Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gringos For Micheletti

Some in the American expatriate business community in Honduras are apparently lobbying the U.S. Government to change its position on the Honduran coup. Davinci McNab, owner of Paya Bay Resort in Roatan, has posted a summary of a recent meeting between five American business owners in Roatan and U.S. Ambassador in Honduras Hugo Llorens. The summary was prepared by Mitch Cummins, the owner of Paradise Computers, a computer and communications related services firm in Roatan, and outspoken coup supporter.

I am reposting the summary in its entirety. My observations will follow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:39 AM

Summary of our meeting with US Ambassador, Hugo Llorens

There were 5 of us attending the meeting, Mitch Cummins, Russ Summerell, Lloyd Davidson, Gary Chamer, and Eldon Bolton. We spent about 1 hour and 20 minutes with the ambassador. I think that this was an extraordinary amount of time.

We began by introducing ourselves, establishing our credentials (between us there was about 85 years of experience in Honduras), and stating our position on the actions that led up to and have occurred since June 28. Hugo Llorens was polite and actively listened to our points. He then expressed his and the State Department's position. This did not vary from what we've all read and heard. A lively debate followed the ambassador's presentation. Neither side changed the other's opinion on the base issues.

Here are some key points of our discussion:

The US recognizes that Mel Zelaya committed various crimes. The US feels that there was time to pursue a more "normal" legalprocess to deal with those crimes. Our position was that the Hondurans didn't feel that there was time. They felt that the "poll" on that Sunday was the action that was going to cause the fall of their democracy. They felt that they HAD to act then.

The US believes that the resolution of the crisis must come from the negotiations in Costa Rica. This includes the NEGOTIATED return of Zelaya. I add the emphasis on "negotiated" because I believe that they are backing off the "unconditional" return that has been stated by other countries. During the conversation, Ambassador Llorens stated emphatically that the US would NOT allow Chavez or any other foreign power to invade Honduras. The US still sees Honduras as a friend and ally. We presented 155 signed letters opposing the US position regarding Honduras. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO SENT THE LETTERS IN!!! These 155 letters were collected in less than 24 hours - that response is amazing!

We asked for the Bay Islands to be removed from the travel advisories. The Ambassador was going to check with his legal team, but felt that could be done. I personally believe that will happen pretty quickly.

The US feels that their position has given Honduras the space to negotiate a way out of this crisis. They have not been very vocal against what's happened. By this I mean that they are not out slamming the current government every day. They are firm on their position, but are not beating Honduras over the head with that position. We believe that this may have been the first time that Hugo Llorens had discussed these issues with Americans that believed as strongly in an opposing view to his. He is sequestered in the embassy - he's not allowed to leave Tegucigalpa. I think that it was VERY good for him to hear a contrary opinion.

Hugo Llorens said that if there were other Americans that wanted to meet with him, he would make time for them. I think he was sincere about that. He also said that as soon as he was allowed, he would come out to the islands. As we were leaving we let his assistant know that we were going to be more vocal in our opposition to the US position.

After we left the ambassador we went back to the hotel and were debriefing over a beer. We received a phone call saying that the Honduran Foreign Minister had heard about our meeting and the petition that we presented. The Foreign Minister's office wanted to meet with us.

We spent well over an hour with 3 advisors to the Foreign Minister. We began by stating our solidarity with the Honduran people and the actions that were taken. We talked about the letter, what it said, who had responded, etc. They want to publish that information both domestically and internationally. We also talked about what we saw as issues that the government was facing. We talked about the fact that the debate on was it a coup or not is over. Don't spend another ounce of energy on that argument.

Honduras has to focus on the future. We pushed very hard to promote the idea that Herb Morici presented at the meeting on Monday. That idea was to get Pepe Lobo and Elvin Santos to stand together and present a common front until the campaign starts. It's time for them to become the poster boys of the next government. They liked that idea and said that they would work to make that happen quickly.

We also talked about ways that the ex-pat community and the Foreign Ministry can interact and coordinate. I believe that we established a good relationship in that meeting and I'm positive that you will see some good work between the two groups.

At the end of the day, we made our voices heard to the US Ambassador to Honduras. I'm positive that he heard our message that we do not agree with the official position. I am confident that the Bay Islands will be removed from the US travel advisories. I think that we've opened a dialogue with the ambassador that should be continued until this crisis is resolved. I think that we've been able to impress upon the current government of Honduras, at a high enough level, that it is imperative that the 2 candidates step forward and begin to be the face of the Honduran future. I think that we've established a working relationship with the Foreign Minister's office so that we can help each other through the next several months.

All in all, it was a long but productive day. I think that I speak for all of us attending these meetings when I say that it was one of the most interesting days I've experienced in a long time.

- Mitch
Paradise Computers, S.A.
Roatan's #1 Technology Provider Since 1997

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that Ambassador Hugo Llorens was the Director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council and the principal National Security adviser to George W. Bush on Venezuela at the time of the failed 2002 coup. For this reason, it is fairly reasonable to assume that Llorens is more sympathetic to the coup regime than to the restoration of President Manuel Zelaya. Llorens' sympathy for the coup can also be detected in the way he allegedly reacted to the expat's request to have the Bay Islands removed from the travel advisories. According to Mr. Cummins, Llorens said he "was going to check with his legal team, but felt that could be done."

The second item of interest in this summary is the apparent presumption of Mr. Cummins and, presumably, the other four Americans in his delegation, that five foreign businessmen from a foreign country should have a say in the internal political affairs of another country. Mr. Cummins seems to believe so when he writes that in a subsequent meeting with "3 advisors to the Foreign Minister" of the coup regime, his delegation "pushed very hard to promote the idea ... to get Pepe Lobo and Elvin Santos to stand together and present a common front until the campaign starts."

He goes on by saying that it's "time for [Pepe Lobo and Elvin Santos] to become the poster boys of the next government." And here, in a nutshell, is the colonialist and undemocratic mentality of Mr. Cummins and his cohorts in action: that somehow, it's ok for a group of foreigners to meet with representatives of an illegitimate regime and "interact and coordinate" with them in order to promote the perception legitimacy of such regime in the eyes of the people in that country. Mr. Cummins goes on with his contemptuous rant by saying that the advisors to the Foreign Minister "liked that idea and said that they would work to make that happen quickly."

This type of attitude is exactly what the people of Central America hate about the United States. It's that "backyard" mentality that has prompted many past American administrations to support and foment all kinds of undemocratic movements in the region: from coups, to assassinations, to guerrillas, to outright invasions. In my opinion, the American expatriate business community should follow Obama's lead and strive for a new type of relationship with Latin American and the rest of the world based on mutual respect, understanding, the rule of law, and respect for the will of the people and their democratically elected governments.

Unfortunately, Mr. Cummins and his compadres are intent in perpetuating the perception that when it comes to its backyard, American business interests always take precedence over the rights of the people in the region. For this reason, I sincerely hope that, for once, this type of mentality won't succeed, and that the constitutional government of President Zelaya can be restored as it would be a pity to return to the dark days when legitimate governments were toppled and undermined all over the hemisphere.

I believe that President Obama is right in staying firm on the demand to restore the democratically elected President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya. Should the coup regime have its way, we could see the unfolding of a reverse domino theory, where the recent achievements of the people of Central and South America could be wiped out in a new wave of undemocratic regimes.

I also believe that Ambassador Hugo Llorens should explain what he meant when he allegedly said to Mr. Cummins' delegation that the U.S. "recognizes that Mel Zelaya committed various crimes." This doesn't seem the official position of the U.S. government, and thus Mr. Llorens should be careful before talking from both sides of his mouth.

(image source)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Media Health Care Reform Push Back

The mainstream media is mounting a serious push against health care reform and the reasons are fairly obvious. For starters, I won't even address Fox News as the entire channel is affected by ODS or, Obama Derangement Syndrome, and it can no longer be considered part of the mainstream (if it ever was). Fox News aside, the mainstream media is simply reflecting the political leanings of their corporate owners. That's also a given.

What is interesting about this push back is that the journalists and anchors themselves are starting to weigh in on the subject. This can be seen in the type of questions they ask, the way they choose to frame the issue, the type of people they choose to interview and not interview. It's amazing to me how, for example, the single payer option, which is the most favored by the American people, is not even on the table, let alone being discussed.

What we are left with then is the so called "public option," already a compromise position which, ironically, is being framed as the liberal, extreme left position; Andrea Mitchell (right), the sleeper right winger posing as a moderate on MSNBC, just labeled it as such while commenting on President Obama's remarks this afternoon. Who would have known that those who kept repeating that the United States is a center/right country, are now the ones accusing the majority of Americans favoring the public option as extremely liberal.

The main reason why these TV personalities (the Chuck Todds and Lou Dobbses), and political pundits (the David Brookses and Pat Buchanans) are beginning to push back on health care reform is because they, with their multi million dollar contracts, are the ones who will lose when health care reform is passed. They are the people with the wasteful cadillac health care plans, the ones who might have to pay the surtax to help cover uninsured Americans, and the ones who might end up losing their cadillac plans if their employer chooses to go "public."

Next time you hear those pundits and TV personalities frame health care reform unfavorably, please remember that they are doing it for their own narrow self interest, which is the interest of the top 5% of income earners who want to maintain the status quo. Never mind that the rest of America is getting crushed by the skyrocketing cost of health care; by a system that is designed to deny care rather than provide it; by an industry whose paramount concern is, as with all for-profit industries, maximizing profit instead of helping people stay healthy.

(image source)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Honduras Coup Leader Micheletti Exposed

By now, most of those who are aware of the military coup in Honduras are familiar with the main reason given by the coup leaders to justify President Zelaya's removal from office: that by calling for a non binding referendum to find out if hondurans would approve of a constitutional amendment extending presidential term limits, Manuel Zelaya abused his presidential powers.

A smaller number of people who, for one reason or another, have been following the situation more closely, are also aware of the fact that such accusation has been thoroughly debunked, which is why not one single government in the world has recognized the coup installed government of Roberto Micheletti (pictured right).

What most people are probably unaware of, given the absence of coverage in the mainstream media, is that coup leader Micheletti had once tried the same exact thing he is now accusing President Zelaya of. That's right! In 1985, the man who is now usurping Zelaya's presidential office, and who is calling him a "traitor", had once attempted to amend the Honduran Constitution to extend the mandate of then President Roberto Suazo Córdoba.

On July 9, 2009, Carlos Dada of reported that on October 24, 1985, two years after the current Honduran Constitution was approved, a few members of the Honduran Congress (including then congressmen Roberto Micheletti) tried to introduce a motion calling to immediately turn the Congress into a Constitutional Assembly. Ironically, these legislators requested the suspension of the same constitutional articles (373, 374, and 375) that are now used by the Micheletti regime to legitimize Zelaya's ouster.

Mimalapalabra has posted a scanned page from La Tribuna of Honduras, dated October 25, 1985 which recounts the attempt by congressman Roberto Carlos Echenique to read the motion which had been signed by 11 other congressmen, including Micheletti. The newspaper also printed the motion in its entirety with Roberto Micheletti's name clearly visible at the bottom.

As he was reading the motion, Echenique was interrupted by another congressman, Carlos Montoya, who said:

"No podemos permitir que un deputado alente contra el orden constitucional y pretenda generar un golpe tecnico para acabar con el sistema democratico en que vivimos."

Rough translation:

"We cannot allow a congressman to encourage an unconstitutional act which is seeking to generate a technical coup d'etat in order to end the democratic system we live in."

Upon the interruption, congressman Nicolas Cruz Torres called Echenique, Micheletti, and the other signatories of the motion "traitors." That's when all hell broke loose: people started screaming and insulting each other, a fistfight broke out, and another congressman drew a pistol. Finally, Efrain Bu Girón, the head of Congress, called upon the army to restore order in the chamber. Once order was restored, Girón censored the motion signatories and demanded that they withdraw their signature or be "indicted for attempting to subvert the democratic system." Micheletti, and four other signatories declined.

If this isn't a perfect case of the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is. Here is a person, Micheletti, who attempted to do exactly what he is now accusing President Manuel Zelaya of doing (even more so since the 1985 motion signatories never intended to consult the Honduran people on the matter), and who has now appointed himself as the defender of the Honduran constitution. It is obvious that this constitutional crisis, as tragic as it is for the Honduran people, is turning more and more into a farce.

(picture source)

Thursday, July 16, 2009


There was a little bit of a pause with this blog due to a quick gateway to one of my favorite diving spots: Cozumel, Mexico. With the H1N1 flu scare in full swing, I was able to find an airfare that I couldn't refuse. Also, since there are currently more cases of H1N1 flu here in the NYC area than in Cozumel, why not go and support the local economy?

It seems like many people had a similar idea as both flights to and from Cozumel from Houston were completely full (unlike the Newark flights to and from Houston). The hotel was also practically full, and the weather was great for the duration of the trip. On the other hand, I did carry a box of very expensive Tamiflu ($100 for 10 pills) as a precaution.

Consistently with reports I had been reading prior to this trip, the lionfish is now established in Cozumel. I personally saw two specimens: one at Punta Tunich, and one (pictured below) right in front of my hotel during a night dive.

The lionfish is a very pretty fish if it wasn't such a biological nightmare. Some dive guides would capture the fish when they found one, but given the numbers, it seems like a pretty futile exercise.

It is also hard to believe that the lionfish is part the same family of this scorpionfish, found just a few feet away from it.

Lionfish aside, I saw some pretty great stuff as it's usually the case in Cozumel. The Splendid toadfish, for example, is very funny looking fish, and it's endemic of Cozumel. Unfortunately this picture is a little blurry.

The octopus is always an intriguing animal, especially when one catches it shooting ink!

I have to say that this was a pretty lucky shot as a diver on my left scared the octopus right as I was taking the picture.

Most of these pictures were taken during a single night shore dive in front of my hotel.

Here is another favorite: the porcupinefish, a cute, ET looking fish. This one in particular was very friendly kept getting closer and closer to me as I was trying to shoot a movie.

This trunkfish was also very pretty.

A spotted moray that looks like part of this cement block.

A pretty banded coral shrimp.

And finally, the always awe inspiring nurse shark.

Now that I'm back in New Jersey, I can't wait to get my new dry suit. This way I will be able to do some local diving without getting too cold, until the next tropical trip: Bonaire in October.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ortez Apologizes to Obama for Racial Slur

The Associated Press reports that Enrique Ortez, the coup appointed foreign minister, has sent a letter to Obama apologizing for the racial slur he used to address the U.S. President.

Ortez says the letter, read by him to reporters on Tuesday, expresses "his most profound apologies" for "an unfortunate comment."

Ortez also read a statement in Spanish from U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens that said:

"As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comments by Mr. Enrique Ortez Colindres about President Barack Obama.

Statements like this are deeply outrageous for the American people and for me personally. I am shocked by these comments, which I condemn in the strongest terms."

In the meantime, another quote of Enrique Ortez has surfaced, this time on El Tiempo via cadejo4:

"He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos."


"I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States."

(photo source)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Congressional Coup Caucus

Mark Leon Goldberg reports that "Florida Republican Connie Mack (pictured) is circulating a congressional resolution that effectively supports the coup" in Honduras.

So far, the Congressional Coup Caucus, or CCC, includes:

Dan Burton (Republican from Indiana)

Jeff Fortenberry (Republican from Nebraska)

Connie Mack (Republican from Florida)

Dana Rohrabacher (Republican from California)

I will keep updating the list as it grows.

I believe it's good to keep track of those in government who, while drawing a paycheck and benefits courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers, are also intent in undermining democratic institutions around the world.

(picture source)

The Vacuity of TV News People

Just in case this wasn't clear enough already, the news coverage of the death of Michael Jackson has, once again, exposed TV news people for what they truly are: a group of wealthy, out of touch, vacuous people who think that Americans ought to share their obsession with tabloid news.

For the past week and a half, the American people have been relentlessly subjected to the Michael Jackson death story. Don't get me wrong. Unlike New York Representative Peter King, I believe Michael Jackson to be a victim, whose death is the ultimate corollary to a somewhat tragic existence (more on that in some possible future blog).

TV news organizations generally justify their obsession with tabloid news by saying that they just cover what the people are interested in. But in a late June poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, 64 percent of respondents said news organizations provided too much coverage of Michael Jackson's death. And what was the reaction of TV news media to this unequivocal verdict? More Michael Jackson coverage.

What this goes to show is that the "people" that TV news people refer to is really not the people at large but, rather, themselves. They are the ones who are obsessed with the death of Michael Jackson and everything glamorous. I, for one, would like to hear news about what's going on in Iran, the coup in Honduras, the health care debate, and, why not, some Michael Jackson too. And talking about Iran, it was pretty astonishing to see how the news media switched from total Iran coverage to total Michael Jackson coverage without even blinking.

The problem, in my opinion, is that many TV news anchors are just plain idiots. They work in a business where their looks are paramount while intelligence is secondary. Actually, intelligence and critical thinking is discouraged as one is supposed to parrot the corporate line without questioning it. So, what seems to be happening in the corporate TV news media is that, as people get hired because of their looks and regardless of their wits, the line between TV anchors and supermodels is becoming more and more blurred.

And what happens when you put a quasi supermodel in charge of a TV news show? You got it, 24-hour Michael Jackson coverage.

(image source)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Honduras Regime Calls Obama "Black Boy"

In the following excerpt from an interview on Honduran TV last night, coup appointed foreign minister Enrique Ortez referred to President Obama as "negrito" or "black boy". While the interview is in spanish, at 0:19 seconds one can clearly hear Ortez call Obama a "negrito who doesn't know where Tegucicalpa is".

According to Wikipedia, the term negrito is a diminutive of the word "negro" and "is used, as a term of endearment meaning "pal", or "buddy" or "friend"," similarly "to the use of the word "nigga" in urban communities in the U.S.".

Here is a rough translation of the video:

Q: Do you think the "gringos," as you call them, would allow an invasion of Honduras promoted by Chavez?

A: They'll allow anything. The United States are not the defenders of democracy. First, the President of the [U.S.] Republic, the black boy, who I respect, doesn’t know where Tegucigalpa is. We know where Washington is and we’re obliged, as a small country, a democratic pygmy, to clarify these concepts for him and to tell him, maybe in his own language, what’s going on.

In the same interview, as reported by the Argentinean daily El Clarín (also in spanish), Ortez referred to Obama as "that know-nothing black boy".

"Con todo, los golpistas dejaron en claro su posición el lunes, por boca del nuevo "canciller", Enrique Ortez Colindres. Cuando en un popular programa periodístico de la TV hondureña le preguntaron por las reacciones internacionales frente al golpe de Estado, dijo sin reparos que no le atribuía importancia alguna a la OEA y a "los otros grupitos que andan por ahí", le pidió a José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero que "vuelva a sus zapatos" y aseguró que no iba a hablar de El Salvador "porque no vale la pena hablar de un país tan chiquito, en el que no se puede jugar al fútbol porque la pelota se cae a otro país". Pero fue por más al definir al presidente de los Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, como "ese negrito que no sabe nada de nada"."

Roughly translated:

The coup leaders made their position clear on Monday, through the new "foreign minister", Enrique Ortez Colindres. When asked by a popular Honduran TV journalist about the international reactions against the coup, Ortez said without hesitation that he believes the OAS and "the other little groups around here" to be irrelevant. When asked about Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Ortez said that he should "mind his own shoes," ["zapatos", a play on words that is lost in translation] and that he was not going to talk about El Salvador "because it is not worth talking about a country so small that people can't even play soccer without the the ball ending up into another country ". Ortez also referred to the President of the United States, Barack Obama as "that know-nothing black boy."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

BBC Live Feed From Tegucicalpa

The BBC has a live video feed on it's website directly from Tegucicalpa airport.

Today is the day that President Zelaya has vowed to return to Honduras. The New York Times reports that at least "one person was killed and two were badly wounded."

AP: "30 people were treated for injuries, the Red Cross said, after security forces fired warning shots and tear gas."

The BBC live feed has now been interrupted (8:09pm ET). It was basically a live shot from a building overlooking the runway. One could see the runway with some military trucks. Far in the distance there were some police lights and what looked like a mass of people.

At one point, a helicopter flew over the airport and the cameramen begun to follow it. It hovered to one side of the runway, where there appeared to be some cars. It was so low, that I thought it was going to land but, instead, it took off again and left the frame.

I watched about 30 minutes of the feed until it was interrupted abruptly.

UPDATE: The BBC has now footage on its website of Zelaya's plane circling the Tegucicalpa airport before aborting the attempt to land while his supporters cheer for his return.

UPDATE 2: AlJazeera has exclusive footage of the protest, including footage of a teenage boy shot to death by the Honduran military. Viewer's discretion advised.

UPDATE 3: More footage from the Associated Press.

(image source)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Top Honduran Military Lawyer: Coup Was Illegal

Today's Miami Herald, published an interview with Honduran army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza who is the first top military officer in Honduras to admit that last Sunday's coup was illegal. While he goes on and on about how he can't stomach leftists here, and leftists there, he also admits, kind of in a Col. Nathan R. Jessep fashion, that the Honduran military made the decision to remove President Manuel Zelaya from office and then tried to create the appearance of legality (which also indicates some kind of collusion from the other constitutional powers in Honduras). From the Miami Herald:

"In an interview with The Miami Herald and El Salvador's, army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza acknowledged that top military brass made the call to forcibly remove Zelaya -- and they circumvented laws when they did it.

It was the first time any participant in Sunday's overthrow admitted committing an offense and the first time a Honduran authority revealed who made the decision that has been denounced worldwide.

''We know there was a crime there,'' said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. ``In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.''

Now that the jig is up, it's time to address the abysmal performance of the U.S. mainstream media which, while condemning the coup for the most part, has also been promoting the falsehood that President Manuel Zelaya was abusing his constitutional powers in a manner aptly exposed by John Nichols in The Nation:

"Outside of an Orwellian novel, or the mid-day slot on talk radio stations, some basic principles still apply:

Getting elected. Organizing referendums. Proposing constitutional amendments. These are the sorts of things that happen in a country that is experiencing democracy.

Kidnapping the president. Installing an unelected strongman. Suspending civil liberties. These are the sorts of things that happen in a country that is experiencing a coup."

Apparently, the U.S. mainstream media was caught in a bind on this. On one hand, they could not openly side with the coup given the immediate worldwide condemnation of the event (kudos to Obama on this for standing up for democracy). On the other hand, their visceral disgust for anything that is remotely on the side of the poor in America's backyard shows how old habits and allegiances are hard to break.

In today's edition of Counterpunch, George Ciccariello-Maher describes how the mainstream media paved the way for the coup, much like it did with the failed coup of 2002 in Venezuela, by distorting reality to fit Zelaya into their autocratic leftist strongman narrative:

"The faithful media sows the seeds: in both Venezuela 2002 and Honduras 2009, the national and international media prepared the ground for an eventual coup by distorting the truth and calling into question the democratic credentials of the president. In Honduras, this has taken the form of misrepresenting Zelaya’s constitutional proposal as a re-election bid, a line which was and continues to be shamelessly pushed in the media, when the referendum question had nothing to do with re-election at all, but was instead a completely legal mandate to transforming the existing constitution (itself a holdover from the far-right governments of the 1980s). Some nominally of the left repeated this tasty morsel of misinformation, while Fox News’ Shep Smith argued today that not only had Zelaya sought to extend his term, but to do so would have been “treasonous” (an interesting perspective on constitutional amendments, to say the least)."

(picture source)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Honduras and the Irrationality of Fear

The coup defenders are afraid, they say, of Honduras becoming another Cuba, or Venezuela, or Nicaragua, of losing their “freedoms” and their “democracy.” But yesterday, in one fell swoop their leaders erased those very freedoms, atop all the other ones they’ve already burned alive - freedom of the press, freedom to elect their own president, among them - and buried democracy with it.

The Micheletti regime in Honduras announced yesterday evening that the congress had passed a decree suspending all constitutional rights in the country indefinitely. This means the military can enter homes without warrants, detain anyone with no notice or justification, prohibit all public gatherings, such as marches, rallies, protests or meetings, and maintain censorship of the media. Due process rights are also suspended as are all other civil and political rights.

In the meantime, some American expats in the diving community on the Bay Islands, continue their irresponsible tacit endorsement of the coup while minimizing the current state of emergency:

"No worries, all is well in paradise. The curfew has permitted some to actually get a little more sleep. Utila was wonderfully quiet last night after 10:00."

I guess there is no need for civil liberties in paradise, since God is good and just.

According to Honduras' El Tiempo, the following constitutional guarantees have been suspended:

* Article 69, which guarantees the personal freedom.

* Article 71, which states that no one can be detained or held incommunicado for more than 24 hours without an arrest warrant.

* Article 78, which guarantees freedom of association and freedom of assembly.

* Article 81, which states, "Everyone has the right to free movement, to leave, enter and remain in national territory."

El Tiempo reports that with the aforementioned guarantees suspended, "no one can hold meetings, neither public nor private, be it in the streets, in churches, in their own homes, or in union or guild halls."

Anyone planning to travel to Honduras in the near future, should think long and hard about the risks involved.

(photo source: AFP - Orlando Sierra)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Behind the Honduran Coup

An excerpt of a thorough analysis of the current situation in Honduras.

Why Zelaya's Actions Were Legal

by Alberto Vallente Thoresen

Source: Counterpunch

Photo by: Eduardo Verdugo

"The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice, Attorney General, National Congress, Armed Forces and Supreme Electoral Tribunal have all falsely accused Manuel Zelaya of attempting a referendum to extend his term in office.

According to Honduran law, this attempt would be illegal. Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution clearly states that persons, who have served as presidents, cannot be presidential candidates again. The same article also states that public officials who breach this article, as well as those that help them, directly or indirectly, will automatically lose their immunity and are subject to persecution by law. Additionally, articles 374 and 5 of the Honduran Constitution of 1982 (with amendments of 2005), clearly state that: “it is not possible to reform the Constitution regarding matters about the form of government, presidential periods, re-election and Honduran territory”, and that “reforms to article 374 of this Constitution are not subject to referendum.”

Nevertheless, this is far from what President Zelaya attempted to do in Honduras the past Sunday and which the Honduran political/military elites disliked so much. President Zelaya intended to perform a non-binding public consultation, about the conformation of an elected National Constituent Assembly. To do this, he invoked article 5 of the Honduran “Civil Participation Act” of 2006. According to this act, all public functionaries can perform non-binding public consultations to inquire what the population thinks about policy measures. This act was approved by the National Congress and it was not contested by the Supreme Court of Justice, when it was published in the Official Paper of 2006. That is, until the president of the republic employed it in a manner that was not amicable to the interests of the members of these institutions.

Furthermore, the Honduran Constitution says nothing against the conformation of an elected National Constituent Assembly, with the mandate to draw up a completely new constitution, which the Honduran public would need to approve. Such a popular participatory process would bypass the current liberal democratic one specified in article 373 of the current constitution, in which the National Congress has to approve with 2/3 of the votes, any reform to the 1982 Constitution, excluding reforms to articles 239 and 374. This means that a perfectly legal National Constituent Assembly would have a greater mandate and fewer limitations than the National Congress, because such a National Constituent Assembly would not be reforming the Constitution, but re-writing it. The National Constituent Assembly’s mandate would come directly from the Honduran people, who would have to approve the new draft for a constitution, unlike constitutional amendments that only need 2/3 of the votes in Congress. This popular constitution would be more democratic and it would contrast with the current 1982 Constitution, which was the product of a context characterized by counter-insurgency policies supported by the US-government, civil façade military governments and undemocratic policies. In opposition to other legal systems in the Central American region that (directly or indirectly) participated in the civil wars of the 1980s, the Honduran one has not been deeply affected by peace agreements and a subsequent reformation of the role played by the Armed Forces.

Recalling these observations, we can once again take a look at the widespread assumption that Zelaya was ousted as president after he tried to carry out a non-binding referendum to extend his term in office.

The poll was certainly non-binding, and therefore also not subject to prohibition. However it was not a referendum, as such public consultations are generally understood. Even if it had been, the objective was not to extend Zelaya’s term in office. In this sense, it is important to point out that Zelaya’s term concludes in January 2010. In line with article 239 of the Honduran Constitution of 1982, Zelaya is not participating in the presidential elections of November 2009, meaning that he could have not been reelected. Moreover, it is completely uncertain what the probable National Constituent Assembly would have suggested concerning matters of presidential periods and re-elections. These suggestions would have to be approved by all Hondurans and this would have happened at a time when Zelaya would have concluded his term. Likewise, even if the Honduran public had decided that earlier presidents could become presidential candidates again, this disposition would form a part of a completely new constitution. Therefore, it cannot be regarded as an amendment to the 1982 Constitution and it would not be in violation of articles 5, 239 and 374. The National Constituent Assembly, with a mandate from the people, would derogate the previous constitution before approving the new one. The people, not president Zelaya, who by that time would be ex-president Zelaya, would decide.

It is evident that the opposition had no legal case against President Zelaya. All they had was speculation about perfectly legal scenarios which they strongly disliked. Otherwise, they could have followed a legal procedure sheltered in article 205 nr. 22 of the 1982 Constitution, which states that public officials that are suspected to violate the law are subject to impeachment by the National Congress. As a result they helplessly unleashed a violent and barbaric preemptive strike, which has threatened civility, democracy and stability in the region."