Monday, September 21, 2009

CRS report on U.S.-Honduran relations

The Congressional Research Service updated its report on Honduras and it provides a clear summary of the crisis. Interestingly, Mary Anastasia O'Grady uses it to claim that the Obama administration lacks "legal basis" for calling it a coup. Here is the relevant part of the report on that issue:

Roberto Micheletti maintains that he is the legitimate president of Honduras, and that Zelaya’s removal was not a military coup. Indeed, Micheletti refers to the ouster as a “constitutional substitution,” despite the acknowledgement of the Honduran army’s top lawyer that the military likely broke the law by forcibly sending Zelaya into exile. Those involved in the removal maintain that their methods were necessary to avoid chaos and bloodshed. Micheletti has named a new cabinet, announced a preliminary plan of governance, and assured the public that general elections will be held in November 2009, as previously planned. The de facto president has also received strong support from some sectors of Honduran society, with thousands of people marching in support of Zelaya’s removal. A poll taken in the days after the ouster found that 46% of Hondurans opposed the military removal of Zelaya while 41% thought it was justified.

Despite Micheletti’s declarations that the country continues to function democratically, Honduran society generally has been under strict control since Zelaya’s removal. Following the ouster, a curfew was put in place, security forces have patrolled the streets, and a number of local an international television and radio stations have been shut down or intimidated. Additionally, members of Zelaya’s Administration, some members of the press, and at least one Congressional deputy have been detained or forced to go into hiding. Crowds of thousands of protesters have been dispersed—sometimes violently, and on July 1, the Honduran National Congress approved a decree suspending a number of constitutional rights. The decree allows security forces to enter private homes without a warrant, allows the detention of persons for 24 hours without charges, and suspends the rights of free association and free movement during curfew hours. While the curfew was lifted on July 12, it was reinstated on July 15, and remains in place in some parts of the country. Likewise, there continue to be reports of media censorship and political repression.

I should point out that since the Honduran constitution forbids forced exile, it is not just "likely" that the Honduran military broke the law.

Days since the coup: 85
Days until the scheduled presidential election: 69


boz 8:32 AM  

O'Grady managed to write that entire column without once mentioning the Honduran military.

Anonymous,  9:51 AM  


Yes, that's true. It's also true that the 'other side' manages to write about Honduras without once mentioning that country's relevant institutions all agree there was no coup. Can't see how O'Grady is any worse in that way.


O'Grady refers to a legal analysis that appears to be from a different report than the one you linked to. O'Grady includes this quote:

"Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system," writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report.

Is that in the report you linked to? I can't find it.

Also, look at pg 2 of the linked report. It makes clear how Zelaya repeatedly ignored judicial rulings.

Anonymous,  10:57 AM  

Interesting to see that as we get closer to the elections in Honduras some governments now say they will recognize the elections. Thanks boz for the post:

leftside 1:51 PM  

Zelaya is in Tegucigalpa!

Greg Weeks 2:00 PM  

And Micheletti says he's not. This crisis keeps getting weirder and weirder.

leftside 2:20 PM  

Anon, I think we are all a little tired of responding to you on the same points over and over again, but let me try once more.

You say you agree that the forced exile of the President was wrong. Unconstitutional, right? You know that there was never an actual judicial proceeding against the President, that judged him guilty of any of the crimes that a prosecutor formally accused him of. I hope you also acknowledge that the Congressional vote to "transition" from Zelaya to Michelletti could have only been done with Zelaya outside of the country and with a fabricated "resignation" letter (there is no other legal way from Congress to make a simple vote to remove the President). Put simply, the coup was made possible only because of an admittedly illegal action by the military, and fraudulant action by the Congress (here in City Hall, we can revoke any decision that was based on any piece of fraudulant evidence). Put another way, the forcible removal of the President denied him due process, which legally includes the presumption of innocence.

All this but you still think the coup is legitimate? Why? Because you are an avowed institutionalist and the Supreme Court has not ruled on the military or Congress' action yet - although that may be forthcoming.

The problem with a rigid institutionalism is that it blinds one to the fact that institutions are human and they are prone to errors and dictatorships of their own. For instance, the Supreme Court does not have to hear any case that comes before it. It can just be dismissed. Does that really provide an ultimate form of justice to the aggreieved? Secondly, in Honduras, the judiciary is highly politicized. Micheletti himself had much to say about the current (since January) composition of the courts. Third, once an institution makes a mistake and gets backed into a corner, it acts like anyone else - defending its perogatives, even at the expense of the law, common sense and the country. This is why we have politics.

I, for one, sincerely hope (for the sake of justice) that an eventual trial of Zelayz takes place, according to the special tribunal process mentioned in the Constitution. But what is the practical point at this hour? The Court will last forever and Zelaya's term will be up. If he loses, there is no sanction (as he'll already be gone from office). If he wins, there is no redress either. I think that is part of the problem in finding a resolution at this point.

Justin Delacour 2:32 PM  

It's also true that the 'other side' manages to write about Honduras without once mentioning that country's relevant institutions all agree there was no coup.

Well, that certainly wasn't the view of the executive branch under Zelaya, so it's actually incorrect to say that "all" the country's institutions agree there was no coup.

Justin Delacour 3:10 PM  

All this but you still think the coup is legitimate? Why? Because you are an avowed institutionalist and the Supreme Court has not ruled on the military or Congress' action yet - although that may be forthcoming.

But in reality, Gabriel couldn't even make a case that he's an avowed institutionalist. Contrary to how Gabriel narrowly defines institutions, they are more than just the different branches of government. Institutions are a whole set of established legal procedures. There's no way that anyone could support this coup and still call him or herself an "avowed institutionalist" because --as you explain-- the coup leaders have routinely violated established legal procedures.

Anonymous,  3:56 PM  


I can't imagine how you can be tired since you've never answered my questions. You've drawn up plenty of strawmen arguments, such as claiming that I think the coup is legitimate, but you never answer my question. Justin plays the same rhetorical trick of answering only the questions he makes up.

I've already said, repeatedly, that kicking out Zelaya was illegal. So let's stop debating that.

Here's the question, once again. There is an arrest order by the judiciary against Zelaya. That is a fact.

So the simple question is, do you think the judiciary in Honduras is a legitimate institution? Yes or no. Simple answer. If it is, Zelaya needs to turn himself in and ask for redress through the court system. Period.

This is the question no one here, not you, or Justin, or Greg or boz, want to answer. Some posters have responded. They've made clear they don't think anyone other than Zelaya is legitimate in Honduras. Is that your view as well?

Greg Weeks 4:07 PM  

I've only ignored the question because it is simplistic. This is not a yes/no dichotomy. The president, legislature, and judiciary have all been trying to trample on one another and sometimes the constitution as well (and I made that point about Zelaya before he was overthrown). In my view, the illegal overthrow of a democratically elected president is by far the most egregious. So Zelaya is the least illegitimate, if you insist on that term.

Anonymous,  4:17 PM  

It's not simplistic. I agree it's incomplete, but it's hardly simplistic. It's no coincidence that no one here wants to answer that question.

Either the court orders in Honduras have to be obeyed or not. You appear to be saying (but can't quite seem to say so openly) that you think it's OK for Zelaya to ignore rulings and orders from the judiciary.

I find the idea that Zelaya, the same Zelaya who started all this mess by openly mocking the Attorney General and daring him to arrest him, who ignored all judicial rulings he disagreed with, and who stormed a military base with a mob of supporters, is the 'least illegitimate' strange, to say the least.

Greg Weeks 4:34 PM  

Then we can return to the pattern of you asking the same questions over and over, then berating those who respond because the answers are not to your satisfaction, all the while saying that no one is answering.

Anonymous,  4:42 PM  

It's a simple question. The whole purpose of this blog is to debate, no? It's not like we are implementing policy.

Anonymous,  5:09 PM  

The report O'Grady cites is by the Law Library of Congress, NOT CRS! She needs to fact check herself.

Anonymous,  9:56 PM  

Do you have a link to Gutierrez' report for the Law Library of Congress?

Jonathan H. Adler 9:02 AM  

The report to which you cite is not the report she cites in her column. Do you have link to that report?


susan banks 6:12 PM  

just let's work towards freedom in this county so that their people can stay there or go back to their homeland...this would make them happy.

Unknown 12:03 PM  

The report does not exist.

It was a invention.

The "CRS report on U.S.-Honduran relations" has not mention to Norma Gutierrez.

By the way, there is not mention in anywhere about this report.

This is a case of "propagation" of false media.

Anonymous,  11:18 PM

David 6:29 AM  

See this important critique of the law library of congress report:

Doug Zylstra 8:00 AM  

RAJ has also put out a letter to the Library of Congress and the Nytimes (Which used the original report in an article today -

The letter is Here:

Doug Zylstra 8:03 AM  

Armando Sarmiento, Former Director of the Honduran DEI also has a refutation of Ms. Gutierrez:

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