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The Honduras Crisis Simply Won’t Go Quietly Into That Good Night *updated*

September 3, 2009

clinton-zelaya-honduras-7072009b

**UPDATED with video below**

Today, Secretary Clinton is meeting with ousted Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya. At issue is the current impasse between Zelaya, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the de-facto, illegitimate government of Roberto Micheletti. Also at issue is millions in aid which current law stipulates must be cut-off, should the State Department find that a military coup has in fact taken place. Some are beginning to wonder what exactly is taking so long given the US generally responds very quickly in cutting off funds to de-facto regimes where coups have taken place.

I’ve blogged about the coup in Honduras in varying degreeshere, here, here and here.

President Zelaya announced yesterday in Washington DC that he was “organizing” for his return to Honduras and recent history suggests that many such plans of his are ill-conceived and unhelpful, as Secretary Clinton herself said the last time he tried to return to Honduras, only to be stopped at the border. Here’s hoping that Secretary Clinton can talk some sense into him today.

Reasonable people may disagree about whether leftist President Manuel Zelaya is good for Honduras, good for Latin America and good for the United States and people may also disagree about the implications of Zelaya’s recent political love-affair of sorts with Venezuela’s colorful leftist leader, Hugo Chavez. But that is really neither here nor there, or at least it shouldn’t be the issue (although someone forgot to tell the Republicans in Congress that). That said, it’s difficult to argue that the way in which President Zelaya was removed from office, ie. the military surrounding him in his bed in the middle of the night, guns drawn and skirting him off, against his will to another country, comports with any long-established democratic principles. This is why almost the entire international community and certainly those who consider themselves democracies, have been united in condemning the coup.

Does any of this mean President Zelaya is a great guy who had no intention of subverting Honduran law to try to increase term limits or do some other dasterdly deed? Of course not. I honestly don’t know exactly what Zelaya was up to but what I do know is that there is more to this issue than simply left vs. right ideology, which unfortunately, is how it seems to be being viewed.

Some people argue that because Zelaya broke the law and because the Honduran Supreme Court “ordered” his removal from office, the coup was therefore de facto legal. They argue that Zelaya had sought to change the constitution in a way deemed impermissible by the courts in Honduras. That argument ignores several key factors highlighted below. The first is that President Zelaya had not violated the constitution- at least not yet. I think this article does a nice job cutting through the political rhetoric and explaining exactly what Zelaya was planning to do:

Americans, relying on media reports, are likely to believe that Zelaya was ousted because he tried to use a referendum to extend his term of office. This is false.

Zelaya’s referendum, planned for the day the coup took place, was a nonbinding poll. It only asked voters if they wanted to have an actual referendum on reforming the country’s Constitution on the November ballot. Even if Zelaya had gotten everything he was looking for, a new president would have been elected on the same November ballot. So Zelaya would be out of office in January, no matter what steps were taken toward constitutional reform. Further, Zelaya has repeatedly said that if the Constitution were changed, he would not seek another term.

[snip]

So it’s up to Obama to do the right thing. He can have the U.S. Treasury freeze the coup leaders’ personal bank accounts and the assets of the coup leaders and their supporters, and deny them visas to the United States. He could also impose trade sanctions — 70 of Honduran exports go to the United States. He would have worldwide support for such steps: Both the Organization of American States and the U.N. General Assembly have voted unanimously to demand the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Zelaya.

Almost all of the Latin American governments — which are mostly left of center — also sympathize with Zelaya because he is a reform president fighting against a corrupt oligarchy. In one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, he raised the minimum wage by 60 percent and increased teachers’ salaries and public pensions, as well as access to education.

What happened in Honduras is a classic Latin American coup in another sense: Gen. Romeo Vasquez, who led it, is an alumnus of the United States’ School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The school is best known for producing Latin American officers who have committed major human rights abuses, including military coups.[emphasis added]

The above high-lighted portion is key because it specifies what Zelaya had in mind- a non-binding poll as opposed to a referendum. Even assuming what Zelaya was planning was illegal, we (ie. democracies) generally don’t remove duly-elected presidents from office at gunpoint because of planning to do something which may be deemed illegal. Additionally, even if the Honduran courts were empowered to prevent Zelaya’s actions (similar to a US court issuing an injunction to prevent further harm while the legal issues are ironed out), generally some sort of adversarial proceedings [where both parties get to make their case and present whatever evidence allowed by the particular court] take place.

Now, I am not an expert on Honduran law but it seems to me that the issue of the legality of a “non-binding poll” vs. a referendum to per se extend Zelaya’s period in office, is exactly the type of issue which adversarial proceedings could adjudicate, after which a formal legal opinion could issue forth and all parties would go from there. As far as I have been able to tell, no such adversarial proceedings took place. Instead, the court deemed Zelaya’s actions (which was actually a plan to act) a per se violation of law without any opportunity for him to make his case in court and instead of even being arrested, he was forcibly removed from office by the military and taken to another country. I don’t want to oversimplify the legal issues involved because just as with anything, nothing is simply black and white and certainly shades of gray exist in this case, but it seems that politics has trumped reason. Just ask yourself this- if President Zelaya had been a conservative, right-leaning leader who vocally opposed the policies of Hugo Chavez and he been overthrown by a leftist, would Republicans and others be supporting the legality of the coup? Of course not.

When looking at the politics of Latin America, some historical context is helpful and about two weeks ago, the Nation Magazine provided that context to help understand what may be going on behind the scenes in the current conflict:

… In the 1980s Honduras served as a staging ground for Ronald Reagan’s anticommunist operations in neighboring Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala and as a portal for New Right Christians to roll back liberation theology. Central America’s anticommunist crusade became something of a death-squad Da Vinci Code, pulling together a carnivalesque cast that included first-generation neocons, Latin American torturers, local oligarchs, anti-Castro Cubans, mercenaries, Opus Dei ideologues and pulpit-thumping evangelicals.

The campaign to oust Zelaya and prevent his restoration has reunited old comrades from that struggle, including shadowy figures like Fernando “Billy” Joya (who in the 1980s was a member of Battalion 316, a Honduran paramilitary unit responsible for the disappearance of hundreds, and who now works as Micheletti’s security adviser) and Iran/Contra veterans like Otto Reich (who ran Reagan’s Office of Public Diplomacy, which misused public money to manipulate public opinion to support the Contra war against Nicaragua). The Honduran generals who deposed Zelaya received their military training at the height of the region’s dirty wars, including courses at the notorious School of the Americas. And the current crisis reveals a familiar schism between conservative Catholic hierarchs and evangelical Protestants who back the coup, on the one hand, and progressive Christians who are being hounded by security forces, on the other.

[snip]

In Honduras, Zelaya shook things up by raising the minimum wage and apologizing for the executions of street children and gang members carried out by security forces in the 1990s. He moved to reduce the US military presence and refused to privatize Hondutel, the state-owned telecommunications firm, a deal that Micheletti, as president of Congress, pushed.

Zelaya also vetoed legislation, likewise supported by Micheletti, that would have banned sale of the morning-after pill. Considering Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s shameful support of the Catholic Church’s position on abortion, which resulted in legislation mandating up to thirty-year jail terms for women who receive them, this was perhaps Zelaya’s most courageous move. He also accepted foreign aid, in the form of low-cost petroleum, from Venezuela. It would be impossible to overstate the Central American ruling class’s hatred of Chávez, whose hand is seen behind every peasant protest and every call to democratize the region’s politics and economics. The president of a Honduran business council recently said Chávez “had Honduras in his mouth. He was a cat with a mouse that got away.”

The fixation on Chávez usefully diverts attention from the gnawing poverty in the region, as well as from the failure of the neoliberal economic model promoted by Washington in recent decades. Forty percent of Central Americans, and more than 50 percent of Hondurans, live in poverty. The Chávez mania also distracts from the fact that under Washington’s equally disastrous “war on drugs,” crime cartels, deeply rooted in the military and traditional oligarchic families, have rendered much of Central America into what the Washington Office on Latin America calls “captive states.”

For the White House, Honduras is proving to be an unexpectedly difficult foreign-policy test. After condemning the coup, Obama handed the crisis to the State Department. Rather than working with the Organization of American States (OAS), Secretary of State Clinton unilaterally charged Oscar Arias with brokering a compromise, ignoring the concerns of most other Latin American governments that negotiations would grant too much legitimacy to the coup. Clinton has so far been unwilling to apply a range of possible sanctions, including freezing the bank accounts of those who carried out the coup, to force Micheletti to accept the Arias plan. And for those who see Micheletti as the last line against the spread of Chavismo–be it in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or elsewhere in the Americas–the return of Zelaya, even just to finish the few months left in his term, is unacceptable.

In the late 1970s the Sandinista revolution revealed the limits of Jimmy Carter’s tolerance of Third World nationalism. The more Carter tried to appease hawks in his administration, the more he was accused of vacillating, thus paving the way for neoconservatives, under Reagan, to use Central America to showcase their hard line.

A similar dynamic is taking place today. Republicans have rallied around Micheletti, sending a Congressional delegation led by Connie Mack to visit Tegucigalpa. Taking a page out of the Latin American right’s playbook, they have red-baited Obama by associating him with Chávez. Obama, said Texas Senator John Cornyn, “must stand with the Honduran people, not with Hugo Chávez.” It’s the kind of grandstanding that Republicans, absent a domestic agenda, have come to rely on. Venezuela’s position on Honduras is identical to that of Brazil and Chile–and, for that matter, the European Union. But the right-wing attacks are effective, largely because self-described liberals repeatedly indulge in the demonization not just of Chávez, as Lanny Davis recently did, but of leftists like Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

In early August the State Department seemed to give ground to Republicans, stating in a letter to Republican Senator Richard Lugar that Zelaya’s “provocative actions…unleashed the events that led to his removal.” This statement, as well as other tepid efforts to pressure Micheletti, bodes ill for the Obama administration’s willingness to stand up to right-wing pressure.

[snip]

The failure to restore Zelaya to power will send a clear message to Latin American conservatives that Washington will tolerate coups, provided they are carried out under a democratic guise…

All of the above is why the current situation in Honduras seems to be, at least to hear the media, the pundits and the politicians tell it, less about the facts and more about whether one agrees with the leftist policies of Hugo Chavez and Manuel Zelaya and continuing to enable certain trade policies and powerful, monied business interests in Latin America. Make no mistake, when one looks at the supporters of Zelaya and the supporters of Micheletti, the class implications are difficult to ignore:

…it’s no secret that the President was at odds politically with the Honduran elite for the past few years and had become one of Washington’s fiercest critics in the region.

Zelaya committed his first sin when he began to criticize the media and owners of sweatshops which “produced goods for export in industrial free zones.” Kozloff reports that Zelaya began to adopt some socially progressive policies that included a minimum wage, drug legalization, and bilateral relations with Cuba. Zelaya sealed his fate when he joined the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an alliance of leftist Latin American and Caribbean nations headed by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

The Hondurans have reacted to this coup with as much gusto as the Iranians did during their supposed election fraud. The military has shut down public transportation and put up roadblocks to prevent protesters from reaching the capital. ¡Presente!’s Kristin Bricker writes that unknown numbers of citizens have taken to the streets, and she even includes photos in her report that are available for the taking by any network (CNN, MSNBC, FOX).
Somehow, the U.S. media isn’t picking up on these details. A democratically elected president has been ousted by a military strongly supported and trained by the US government as apparent punishment for his adoption of progressive ideals. Where is the outrage, or at the least, the intrigue? Where are the solidarity movements?

One rather large problem the Micheletti government is having with respect to ensuring it’s democratic legitimacy in the face of international outrage, is that it essentially admitted it should have arrested President Zelaya[ie. initiated the democratic, adversarial legal process] rather than invoking the military and forcibly removing him from office:

Acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said forcing deposed President Manuel Zelaya to leave the country, instead of arresting him, was a mistake.

“There was an error by a certain sector,” Micheletti said today in an interview in Tegucigalpa. “It wasn’t correct. We have to punish whoever allowed that to happen. The rest was framed within what the constitution requires.”

Micheletti repeated that the military was following the law when soldiers seized Zelaya at his house early June 28 because he had ignored court rulings and was illegally seeking to change the constitution in order to run for office again. A mistake was made when Zelaya, still wearing pajamas, was put on a plane to Costa Rica instead of being held for trial, Micheletti said.

[snip]

Supporters of the interim government say that Zelaya became too closely aligned with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his plan for “21st-century socialism” after being elected in 2005. Zelaya signed the nation up for aid programs including Petrocaribe, which offered oil at discounted prices.

Approval of his government fell to a record 30 percent in February from a high of 57 percent in January 2007, according to a nationwide poll by CID-Gallup.

Honduras’s business leaders are “paranoid about Chavez, and that’s probably unwarranted,” said Kevin Casas Zamora, a former vice president of Costa Rica and fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The real and perceived closeness between Zelaya and Hugo Chavez is the absolute essence of this crisis as seen from the lens of the Honduran elite.”

Given the military overthrow of Zelaya and the Micheletti government’s resulting crack-down on the media and civil liberties such as freedom to assemble and freedom of speech, not to mention the imprisonment and abuse of pro-Zelaya supporters, one would think the American media would be all over this issue, particularly given it comes on the heels of having watched protesters in the streets of Iran being beaten and killed by a government intent on squelching dissent. Yes, one would think. But one would be wrong. The media and the Obama administration itself have been eerily silent about the human rights abuses taking place right this minute in Honduras. So, what gives? Perhaps this:

But when viewed from the closer physical (Miami is just 800 miles from Honduras) and historical proximity of the United States, the differences between Iran and Honduras are marked and clear in important ways: the M-16’s pointing at this very moment at the thousands of peaceful protesters are paid for with U.S. tax dollars and still carry a “Made in America” label; the military airplane in which they kidnapped and exiled President Zelaya was purchased with the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid the Honduran government has been the benefactor of since the Cold War military build-up that began in 1980’s; the leader of the coup, General Romeo Vasquez, and many other military leaders repressing the populace received “counterinsurgency” training at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the infamous “School of the Americas,” responsible for training those who perpetrated the greatest atrocities in the Americas.

The big difference between Iran and Honduras? President Obama and the U.S. can actually do something about a military crackdown that our tax dollars are helping pay for. That Vasquez and other coup leaders were trained at the WHINSEC, which also trained Agusto Pinochet and other military dictators responsible for the deaths, disappearances, tortures of hundreds of thousands in Latin America, sends profound chills throughout a region still trying to overcome decades U.S.-backed militarism.

Hemispheric concerns about the coup were expressed in the rapid, historic and almost universal condemnation of the plot by almost all Latin American governments. Such concerns in the region represent an opportunity for the United States. But, while the Honduran coup represents a major opportunity for Obama to make real his recent and repeated calls for a “new” relationship to the Americas, failure to take actions that send a rapid and unequivocal denunciation of the coup will be devastating to the Honduran people — and to the still-fragile U.S. image in the region.

Recent declarations by the Administration — expressions of “concern” by the President and statements by Secretary of State Clinton recognizing Zelaya as the only legitimate, elected leader of Honduras — appear to indicate preliminary disapproval of the putsch. Yet, the even more unequivocal statements of condemnation from U.N. President Miguel D’Escoto, the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the Presidents of Argentina, Costa Rica and many other governments raise greatly the bar of expectation before the Obama Administration…[emphasis added]

As usual, the media has been ignoring the plight of the most economically disadvantaged of the pro-Zelaya supporters in Honduras, and particularly it’s women:

On the morning of June 28, women’s organizations throughout Honduras were preparing to promote a yes vote on the national survey to hold a Constitutional Assembly. Then the phones lines started buzzing.
In this poor Central American nation, feminists have been organizing for years in defense of women’s rights, equality and against violence. When the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was forcibly exiled by the armed forces, women from all over the country spontaneously organized to protect themselves and their families and demand a return to democracy. They called the new umbrella organization “Feminists in Resistance.”

On Aug. 18, Feminists in Resistance sat down with women from the international delegation for Women’s Human Rights Week, which they organized to monitor and analyze human rights violations and challenges for the organization. One after another they told their stories in a long session that combined group therapy and political analysis–a natural mix at this critical point in Honduran history and the history of their movement.

Miriam Suazo relates the events of the day of the coup. “On the 28th, women began calling each other, saying ‘what’s happening?'” At first no-one really understood the full extent of the coup, she says, but networks mobilized quickly and women began to gather to share information and plan actions. Independent feminists and feminists from different organizations immediately identified with each other and with the rising resistance to the coup. They began going out to help those who had been beaten and to trace individuals arrested by security forces.
For some, the shock of waking up to a coup d’état wasn’t new.

“This is my third coup,” relates Marielena. “I was girl when the coup in 1963 happened. Then I lived through the coup in 1972. We lived in front of a school and I saw how my mother faced the bullets, we thought they were going to kill her… Later in the university in the ’80s I lived through the repression with many of the women here… So this has revived the story of my life.”

There is a saying in Honduras about the Central American dirty war that “While the U.S. had its eye on Nicaragua and its hands in El Salvador, it had its boot on Honduras.” For the older women who remember the terror of that time when over 200 people were disappeared and hundreds tortured and assassinated, the current coup stirs up deep fears. Gilda Rivera, director of the Center for Women’s Rights in Tegucigalpa, says, “I’ve had a messed-up life. I was among the students kidnapped by Billy Joya in the ’80s… Now I’ve been to the border twice, I’ve lived with a curfew over my head. Sometimes I wake up alone, terrified…”

Ah, yes, the women. They always seem to get hit the hardest in situations like these, don’t they? And as usual, the media has been eerily silent about their plight.

Very soon today Secretary Clinton will be meeting with President Zelaya and I think that if anyone can broker some sort of solution that does not involve completely validating the Micheletti government’s actions, she can.

UPDATE: **Breaking News**: the State Department just made the following announcement:

Termination of Assistance and Other Measures Affecting the De Facto Regime in Honduras

The Department of State announces the termination of a broad range of assistance to the government of Honduras as a result of the coup d’etat that took place on June 28. The Secretary already had suspended assistance shortly after the coup.

The Secretary of State has made the decision, consistent with U.S. legislation, recognizing the need for strong measures in light of the continued resistance to the adoption of the San Jose Accord by the de facto regime and continuing failure to restore democratic, constitutional rule to Honduras.

The Department of State recognizes the complicated nature of the actions which led to June 28 coup d’etat in which Honduras’ democratically elected leader, President Zelaya, was removed from office. These events involve complex factual and legal questions and the participation of both the legislative and judicial branches of government as well as the military.

Restoration of the terminated assistance will be predicated upon a return to democratic, constitutional governance in Honduras.

The Department of State further announces that we have identified individual members and supporters of the de facto regime whose visas are in the process of being revoked.

A presidential election is currently scheduled for November. That election must be undertaken in a free, fair and transparent manner. It must also be free of taint and open to all Hondurans to exercise their democratic franchise. At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections. A positive conclusion of the Arias process would provide a sound basis for legitimate elections to proceed. We strongly urge all parties to the San Jose talks to move expeditiously to agreement.

UPDATED: On violations of rights by the coup regime:

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    September 3, 2009 1:43 pm

    Fantastic summary Stacy. Really. That’s an excellent point about the nonbinding poll and whether or not that REALLY violated the constitution and if Zelaya broke the law, why didn’t they just arrest him? Kind of makes me think they didn’t want to have to deal with any sort of legal proceeding where they might LOSE- so much easier to just whisk him off at gun-point to another country and tell him if he returns THEN he’ll be arrested!

    Thanks for this, Stacy.

  2. Thain permalink
    September 3, 2009 1:49 pm

    I’ll admit I didn’t really have a handle on these issues and apparently I fell for the political spin that Zelaya had broken the law and everything those iniatiating the coup had done was legal but you do make a point. If he broke the law, why not arrest him? Why did they send in the military and when did he get a chance to rebut the charges against him? Even though I kept hearing that the Honduras supreme court had ordered him removed it did seem a bit weird now that you mention it, that it was because he was planning to do something they though might be illegal as opposed to already having done it.

    I agree with what Steve said above- what kind of court orders the removal of a president of a country at gunpoint without bringing charges and allowing the person to answer to the charges? I also agree with you stacey that if Michelleti were a leftist like Chavez, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

    It is all very fishy.

  3. September 3, 2009 1:54 pm

    Steve and Thain- thanks for your input. Again, I’m not a Honduran legal scholar, but I just wanted to point out that a) don’t always believe what you read and hear from the pundits, b) this whole case has to be viewed in the context of our long-term meddling in Latin American politics and c) that it doesn’t matter one hoot whether or not Chavez supports Zelaya or not- at least not with respect to the underlying legal issues involved.

  4. Sergio Suazo permalink
    September 3, 2009 8:55 pm

    You make a rational analysis, but unfortunately your information is not all accurate. It is true that Zelaya had not carried out his referendum, but it is also true that he was overtly, willingly and publicly breaking the law in ways that directly threatened democracy. Here re just some of those instances:
    – He was operating without a budget, which he publicly refused to send to Congress for approval, as the law requires. Isn’t the separation of powers an integral part of democracy?
    – His so-called nonbinding poll was declared illegal by a court (according to our law, anything that has to do with elections or referendums is the exclusive domain of an autonomous elections tribunal, and never the executive), a ruling upheld by an appeals court and accepted by the attorney general. When this happened, Zelaya publicly stated that a “lowly judge” could not thwart the will of the people (which presumably he considered equal to his own) and he would go ahead with his poll. Again, where is the separation of powers and the rule of law, essential elements in a democracy?
    – Since the poll was declared illegal, once the polling materials were found they were seized by the appropriate agency. Again, instead of complying with the ruling (or continue fighting it in court), Zelaya led a mob to assault a military facility and steal the seized materials. The only reason a tragedy did not happen then is that the military decided to break the law and allow the mob to access the grounds and take the materials, which at that point they were required to guard. Again, this is all part of the public record. There are numerous recordings of these events.
    So is this democracy? No, this is an elected president, operating outside the law and who will stop at nothing to get his way. This kind of behaviour, plus the fact that Zelaya never hid his intention to do away with our constitution and move to a Chavez-style “democracy” is what prompted his removal. The fact that he was not allowed to carry out the referendum does not free him from guilt, much like a would-be assassin would not be exonerated just because he was stopped (or even killed) before he could pull the trigger.
    One last point. You may argue wether it was legal or not. But to think that a president that acts as described above can be tried while in office is very naive.

  5. September 3, 2009 9:03 pm

    Thanks for your input sergio. Can I ask a question, given I am not an expert in Honduran law? Assuming all what you said above is true, why wasn’t President Zelaya brought up on charges and/or arrested? Why did Mr. Micheletti recently say that he was wrong to send in the military rather than arrest him?

    Because if all of the above is true, in a democracy, usually both sides get to present/rebut evidence to determine whether the law was in fact violated PRIOR to a determination of guilt and prior to removal from office. Why send in the military in the middle of the night if everyone was SO sure that the law was on their side and Zelaya was a criminal?

    • Sergio Suazo permalink
      September 3, 2009 9:36 pm

      You are right, he should have been tried. I completely agree that he should have been kept in the country. I also understand there is an ongoing investigation (since july) into who ordered his exile and why. I would expect charges to be pressed at some point (although maybe not while we are under siege by the international community).
      But do you also see the point that a president that places himself above the law and is willing to manipulate crowds into committing crimes is a very dangerous individual? And as a consequence, that violence could be expected, had they tried to arrest him while conducting his “poll”. Furthermore, that the same crowd that assaulted the military warehouse might have tried to free him, if they imprisoned him and tried him? He obviously would have continued his pattern of ignoring legal rulings, and trying instead to force the issues using “crowd power”.
      This was a very delicate situation, with no easy solution. From the international as well as a legal perspective, they chose the wrong path. From the internal peace perspective, it is not so clear.

    • Sergio Suazo permalink
      September 3, 2009 9:43 pm

      By the way, Micheletti never said it was wrong to send the military . This was the right move for two reasons:
      – Our constitution gives the military the responsibility to guard our constitution and ensure the alternance (is that a word) in power. So they had jurisdiction in this issue.
      – It was not clear wether the police would be loyal to Zelaya or to the law. Zelaya tried to buy both the military and the police. Only 5 days before the removal, it became clear that the military would stand by the law. But nobody knew that the police would also comply.
      What Micheletti meant is the military should have arrested him, but not exiled him.

  6. Sergio Suazo permalink
    September 3, 2009 9:20 pm

    Some additional inaccuracies:
    – There are no M-16 pointed at anybody here. There are no political prisoners. There are no limitations to the freedom of speech or association. That is simply not true, which explains why the media is not “all over it”. True, there are accusations and there have been abuses, on both sides. But when you try to dig deeper into the allegations of widespread abuse and repression by the government, you simply do find it. That is why you do not see it in the press.
    – Venezuela’s position is nowhere near the same as Brazil’s Chile’s, or most anybody else for that matter. Here is just some of the evidence:
    1.-He has made repeated threats to overthrow the government by force. To my knowledge, he is the only president that has gone this far in intervening in our internal affairs.
    2.- Zelaya flies around in planes provided by Chavez, who also reportedly covers his bills and those of the “government in exile”.
    3.- Chavez’s foreign affairs minister was by Zelaya’s side in Nicaragua (some say pushing him), during his ill-conceived attempt to get back to Honduras.
    4.- It was a Venezuelan plane that violated Honduran airspace during Zelaya’s first attempt to either get back to power or provoke a tragedy. Chavez was later shown to have directed the operation, military-style.

  7. September 4, 2009 9:44 am

    from one of my links above:

    “Acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti said forcing deposed President Manuel Zelaya to leave the country, instead of arresting him, was a mistake.”

    So maybe he doesn’t think sending in the military was a mistake, but it sounds to me like he’s back-tracking and perhaps trying to find a scapegoat.

    All of this could have been avoided by bringing charges against Zelaya and having a trial where all this HORRIFIC evidence of wrongdoing could have been brought to light and I am SURE Zelaya would have been found guilty since there is SO MUCH evidence. In fact, it kinda makes ya wonder why they (the coup govt) didn’t DO THAT?

    I understand your Supreme Court acts differently than ours, but apparently, you do still have TRIALS, correct? You still ARREST people for alleged wrongdoing? People who are alleged to have committed a crime can DEFEND themselves in front of an impartial body, correct? A judicial body that independently determines guilt/innocence without ANY adversarial proceedings is hardly a court which is utilizing democratic principles. I think you guys are taking the “but the Supreme Court said it was illegal” argument too far. And apparently so does the rest of the world, and not just the leftist-Hugo-Chavez-loving-countries. Sorry.

    I am so sick of hearing about Hugo Chavez and honestly, if the coup-supporters had such a strong legal case in favor of tossing out a disfavored head of state, you guys wouldn’t constantly need to throw Hugo Chavez’ name into everything.

    As for some of your statements about NO political prisoners- wow, you must have inside knowledge the rest of us don’t have. I linked to articles and I believe an Amnesty report detailing pretty widespread abuse.

    At this point, I’m kind of tired of repeating the same thing over and over again. Zelaya should have had charges brought against him and been able to defend against the allegations in a court of law prior to being spirited off to another country where he couldn’t inconveniently make his case. And ask yourself this- why was it so important for the coup govt to remove Zelaya to another country?

    So in summary, I guess coup-supporters are right and the rest of the entire world, including the European Union, are all wrong, right? Oh, I know, “but Hugo Chavez is mean, evil leftist!…..”

    • Sergio Suazo permalink
      September 6, 2009 5:52 pm

      Well, at this point I am very disappointed. Apparently, something I wrote made you angry. In any case, you are now passing allegations as evidence and getting personally aggressive as opposed to stating your point in a rational way.
      What the video you posted says is journalists on BOTH SIDES have been threatened, which I said myself (read the part of my post that mentions abuses on both sides), and that there have been ALLEGATIONS of extrajudicial killings. Nowhere in the video do they offer any shred of proof or hard facts that can be confirmed. If there are political prisoners, they must have families and friends, right? Somebody should be able to tell the world the names of those poor imprisoned people. Where are they? Who can say my husband/wife/brother/sister/friend was arrested and is in prison for what he/she thinks? Which of the many human rights groups that have visited us recently has found the EVIDENCE of these prisoners?. It is easy to throw mud based on “allegations”, harder to offer verifiable facts. The simple truth is, THERE IS NOT A SINGLE PERSON IN JAIL FOR SUPPORTING MEL ZELAYA OR OTHERWISE OPPOSING THE GOVERNMENT. And if you have any evidence that this is untrue, by all means offer it. Otherwise, please do not repeat this.
      As for Chavez, I was only responding to what is written about him in your original post. Is it OK for you to mention him, but not for anybody else?
      Last, you mention the actions of the supreme court. This is the only actual point you make in your reply, that you argue convincingly. Unfortunately, you disqualified yourself when you admitted you are not a legal expert and don’t know our law. I have to admit that I am no legal expert either. However, I will say this: our Supreme Court, by definition, is a better judge of this issue than you, me, most anybody else in the world. So I think you are the one taking your own judgement too far. But this was never a point I made in my posts. I therefore feel the need to repeat the point I actually made:
      “you may argue wether it was legal or not. But to think that a president that acts as described above can be tried while in office is very naive.”

      • September 6, 2009 8:20 pm

        No, I am not angry, I’m glad you took the time to respond. I just think that perhaps more is going on than either side wants to admit. I am not pro-Zelaya, I just want the US to ensure that a bad precedent isn’t being set, particularly given we send over 150 million in taxpayer dollars to Honduras. We would be being remiss if we didn’t ask some hard questions, wouldn’t we?

  8. Paula Callejas-Lynn permalink
    September 4, 2009 2:23 pm

    Stacy, It is amazing how clearly you are biased in your article and incredibly ignorant on the real facts. You only mention qualities about Zelaya. You don’t mention the Venezuelan planes bringing drugs into Honduras. Zelaya is a a thief, he knows Hondurans don’t want him back and he would rather have blood shed than to admit his defeat. One of Zelaya’s lovers was an Ambassador in Canada and her salary was $24,000 a month. My father knows a woman who about a year ago sold a farm to Zelaya for more than 2 million dollars. Why do you think Zelaya is traveling in a Venezuelan plane? Because Chavez is so kind and generous? Do your job, go to Honduras instead of taking from “what you hear” the parts that suit your ideology. At least 90% of Hondurans and in case you don’t know, the Honduran elite is maybe 1% of the population, that 90% does not want Zelaya back. He broke the law, he wanted to do exactly what Chavez did in Venezuela, the ballots were sent by Chavez. I know it is useless that I right to you because “you cannot wake up someone who pretends to be asleep”. What you and the world should care about is that we HONDURANS don’t want Zelaya=Chavez ruling our country. It is true that the US and some Latin American countries have a very dark past and I personally have never liked the military in Honduras or elsewhere but in this case they behaved correctly. Have you seen the videos of the demonstrators pro-Zelaya (maybe 10% of the population in Honduras) throwing rocks at the military and the military just protecting themselves? I was there I can tell you it is the truth. Go to Honduras and talk to everyone not only the few teachers and union workers supporting Zelaya, go to the street talk to regular people WE DON’T WANT ZELAYA BACK and he knows it. Be responsible, write about what you know. Zelaya is instigating people into violence, he doesn’t care who dies defending his lies. In any case, if you like Chavez which I suspect you do then you would like Zelaya.

    • September 4, 2009 2:44 pm

      Paula- thank you for taking the time to comment and state your views.

      I’ll address a few points even though I’ve already made these points repeatedly so it makes me wonder if people are actually reading my posts and following the links before commenting:

      1. I never said I liked/cared for/supported Zelaya. Nor have I ever said I thought he was a great guy nor have I said that he *didn’t* perhaps do some/all of the things he has been accused of.

      2. You say in the last sentence that you suspect I like Chavez. *sigh* I have never said that and in fact, I often refer to him in less than flattering terms when I do write about him. But I have also said that whenever you folks throw out the red-herring of Hugo Chavez, you do yourself a great disservice because it weakens your argument. Whether or not a military coup took place has nothing to do with point #1 above nor does it have anything to do with whether I like, you like, he likes or she likes, Hugo Chavez- what matters is whether the coup was legally considered a coup and whether or not, in removing Zelaya, democratic principles of law were following (usually removal from office follows a legal finding where BOTH sides present evidence, not just one side).

      3. If Zelaya is/was guilty of all the many crimes he has been accused of, then why didn’t the govt launch a formal investigation, bring charges against him and initiate adversarial proceedings and please don’t respond with the standard “but our Supreme Court said he was doing illegal things”. Don’t get me wrong, the US legal system is far from perfect. That said, any country can hide behind it’s interpretation of the law to rationalize abuses- look at Iran and China- they will tell anyone “we followed our nation’s laws!” Yeah, the problem is, the laws are either a) unjust or b) the *process* is so tainted that it casts doubt on the consequences of the particular legal action or decision.

      In a democracy, even though different democracies have diff. constitutions and laws, if an *alleged* “criminal” is NOT given an opportunity to address and answer the charges against him/her in a fair, objective legal proceeding, then generally, the legal process is lacking the key protections valued in most, if not all, democracies around the world.

      I could go on and on but I won’t- I’ll spare everybody. Also, in most of my blog posts about Honduras over the past two months, I almost always link to my previous posts on the subject, just so their is no confusion about where I stand.

      Again, I’d like to thank everybody for their comments to this post and on all the other posts on this site about Honduras, but really, I at times wish people would take a look at *their* own biases, because I’ve looked at mine- for me, this isn’t about whether I like Zelaya or Micheletti or Hugo Chavez or Barack Obama or leftist ideology or right-wing ideology. IT IS ABOUT ONE THING ONLY- whether ALL the pre-requisites of a democratic procedure for removing a dully elected official from office were followed. Period.

  9. September 4, 2009 5:28 pm

    An excellent article. As you point out the US press is strangely silent on what is happening in Honduras. There have been a number of injuries and even some deaths in protests but little coverage. One could imagine how much coverage there would be if this were happening in Iran.
    Even after more than 60 days the U.S. cannot decide whether it was a military coup! Note that there was also a forged letter of resignation that was presented to the Honduran congress at the time Micheletti was appointed. Not all legislators were there by the way.
    The coup has lots of supporters in the US and has even hired public relations people including some associated with Hilary Clinton to lobby for their interests. There have been numerous pro-coup articles including in the Wall Street Journal–not too surprising!

  10. September 4, 2009 5:35 pm

    Ken- I agree, this is largely political and I find it very disappointing. I think it sets a very dangerous precedent – other nations are watching us closely to see how we respond and how the US deals with the overthrow of a democratically elected leader with respect to whether we continue to let US money continue to flow to the coup govt. Unfortunately, being “disappointed” that Micheletti isn’t signing onto the US-backed San Jose Accords, isn’t enough.

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