though as part of a unity government. Micheletti has said that is "impossible," but now must override the armed forces, which he will do at his own risk (as we know, the military already showed willingness to violate the constitution by exiling Zelaya). The delaying tactics were working well for Micheletti, but we already knew there was some level of disagreement within the coup government as the crisis dragged on.

Despite the fact that this news is some hours old, it is notable that the main opposition paper La Prensa has yet to mention it. This news will be hard to spin, and impossible to blame on Hugo Chávez.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Zelaya on the border

This crisis just get curiouser and curiouser. Mel Zelaya has set up camp in Nicaragua just outside Honduras, talking to supporters with a megaphone. The government has put a curfew in place in the area, so he is relatively isolated there.

When there was a risk that Zelaya might push across the border, such a strategy might have been effective in putting pressure on Micheletti. Since he has shown he will not try, then the coup government can probably ignore and mock him until negotiations get going again, which will be Tuesday in Washington (see Carin Zissis at Americas Quarterly for a variety of useful links).

The last thing Zelaya needs is to be viewed with derision. He is running that risk now. At the same time, however, he is showing an independence that no one would have expected. The Obama administration wants him to stay away, while Hugo Chávez wants him to return. For now, Zelaya is doing neither.


Zelaya's second semi-return to Honduras

It makes sense that a political crisis with so many unpredictable turns should have another, but I am still trying to figure this one out. Mel Zelaya came to the border, stepped over briefly for show, asked to talk to the military leadership, was told he could not come into the country, and then...left.

He has also said he will give negotiations another shot. According to the AP:

He stopped a few steps into Honduran territory, speaking to nearby military officials on his mobile phone.

''I've spoken to the colonel and he told me I could not cross the border,'' Zelaya said. ''I told him I could cross.''

But he soon went back to Nicaragua and said he was ready to return to the negotiating table.

''The best thing is to reach an understanding that respects the will of the people,'' Zelaya said.

Zelaya likely held out hope (or truly believed) that the police and/or army would back down when he arrived. Obviously that did not happen, though fortunately the entire episode appeared to be civil.

This gives the coup government a bargaining advantage. Zelaya has now twice threatened to enter the country without doing so, while also giving various ultimatums. He will be taken much less seriously in that regard now, which greatly reduces the urgency of negotiations that were already going nowhere in particular. Micheletti will now likely make them drag out even longer. Zelaya was even mocked:

Interim Deputy Security Minister Mario Perdomo told The Associated Press that authorities didn't bother to arrest Zeyala because he barely entered Honduras.

''Zelaya made a show of entering Honduras, he put one foot in, and left,'' Perdomo said. ''And he did this in a dead zone of the frontier, which we tolerated.''

I am not sure where Zelaya goes from here.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Honduras: further update

I will not be live blogging or providing constant updates, but Mel Zelaya has now reached the Honduran border, but has not crossed it. Initial reports indicate security forces (CNN says it is "police and soldiers") firing on some of his supporters and also using tear gas.

Update: Immediately going back on what I just said, Zelaya is just waiting at the border, saying he is waiting to be allowed to enter peacefully, rather than demanding entry or attempting to enter by force. He has been very good at maintaining the high ground since his overthrow.

How long can Micheletti simply ignore his presence?

Update again: Despite what he said, Zelaya entered, and no one stopped him. Then he stepped back real quick to avoid arrest.


Honduras: An update of sorts

So Mel Zelaya was in a 50 car caravan on his way toward Honduras, accompanied by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro. Or maybe it is 20 trucks. Either way, he's driving a white Jeep Wrangler and will be showing up soon.

The Honduran defense minister says Hugo Chávez wants Zelaya dead, I suppose because he felt the need to mention Chávez and couldn't come up with something better. Defense Minister Sevilla also reaffirms there is a warrant for Zelaya's arrest. However, the government is going to make sure it piles lots of dirt at the border to make sure the court's orders are never enforced. The police might be on strike, or they might not.

Meanwhile, José Miguel Insulza is scratching his head, trying to figure out why no one wants to negotiate anymore, and the coup government isn't even willing to negotiate with itself.

And there we are.

Update: CNN en Español asked the director of National Police if Zelaya would be arrested if he entered the country. He refused to answer, saying "the National Police has a plan, and it will be carried out." Thanks for clearing that up...


Awaiting Zelaya's return

It will be miraculous if Mel Zelaya re-enters Honduras without violence erupting in some manner. He has been making a public point of emphasizing calm, saying that he will be waving a white flag when he arrives.

The Honduran Defense Ministry released a troubling statement in response:

“No podemos responsabilizarnos por la seguridad de personas que, por fomentar la violencia generalizada en el país, están sujetos a ser atacados, inclusive por sus mismos partidarios, con el exclusivo propósito de constituirlos en mártires”

"We cannot be held responsible for people who, in order to foment generalized violence in the country, are subject to attack, including by their own supporters, with the exclusive purpose of making them into martyrs."

This is one of the oldest excuses for violence in the book, though I think more commonly made after the fact. If anybody dies, it is not the military's fault because leftists just kill each other in order to make us look bad. And even if we did kill a few, they were here to foment violence so we had no choice.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Failed talks in Honduras

Unless there is a last minute change, the Costa Rica talks appear to be dead. There are cracks within the coup government, but as of now are not strong enough to force a change of position. See RAJ's take on the failed talks.

Oscar Arias says it is now the job of the OAS to settle the dispute, which is bizarre since a) the OAS has already failed in that regard; and b) the coup government has not backed down from its insistence that Zelaya not return as president. If the latter does not change, it does not matter who is mediating.

Rumors are flying about when Zelaya will try to return. He says "Only God will stop me," which seems not to take into account the Honduran military.

For now, we wait. And hope this doesn't become violent.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Carlos Fuentes' The Eagle's Throne

I read Carlos Fuentes' The Eagle's Throne, which is a beautifully written and ultimately very sad novel. To enjoy it, you must suspend disbelief. The premise is that it is 2020 and a dispute with the U.S. (President Condoleezza Rice, no less) has left Mexicans unable to use the internet or telephones. Therefore they write each other letters. Not just any sort of letter, but incredibly crafted as if they were written by Carlos Fuentes. Get past that and you're ready.

The eagle's throne refers to the Mexican presidency, which is the focus of everyone in the book as they scheme for the 2024 election. The book has no main character, but rather each chapter is a different letter. Initially, keeping track of the characters is a challenge, but once I got going I could only admire the way in which Fuentes generated plot through the letters and gradually introduced surprising twists and turns.

The fight for the presidency is vicious, including blackmail, kidnapping, and murder. To put it mildly, it is not an optimistic view of Mexico's meandering process of democratization after the PRI's defeat in 2000. Few people trust each other, and with good reason. As one character says to another, "Keep your hands clean and your spine straight, but above all watch it, my love, keep your eyes open, and be prepared to be a bit of a bastard..." (p. 45).

I found the ending very sad, and the last chapter wrenching. Ultimately, it's all about the extremes people will go to in order to get access to the throne.


The cracks in Honduras

Very interesting story from the New York Times. Micheletti has rejected a new proposal, but this time from his own negotiating team. Indeed, his own foreign minister (and looking like the proposal from former president Flores). It was leaked by U.S. congressional aides, as a way to put more pressure on Micheletti, whose side now says they are putting together something new and so are not going to attend the meetings today as planned.

The next step is to see whether the coup government will simply start negotiating unsuccessfully with itself, then start blaming a global conspiracy when they can't come to agreement.


Programming note: spam

I got hit very hard by spammers overnight, with about 300 comments placed in a large number of posts. I will delete them as I can but it is time consuming so try and ignore them.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Term limits, parliamentary government, and Latin America

I must say I am getting tired of the seemingly endless debate about presidential terms in Latin America. Indeed, before the Honduran crisis it had never occurred to me that a coup might be carried out just for asking about them. Now, Daniel Ortega is saying it would only be fair if he got the chance to be re-elected too, while Alvaro Uribe just can't say no despite being slapped down in public by Barack Obama.

Maybe it is time to start talking about parliamentary governments again. This was a hot policy topic in the 1990s, but has faded since then.* There is still research being done, but the policy angle is less evident. In 1993 Brazil actually held a referendum to determine whether to have a presidential or parliamentary system. It might not be a bad idea to try in other countries--in fact, Daniel Ortega proposed a change this year, though now he seems mostly to be talking about presidentialism with recall potential, which is a very different kettle of fish.

With a parliamentary system, the term limit debate would disappear because there would be no need for any. The Prime Minister would have to maintain the confidence of the legislature. There would have been no coup in Honduras because Zelaya would have suffered a no-confidence vote long ago (or would have avoided it by working with his party) and new legislative elections would have been held, with a new PM chosen. Alvaro Uribe would remain Prime Minister for the time being, though there would likely be quite a lot of jockeying within his coalition to challenge his leadership. Hugo Chávez's opposition would have to work very hard to get a no-confidence vote, likely unsuccessfully for the near future.

Prime Ministers enter office with the mindset of working with the legislature since they came from its majority. If a populist with personal appeal but no party support wanted to be Prime Minister, he or she would have to get elected to the legislature and start attracting support.

There is no doubt that countries with weak political institutions, like Honduras, could still suffer instability. But at the very least, incentives for political cooperation and coalition-building would be created where there were none before.

* See, for example, fellow blogger Matthew Shugart and Scott Mainwaring's edited volume Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America (NY: Cambridge University Press, 1997).


Micheletti's response to Clinton

After talking to Hillary Clinton, Roberto Micheletti talked to reporters. His position has not changed, and he repeated several times the fact that he would be president until January. He mentions Hugo Chávez multiple times.

Not surprisingly, however, he is sweating. One of his main points was that people should not be afraid to invest in Honduras. He said that in Honduras there is no money, no oil, and no dollars "but we have the will to sustain the situation."

Sustaining the situation right now is one thing. Zelaya is giving the Arias talks a chance, and so the country has protests but is relatively calm. But that will not last, and at some point if the coup government remains hunkered down, then the country will explode. And investors won't be so happy anymore.


Monday, July 20, 2009

U.S. demand and Micheletti

From Fox News, actually:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called de factor Honduran leader Roberto Micheletto to warn him about the consequences for his country if it does not permit ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to return to power, the State Department said Monday.

Clinton called Micheletti on Sunday from New Delhi, where she is meeting with Indian officials on climate change.

That will certainly have an impact, and she specifically mentioned U.S. aid. The U.S. pushed very hard for the Arias talks (and continues to do so), giving the coup government a chance to negotiate something as a way to avoid the inevitable violence of a forced Zelaya return, but it thus far has refused to back off the essential point of Zelaya's return.


Sorting out the failing negotiations in Honduras

I had been saying that it seemed Zelaya would wait until the Oscar Arias talks were officially dead before acting. Now it seems we are very close to that time, since the coup government rejected the latest proposal, saying it constituted "open interference in the internal affairs of Hondruras," and Zelaya says resistance is being organized. Arias is asking for 72 hours more.

RAJ notes potential cracks in the coup supporters, with Liberal ex-president Carlos Flores apparently sending a fax to Arias with suggestions for negotiation. Importantly, it includes Zelaya staying for the rest of his term. How many prominent coup supporters are not happy with the negotiations?

So we have two possibilities. Either Zelaya returns by some means and all hell breaks loose, or the current Micheletti negotiating team is pulled out and a less intransigent one is put in immediately (or the current team is given very different marching orders).


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Honduras negotations

Micheletti's side said they would accept Zelaya's return only if he would go to trial (see the PDF here). Since they refer to him as "Señor" they would not accept him returning as president. It is not clear how they would deal with the fact that they refused to put him on trial before the coup and instead illegally exiled him.

Meanwhile, Zelaya gave an interview to a Brazilian reporter (see the original here in Portuguese) saying that he would not stop the process of pushing for constitutional change.

Such public declarations only reflect how negotiations function.

One point that no one mentions, yet is critical to everything, is what the military leadership thinks. Right now, I bet Micheletti has a pretty good sense of that, but few outside a small circle does. It matters a lot.


Honduras talks

Talks will apparently continue today, and according to Costa Rica's La Nación, the worst sticking point is the issue of Zelaya's return to the presidency--one of Micheletti's representative said succinctly, "Impossible." The two sides indicated they would be reading more proposals from Oscar Arias overnight.

Zelaya's ultimatum of midnight was not mentioned during the meetings. His statements about returning immediately seem to be related mostly to improving his bargaining position. He may well wait until the talks are officially (or at least obviously) stalemated before returning, which would keep him more on the high ground after Arias' repeated entreaties to let the process continue some more. At that point he can say he tried everything before returning.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honduras agreement?

From Reuters:

TEGUCIGALPA, July 18 (Reuters) - Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said on Saturday he agreed with a proposal made by mediator Costa Rica to form a national unity government, and said he would return home from exile in the coming days.

"We agree with it, but only as long as all the powers of the state are integrated into it," he told Radio Globo, adding that his return to Honduras could occur as soon as tomorrow, in defiance of a threat by the interim government to arrest him. (Reporting by Simon Gardner, Esteban Israel and Juana Casas)

So what's up? Is this real or a bad translation?

Update: Opposition says no:

TEGUCIGALPA, July 18 (Reuters) - Honduras' interim government rejected mediator Costa Rica's proposal to allow ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to return to serve out the rest of his term, a spokesman for the presidential palace said on Saturday.

"They want the reinstatement of President Zelaya without any form of negotiation," Mario Saldana, a spokesman for the caretaker government, told Reuters. Asked if the government accepted the proposal, he said, "No." (Reporting by Simon Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Ah well.


Remittances and the Honduran crisis

With the Honduran crisis I have not been posting on immigration, but the two intersect in an interesting way. As an article in the Miami Herald points out, the coup government is looking to two major factors to prop it up until the November elections (unless, of course, Zelaya returns on his own). One is $2.5 billion in reserves. The second is a continued flow of remittances from Hondurans abroad, primarily in the United States.

This is a very good point. In Honduras remittances total about 25 percent of GNP, or about $2.7 billion. That flow has slowed as a result of the global economic crisis, but it nonetheless remains a very important source of revenue for the country. And it won't stop. If anything, Hondurans abroad would send as much as they could (if they weren't already) to help their families in a very difficult time.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Fidel on Honduras

I came across a link to Fidel Castro's column today about Honduras, blaming the U.S. and talking about Oliver North.

What I find interesting, though, is that at least in this case no one cares what Fidel Castro thinks. The Honduran opposition never mentions him. No U.S. official ever mentions him. Supporters of Zelaya don't either. Actually, I have yet to read any analysis of Honduras that mentions him.


More rumors of Zelaya's return

Hugo Chávez claims that Mel Zelaya will be back in Honduras "in the coming hours." For whatever reason, Reuters did not include the full quote, which referred to the coup supporters as gorillas.

Chávez says crazy things off the cuff all the time, especially since he seems never to stop talking, but since people close to Zelaya have already said he is coming back, it may well be true.


Negotiations in Honduras

Apparently two terms have been reached in the Honduran negotiations (so we can now actually call them negotiations). The first is amnesty, so we may never get to hear the prosecution try to make their case. The second is a unity government of some sort. It is notable that Oscar Arias automatically rejected the demand by Micheletti that he step down in return for Zelaya not returning as president.

Arias says Zelaya must come back as president, and the essential question is whether he would do so with reduced powers until the November presidential election.

There is also no more talk of pushing up the elections. As commenters here have noted, that would also violate the constitution, so I assume they would prefer not to violate it once again.

At this point, we don't know where Zelaya is after his announcement that he would return to Honduras. That uncertainty puts the heat on the coup government.

Update: See comments below about how at this point these are goals and not accomplishments.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is Zelaya trying to return?

So says one of his top aides.

Patricia Rodas, foreign minister of Zelaya's toppled government, said the deposed president was "on his way" back, but refused to say how he planned to enter the country or when he expected to arrive. Zelaya's current whereabouts are unclear and Honduras' interim leaders have promised to arrest him if he returns.

"Our president will be in Honduras at some point and a some moment. He is already on his way. God protect him and the people of the Americas who are with him," Rodas told reporters in La Paz, Bolivia.

I suppose he figures he has Micheletti on the ropes after the latter said he would be willing to step down and protests mount. I assume he is also tired of the calls for "patience" with negotiations.

Forget the United States. If he really appears in Honduras, this will be about how the Honduran military responds. And no matter what you read, that will not be based on what the U.S. wants.


Honduras: Insulza talks

See Boz about a talk José Miguel Insulza gave, sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue. What strikes me most about it is his comment that the president of the Honduran Supreme Court was confused on the day of the coup and didn't know what was going on. That hardly jibes with the claim that the military was just carrying about the Court's orders, and that everything was all driven by the Court.


Micheletti and shifting sand

I had barely finished writing that the coup government's proposal would be seen as insufficient when Micheletti suddenly changed it by saying he would step down if Zelaya was not allowed to return as president.

He made the offer to the U.S. government instead of Oscar Arias (who plans to hold talks on Saturday--he could well be overtaken by events) in the hope of convincing the Obama administration to put pressure on Zelaya to accept. I tend to doubt they would do so, and he would likely ignore them anyway. Protestors are obviously getting under Micheletti's skin (hence the curfew is back) and very clearly could get worse.

Now, whither the military? I keep hearing rumors about splits within it, but have no means of confirming anything. Regardless, the armed forces do not want to be stuck in the middle of a mob and told to keep order as their civilian leaders run for cover. Their support for the coup government will have limits.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Support for Zelaya in Honduras

More info from the Gallup poll:

The nationwide survey — which was done after Zelaya was sent into forced exile in a military coup — shows Zelaya with 46 percent favorable and 44 unfavorable, compared to 30 favorable and 49 unfavorable for Micheletti.
So even after the coup, Zelaya is much more popular than Micheletti. Indeed, it is entirely likely that this is because of the coup. Zelaya's treatment garners him sympathy.

The survey also asked Hondurans whether they felt Zelaya's removal was justified because he had pushed to add a question on a national ballot about whether to have a constitutional assembly, which the nation's highest court had ruled to be unconstitutional. Forty-one percent of respondents said this did justify his removal, while 28 percent said it didn't and 31 percent were unsure or declined to answer.

The coup government really has no majority support for anything it has done.


Honduran "negotiation"

An opposition lawmaker in Honduras has laid out the offer that will be made to Mel Zelaya on Saturday when talks resume. It seems mostly intended to give the appearance of negotiation (thus deflecting charges of intransigence) while stalling.

Zelaya would tell his supporters to stop protesting, he would not be president, and there would be early elections. The first two obviously represent a huge concession because they tacitly acknowledge the legitimacy of the coup itself. He would have to tell his own supporters that their protests were entirely in vain and pointless.

So what does Zelaya get? Amnesty. Since the coup government has tried very hard never to allow a trial anyway, it is not much of a concession. They don't want him on trial, which would force them to make their legal case, allow defense, and grant Zelaya a public forum to denounce the charges.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Honduras: The Chávez factor

The media, both in the U.S. and in Honduras, is truly obsessed with whether Hugo Chávez "wins" or "loses" as a result of the crisis. This bothers me for two reasons. First, it purposefully ignores the internal factors that led to the coup by labeling them as foreign-driven, thus making Hondurans peripheral to what is a Honduran crisis. But in a way, the second reason is worse--most analyses actually get it wrong by claiming that support for Roberto Micheletti is a blow to Chávez. The opposite is true.

By "winning" I mean that Chávez gains political influence regionally. I can't see how the Honduran crisis matters to him domestically. "Winning" centers on whether there are more or fewer prominent politicians with ideologies that are relatively close to his, which we might measure by election results, visits, references to him and his policies, etc.

Conservatives, both here and in Honduras, assert that keeping Zelaya out of power hurts Chávez because he loses an ally--just read La Prensa, the opposition paper that can barely publish an article without a reference to Venezuela. This is why conservative commentator Cal Thomas (like many others--I choose him because I read him most recently) criticizes Obama for saying it was a coup--we want the Chávez guy out and the "good guy" in.

The problem with this argument is that the coup itself changed Honduras' political dynamics in a way that makes the thesis irrelevant. Zelaya has bent over backwards to tell the world that he will not do all the things his opponents claim he wanted. If he returns to office, it will not likely be as a fired up Chávez acolyte. In any event, he cannot stand for office again, and it is clear as day that the next president will not be leftist.

So if Zelaya is returned to the presidency, Chávez "loses." The Honduran president everyone believed (rightly or wrongly) as his man will by necessity be attuned to domestic political realities. In a few short months, someone very different will be elected. Chávez would only lose diplomatically by claiming that negotiation was the wrong choice.

If Micheletti remains in power until the November elections, he gives Chávez a tremendous platform to decry attacks on the left. No matter what you think of Chávez, those concerns will resonate across the region. Zelaya thus becomes a martyr because he was overthrown and the United States played a role in that result. There is no political "loss" there for Chávez, but rather more evidence that everything he rants about is true.


Zelaya's ultimatum

Mel Zelaya has issued an ultimatum:

"We are giving an ultimatum to the coup regime that by our next meeting at the latest, to be held this week in San Jose, Costa Rica, they comply with the mandates expressed by international organizations and the constitution of Honduras" demanding his immediate restitution, Zelaya told reporters Monday at the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua's capital Managua.

Mediation efforts initiated last week in San Jose "will be considered a failure" and "we will proceed with other measures," he added, if interim leader Roberto Micheletti and his two-week-old administration continue to delay Zelaya's return to the helm of the Honduran government.

I would take this as a signal to the Obama administration as much as to Micheletti. There is really not much Zelaya can do, but the situation is very tense and so he is reminding everyone that continued stalemate will make everything worse. Zelaya needs to convince the U.S. that waiting things out is not an option. Meanwhle, Micheletti is lobbying furiously to keep the waiting game going.


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Honduran "dialogue"

Ginger Thompson at the New York Times examines the talks going on at Oscar Arias' house. Several things are becoming more and more clear:

First, Roberto Micheletti thinks he can ride this out, and will do whatever he can to stall. He has hired expensive Clinton administration lawyers to get more members of Congress on his side.

Second, everyone knows this, so there is increasing pressure on the Obama administration (such as from Arias) do so something.

Third, like it or not, the solution to this crisis will come from the United States, which is why we even have Hugo Chávez calling Tom Shannon. The solution will not come from ALBA or any other new alliance that have received so much press. The presence of the United States remains much more relevant than many people would like to admit, no matter how many new international institutions are launched.

Fourth, the solution will not come from the OAS, which further weakens an already badly limping organization. If the OAS became largely marginalized this quickly during a serious crisis, what is its purpose?


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Zelaya and the fourth ballot

There are so many unusual aspects of the Honduran political crisis. After seeing an interview with Mel Zelaya on the Costa Rican paper La Nación, another one occurred to me. This is what Zelaya had to say when asked about re-election and his proposed vote:

This is false. In Honduras there is no re-election and there is no possibility of re-electing me. I raised the possibility of a fourth ballot so that the people could give their opinion of development, taxes, tax reform, budgets, and international treaties.

I am trying to think of another situation where a president was ousted in part for proposing reforms, and then no one can even agree on what specific reforms he was proposing. The fact that Zelaya has denied the re-election argument multiple times (including prior to the coup) also means it can never be proved.

I would love, though, to see how the opposition framed their case if it ever went to court. The main argument seems to be "Zelaya wanted re-election. The proof is that many people think so."


Honduras: the coup and the Church

On the one hand, the Pope has called for dialogue to "ensure peaceful coexistence and authentic democratic life" in Honduras.

On the other, Tracy Wilkinson at the L.A. Times published an article questioning the role of Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodríguez Maradiaga in the coup as well as its aftermath:

Nine days after the coup and two days after Zelaya attempted unsuccessfully to land at the airport, the cardinal was overheard on his cellphone to the attorney general, urging him to produce drug trafficking evidence against Zelaya. "My son," he said, "we need that proof. It's the only thing that will help us now."

I've mentioned the Cardinal's role before, and comments suggested there may be a split between the Church hierarchy and local parishes. There are still a lot of untold stories.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blog on hunger

Be sure to check out Russell Bither-Terry's new blog on hunger, Zero Hunger. He is a political science Ph.D. student at UNC Chapel Hill doing his dissertation on the topic, focusing on Brazil. He also participated in my blogging workshop last month, coincidentally also in Brazil.


Honduras: the waiting game

There is no doubt that delay benefits the coup government, and so the first round of "dialogue" goes to Micheletti. Here is a copy of Oscar Arias' comments to the press, composed largely of platitudes. Key sentence: "In the following days we will announce the date of our next encounter." So we actually have to wait to hear the date before then waiting for the actual date. Tick tock, tick tock.

At this point, though, there is nothing Zelaya can do. The United States doesn't want to provoke conflict, so will not be using any stick anytime soon. The big question is what happens if Micheletti never backs down, which then eventually prompts Zelaya to try something else.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Support for Zelaya's ouster in Honduras

Juan Forero at the Washington Post has a very interesting article about censorship in the wake of the coup. Tucked into it is this tidbit:

Such allegations underscore the one-sided nature of the news that has been served up to Hondurans during the crisis. According to results of a Gallup poll published here Thursday, 41 percent of Hondurans think the ouster was justified, with 28 opposed to it.

In other words, the coup government managed to force its version of the story on Hondurans, yet can only muster 41 percent support. This is a miserably low number given Roberto Micheletti's triumphalist tone and control over the flow of information.

Further, this means a whopping 31 percent of Hondurans have not made up their minds about the situation. Unfortunately, this may well indicate that many people do not believe it matters who is in power.

Update: Boz has some more detailed Gallup numbers. In my view, the most relevant is that only 47 percent of Hondurans believed Zelaya was pushing to change the re-election rules.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Honduras: the Puppet Problem

As I read through blogs and news about Honduras, I have become increasingly tired of what I have come to think of as Puppet Problem. This refers to the idea that we need to look outside Honduras to understand what's happening there. Hondurans are just puppets. The result is that what's best for Hondurans themselves gets lost in the shuffle.

There are two dimensions to the Puppet Problem. The first, and most common, is that Honduras is all about Hugo Chávez. Its least sophisticated form comes from people like Cardinal Rodríguez, who says simply that "Chávez wanted to control the country." More common is the idea that we should judge the coup in terms of whether Chávez somehow wins or loses as a result. From this perspective, Honduran law matters little, and the well-being of the Honduran people matters not at all. What matters is making sure that Chávez loses.

The other side of the Puppet Problem is that the United States is responsible for the coup. This either means the Obama administration itself or just past notorious policy makers. Since Venezuelan officials themselves raised the point, we even get to the ridiculous point where Otto Reich writes an op-ed in the Miami Herald entitled, "I did not orchestrate coup in Honduras." This perspective entails refusal to examine the real life events that led up to the coup. Since the U.S. orchestrated it, there is no need to understand the complex political conflict that was taking place in the weeks prior. Once again, Honduras itself is secondary to outside influence.

Of course, Honduras is a small impoverished country with weak political institutions. Outside factors always play a role in its economic and political development. Assigning them primary importance, however, is the essence of the problem. This coup was Honduran, and any solution must focus squarely on domestic Honduran realities.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Honduras: The Supreme Court's case Part 2

Commenters alerted me to the fact that the Honduran Supreme Court documents related to Zelaya's overthrow are now online at the Court's website as PDFs. Three main points jump out immediately.

First, opposition leaders have been saying constantly that Zelaya was overthrown because he wanted to change the constitution to allow re-election, which would be illegal. But in fact, the argument hinges primarily on the fact that other bodies, not the executive, are supposed to approve any such vote. Therefore Zelaya broke the law when he ordered government institutions to participate.

However, pages 39-40 do very briefly make the argument that "the fact of convoking a constitutive National Assembly is evidence of trying to abolish the current Constitution." By extension, the forbidden article would necessarily be reformed, which is illegal. I am not a lawyer, but I found this curious, because the vote did not convoke any commission (and by its wording, had no power to do so). Perhaps convoking it would be illegal, but it was never convoked.

Nonetheless, I cannot find anywhere in the documents any accusation regarding Zelaya's intent to seek re-election.

Second, I laughed at page 49, which instructed the military to detain Zelaya because he was a threat to flee ("existiendo un peligro de Fuga").

Third, there are over 70 pages of documents, sometimes in dense legalese, thought through by opposition lawyers and officially stamped all over the place. Yet Zelaya was never allowed to defend himself from the charges they contained.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Crime and authority in Honduras

I recently received the latest report from the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University. I received it via email and unfortunately it is not yet up on their website. You can subscribe to their email list at , which I highly recommend because they have really interesting public opinion data.

The most recent study asked people "Should authorities respect the law when fighting crimes?"

Honduras came in second to last (out of 22 countries, including the U.S., which came in at 5th with 70.5 percent) at 47.8 percent, second only to Nicaragua at 46.7 percent (Jamaica was first at 86.4 percent).

Put more simply, a majority of people in Honduras believe it is acceptable to break the law to enforce the law.

I can't help but think there is a correlation between those attitudes and at least the idea by the coup makers that their actions would be accepted. Already, the military has said its actions were illegal, yet despite that no one involved will be punished. Micheletti and others believed that when push came to shove, they would receive support for Zelaya's removal regardless of the methods they used.


Honduras: the Supreme Court's case

The former President of the Honduran Supreme Court lays out her argument about why Zelaya's removal did not constitute a coup. The logic is as follows:

First, according to Article 239 of the constitution, no one can propose to reform presidential term limits.

Second, according to the same article, anyone who does is immediately relieved of their post.

Third, if you ask whether voters want a constitutional commission, you are automatically saying you want to abolish the constitution.

Fourth, by order of the Supreme Court, Zelaya was no longer president at the time he was detained, and therefore the illegal act of removing him from the country did not happen to a president. Hence there was no coup.

Obviously, number 3 is the stickiest point. As has been noted repeatedly, Zelaya's proposal never mentioned presidential terms and did not say the constitution would be abolished. See RAJ's comments in a previous post about other constitutional articles regarding the right to a trial and defense that were not respected.


Monday, July 06, 2009

The State Department and Zelaya

Mel Zelaya will soon be talking to Secretary Clinton and other State Department officials. Yesterday's background briefing is interesting for its utter lack of platitudes or vague pronouncements.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we can’t address what else a de facto government might want to talk about since we’ve only received indications that they’re prepared to begin a process. So we’re going to have to wait and see what it is they want to talk about. But we and all the other members of the OAS have made clear that we’re looking for full restoration of democratic and constitutional order. And that would mean allowing President Zelaya to fulfill his mandate, which ends in January of 2010.


QUESTION: But you don’t rule out any different scenarios from Zelaya returning to power until January?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, I think that what we’ve said is pretty clear. And again, we don’t want to be drawn into negotiations before negotiations have even started. That would be a big mistake. So, I mean, I would stick to what I said earlier, which is that full restoration of democratic and constitutional order means allowing President Zelaya to return to Honduras and fulfill his mandate as the legal and constitutional president of Honduras.

The only wiggle room I could possibly see is if elections were moved forward, but Zelaya was restored as president until they occurred (which could technically "fulfill his mandate"). But, of course, Micheletti has said that is a non-starter.


Summing things up in one sentence

Reading an Associated Press article on Honduras, which is being widely circulated, one sentence jumped out at me because it seemed to really sum things up. It notes all the accusations against Zelaya, and his refusal to obey orders not to hold the referendum, and then states:

But instead of prosecuting him or trying to defeat him at the ballot box, masked soldiers flew the president out of the country at gunpoint, and Congress installed Mr. Micheletti in his place.

That just nails it.


Honduras: the delaying tactic

Roberto Micheletti has one key goal at the moment, which is to ensure that Mel Zelaya does not re-enter Honduras for as long as possible. Every day that goes by is one more that the world might start losing interest and there will be less and less pressure to ever prove the allegations they make.

After successfully blocking the runway, Micheletti then announced that he was willing to have a dialogue with the OAS, which gives him at least a day or two more of breathing room. As is now the norm, however, with either Insulza or Micheletti, the willingness to talk was accompanied by conditions the other side would immediately reject. In fact, Micheletti rejected "negotiation," as he did not need to negotiate with anyone but the Honduran people.

Faced with thousands of people marching in Zelaya's favor, the only response is that they must be financed.


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.


Zelaya's planned return

After much speculation about timing, according to the Miami Herald Zelaya will be returning to Honduras this afternoon. Without providing sources, the article also suggests that no other president will go with him, and Insulza might not either. If that is true, I don't know what changed--Rafael Correa had previously confirmed he was going, adding melodramatically that Honduras "would be a good place to die."

At this point it is a game of chicken, and something will have to give. The coup government, along with the Catholic Church, has made very clear that they want to start pretending that Zelaya never existed. Have new presidential elections and start believing they dreamed it all.

We can only hope there is more discussion going on behind the scenes than is being reported.

Update: La Prensa's Twitter page says television stations have announced that Zelaya will go to El Salvador, not Honduras. There is just no way of predicting what will happen from one moment to the next.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Honduran crisis and the Catholic Church

Through Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez, the Catholic Church in Honduras has issued a statement about the crisis (only in Spanish). It concludes that no coup occurred, that Zelaya should not return to the country, and that the presidential elections should not be moved up.

It does call for dialogue where everyone listens calmly to each other, but given the above I am not quite sure what the basis would be for dialogue. It is rather like the flip side of Insulza traveling to Honduras to talk while saying beforehand that he wouldn't negotiate.

One of the more interesting developments of the past day or so is the redefinition of "unilateral," which is also mentioned in the statement. If every single country in the world is united against a particular action, it is "unilateral."


Honduras and the OAS

Roberto Micheletti wasn't too happy after José Miguel Insulza's trip to Honduras, which was intended primarily as a finger-wagging exercise. So he announced Honduras is pulling out of the OAS (As boz notes, Micheletti actually is doing what Chávez kept saying he would do). Oddly enough, he was angry about the "unilateral" nature of the multilateral organization. Insulzia was, however, given a large number of documents so maybe for the first time we can actually discover the precise wording of the accusations and orders.

Apparently not noting the irony, the president of the Colegio de Abogados in Honduras said he believed Honduras should have the right to defend itself against the OAS charges.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Exile and illegality in Honduras

For the past few days, the Honduran military has been surprisingly forthcoming. It is not terribly common for top military brass to admit to criminal wrongdoing, yet now they have. As I noted yesterday, it was entirely illegal to remove Zelaya from the country, and the military's lawyer now acknowledges that fact (h/t Steven Taylor). That's good.

But there is more to Colonel Bayardo's interview.

First, no one knows why no one ever considered even taking Zelaya to court. The decision to get him out of the country was a last minute one taken by the military authorities. The civilian authorities seem to have had no idea what they were doing, and allowed the military to do whatever it wanted. The Attorney General's office has to launch an investigation to even know why a trial was not considered.

This week, Deputy Attorney General Roy David Urtecho told reporters that he launched an investigation into why Zelaya was removed by force instead of taken to court.

Thus, the argument that normal institutional channels were followed is really unraveling.

Second, Bayardo says he (and many other officers) did not like Zelaya only because he was leftist, making reference to the Cold War.

''We fought the subversive movements here and we were the only country that did not have a fratricidal war like the others,'' he said. ``It would be difficult for us, with our training, to have a relationship with a leftist government. That's impossible. I personally would have retired, because my thinking, my principles, would not have allowed me to participate in that.''

So all these years later, "leftist" is still seen as synonymous with "subversive," despite elections.


Honduras and early elections

Roberto Micheletti says he is willing to discuss holding early presidential elections as part of a political solution (see Eric Farnsworth at Americas Quarterly for a discussion about that possibility).

This is not as simple as it sounds, because the OAS would play a central role, yet the OAS itself has stipulated unequivocally that Zelaya must be returned to the presidency. So who would be in charge until the new elections were held? If not Zelaya, then the OAS tossed its entire resolution out the window.

Further, Insulza is going to Honduras today, but insists he will not meet with Micheletti or negotiate at all. Yet he must know there has to be some sort of negotiation because no one (not even Chavez, no matter what he says) will use force to re-install Zelaya.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Honduras: summing up some basic points

After quite a few posts and many comments on this blog, not to mention countless articles and blog posts elsewhere, many of them contradictory, several key points have started to stick in my mind about the coup in Honduras.

1. According to the constitution, taking Zelaya out of the country was illegal. Period.

2. Zelaya is charged with trying to amend the constitution to allow re-election of the president (which would be illegal), yet no one has ever provided evidence to that effect. It is illegal to amend seven particular parts of the constitution, but the wording of the proposed vote did not mention any of them.

I do not care if you are positive he wanted to, as that does not constitute evidence. He said before the coup that he would leave office in 2010. Maybe he was lying, maybe not. But it deserves more investigation before overthrowing him. Ousting a president requires more than just assumptions about intent.

3. At various times, commenters have mentioned Venezuela as intruding (such as with the plebiscite materials) but I have never seen the Supreme Court or Attorney General mention evidence.* Until I do, I think Venezuela is irrelevant. That Zelaya liked Hugo Chavez is not relevant to his standing as president. That Chavez says ridiculous things about invasion is not relevant to Zelaya's case either.

4. Zelaya was unpopular (even with his own party) and many people in Honduras are glad he's gone. This is irrelevant to the law. Surprisingly, I have not yet seen anyone make an argument for how a parliamentary system might have mediated the situation better--Honduran political institutions are so weak it might not have mattered.

* It is also troubling for a Supreme Court justice to use the gossipy phrase "some say" as in "some say it was not Zelaya but Chavez governing."


Parsing U.S. aid to Honduras

As I've discussed, calling Honduras a "military coup" entails cutting off aid. Now the U.S. has decided to "hit the pause button" on the funding that would be cut off. The buzzword these days seems to be "pause" as a warning before the "cut."

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I do have an update for you on that if you’ll just hold on a second.

The legal review is ongoing. We’re trying to determine if Section 7008 of the Foreign Assistance Act must be applied. In the meantime, we’ve taken some actions to hit the pause button, let’s say, on assistance programs that we would be legally required to terminate if it is determined – if the events of June 28 are determined to have been, as defined – I’m sounding more and more like a lawyer here – as defined, under the Section 7008 of the Foreign Assistance Act, as defined as a military coup.

I also want to emphasize, though, that we’re continuing assistance programs that would not be subject to legal determination – I’m sorry, to legal termination, and this is in order to continue to help the Honduran people. And of course, these programs include democracy assistance and humanitarian programs, which of course would be excluded under this particular section of the Foreign Assistance Act.

QUESTION: Would you say that this pause button applies to most of the aid that we would normally be providing them, or any idea?

You know, I think that’s fair to say, yeah. But I don’t have a dollar figure.



U.S. aid and Honduras Part 2

The U.S. is putting off any decision about cutting aid to Honduras until Monday.

"We will wait until the secretary-general has finished his diplomatic initiative and reports back ... on July 6 before we take any further action in relationship to assistance," a senior Obama administration official told reporters.

"We think that President Zelaya's decision to postpone his earlier decision to return to Honduras on Thursday was a wise one," the official added, saying it was important to give the OAS time to craft a solution so Zelaya can return peacefully.

My first impression is that this could very well ease Zelaya's arrival on Saturday. It is a public warning that aid may well be suspended if things go badly over the weekend. Like if the Honduran police tackle Cristina Fernandez and Rafael Correa in order to grab Mel Zelaya. It is also a signal that the U.S. likes how Zelaya has responded thus far, and expects Micheletti to be nice too.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Honduras: The (Military) Coup

U.S. aid is contingent on whether or not a coup is a "military coup." So we have this wording from a "Senior Administration Official." The funny thing is that he/she even reverts to Spanish ("golpe de estado") to avoid the term "military coup." Then it's all diplomatic dance.

QUESTION: And so this is properly classified as a military coup?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, it’s a golpe de estado. The military moved against the president; they removed him from his home and they expelled him from a country, so the military participated in a coup. However, the transfer of leadership was not a military action. The transfer of leadership was done by the Honduran congress, and therefore the coup, while it had a military component, it has a larger – it is a larger event.

Then later:

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: In regard to the coup itself, I think it would just – it would be best to say that this was a coordinated effort between the military and some civilian political actors. Obviously, the military was the entity that conducted the forcible removal of the president and has acted as the securer of public order during this process. But for the coup to become more than an insurrection or a rebellion, you have to have an effort to transfer power. And in that regard, the congress – the congress’s decision to swear in its president, Micheletti, as the president of Honduras indicates that the congress and key members of that congress played an important role in this coup.


Zelaya and exile

In my last post, I asked about the rushed decision to take Zelaya out of the country and whether it was legal--the constitution answers my question. Otto at Inca Kola News notes a legal action in favor of Zelaya based especially on Article 81:

Toda persona tiene derecho a circular libremente, salir, entrar y permanecer en el territorio nacional.

Every person has the right to circulate freely, leave, enter, and remain in the national territory.

Also Article 102:

Ningún hondureño podrá ser expatriado ni entregado por las autoridades a un Estado extranjero.

No Honduran can be expatriated or handed over by the authorities to a foreign state.

I don't see a lot of wiggle room there.


The Honduran military talks more

Yesterday I mentioned an interview with the army commander, and now the army's lawyer, Colonel Bayardo, is also talking. But he raises more questions than he answers. For example:

We said, ‘Sir, we have a judicial order to detain you.’


At about 11 p.m. Saturday, the detention order reached the army’s top command, Colonel Bayardo said. It was carried out early the next morning.

The interview keeps mentioning "detention." If that was the case, under whose authority was his presidency stripped? The arrest and the sentence were done simultaneously.

Like the army commander, Bayardo says Zelaya was taken out of the country to avoid more bloodshed. But was it legal to do so? Bayardo says it was a "last minute decision," which suggests the law was not necessarily paramount.


Honduras: quote of the day

"If he comes back to our country, he would have to face our tribunals and our trials and our laws"

--Roberto Micheletti, apparently forgetting that he was supposed to do that the first time around.


OAS resolution

Here is the relevant part of the latest OAS resolution on Honduras.


To condemn vehemently the coup d’état staged against the constitutionally established Government of Honduras, and the arbitrary detention and expulsion from the country of the constitutional president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which has produced an unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order.

To reaffirm that President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales is the constitutional President of Honduras and to demand the immediate, safe, and unconditional return of the President to his constitutional functions.

To declare that no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized, and to reaffirm that the representatives designated by the constitutional and legitimate government of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales are the representatives of the Honduran State to the Organization of American States.

To instruct the Secretary General to undertake, together with representatives of various countries, diplomatic initiatives aimed at restoring democracy and the rule of law and the reinstatement of President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, pursuant to Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and report to the Special General Assembly on the results of the initiatives. Should these prove unsuccessful within 72 hours, the Special General Assembly shall forthwith invoke Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to suspend Honduras’ membership.

To extend this special session of the General Assembly until July 6, 2009.

Meanwhile Micheletti says Zelaya cannot return to the presidency. Europe is also getting involved, as Spain has withdrawn its ambassador.

Everyone is digging in, but something will have give at some point.


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