Wednesday, July 15, 2009

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.


boz 8:25 AM  

It's not clear whether this is their final offer or if this is the extreme first offer and they hope to meet half-way on Zelaya's conditions (like someone who offers $250,000 on a million dollar home to try to get the seller to move the price down).

Either way, if these are the terms the Micheletti govt is bringing to the table, this isn't likely to be resolved on Saturday. The two sides are too far apart. We're going to get to see how Zelaya follows through on his threat.

Gabriel,  8:48 AM  

Given Zelaya's actions leading to this crisis an amnesty is not such a bad deal.

Also, given reality on the ground Zelaya returning as president with full power is not a realistic scenario. So maybe this is, as boz says, the extreme first offer that could be negotiated down. For example, Zelaya returning but with curtailed powers, and more as a caretaker govt until the next elections.

Doug Zylstra 12:00 PM  

Gabriel -

'Given Zelaya's actions leading to this crisis an amnesty is not such a bad deal.'

I think other commentors have replied to you about this before, but from what I've seen, there has never been a legal citation to any of the charges. That seems to be the whole point of Greg's post, ie, Geez, nice that that you offer amnesty, but first how about solid charges first..

leftside 12:13 PM  

The "offer" is a non-starter. Period. Zelaya has the entire world united behind his claims to be reinstated without conditions.

I think Zelaya welcomes a day in court to face down the bogus "charges." But that day should come after he steps down from his term in January. Congress has the option to conduct its own bogus investigations - as it was doing on the eve of the coup. But a criminal trial of a President should not occur til after they've left office. I am not sure what Honduran law says about this but that is the normal international approach.

The only one with the position to offer amnesty is Zelaya. Frankly I think the entire rotten system that is found to have conspired with this coup ought to come down. But an amnesty on their end may be the only thing that allows there to be an agreement, and I think Zelaya would be content at that and allow the people to judge the actions after a full accounting of what exactly transpired.

Anonymous,  12:18 PM  

Interesting, although I would expect that any deal should require some in the military being put on trial, and perhaps Micheletti being removed from office.


Gabriel 12:44 PM  


Greg elsewhere links to the Honduras' SC ruling, published online. It's pretty clear.

Doug Zylstra 1:11 PM  


I realize there is a SC ruling, with citations of prior citations and all. But the whole point is that the ruling itself is fallacious and would not stand up in decent court of review.

Gabriel 1:18 PM  


SC rulings don't have courts of review. The only institution that can do anything about the Honduras SC is their Congress.

I notice this argument has been made many times, that because some people disagree with the SC's rationale that it somehow makes the ruling invalid. Unfortunately for Zelaya this is completely wrong. Once the SC ruled he had no other option but to follow it.

Greg Weeks 1:19 PM  

Really, the point of the post is more practical. Like it or not, it is hard to see Zelaya taking this offer seriously. So what happens Saturday depends on whether real negotiation takes place.

And Zelaya has statements about return with no preconditions, but again, from a practical standpoint I don't see many governments supporting the kind of force that would be required to make it happen.

Doug Zylstra 1:33 PM  


I realize that the Supreme Court is indeed that, and there is no other Court of Review for Zelaya within Honduras.

As Greg points out, the whole amnesty thing is a negotiating tool. If Zelaya were ever to face the charges the Supreme Court has laid out, it would most likely be within Honduras, as opposed to some international court. But the point is the same, if Zelaya were to get a defense, with a public forum, it would not turn out well for those who are putting forward the charges. That's why Zelaya was taken out of the country, and why he wasn't allowed to return. It had nothing to do with public safety, simply the weakness of their own case.

And no, I disagree that "once the SC ruled he had no other option but to follow it". He could have done what he in fact did, and then the SC would have pressed charges, (like they did) and taken him to court (which they obviously didn't).

Gabriel 1:36 PM  


Zelaya broke the law when he defied judicial rulings. Presidents don't get to decide which rulings they accept and which they ignore.

Luckily the Honduras military decided not to play along with Zelaya.

leftside 3:19 PM  

Zelaya broke the law when he defied judicial rulings. Presidents don't get to decide which rulings they accept and which they ignore.

Everything that I have read and seen indicates the Supreme Court was intending to detain Zelaya to and try him for criminal conduct by a special tribunal made up of Supreme Court justices. This special tribunal (the only type able to sentance a sitting President) had obviously never taken place. Yes, a low level court found that the initial referendum language and modus was illegal. The Supreme Court ratified that decision but held further that ANY type of public consultation - or even contemplation of such - on the matter, was not allowed. It was here that the SC overstepped their bounds and began creating law, as there is absolutely no basis in Honduran law for such prohibitions.

Irregardless if we agree on whether the Supreme Court overstepped and acted capriciously, I think the main point right now is that they never held the required special tribunal to mete out punishment to Zelaya. Therefore, there is no sentence and without an official sanction to remove Zelaya from office, he is still President. The golpistas first tried to avoid this basic truth by talking about a resignation letter, then Article 239. But neither are valid.

Therefore any discussion of options that precludes Zelaya from having the same status he did before he was illegally removed from the country is totally a non-starter.

Anonymous,  4:01 PM  

Bachelet calls for dialogue and prudence rather than actions that risk a bloodbath.

Justin Delacour 4:35 PM  

Bachelet calls for dialogue and prudence rather than actions that risk a bloodbath.

But there's nothing to negotiate. Micheletti needs to leave, and Zelaya needs to return to the office to which he was elected. Period.

The ones responsible for any possible bloodbath would be Micheletti and his people.

marcin 5:26 PM  

But there's nothing to negotiate. Micheletti needs to leave, and Zelaya needs to return to the office to which he was elected. Period.

If the world was ideal, you would be right. It isn't. It's easy to say how things should be and demand to make it happen (China breaks human rights --> democratic countries need to enforce sanctions. Period). But in the real life it's not possible. One have to consider geopolitical realities. As have been noticed, there's not much Zelaya can do, but to 'demand'. You can say that Micheletti needs to leave, but make him do that! You can't, can you? Can Zelaya? No. And this is the place for negotiations. Not always happens what should happen, and I think that's the case - Zelaya won't be reinstated.
Of course, one should try to make things rights (ideal) always when possible. But one should also be aware of the realities and do/try to do what's possible not stick by his Zelaya-needs-to-return-periods. It's nothing more than just wishful thinking. Be real. Do you realy think it's going to happen? How?

leftside 6:22 PM  

As have been noticed, there's not much Zelaya can do, but to 'demand'.

Of course, there is not much Zelaya can do besides put his own life on the line, as he has no problem doing. The question is what can the international community do? The answer is PLENTY. I think most everyone agrees this should start with the superpower holding the most cards and leverage - the US. If the US refuses to use their "scalpal" then you can not blame other regional actors for using their more blunt instruments of power in trying to force the issue. The region feels very uneasy over this precedent standing and will take matters into their own hands if the US abrogates. I, for one, would hope the new Administration would see that is the way things are going and begin to show that they are getting tough and playing a positive role in helping advance the regional will. Unfortunately, Clinton's close relationship with the primary two golpista lobbyists along with her anti-Chavez passions do not bode well.

Gabriel 7:13 PM  


you are right, there's pretty little anyone outside can do. The neighboring countries closed their borders and that lasted only 48 hours.

The only one that has any real economic leverage is the US and even there the influence is limited. Elections will be held in a few months and that should end this.

Anonymous,  7:16 PM  

This afternoon in Guatemala Zelaya called for an insurrection on Tuesday.

I guess he has given up on the Arias initiative as this goes farther than yesterday's ultimatum and assumes nothing positive will happen this weekend in San Jose.

leftside 7:20 PM  

The term insurrection is going to scare a lot of people in the US. I am sure it is the next anti-Zelaya talking point. But he was just quoting from Article 3 of the Honduran Constitution:

“No one owes allegiance to an usurping government nor those who assume public office via force of arms or utilizing means and procedures that violate or circumvent what is in the Constitution and established by law. The acts taken by such authorities are null. The people have the right to recur to insurrection in order to defend the constitutional order.”

To be clear, insurrection is not the same as calling for violence. Zelaya did not do that. He called for strikes, for marches and for civil disobedience.

Gabriel 7:26 PM  

Zelaya is looking more and more like AMLO after the elections in Mexico.

Justin Delacour 9:31 PM  

there's not much Zelaya can do, but to 'demand'.

No, Zelaya can do quite a lot, actually. He can clandestinely reenter the country. And, yes, that poses some risks for himself and his supporters, but it poses even more dangers for the coup leaders because it would put them in an extremely difficult position. If they were to harm Zelaya or his supporters in the process of pursuing him, that could precipitate an international crisis that nobody --not even the U.S. foreign policy establishment-- is really willing to stomach.

Your false conception of "realism" boils down to appeasing Honduras' coup leaders. That is not a viable option because the precedent established by such appeasement will simply invite more such extra-legal overthrows of democratically-elected leaders in the region. Given the history of dirty wars and military juntas, the risks of appeasement are just too great.

marcin 2:28 AM  

The point is that so far nothing bodes well for Zelaya. The response of international community - mostly US - isn't that strong as to impose Zelaya's return. Lets say that US withdraw their ambasador, economic aid and even enforce some kind of sanctions. Michelleti for a short while can withstand it. If can't it's enough that he prepones elections and that's it.
The only way for Zelaya to return to his post it - as you say - to enter the country. Lets first see if he is going to do that. He said that before, he tried that before, he didn't make it. I don't believe he has the guts to put his life on the line - though as you notice it should be easier for him to decide cause no harm can happen to him (if it did Micheletti's government is over). The worst thing is that he would be arrested and face a trial. We'll see if Zelaya is going to risk it.

RAJ 9:47 PM  

I continue to feel like I am repeating myself.

(1) any elections held while the Micheletti regime holds power will be illegitimate, early or as scheduled in November. The intimidation of opposing parties, including "investigation" of at least one presidential candidate (UD's Cesar Ham); the start of political assassinations (of at least 2 UD activists); the imposition of a curfew during which more than 1200 people were detained, and less than 50 charged; the removal of basic constitutional protections of dissent, free speech, and assembly; and the harassment and deportation of independent press; all undermine legitimate political participation.

(2) there can be no resolution that skips the step of removing the authoritarian regime and restoring the legally elected President, or else the actual chain of Constitutional succession will have been undermined. So any solution involves Zelaya being reinstated.

(3) the documents posted by the Supreme Court clearly need to be translated and posted, and I am working on that. Meanwhile, they do NOT constitute a final finding of guilt by Zelaya. Gabriel is simply wrong every time he says that. The Supreme Court authorized an arrest and deposition of Zelaya, on charges from a lower court, which it found had merit. All of these charges were still subject to trial. Any finding of actual guilt under Honduran constitutional law has to be the end result of a trial in which the accused has the rights of defense.

(4) The "reality on the ground" claims contradict many forms of evidence that there are continued demonstrations for the democratic government and against the authoritarian regime. How do proponents of democracy dismiss such large segments of the population as the recent Gallup polls show disapprove of the coup? If repressive measures succeed in making demonstrations too risky, does that actually mean there is democratic assent? Micheletti's regime will never be seen as legitimate by a large fraction of the Honduran populace.

Doug Zylstra 10:07 PM  

I hate to also just jump on the bsngwagon here against Gabriel, but as Raj says, any legitimate solution results in Zelaya being reinstated, with amnesties all around.

In fact, the Nytimes reporting something similiar, ie, amnesties for everyone and some power sharing, or limits on Zelaya's powers put in place.

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