Copious updates on Honduras in italics – but as of July 6th I’m stopping because this has more mainstream attention now, so hopefully the truth will out. But as Andrew Sullivan wonders, “Can you remember a story where pundits have varied so widely on the basic facts?”.
President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya of Honduras aims to return on Thursday (Update: Thursday became Saturday) from his brief exile in Costa Rica, to which he was removed by the military in his pyjamas. He has pledged to abandon plans to ignore the law of his country and carry out a non-binding referendum on setting up an assembly to rewrite it (in order to run for a second term). The constitution can be changed, but not in the way he went about it (update – or was it? What is the difference between a non-binding referendum and a constitutional, binding one? Is one answer that going about things the Zelaya way is either a waste of money, because in order to be constitutional there would have to be another binding referendum, or that he is in fact abusing the constitution in a way which makes him seem distinctly despotic? The Honduras constitution is available in Spanish, and running this through Google Translate suggests that Articles 4 and 5 regarding the constitution, and 237 regarding the Presidential term, are operative here.)
His political opponents perceived distinct shades of Chavez, the military performed a coup and moved to exile him before he could install himself as emperor-for-life. He had got as far as having the ballot papers shipped from Venezuela and distributing them himself, having sacked his Attorney General and despite a Supreme Court ruling against his conduct. Now he has abandoned the referendum and is asking to see out his term in office, which ends in January.
For obvious reasons – it’s a coup! (update – the US is avoiding ‘coup‘ – there are strings attached to that designation, the US is calling it ‘coup’) – here is little support for this coup, however. The UN is backing the Zelaya. Hugo Chavez backs Zelaya (update – Honduras is an important oil customer; Chavez threatens military intervention). The International Coffee Organization isn’t sure. Although the US President and Secretary of State have declined to meet Zelaya, the Wall Street Journal‘s Americas columnist is very frustrated with the double standard:
“Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya’s abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.”
It does indeed seem unsuitable for Chavez and Castro to be castigating Honduras for breaches of democracy.
Zelaya has already been replaced: Roberto Micheletti was sworn in yesterday as Interim Executive, strictly according to the constitution.
I’m not sure if Zelaya is being mistranslated or unsympathetically translated, but his words suggest he’s a bad combination of silly and tyrannical. Ah, OK – perhaps badly translated, that post had him referring to how on his return people would call him “Commander”, but this one, the less silly but still slightly pathetic-sounding “‘At your command, Mr. Constitutional President”. Update: aha – Wikipedia says: “The President is also Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces”, and it was of course the armed forces who expelled Zelaya.
Like the worst of the left with respect to Iran, he is referring to his deposers as “elites” and himself as against “the system of privileges they upheld”. Update: but Roberto Micheletti comes from the same political party – the Liberal Party – as Zelaya. His supporters also lapse into dusty dialectic:
“It was a coup, Mel Zelaya did not resign,” agreed Amilcar Umanzo, brandishing a human rights manual in his hand. “The political and economic class united to overthrow the constitutional president.”
It is genuinely difficult to figure out what is going on in the time I have available. Update: disappointing that you can pretty well predict who supports the coup (mostly self-declared conservative sites). On the other hand Chavez supporters support an unconditional reinstatement.
The reinstated (according to Supreme Court Ruling) Honduran Attorney General insists Zelaya will be prosecuted for, among other charges, abuse of authority and violation of the constitution.
This leads to the obvious question: military coups suck, are totally undemocratic, so why was Zelaya exiled rather than impeached? There is a curfew and unrest in Tegucigalpa. How many of his supporters have been arrested, how many hurt and how many killed?
Update: it seems to me that Zelaya claimed undue power unconstitutionally and contra to Supreme Court ruling, that it is very ominous that he was exiled at gunpoint instead of being impeached which would have been the democratic way to deal with him, that calls for him to be unconditionally reinstated make little sense when he has fucked with the constitution, and that four years is a short amount of time but he left his attempts to change the constitution too late in his term to be credible. As you can see from the above, I have very little other context to go on.
Further update: Zelaya wasn’t unconstitutional and the coup was conducted by an undemocratic elite says Alberto Valiente Thorenson in a Counterpunch article you can find for yourselves; I don’t link there. He removes one motive for Zelaya by introducing the information he wasn’t going to contest the November 09 election, and gives a motive to the orchestrators of the coup:
“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.”
Final update: read Greg Weeks, academic and editor of the journal Latin Americanist. He is asking good questions and, speaking Spanish, equipped to get some answers. Good. Facts first, ideology later.
It’s bedtime now, so this post is about to reveal itself as obscenely imbalanced, much too internationalist, much too unprepared to engage with the complexities of far better-reported stuff here at home. I have really got to sort this out, and I take Barkingside 21 as my inspiration. But for now, the other climb-down is that it’s No to ID cards. Alan Johnson could simply have said “We can’t afford it” – instead he properly shafted it by admitting that the government had found it convenient to present ID cards as a panacea to solve terrorism. Update: excellent. If I had time I’d try to find out which lobbying worked and how.