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 insight@mail.americasbarometer.org , 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.


Gabriel,  6:52 PM  

Do you know how this poll compares to Latinobarometro? Does it come out regularly?

leftside 7:19 PM  

Gabriel, we are still waiting for your promised explanation of how it would have been possible for Zelaya to have been re-elected in November even if all your darkest assumptions about his intentions were correct. Or you could just admit you were off your rocker on that one...

I can see why you want to try to stick by that argument though, because without it, even you would have to admit the Court's decision was completely without rational basis.

I have written letters to as many news outlets as possible telling them to stop printing this lie (about re-election). The LA Times agreed with me and has stopped phrasing it that way. I encourage others who care about our press to do the same. It is simply the height of irresponsibility to repeat one of the coup plotters' main justifications verbatim, despite it being so obviously unproven and impossible.

Will Shetterly 7:28 PM  

Greg, the flip side of that attitude may explain why the people are resisting the coup. In the US, Gore told his supporters to accept the verdict, and they obeyed.

leftside, in one of the Spanish papers, Zelaya said explicitly that he would not run again. I haven't seen any English-language paper quote that.

Gabriel 7:53 PM  

sure leftside, it's pretty simple. You need to talk to people in Honduras or read the papers there.

Zelaya showed he was willing to resort to mob rule and would ignore any judicial rulings he disagreed with, to the point of ordering the armed forces to follow his orders even when they had been declared illegal by the SC. These are simple facts, OK?

He also decided to run this 'opinion poll' directly (read the decree) with people from his cabinet, instead of the independent institutions that are charged with that in Honduras. Again, stating simple facts.

Now all you need to do is add 1 + 2. Since he didn't care what the Constitution said or what the courts ruled and was willing to use the security forces even for illegal orders, AND he controlled the outcome of the 'opinion poll' it was clear to all involved how this would end. Zelaya would claim a big win and move for a new Assembly even ahead of November elections and then seek to be in the ballot for the next presidential elections.

I really can't believe anyone would claim with a straight face that Zelaya, the man that openly broke the law and ignored all the judicial rulings he didn't like, wasn't going to seek what he wanted because of some law. Zelaya made abundantly clear he did not care what the laws or judges said.

Luckily for Honduras it turned out the military wasn't willing to follow Zelaya down that path.

Gabriel 7:59 PM  


Zelaya made clear that was his objective.


Plus, since he could propose to amend any other part of the Constitution without all this mess it's clear he chose this path for this reason.

leftside 8:31 PM  

Zelaya made clear that was his objective.

Come on... there was absolutely nothing clear about that statement you keep pulling out. All it said is that Constitutional power eminates from the will of the people. Nothing controvertial about that - it is written in the Constitution. What is actually CLEAR are his numerous statements saying categorically he was NOT interested in re-election. He repeated this over and over again, unfortuantely the Honduran press was not interested in printing such things. Thankfully, we have his clear words quoted in El Pais, CNN and in front of the UN General Assembly.

...and move for a new Assembly even ahead of November elections and then seek to be in the ballot for the next presidential elections.

So you admit a November re-election was not possible? This goes against your earlier claims - and those we keep reading in the press.

And your "1+2" reasoning is laughable. Using that logic, the coup mongers in power must be overthrown because they can be assumed to be wanting to do all manner of un-Constitutional things since they already violated the laws and Constitution. We don't need to hash Zelaya's legal position vs the coup-Courts for the zillionth time. But it should be clear to anyone with a brain by now that they were acting capricously and outside their powers. Zelaya was forced to use his own resources for the poll. He was respecting the Courts decision, ironically.

I still have not seen any proof that the Courts' decisions specifically mention a non-binding referendum as being unlawful. I believe that is why the Congress had to hastily pass that idiotic law on the 28th - after the referendum had been posted in the gaceta (rendering the law non-applicable).

Gabriel 8:34 PM  


If you don't want to see the proof before your eyes, so be it. Zelaya made clear what he wanted and he made clear he would respect no law or ruling that got in his way.

Luckily he was stopped.

Justin Delacour 8:40 PM  

Zelaya would claim a big win and move for a new Assembly even ahead of November elections and then seek to be in the ballot for the next presidential elections.

Unfortunately, Gabriel, the rest of us here on planet earth don't have access to your crystal ball and thus can't justify coups on the basis of wild speculation about what you think Zelaya's intentions were.

Gabriel 8:51 PM  

Of course Justin.

Zelaya decided to break the law and ignore all court rulings because he just so loved Honduras! He fought for the right of future unnamed presidents to be elected to two-terms, and if that led to him breaking the law, well so be it, because allowing reelection simply was needed if Honduras was going to go forward! Such an unselfish man.


Let's be grateful he was stopped.

Justin Delacour 9:01 PM  

If you don't want to see the proof before your eyes, so be it.

If courts were to use your fascinating standard of what constitues "proof," Gabriel, presidents would be routinely overthrown on the basis of wild speculation about what some group thinks their intentions are. If that's your standard of "proof," you are essentially seeking to open the way for wildly arbitrary court rulings, whereby the rule of law ceases to exist as we know it.

Gabriel 9:06 PM  

Hmmm... come on Justin, it doesn't appear that you care too much about what courts in Honduras say. You seem OK with Zelaya choosing what ruling he will follow and which he won't.

Justin Delacour 9:20 PM  

Hmmm... come on Justin, it doesn't appear that you care too much about what courts in Honduras say. You seem OK with Zelaya choosing what ruling he will follow and which he won't.

If you think Zelaya broke the law, Gabriel, you should support a public tribunal on the matter, in which all parties to the table make their case and a decision is rendered on the basis of the rule of law. Any person with respect for the rule of law would not support a decision to summarily depose a democratically-elected president on the basis of wild speculation about what you think his supposed intentions were.

Gabriel 9:22 PM  


It's not me who says Zelaya broke the law. It's the Honduras SC! But then again, what do they know about Honduras' law.

leftside 12:14 AM  

Some interesting discussion over on Wikipedia:

Someone who's actually (found) and read the Court's decision finds something very important. Despite all this talk about Presidential term limits and re-election being the basis for Zelaya being sacked, nowhere in the Court decision does it actually accuse Zelaya of violating the Constitutional Article (239) dealing with term limits. The Article, with its draconian provisions, is not even mentioned. So this idea that Zelaya was legally removed for suggesting changing term limits, per Article 239, appears totally bogus.

Instead, Articles 373 and 374 are cited. 373 deals with the Congress's exclusive role in Constitutional amendments, while 374 lays out 4 additional specific Constitutional elements that can not be altered (form of Government, national territory, Presidential term, who can be President). Quite interestingly, the citations (on pg 71) do not explicitly accuse Zelaya or the public poll of violating 373 or 374. They only state that "plans towards reforming Article 374 of the Constitution shall not be the objects of plebiscites or referendum." But again, no specific accusations or findings were presented.

As commenter Jules Siegel summarizes: They may have accused (Zelaya) of having violated Article 374 , but did not rule on whether he had done so, as far as I can tell. They left that for a competent judicial authority to determine after specifically ordering the Army to detain Zelaya and bring him before one. Since the Army did not follow the court's orders, the issue of whether or not he actually violated the article remains unresolved, as no judicial determination was ever made.

leftside 12:22 AM  

It has not made much news, so I thought I'd post that INTERPOL has denied the coup leaders attempt to have them arrest Zelaya. (Greg, let me know if I am out of line)

In the opinion of INTERPOL, such a request violates article 3 of the organization, which strictly bans any activity or intervention "in matters of a political, military, religious or racial nature."

he alleged abuse of authority, usurpation of functions, insults against the government and treason imputed to Zelaya are of a political nature and lack any element of common law, INTERPOL argued. If the dictatorial government in Honduras requests Zelaya's capture, they should have allowed his return to the country last Sunday, when he tried to do it by plane from Washington. However, "the Honduran authorities prevented the plane from landing in Tegucigalpa, where they could have applied for a national detention warrant," said INTERPOL.

"If that information is accurate and the national authorities refrained deliberately from practicing the detention in their own territory, that would also prove the existence of purposes different from the defense of police cooperation," stated INTERPOL.

RAJ 5:31 AM  

I have been trying to find somewhere where Zelaya actually said he wanted to change presidential term limits, without finding any such statement.

Gabriel's provided URL is a link to the Honduran daily paper, La Prensa, which did publish a story on March 13 of this year which was headlined and interpreted in this way.

But here is what the quote from Zelaya that is interpreted as an admission of wanting to remain in power actually says:

in response to the question of whether he wants to change the constitution to stay in power:

"Soy un demócrata y la pregunta hay que hacérsela al pueblo, es el que tiene que contestar, no la tiene que contestar nadie más".

"I am a democrat, and the question should be asked of the people, it is they who have to answer, no one else has to answer it".

For a smoking gun, that is pretty lame. What this link illustrates well is that the Honduran press is not, in general, bound by any of the kinds of practices expected of US press, such as refraining from editorializing.

Arguments need to be supported by evidence, not by assertion. Saying that "it was clear to everyone" simply illustrates what widespread rumors and fears were, encouraged by the Honduran media, whose role in ramping up the situation and polarizing matters has been singled out by many Honduran academics and intellectuals.

Gabriel,  7:48 AM  


that's quite a bit of spin!

So Zelaya repeatedly breaks the law, resorts to mob rule, openly tells the Attorney General police won't arrest him, and ignores judicial rulings he disagrees with, and according to you this wasn't to allow reelection? You really believe that?

He could have easily proposed reforms to almost any other part of the Constitution without resorting to any of this. He not needed this route to allow reelection. But according to you this was all some sort of innocent mistake?

leftside 12:05 PM  

Gabriel, again the re-election point is moot. The Courts never ruled that Zelaya was seeking re-election - that is just the easy spin to explain this mess to a gullible Western press.

Zelaya and (at least) 500,000 Hondurans wanted a Constitutional Assembly and the Congress was not prepared to even consider the matter. That is the only reason he pressed for this non-binding referendum and scoffed when the Court told him that was not allowed. Zelaya had earlier pressed for the Law of Citizen Participation, which Congress passed. He knew that clearly gave his office the right to carry out such a non-binding poll. It says so in black and white (have you read it?) When the Courts started getting in the way, he knew something fishy was going on. He was proven right unfortunately.

Allen Fuller,  12:32 AM  

To all the Zelaya apologizers,

Actions speak louder than words. But politicians always say what is expedient. Of course Zelaya was not going to say what his true intention is, if it is to be re-elected.

Let's try some logic. There are two realistic possibilities:
1) He doesn't want to be re-elected.
2) He does want to be re-elected, but won't say so because it is illegal to even propose such a thing in Honduras.

Given the track record of large-scale constitutional re-writes followed by previously disallowed re-elections in recent Latin American history, the likelihood of possibility 2 is far greater than possibility 1.

So, unless someone unearths an unambiguous statement from Zelaya, there is no rock-solid "proof". But in all likelihood, he *WAS* trying to get re-elected, and we can say that with a fair degree of certainty.

Is that enough to convict him in a court of law? Of course not, which is probably why the supreme court's decision focused on other crimes he had committed.

But it's naive or disingenuous to pretend there wasn't at least a strong likelihood that was his intention.

Either way, he was a lawbreaker on multiple counts, one of the most corrupt leaders Honduras has had (and it's had plenty), and one who most certainly deserved to be, if not removed from office, at least given a serious reprimand. Seeing as he received multiple reprimands from many different sectors of government and continued to defy them, they weren't left with much choice other than to remove him.

Of course, those in power aren't saints either, and they made bad mistakes, the worst being the decision to ship him out of the country instead of putting him up for trial.

Chávez meddling in the whole affair is really not helping things. The way he's been crowing about "soldiers" coming to the aid of the people, and urging "resistance," and how Zelaya has been urging for an "insurrection," really makes it look like what they want is to provoke a civil war. No one benefits but them, if they can somehow maneuver to take power back. Least of all, the poor people they claim to represent.

History shows messianic figures are not the answer. They usually just *use* the poor to get in power and stay there. The poor often end up worse off under their new "savior" than before.

That doesn't justify the current situation, though. Honduras has suffered under enormous corruption, and the imbalance between wealthy and poor is way out of whack. The real answer, instead of messianic but violent leaders, is that the establishment needs to WAKE UP and realize that if they don't change, they WILL get these radical movements and leaders which will make EVERYONE worse off.

I lived in Honduras for many years and love the people there. They are a peace-loving and fun people. It really burns me up to see them become pawns in Chávez' international game of "beat the empire" chess. They didn't deserve that. They deserve better. They certainly don't deserve Zelaya, who will only take them further down. They need a better government than they have now in Micheletti. And they most of all deserve a peaceful, non-violent, non-imposed resolution to this conflict.

Allen Fuller,  11:42 AM  

Zelaya may not have come right out and said directly that he himself wanted to be re-elected, but there is video of him saying that re-election is the goal, or one of the goals, of the National Constituent Assembly.

Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Rlqv-4t-L4 to see it. At about 5:14, in a speech to his supporters, he unleashes a stream of insults against his opponents in pretty much the entire rest of the government. At 5:28, he says this:

"El único que no se reelige en Honduras, es el Presidente. Pero la reelección es tema de la próxima Asamblea Nacional Constituyente."

"The only one [public official] who is not re-elected in Honduras, is the President. But re-election is [a/the] subject of the next National Constituent Assembly.

His comments were also reported in various media, including http://www.martinoticias.com/FullStory.aspx?ID=C7B72343-0935-4F48-86FC7C73AC9D5992 and http://www.laprensahn.com/Apertura/Ediciones/2009/06/26/Noticias/Investigan-actos-del-presidente-Zelaya.

That's probably the closest thing to a smoking gun that we'll find, short of him directly saying he wants to be re-elected. Remember, it's illegal to even promote this under the current constitution, so Zelaya's comments above are already bordering on, if not outright, illegal.

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